Review: Bernardo and the Virgin
Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and especially since the attack on the Twin Towers by Al Queda in 2001, the attention of Americans has shifted from "Communist threats" to "Islamic fundamentalist threats." The Nicaraguan Sandinista revolution of the 1970s and the Contra War of the 1980s, including the Iran-Contra scandal, which provoked such alarm about the peril in "our backyard," have receded from memory. Most of us never had any idea how the events of those turbulent decades were perceived by Nicaraguans, but it's a perspective worth appreciating, both for its own sake and for what it might imply about the complexities of the Islamic world in today's conflicts.
One of the most fascinating news stories that hardly got any ink in the U.S. was a series of visitations by the Virgin Mary reported by a poor tailor and sacristan in the back-of-beyond village of Cuapa. The effects of the apparitions, beginning in May 1980, less than 10 months after the Sandinistas had finally toppled the Somoza dictatorship, reverberated throughout a deeply divided, war-ravaged nation.
This real event is the basis for a novel by Nicaraguan-American Silvio Sirias. Bernardo and the Virgin tells the tale of the seer, the apparitions, and how they touched the lives of the people of Nicaragua. At the heart of this work of fiction is the real-life tailor Bernardo Martínez, but woven around him are the stories of numerous fictional characters whose lives intersect, in one way or another, with his.
And what a motley crew they are. They run the gamut from a giddy, young girl impatient for love to an abrasive seller of religious supplies and her womanizing partner, from a right-wing crusading priest (and CIA operative) to a hardened Sandinista National Security agent, from a devoted 4’11” nun who carries around a 2” statue of the Virgin to a professor having a devastating mid-life crisis. They even include the ex-pat Nicaraguan community in the U.S. Some try to distort the Virgin’s message in various ways, either to undermine the church or to undermine the government, but most are preoccupied by their personal troubles. The stories range from deeply moving to humorous. One of the most hilarious chapters is, believe it or not, about a self-absorbed literary theorist.
The cast of characters, varied as it is, does not become unwieldy because their stories eventually intertwine. As a result, the reader gets a different perspective on an earlier character. Sometimes a later story undermines a previous interpretation; other stories provide a fuller understanding of an earlier event. Not all the characters are equally fleshed out; Father Damian Innocent MacManus, for example, seems more caricature than real. While there are such seemingly two-dimensional people in life, they don’t seem to fare will in fiction. Nevertheless, what we come away with in the end is an understanding of Nicaraguans during the latter part of the twentieth century: their suffering and longings, their losses and hopes, their mysticism and bawdiness, their idealism and resignation. The author writes that he hopes to “give readers some insight into what it has meant to be Nicaraguan during such tumultuous times.” In this entertaining and moving novel, he has done so splendidly.
What does the State of Arizona have in common with PB, the British global energy corporation? Well, let me count the way.
First, both have been spewing toxins into America’s environment since late April. In the case of Arizona, on April 23rd, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law an unconstitutional and racist measure (SB 1070), whereby criminalizing undocumented workers and legalizing racial profiling against Latinos. As for BP, on April 20th, this corporate mammoth, in the spirit of the “drill-baby-drill” mantra, caused the largest oil leak disaster since the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill over two decades ago.
Secondly, both have been grossly inaccurate regarding their data to rationalize their claims. The supporters of Arizona’s immigration law, for example, argue that since undocumented workers account for the “rise of crime” in this state, the state government had no choice but to pass a law aimed at curtailing these so-called criminals. Yet, recent reports show that crime has actually declined in the desert state and the cheerleaders of this draconian law have yet to produce any legitimate data correlating recent immigrants with crime.
On the contrary, recent research shows that undocumented immigrants on average commit less crime than native-born Americans, especially once we take into account for age, gender and other factors to make valid comparisons. We need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. For example, if we know that recent immigrants are younger (and most likely male) compared to Americans, then we can’t compare these two groups equally when it comes to crime, especially since we know that young people are more likely to commit a crime than older folks.
Writing for the American Conservative magazine in a recently published essay, Ron Unz does an excellent job of examining the complex nature of Latinos (and other groups) vis-à-vis crime rates where he analyzes hard data to debunk myths perpetuated by Republicans and others in this country about the so-called Latino immigrant menace. Despite being a leading force against bilingual education in California in the 1990s, Unz actually puts his Harvard and Stanford educational background to some good use by closely examining the complex relationships between ethnic groups (whites included) and crime in this country.
As for BP, when the corporation first estimated the magnitude of the oil leak, corporate officials dramatically underreported the amount of oil being released daily in the ocean and, consequently, U.S. states in the Gulf of Mexico. For instance, corporate officials, according to news agencies, originally calculated the leak 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day, while U.S. Government officials estimated it at 12,000-19,000 barrels (504,000 to 798,000 gallons) per day. Other scientists, based on video evidence, have estimated it at 70,000 to 100,000 per day.
Thirdly, the actions of both the Arizona government and BP corporate leaders have caused more economic hardship for the residents of the already economically depressed regions. In the case of Arizona, the growing national boycotts against this financially struggling state have resulted in the loss of revenue (both current and future) that will further damage the fragile economy caused by the housing crises, loss of jobs, credit crises and, overall, current recession.
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by Guest Blogger Andrew J. Peters
While attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remain a polarizing force in the adult world—California's Prop 8 and the Pentagon review of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' for example, young people increasingly accept teenagers declaring themselves gay, starting Gay/Straight Alliance clubs and attending prom with same-sex dates as benign, inspirational or even commonplace events. Accordingly, YA has changed, broadened to include an LGBT fiction niche, and seen a squall of critically-acclaimed publications such as Peter Cameron's Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful To You (2007), Brent Hartinger's Geography Club (2003) and Leanne Lieberman's Gravity (2008).
With seven books published in as many years, Sanchez stands out as a singularly steady YA voice, and his books have become a sort of anthology of the contemporary gay teen experience. Coming out, with all its internal and external challenges, is his standby theme, but his stories reach beyond into many topics – dating, divorce, AIDS scares, which have resonated for young readers, gay and non-gay, for nearly a decade. For older readers, there's the added draw of the subversive. Imagine Judy Blume with all the main characters gay and a sprinkling of non-gay characters on the periphery.
As a longtime advocate for LGBT teens, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to Alex about his work.
Andrew Peters: Alex, thanks so much for stopping by La Bloga. I think of you as a real pioneer. You're one of the first YA authors to launch a successful series with gay teen characters front-and-center. Given the conservative tendencies of the publishing industry, many gay-themed stories have not been embraced so whole-heartedly in the mainstream. What do you think made the difference for your books?
AS: On one hand, I feel lucky to have two cultures—Latino and Anglo. I think that creates more empathy and an ability to see situations and issues from different perspectives. On the other hand, I never feel completely Latino or completely Anglo. Sometimes I have to work to feel I fully belong to either group.
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Teaching in U.S. public schools isn't a job or just a career; it's a lifestyle. Those unfamiliar with the work envy teachers their summers off and Xmas holidays. But what comes with the job are 10-12 hrs./day and weekends and holidays spent preparing lesson plans, grading papers and filling out forms. Plus, summer hours preparing for the coming year. For a starting teacher in Denver this works out to be $15/hr. With a master's it goes up to $16.50. Excluded from this is what can easily be $3k out-of-pocket that doesn't get reimbursed. We're not in it for the money; we even pay to be a teacher.
In this Great Recession, having any job is good. I know because I'm presently out of work and seeking a new position with such ridiculously low pay. Like Joe Navarro below, teaching is my passion and calling.
Navarro's letter is a great overall treatment of what's wrong with how the country educates our children. Given the direction of the education discourse nationwide, what he writes about California is significant in that it will likely spread to encompass the remainder of the country. That's his letter's importance.
I won't summarize here my last three years working in one Denver inner city school; maybe I'll write a novel about it one day. I'll just tell you about one student who wasn't one of my bilingual students.
Let's call him Pacifico, because his name is antithetical to his school life and role in it. Pacifico's small for his age, white as a snowflake, unassuming, and worse, sports the thick coke-bottle glasses that should have been outlawed decades ago. I never witnessed any of Pacifico's disruptive behavior, but staff would tell me about various incidents. I've no reason to doubt so many testaments.
I'd often see Pacifico sitting waiting in the office for the principal--in trouble again for hitting, cussing, throwing something, somewhere. I'd talked to him a couple of times in passing, but when I saw him repeatedly eating alone in the cafeteria one week, I went over to him. I assumed he'd been separated from others because of his lunchroom behavior.
"Why are you sitting alone? You being punished?"
"No, I don't like being with the other kids; they pick on me."
"You don't want to sit with your friends?"
"I don't have any."
After that I'd occasionally talk with him, advising him that he at least needed to learn how to stay out of trouble. Sometimes I'd just wish him a good morning--this to a six/seven-year-old who seldom seemed to have few good mornings in his school life. He always acknowledged me, sometimes even breaking out with a crack of a smile, but not often.
My final week of school, having joined the ranks of the not-coming-back-next-year, I tended to avoid staff gatherings and talking with anyone, but on the final day I had to go through the office to hang up my room keys for the last time.
Pacifico was there, possibly not in trouble. He came up close, looked me in the face. "I'm going to miss you." He hugged me like we'd always been the best of buddies, now parting, the message being that he too was leaving.
I don't know that Pacifico hugged everyone that day. Or only me. It doesn't matter. Nor do I know where he's going. Like Navarro below, I don't even know where I'm going.
I do know that should Pacifico grow up to be a sociopathic Columbiner and enter my school, his aim will at least hesitate when it turns on me. On the other hand, he may carry the memory of our moments as something positive that eventually contributes to his not entering a school in such a fashion.
Joe Navarro will tell you now about his torment of retiring as a teacher. I won't, and not because I'm nowhere near retirement. It will be because $15-16 an hour is worth it when it comes with the benefits of Pacifico moments. I
This will be quick - too much going on this week, sorry for the short post. And I know this may be too local - but it's what I got. Here's the latest entertainment schedule from Rick's Tavern, the best place in Denver to enjoy the music our parents and abuelitos listened to when we were young kids, and that we dance to now as older kids. This month features Dwayne Ortega and the Young Guns as well as a Festival of New Mexican and Tejano Music. Great sounds para tirar chancla. If you can't read the poster, click on it for a better view.
A few other miscellaneous notes - the latest batch of music I brought into the house made me think I was missing a class or two up in Fort Collins at good old CSU. 1968 all over again. New music from Jimi Hendrix (Valley of Neptune - the album that was going to be next), and "lost" music from the Rolling Stones' epic Exile on Main Street (10 "new" songs.) Meanwhile, gente is in the streets, marching, protesting, and getting busted. The suddenly very warm weather reminds me of too short summers hanging around the campus, a party every Friday night, Chicana students mesmerizing me with their creativity and pride, and lazy days where nothing gets done, and yet we all survived and thrived in what now seems like a soft-edged, ephemeral world of dreams and illusions and hope.
Speaking of the old days, and ancient news, I came across a very strange note about my new book, from some obscure online discussion group. The message thread was entitled Novel by Brown Supremacist Glamorizes Chicano Terrorists - obviously the guy hadn't read King of the Chicanos. The weirdo said: The timing of this novel, like the trailer for the movie Machete, seems targeted to inspire race riots by young La Raza (THE RACE) militants. Give me a break.
Jesse's post yesterday mentioned "The Chief" - Ubaldo Jimenez. Cy Young candidate. All Star. Best pitcher in the majors. I admit it, I am a fan. This young pitcher is the real deal. As Jesse said, ¡Claro que sí!
Come back soon - there's much more in store here at La Bloga. Author interviews. Reviews of new books. Literary news. Poetry - weapon of love - aimed at SB 1070 - weapon of hate. ¡Ándale!
When skimming the pages of, Heredities, and reading the blurbs, a few random expressions and words caught me off guard and sent me to the dusty OED hibernating on my bookcase. Additionaly, I must mention that the copying and pasting of vocabulary like Corporeity and Occipito has not been a familiar habit of mine when reviewing Chicano poetry books. Fortunately, the wonderment of whether I would enjoy or simply comprehend J. Michael Martinez’s book was short lived as I returned to my senses while reading the fourth poem titled, He Name Me Miklo. In it I discovered the vibrant lenguaje of a modern Chicano scribe destined to find his place in the fraternity of America’s finest poets.
In, Heredities (LSU Press; 2010, $17.95), J. Michael Martinez surgically dissects Chicanismo into three sections; Etymology, Corporeity and Archetype, each which translates into an authentic and more modern examination of the mental and physical existence of Chicano identity. In the poem sub-titled, To Possess Identity, Difference Must Be Gathered, Martinez writes, “I said. I am Mexican, next I can be a Chicano, she with the hole at the end of identity.”
As you will find in this collection, Martinez does not waiver in his quest to define and or revise the Chicano state-of-being. And although la voz del movimiento reverberates loudly inside his corazon; Martinez (by delving deeper) abandons traditional salutations to the likes of the plumed serpent, las curanderas, and the warm tortillas often found inked within stanzas of many a Chicano poeta before him. “I said light peels from the sky like callused skin. You said the last name must be sung: Martinez, mar, teen, is, mart, I nest, mar I nest, which is to say the nest is to is to I to nest to mar the I,” writes Martinez. “The words unfold from your body. I winter there from noun to verb beneath your maiden name.” I venture to say that Martinez has both revealed and given identity to a once nameless organ forever belonging to the anatomy of Chicano heritage. In the end my initial assumption proved ridiculous as I happily read and read over the poems of Chicano literature's very own Whitman.
pensamientos al azar / random thoughts
Finished the King of Chicanos on my road trip to Las Cruces, Nuevo Mexico on Friday; enjoyed the libro so much that minutes after reading the final sentence I called Manuel to extend a verbal high five. So I am sweating profusely through the plaza in Old Mesilla and as luck would have it, the shop I decide to cool down and take a breather in is filled w/ books. Even luckier, nearly 100% of the stock is Chicano material, but the true prize was discovering that the beautiful lady standing behind the counter is none other than Denise Chavez. What ensued included an hour conversation w/ Denise about Chicano giants, the purchase of (late artist) Walter Baca’s uncommon, Chicano Heritage Coloring book, an early Editorial Justa publication of Rivera’s, Y No Se Lo…, Paul Martinez Pompa’s chapbook, Pepper Spray, and a “Honk If You’ve Seen La Llorona” bumper sticker. Muchisimas Gracias a Doña Denise para la platica, los libros, y las paletas. A copy of Daniel Alarcon’s recent editorial venture, The Novelist’s Handbook, arrived by mail yesterday. After reading Alarcon’s introduction, I look forward to what contributors such as Danticat, Llosa and Fresán have to say about the writing life. Can’t help but be excited for Friday’s movi
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Congratulations to all the authors who were recognized by the International Latino Book Awards. My bilingual book René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos received Honorable Mention in the Best Children's Picture Book (Bilingual) category. ¡Ajúa!
I received the great news at my Facebook page. My friend Yuyi Morales posted the link of 2010 International Latino Book Awards Winner List. My friend Linda Rodriguez also congratulated me for the honorable mention. This was a great birthday present for me.
René Has Two Last Names/ René tiene dos apellidos has received three recognitions this year. Thanks to all the readers and award committees.
- Honorable Mention: Best Bilingual Children's Book- International Latino Book Awards
- 2010 Skipping Stones Honor Award
- 2010-2011 Tejas Star Book Award List
To learn more about René Has Two Last Names visit the book's website at www.renesbooks.com
Also my new books have their own websites. Take a look at The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez and My Shoes And I websites and learn more fun facts and ideas for the classroom and home.
1. "Invocación al Sol" by Maria del Carmen Cifuentes
2. "The Ghost Dance" by Hedy Trevino
3. "I Am From Two Different Homes" by Itzie Alarcón
4. "La regla de los ladrones / The Law of Thieves" by Avotcjia
5. "Scavenger Dreams" by Jeanette Iskat de Aldana
6. "Hierba Loca: The Children of Aztlan" by Lorenzo Herrerra y Lozano
7. "Three-Ten to Tule" (Mixtek, Spanish, English) by Octaviano Merecias-Cuevaso
1. "Invocación al Sol" by Maria del Carmen Cifuentes
invocación al sol
arizona-coral, the rocks, tenacious, we face uplifted toward our ancestors’ spirits;
amethyst, the furled ravines, deepened witness of our grounded stance;
brown, the wrinkled earthen flesh, crackling under solar touch.
tonatiuh, we are yours
ya'áí, we are yours
taawa, we are yours
inya, we are yours
somos hijos del sol
crispened ivory, the strains of our history herniated by stampedes in the pursuit of—
somber, the starred manta upon our shoulders settles to ease the rupturing borders;
musky, the prominence of sweat evaporates in the drought of others.
than, tuyos somos
‘anya, tuyos somos
tavaci, tuyos somos
gui, tuyos somos
we are children of the sun
from the hours gardening their dreams, green, my nopal palms;
and magenta, now, its flowering, resolute, along my vessels overflows:
my soul shall be released from the venom their infection seeks to mold.
yaqui, ndikandii, shá, giizis, kìsiz, k’in, anchü, inti…
somos tuyos, somos tuyos
¡cuidado! this prickly pear heart in my grasp resounds—
it bursts the bounds of penned thorns, consumes the irons branding.
my children vein this arid terrain in the succulence of mixed languages;
through us, this maize land of bronze breathes;
red as the clay, golden as the sun we are nascent.
Sun invoked in Nahuatl, Western Apache, Hopi, Maricopa, Tewa, Mohave, Ute, Triqui, Taa’a, Mixteco, Navajo, Ojibwe, Algonquin, Maya, Mapuche, Kichwa…
2. "The Ghost Dance" by Hedy Trevino
THE GHOST DANCE
By Hedy Trevino
Boots at the door, ya vienen por allí. With baton in hand the sound of metal crashed thru the door. Ya vienen for allí. But we fear not the tempest for we know this journey well a long long time ago as we stood by the shore and we welcomed our own destiny in 1519 the year of reed 1 remember, but here we are, look, here we are, forever more.
There by the door where you keep your memories at the ready is the little bag con tierra santa that abuelo gathered before you were born combined with cornmeal from the milpa he tended with such care. Can you hear the rustling of the corn like a symphony in the air guiding you and lifting you like a feather in the air. We are the children of the ghost dance, we are here, we are here. A new nation has risen we are the prophesy of the ghost dance fulfil Display Comments Add a Comment
In his new novel, Day of the Dead (Floricanto Press, $25.95 paperback), Manuel Luis Martinez shows us Mexico during the Revolution through the eyes of Berto Morales, an unremarkable man whose life crumbles when his wife, six months pregnant, is raped and murdered.
Martinez's narrative is tough and unsparing as we follow Morales on his quest to find his wife's murderers and exact a form of justice. But his journey becomes complicated as he develops friendships, and even falls in love, against the brutal backdrop of the Revolution.
Martinez is a native Texan who attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, completed a master of arts in creative writing at Ohio State University, and then earned a doctorate from Stanford University. He is an associate professor at Ohio State University, teaching 20th-century American literature, American studies, Chicano-Latino studies and creative writing.
Day of the Dead is certainly a departure from Martinez's previous novels, Crossing (Bilingual Press) and Drift (Picador USA), both of which touched on contemporary issues.
"The reason I set Day of the Dead during the Mexican Revolution was because I wanted, partially, to reflect on the morass that is the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I didn't want to write directly about the conflict," he told me.
"At the same time, Berto's story had been something I wanted to write for 20 years, but I hadn't gotten to it because I knew I needed to spend more time in Mexico and to educate myself a great deal on Mexican history and politics before I could start."
Martinez's research is readily apparent from the first few pages of the novel, particularly in passages depicting the almost-random violence visited upon Mexico's populace.
"I stayed close to the actual accounts of the battle for Torreon," he said. "It was a horrific war aimed largely at terrifying innocent people."
Through Berto's eyes, the Revolution offers no obvious delineation between heroes and villains.
"I think that history shows that most starters of wars have no idea how awful a price war exacts," Martinez said. "People get caught up in nationalist fervors, or they begin to believe the propaganda that war is justified, that it will be quick and decisive, a thing of 'shock and awe' that somehow rights great wrongs."
"So I do think (moral ambiguity) is a general aspect of war, but in Berto's case, I wanted to bring this principle down to the individual level. The moral ground is always shifting, and once one discovers that, the reason for war becomes almost impossible to grasp."
Regardless of a person's view of war and its repercussions, Day of the Dead tells a compelling story of an ordinary man's attempt to make sense out of staggering loss during one of the most violent chapters of Mexico's history. By any measure, this is a potent and enthralling novel.
[This review first appeared in the El Paso Times.]
Olga García Echeverría
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In an effort to raise funds for the organizing and litigation effort in Arizona against SB 1070, Los Jornaleros del Norte, the people's band, have released a 10-track CD titled, "Que No Pare la Lucha," their third album release. With their new album, Los Jornaleros again put music to life, work, struggle and hope.
The release of their album could not be more timely. With the upcoming National Day of Action on May 29th in Phoenix, AZ, Los Jornaleros will once again lend their talents and passion for music and social justice to the march and rally, uniting the immigrant community and their allies under a common goal: Peace, Dignity and Justice for All.
Because the organizing efforts do require lots of resources, personnel, and legal fees, Los Jornaleros have decided to donate all of the proceeds of their album to the AltoArizona campaign. We are encouraging your support to this effort by going to the AltoArizona music site, purchasing the album (only $10, or more, if you wish) and sharing the link with family and friends on your social networks.
AltoArizona has made it as easy as possible to preview the album, purchase and share links to the music online. The title track, Que No Pare la Lucha, is available for free download.
The following are the names of the 10 tracks included:
1. Que No Pare la Lucha (free) 02:41
2. El Cochinito 04:12
3. Dónde Está la Justicia 04:34
4. La Movidita 02:38
5. Deportación Expres 04:49
6. No Dejes de Luchar 02:12
7. Acordeoncito 05:20
8. Traguito de Dignidad 03:52
9. La Redadas 06:27
10. Carwashero (Lava coches) 06:01
Included with your purchase, you will receive front and back CD cover art, liner notes, and 2 hidden bonus tracks!!
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) thanks you for your support in this critical moment in history. We look forward to seeing you at the march in Phoenix on the 29th and to your local solidarity actions being planned on the AltoArizona shared actions/events page.
Please feel free to forward this message on to your networks to support our efforts in Arizona
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
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In our years online, La Bloga has nurtured a significant body of lore in the form of interviews of Chicano authors, poets and others, and non-Chicanos as well. Coincidentally we know the site is used by students, collegiate and non, literally across the planet, although we have little info on the numbers or purposes. I'd assume many are students using La Bloga material to bulk up their theses or term papers. Qué bueno!
The interviews do and will serve a higher purpose than bibliographical cites; they're the authors' own words about what inspired them, how they write, and why, where they come from and where they think Chicano lit might be headed. In that sense they're a pulse of how Chicano lit lives and breathes, and one day, dies, though the authors' prose and poesy lives on.
La Bloga's staff is a bunch of dedicated individuals who've managed to build this body of work into something we know is enjoyed, utilized and perhaps even visited every day by many. But, given the inherently thin definition of what constitutes our staff, we could use help from readers.
We'd like your ideas about adding to this body of literary history:
We're especially open to interviews of those who've published books or collections in hard copy. At the same time, someone who's published stories, poems, essays, etc. in several publications could also deserve our attention, within our given time constraints.
We're not limited to covering Chicanos. We've been known to post interviews of boriquas, newyorquians, mexicanos, peludos y a veces the occasional gringo, even.
If you as a reader would enjoy seeing an interview of a particular author, poet, editor, o cualquier tipo del mundo de literatura, write one or all of us and let us know who that is, especially if you have a way of contacting them that we might not.
Or if you yourself are published and have wondered why we never contacted you before, mándanos un mensaje, and we might surprise you. I assure you we've never meant to neglect anyone; it's just how slowly La Bloga works as an unpaid enterprise. So, contact us, whether you're Gabriel Garcia Marquez or quién-sabe-quién.
Hell, if you're a gringo and think you'd pass RudyG's 0 Comments on Who will La Bloga interview next? as of 1/1/1900
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June 4th 6pm EXCLUSIVE RECEPTION with special guest Benjamin Bratt
Reception includes: Low riders, old school music, delicious food and of course, Benjamin Bratt!
7pm LA MISSION screening $25/TICKET (includes reception and movie)
AMC 24 HIGHLANDS RANCH 103 Centennial Blvd, Littleton, CO 80129
The journey to Hawaii in the early 1900's set to contemporary music -- reggaeton, plena, pop, rock.
June 10th, 11th and 12th at 7:30pm
$18 General, $15 Stu/Sen, $12 for groups over 12 people
Presented at the Denver Civic Theatre 721 Santa Fe, Denver, CO
Congratulations to all those who received recognition from the International Latino Book Awards, presented May 25 at BookExpo America. You can see the complete list of honorees at this link.
A special tip of the ole sombrero to fellow bloguero René Colato Lainez for Rene Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos appellidos (Arte Público Press), which received Honorable Mention in the Best Children's Picture Book (Bilingual) category; and to good friends Rudolfo Anaya for 2d Place for The Essays (University of Oklahoma Press) in the Best Biography (English) category, and Lucha Corpi, who won the award for Best Mystery Novel (English) for Death at Solstice (Arte Público Press.)
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For 36 days the students of the University of Puerto Rico have been on strike, closing down an 11-campus system with over 60,000 students. It all began in mid-April as a short-term measure to call for greater transparency in budget-balancing initiatives aimed, in part, at ending merit scholarships and funding for arts and athletics programs.
I’ve been following the strike from afar, listening to radiohuelga and watching impromptu video reports on youtube. I watched with second-hand nostalgia as students hunkered down behind closed gates, determined to stay “as long as it takes” to make their voices heard.
And they have stayed... despite riot police and calls from officials to prevent supplies from reaching them. They have courageously defied the intimidation, Masada-like, but hopefully with a better outcome. While public support has been strong, government and university officials seem eager to prolong the waiting game. Let’s see who gives up first. Let’s see how long our ADD society of media junkies can remain tuned to the student struggle. And now, after a first tragic death attributed to the strike, it looks like the scale may be tilting the other way...
Regardless of the outcome, there have already been many victories. For this generation of students to be organized in nonviolent protest is already a victory. For the actors who took to the streets with riot gear made out of cardboard and brooms to sweep the streets, parodying the disproportionate police force, that’s already a victory. And for us who watch and read from afar, for making us rethink our role as artists, writers and teachers... that’s yet another victory.Display Comments Add a Comment
From Children's Book Press
Lately, it seems as if immigration is all over the news. Yet despite all the debate going on, the experience of children who are caught up in this issue is often overlooked.
That is, until now. The recent incident at a Washington DC-area school, in which a second grader told First Lady Michelle Obama that her mother was here illegally, has sparked quite a buzz among the talking heads in the media.
Author René Colato Laínez knows about this issue all too well. His new book with Children’s Book Press, From North to South / Del Norte al Sur, deals with the experience of family separation due to a parent's precarious immigration status. The book will be released in September of 2010.
René has written many children’s books about the immigrant experience. Born in El Salvador, he fled his civil war–ravaged country as an adolescent and entered the United States an undocumented immigrant. Now a US citizen, René is an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, where, everyday, he sees the harsh realities that impact immigrants and their children.
In the book’s introduction, René writes:
“I am an elementary school teacher. My students’ and my own immigrant experience have been the inspiration for many of my books. One day, one of my students was crying because her father had been deported to Tijuana, Mexico. I discovered that many of the other children had cousins, uncles, or neighbors who had been deported, too. Most of my students had been born in the United States, and it is hard for them to see their loved ones forced to leave this country. For these children, family separation is a traumatic experience.”
Clearly, there will be and should be more discussion about this issue in the months to come. Check back often here at the Many Voices blog, where we’ll be posting more features, news, and information about From North to South.
And for those of you attending BookExpo America in New York City this week, find us at the Publishers Group West booth (#4310) where you can take a sneak peek at this important, timely new book.
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May 20, 2010
Before I begin I would like to thank the organizers of the National Latino Writers Conference for inviting me to participate this morning as the keynote speaker at this exemplary gathering. This is the 8th year of building community, of fostering creativity and critique, and of guiding early-career writers toward mentorships and professional relationships with established writers whose generosity and insights are shaping the next generation of artists. To be honest, there is nothing unusual about these expectations at any writers conference, and there are dozens that take place across the country--most of them perfectly competent and useful. But what makes this conference so unique is that it is ours--a forum that has facilitated the face-to-face communication between Chicano/Latino writers, readers, and thinkers. And for that, I congratulate all of you who have sacrificed time and resources to contribute to that experience.
The year is 2010. And though we are currently standing beneath the shadow of the anti-immigrant and anti-raza legislation of our neighbors in Arizona (and let us hope that the disease of xenophobia is not contagious), I am going to keep my message positive this morning because, despite these acts of hostility against our people, there is much for us to celebrate. And if we do not recognize our successes, if we do not toast our triumphs, then we surrender to the afflictions of inferiority, invisibility and silence--the three disgraces of American politics and culture.
The year is 2010. To our left we have the U.S. Census, which will confirm for the country what we have always known when we wake up in the mornings to see the Aztec sun casting its rays over Aztlán: that we are plentiful, that we are here, that we are never leaving, that we will not be thrown out. To our right, we have the smoky memory of revolution, the cycle come back to the days of reckoning--1810, 1910, 2010--not only have we populated this land, we have also shaped its language, built its cities, spun its tales and written its songs. This is, indeed, nuestra tierra and we will keep the roots of our family and history embedded deeply into its indigenous and mestizo core.
But now come the important questions: How will each of us accept that responsibility? How will we contribute to this movimiento during this critical period of adversity? How will we know that we are marching on the correct path?
Since I am speaking in front of a group of poets and writers, I will speak to the answers through a cultural lens, acknowledging one of the greatest strengths of our community: its artistic muscle. Art and poetry, danza y teatro, cuento y canto, have always been essential components of the Latino cultural identity. From the pachanga navideña to the quinceañera, from the floricanto to the academic encuentros, we express ourselves through the arts because it is who we are: people who value creativity and imagination. Just look around you: the colorful palette of our folklore, the ingenious architecture of our altars, the linguistic textures of our slang, our names, our adivinanzas, the panoramic flavors in our foods, the range of decibels in our music, our cyber-chisme, our rascuachismo--it is all us all up in here, Senator Jan Brewer.
The impulse to dance and sing and, yes, the impulse to write it all down, to record and remember, is as natural and familiar to us as the impulse to breat Display Comments Add a Comment
WHEN: Tuesday, May 25
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Homeboy Industries, 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
For more information, e-mail Leslie Schwartz, editor-in-chief of the Homeboy Review. You may also check out the event listings on the Homeboy website, or follow on Facebook Fanpages (Homboy Review Literary Magazine and Homeboy Industries) for up-to-the-minute event information.
◙ THE RAMONA GARDEN SLUGGERS
A children’s story by Álvaro Huerta
"Hey! Who's that dude?" yells Fat Ritchie.
"I think he's selling Tupperware?" Lucky cracks a joke, making the rest of the Chicano kids from the Ramona Gardens housing project burst into laughter.
I sigh, wondering, "What have I gotten myself into?" I know these kids, since I used to be one of them. I remember playing a great game of baseball and ignoring my homework. Then one day a coach made all the difference. He encouraged me to get into organized sports and made sure I went to college.
Finally I get the nerve to approach these kids. We are at Murchison Elementary's baseball diamond on a hot Saturday afternoon. "Hi," I say. "Would you guys like to play in a baseball league?"
"My mom says not to talk to strangers," says Mayto.
"Wait, I know this guy," Beto responds. "He's cool, but I think he's trying to get in good with us so he can date my sister, Antonia."
"I want to see if you guys want to be part of the East Los Angeles Little League. I'll be your coach," I say.
"Why should we listen to you? You probably don't even know how to play."
"Who's your best pitcher?" I ask.
Nene steps up to the plate.
"OK, if I hit a home run, will you listen to me?"
All the kids, Nene, Lucky, Mayo, Fat Ritchie, Peanut Butter, Beto, Chato, Buddy, Herbie and Kiki hoot and holler, and roll on the ground, and point at me. I guess they don't think I can do it. But, and I can hardly believe this, I hit the ball out of the park. There is absolute and total silence. Then Nene saunters over and holds out his hand. As we shake hands he asks, "What do we have to lose?" We become the Ramona Gardens Sluggers.
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Olga García Echeverría
Foto by Jose Lozano
We're at Liliana's tamales in East Los Angeles, grubbing on cocido and gorditas de nopal. Snoop Dogg is rapping on two large LCD screens that hang at opposite ends of the restaurant, but no one seems to be watching the almost muted TVs.
Instead, people unwrap hot corn husks with their dedos and dig into steaming tamales. They chatter at their mesas, a veces en Español, a veces in English, and sometimes in both. Estamos en Spanglish land. Language is fluid. It rises into the air like music and melds with the sweet, spicy aromas of chile, masa, menudo. Dishes clank. A mesera laughs. A baby cries. The urban soundtrack of passing cars afuera enters every time someone opens the front door. Yeah, I guess you could say it's a little noisy for an interview, but Los Angeles-based poet Gloria Enedina Alvarez doesn't seem to mind. She's sitting across from me toda tranquila, looking bien cool in her long curly tresses. Parece rock star.
Actually, it's not just the hair: Gloria Alvarez is a rock star. She's been poeting for decades, crossing linguistic borders a su manera, pissing off purists in both English and Spanish-speaking worlds. When publishers have wanted English only or no translated work or Spanish only, she's kept moving through other creative mediums, collaborating with other artists, delving into visual arts, theater, radio, creating her own artist books and chapbooks. Gloria Alvarez' work and long-standing presence in the literary scene have been instrumental in carving out a space for inter-generational Latina poets/writers in Los Angeles. She's a daughter of the Civil Rights Movement. A community-based artist. A Literary translator. A Curator. Mujer de Consiencia. Mother. Maestra. Mentor to generations of Latina artists. Master of La Metáfora. Born in Guadalajara and raised all over the place in Southern California--San Bernardino, San Pedro, the Mar Vista Projects, Pico-Union, East Los Angeles, South Central--she's a real LA homegirl, home grown with sunglasses and all, but her poetry sprouts thick raíces that branch in and out of the United States, cross over time and space to constantly tap into memory and identity.
Es olor de barro rising
In the morning
Its crevices hiding
Lupita’s secret wishes
It’s watching movies with our
Heads hung upside down
Through a peephole in an ancient wooden shutter
Los vecínos rociando
Sus palabras con el agua
En la acera
Es el ropero
Red mahogany mirror
Stained letters unsent
En cajones que bailan al abrirse
It’s my Tio Jose’s dairy
Froth on my tongue
It’s the nopales y el mole
Made from our pet chicken killed on my birthday
It’s what remains but never returns
Gloria can transport us not only to her childhood in Mexico, but also to mystical places where female lenguas dance...
Tongue of fire,
The energy centered around the heart,
Moon myths halo de las regiones místicas de mujer,
Sacred depths of aguamiel, the sweet water dance,
Her tongue awaits
Her woman-centered work, full of alluring images, conjures both the past and the present...For the fractured girl child
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His first novel, Crossing, was published in October of 1998 by Bilingual Press and has been translated into Spanish for publication in Spain by Limes Press. It was chosen as one of ten outstanding books by a writer of color published in 1998 by PEN American Center in New York. His second novel, Drift, was published by Picador USA in 2003 and was chosen as one of the best books of 2004 by the American Library Association. It has also been published in Australia and anthologized several times. Martinez's book on postwar American dissent and its literature, Countering the Counterculture: Rereading American Dissent From Jack Kerouac to Tomas Rivera, was published in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin Press. Martinez has been a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune for which he writes book reviews and literary essays and has received several fellowships and grants for his artistic work and his scholarship including the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Mellon Foundation, and the MacDowell Artists Colony.
Martinez’s latest novel, Day of the Dead, was published in the winter by Floricanto Press. Set in Mexico during the Revolution, the novel tells the story of Berto Morales whose life changes forever when his pregnant wife is raped and murdered, just another victim of the bloody war. We follow Morales as he sets out to find his wife’s murderers. But his journey transforms him and his view of the world. This is a harrowing novel, filled with both terror and hope. Martinez kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Day of the Dead.
DANIEL OLIVAS: Day of the Dead is markedly different from your previous two novels which dealt with contemporary characters and conflicts. Why did you decide to do a historical novel? Did you confront any special obstacles or issues by setting your novel during the Mexican Revolution?
MANUEL LUIS MARTINEZ: I set out to do something different with this book. My work is dialogue heavy in that I'm most interested in voices and stories told by real characters, but I wanted to write something that was in the mode of classical Latin American literature and so I knew that Day of the Dead, set in the turn of the century, would give me the opportunity to stretch a bit with my prose. The reason I set Day of the Dead during the Mexican Revolution was because I wanted, partially, to reflect on the morass that is the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I didn't want to write directly about the conflict. 0 Comments on An interview with Manuel Luis Martinez, author of the novel, “Day of the Dead” as of 1/1/1900
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Tortilla Sun is a magical story filled with love, family, culture, friendship, life and death, and the need to belong. Izzy Roybal is sent to stay with her nana in a northern New Mexico village where she feels like a stranger in her own culture. Through story she discovers the truth about her father’s death and ultimately discovers who she is in the process.
How was the process from manuscript to publication for Tortilla Sun?
Long and sometimes quiet. I didn’t set out to write a novel, but after my daughter Juliana asked me to write her a story, I picked up the pen. This came at a time when I had the opportunity to spend a month in Santa Fe without the “outside” distractions that we all face, so I guess you can say the muse found me. As I wrote, I became addicted. More ideas sprouted and I needed a place to put them all. I began to think about the kinds of books I would love for my daughters to read, ones where they were reflected in the pages. Before I knew it, I started writing Tortilla Sun. I wrote the first draft in a few months, but boy, those revisions were tough. I joined a critique group and edited and revised over and over and over until I was confident enough to query agents. Once I signed with the amazing Laurie McLean, I realized that publishing really is a hurry-up and wait business and so I learned patience and accepted the waiting process. Through that challenging process, I decided I needed to rename “rejections” to “bow-outs.” It just sounds better, doesn’t it? Laurie sold the manuscript in September of 2008 to Julie Romeis of Chronicle and I was so fortunate to work with such a talented editor. The entire team at Chronicle, from design and editing to publicity and marketing, has been a dream!
Thank you for such a lovely compliment. I write from a place deep inside that some might call instinct. When I’m writing, I’m not aware of both worlds—I see them as one. Our everyday world is filled with magic that we only need to take the time to notice. While I wrote Tortilla Sun, I let the story unfold organically. This is the feeling I am always looking for when I create a story. If it feels forced, it just doesn’t’ work, not on the page, in my mind, or in my heart.
On the acknowledgments, you thanked Julie Bear for asking you to write her story. Can you tell us about the real Julie Bear?
My daughter, Juliana Sophia, is the original Julie Bear. I have always called her this and she too has a little brown stuffed bear that wears a proper black velvet hat and dress. Juliana liked her own nickname so much, she passed it on to this little bear. My daughter is eleven now and is light and joy. She is energetic and animated, and always gives me her opinion on my writing, even if I don’t ask for it.
Izzy, your protagonist, is a writer. How much of you can we find in Izzy?
Like Izzy, I can be unsure o Display Comments Add a Comment
Today, Thursday May 20, 2010 is my final day as an administrator at Maplewood Middle School. In the fall Maplewood will begin anew when opening its doors to an estimated 600 elementary level students. While I have little to no fear of moving on to new opportunities, Maplewood will survive like that first childhood kiss I experienced so many years ago.
Fresh out of grad school, Maplewood extended what has become my initial adminstrative opportunity. And as it was (for me) as a teacher, I am again convinced to have learned and benefited more from my students than vice versa. They are the heart e e cumming's speaks of in his famous poem, i carry your heart with me.
Flaco had no idea that yesterday would be his last as an eighth grader. He had recently returned to la vida loca. A few weeks ago I noticed the shift; late to school, tired eyes, blue dickies, locs behind the neck, and the gangsta limp. Early in our concluding conversation I recognized we had lost him long before, that the few months he managed to divert trouble was simply his own momentary lapse of reason. "Ya estuvo, I am done Tijerina, just can't do this school thing and todas las reglas no more." He pulled a blue rag from his right back pocket and continued by saying, "Este paño, mi jefe me lo dio before he was sent up for bangin'." I accompanied him outside through the front entrance. The stubborn wind and its snapping of the flailing American flag had no effect on Flaco. There was no hug, no handshake, nor departing phrase. His gesture of goodbye was a suttle backwards tilt of the head and he was gone. In a distance I could see his father's blue with white speckled paisly bandana echando una cumbia con el aire.
It was after Flaco had turned the corner going west that I recalled the latter lines of the cummings's poema, "here is the deepest secret nobody knows / (here is the root of the root and bud of the bud / and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows / higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) / and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart / i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)."
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This week, La Bloga is happy to share late-breaking news and views from the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Alburquerque NM, site of the NLWC. Click link above for datos.
Margaret Y. Luévano
Forty thousand square feet of vibrant images gazed down upon us. We, artists of words, gathered in the torreon to witness the fresco coming into creation, eight years in the making. We craned our necks upwards to witness the story documented before us -- Arabs, Jews, missionaries, slaves, Spaniards, virgins, indigenous mothers. They looked at us, their descendants, looking at them. Overwhelmed by the beauty, with the magnitude of the work, all we could do was stare.
On the eve of the Latino Writers Conference in Albuquerque we had come together from all over the county, writers in search of community. We were there to learn and share, gain strength to move forward in our writing lives. In this world so attached to labels that divide, the fresco reminded us that we are all a mixture of history, that we are the sum of our past moving forward to create the future.
The next morning Rigoberto Gonzazles echoed this sentiment in his keynote address to open the conference. First we must pay tribute to those who have paved the way, but we must move forward as artists in a time of crisis. We must challenge ourselves to take on the mantle given to us by our antepasados and be agents of change; we must act as role models for the upcoming generations and help develop in them the tools to shape the future; and we must not be afraid to step out of our creative worlds to become literary critics, for it is through literary criticism that we grow as a community in dialogue.
Afterwards, we disperse to our workshops -- memoir, travel writing, news writing, poetry, young adult writing, playwriting, short fiction, comedy, and mystery. For the next two and half days it is our mission to pay homage to our mentors, to learn from each other, and take what we learn here and transform it into wisdom that changes the world.
Forgive my tardiness this fine May day, but the launch of King of the Chicanos at the Tattered Cover turned out to be a great night, and cause for a late morning. We sold out of books; old friends connected; the audience got cookies from the Capuchin Poor Clares at Our Lady of Light Monastery; and it felt good to finally publicly talk about Ramón Hidalgo, Tino García, Soledad Cortez Arango, and a few other characters from the story. I won't take up too much of La Bloga's space this morning except to let you know that in the weeks ahead I intend to feature a review of Tim Z. Hernandez's wonderful book, Breathing, In Dust; a few author interviews; and, of course, some surprises for you and me.
Photos from last night:
the author tries to come up with something clever
Denver authors Wick Downing and Mario Acevedo along with arts supporter Dr. Patty Baca
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The hot Chicano comic
From Chicano vampiristico (sic?) Mario Acevedo, comes this note:
"To read about the new Felix Gomez Comic Killing the Cobra, in a special edition newsletter, click this link."
There's two covers to this issue and I have to disagree with Mario's pocho tastes and say this one ain't the winner. Reminds me of Charlie's Angels, the vata edition.
Here's the Cover B version. I'll take votes from all readers, whether you're registered, a resident or even don't look like your legal.
Anyway, I missed Mario's debut signing in Denver--pinche! I also missed Manuel Ramos's Denver debut Tattered Cover Bookstore signing of King of the Chicanos. Still down about being job-less and had hundreds of computer entries to make on grades, tests, etcetera. (At least my wife went and got me four copies I can Ebay to subsidize my unemployment checks.)
Anyway, I'm sure you'll find something about Mario's event on his website soon and Ramos posted a piece yesterday about what my wife told me what a huge and great event. Tattered sold out of all the copies they had, which probably means King will make Denver's bestseller list for awhile. I'm just finishing the novel and suggest you get one before all that's available is the 2nd, 3rd or 4th editions.
Borrowing from the master, Lalo
Inspired by and patterned after the classic poem "Stupid America" (1969) by the late Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado (QDEP), an old friend and academico Donaldo Urioste sent us this piece about Arizona and its recent anti-immigrant/anti-Mexican mania.
See that Mexican
Walking the streets of your cities
and the barren lands of your countryside.
He doesn't want to harm you,
he just wants to work
and earn a decent wage
but you won't let him.
hear that Latina
Speaking Spanish and broken English
throughout your callous c
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