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Rancho Pancho, a play by former Los Angeles Times journalist and San Antonio playwright Gregg Barrios, is about the short-lived but intense relationship between playwright Tennessee Williams and South Texan Pancho Rodriguez from 1946-1947. The other characters are Carson McCullers (with whom Williams and Pancho shared a summer home in Nantucket), and pioneer stage director Margo Jones (who was in P-town for Brando’s Streetcar audition.)
Barrios based his play in part on previously unknown correspondence between Williams and Pancho. Williams used his relationship with the volatile Pancho as a model for the character of Stanley Kowalski and his relationship with both Blanche and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. Barrios chose the name of the play from the fact that Williams dubbed their home together “Rancho Pancho,” wherever they happened to be living. As previously noted on La Bloga, Rancho Pancho was presented in collaboration with Classic Theatre of San Antonio and was directed by Diane Malone. The Hansen Publishing Group has now published Rancho Pancho in paperback.
Gregg Barrios very kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga and answer a few a questions about his play.
DANIEL OLIVAS: To be honest, until I read your play, I knew nothing of Tennessee Williams' relationship with Pancho Rodriguez. Are you surprised by this admission? Have others admitted this to you?
GREGG BARRIOS: I am not surprised. In fact, that was my impetus to write this secret history. I too didn’t believe the story when I first heard it. Even after I meeting Pancho and his twin brother Juancho in New Orleans in 1972 while teaching at Loyola University, I couldn’t get them to open up about the relationship. Nor could I engage Tenn into discussing the relationship when I met him soon afterward. So I figured the whole thing was fabricated or wildly exaggerated – a fiction.
Only after both Tenn and Pancho were dead, did I return to the idea when I read director Elia Kazan’s autobiography. Kazan who directed both stage and screen version of A Streetcar NamedDesire reports an altercation between Tenn and Pancho while Streetcar was in rehearsal. Kazan used the incident to understand the dynamic of the play that was eluding him: “If Tenn was Blanche, then Pancho was Stanley.” And he was then able to direct the play in earnest. That too became my mantra as I began my research armed with the knowledge that their relationship had been real.
Of course once I began knocking on people’s doors to learn more, I was told by Williams’ scholars and biographers – and friends - that I was confusing Pancho with Frank Merlo, Williams longtime partner after Rodriguez.
Even more amazing was discovering that Pancho was from Eagle Pass, Texas, just a hop and a skip from Crystal City, Texas, flagship capital of La Raza Unida, where I had taught drama and journalism for eight years. Ultimately, my good friend the actor Peter Gonzalez - who is from the area, and starred as the young Fellini in Roma – related that Pancho was his uncle. He made contact with the Rodriguez family possible. Small world, verdad?
OLIVAS: The play is quite funny at times. Did you intend this or did this element naturally flow from the characters involved?
BARRIOS: In many of the Q&A’s that we have after a performance, I start out by asking the audience, “Did you find it funny?”
Humor is the dramatist’s saving grace. It’s an important ingredient. There has to be a balance. Heaven forbid, that life would be grim and unrelenting. Oscar Wilde used humor in the face of outrageous fortune. And Tenn and Pancho used humor, call it camp if you like, but it is in the humor that you can see the love and the bond, and then understand why the loss of love and separation become so tragic.
That harkens to the still modern Cervantes who used comedy in El Quijote to tell the sad tale of his “mad” caballero.
OLIVAS: One of my favorite scenes in the play is when Marlon Brando makes a cameo. Was it difficult to write lines for such an iconic actor?
BARRIOS: Well, as Tennessee says in the play, “You have to write what you know.” And as Pancho says about the Stanley character, “I just think there might be a little bit of me in him.” Actually, I have Brando off-stage during his cameo for the simple reason that having an actor portray him might have dashed the audience’s expectations. We all have our own idea of what Brando was like so don’t spoil the magic. Actually, the real Brando did repair the electricity and plumbing at Rancho Pancho on that fated day. Hilarious.
We had the actor Bennie Briseño who portrayed Pancho make a recording of his interpretation of Brando doing Stanley - sort of a mirror looking into the mirror, etc. It was quite effective especially when Pancho eavesdrops while Brando’s audition is taking place off-stage. It is also very moving.
OLIVAS: Pancho is, in many ways, a tragic figure, someone who could have become quite famous if he were alive today. Do you agree or am I just reading something into the play that isn't there?
BARRIOS: Jijole, that’s hard to answer. In the context of the play, he is a tragic figure. I don’t think he would have been famous if he were alive today. He kept his relationship with Williams under wraps. He wasn’t one to kiss and tell. And you have to add to that mix, the entire stigma attached to gay Latinos by the culture. And when I finally got Juancho his brother to open up about the affair, he too was reluctant.
Pancho was booted out of the military during WWII after serving two years in the South Pacific because he dared confide with an officer about his sexuality.
It is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” happening 40 years before our present military policy. As a result, he received no GI benefits and he couldn’t face his family. That’s why I included the scene where Pancho while tooling around in Irene Mayer Selznick’s convertible gives a ride to a hitch-hiking Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII, and laments not his own fate, but the way Murphy was treated in Hollywood, The irony is devastating.
Another aspect of Pancho’s openness is the debate over gay marriage. He tells Tenn in the play – as he did in real life and in his letters – that Williams is the one he wants to share his life with “para siempre.” If that isn’t a heart-breaking marriage proposal then what is?
What many people don’t know but as the play gets produced in other venues and other media (I wish I could talk about this, but my lips are sealed), they might come to know the true history of Pancho Rodriguez.
I have a proposal for a short Penguin Lives style biography of Pancho under consideration. In my research, I acquired a sizable trove of letters, photos, and personal mementos from his life. I truly believe we have to write our own stories many of which have been usurped and appropriated by others.
As Sal Castro tells his students in the film Walkout: “We were at Gettysburg during the Civil War, but you won’t find us in the history book. Why?” Ditto the recent flap about the absence of Latinos in Ken Burns’ The War. And I would add, we were at the creation of one of the greatest plays of the 20th century, but you’d never know it.
Pancho figures in the forthcoming second volume of the definitive biography Tom – The Unknown Tennessee Williams by the late Lyle Leverich. The book’s publisher signed New Yorker drama critic John Lahr to write the second volume, tentatively titled Tennessee. And in conversation with Lahr, he has expressed great interest in restoring the profound influence Pancho had on Williams.
For my part, I have started a Tenn Trilogy: Three plays about Williams. Rancho Pancho is the first. Tennessee Mon Amour the second and The City that Time Forgot the third.
I have finished the first and the third and am halfway through the second. The last play takes place thirty years after the breakup chronicled in Rancho Pancho. It opens as Tenn and Pancho meet in New Orleans on Jackson Square – just a block from the house where they lived and where Williams wrote Streetcar. It’s all based on a true encounter. It’s both hilarious and heart-breaking.
OLIVAS: Was it difficult getting "Rancho Pancho" produced for the stage? Were you surprised by the critical acclaim it received? Did you edit the play after watching the play performed?
BARRIOS: It wasn’t as difficult getting it produced, as it was time-consuming. The writing was the easiest part. Researching and getting the voices right took the most time. I got a Gateways-Ford Foundation grant through the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio to develop the play – a commission of sorts.
The play went through several readings and each time I found ways to make it leaner. I originally had Juancho, Pancho’s twin brother as a character and narrator.
After we presented the play as a staged reading in San Antonio and New Orleans, we got excellent feedback. I was privileged to work with director Diane Malone who gave the best advice during this editing process. In many ways she was also the play’s dramaturge.
When I sent the script to the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival last year, they were pleased with my rewrites and accepted it as the only play in the festival not written by Williams.
I approached several Los Angeles theaters to consider producing it at the P-town festival, but most felt they didn’t have sufficient time or funding to mount a production and then travel to the festival.
Luckily, Malone was involved in a new theater company, The Classic Theatre of San Antonio. They agreed to mount a full production and then move it to P-Town.
I was not surprised by the positive critical response to the play, I was however overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from the diverse audience – young and old, gay and straight, people of color and blue-haired doyennes. The theater had wrap around lines and some had to sit on folding chairs, it was so packed.
At the time, I wondered if the passionate response was due to the audience seeing themselves in the character of Pancho or if they were seeing a play that doesn’t pull any punches in portraying the love and sex life of a homosexual relationship. After all, San Antonio is still considered a conservative little town by many – even in the arts community.
In Provincetown, the thing that totally amazed me and I still treasure is that the audience composed of mainly New York City and P-town fans of Williams was so enthusiastic that they applauded after each scene. Unheard of.
Plus the San Antonio Express-News sent their theater critic Deborah Martin to review the play, and we got our rare notices the next morning via email as our cast and crew went to have “coffee” with Eli Wallach and his wife Anne Jackson.
OLIVAS: How did you go about getting the play published in book form?
BARRIOS: Months before taking the play to the P-Town, I was introduced to Jon Hansen of Hansen Publishing, who had published works – mostly scholarly and historical – about Williams. We discussed a T-shirt and a poster and then he suggested doing a souvenir publication of the script as a one-time thing.
Well, once the play moved into a more central position at the festival and the notices from the San Antonio production were glowing, we were suddenly on the Festival poster - front and center. And once the audiences at P-Town saw the play, we were on a roll.
Later, Jon and I brainstormed and he decided to do a trade edition of the play. And the more we talked, he decided to launch a new series: Hansen Drama. Rancho Pancho is the first of drama scripts that Hansen will publish. Since then, we have discovered a very receptive audience eager to read new plays that perhaps they have no way of experiencing live. Once long ago, major publishers used to release reader’s editions of plays. Hopefully, that tradition will now find a new audience.
You don’t know what a thrill it was to go Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center in New York City and have a friend ask for Rancho Pancho by title and be told: “That’s a new play by Gregg Barrios. You can find it on third floor, performing arts under drama between Albee and Beckett.” And there it was.
Better still, Hansen is publishing my new collection of poetry La Causa in October. I am blessed to have found a publisher who respects my work and hope that our literary relationship continues to flourish and prosper.
OLIVAS: Mil gracias, Gregg, for spending time with La Bloga.
Among the things that I remember fondly from my smoking phase, back in the late 80's, are cigarette vending machines. In particular, I remember the one at Commerce Casino where my friends and I would go listen to "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" blaring loudly from a jukebox while we drank and smoked. I loved the anonymity that a vending machine provided. I just pulled on the lever and no one needed to know that I picked Newport Menthols over Virginia Slims even if we had come a long way, baby! I was smitten by the vending machine.
These machines started being retired from public spaces in the mid 90's. Imagine my delight when two years ago as a late thirty-something touring the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, I spotted one, next to the gift shop. My youngest daughter, Xitlali, who was five at the time, saw it first.
"what the heck is this machine, mama?"
--"Ahhh, young grasshopper, this is a....a.....a?"
Upon closer inspection I realized I was staring at a vending machine that instead of dispensing cigarettes, dispensed art. An art vending machine? Was this an installation in itself? But where was the description? Who was the artist? How did this work? Who thought of this? Could anyone pull on the lever? And could this be even better than Homies? I had to find out!
I rushed back to the gift store, and like a Chicana Scheherazade bombarded the attendant with a thousand and one questions. His enthusiasm for what he told me was an Art-o-mat® was infectious. He explained that these Art-o-mat® machines were scattered across the country. Each dispensing works of art by different artists. The work is mini-sized, the size of a cigarette pack (ingenious!) and the cost is only five dollars and tax.
I purchased five tokens from the store and asked my daughter Gaby to join us. I was buying some art and damned if I wasn't going to inculcate in my daughters the beauty of owning an original work of art. We placed our hands on the smooth, knobby lever and pulled with all our might. With each pull, we waited in anticipation for the melodious clunk as each piece dropped to the bottom receptacle. This was not only a visual, but an auditory experience and once we had it in our hands it was a tactile one as well. In every sense it involved all the senses.
I let the kids each pick one and because I am the boss, and life isn’t fair I got three to their one. My favorite was a pewter life-size reproduction of a saltine cracker by an artist named Herbert Hoover.
After experiencing the Art-o-mat® in Sacramento I became its devotee. I love that it makes art accessible to anyone as it can be found in museums, as well as health food stores, public libraries, and even hair salons. I also like that it's very egalitarian in that all artwork can be acquired for the same price regardless of whether the artist is emerging or established.
The idea was first conceived by Clark Whittington of Winston-Salem, NC and originally created as an installation. In 1997, Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.) was formed to become the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat® and further develop the concept of taking art and "repackaging" it to make it a part of daily life. Today, there are more than 400 artists represented in 90 different art-o-mats across the country.
Whenever I visit a new place I check to see if there is an Art-o-mat® nearby and make it a point to stop by and acquire new pieces to add to my collection. I have amassed a pretty unique art collection that is a fun conversation starter and lets me learn about local as well as international artists. One of the newer artists in cellophane is Dhimas Santos Baez, whom I recently befriended on facebook and hails from the Dominican Republic. Some of his work has beautiful, whimsical, Chagallesque qualities. I promise to write more about Dhimas on a future column when I become more familiar with his oeuvre. In the meantime, here is a picture to whet your appetite. I hope to see more Raza join A.I.C. as this is a great way to have your work reach a wider audience. To learn more about Art-o-mat® and to find a location to experience one I invite you to visit the website: http://www.artomat.org/
guest post by Alvaro Huerta, doctoral student at UC Berkeley
Americans love to claim the death of racism. Conservatives in particular commonly posit that there’s no further need for affirmative action or so-called special treatment of racialminorities in higher education, government jobs and other areas, given the progress made in this country.
As someone who grew up in East Los Angeles housing projects, who attended elite universities--UCLA and now UC Berkeley--I often hear the “end-of-racism” claim in graduate seminars, academic conferences and in the news from conservatives, politicians and average Americans. Now that we’ve elected a black president, conservative political pundits argue racism has been defeated. The nomination of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, the argument goes, represents the end of discrimination in the U.S.
While millions of Americans were finally relieved to put racism in the dustbin of history, washing away all of that whiteguilt from over two hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation of racial minorities in barrios and ghettoes, white-flight to the suburbs, lack of minorities in higher education and high concentrations of minorities in prisons, here comes black Harvard scholar Henry Loius Gates Jr. to spoil the “victory party."
How dare the 58-year-old, black professor enter his house without a key and allegedly demand the name of the arresting officer? Doesn’t he know that providing proof of employment and residence doesn’t suffice for a black man in a white-dominated university town?
Sarcasm aside, what bothers me most about the national discourse surrounding the arrest of this prominent black man centers on how blame is being equally distributed on both parties, Cambridge police James Crowley and Harvard Professor Gates. If only both parties had acted rationally, many Americans assert, including President Obama after retreating from his assertion that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly,” then this “regrettable” incident could’ve been avoided.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Based on the information provided to the public, it’s clear to me that we’re talking about an unequal power relation where Crowley abused his power by arresting Gates. On the one hand, we have a white police officer with a gun, with backup at his disposal, while, on the other, we have a 58-year-old black man in his own home, posing a danger to no one.
In addition, a recently released 911 tape shows that the woman caller, Lucia Whalen, stated she was not sure if the two men who forced their way into the house were actually breaking in or just had a problem with a key. Now, if these two men, one described by Whalen as someone who “looked kind of Hispanic” were actually breaking into the house in broad daylight through the front door, why did she patiently wait outside for the police to arrive?
Based on this scenario, the only issue the Crowley needed to resolve was whether Gates actually lived in the yellow house on Ware Street by obtaining proper identification. What was the need for Crowley to call campus police once Gates provided his Harvard ID and driver’s license, something Crowley writes in his police report? His report reminds me of high school bully who goes to the principal’s office and plays the role of victim.
Apparently, Crowley was just “doing his job” and represents a victim of verbal abuse by an elderly black man, claiming that Gates called him a racist and said to him, “Yah, I’ll speak with your mama outside.” For a moment I thought Crowley was talking about the rapper Snoop Dogg and not a respected professor from an Ivy League university.
While I found many contradictions in Crowley’s report, for the sake of argument let’s say Gates called him a racist and launched a “yo mama” joke at him. What kind of country do we live in where you--whether a professor or janitor--can be arrested in your own home for expressing how you feel to an authority figure, despite not posing a threat? Should we then arrest all the conservatives who called Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist?
Finally, if Crowley told the truth in this report, why were the charges immediately dropped? This makes no sense. If Gates broke the law, as Crowley maintains without apology, he should be prosecuted regardless of his privileged status as a Harvard professor.
Instead of being invited to drink some beers with Gates, Vice-President Biden and President Obama at the White House, Crowley should be investigated to determine whether he broke the law for filing a false police report and unjustifiably arresting a black man who just happens to be a distinguished scholar, in his own home.
“The storyteller’s gift is my inheritance,” writes Rudolfo Anaya in his essay Shaman of Words. Although he is best known for Bless Me, Ultima and other novels, his writing also takes the form of nonfiction, and in these 52 essays he draws on both his heritage as a Mexican American and his gift for storytelling. Besides tackling issues such as censorship, racism, education, and sexual politics, Anaya explores the tragedies and triumphs of his own life.
Collected here are Anaya’s published essays. Despite his wide acclaim as the founder of Chicano literature, no previous volume has attempted to gather Anaya’s nonfiction into one edition. A companion to The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories, the collection of Anaya’s short stories, The Essays is an essential anthology for followers of Anaya and those interested in Chicano literature.
Pieces such as Requiem for a Lowrider, La Llorona, El Kookoóee, and Sexuality, and An American Chicano in King Arthur’s Court take the reader from the llano of eastern New Mexico, where Anaya grew up, to the barrios of Albuquerque, and from the devastating diving accident that nearly ended his life at sixteen to the career he has made as an author and teacher. The point is not autobiography, although a life story is told, nor is it advocacy, although Anaya argues persuasively for cultural change. Instead, the author provides shrewd commentary on modern America in all its complexity. All the while, he employs the elegant, poetic voice and the interweaving of myth and folklore that inspire his fiction. “Stories reveal our human nature and thus become powerful tools for insight and revelation,” writes Anaya. This collection of prose offers abundant new insight and revelation.
Rudolfo Anaya is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of New Mexico. He has received numerous literary awards, including the Premio Quinto Sol and a National Medal of Arts. Anaya and his wife reside in Albuquerque. Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Dean of the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma and Executive Director of World Literature Today, is Neustadt Professor of Comparative Literature. _________________________________________
Anaya has been heavily involved in the Big Read project of the National Endowment for the Arts, including an immensely popular workshop presentation of his play based on Bless Me, Ultima produced by El Centro Su Teatro in Denver. The NEA has posted on its website two versions of A Conversation with Rudolfo Anaya, a film by Lawrence Bridges. You can watch the videos at this link.
The conversation is excellent; I recommend spending the time to watch the video, especially if you are a writer, to gain insight into the process Anaya has used to produce his timeless art and to understand how his intimate relationship with the natural world and his cultural history have infused his writing with the voice and heart of his beloved llano.
An engaging bilingual picture book about a boy’s clever efforts to help his classmates understand a Hispanic cultural tradition
Young René is from El Salvador, and he doesn't understand why his name has to be different in the United States. His new classmates giggle when René tells them his name. "That's a long dinosaur name," one says. "Your name is longer than an anaconda," another laughs. But René doesn't want to lose the part of him that comes from his mother's family.
This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4 - 8 combines the winning team of author René Colato Laínez and illustrator Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, and follows their award-winning collaboration, I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño. With whimsical illustrations and entertaining text, this sequel is sure to please fans and gain many new ones while explaining an important Hispanic cultural tradition.
What will happen when two legends battle for one lost tooth?
In the United States, the Tooth Fairy visits children and leaves a coin in exchange for a tooth. In Spain and Latin America, the charming and adventurous mouse El Ratón Pérez collects children’s teeth.
And what happens when they both arrive to claim the tooth of Miguelito, a Mexican-American boy? Look out!
This fantastical tale introduces a legendary Latino character to an American audience and provides a fresh, multicultural take on the familiar childhood experience of losing one’s tooth.
Mario is leaving his home in El Salvador. With his father by his side, he is going north to join his mother, who lives in the United States. She has sent Mario a new pair of shoes, and he is thrilled. He will need good shoes because the trip will be long and hard. He and his father will cross the borders of three countries. They will walk for miles, ride buses, climb mountains and wade a river.
Mario has faith in his shoes. He believes they will take him anywhere. On this day, he wants to go to the United States, where his family will be reunited.
René Colato Laínez’s inspiring story, dramatically illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck, vividly portrays a boy who strives to reach a new land and a new life.
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. The Husband Habit. NY: St Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN-10: 0312537042
Way back in 1999, the Los Angeles Times ran a review that skewered a comedian and his tired, insulting act. I remember sitting up and taking notice of the writer, thinking to myself, “Self, this writer, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, has a lot of power in her pen, I wonder what kind of fiction she’d write if she ever gets a chance to cut loose?”
In the course of a handful of novels, the writer demonstrated she has a lot going for her. She aligned her work with a popular strategy other writers had pursued to great success, following multiple characters. It worked. Valdes-Rodriguez enjoyed popular success in her Sister Sucias novels, The Dirty Girls Social Club and less so with Dirty Girls On Top, advancing with superb work in Make Him Look Good. In her latest novel, The Husband Habit, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez sows fertile new ground. She’s freed herself of her inner Mary McCarthy and allows one character to take over the novel. And I’m glad she has. With a reservation.
Although readers can depend on a Valdes-Rodriguez novel to bring smiles that brighten even a dismal day, a mélange of characters doesn’t allow much opportunity for a woman to stand on her own feet and show the world of what she’s capable. Ditto the writer, in as much as the group tactic pressures the writer to leave deserving characters ill-developed while sending others into extreme behaviors to wrap up an errant plot.
Thus, shaking off The Group mentality frees the writer to focus upon a singular character, a continuous narrative, and to write the heck out of a novel to the benefit of both the reader and author. This is what The Husband Habit reaps, a better developed central character around whom all the characters and action pivots, and some interesting writing.
Vanessa Duran exercises culinary genius in a fancy Alburquerque restaurant. Clever with quick repartée, she has a solid sense of herself, but refuses to take her own side. The big-name chef she works for steals credit for Vanessa’s creativity. Big sister Larissa bosses Vanessa around as if the latter were not a fully grown adult woman. And Vanessa submits like a good little sister. The worst part of Vanessa’s problem is being gulled by married men, hence the title.
Valdes-Rodriguez opens the novel with a deliciously funny scene. Vanessa, the unknowing “other woman” has flown cross-country to tryst with an internet romance. The vato has money, charm, fancy clothes and an impressive bottle of wine. And a wife with son, who follow from the airport to the tony hotel. Sancha Vanessa and fulano learn they’ve been followed when the irate wife rams her own SUV into the lying philanderer’s fancy car. Again and again and again the betrayed wife slams her vehicle into the Mercedes until cops haul her away. The mortified Vanessa flees to the registration desk and a sympathetic clerk. Hilarity surrounded by the woman’s tragedy.
Vanessa lands back home and resumes a courtship with Bryan, a pastry chef. Another fiasco. This pendejo not only is married with a son, his wife has found out about the affair and is hospitalized after attempting suicide. In the space of the first 40 pages of the novel Vanessa takes a pair of you-didn’t-tell-me-you’re-married gut punches from men she was dating. Sadly, Vanessa’s feeling of betrayal is so profound she blames the wife, telling Vanessa’s good friend Hazel that Bryan is “a lying sack of crap with a depressive and unstable wife.”
Older sister Larissa enjoys a successful academic career. In fact, she’s about to depart for a research jaunt to Morocco. This leaves Vanessa in charge of their aging, bickering, alcoholic parents. Vanessa rightfully senses a new nightmare in the offering. Larissa senses danger in the hunky next door neighbor and extracts a promise from little sister to lay off men for a few months. No rebound dating, especially with the neighbor. Vanessa, overwhelmed at the prospect of spending quality time with her mother and father, meekly agrees.
Then she lays eyes on the neighbor. Vanessa cannot keep her eyes off the he-man’s body. He-man cannot keep his eyes off Vanessa’s legs. But Vanessa holds true to her promise, hence the plot thickens as she resists her feral urges and keeps the neighbor at arm’s distance. Slowly, however, he wears her down with Vanessa's help. He cooks. He knows literature. He finds ways to surprise her with music, knowledge, kindness.
Paul is an interesting man in numerous ways, with a major drawback. He’s military and neither Vanessa nor Larissa want anything to do with this type of person. But Paul is not a tipo. He is a pilot recently returned from Iraq, wounded--Post-Traumatic Stress wounded. He’s fallen hard for Vanessa’s beauty, skill, sincerity. Vanessa’s anti-military blindness deepens his wounds, as if his life choices were entirely of his doing. They’re not, if only Vanessa will provide him an opportunity to explain.
Paul, it develops, has turned against the war. He’s of Vanessa’s opinion, of the futility and mindlessness of an unprovoked invasion. For Vanessa, it’s a theory. For Paul, the knowledge of what he has done in prosecuting the war is one long, sustained gut punch. Bridging the gap between Vanessa’s attitude and Paul’s remorse sends the novel roiling into political territory that adds interest and enlarges the capacity of chica lit to give something beyond a mere beach read. Not that this novel is not a lot of fun. It is.
Valdes-Rodriguez’ antiwar attitudes are not a reason to endorse The Husband Habit, but that hasn’t stopped a cabal of conservative assholes from raking the book over the Amazon coals. The day I looked, Amazon's featured negative review slices and dices at the novel’s strengths with unmeasured sophistry and mean spiritedness. It’s interesting to note the 1- and 2-star (bad) reviews mostly come from anonymous critics who sign with “handles”, whereas 5- and 4-star (great) reviewers generally have the honest courtesy to sign a real-sounding name.
Sophisticated readers who aren’t grinding axes will find excellent writing gives The Husband Habit a stature several steps above typical chica lit titles. This is one of the rewards of Valdes-Rodriguez shedding the group novel in favor of developing a single relationship for a singular character. Certainly there’s ample clowning around and clownish moments in her characters. But the characters can be deadly serious and self-disclosing in disarming ways, as when Paul talks about his hatred for hunting the animals on his family’s ranch:
I liked animals, Vanessa. Alwavs have. I still do. I love 'em. I'll never forget it. I was a little kid, and he took me out here, and he downed a doe, and took me with him to get it. She wasn't dead yet, just there bleeding, you know? She looked right at me. And her baby, that fawn, was standing there, not knowing where to go or what to do. I was sickened by it. I hated it, but you know how it is. You have to suck it up, when you're a boy, right? You gotta play soldiers and cowboys and Indians, you gotta like to shoot stuff, and you gotta play sports, right, or you're not a real boy. And my dad wanted me to learn to hunt, to do this thing that his dad taught him, and that his dad's dad had taught his dad, and so that's what it was like. Like my legacy, and I hated every minute of it, but when you're a kid you don't have the guts or the power to stand up to your dad about something like that, and you think there's something wrong with you.
Lucky Vanessa. True to the template of chica lit, the would-be lover has money. Rich is so much nicer than poor. And, because Vanessa is the center of her novel, Valdes-Rodriguez gets opportunities to paint a complex woman, not the foolish girl who bounces from bed to bed. As in the excursion Vanessa’s thoughts take when driving the open road and her thoughts wander to roadkill:
Brutality and grace, locked in an endless dance. This is how it works, a vile vein woven through all this beauty, life and death tangled together and dependent as inhale to exhale, as sleep to waking, when you are brave enough to look closely and without blinking. Roadkill. Rabbits, coyotes, dogs. Do they never clean the sides of Interstate 25, the road crews? Or do things die here with such frequency that regular removal is not enough to hide the truth of the dance between the modern and the ancient? It wounds her, these dead things. Maybe it was the eyes of that one dog, still open, surprised at the blow, the head disembodied and the rest of the animal spread like paste across the roadway.
What an interesting grammatical paragraph, the appositions. The Husband Habit offers numerous instances where the writer has her way with language. Rich in metaphor, landscape, spiteful character asides, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has achieved a milestone in her career with this masterly crafted work. And true to her title, Vanessa's in for a huge surprise from Paul she did not see coming, and readers will chortle about. Be prepared to suspend disbelief in that final plot twist.
My one reservation is a quibble with the character’s seeming helplessness, though this more is wrought of the chica lit template, less from the writer’s skill. I’d like so much to observe a strong, powerful woman with guts and judgment. Vanessa’s pal, Hazel, for instance, takes no caca from domineering men. Paul’s mother, like sister Larissa, is an accomplished academic, I bet they kick ass in a man’s world no holds barred. I hope to read such a character in an upcoming novel. The author surely is moving in that direction. The cutesy stuff of comedy makes for fun reading, and that’s its own reward. I think back to the controlled anger and unbridled contempt 1999's Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez unleashed on that clueless sap. He got what he deserved. I think some future Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez character is out there, waiting to get what she deserves, her own novel and powerful self-reliant independent ethos. It's what we deserve.
That's the second Tuesday of the only August of 2009. What a Tuesday! A Tuesday unlike any other Tuesday, nonetheless, We Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga. I'll wachar you next week.
Hasta Luego Our Friend, Bloguera Ann Hagman Cardinal
It has been our honor and our pleasure at La Bloga to share Sunday space with the immensely talented, warm, funny, thoughtful Ann Hagman Cardinal. Ann has retired from her regular every-other-Sunday column. Family and several writing projects require her fullest energies, endeavors Las Blogueras Los Blogueros endorse. Our door and abrazos are always open to Ann when she can come back for a guest column or two or three. We're looking forward to her new work and when it hits the market, La Bloga will be overjoyed to share the news.
A Message from Ann Hagman Cardinal
I am so honored to have been a part of La Bloga and among such incredible writers. At this point, however, I am juggling parenthood, a full-time job and three novels in various stages of completion so before my agent gives up on me I figured I’d better put my focus on finishing them. Thank you so much my fellow blogueros and la bloga readers, I’m certain that my Sunday spot is in exceptional hands. I’ll be back to visit, you can count on it. ¡Gracias por todo!
Welcome to Our Three New Blogueras, Olga, tatiana, Liz
Over the past three Sundays, La Bloga has welcomed the work of three mujeres who have accepted our invitation to spend Sundays with us at La Bloga. Olga Garcia, tatiana de la tierra, and Liz Vega will be rotating Sunday La Bloga columns. We're privileged that three such distinguished people are joining us to share reviews, insights, original work.
La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and any other column. Haz klik the comments counter below to share your thoughts. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. What great friendships we develop when we welcome a guest. If you've an extended comment, a review of a book, arts, or cultural event, click here to propose an idea, and learn more about being our guest.
[Author’s note: This essay first appeared in The Jewish Journal on August 12, 2005. I republish it today, the tenth anniversary of the attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center and murder of Joseph Santos Ileto. This essay also appears in the young adult anthology, Hate Crimes: Social Issues Firsthand (Greenhaven Press, 2007), edited by Laurie Willis.]
In late fall of 1999, I wrote a short story entitled “Summertime” which I eventually included in my collection, Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, 2003). When the book reviews starting coming in, most noted that particular story’s unsettling premise. But what fascinated me more was the response I received via e-mail or in person from family, friends and strangers alike. More on that later.
“Summertime” begins benignly enough. The first section of the story has the heading “6:53 a.m.” and we encounter a married couple having difficulty getting their young son ready for summer day camp. Claudio Ramírez and Lois Cohen obviously love their son, Jon, but as with most parents who must get to work, mornings can be a bit frustrating. Jon eventually gets dressed, fed and trundled off to Claudio’s car for the ride to camp. The next section is entitled “7:39 a.m.” and we switch to a dusty, small hotel room where we meet a sleeping man named Clem whose “head looked like a pot roast as it lay nestled heavily on the over-bleached pillowcase.” Clem wakes to begin his day. Clem is from Oregon and has driven to Southern California on a mission.
The story moves along, switching between the Ramírez-Cohen family and Clem. We eventually learn that Clem’s “mission” is to perpetrate a hate crime. He eventually settles on the Jewish day camp that Jon attends. I paint Clem as an average person who feels belittled by the world and who hopes to have a “big day” that will put his face in every newspaper and on TV. He is no evil genius. But the evil he perpetrates is as harrowing and real as any better-planned hate crime.
I wrote the story after we experienced the horror of Buford Furrow’s attack at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. As we all know, Furrow, a self-described white separatist, shot and wounded three children, a counselor and the receptionist at the Center. That same day, he murdered a Philippines-born postal worker, Joseph Santos Ileto. Furrow admitted to wanting to kill Jews. He also stated that Ileto was “a good ‘target of opportunity’ to kill because he was ‘non-white and worked for the federal government,’” according to then-U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas.
For almost four hours that hot, horrible day, my wife and I didn’t know if our son, Benjamin, had been a victim. We huddled together with my mother-in-law outside the camp waiting for word. Unfortunately, because the police were concerned that the shooter or shooters were still in the vicinity, the children who had not been wounded had been whisked off to a safe house. A rumor ran through the crowd that a boy named Benjamin had been shot and killed. But eventually, we were reunited with our son.
Frankly, I’m having difficulty writing these words because the memories are coming back, full and clear. But that’s one reason I wrote “Summertime.” I wanted to use fiction to remind others that ordinary people living in today’s world can be the target of hate crimes. And I also wanted readers to understand how easily hate-filled doctrines can be appropriated and acted upon by an “average” person.
Now back to the various responses to “Summertime.” Most readers—particularly those who know my family—knew that Clem was based on Furrow. But several other readers had never heard of Furrow’s attack on the Center or his murder of Ileto. Those readers (most of whom do not live in California and who are not Jewish) expressed shock when I mentioned that the story was based on our own experience that day in August. And I expressed shock that they had not heard of the incident particularly since it had received extensive (if not worldwide) news coverage. But this confirmed my conviction that writing about hate—even if fictionalized in a short story—can indeed educate the public about how easy it is for a person to become a Buford Furrow.
When I started writing fiction in 1998, I didn’t feel that I had the moral authority to write about anti-Semitism. Though I had converted to Judaism ten years earlier, my experience with bigotry was based on my ethnic identity as a Chicano. But after August 10, 1999, I earned the right to talk about one particular act of hate against Jews. I will go further: I now have the duty to remind others of what Furrow did that day. Why? Because if we forget, we help create a climate where it could happen again and the Furrows of the world will have won. And I don’t intend to be responsible for that.
You know that thing they say about love being like a butterfly that will unexpectedly land on your shoulder when you least expect it? That’s what happened to me one day in Buenos Aires while I was stomping the streets in my perennial search for books, cafés and cultura. I got zapped, not by the valentine version of love, but by Biodanza, the dance of life. And biodanza, which I stumbled upon in the back room of that women’s bookstore on Hipolito Yrigoyen, took me directly to universal love, freedom, and happiness. Yes, all that, one dance at a time.
BIODANZA—I’d seen the word plastered on posters for cultural happenings in Bogotá but I didn’t know what it was and I was too chicken to go and find out. I had reason to be scared. Because biodanza is not a set of choreographed dance moves—it’s a way to find yourself in your body in the presence of others, with music and with purpose. It’s like being intimate with your self in public. Yet it’s also fun, playful, and creative. Imagine being a five year-old spinning in a playground. Or strutting around at home, uninhibited, to a sensual salsa tune. But you’re not alone—you’re in a circle with strangers, dancing, at times holding hands, swaying hips, or looking into their eyes.
Rooted in anthropology, psychology, shamanism, biology and philosophy, biodanza originated in Chile in the 1960s as a result of Rolando Toro’s studies on the effect that dance and movement have on the human psyche. Toro found that the mixture of music, movement, and expressed emotions stirs the human potential and connects individuals to each other. The magic happens within classes called vivencias, on-the-spot life experiences orchestrated by biodanza instructors who come to class with a lesson plan and a CD of carefully selected music cued up.
It’s really hard to describe biodanza because you have to experience it to get it. I’ll try, nonetheless, but be forewarned. It’s like trying to tell someone what it feels like to peel a ripe mango and become briefly intoxicated with that scent.
Each vivencia has its own flavor. As a whole, the class may have a pre-selected theme, such as the yin-yang archetype, angels, totem animals, gods and goddesses, or one of the four elements. Each dance has a specific intention, such as connecting to mother earth, breathing in beauty, feeling the heart center, or flirting with desire. Biodanceros give in to the moment and to the rhythm at hand—samba, salsa, classical, rock, pop, flamenco. The music is critical and as a true melomaniac, I appreciate that the music is real and organic, as opposed to computerized techno types of tunes.
The biodanza instructor leads the way and demonstrates an interpretation of the dance at hand. She sets the tone, often with a poetic script: Dance your pleasure… Dance like now or never… Walk the walk of your life… Feel a oneness with all that is connected to the universe… Dive into the sea of humanity.
But the rest of us are without words. We dance in silence, listening inward. We do as we are told: Hold hands and dance in a circle to the rhythm of samba and greet each other with the eyes. Let go and walk tall, happy and proud to Queen’s “I Want to Break Free.” Breathe in universal love and float with the sounds of Enya. Reach into the root of the earth with the beat of African drums. Dance and touch each other with the fingertips. Caress the hair of the person in front of you.
We go inside, quiet down, even as Kitaro’s “Sundance” is pulsing inside our bodies. That is the beauty of biodanza.
I sought out biodanza in Los Angeles after that fated encounter in Buenos Aires and found Jaquelin Levin, who had just relocated here after being invited to teach a biodanza seminar at Esalen. A native of South Africa, Jaqueline trained with Carolina Churba in Johannesburg and later apprenticed with Patricia Martello in the United Kingdom. She recalls her first vivencia in Cape Town. “I was so disconnected from my body, I questioned being in that first class,” she said, adding that she masked her embarrassment with giggles. “But I went back the next week and something shifted in me psychologically and physically.” Soon after, she was hooked. “The woman [instructor] from Brasil demonstrated the dances and moved with such comfort and sensuality. I wanted to be like her.”
I do too. Not that I want to be exactly like anyone, but I want to be in my body in a happy, expressive and fluid sort of way. Like swimming, but on land.
Here in Los Angeles, Jaquelin offers a series of vivencias (weekly classes resume on September 24). She has an intensive workshop coming up at the Goddess Temple of Orange County (October 3), a workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur (January 5-10, 2010) and a Caribbean cruise for International Women’s Week (February 28-March 10). Graduates from the San Francisco School of Biodanza may also offer vivencias in California. And if you google around, you can find biodanza in many cities in the U.S.
A few nights ago, I joined Jaqueline and her group of biodanceros on the beach for a vivencia beneath a full moon in Aquarius. I don’t know if it was the soft sand and ocean breeze or the intimacy with strangers mixed up with lunar magic, but something clicked all over again. I woke up, ever so briefly, in the pleasure of the moment. Even now, I close my eyes and sway in the circle of communion, arms wrapped around fellow biodanceros in our safe nest of humanity. I can still hear the chorus of Deva Premal’s “So Much Magnificence”: “There is so much magnificence near the ocean, waves are coming in, waves are coming in.”
As part of the ongoing effort to increase the representation of African American, Asian and Latino creative professionals in the communications industry, the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) is proud to announce its Fall 2009 Writers Workshop. Enter to be one of 20 writers of color selected to take part in an extraordinary 2-day intensive workshop, led by Carole Kirschner, veteran television executive and architect of the CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program.
The program includes:
professional evaluation of submitted material one-on-one meeting with script analyst to review coverage intensive day-long writing class taught by successful, working writers overview of the business and self-marketing seminar hands-on New Media training
Hone your craft. Learn how to translate your writing into on-line entertainment. Discover how to sell yourself and your projects.
Scheduled for October 5-6, the Workshop will be held at the American Management Association in New York City. The entry deadline is August 20, 2009.
NAMIC is the premier organization focusing on multi-ethnic diversity in the communications industry. Founded in 1980 as a non-profit trade association, today NAMIC comprises 2,000 professionals belonging to a network of 18 chapters nationwide. Through initiatives that focus on education, advocacy and empowerment, NAMIC champions equity and inclusion in the workforce, with special attention given to ensuring that the leadership cadres of our nation's communications industry giants reflect the multi-ethnic richness of the populations they serve. For more information, visit www.namic.com.
WRITING CONTESTS A few doors to knock on (some have entry fees) --
PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowships Emerging Voices is an intensive eight-month program for writers in the early stages of their literary careers. The program includes free classes at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program; one-on-one mentoring with a professional writer; Q&A evenings with professional writers, publishers, editors, and agents; Master classes by genre with a published PEN author; Day-long work shops on various elements of publishing; a $1,000 stipend. The program culminates with a public reading and reception. Emerging Voices focuses on writers from underserved communities, though selection is not based solely on economic need. Participants need not be published, but the program is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their writing. There are no age restrictions.
Writer's Digest Pop Fiction Awards Deadline: November 2, 2009 Writer's Digest is now accepting entries in the Pop Fiction Awards. Submit your entry for your chance to win $2,500 cash, $100 worth of Writer's Digest Books and the 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market.
Five Categories: Romance Mystery/Crime Fiction Science Fiction/Fantasy Thriller/Suspense Horror
Click here for additional information or to enter online.
Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award A prize of $1,000 and an invitation to read the winning work at the Robert Frost Festival is given annually for a poem written in the spirit of Robert Frost. Submit up to three poems totaling no more than three pages with a $10 entry fee per poem by September 15. Send an SASE, call, e-mail, or visit the website for complete guidelines.Robert Frost Foundation, Poetry Award, Lawrence Public Library, 51 Lawrence Street, 3rd Floor, Lawrence, MA 01841. (978) 725-8828. Mark Schorr, Executive Director. email@example.com www.frostfoundation.org
Bear Deluxe Magazine Doug Fir Fiction Award A prize of $1,000 and publication inBear Deluxe Magazineis given annually for a short story about the natural world, sense of place, or environmental issues. Jon Raymond will judge. Submit a story of up to 5,000 words with a $15 entry fee, which includes a copy of the prize issue, by September 8. Call, e-mail, or visit the website for complete guidelines. (See Recent Winners.)
The Bukowski Contest Send your best Bukowski inspired, Bukowski-esque, or Bukowski worthy story. All usual Submission Guidelines apply. Include Bukowski Contest in the subject line of your e-mail. The deadline for submitting to this contest is September 30, 2009. Winners will be announced in the October 2009 issue of The Legendary and published in November 2009. Works that are not chosen as winners will still be considered for publication in future issues. First prize includes feature publication in The Legendary, Legendary stickers, and the four DVD course Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft, twenty-four lectures by Professor Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa, an English professor and Collegiate Fellow of that institution, as well as director of the Iowa General Education Literature Program. Learn more here.
AND ... Fellow bloguero Daniel Olivas is the type of writer who makes his own opportunities - he's literally in dozens of places at once, talking or writing about writing and writers, and getting plenty of his own writing out there for readers. Check out a good interview with La Bloga's Monday Man at the Examiner, at this link.
This is the weekend for the Chicano Music Festival at Su Teatro's new digs, 215 S. Santa Fe, Denver. Go back to last Friday's post for a schedule of events. Always a good time.
I've been looking at cover art for my next book, another way to have a good time -- can't say too much yet, but it's suave, esé. Stay tuned for all the details.
I like to think that summer is only half-over - optimistic, I know (fall officially begins September 22.) It's been a good one, for sure. If you live in one of the latitudes where there are real seasons, may I suggest that before it's too late you take a book out in the sun, soak up rays and do some reading. Tanned and taught in one afternoon.
Paul Martínez Pompa earned degrees from the University of Chicago and Indiana University, where he served as a poetry editor for Indiana Review. His chapbook, Pepper Spray, was published by Momotombo Press in 2006. His first full length collection, My Kill Adore Him, was selected for the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize in 2008. He currently lives in Chicago and teaches composition and creative writing at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois.
What people who know are saying
“This is one tough, smart poet. The poems of Paul Martínez Pompa are gritty and visceral, but never cross the line into sensationalism. They are poems that vividly evoke the urban world, especially Chicago, without ever lapsing into urban cliché. They are poems that seek justice for the Latino community without ever resorting to the overheated language that all too often consigns poetry of social conscience to oblivion.” — Martín Espada, 2008 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize judge
"Like the poet’s native Chicago, even when violent or troubling, Paul Martínez Pompa’s poems risk beauty. His work possesses a fluidity that appears both effortless and well earned. His is a Chicago Renaissance of one Gwendolyn Brooks’s Bronzeville and Carl Sandburg’s 'city of big shoulders' becoming a 'city of broken lovers' and 'an entire city in your ears' in Martínez Pompa’s capable hands. Playful and political and passionate, the poems in My Kill Adore Him mark an important debut, one you’ll surely adore."
--Kevin Young, author of Dear Darkness and For the Confederate Dead
Paul Martínez Pompa deconstructs with a deft sword. Straddling literary strategies, no supposition nor paradigm is safe. He slays the stereotypic dragons within as well as without, putting popular culture, elegy, nightmare, personal narrative, identity and gender politics in the same hat, and drawing from the source, Pompa plays a poetic hand for keeps. Every turn of trope is more delightful than the last. A breakaway collection from an exciting new writer.
--Lorna Dee Cervantes, author of Drive: The First Quartet
What I say.....
Paul's writing hits deep, hits purely, hits true. Whether it's gender identity/visibility/invisibility and the unerring pull of desire, or whether it's the disembodied voices of poisoned workers on the border---Paul leaves his mark on you, indelible and irrevocable. There is an amazing passion in the writing, and yet Paul is also somehow observer and voyeur. He is able to capture the tragedy of desire unspoken, bones in the desert undiscovered and unburied. His writing makes my heart raceand my palms sweat. It breaks and enters my sleep. It is not to be missed.
From the monster of a book....
Men Watching Men —El Gato Negro Bar I’m not drunk enough so I order one more bottle. He shoves a lime down its throat & I see myself
surrounded by men who watch the night in a mirror behind the bar. We smoke our cigarettes with purpose, pretending courage is something we can suck in. Click of the jukebox
& the treble cuts the air. A man holds his woman tight enough to feel her penis press his belly.
Dance floor strobe light captures their bodies. Her cheek on his shoulder, her breath on our necks.
i am searching for a way. to fall into your skin. to erase. what grows under. your hospital bed a home away from. memory. the vanishing act who fathered your children. how to reconstruct the ruins. no fist small enough. to unravel this knot in my chest. as if i could. heal. how easy he is to hate. a wound. in a wound labeled your body. a diagnosis on a slip of paper. not a story. the empty space i too have colonized. forgive my desire to pour you. through me. embrace the damaged parts. i am searching for a way to fall. a way to bleed. him. me.
Adriana Domínguez, Former HarperCollins Executive Editor, Joins Full Circle Literary Adriana Domínguez has joined Full Circle Literary as its newest agent, effective immediately. Ms. Domínguez has over ten years of experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, where she managed the children’s division of the Latino imprint, Rayo. Prior to her work at HarperCollins, Ms. Domínguez was Children’s Reviews Editor at Críticas magazine, published by Library Journal. She is also a professional translator, and has worked on a number of Spanish-language translations of best-selling children’s books. At Full Circle Literary, Ms. Domínguez will continue her strong list of children’s picture books, middle grade novels, and literary young adult novels. She will also represent authors writing for adults in the following genres: literary fiction, women’s fiction, and historical fiction.. For her adult nonfiction list, she will seek women’s interest, multicultural, pop culture, and how-to books. Full Circle Literary founder Stefanie Von Borstel says, “We are very excited to have Adriana on board. Her eye for spotting and developing authors is unparalleled and we feel her taste is very much in tune with our global interests. Adriana and I met while working on Latino-interest projects at Rayo. I was impressed by her detail-oriented editing and her strength as an advocate for authors throughout the publishing process. I am certain that those skills, among others, will make her an excellent agent.” “I am very much looking forward to helping published and unpublished authors develop their work and navigate the complex world of publishing from concept through publication, and beyond,” adds Ms. Domínguez. “I am particularly excited about having joined an agency that shares my interest in publishing the work of Latino authors, and that has the awards and recognition to prove that it does it well.” Ms. Domínguez will be based in New York City and will serve as Full Circle Literary’s East Coast representative. She can be contacted by e-mail at Adriana@fullcircleliterary.com Full Circle Literary is a California-based literary agency. Founded in 2004 by Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani, the agency represents a wide range of children’s and adult authors. For more information, visit their website: www.fullcircleliterary.com.
Adriana Domínguez has joined Full Circle Literary as its newest agent, effective immediately. Ms. Domínguez has over ten years of experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, where she managed the children’s division of the Latino imprint, Rayo.
Prior to her work at HarperCollins, Ms. Domínguez was Children’s Reviews Editor at Críticas magazine, published by Library Journal. She is also a professional translator, and has worked on a number of Spanish-language translations of best-selling children’s books.
At Full Circle Literary, Ms. Domínguez will continue her strong list of children’s picture books, middle grade novels, and literary young adult novels. She will also represent authors writing for adults in the following genres: literary fiction, women’s fiction, and historical fiction. For her adult nonfiction list, she will seek women’s interest, multicultural, pop culture, and how-to books.
Full Circle Literary founder Stefanie Von Borstel says, “We are very excited to have Adriana on board. Her eye for spotting and developing authors is unparalleled and we feel her taste is very much in tune with our global interests. Adriana and I met while working on projects at Rayo. I was impressed by her detail-oriented editing and her strength as an advocate for authors throughout the publishing process. I am certain that those skills, among others, will make her an excellent agent.”
“I am very much looking forward to helping published and unpublished authors develop their work and navigate the complex world of publishing from concept through publication, and beyond,” adds Ms. Domínguez. “I am particularly excited about having joined an agency that shares my interest in publishing the work of Latino authors, and that has the awards and recognition to prove that it does it well.”
Ms. Domínguez will be based in New York City and will serve as Full Circle Literary’s East Coast representative. She can be contacted by e-mail at Adriana@fullcircleliterary.com or by phone at 858-824-9269.
Full Circle Literary is a California-based literary agency. Founded in 2004 by Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani, the agency represents a wide range of children’s and adult authors. For more information, visit their website: www.fullcircleliterary.com.
A Note from Adriana Dominguez
I am writing you today because I want you to get these wonderful news directly from me.
After leaving HarperCollins Children's Books a year ago, I was flooded with an overwhelming amount of support that made me feel truly appreciated, and led me to wonder what I could do next that would be worthy of such praise and encouragement. And so, over the past year I have engaged in many wonderful chats with friends, family members, and colleagues, and done a certain degree of soul searching. I asked myself, over and over again: How can I best help ALL authors— and Latino authors in particular—get published using the skills I've gathered over a decade of work in the publishing industry?
About a month ago, the answer to this question became very clear to me, so I began to take steps to make this happen. And so, it is with great joy and a good deal of hope that I announce my new role as agent and East Coast representative for Full Circle Literary Agency. I chose this agency in particular because I worked with them in the past at Harper, and in the process of doing so, came to really appreciate and respect their professionalism, deep concern for their authors, and attention to detail. These qualities, along with their interest in helping Latino authors get published, makes me believe that we will complement each other very well, and that only wonderful things can come from this new venture!
I invite you to share the news with authors and colleagues to help me launch my new efforts, and look forward to finding new and exciting ways for us to collaborate!
Thank you for your continued support, and good luck with your own ventures!
By Ignacio Solares Translated by Timothy G. Compton Introduction by Carlos Fuentes
Imagine yourself a resident of Baghdad in March 2003. It is the eve of the United States invasion. You know your own military’s weakness is the perfect foil for the invader’s fabled power. Some of your men in uniform will fight fiercely, but they will surely die.You know your nation’s political leadership engenders little loyalty from a restive citizenry, so you hold no hope for massive resistance when the invaders raise their flag from the conquered rooftops. A feeling of dread begins to seep into your every waking thought. The first bombs drop, the first tanks turn the corner, and everything you feared turns out as you foresaw, only it’s worse because all these fears are real, and they’re happening to you.
Now put yourself into the same frame of mind, except the year is 1847 and you are living in Mexico City. The Yankees have already stolen Texas, the evil clown Santa Anna having held a state funeral for his dead leg, now has gone into hiding to avoid battle. Only poorly armed rasquachi soldiers stand in the way of General Scott’s invading giants. The Yankees have bombarded Veracruz. The Yankees have overwhelmed Puebla. The Yankees are in the Zócalo about to raise the stars and stripes above the Palacio Nacional.
Such parallels are inescapably part of the ambiente of Ignacio Solares’ Yankee Invasion, a Novel of Mexico City. Such is the bad P.R. the United States has earned from its many years of military adventures in foreign lands that the novel doesn’t need to make the parallels explicitly. Solares feeds the flames an anti-Yankeeism in this historical novel, so it is not a novel for “my country right or wrong my country” tipos. Solares doesn’t waste a lot of tears for Mexicanos, either. One of the key side characters, Father Jarauta, stands for fighting against the Yankees and the Mexicans who support them. Moreover, the story comes to us ten years after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo has ceded half of Mexico into US control, and 1848 was a long time ago.
Solares uses the invasion as backdrop for the story of a courageous surgeon, a troubled writer, and an indictment of an inept government, then as now. We hear about war but see precious little. Much of the battle action takes place in hearsay narrative, in rumor, in newspaper reportage. And this is a good thing because readers who are Veterans of the U.S. military do not want to read about Mexicans—or anyone—killing GIs or Marines, whether from the halls of Montezuma or the banks of the Euphrates.
The medico is Dr. Urruchúa. He’s troubled that his patients die with regularity after childbirth and other procedures. He’s frustrated that a few tragos of rum are all he can offer a patient about to feel the doctor’s saw cut into an amputation. Urruchúasuspects that washing hands and instruments might alleviate virulent infection, and ruminates that hypnotism could be useful in surgery. The doctor is a genuine hero. During the battle for Mexico City, the doctor goes from hospital to hospital without food or rest tending to wounded. A grievously wounded Yankee gets as good as the doctor can give—just as Yankee medicos tend to wounded Mexicans.
Among the doctor’s closest friends is Abelardo, the frustrated writer. Dr. Urruchúa theorizes Mesmer’s treatments could reduce Abelardo’s chronic depression, not just an amputee’s. But the best the doctor can offer his friend is some pills and a sympathetic ear.
Abelardo experiences hallucinations borne of his depression. He sees colors and auras, contemplates suicide as his one sure cure, and perhaps the best way to escape the consequences of the Yankee invasion. But unlikeable Abelardo is a man of inaction, preferring to discuss politics with his other rich friends than take up arms in defense of la patria.
Abelardo’s story is at once comic and frustrating. Comedy grows from his relationship with Magdalena, his wife, and two women whom Abelardo refers to as the true loves of his life. Magdalena hectors the frustrated writer to stitch together the drawersful of newspaper clippings and scribblings, along with Dr. Urruchúa’s notes, Abelardo has collected over the years.She’s heard bits and snippets of the history throughout their married life and Magdalena’s fed up with the story’s sketchiness. She, too, wants details on the two women, daughter and mother.
This novel, in fact, is the result of Magdalena’s goading urgency. But, in the end, Magdalena refuses to accept Abelardo’s version of events. To the reader’s frustration, Abelardo acknowledges that Magdalena is probably correct, telling her that many details are pure fiction or wishful thinking. In Abelardo’s untrustworthy mind, there’s no difference. Still, history has a concrete referent for much that transpires.The U.S. did invade. Chapultepec was taken. Mexico City was occupied. The trains ran on time, as it were, from United States administrative reforms. And maybe--given its dismal leadership and powerless easily riled plebe--Mexico got what it deserved, the invasion and loss of half its former territory.
Readers will find Yankee Invasion, A Novel of Mexico City, a worthwhile endeavor because the twisted story of the two women is deliciously salacious without being dirty, because the patriotism of the troubled primera clase Abelardo is sincere and genuine, because the underlying satire of Solares’ costumbrismo takes big bites out of Mexican pride, because the narrative is fun as it swings like Abelardo’s moods between straightforward historical account to confessional first person elements when Abelardo steps out of the narrative to address his readers directly, because of its imaginative structure.
Imagine yourself in the assembled masses. The occupying authority summoned attendance to hear the victory proclamation. U.S. cavalry and infantry clean up their appearance as well as possible, a few hours removed from the bloody battle to occupy el Castillo de Chapultepc and fight their way to the seat of government. An officer reads an English language proclamation—pendejo, the people think, screw you and whatever you’re saying in your foreign language. One GI is honored to haul the U.S. flag up the pole. A shot sounds from a nearby rooftop. The sniper’s aim drops the Yankee in his tracks. The crowd explodes in frenzy, pulling invaders to the ground, beating them with brooms and hammers and stones, tearing their dirty uniforms from bleeding corpses. You’re running for your life away from the carnage when a dying Yankee grabs your ankles. In desperation you pull a knife and thrust it into the Yankee’s body again and again until you smell his last breath. It is your own personal moment of triumph. If it happened. Ni modo, there’s a novel in it.
That's the first Tuesday of August. August, my birthday month, my anniversary month! But it's a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.
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The National Genographic Project is a DNA mapping program run by National Geographic genetic scientists aimed at discovering how humans populated the world. It is based on findings that all of our genetic roots descend from a woman who lived in Africa about 150,000 years ago. By studying genetic mutations, scientists are able to track an incredible migration of some 60,000 years ago, extending to every corner of the earth where man has walked. The project charts that journey for different human groups based on changes in their DNA, mapping generation after generation through scientific footprints across countless civilizations and global changes throughout the world.
As a woman, my mitochondrial DNA would trace my lineage back in time through my mother’s and her mother’s and her mother’s DNA, an unbroken chain of mothers back to “Mitochondrial Eve.” Always fascinated with my anthropological beginnings, I swabbed my cheeks and joined this incredible project. Through the miracle of science and technology, my saliva containing a string of genetic mysteries could now be unlocked, revealing a trail of human determination that started with the mother of us all.
With great anticipation, I awaited the results. I was not disappointed.
Evidently, my ancient ancestors left East Africa and began exploring west around 50,000 years ago during the African Ice Age, when melting ice from Europe made the Sahara a desirable place to live. But that did not last. Future generations encountered relentless droughts, causing them to follow big game and better weather to a new home in the Eastern Asia, along the Mediterranean. They were the first Eurasians.
Over the next 5,000 years, my ancestral mothers walked onto the Eurasian and Iranian steppes, a huge grassland rich with antelope and bison. Different languages and customs evolved among the various tribes, forming the earliest of cultures.
Some remained along the Caspian Sea and became the ancient tribes of Persia, while others - pulled by the promise and adventure - traveled deep and wide into the unknown territories.
About 40,000 years ago, the strongest of the hunters (my branch), followed mammoth herds across the Central Asian steppes and found themselves in Siberia. Here they developed more efficient hunting tools and more reliable survival skills. In winters that dropped -40 degrees Fahrenheit, mothers buried their children and then they themselves perished, and many branches became extinct on this trunk of our family tree. Finally, 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, likely following migrating reindeer herds across a frozen “land bridge” that connected Asia to North America, we came to America. Harvesting the abundance of nature along the coastal waterways or hunting bountiful forests, we came. Building tents on the lush plains or adobe dwellings in the high desert, we came. Domesticating horses and dogs, organizing communities and creating art, we came. And from mother to daughter, the historic teachings of the family were passed on. Each of my ancient mothers giving her milk and her dreams to make each generation a little bit better.
I remember, as a teenager, wondering about my mother and my grandmother. I suppose looking at photos of them since I was a child, I was always fascinated with the notion that they had once been my age thinking the same thoughts I was thinking, curious about my curiosities. Were they ever silly and rambunctious? Did they get the giggles in church? Kiss the boys at the movies? What were their lives like, their fears, their dreams? What caused them to decide one way or another? And, what did they sacrifice for their choices?
By the time I went to college, my grandmother seemed quite ancient. My fascination in knowing who she was as a woman grew into a fixation. I was only now beginning to truly understand that here was a woman who had loved and lost, had laughed and worked and wanted, who had walked a long journey but, aside from some old photographs and family stories, I would never truly know.
When I began writing, I asked my mother to tell me the stories of her childhood. Trying to capture the spirit of her life from as far back as she could remember, I started writing her words in journals so that generations who have not yet been born would know, not just the events, but the people.
I hoped to paint the gist of her so that her great grand children, now toddlers, would know a woman who had grit and stamina and held her family together under circumstances they will never fully understand. It is less about honoring my mother; more about rendering the essence of the woman who caused us to be.
Now, having a glimpse of the journey of all the mothers in my line of women, I hunger to know them, to know their stories. What fears did they have to overcome to leave their homes and venture into the unknown? What strength did they have to muster in order to walk hundreds of miles across scorching heat or bitter cold, with no protective clothing or shelter, gathering when there was nothing to hunt, crying when there was nothing to gather? What dreams did they have of a better life as they nursed their children from empty breasts while building fires and scraping bits of roots for food? What joy did they know? What desire? What love?
What I do know is this: I come from a long line of resourceful, intelligent, creative women who tried again and tried again in the face of incomprehensible hardship until they were able to succeed, for only the successful survived. They were women of conviction who raised families under extreme circumstances, women who buried too many babies and yet somehow continued their journey, women who kept their family together to face the next hurdle and the next and the next, always seeking something better.
So, although I will never know those women, I know them. I saw them in my grandmother’s eyes as I recalled her journey, relocating our family from Mexico to the United States just before the Great Depression. I saw them in my mother’s eyes, working full time while she finished her education, the backbone and breadwinner of our family. And I look for them in my own, hoping that even a little bit of the indomitable spirit of these women – of my mother’s mother’s mother – will carry forth in me.
For colored boys who speak softly I would sacrifice my tongue Make an offering to the Gods
I first saw Yosimar Reyes perform his work at Highways in Santa Monica as part of the show 4X4: New Works by 4 Latino Artists. My two goddaughters were with me--Gladys in her early 20’s and Leonor, a teenager. Despite the fact that each of us represents a distinct generation, all three of us were enthralled with Reyes. As he casually entered the stage, he drew us in with his youthfulness, his spiked edgy hair, his openness, and the command with which he began to expel palabra and energía.
A native of Guerrero, Mexico and currently a student at Evergreen Valley Community College in San Jose, Yosimar Reyes transcends borders. He isn’t even old enough to legally buy a beer, yet he holds the title for the 2005 and 2006 South Bay Teen Grand SLAM Championship. He is also the author of the chapbook for colored boys who speak softly.
Photo: Erin Beach
Reyes’ title is a spin on Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. In the 1970’s, Shange’s unique collection brought forth a much-needed feminist black perspective. Her choreopoems also validated the experiences of poor black women generally ignored in literature. Similarly, Reyes’ collection is bringing to the stage an essential colored and queer voice.
Caged birds that sing, missing fathers, the count down of a hate crime, and queer love as an act of resistance—these are some of the motifs in Reyes’ for colored boys who speak softly. Full of raw, youthful, spoken-word vigor and vulnerability, Reyes’ poetry testifies and free-flows:
Yo soy el fuego y tierra de mares que liberan de muertes silenciosas
Yo soy la muerte que me deseas
I am of destruction and reparations of freedom in cages yo soy the bird that still sings praises y con todas mis fuerzas te digo que tu odio me libera porque más que Joto enjaulado
¡Soy el poder de la Conciencia!
Reyes’ conciencia is personal and political, cultural and sexual. In his poem “Queer Aztlán” he deconstructs and reconstructs the mythical land of origins, reminding us that his village has long denied him, labeling him a “rare breed of sin.” It is the hard-shelled hypocrisy of tradition that Reyes wants to crack open and expose with his words. Interestingly, however, while he breaks with oppressive heterosexual traditions, he also adopts old motifs that have been part of that discourse, such as Aztlán. The poet has one foot in new territory and another in the old world, and he’s dancing to redefine those worlds and himself.
There is conviction and anger spewing throughout Reyes’ pages, and clearly his spoken word background has shaped his poetic style. At times, the politics of class, race, gender, and sexuality become somewhat didactic. And yes, Reyes has got a bit of a rant in him, but when least expected, this poet peels back the skin of el Joto Enjaulado and intimately reveals. He is strongest in these places where he sheds all that has been imposed, whether they are mainstream or queer-stream paradigms. In “Sometimes,” for example, he confesses his inner fears and struggles, stating that he does not know what freedom looks like:
Because just like everyone else I am a coward; Afraid to speak, Because I know I wouldn’t be reading this If my mother was in front of me…
Sometimes I wish I were nothing, Invisible like breath, like wind Just spirit, no body, no head Sometimes I wish I were nothing… Nothing…
The fuel in Reyes’ work is Love with a capital “L.” Love of self. Love for the Black bisexual who wants to join the army to kill “the BAD people.” Love for Lawrence King, the 15-year-old gay boy who was tragically shot in Oxnard by a fellow student. In “Hate Crime,” a tribute to King, Reyes shows even his love for the perpetrators of violence and hate.
…I wonder about this boy in front of me. The one holding the gun to my head calling me names. I wonder how the world will treat him. If they will understand that it is not his fault, this is bigger than his desire to see me dead…beyond the name-calling and his shattered spirit, he is a product of…his parents.
The entire collection is a love letter to colored queer men and the extended community. This love is Reyes’ rebellion encarnado, lodged in the body, made of flesh and bone.
This is resistance
Your hand pressed upon my chest the way your lips feel on mine … I open the doors of my body to you No longer afraid Of the ghosts that haunt me … This is resistance Because brown boys are not supposed to love like this
Yet they do love like this, and Reyes wants the world to hear and know this truth. At 20, Yosimar Reyes is a raw poetic gem stone. I can’t wait to see this author evolve, for as other queer colored writers of our time (Cherríe Moraga, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, John Rechy, Gil Cuadros, Luis Alfaro, and Essex Hemphill to name a few), Reyes is rupturing old literary canons, forging nuevos caminos, and shift-shaping like a two-spirited shaman inside the queer continuum. This is one young man not to be missed. Here he is sharing a little bit more about himself in his own words.
When did you begin to write?
I began documenting my thoughts in middle school because at the time I was too shy to share them with anyone. Going through old journals I get all embarrassed because I was such a tragic little kid.
What role did books play in your literary and personal development?
As I entered High School I became more aware that I was different, something that can be very dangerous in an atmosphere where individuality is not celebrated. I found comfort in books. It was around this time that I became familiar with James Baldwin. As I read Go Tell it On the Mountain somehow I felt that Baldwin had written that book for me. So I became interested in reading all the queer people of color books I could find. It was because of writers like Baldwin, Cherríe Moraga, La Gloria Anzaldúa, Nikki Giovanni and Manuel Muñoz that I began to see myself in a different light.
You’re a two-time champion of the South Bay Teen Grand SLAM (2005 & 2006). What drew you into slam poetry?
I began slamming in high school. Initially this was because my teachers thought it would be a good way for me to step out of my shell. Slam was my first introduction to the world of performance poetry. I competed in venues throughout the bay area and slowly people began connecting with my work. Pretty soon I was being featured at local poetry readings and open mics. That’s how I slowly drifted away from the world of competitive poetry to where I am now.
Your queerness is expressed in different ways in your writing. Can you comment on your queer identity in relation to your writing?
I choose to write from a queer pen because this has been the identity many have tried to make me feel ashamed of. When I write about growing up as a queer boy, I do so to spread understanding that my queerness is not a simple act of the flesh but of my spirit. My queerness is in my skin, my voice, in my touch; it is the duality of my spirit.
When someone reads or hears your work, what are you hoping they get out of it?
More than anything I want people to get a real sense of who I am and the factors that have made me such a complex being. In my writing I expose a world that has become detached from the core. My poems are attempts to find humanity within myself. That is the message I want to spread to people; we need to find the humanity within each and every one of us in order to recognize that no one is expendable.
What are you currently working on and do you have any upcoming events?
Recently, I became one of three members of LA MARICOLECTIVA: a group of Mexicano/Chicano Queer Immigrant Poets. We will be presenting our official launching in September of this year. I am really excited about this. I am also conceptualizing a poetry CD which, god willing, will come soon. For the L.A. folks, I will be performing at Tia Chucha’s in Sylmar on August 22, 2009.
My dog Manchas and I are going to spend a few days alone, w/o a tent or campfire, sitting on a mt., away from as many people as possible.
In Huxley's Island, old people would annually drop a hit of something, maybe it was mescaline. Given my 61 years, consider this something similar. Due to aging and ravaged liver, stomach, kidneys, heart, etc., we will need to take minimal water and two packages of unsalted crackers. Manchas will also be on reduced intake. I can't do the real vision question (sweat lodge, total abstinence) because I'm not a real indio, nor a true believer in the Great Spirit. Just a partial believer.
Call it an attempt to reconnect with the little bit of indigenous in me. Call it a cleansing of the civilized, urban garbage I carry.
Just finished reading Nightfall by Clarke & Silverberg, about a planet where a planet's population goes mad when they see the stars only every 2,000 years. Manchas and I have seen the stars before (last night), but never for whole nights.
I didn't win the "What Was I Thinking" contest on Mario Acevedo's website, The Biting Edge, with my last entry for the dumbassest thing I ever did, but maybe I'll win his next one for my episode on the mt.
I don't doubt I'll lose some weight, which I can afford to. But will I shed some mind-heart clutter that I need to lose? Things that will help clarify, that will awaken my brain, that will loosen the soul. We don't have a guide like in Teachings of Don Juan, ala Carlos Castaneda, to lead us, so we're going to have to play it by ear. Hope the mt. spirits accept the unguided.
The subtitle to the book was A Yaqui way of knowledge. Our family supposedly has Yaqui in it. Maybe I'll reconnect with some of that, though whether knowledge or something less or something stranger results, well, we'll just see. I've got cold feet, and I'm not talking due to Denver's unseasonably cool temps. (It was 50 last night.) Being by oneself is not a normal comfort zone. Not for this long. With no manmade lights, colas or cervezas, human comforts, no TV, phone, computer. I'm taking six cigs. And maybe one fat one. But I won't dare light it in the dark.
Also taking my stick and a knife, hopefully only necessary for the cougars. Bears don't like dogs, so I don't worry there. Cougars do like dogs, very rare and unsalted. Manchas will need to be somewhat tethered to avoid becoming lunch.
I'm taking along a small spiral, for no more than an hour's worth of notes every morning. Hard to say whether I'll share that here or whether there'll be much worth sharing.
We'll come down from the mt., hopefully much better for having gone up. Vamos a ver, RudyG
CHICANO MUSIC FESTIVAL All events take place at Su Teatro's new space: 215 S. Santa Fe Drive, Denver
THURSDAY, AUG 6, 7pm - 9pm: Opening Night ($8) Su Teatro presents a special screening of the film Chicano Rock: The Sounds of East L.A. Hosted by XicanIndie FilmFest Director Daniel Salazar, and featuring guest commentators Pocho Joe (La Raza Rocks), Johnny "Ritmo" Rodriguez, and Joaquin Liebert (The Risk). Also, get a sneak preview of our annual auction!
FRIDAY, AUG 7, 7pm - 10pm: Noche Tradicional ($10) Musica de Colorado Hall of Fame inductions: folk musician Dr. Lorenzo Trujillo, radio pioneers David Gallegos and Paul Chavez, and KUVO's longstanding Sunday radio program Cancion Mexicana. Featuring performances by The Southwest Musicians and others. Also live and silent auctions.
SATURDAY, AUG 8, 6pm - 11pm: Pachanga! ($18) Pachanga madness returns with the best Chicano Rock and Roll in the state: Sangre Chicana, Next in Line, Johnny "Ritmo Rodriguez" y los Diamantes, and more! Exciting live auctions feature original artwork, resort getaways, spa packages, sports tickets, wine tastings, y mucho mucho mas!
SUNDAY, AUG 9, 5pm - 9pm: Mariachi Tardeada ($12) Enjoy a lovely summer afternoon with great mariachi music, food hot off the grill, and ice cold beer and margaritas. Maricachi Vasquez, Tony Silva and Trio Xochitl with Mariachi de las Artes.
Get a complete festival pass for only $35, or buy a Season VIP and get next year's festival pass plus 2 tickets/2 drinks for this year's festival, all for just $135. Call: 303.296.0219
The stories in this collection range from contemporary narratives to more traditional cuentas de fantasma, giving readers a vivid and honest portrait of modern Latinos in search of their place in the world. Funny yet poignant, Olivas's characters frequently amuse, sometimes disturb, and often remind us of our own vulnerability. People who on the surface appear to be ordinary and uncomplicated reveal their deepest secrets and anxieties related to a variety of issues, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and the human condition in general. We are given a glimpse into the complex emotions and attitudes of characters who are trying to cope with the mysteries of life. These stories ring with humor, insight, and power, and, like the city they describe, they shift and slide and refuse to be pinned down as they drive the reader to the very core of human existence through the colorful mural of a thriving Latino community.
Born in the Cavity of Sunsets Michael Luis Medrano July
Poet Michael Luis Medrano shows us life in Fresno, California, a city where one can never see the actual moment when the sun slips beyond the horizon because too many buildings block the view. The picture he paints is not always pretty. In edgy, sometimes angry verse, Medrano reveals a world of shadows and sacrifice. Never shying away from grim detail, he describes frustration, struggle, violence, and frief. But he also shows us light, hope and humor with a wry and refreshing voice. Through it all he remains sincere and versatile, letting the reader absorb intense emotion, from writhing agony to tender joy. Born in the Cavity of Sunsets is poetry for the people, from the initiated and well versed to the beginner who is just discovering the magic of a well-turned phrase.
Second Communion Nash Candelaria September
This memoir by renowned Chicano writer Nash Candelaria focuses on how and why he chose to become a writer. As he investigates his family's more than 300-year history in New Mexico, the author undertakes a more intimate journey that leads him to understand truths about himself: why he chose to become a writer and why he chose the topics he did. Part family history and part self-examination, Second Communion is a must-read for aspiring writers, those interested in Southwest history, and students and teachers of Chicano literature.
Simpáticos: San Miguel Stories Elva Treviño Hart September
Elva Trevino Hart introduces us to the people of San Miguel de Allende. Nestled in the eastern part of Guanajuato in Mexico's mountainous bajio region, the town has a mild climate and an accommodating culture that attract wealthy Americans and Canadians seeking relaxation and escape. In this picturesque setting, we meet a variety of well-to-do Anglo retirees: some are haunted by ghosts, others by their own pasts, some fine renewed meaning and purpose, and still others explore their sexuality. Witnessing it all are the maids of San Miguel, the women charged with making visitors' stays carefree and luxurious.The maids work magic to heal or redeem their employers, but sometimes the sorcery of others trumps their own. Simpáticos movingly describes two extreme socioeconomic conditions and reveals the universal journey we all ultimately share.
Not Myself Without You Lourdes Vázquez October
A working-class Puerto Rican family of the 1950s lives surrounded by spirits, ghosts, and witches, a result of incantations performed in their living room. Chronicling nearly two decades of the family's history -- including their occult activities -- the story involves characters who are centered in Puerto Rico but who move through the Caribbean, Central America, Spain, and New York as they are pulled by the economic, political, and social conditions of the times as well as by their own intense desires. Based on oral history and research, Not Myself Without You is the author's own memoir with a strong fictional twist.
The Scoundrel and the Optimist Maceo Montoya October
Nothing is easy when you are thirteen, and it's especially challenging when everyone thinks you're eight because you are tiny; your father is an abusive, tyrannical lout; your siblings are determined to strike out on their own to escape constant drunken rages; and your mother is deeply depressed. In The Scoundrel adn the Optimist we meet Edmund, a hapless but irrepressible redheaded teen whose magnificent strength of spirit makes him a giant among men. Despite roadblocks and bad advice, Edmund is determined to win the heart of Ingrid Genera and to become a great guitar player. But his most notable accomplishment is teaching his father, Filastro, the value of integrity and optimism.
Guillermo Saccomanno of Argentina and David Torres of Spain share the 2008 PremioHammett Prize for the best crime novel in Spanish. Saccomanno's novel is entitled 77. The author dedicated the prize to his granddaughter and recalled that one of her great-uncles was one of the tens of thousands forcibly disappeared in Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship. David Torreswon for Niños de Tiza. The award ceremony took place during this year's Semana Negra in Gijón, Spain. Also at this year's Semana Negra, Cuban writer Rodolfo Pérez Valero won First Prize for his short story Dioses y orishas (Gods and Orishas) The short story is about immigration, forced prostitution and mafias in Spain. This was the 5th First Prize for Perez in 19 years. A complete list of the Semana Negra winners can be found at this site.
EVENT Dance of the Flower Medicine - Danza Xochitl Pahtli Featured will be curanderos from Cuernavaca, Mexico. On August 4th, the events will start with a Welcoming Ceremony at Cuernavaca Park hosted by the Sister City Council. This two hour event will include traditional dancers, singers, and drummers. Mayor Hickenlooper will present the opening. The following days will include speaking engagements throughout Denver and Lakewood. These events will also include events where the curanderos will offer healings and demonstrations. The events will end at Metro State College. The weekly events are free and open to the public. More information including a schedule of all events at this link.
Event Information Contact: Sofia Chavez-Federick 303-726-7119 Media Contact: Mavis Salazar, (720) 297-3522; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spain’s Real Academia de la Historia (Royal Academy of History) will publish before the end of the year six volumes of the Spanish Biographical Dictionary, and within two years the remaining 44 volumes of the monumental work will be placed online so that the entire collection will be on the Internet probably in 2010.
“As soon as we have several volumes published, we will immediately ‘post’ the entire book on the Web. In this way, it will acquire a worldwide dimension,” said Academy director Gonzalo Anes, who added that the institution is publishing the Dictionary thanks to the sponsorship of the Marcelino Botín Foundation.
Anes also emphasized the Academy’s project to translate the Dictionary into English so that it can also be accessed online in that language. “Then, worldwide distribution will certainly be assured,” he said.
The Dictionary was a project that the Academy nurtured from its founding in 1735, but its complexity and the difficulty of communications delayed it for centuries.
The 50 volumes of the Dictionary, each of which consists of about 800 pages, and the more than 40,000 biographies it contains of personalities from all epochs of Spanish history “place Spain at the level of the most important countries of the world,” the director said.
The more than 40,000 biographies were made possible thanks to “the important collaboration” of 5,500 experts, among them a good number of Hispanic American historians and “Hispanicists from all over the world,” Anes added.
For the past six months, the Academy has posted on its Web page (www.rah.es) a preview of what the online Biographical Dictionary will be like.
Sandra Posadas is a second generation Puerto Rican woman born and bred in Humboldt Park, Chicago, Illinois. She is a teacher, published artist/illustrator, actress; cast member of the Vida Bella Ensemble, artisan; creator of Coqueta Creations by PiXie- a jewelry line for women. Sandra has been a Bilingual educator within the Chicago Public Schools for 12 years and was recently nominated for the Illinois Golden Apple Award. Sandra is also an educator of teachers, and has presented her progressive early childhood approach to curriculum development and implementation at a variety of teacher conferences throughout Chicago. Sandra successfully co-wrote her first production, "Brown Girls Singing" which was successfully staged at University of Chicago and Jane Addams' Hull House.
Sandra performs her poetry at various Chicago venues and has presented her art work at various local venues including the University of Illinois @ Chicago Symposium for Women of Color in 2008. She holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University and is currently a working on her M.A. in Bilingual/ Bicultural Education at DePaul University. Sandra believes strongly in that art can educate. Through her poetry, canvasses, and performances She believes in using art as knowledge and transformation so that all participants and spectators examine themselves in relation to their place in society. Through different modalities that she uses, whether visual, interactive, or the performing arts, the audience can explore, reflect, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.
The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience Written & directed by Yolanda Nieves, executive producer Mike Oquendo
Vida Bella Ensemble is thrilled to announce its upcoming performance of The Brown Girls' Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience was SOLD OUT. Written and directed by author/playwright Yolanda Nieves, “The Brown Girls' Chronicles” are the stories of second generation Chicago Puerto Rican women who in their daily lives embody the struggle for independence of mind, soul, heart and body. The three-night run of “The Brown Girls’ Chronicles” will took place at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. The production will be mounted again, in Fall 2009. Check the group's myspace page for more info. Following audience acclaim and a previous sold-out run in March, the May performances mark the second sold-out run of The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience. “I stand in awe of the support…” shares director Yolanda Nieves, “This play is a testament to the intelligence, beauty and resilience of who Latinas are.” The May performances took place May 28-30, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. in the 140-seat West Town Studio Theater at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green Street in Chicago.
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About Vida Bella Ensemble: Vida Bella Ensemble is an all Latin, all-female Chicago-based collective of inter-generational artists committed to communicating the stories of the trials and triumphs of the urban woman. In collaborative partnership the stories of such experiences are told through the performance of poetry, dialogue, monologue, song and movement. For more information about Vida Bella Ensemble visit www.myspace.com/browngirlschronicles or email email@example.com.
About Director Yolanda Nieves: Award winning Chicago poet, author and playwright Yolanda Nieves uses the power of verse and the written word to teach and inspire. An accomplished writer, her work has been extensively published by college/university and independent presses and journals around the country. Her newest book, “Dove Over Clouds” (Plainview Press, 2007) has again garnered her acclaim for the themes revolving around the issues of race, gender, class and colonialism as it relates to the Puerto Rican/Afro-Puerto Rican Diaspora. Her work captures the spirit of hope, shaped by her Puerto Rican heritage, growing up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and by the direct impact of women impressed upon her. Performing her poetry and plays in Chicago and all over the world, her performances have received great acclaim in England, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
She’s the founder and artistic creator of Vida Bella Ensemble performance troupe. Her collection of artistic work gives audiences the clarity of the experiences of women, mothers and immigrants. Full of passion and candor, she inspires audiences to expand their understanding of their own lives and the inspiration for them to tell their own stories. Yolanda resides in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and teaches at Wilbur Wright Community College. About Executive Producer Mike Oquendo: Mike Oquendo combines his love of live arts and his production experience to produce over 70 shows a year in both the Chicagoland area and throughout the country. Creator of the "Mikey O Comedy Show,” Mike is a prominent force in independent productions. His shows and events have been featured on local TV, radio and print media including coverage by Telemundo, WGN-TV, People en Español, TimeOut Chicago, Chicago Reader and Metromix.
Two notable accomplishments include sitting on the Board of Governors for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which produced the first Latin Grammy's in 2001, and being a concept contributor on three HBO Latino specials in 2006. Mike was a production consultant for the Adler Planetarium’s "Luna Cabana Series" and the International Latino Film Festival, positions he held for 6 years respectively. Mike is particularly proud of continually raising funds for non-profit organizations that provide services and programs to Latino and non-Latino communities.
I steered her car to the ramshackle gas station that surprised us by being open at midnight.
“I’ll see about a motel.” She didn’t respond.
A tall, skinny young man with a receding hairline slouched behind the counter, surrounded by beer nut packages and car deodorizers. I asked if there was a place to spend the night. He pointed at a sign on the wall that advertised the Dew Drop Inn Motel – newly renovated and the last chance for a hundred miles.
“That’s all we got around here. It’s about a mile up the road, the way you was headin’.”
“How about the highway to the city?”
“You goes the other direction. Make a u-turn, then left at the crossroads. Five miles more or less.”
“Is there a back way out of here?” He paused, stood up straight, pointed again.
I handed him two twenty dollar bills. “Fill it up for her. Keep the change. Tell her how to get to the freeway.” I walked out the back door and ran to the Dew Drop Inn.
When David was eight he watched Al pick on Fatty Lombardi until Fatty punched Al. The fight was over in less than three minutes. Al bled from his nose and upper lip and whimpered all the way home.
When Al lay dying in the hospital, David reminded his brother about the fight.
“Why bring that up now?” Al asked.
“I felt like hitting you myself. You asked for it and then you couldn’t handle it. I lost respect for you.”
“Because of that damn fight? We were kids, David.”
David shrugged and looked away. “You were my older brother.”
Al reached for his brother’s hand. He never found it.
Alvarez sighed. The blood-spattered scene was too familiar. His knees cracked as he examined the woman’s bruised and battered corpse. TV cops made jokes about dead bodies, black humor to show how tough they were. Alvarez never joked.
His partner, Copeland, read from her notes. “Some of this you know already. Lupe Vargas. Forty-eight. Unemployed, some kind of disability payment each month. Her daughter said that she came home this morning about six, after work, and found her mother. The daughter’s a waitress at the twenty-four hour diner around the corner. Taking it hard. Lupe had a boyfriend about three months ago. Tommy Levin, a truck driver who’s on the road, not expected back until the weekend. Not many other friends. The old lady next door, who heard nothing, of course. What else? Yeah, the M.E. estimates T.O.D. around eleven last night. That’s all I got.”
“Was she a good mother?”
“Uh, not something I would know, Ben. Why do you ask? You think the daughter’s hinky?”
“No.” He sighed again. “We should talk to the truck driver. I made some calls while you were here with the M.E. Levin’s schedule changed this week, first time in years that he’s been on the road for more than two days at a time. You know how I feel about coincidence. The trucking company faxed me the manifest. The way his route worked out he had to double back. If he drove all night, fast, he could have been in town around midnight, maybe a little earlier.”
Copeland shook her head, once again impressed. “Now we just got to find evidence to back up your theory.”
“We’ll get it. We always do.” He sighed a third time.
“So why ask whether she was a good mother? Just curious?”
He stood up and peeled off the department-issue latex gloves. He stepped gingerly around the body but he could not ignore the smears on the wall and the stench in the air.
Even Anderson Cooper is Tweeting about them, these “wise Latinas,” as though they are a rare discovery. CNN managed to convene a panel of them by gathering noted journalists from Spanish media and other accomplished Latinas . . . evidently an uncommon assemblage the network considered newsworthy.
I’m not sure what Sonia Sotomayor intended when she first spoke those words about a wise Latina making better decisions, but I do know that the naysayers in Congress are desperate to make something out of nothing, mostly because they can’t find anything more offensive to block her appointment to the Supreme Court. Truth be told, I’m amused to see the Capitol Hill Boys Club choking on how to raise their objections, dancing gingerly around their arguments for fear of being branded by a racial hot potato.
But what is fascinating is their fascination with the phrase “wise Latina.”
I’ve thought a lot about that word “wise,” mostly because my mother made me. The dictionary defines it as having the ability to discern properly what is right. And “wisdom” is that knowledge coupled with sound judgment. People who are wise exhibit sense, understanding, and enlightenment. To my mother, it was imperative that I understand that life was full of choices – the challenge was to make the wise one.
So back to the Congressmen’s question: Do wise Latinas make better decisions? Although Sotomayor is trying to defuse her opponents’ obsession with this off-hand statement, I believe the answer is yes. Yes, because a wise Latina has to deal with more obstacles - from perception to prejudice - than did her white male counterparts. Just getting to the starting gate tempers Latinas differently.
Without question, Sotomayor is an Obama-esque success story. But, what seems lost in the chatter is not just what she became, but whom. The tenacity, commitment, conviction and perseverance it takes to rise to the top of any field as a Latina is tremendous. There are no fast-tracks, no network, no club. Sotomayor had to discover her own human potential without insights or experience, for she is living a life her mother could never have imagined, a parallel universe in which an immigrant’s daughter stood before the world court of opinion and emerged triumphant.
Talking about Sonia Sotomayor has raised the conversation about Latinas everywhere. Hopefully, our national scotoma about this vibrant, intelligent sector of our society will be healed and opportunity will embrace these newly discovered wise Latinas.
Regardless, history now knows the face of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who stood before them, being judged by them - not the fiery, hot-tempered Latina they might have hoped to elicit - but the calm, composed, exceptionally competent professional.
And yes, Sonia, in many cases you will make better decisions.
About Annette Leal Mattern
Annette held numerous corporate leadership positions with Fortune 100 companies where she championed development of minorities for upper management. She received the National Women of Color Technology Award for Enlightenment for diversity achievements and was recognized by Latina Style and Vice President Gore as one of the most influential Latinas in American business. In 2000, she left the corporate world to devote herself to women's cancer causes. She published a book, Outside The Lines of love, life, and cancer, to help others cope with the disease. She has also published in Hispanic Engineer and several other media. She serves on the board of directors of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and founded the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Arizona, for which she serves as president. She also writes for www.EmpowHer.com and is a motivational speaker on survivorship.
La Bloga is happy to introduce a three-woman guest column today, Olga Garcia, tatiana de la tierra, Liz Vega. As you'll see from their biographical sketches following, they are an accomplished team of poets, educators, mujeres chingonas. It's a genuine honor they have chosen to join us today as La Bloga guests. For today's post--which La Bloga hopes will be the first of many-- they share a bit about themselves and their relationship to writing and art.
El Blogmeister: Michael Sedano
My Life as a Beet by tatiana de la tierra
I’d like to say that I’m rooted like a red beet with my head in the earth and my feet in the sky, that I am always in the land of metáforas and dramatic structure.But in reality, most of the time that I’m upright you’ll see me as a car potato, sitting in the driver’s side of my little blue Yaris, zooming along the 405 with the music blasting. Or I’m a wedge of hard aging cheese plopped in front of a computer monitor at home or at work.
You get the picture:I am a beet stuck in the body of a cheese-stuffed baked potato.I feel for my transgender brothers and sisters, as I know what its like to be one thing on the inside (a writer and creatrix) and another on the outside (a professional something-or-other).
But back to the roots.My mom handed me over to a world of words when she read me poetry as a child.She read me children’s poems and prose by the brilliant Colombian author Rafael Pombo, and she also read me Neruda and Benedetti.She blasted music and sang along while doing housework, knitting and reading, introducing me to bambucos, boleros, and baladas, gifting me with music and melody.I took it from there.I was a budding writer in junior high, when I published my first haiku in the school’s literary newsletter.By high school I was writing feature articles and editing the school paper.I discovered the power of the word by listening, reading, and finally, writing.
I have been writing, editing, and publishing in multiple genres for the longest time—from poetry and songs to encyclopedia entries—and I’m nowhere near done.I really resonate with creative non fiction, with the rough, the raw, and the real.My bloga space will be filled with reflections of writing, music, and the arts.I can’t give too many details now because first I have to stick my beet-head back in the earth and plant my feet firmly in the sky.Until next time, I send everyone lots of beet luv.
Self-Proclaimed Poetry Prodigy by Liz Vega
One of my earliest memories is of me sitting around the kitchen while my mom cooked and recited poems. I grew up listening and reciting Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Amado Nervo and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
At family gatherings I was always part of the entertainment. For some time, it was adorable to watch a five-year old tackle the philosophical musings of older, depressed men and intellectual reclusive nuns. The adorableness quotient faded when I became a tall, budding fifteen-year old reciting traditional verse among my more animated competition—boisterous, bratty kids lip-syncing and dancing to Menudo, a band so alluring even I, the self-proclaimed poetry prodigy, had to worship them. Despite the ridicule and yawning adults, I held on steadfast to my poetry. I was enchanted with the beauty of words, the strength of metaphors, the swirling sounds of alliteration.
My love for the arts includes films, outsider art, contemporary art and reading good literature.Writing has also always been a hobby of mine. Fifteen years ago in D.C, a psychic named Fatima told me that I would become insanely wealthy through writing. I am still waiting. Until that happens I am excited about sharing my passion for what I find beautiful with La Bloga readers. I seek to review books, films, events and venues where children and families can develop and nourish their relationship with art and literature. I believe that through art and literature we transcend, evolve, and bridge seemingly different worlds.Art is essential to the nourishment of our souls; it is as essential as relationships and love.Al rato!
I Don’t Need No Stinking Roses by Olga García Echeverría
My writing roots stretch back to a tiny one-bedroom apartment that I shared with six siblings in East Los Angeles. Our home stood a few yards from the edge of the 710 freeway, where the never-ending roar of the speeding cars was our perpetual soundtrack. In our tight living quarters where hand-me-downs were the norm, there were few things I could claim as my own--writing was one of them.
As an adolescent, I created my first journal by stapling a stack of papers together with a title page that meant to say “Diary,” but since I was a terrible speller it read “Dairy.” Despite my rancho spelling errors, words on paper gave me then what they still give me now—testimony. I write, therefore I know I’m here.
We had few books at home when I was growing up, so my “literary classics” were telenovelas, ghost stories, El Cucui, La Llorona, and the family drama that never ceased to unfold. There were also the robust sensory details of barrio life--fearless cucarachas, chickens in the backyard, a Nina Simone record stolen from the local library (sorry!), Funky Town grooves blasting on an old record player, and the occasional slaughtered pig being dragged into the kitchen by my father who made and sold homemade chorizo. Poetry was everywhere—in the thundering freeway roar that I pretended was an ocean, in the mish-mash of English and Spanish, in the smell of frying tripas, in the eyes of the severed pig that greeted us when we opened the refrigerator door. These are the things that rooted me in poetry, instilling in me a love of language, details, and stories.
I look forward to sharing many words and thoughts with La Bloga. In particular I’m interested in seeking beauty and art in obscure places and exploring creative topics that may otherwise go under the radar.Hasta la próxima, I bid you all peace and poetry.
Olga Garcia Astrological Sign: Ultra Libra Zodiac Year: Qui Quiri Quiiiii!
Olga García Echeverría was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. She has a BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. Currently, she teaches ESL to adult immigrants in Koreatown and English to high students via the Upward Bound Program. Her first book, Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas, was published by Calaca Press and Chibcha Press in September of 2008.
Tatiana de la Tierra
Astrological sign: Tauro (Sun & Moon) Zodiac year: Ox Occupation: librarian and writer Location: Long Beach, California Born in Villavicencio, Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida, tatiana de la tierra is a bicultural writer whose work focuses on identity, sexuality, and South American memory and reality. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Master of Library Science from University at Buffalo. She is author of For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las duras: Una fenomenología lesbiana and the chapbooks Porcupine Love and Other Tales from My Papaya and Píntame Una Mujer Peligrosa. http://delatierra.net foto: Hillary Crook.
Liz Vega works in education and is an avid supporter of the arts. When she is not juggling students or her two daughters, she is immersed in poetry, prose, or film. She was born and raised in East L.A., but in typical Mexican migratory fashion she moved back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico while growing up. Her formal education was marked by marijuana-growing nuns in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, bilingual classrooms in East Los Angeles, the sink or swim methods of a New England preppy boarding high school, and finally Cornell University, where she earned a degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in gerontology. Liz is currently putting her degree and concentration to good use as she is sandwiched between the needs of her aging parents and raising a family.
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by Thania Muñoz (Today's installment by Thania replaces Dan Olivas's usual Mon. post. He needed to attend to family. See Thania's first installment about her visit to South America here.)
Santiago de Chile is very cold. It has rained a few times and the city has been dealing not only with the regular winter season flu, but also the infamous “swine flu” or whatever name they have given to it now. Officials have advised people to be careful, to take care of themselves and avoid crowded places.
Not a lot people have followed this advice; everyone is out and about, downtown stores are crowded and bars and restaurants haven’t lost that much business. I’ve been taking care of myself. I avoid crowded places, but I still walk the streets of Santiago every day.
It’s funny. Santiago hasn’t changed a bit. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to recognize places and people, but it hasn’t been that way; my friends say that I haven’t change a bit, either. I guess the three years since my last visit is not as long ago as I thought.
I arrived on a rainy morning at “my family’s” house. They received me with warm sopaipillas, a traditional Chilean snack or appetizer that is fried and made out of flour, lard, pumpkin and salt. It's traditional for Chileans to eat them during the winter season, especially when it rains, because they are warm and delicious. It compares to having a cup of hot cocoa and cookies for us back in the states.
Almost every day late in the afternoon we gather in the kitchen, waiting for the pastry to be taken out of the oil. Street vendors also sell them outside metro stops or at street corners, but as in most cases, homemade ones are exceptionally good. As I caught up with my family that morning, I had a few sopaipillas and a cup of warm tea.
The first time I went to Chile I lived with the Arteaga family for six months and after all the good times we spent together I now consider them my family. Back then they used to rent out rooms of their house to students from places like England, Haiti, Germany, Perú, Brazil and Chile.
Living with the Arteaga family is one of my most cherished memories. They taught me all there is to know about Chilean culture. The Arteaga sons were one of my many idioms--bad words included--instructors. I still remember how I used to write down words I heard in school and read the whole list to them when I got home. After a few laughs, they’d explained them to me with detail and examples. I’m a quick learner when it comes to idioms. Some easy ones include “flaite” or “cuico,” and some of the hard ones, “agarrar pa'l leseo,” “barsa,” “fome.” Any guesses?
The Arteaga family is originally from southern Chile, from a town called Los Angeles (yes, as in California), and during the summer I went on vacation with them to meet the rest of the family. Mr. Arteaga’s family has a “fundo” there, a house in the country or a rancho, with a brick oven, next to a river. I went during the summer so during the day everyone would go swimming or sunbathing at the river. At night we sang, played the guitar and some of the older ladies even gave “cueca” lessons, Chile’s national dance. During this trip I ate and drank traditional Chilean food: warm “humitas” (similar to Mexican tamales) that are usually eaten with chopped tomatoes and sugar on top; drinks such as a homemade white wine mixed with blended strawberries, and “chicha,” a fermented drink made of grapes or other fruits.
When I started this post I didn’t intend to write about food, but being here has brought back all those wonderful memories. As of now, I’m almost done eating a cheese empanada, and later I’m going to Paseo Ahumada, a lively and crowded pedestrian street downtown to buy some sweetened warm peanuts. Enrique Lihn, a Chilean poet, has a wonderful book of poetry named after this street:
Que los que se paren, en Ahumada con la Alameda, escuchen si corre un poco de aire, el relincho del caballo de Bernardo O’Higgins. (Paseo Ahumada, 1983)
I’ll stop at this point and maybe hear the horse’s neigh.
Thania Muñoz de Santiago
p.d.: Dieting is forbidden in Chile, I swear.
An Evening of Stories and Songs by Rubén Martínez, Featuring Joe Garcia, with Ruben Gonzalez and John Schayer.
An evening of spoken word and music (with a band!)—material from my book-in-progress on the Desert West and Borderlands.
Thursday, July 30, 7:00 pm CENTRAL LIBRARY • Mark Taper Auditorium Fifth & Flower Streets, Downtown L.A. PARKING: 524 S. Flower St. Garage
Visions in the Desert: Searching for Home in the West Writer Ruben Martinez, accompanied by his longtime musical partner, explores some of the oldest American symbols and the newest motley cast of characters to confront them.
Fourth Sunday of a month, Avenue 50 Studio and Gallery Director Kathy Mas-Gallegos opens its doors and ears to poetry. The recent event featured memoirist poet Luis Rodriguez and a lively Open Mic session in a worthwhile afternoon.
People arrive early to chat with friends, others to find parking on near-by streets. Hint: Free parking. Take the drive between the light rail line and the Avenue 50 Studio building to find ample parking.
Here artist Joe Bravo chats with open mic performer Henry Chavez.
Don Newton and Laura Longoria co-host the event, sharing various announcements to launch the day's performances, and introducing each writer as she or he steps to the lectern area to share one or two pieces.
Here, Longoria makes sure all open mic'ers are on the list. Photographers will note the hard backlighting coming through white curtains. Since flash can be a distraction to readers and audience, I open the lens two stops to challenge the setting. Mostly the images work well.
Luis Rodriguez reminds gente that his work and other writers comes from his Tia Chucha Press. In addition, Homeboy Industries publishes an arts magazine. Today's reading will take two parts. Before Open Mic time, Luis reads from work published in Homeboy Review.
Open Mic Readers Wow the House
Akira Yamamoto gives a rousing performance featuring a rhythmic, hard beat chanting style that I find arresting and delightful. Back some years, this would have been called "rap" or "rapping". Maybe young poets still use that term. It feels too inadequate, three letters only to encompass such power and attention-holding verse.
The lineup follows with quiet, serious, passionate readings. Some highly personal, others movimiento tinged but definitely contemporary. La Palabra is an exclusively aural delight, the artists do not sell or provide printed copies for gente like me who enjoy reading and listening. Maybe next month, a ver.
Henry Chavez elects an interesting--and I think ill-advised--medium, a blackberry. The public performer wants to hold eye contact to produce a sense of immediacy and personalize the presentation. Henry struggles to read the tiny screen giving little attention to listeners struggling to give his work an unencumbered hearing.
Two highlights of the Open Mic session, for me, included "rapper" Yolanda Androzzo, whose Emmett Till "rap" included a call and response section, a technique guaranteed to please audiences because it frees them from merely listening and allows them to become personally involved in the performance.
Another highlight came from, Mary Francis Spencer, who said something in her narrative that gave three listeners, Heriberto Luna, Rafael Alvarado, and Enrique Serrato, something to focus on. I caught the movement in my peripheral vision and swiveled to snap them so fully engaged in Mary Francis' speech.
When Open Mic concluded, Luis took the floor again, for a reading of "old stuff."
Rodriguez kept his audience engaged, such as Angela Penaredondo and Suzanne Lummis. Most Open Mic performers rewarded their audience with strong presentations, though some struggled to achieve a satisfying interaction. A clear difference between Rodriguez and some of the Open Mic readers is Rodriguez' planning, comfort with his own stuff, and experience doing readings.
The wrap-up to the reading were announcements and input from the house. Here David Diaz adds to the discussion.
Kathy Mas-Gallegos, acknowledges her guests, many of whom are regular attenders of La Palabra.
Don Newton and Laura Longoria conduct a wonderful afternoon of poetry and performance. A scattering of empty seats indicate there's space for you the fourth Sunday in August. Here Longoria finally relaxes as the audience adjourns to the refreshment table featuring cold water, fruit, cheese, crackers.
Since there is no charge to attend La Palabra, nor a fee for participating in Open Mic, the luscious spread proves the old adage wrong, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Yours for the gnoshing, snacking, scarfing, devouring, tragando. Check Avenue 50's website for details of La Palabra and the outstanding art exhibits Gallegos sponsors. As Rodriguez noted in his opening remarks, Avenue 50 Studio is a hidden gem that the LA Times ignores with regularity. Tell your friends, make the visit to all the shows.
Thank you Kathy and Don for your help identifying these poets. It's totally comforting to be in a public place where your hosts know your name. Clearly, it's not business but Love that makes La Palabra and Avenue 50 Studio special.
Shame, shame, shame, Obama. U.S. military veterans have proved we can take a lot of crap and that's a good thing because career politicians, especially non-veteran tipos, dish out crap to veterans in heaping trucksful.
To the public, of course, these tipos pay elegant lip service, Henry Waxman and Barack Obama to name a pair. But they act either with empty gesture, or inimically to the nation's veterans.
Obama, for one, earns high dudgeon because he promised to bring transparency and respect for the nation's military veterans. Instead, he's dashed hopes of veterans who believed his campaign promises but witness instead steadfast support of the Bush status quo
Waxman has been boldly rapacious and dismissive. With Waxman's assistance, the Bush Veterans Administration gave away a prime parcel of veteran land to Waxman's wealthy Brentwood supporters. Waxman was asked by a Marine, a Chicano Vietnam veteran, why the congressman refuses to entertain petitions to rescind this land grab of property deeded "in perpetuity" to veterans. Waxman shrugged with a nonsensical riposte, "where do you draw the line?" He might as well have echoed Tolstoy's story, "All the Land a Man Needs." How much land does an injured veteran need? A hole six feet deep.
Obviously, I am a deranged veteran that I grow this outraged thinking about these two turkeys Obama and Waxman out-Bushing Bush and Cheney in their contempt for veterans. So I'll stop. You may wish to hear what other veterans say on this. Here's an outstanding blog and video on the land grab: http://veteranslandgrab.blogspot.com/
That's the final Tuesday of July, the month of the nation's independence, the Sotomayor hearing, the health care debate, the morass of Iraq and now Afghanistan--bring them home now! Dang, gente, if the VA and elected officials are going to take away land intended to care for the men and women who gave a leg, an arm, or a mind to war, and give that precious land for free to fat cats, then it's time to throw in the towel and stop creating injured veterans. OK, I won't get started again.
Thank you for visiting La Bloga on this Tuesday, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. Walter Cronkite used to say that.
La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and all daily columns. Click the comments counter below to share your views. As you saw Sunday from Olga, tatiana, and Liz, and yesterday, from Thania in Chile, La Bloga welcomes Guest Columnists. If you'd like to be our guest, click here to discuss your column idea.
Publisher: Groundwood Books Pub. Date: April 2009 ISBN-13: 9780888998811 Age Range: 4 to 7 32pp
For people who have left their homeland for a new country, comfort foods from home take on a huge emotional importance. This delightful poem teaches readers young and old how to make a heartwarming, tummy-filling black bean soup, from gathering the beans, onions, and garlic to taking little pebbles out of the beans to letting them simmer till the luscious smell indicates it’s time for supper. Jorge Argueta’s vivid poetic voice and Rafael Yockteng’s vibrant illustrations make preparing this healthy and delicious Latino favorite an exciting, almost magical experience.
LatinoEducators.com A note from José Luís Orozco
I am writing to give you an exclusive sneak preview of www.LatinoEducators.com, an on-line community where Spanish-language/bilingual educators and parents can connect and exchange ideas concerning the educational needs of Latino youth. We've been working on the website for a while now and I am excited to announce that we will be publicly launch it before Back to School. Our goal is to create the world's best on-line resource for Latino educators and families.
You can use LatinoEducators.com to:
* Create a profile and meet other people who are passionate about bilingual and dual-language education * Share videos, photos, lesson plans and experiences * Keep up to date on conferences and events * Interact with prominent Spanish-language authors, musicians, academics and thought leaders