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1. Notes From the Rocky Mountain Front

Culture War? If there is such a thing, I think we are winning. Here's notices about a few artistic skirmishes in the Mountain West. Cultural warriors unite.


Call for Entry: El Dia de Los Muertos

CHAC Gallery & Cultural Center
774 Santa Fe Drive Denver

Attention Artists, Students, Teachers and Community Members!

 2014 “El Dia de Los Muertos” –A Celebration of Life!

Best of Show $100, and two honorable mentions $25 each!

Judges Stephanie Shearer and Chris Bacorn owners of Pandora on the Hill and Soul Haus!

Show Dates: Wed. Oct. 1- Sat. November 1, 2014
Opening Reception October 17th 6-9 PM 
With a procession with Aztec dancers, and traditional refreshments
  • Artwork drop off is Sunday September 28th from noon to 4 PM at 774 Santa Fe Drive Denver CO 80205. 303-571-0440
  • You may also drop off your work ahead of time during regular gallery hours the week prior.
  • Requirements: Work must be Festive, Fun…new, never shown at CHAC, and based on the  cultural theme of El Dia de Los Muertos  (Day of the Dead). Work must be ready to hang. (Student artwork is the only exception) Art work must be suitable for a family friendly, environment, and be all age appropriate. 25% commission on all sales.
  • All Mediums are welcome including, but not limited to paintings, photography, sculpture, drawings, carvings, mixed media, fabric and jewelry.
  • Artwork may be refused for any reason if deemed inappropriate for the exhibit.
  • Altars-We are encouraging small altars due to limited space. Sunday set up only! Please call to reserve a spot beforehand. $20 donation required.
Entry fee: Free for CHAC Gallery members, $10 each or 3 for $25 for non members Teachers and schools $1.00 per art piece per child. We will work with you on pricing and sizes. Please call Crystal at 303-571-0440 with any questions!




September 15, 2014 (Denver, CO) – The Denver Film Society (DFS) is proud to announce special guests Edward James Olmos (Producer), Richard Montoya (Director) and Nicholas Gonzalez (The Purge: Anarchy, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm) will attend CineLatino on behalf of the Opening Night film Water & Power on September 25. The film, a Sundance Lab Project and official selection of the LA Latino Film Festival and San Diego Latino Film Festival, revolves around twin brothers nicknamed “Water” and “Power (Gonzalez)” from the hard scrabble Eastside streets of Los Angeles.

“We are thrilled to make this announcement on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month,” says DFS Programming Manager, Ernie Quiroz. “CineLatino is a celebration of the accomplishments of Latinos in film and I can’t think of a better person that exemplifies this than Mr. Olmos. He has opened the door for multiple generations of Latino actors, writers, producers and directors and continues his tireless work with the new film Water & Power by Richard Montoya.”

The Festival will open on Thursday, September 25 with a special pre-reception beginning at 6pm. The film will begin at 7:30pm immediately followed by a Q&A with Mr. Olmos, Mr. Montoya and Mr. Gonzalez. The DFS will continue to celebrate Edward James Olmos’ legacy on Saturday, September 27, by presenting a free screening of his film, Zoot Suit. In addition, Antonio Mercado along with students from the original North High School production of Zoot Suit Riots will host a panel discussion following the film. In 2004, Mercado and the students of North High School made history with their performance of Zoot Suit Riots and the play became the first high school production to be staged at the Buell Theater. Ten years later, the students have grown to become community leaders, actors, and activists.

A complete Festival pass to CineLatino is $50 for DFS members and $60 for non-members. The pass includes guaranteed seating to all films and panels, as well as access to all receptions and parties. Tickets to the Opening Night Film and Reception are $20 for DFS members and $25 for non-members, Closing Night Film and Reception are $15 for DFS members and $20 for non-members – both receptions include complimentary food and drink courtesy of Lifestyles Catering and locally based, Suerte Tequila. Regularly scheduled films are $10 for DFS members and $12 for non-members. Visit www.DenverFilm.org for more information and to purchase your tickets. 
Direct Link to full program and to purchase passes and individual tickets: click here.
The Man Behind The Mask
Other notable films in the festival (twelve total) include:
Thesis on a Homicide (Argentina) 
Who Is Dayani Cristal? (Mexico, documentary with Gael Garcia Bernal) 
Frontera (USA, starring Michael Peña and Ed Harris)


Tirar Chancla

Great band, great venue, great people having a good time.


Latin@ Book Festival - Pueblo

Hard to see in the image (the only one I could find), but this all-day event offers author presentations, panels on getting published and banned books, and more. La Bloga friend Mario Acevedo is featured at 2:45 PM when he will talk about Murder Your Writing Demons, while I will speak at 9:30 AM on Chicano Noir: It's Black and It's Brown.

September 27
Rawlings Library
100 E Abriendo Ave.
Pueblo, CO 81004-4290
(719) 562-5600


Enrique's Journey


Michael Nava in Boulder

On a very warm but beautiful afternoon (September 18) I attended a reading and discussion with the popular and award-winning author Michael Nava on the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado.  The event was hosted by Professor and author Emma Pérez of the C.U. Ethnic Studies Department.  Michael read from his excellent novel The City of Palaces, reviewed on La Bloga here and here. Retirement allows me the spontaneity to take in events such as these, and this was an interesting and enlightening time enjoyed by all who attended.

Emma Pérez, Michael Nava, Manuel Ramos

Final note:  I had a great time at the Literatura Hispana event sponsored by Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado on September 16. I read and answered questions about Desperado, and shared the stage with fellow writers and friends Denise Vega and Sheryl Luna. This was the first time this college hosted such an event but the organizers hope to make it an annual event for September 16th celebrations.  That would be swell.


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2. Chicanonautica: Media and Messages in New Mexico

When I travel, I try to plug into the local media. It gives me clues as to what’s going on, and provides an alternative to my usual habits. And if the ol’ cerebro diabolico gets knocked into a new configuration, so much the better!

I even found a copy of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in an Española thrift store. Hmm, wonder what a roadtrip through New Mexico would have done to McLuhan’s theorizing. 

Sure, I could have gotten online at the Wired? Cafe in Taos, where we parked next to a guy who looked like a latter-day Quijote/road warrior on the run: His car was dented and mud-spattered. Mud seemed to deliberately obscure the license plate. His door was open, a muddy boot touched the ground as he used a hand-held device.

Screw it, I decided, I’m on vacation. 

In these times of vanishing newspapers, I found local papers everywhere in New Mexico. There are even people hawking them at intersections. 

In Pojoaque, I picked up a gratis copy of El Semanario de Nuevo México, “El Périodico de Nuestra Gente.” It’s a modern newpaper with a website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. It also had ads that offered discounts on consulta espiritual, limpias-baño de yerbas, lectura de cartas, aguas espirituales, talismanes, jabones y mucho más. 

Unlike Arizona and California, in New Mexico, Latinos -- or maybe I should say Hispanics, are visible, almost a majority, as it should be since some families here have been around since before 1776. They blend with both the Anglo and large, diverse Native populations, but in a different way from the Hollywood ethnic-neutral androids. There are still stories about Hispanic criminals, but they are covered by brown news people. The us/them angle I’m used to seeing is lacking even when the subject of criminals, in the country illegally, comes up. 
And there are Hispanic conservatives. (Actually, we have them everywhere, but somehow they don’t get mentioned much.)

Susana Martinez,the Republican incumbent governor, is a Hispanic woman. When she criticizes Washington, it doesn’t sound like she’s running against Obama. In Arizona, you’d think Obama was running for just about every office in the state.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff  Tommy Rodella and his son were arrested by the FBI. “The pair were accused of civil rights violations, falsifying documents, and violating federal firearms laws.” Joe Arpaio would be proud.

There are more Spanish TV channels -- not just Univision and Telemundo, you can see Latin music videos, and catch a Chinese martial arts period pieces dubbed into español.

A PSA from the Santa Fe police kept popping up in which brown officers showed off shiny, new SWAT and riot gear, explaining how it's all to promote “diversity.”

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, folks protested the upcoming NRA Police Shooting Competition because officers involved in recent fatal shootings were slated to participate (then backed out). “Many of those protesters have been affected by officer-involved shootings in the city. They say the competition is an insult to them and everyone else.”

Back in Santa Fe, the city council voted to decriminalize the “possession of less than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana.” Which, of course, caused more controversy

Looks like the near-future in New Mexico is going to be interesting.

Ernest Hogan is an Irish-Chicano whose family came from New Mexico. The new Kindle edition of his novel Cortez on Jupiter is available for pre-order.

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3. Viva Frida

Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morale
Photography by Tim O'Meara

Roaring Brook Press

Frida Kahlo, one of the world's most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.  

Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida's life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

Praise for Viva Frida
"Morales artistically distills the essence of the remarkable Frida Kahlo in this esoteric, multigenre picture book." - Booklist

*"There have been several books for young readers about Frida Kahlo, but none has come close to the emotional aesthetic Morales brings to her subjects . . . an ingenious tour de force." - The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW

"This luminescent homage to Frida Kahlo doesn't hew to her artwork's mood but entrances on its own merit . . . Visually radiant." - Kirkus Reviews

*"Kahlo's unusual life story, background, and art have made her a frequent topic of biographies. Morales's perception of her creative process results in a fresh, winning take on an artist who has rarely been understood . . . Morales's art and O'Meara's photographs take this book to another level." - School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
STARRED REVIEW"Frida is presented less as a historical figure than as an icon who represents the life Morales holds sacred; Frida lives because she loves and creates." -Publisher's Weekly

Making Viva Frida

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4. News and Notes

Michael Sedano

Being a shut-in means missing every poetry reading, art gallery opening, the Hollywood Bowl, and such normal activities as grocery shopping or gardening. The aftereffects of my double surgeries in July have mostly subsided now, and I am looking forward to getting out among 'em by the end of the month. There are so many events not to miss.

From Texas to California, this week's mailbag brings a handful of excitement.

Santa Barbara • September 27

The sixth season of the Mission Poetry Series kicks off on Saturday, September 27, at 1 p.m. in its new home at Antioch University Santa Barbara. “So Deep a Sound: Three Poets in Autumn” features Melinda Palacio, Michelle Detorie, and Blas Falconer. The reading will be held at Antioch University Santa Barbara • 602 Anacapa Street • Santa Barbara, CA, and is free and open to the public. Refreshments, complimentary broadsides, and poets' work for sale.

Houston • September 27
Arte Publico Press sends news of LibroFEST held at multiple locations across the city. Visit LibroFEST website for details.

Highland Park Los Angeles • September 28

Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio hosts a pair of monthly readings, including the recently-held Bluebird Reading, and the upcoming La Palabra. Both series showcase emerging and established talent from diverse LA poetry communities. In addition to the spotlight readers, a lively Open Mic generates energy for the often SRO audiences. Parking in the rear is available.

Pomona CA • October 8

Move over, LA's westside. Make room for the westside of the Inland Empire, Pomona, where an arts community thrives, centered around the dA Center for the Arts.

Ventura County's Santa Paula • October 18

Magu's "the family car" always brought a spark to his eye when he talked about it. Now in the hands of a generous private collector, this show offers a rare chance to see Magu's masterwork in person. 

There's yet another special feature at the opening day celebration. One of Magu's sons plays with Conjunto Los Pochos, who will be joined by Los Fabulocos for musical festivities.

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5. WeHo Reads: Noir!

The City of West Hollywood celebrates National Literacy Month in September 2014 by launching a new, free literary-based community event “WeHo Reads: Noir” and a month of free Saturday programmingfor adults and children at West Hollywood Library and Park. The programming includes not only great literature, but also special screenings of noir classics.

I want to note that on Saturday, September 27, there will be a day of author panels beginning at 1:00 and running to 7:00 p.m. Here is the full schedule. I am delighted that I will be a panelist on “Noir in Color: Voices from Beyond the Pale” that starts at 3:30 and lasts until 4:15. Here is a description of panel: Color blind or color in mind? Noir, neo-Noir and not-so-Noir? Join us and look “beyond the pale” at characters of color in Noir and into the “pale of Noir” to examine the broad nature of how Noir is defined. The panel will feature:

Gary Phillips (Moderator) is the editor and contributor to the bestselling anthology “Orange County Noir” and “Black Pulp.” His novel “Warlord of Willow Ridge” was about a career criminal hiding out in suburbia and “Big Water” is his graphic novel about a community’s fight against water privatization.

Gary Phillips (Moderator) 

Gar Anthony Haywood is the Shamus and Anthony award-winning author of twelve crime novels and numerous short stories. He has written for both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and for long-form television. His short fiction has been included in the “Best American Mystery Stories” anthologies and Booklist has called him “a writer who has always belonged in the upper echelon of American crime fiction.”

Gar Anthony Haywood 

Nina Revoyr is the author of four novels, including “Southland,” which was a BookSense 76 pick and a Los Angeles Times “Best Book” of 2003; the “The Age of Dreaming,” which was a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and “Wingshooters,” which won an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award, was one of O: Oprah Magazine’s “Books to Watch For,” and was one of Booklist’s Books of the Year for 2011. Her new novel, “Lost Canyon,” will be published in 2015. Revoyr is also co-editor of the textbook “Literature for Life: A Thematic Introduction to Reading and Writing”. She has taught at Cornell, Antioch, Occidental, and Pitzer, and is executive vice president of a non-profit children’s service organization in Los Angeles.

Nina Revoyr

Désirée Zamorano delights in the exploration of contemporary issues of injustice and inequity, via her mystery series featuring private investigator, Inez Leon, published by Lucky Bat Books. “Human Cargo” was Latinidad’s mystery pick of the year.

Désirée Zamorano

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of seven books including the award-winning novel, “The Book of Want” (University of Arizona Press), and “Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews” (San Diego State University Press). He is the editor of “Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature” (Bilingual Press), and has been widely anthologized including in “Sudden Fiction Latino” (W. W. Norton), and “You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens” (Arte Público Press). Olivas has written for many publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, La Bloga, High Country News, and California Lawyer.
Daniel A. Olivas 

For more information about WeHo Reads: Noir, visit here.

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6. Urban Farm Gardening, Cooking with Luz Calvo & Catriona Esquibel: Decolonize Your Diet Conversations

Luz Calvo (holding Nopalito) & Catriona Esquibel (holding Sweet Pea) in their kitchen (photo by Tina Rubio)
Reporting from Oakland, California, at the beautiful home of Luz Calvo, Professor of Ethnic Studies at California State University East Bay; and Catriona Esquibel, Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University.  They are the authors of the blog site: Decolonize Your Diet.  I invite you to enjoy our conversations about food, urban farming, and designing your home to be a space of visual delight and healing.  This posting also includes recipes for you to try!

Contact info for Luz Calvo and Catriona Esquibel:
Luz:  luz.calvo@csueastbay.edu
Catriona:  ktrion@sfsu.edu
All social media related to Decolonize Your Diet:  
Front room in Luz and Catriona's home
Dining room 
Dining room
Luz y Catriona's Altar (beautifully placed in the center of their casita)
While watching Luz prepare the most delicious dishes (Huarache de Nopal, Garden fresh salsa, Pozole, tortilla making), we also talked about the vital connections among health and food, the importance of growing one’s own food, why our health can be restored by remembering and cooking our abuelita’s recipes, which includes returning to the food of our ancestors.

"La Cosecha" ("The Harvest") in Luz and Catriona's kitchen
Amelia Montes:  When did you begin getting interested in cooking mindfully, choosing “pre-hispanic” foods and recipes? 

Catriona Esquibel:  I think it started in 2007.  During those years, I was blogging about Luz’s breast cancer, diagnosis and treatment.  When we started thinking about food in relation to recovery from cancer treatment, we started to imagine a “Queer Postcolonial Cookbook,” to capture what we were doing with food.  We first began renting this house in 2005, Luz was diagnosed in 2006, and we were able to buy the house in 2008.  At that point, we knew we wanted to start growing our own food.

Spice rack.  At the very top shelf are jars of canned nopales
Luz Calvo:  Once we started considering food in relation to colonization, we hooked into Devon Abbott Mihesuah.  She is Choctaw and we came across her book, Recoveringour Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness (University of Nebraska Press).  She coined the term, “Decolonize Your Diet.”  Then there was the “Decolonizing Diet Project” from Northern Michigan University.  They experimented with a year of eating and cooking with only local indigenous foods. We also came across the blog,“Decolonial Food for Thought,” by two graduate students from the University of Washington, Claudia Serrato and Chris Rodriguez.  They write from a Vegan Chican@/Indigena perspective.  Through our research, we began to see that eating our ancestral foods would lead us to a healthy path. 

El Jardin de Luz y Catriona
Amelia Montes:  How did you actually begin this healthy cooking journey? 

Luz Calvo:  We started with the garden.  After my breast cancer diagnosis, I had a real profound crisis around food.  I felt that maybe something I had eaten had caused the cancer.  I had already been a vegetarian for 15 years.  And yet, I thought I had eaten something cancer causing, so I didn’t want to eat anything.  We met with a group called, “PlantingJustice” here in Oakland, and they came to our house.  At that time, our garden was mostly just rocks and cement. We asked them to design a garden with cancer-fighting plants.

Catriona Esquibel:  They came up with a plan, and slowly, area by area, Luz began to plant.

Luz shows me Verdolagas or Purslane.  These leaves have more nutritious omega-3 fatty acids than in some fish oils!
Luz Calvo:  My hands were working in the soil and it became profoundly healing for me.  And it was at this time that we also added chickens (laying hens) to our urban garden.  It was also healing caring for the chickens, and feeling good about what I was eating from the garden. 

Chickens in the coop at Luz y Catriona's urban backyard farm
So it’s been eight years.  It’s like a path we’re walking.  What’s so cool about it, is that there is so much to learn.  Lately, we’ve been learning all about fermentation.  We have been researching what kinds of foods were fermented in Mexico.  For example, the Mexican/Indigenous drinks of Colonche, Tesgüino, Tepache, and Tibicos are all fermented drinks. 

Fermenting Kombucha at Luz & Catriona's house
Colonche, for example, is made from fermented tunas [prickly pears]. It produces a super sweet luscious drink, and it’s made without added sugar.  This is the only way we use white sugar:  in our ferments because the sugar then is consumed away.  For example, when we make Kombucha, the SCOBY, (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), consumes the sugar producing a drink that is naturally fizzy and tart. 
"Quelites" or "Lamb's Quarters"--medicinal herb packed with Vitamin C & E
We are also paying attention to the stories around foods.  Many foods are indigenous that have been previously thought not indigenous.  For example, there are wild garlic and onion plants that are indigenous to the Americas, but the history books will tell you that onion and garlic come from the Europeans.  While the onions and garlic that are sold in markets are of European origin, there were also varieties of onion and garlic in the Americas. 

The corn here was gifted to Luz Calvo by two of her students (sisters) who are from Salinas, California.  The seeds came from Mexico and the community in Salinas has continued to preserve and grow this corn.  It is a red corn used for
making posole or corn masa.  
Catriona Esquibel:  We also have been reading articles from major scientific databases, such as “PubMed,” which confirms the medicinal value of many of our native foods, such as nopales, verdolagas, quelites, and so forth. 

Amelia Montes:  What changes have you noticed in these five years of decolonizing your diet? 

Luz Calvo:  I continue to be in good health.  The cancer has not returned.  I feel strong.  For me, it’s the spiritual part of it.  The spiritual path has connected me more to mother earth/nature, to ancestors, to people who, back in the day, were doing things that now I am doing. 

Luz Calvo, cooking greens from the garden 
Catriona Esquibel:  I’d been having lots of issues with menopause, and recently had surgery, but I feel like I’ve healed really quickly from my surgery.  I no longer have symptoms.  Overall, the food is just so pleasurable, and it feels like it’s getting better and better.  Food feels good.  We rarely get sick and rarely catch the viruses that everyone else gets.  We’re also big on remedies.  For instance, a nettles tincture is quite healing for infections. 

L to R:  Mexican Oregano, Peppers, Avocado, Safflower
Luz Calvo:  Instead of vitamins or what’s on the pharmacy shelf, we use food/spices, like turmeric, that contain anti-inflammatory properties. I also go to yoga.

Catriona Esquibel:  Walking is my main exercise.  My phone has a pedometer on it. 

More from the garden:  quince and lemons
Amelia Montes:  What do you hope to do with all this information you have acquired, and the delicious food you have been creating? 

Luz Calvo:  We have already been doing workshops for students and the community.  We’ve done a workshop with high school students in Oakland, giving them a tour of our garden.  We’ve also done cooking demos for “Poor Magazine” in East Oakland.  We did a food demo for the “Latina Migrant Women’s Health Fair,” which was held in the plaza outside of the Fruitvale BART Station.  And, we just did a talk at Mills College.

Pineapple Guava (also known as feijoas (South American origin):
rich in antioxidants (vitamin C), vitamin B complex, high in fiber 
Amelia Montes:  And who is your audience for your cookbook? 

Luz Calvo:  We have several different audiences in mind.  We are writing for our students who appreciate our foods but don’t know how to cook them.  Then there are the people who are interested in history and stories about their family’s food.  The “slow food” community is also interested.  We are also concerned about food justice.  We advocate for our communities' access to healthy, culturally relevant food (food sovereignty); fair wages for people who work the fields, for people who work in the food service industry; an end to NAFTA/CAFTA, which is destroying local food systems in Mexico and Central America.  Of course, we are also concerned about GMOs and pesticides which corrupt our food system, pollute the environment, and make us sick.  At the same time, we recognize that these issues are not going to be fully solved without a radical restructuring of the global economy.  Right now, all decisions around food revolve around one thing:  increasing the profit margins of a few corporations that dominate the food industry.  Instead, food should be viewed as something sacred.  All living beings need food to survive, but it is also linked to our humanity and our collective need for health, community, and culture. We present a way of looking at Mexican food and valuing ancestral knowledge that we can share with each other.  To have “Decolonize Your Diet” on Facebook, people are invited to share and that’s awesome.  We have a framework to continue that exchange so that we can benefit from each other’s generational history. 

Amelia Montes:  Thank you so much, Luz y Catriona. It is exciting to now have our La Bloga readers invited to join you.  Below are some of the recipes I had the pleasure of eating at Luz and Catriona’s house.  I’m definitely going to try these in my kitchen. I hope you do too. Sending all of your good health, healing energies, and delicious, nutritious eating! Let's eat!

Huarache de Nopal
Huarache de Nopal
  • 4 whole nopal paddles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups beans, cooked and smashed
  • Fermented Red Cabbage Slaw (recipe follows)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Raw Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows) 

Clean the paddles, removing all the spines.  In a molcajete, pound together the garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Marinate the paddles overnight in the olive oil mixture.  The next day, place the nopal paddles on the grill and cook.  Place the nopal on a plate and spread the beans over the nopal.  Serve topped with Cabbage Slaw, avocado slices, and salsa.

marinated and grilled nopal paddle
Red Fermented Cabbage

  • 1 (2- to 2 1/2-lb) red cabbage, cored and cut into fine ribbons
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 2-5 fresh jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Red cabbage on the Huarache de Nopal. Raw Tomatillo Sauce on top.
Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add the salt, working it in with either a wooden spoon or your hands until the juices release from the cabbage, (use gloves to avoid getting chile on your hands).  Stuff everything, including released liquids, into a large canning jar (Ball jar).  Pound vegetables down add water so that all the vegetables are covered with liquid.  Use a pickle weight to hold the cabbage under the water line.  Cover the top of the jar with a cloth and rubber band so air can still get in it.  Let it set for 1-3 weeks.  If any little white scum forms at the top, don’t worry.  Just skim it off.  You can also use an air lock instead of a cloth and a rubber band.  The longer it ferments, the more sour and “alive” it is. 

After a week, taste the cabbage every few days.  When the cabbage tastes sour enough (al gusto), you can put a lid on the jar and refrigerate to stop the fermentation process.  The cabbage will last several months in the refrigerator. 

Raw Tomatillo Salsa
  • About 6 tomatillos
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 large handful of cilantro
  • a little water
  • a little salt
  • ½ avocado
Using a blender or food processor, combine ingredients, adding avocado at the end for thickening.

Vegan Mushroom Posole
Vegan Mushroom Posole


  • 2 dried ancho chiles (soaked in warm water, stems and seeds removed)
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 2 thin slices of reishi mushroom (optional but adds medicinal value)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon of each: whole seed cumin and coriander, toasted and ground in the molcajete
  • 1 teaspoon of safflower petals (from Lois Ellen Frank’s recipe)
  • 1 onion, diced and sautéed
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups blue corn posole, cooked
  • 1 portabello mushroom (diced)
  • 2 shitake mushroom (about 4 large), chopped
  • Maitake mushroom (1 large flower), chopped
  • 5 chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 nopal paddle, grilled and diced
  • 1/2 green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 4 limes, cut in half
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chile Pequin
Put broth ingredients in the crockpot and cook over low heat for several hours or all day.  Remove reishi mushrooms.
Sauté mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper.  When mushrooms are cooked through, add them, along with posole and nopal to the broth in the crock pot.  Turn heat up to high and cook until all ingredients are piping hot. 

Note on mushrooms:  Use whatever mushrooms are available and local.  Organic or wild harvested mushrooms are best.  Never eat mushrooms raw.  Only by cooking them, do their medicinal benefits get released. 

Ladle stew into soup bowls.  Place toppings on the table and allow everyone to add the toppings to their stew. 

A Vegan Mushroom Posole feast!
Mesquite Corn Tortillas

  • About 1 cup fresh, organic corn masa
  • 1 Tablespoon mesquite powder
Mesquite Corn Tortillas with frijole and greens
Using your hands, mix the mesquite powder into the masa.  Form into four equal size balls, each ball the size of a lime.  Heat the comal (or griddle) so it gets pretty hot.  Line the tortilla press on both sides with plastic and then smash masa into a tortilla shape.  Carefully peel off the plastic, one side at a time, and place the tortilla on the comal.  When the edges start to rise up, flip the tortilla. Continue cooking until both sides look done. Wrap tortillas in a clean dishtowel so that they will stay warm (they also continue to cook on the inside a bit, so don’t worry if at first they seem a bit raw.)

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7. Our climate-change numbers

e.e. cummings answered one question: "The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches." What's unanswered is, whether those of us who are alive give enough of a damn about being "touched" by Global Warming, which lays down its "touches" in the form of extreme weather.

I inserted no pics today. It's all about numbers and begins with a simple one. 350. The best scientific estimate about preserving a planet livable for our species, and many others. 350 parts of carbon dioxide per 1,000,000 parts of gases in the atmosphere, or p.p.m. More than that is not livable, another way of saying--extinction for homo sapiens. Currently, the number hovers around 400. For maybe the 1sttime in the last 3,000,000 years.

We're not living on borrowed time; that point (350ppm) was passed in the late 1980s. Over 20 years ago. I checked today's numbers; they are at 397ppm. And will rise this year, next year, every year, the way our species and our country are headed. Unless we change the number, stop it, reverse it, permanently.

The climate is a tolerant, superior phenomenon that doesn't give a soft white damn whether it falls on Anglos, blacks, Chicanos, Hispanics, L.A., Denver or Tokyo. Even the 1% have resources to survive only a little longer than the rest of us.

Here are more numbers:
The 21st of September coming up in 8 days. The date of the People's Climate March in New York City.
50 - the number of states that will be represented at the march
374 - buses and trains listed for travel to NYC for the march.
26 - city blocks the NYPD has reserved for assembling before the march
1100+ - community, labor, environmental justice, faith and progressive groups that endorsed the march [More join every day.]
28 - different religious faiths and denominations that will be represented
20 - the minimum number of marching bands expected
300+ - college campuses where students are mobilizing to go to NYC
1500 - actions planned worldwide that weekend in
130 - countries
40,000 - people at last year's Forward on Climate march in DC, the largest US climate march to date
401 parts per million - the peak concentration of carbon in the atmosphere measured by the world's leading scientists this spring
0 - the amount of progress made if everyone stayed home
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ – the number of us that will take a stand in NY and other cities.

The climate's numbers will continue rising.
More vacations will be ruined from more, severe hurricanes or snowstorms or disrupted airline flights.
More of our lawns will bake brown.
Or more trees die from excessive rainfall.
Or homes float away from flooding.
Or burn from drought and firestorms.

Obviously, all of that is less important than the number of us, our children and grandchildren who will be around to survive climate change catastrophes created by our species. A number that could go to

Before that, head to NYC for the march.
If you can't get there, then to Denver.
Or to one of 2 in the L.A. area. Or find one nearest you.  
Even if you're in another country where snow never falls.
You can also send funds if you're unable to send yourself.

Es todo, hoy, except where the snow doesn't give a soft white….
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia - 1who plans on marching and more

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8. A Latina en Lucha Needs You Mucha Campaign

Melinda Palacio

Michele Serros and Melinda Palacio

 In 1995, I heard Michele Serros read at Martinez Bookstore in Santa Ana. At the time, I didn't see myself as a writer. My mom's best friends, Mary Rose and Eddie Ortega are avid readers and collectors of Chicano Literature. I had no idea what I was in for when I went along for the ride with the Ortegas. I met my first published author, a young jubilant Chicana whose stories were so real and close to home, I laughed without realizing the magical impact of that experience.

Michele Serros reading at a fundraiser for the 2010 Latino Book and Family Festival

In the past twenty years, Michele's stories and books have become iconic and required reading in high schools and colleges.  I never thought decades later we would both be featured authors on panels and writer pals who send each other late night texts.  Earlier this year, I had my own debut at Martinez Books. Thanks to Reyna Grande, who gathered 140 Latino authors for the 2010 Latino Book and Family Festival (see photos and post on La Bloga), I met Michele Serros again as a fellow published author.

Giving Back to a Young Author Who Has Inspired So Many

Less than a year after that moment of meeting Michele Serros again at the Latino Book and Family Festival, I knew that she had some complicated news she wanted to share. But she was hesitant to come out with it. I remember seeing her again in Berkeley when she came to hear me read with Francisco X. Alarcón at Moe's Books. She hinted at her illness, but didn't say outright, I have cancer.  I think she was hoping the disease that claimed her mother would go away and that she wouldn't have to burden her family, friends, and fans with the knowledge that she was fighting for her life.

In April 2013, she could no longer ignore the diagnosis. The cancer advanced to Stage 4 adenoid cystic carcinoma, affecting her bones, liver, lymph nodes and paralyzing her left vocal chord.

Some of her friends convinced her to join a crowd funding campaign to help pay for the astronomical price of what her insurance does not cover. Michele Serros chose to stand down cancer in a public way, sharing photos from her hospital stay on Facebook and writing about her lucha on the Huffington Post. Join her campaign and help her say, Hasta La Bye Bye Cancer! You will even be able to join in her chorus of gritos September 16. As of yesterday, she has raised $26, 517 out of a goal of $30, 000.

I hope that Michele exceeds her goal. I look forward to belting out a grito for her on September 16, Mexican Independence Day and the last day to contribute to her GiveForward Campaign, 'A Latina en Lucha Needs You Mucha.'

Yesterday, I texted and emailed a few people and gathered a little help to round out this Bloga post and boost the crowd funding campaign for Michele Serros. Here are a few more testimonials.

Michele Serros and Mary Rose Ortega

Mary Rose Ortega writes:

"Over the years, I have been to several of her readings, have read and collected her books. All her books are personally autographed. She has brought back many memories and has added laughter to my life. I feel she has included us on her day to day struggle because she knows we care. She puts laughter on the persistent cancer that she is fighting. As a Chicana, I feel that she has always made me proud and when a friend is in need, we need to be there for them. So please give, what you can, to help her in this fight against Cancer."

Mona AvaradoFrazier and Michele Serros
at the Ventura County Museum where Michele was the keynote speaker for the Latina Film Festival.
Lucy Rodriguez-Hanley made a short film based on one of Michele's short stories.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier writes:
"We are homegirls, Michele and I. Not only did we attend the same high school, are from the same hometown, and in the same critique group but we are homegirls in the fight against cancer. My own fight was nine years ago.

When Michele told me she had cancer, there were no words that I could say, I could only hug her tightand feel the struggle ahead that is a battle for life as it is known before the word 'cancer,' is uttered

Michele is genuinely sweet, a quality hard to come by when you suffer the loss of a parent and grow up in an economically depressed urban areaShe is kindwittytalentedand so much moreBut the quality I know her best for is her ganasthat unique ability to survive and thrive whatever the odds

Thank you to everyone who donates to Michele's fight against cancerShe has many more stories to write."

Florencia Ramirez

Florencia writes:
 "As far as I'm concerned  Michele Serros put Oxnard and El Rio on the map! My favorite all time poem of Michele's is "Dead Pig's Revenge." I've read and re-read it through the years. Recently, I read it aloud to my children; they couldn't stop laughing. But the best part is they could relate: to the chicharrones, to growing up in Oxnard. Michele's poetry and stories are theirs too. 

Through her stories she shows us how life is hysterical, joyful, cruel, and baffling...but somehow we get through it and it is all damn beautiful. But damn this cancer that tugs at Michele's life...it is too soon, too many unwritten stories only she can write. 

With the help of Facebook, she has taken us with her on her lucha against cancer. She shows us all how to face life's toughest challenges with grace and authenticity. And like the young Michele in "Dead Pig's Revenge," this to will have a happy ending."

Reyna Grande

La Bloga friend, Reyna Grande writes:"
"Michele is a wonderful human being and a talent writer who has inspired me by her hard work and dedication but also by the strength and resiliency she ha s shown during this difficult period of her life. I wish her all the best and I encourage everyone to give to her campaign as a way of thanking her for everything she has given us, her readers and fans."

Michele Serros, Stylish Survivor and Author
Join her Campaign. Help her fight cancer.

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9. Family Circle

            This is my earliest memory.  Or perhaps a premonition. 

            I'm three years old. I'm in the ocean surrounded by family.  The sun bakes my papi's shoulders and I cool them with my wet arms as he holds me in the shallow waters of Crash Boat beach.  Güeli, my grandmother, is wearing her cat eyeglasses because without them she can't look out for jellyfish.  I see her squinting and can't tell whether she's happy or mad.  Mami is definitely happy in the water. Much happier than on land. I like to think she's a mermaid and comes here at night while we're all asleep, and that's why she's so tired during the day.  My brothers have taken a break from fighting. At least for these few minutes they, in a circle of family members, wait for Papi to lift me up and announce my next destination. 

            "Go to Jorge!" Papi says, and lets go of me. 

            I push the water away from my face, head down, and aim straight for the sandy floor. A curtain of sand rises in front of me. My brothers are switching places. I hear everything down here, but in slow motion. Down here, laughter seems to last forever. Legs begin to appear, some shorter, some thicker. I'm looking for my brother Jorge's pale legs, but can't tell dark from light. I take a chance and touch them. Two large hands scoop me up.  It's Papi.  I've come back to where I started.

Crash Boat Beach
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

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10. Gathering the Sun

Review by Ariadna Sánchez
Each September, we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month here in the United States. It runs from September 15 to October 15 and its purpose is to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, México, the Caribbean and Central and South America. These individuals have impacted the community in a positive way.
Gathering the Sun, written by award-winning author Alma Flor Ada and gorgeously illustrated by Simón Silva, fits perfectly for the occasion. Ada’s inspirational poems using the alphabet help the reader to discover the essence, strength, and beauty of a community of lives and work in the field. The marvelous twenty-eight colorful pages honor the courage of women and men who, with their daily efforts, create a better place to live for all.
Each letter transmits a strong message that glorifies the perfection of Mother Nature. These poems glorify the gifts of the harvest season to be enjoyed as brothers and sisters.
Árboles (Trees), Betabel (Beet), Cesar Chávez, Duraznos (Peaches) are some of the words that you find in this lovely book. Let’s celebrate and honor the unique and wonderful riqueza latina.
Visit your local library for more interesting stories. ¡Viva Hispanic Heritage Month! Reading gives your wings.
To learn more about the Hispanic Heritage Month visit the following links:
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11. Review: High Aztech. Frontera Happenings. On-line Floricanto

The Desmadreization of Xólotl Zapata

Review: Ernest Hogan. High Aztech. Smashwords, 2013. Link here.

Michael Sedano

While it’s trite to call a novel “unique” you’d have to go all the way back to 1962’s A Clockwork Orange to read a novel anywhere similar to Ernest Hogan’s 2013 High Aztech. There’s certainly nothing like High Aztech in Chicano Literature, nor the broader U.S. science fiction genre.

Fans of A Clockwork Orange are sure to enjoy High Aztech’s multicultural dystopia and distinctive Españahuatl dialect. There’s horrowshow ultra-violence but the sharp edges are taken off by absurdist humor and the hapless first person voice of thirty year-old Xólotl Zapata.

Hogan jumps the reader into the middle of a xixatl storm, no preamble. Xólotl is tied to a table drugged by an (at this point) unseen inquisitor. The all-seeing government may be Zapata's iniquisitor. Then again, it might be one of the other organizations vying to control Tenochtitlán: The mafia. Or the Iyakuza. Or the Neliyacme. Or the Pepenadores. Or High Aztech itself.

The economical plot effectively incorporates backgrounds and definitions as the narrative unfolds, Hogan rarely stops the action to explain something. The pepenadores, for example, are ubiquitous hazmat-suited ciphers. They recycle trash into useful materials but also phantasmagoric vehicles that give them a fighting chance against their similarly heavily-armed rivals.

Hogan understates the grand irony that los pepenadores, like service workers everywhere, grow invisible to hoity-toity tipas tipos who spill secrets around the help. They make perfect spies and a formidable insurgency. Each of Hogan's thugitome combatants has their quirks and capacities for trouble.

Zapata’s girlfriend, Cóatliquita, infects him with a virus. It gives him a compulsion to go around in crowds, like the metro, and touch people, passing along the virus. The government and the rival groups know and want to capture Xólotl.

What ails Zapata is not some Ebola-like plague that kills, but a faith virus developed in Africa, where the world's best science is, that spreads by touch. The virus genetically modifies the brain. Give a Catholic a Catholic virus they ardently reaffirm their faith. Give that virus to a Muslim and you have a troubled convert.

The virus Zapata is spreading reaffirms or converts gente to the neo-Aztec religion that already has an upper hand among the gente. Clearly, the Catholic government wants Zapata off the streets. The other organizations want Zapata, to study and make their own viruses. And kill Zapata.

Zapata as the story begins, lives a semi-famous comic book writer and "a rare literate expert on Españáhuatl." As the virus grows in him he begins thinking of himself as an Aztec warrior and seeks a flowery death every time it looks like he’s about to bite the dust. And that happens a lot in ways that bring smiles of a reader’s face.

Chaos, riots, sex (but only a hint), surprise, treachery, philosophy, surreality push the plot along. Your head will spin. Zapata is captured, escapes, is captured, escapes, is captured. He’s injected with all the religion-inducing viruses in the world. He escapes to spread the resulting virus.

Hogan’s writing is at its best in Xólotl’s hallucination when all the gods and Gods and goddesses come together during a wild virus-induced religious bacchanal. Readers will find their own favorites. High Aztech hits readers with page after page of memorable inspirations from the author’s fevered imagination.

The Españahuatl is lots of fun. As a Chicano writer, Hogan has a good feel for code-switching etiquette and uses that in building his extensive Nahuatl Spanish vocabulary. Fortunately, the author abandons appositional translation early on, allowing the code-switched idiom to stand on its own.

Not that gente will have much difficulty with easy cognates like mamatl, or radioactivotl “hot,” horny, or chilangome Tenochtitlán inhabitants, pl. chilangotl sing. Applying phonetics to other terms will make them readily accessible, like quixtianome non-Aztecan religionist, Christian, or xixatl for shit. Some words might be decipherable, but real pronunciation challenges, making reading a tongue-twisting “A” ticket ride like the key term, ticmotraspasarhuililis.

Hogan provides a useful glossary at the back, but leave it for later.

As with any successful science fiction, High Aztech provides food for thought, perhaps advocacy, on the roles critical thinking, belief, and syncretism play out in people’s contentment with one another. Above all, High Aztech is a good-humored story that pushes the boundaries both of science fiction and Chicano Literature and, until more raza start writing genre literature, High Aztech is sui generis and merits broad readership.

High Aztech comes to you as a publishing initiative by the author’s effort. Click the link for Ernest Hogan's La Bloga column on the venture. Various booksellers distribute the work in these formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt.

My reading was of the Smashwords edition of High Aztech, https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/321713.

Mailbag, News 'n Notes
It's Happening at a Frontera Near You

Artesia NM • 9/14 - 21
Tara Evonne Trudell

Alas is a Border Beads poetry project that La Bloga friend Tara Evonne Trudell (featured in this week's On-line Floricanto) launches to bring awareness to unconscionable treatment of women and children immigrants detained in Artesia, NM.

Trudell has issued a call for poetry that deals directly with the current immigration and detention travesty.

Trudell and friends fashion prayer beads from the printed poems. They will roll the submitted during a weeklong fast in solidarity with the mothers and children, the week of September 14 through 21.

Submissions are open now. Please submit to trudellt@yahoo.com

Austin • 9/21

San Benito, TX • 10/4

Date: Saturday, Oct. 4th
Time: 10 am - 6 pm
Location: Narciso Martinez Cultural Center, San Benito, TX

Event Description: This is the first book festival of South Texas which is a collaboration between UT-Brownsville, Mexican American Studies at UTPA, and the Coalition of New Chican@ Artists (CONCA). This space is to reserve a table for small presses, independent bookstores, libraries, etc. The first table is free but if you wish to rent a 2nd table the fee is $50. We have limited space, so this will be handled on a first come, first serve basis.

For more information, contact Christopher Carmona at concavoices@gmail.com or call at 956-854-1717.

Deadline for Submission is September 22nd by midnight.

Guerrero MX • 12/24

From La Bloga friend Reyna Grande:
This December 2014, I will be going to my hometown in Guerrero, Mexico to host a Christmas event known as a "Posada", where I will be giving free toys to all the neighborhood kids! When I lived there in poverty, the posadas were something to look forward to. I have never forgotten the poverty I came from, and how the simplest acts of kindness can change a child's life.

Please help me make this Christmas season special for the children living in my hometown. Starting today, I will be doing a sixty day fundraiser campaign for my Christmas toy giveaway. Be part of the Grande Posada by contributing to my fundraiser!

Please consider donating today or tell a friend! Thank you so much!

Click here for the IndieGoGo campaign.

On-line Floricanto September 9, 2014
Tara Evonne Trudell, Sonia Gutiérrez, Jorge Tetl Argueta, Eva Chávez, Raúl Sánchez, Tom Sheldon

"This Round" by Tara Evonne Trudell
"Grandchildren of the United Fruit Company/Nietos de la United Fruit Company" by Sonia Gutiérrez
"Nuestros niños y niñas / Our Children" by Jorge Tetl Argueta
"Faces Under the Shadows / Rostros bajo las sombras" by Eva Chávez; edited by Raúl Sánchez
"Poetry Is" by Tom Sheldon

This Round
by Tara Evonne Trudell

this round
will go
to mother earth
she who
and survives
she who
takes destruction
and rebuilds
finding her
way to grow
all odds
against her
she not trying
to hide
her beauty
in nature
giver of life
jealous gods
and bible words
captured in
man's greed
and corruption
the pain
of persecution
never leaving
her awareness
in layers
of the not caring
upon ground
she provides
a place
for humanity
to stand
over and over
all source
of inspiration
her gift
of being
and providing
for all those
around her
raising fists
in the air
earth wins
this round.

Copyright © 2014 Tara Evonne Trudell.

Tara Evonne Trudell studied film, audio, and photography while in college at New Mexico Highlands University. She is a recent graduate with her BFA in Media Arts. As a poet and artist raising f four children, it has become her purpose to represent humanity, compassion, and action in all her work.
Incorporating poetry with visuals, she addresses the many troubling issues that are ongoing in society and hopes that her work will create an emotional impact that inspires others to act. Tara has started a life long project, Border Beads, that takes poetry off the page and transfers it into energy in action by making beads out of the poems. She uses her own poetry as well as other poets to address the crisis on the border.

Grandchildren of the United Fruit Company
by Sonia Gutiérrez

for Claudia González

Knock, knock, knock.
America, there are children
knocking at your door.
Can you hear their soft
knocks like conch
shells, whispering
in your ears?

Weep, weep, weep.
Can you hear
the children whimpering?
Their moist eyes
yearning to see friendly TV-gringo-houses
swing their front doors
wide open.

America, America, America!
The children are here;
they have arrived
to your Promise Land,
sprinkled with pixie dust,
paved with happiness
and freedom.

America, why do these children
overflow your limbo rooms?
Why are the children corralled
in chain-link fences,
sleeping on floors
and benches?

America, did you forget
your ties dressed in camouflage
and suits in that place
called The Banana Republic?

What say you, America?
Please speak. And speak
loud and clear—
so the brown pilgrim
children never forget
the doings
of your forked tongue
and their color schemed

Nietos de la United Fruit Company
por Sonia Gutiérrez

para Claudia González

Tan, tan, tan.
América, hay niños
tocando tu puerta.
¿Puedes escuchar los golpes
suaves como conchas,
susurrando tus oídos?

Llorar, llorar, llorar.
¿Puedes escuchar
a los niños quejarse?
Sus ojos humedecidos
anhelando ver las puertas amistosas
de Tele-casas-gringas que se abran
de par en par.

América, América, América!
Los niños llegaron;
han llegado a tu Tierra Prometida,
espolvoreada con polvo de hada,
pavimentada con felicidad
y libertad.

América, ¿por qué estos niños
desbordan tus cuartos limbo?
¿Por qué hay niños acorralados
en bardas de alambre,
durmiendo en pisos
y bancas?

América, ¿acaso olvidaste
tus lazos vestidos de camuflaje
y trajes en ese lugar
llamado La República Platanera?

¿Qué dices tú, América?
Por favor habla. Y habla
fuerte y claro—
para que los niños peregrinos
morenos nunca olviden
las acciones de tu lengua viperina
y las esquemas de colores
de sus vistas prisioneras.

Sonia Gutiérrez is a poet professor, who promotes social justice and human dignity.
She teaches English Composition and Critical Thinking and Writing at Palomar College. La Bloga is home to her Poets Responding SB 1070 poems, including “Best Poems 2011” and “Best Poems 2012.” Sonia recently joined the moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070.

Her vignettes have appeared in AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, Mujeres de Maíz, City Works Literary Journal, Hinchas de Poesía, Café Enchilado, Storyacious and forthcoming in Huizache. Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña is her debut publication. To listen to “Grandchildren of the United Fruit Company,” visit Poets Cafe on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles’s PodOmatic.

Nuestros niños / Our Children
por Jorge Argueta

Nuestros niños

Juegan con trocitos de madera
llevan mariposas en las manos
se levantan con los pájaros

Nuestras niñas cantan
a la ronda
le hablan a las nubes
un día se van siguiendo sus sueños

Nuestros niños y niñas
no le temen a la bestia

Nuestros niños y niñas
son guerreros
son gorriones
tienen vocales y coraje en sus corazones

Nuestros niños y niñas
no son extraterrestres o ilegales
son como los niños y niñas
de todo el mundo

Hermosos como el agua
como el viento
como el fuego
como el amanecer

©Jorge Argueta 2014

Our Children
by Jorge Argueta

Play with small pieces of wood
They carry butterflies in their hands
They rise with the birds

Our children sing
Round and round
They speak to the clouds
One day the go follow their dreams

Our children
They do not fear “The Beast”*

Our children
Are warriors
Are hummingbirds
They have voice and courage in their hearts

Our children
Are not aliens or illegal
They are like all children
Of the world

Like the water
Like the wind
Like the fire
Like the sunrise

*The Beast: the train that travels through Mexico to the border.
© Jorge Argueta 2014

Jorge Argueta is an award-winning author of picture books and poetry for young children.He has won the International Latino Book Award, The lion and the Unicorn Award, The Américas Book Award, the NAPPA Gold Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction for Juveniles. His books have also been named to the Américas Award Commended List, the USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor List, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. His new book, Salsa, A Cooking Poem is due for publication in Spring 2015. He also is the founder of two popular poetry festivals, Manyula Children's Poetry Festival and Flor y Canto Para Nuestros Niños y Niñas. A native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian, Jorge spent much of his life in rural El Salvador. He now lives in San Francisco.

by Eva Chávez, edited by Raúl Sánchez

We are the bronze skinned people
whose shoulders bear the burden
heavy bags sweet harvest grown
on fertile land

we climb up and down
ten or twelve foot ladders
eight, nine or more than ten hours
our feet know the weight

cold dawn our dry skin cracked
raising sun travels west
to burn our skins
at dusk we count our full bins

our backs bent all day
we work under our own shadow
picking asparagus onions
everyday we take that soil on our skin

orchards full a table full
bounty of the earth
your family and mine partake
the sweat, and sweetness of our labor

we are not afraid of hard work
others avoid
they prefer to criticize us
we take care of the land

we tend this American soil
where we live and grow
under the shadows proud and brown
as the soil, the land watching us grow

por Eva Chávez, editado por Raúl Sánchez

Somos gente de bronce
cuyos hombros soportan la carga
bolsas pesadas, llenas de fruta dulce
cosechada en tierra fértil

subimos y bajamos escaleras
escaleras de diez o doce escalones
ocho, nueve o más de diez horas por día
nuestros pies y hombros conocen la carga

el amanecer frío seca nuestra piel ya agrietada
el sol créce en su camino hacia el Oeste
para quemar nuestra piel
al atardecer contamos cuantas cajas cosechamos

durante el día, nuestras espaldas permanecen dobladas
trabajamos bajo nuestra propia sombra
piscando cebollas, esparragos
todos los días la tierra se queda en nuestra piel

huertos llenos una mesa llena
generosidad de la tierra
para tu familia y la mía
disfrutando el sudor y la dulzura de nuestra labor

no tenemos miedo al trabajo duro
lo cual otros evitan
y prefieren criticarnos
nosotros cuidamos de nuestra madre tierra

cuidamos esta tierra americana
donde vivimos y crecemos
con mucho orgullo bajo nuestras sombras de bronce
tal como la tierra que me ve crecer

Eva Chavez. I arrived to the USA in 2005, at the age of 18. I worked for five consecutive years picking fruit in Washington State. This was my first job in the United States after emigrating from Mexico. On average, I worked eight to ten hours per day, six to seven days a week. All that hard work in the fields taught me all the value that immigrants bring to this country. This hard work also taught me the importance of education.

My educational journey started about four years ago at Yakima Valley Community College (YVCC). In those four years I progressed from the ESL program, to Adult Basic Education (ABE), to completing my GED, to enrolling in the DTA in Business Administration in YVCC and CWU. My experiences working in agriculture are motivating me to reach my educational goals, but also they inspired me to show to others the importance of the immigrant workers in the USA.

Therefore, one of the fuels that moves my art expression comes from the sweat that immigrants workers leave on this American soil. This is also part of the fuel and motivation that keep me involved in the activism for immigration.

Raúl Sánchez comes from a place south where the sun shines fiercely. He is a translator currently working on the Spanish version of his inaugural collection "All Our Brown-Skinned Angels" that was nominated for the 2013 Washington State Book Award in Poetry. He is also working on a Long Poem Memoir a project for the 2014 Jack Straw Writers. He is a mentor for the 2014 Poetry on Buses program sponsored by Metro King County and 4 Culture. http://beyondaztlan.com and http://moonpathpress.com

Poetry is
by Tom Sheldon

Poetry is a cold wind on an
empty street.
Its a symphony of broken glass
with letters falling.
Poetry is open doors,and open hearts.
Its the smell of blood on
home ground.
Poetry is the song of a thousand birds
in color.
It is the first born,the first kiss
and the first tree.
Poetry is the smell of fresh paint
on a sagging wall.
Poetry is tears ,and ink
A communion of thought form,
and mystery.
Poetry is a law that reaches deep
It is the light in the dark
a breathing prayer.
Poetry is winter dust sparked
by a spring rain.
Poetry is.

My name is Tom Sheldon and I was born and raised in New Mexico and come from a large Hispanic family. I have always loved and appreciated the gift of creating in various forms. Southwestern themes and landscapes are among my favorites and the wonder and beauty of the the history her and my surroundings here continually inspires my artwork. Thank you greatly for considering my words. Mil gracias.

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12. Of Runners and Writers: Juanita Salazar Lamb, an Arkansan Chicana

By Xánath Caraza


Juanita Salazar Lamb at The Writers Place, Festival of Faiths

A Chicana con ganas, Arkansas is where Juanita Salazar Lamb lives, a runner and writer.

This week, Juanita will be in Kansas City for a race on September 11. She will be part of the Riverfront Reading Series at the Writers Place on September 12. However, Juanita is no stranger to Kansas City; she has been featured here before as part of the Festival of Faiths also at The Writers Place a few years ago.

Participants and Organizers of Festival of Faiths, The Writers Place, Kansas City, MO

I actually met her at our Latino Writers Collective meetings, she is an out-of-town member and last summer I had the opportunity to spend some time with her in Arkansas. 




Of a runner, writer, and friend, an Arkansan Chicana, here is a short interview of Juanita Salazar Lamb.  ¡Conozcámosla!




Xánath Caraza: ¿Desde cuándo escribes? ¿Qué género literario escribes?

Juanita Salazar Lamb: I’ve always written—maybe not always on paper or a computer—but in my head ever since I can remember.  I would make up stories about people I would see around town: The man carrying a bouquet of flowers wrapped in green florist’s paper: were they part of an apology or a celebration? The little boy with his arm in a cast: was it the result of a playground accident that couldn’t be helped or was it a result of his travesura?  The woman wearing dark glasses that obscured the upper part of her face: was she hiding something or did she want to observe closely without been noticed?

I mainly write short stories, have been working on a series of murder mysteries for more than 10 years. And, for better or worse, I sometimes produce the occasional verse.




XC:¿Puedes compartir algún reto para ti cuando escribes?

JSL: Some stories will not let go of me until I put them down on paper.  “The Night the Devil Rode the Wind” is one example.  That story came to me after a very unusual weather phenomenon in Oklahoma.  It filled my mind and I brought it to conclusion in my head, but it kept churning inside of me until I wrote it down.  It was my first short story to be published in a literary magazine, Border Senses, Spring 2006, Vol. XI.  When I experience such an overwhelming feeling, I need to the emotions, turmoil, joy, etc., release from me.  Once it’s down on paper, I can rest.  Will other’s read it and feel what I felt?  I would like to think so, but for the most part writing is something I must do…for me.





XC:¿Qué recomendaciones pudieras dar a las nuevas generaciones que quieren escribir?

JSL:WRITE! We all have a little voice in our head that tells us “nobody cares what you think.” “You, write?  You’re too ___________________(fill in the blank) and not enough ____________(fill in the blank).” Ignore that voice and write.


READ!! Read everything—in the genre you’re writing.  Read beyond your genre. Increase your vocabulary, especially adjectives.  Not all things are “amazing”.


LISTEN!! If your writing includes dialogue, then listen closely to the way people speak. Do people speak in full sentences or do they speak in phrases, or verbal shorthand? Do some persons have trademark phrases or words?





XC:Yo sé que también eres corredora y que de hecho vienes a una carrera a Kansas City, ¿a cuál carrera vienes y puedes compartir un poco de cómo te iniciaste?

JSL: I’m going to Kansas City to do the Patriots’ Run half marathon on 9/11.   I’ve been running since 2010 when I ran out of excuses as to why I couldn’t do an endurance race.  It’s something I had wanted to do for many years, and suddenly I was looking at turning 60 and still only wishing.    In October of that year I signed up to train for a half marathon with Team in Training, and finished my first half marathon in April of 2011, then turned 60 in May of 2011.  The Patriots’ Run will be my 9thhalf marathon; I’ve also completed numerous other races ranging in distance from 5k to 20 miles. 




XC:¿Qué has aprendido de esta disciplina, correr?

JSL:I can apply 2 lessons from running to writing, and viceversa:

There’s a voice in my head that tells me I can’t do it: I’m too old, I’m tired, I don’t feel like it, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, etc., etc., etc.,  It’s just like the voice in the writer’s head I mentioned earlier.  But like writing, I run for me.  Just like I don’t run the fastest race or have the best form, I run because I need to challenge myself.  I may not write a story as compelling as some other authors, or poems that flow as beautifully as others, but I write because I need to get the words down on paper.

The second lesson is that no matter how well I’ve prepared myself for a race: training, nutrition, hydration, sometimes my body just says “no”. So I may quit for that day, but I’ll keep trying.  Sometimes I have a story brewing for months, or years—I know the characters, the beginning, the ending, but even so my story just isn’t flowing.  But I just keep going back to it, because it just might come together perfectly the next time.




XC: ¿Puedes dar algún consejo a otr@s Chican@s/Latin@s que quieran correr y competir?

JSL:If you’ve never run before, train with a group if possible like Team in Training and Marathon Makeover to name two that I’ve trained with. If no training groups are available then read and follow the advice knowledgeable coaches who have published books and articles on their preferred method like Danny Dreyer on Chi running, and Galloway on the run/walk method.  Como dicen los de Nike:  Hazlo!




Juanita Salazar Lamb grew up in a bilingual, bicultural family and her heart belongs to La Cultura Latina. Her stories are grounded in the realities of growing up along the border of two countries and two cultures. Her writings have appeared in Zopilote, Latina Magazine, Border Senses, Azahares: UA Fort Smith's premier Spanish-language creative literary journal, and Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland. She served on the judging panel for 2010 Conversations Essay Contest sponsored by the Rogers Public Library Foundation.



In Other News


Thrilled to announce that my new book of poetry is finally here, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind(Mammoth Publications, 2014)  by Xanath Caraza, translated by Sandra Kingery and cover art by Adriana Manuela.  I’ll have my book release on Monday, September 15 at 7 p.m., where I’ll discuss my work on the radio program, New Letters on the Air,hosted by Angela Elam, as part of Park University’s Ethnic Voices Poetry Series, held at Woodneath Library Center, 8900 N. Flintlock Road, Kansas City, MO.  Then Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind will have its next debut at the Big Tent Reading Series at Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas on September 25 at 7 p.m.  Finalmente, here is a link to Revista Contratiempo, page 4, of a book review of Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind.  Viva la poesía!


Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind 


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13. Passion, Power, and Paper Bag Poetry Books: An Afternoon with A.K. Toney

Olga García Echeverría

When I was in my 20's I believed that passion (be it for a particular person, for poetry, for social justice or for lo que sea) was everything. Without passion, there was no poetry, no ganas, no nada. Being a person without passion was like being a deflated brown paper lunch bag.
Deflated Lunch Bag: Metaphor for Passionless Person
Now in my 40's I still think passion is a wondrous thing, but I see passion as a moon; it waxes and wanes. Sometimes it's big and bright, and other times it's dark and dormant.
Passion Hanging Over Long Beach:
Waxing or Waning?
I love teaching, for example, but at times I've felt uninspired, disconnected. It's this way with writing too. I can't imagine my life without writing, but there have been moments (seasons actually) when poetry did not speak to me. When workshopping felt like a chore. When attending a poetry reading was torture. When despite my love for the creative Word, I did not feel inspired by It. Can I get a witness?
When inspiration wanes, have a cosmo...or two

Cosmos are short-lived, but it's really Octavia Butler's words that endure, “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable...Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not.” This I believe to be true. It is because of habit or ritual that I am here, still writing. Inspiration when it arrives is the high of highs, but sometimes as poets, as artists, as educators, as bloggers we have to jumpstart the passion. We have to take a deflated paper bag and make something marvelous of it.
Enter writer and poet A.K. Toney and his paper bag poetry books.
Aside from being a father, husband, and student, Toney is also a founder of Reading is Poetry, a Los Angeles based literacy program dedicated to improving reading and writing comprehension and enhancing expression through verse. Reading is Poetry, which has been around since 2005, works with all age groups but a primary focus of the organization has been K-5 inner-city children.
When I asked Toney to share a little about the mission of Reading is Poetry, he stated, “We encourage self esteem, writing, and we do it all through the tool of poetic license." Unlike prescriptive teaching approaches that focus on error correction, Toney explains that "poetic license allows a child, a student, anyone who is writing poetry to spell words phonetically or to use the abbreviation of a that word. That doesn't necessarily mean the word is spelled correctly, but it means that you can read the word and you understand what the writer is trying to communicate. I encourage that. When kids misspell words, we know what happens. Teachers do this all the time--spell it for them correctly. But in poetry, it doesn't matter. You can misspell a word. We tell our students, 'We want to encourage you, Reading is Poetry wants to encourage you to write more. We will show you how to spell the word correctly and make other words up too, but right now what we want you to do is write your feelings out no matter if they are misspelled. We want to get you to write more and we will teach you how to create an art form from that, which is poetry.'”

And how does Toney inspire and teach students to create an art form? Through reading, writing workshops, and book making.
A.K. con sus libros poderosos de papel

The first time I ever saw A.K. Toney's poetry books was at a Poets & Writers Workshop Leaders Retreat earlier this year. During the retreat, A.K. pulled out a small book about the size of a wallet and passed it around. It was decorated with cutout images, text, and it had several pockets where mini poems or passages were inserted. Being a fan of handmade books, I was instantly intrigued by these lunch bag libritos. Hence meeting A.K. Toney at Philippe's on Alameda this week for a Bloga interview and a bookmaking session.

It was obvious from the onset of our meeting that both of us are "crafty" kind of people. Aside from paper bags, A.K. brought packages of patterned paper, stickers, ribbon, and a paper cutter. When I started to pull out all my bookmaking materials, A.K. asked me, "Did you bring empty toilet paper rolls?" I knew then that this bookmaking session was serious. We got right to work, A.K. confessing that he likes crafting. "Not a lot of straight men can admit they like this kind of stuff, " he said, "Cutting, pasting, making things with your hands." And a little later, "I can't believe we're scrapping at a restaurant." If you haven't been to Philippe's, the upstairs rooms (generally empty) and the large tables are a scrapper's dream.
A.K. teaching me the art of paper bag bookmaking
When I asked A.K. how and why he uses these books in his program, he held one up and said, “This is something that helps get students into reading and writing. Kids generally don't want to write, so when I show them something like this and read from it and tell them about poetry, they become very enthusiastic.”

I can see how these libritos made out of recycled materials attract. They may not light up like Ipads, but they ignite other things—imagination and an instinct, a need to touch, explore, and create.

If you were a child in a classroom would you rather read a passage in a traditional textbook or one in a handmade book that unravels with surprise pockets like this?
A.K.'s paper bag book on Black history
The act of reading these books is a hands-on exploration. It's all tactile and visual and you can hear the rustling of tissue paper as if unwrapping a gift. Kindle cannot give you this. Isn't it lovely?
And when you create your own paper bag book, all things are possible. This is where power and magic come in. A woman can ripen like a papaya on a kitchen counter. A dove carrying a love letter in its beak can fly out of a hot-pink heart. You can cut out an ocean or a constellation and hold these in the palms of your hands, pondering what you will do with them. You can paste rain on a page right next to the words “I AM...” You can take an empty toilet paper roll and flatten it into a mini pocket, and then you can put a giraffe in there. All things are possible in scrapping and bookmaking.
You can even honor the dead like A.K. Toney and I did this past week. The book he created during our session was a tribute to the late Maya Angelou. His short poem to her in his book reads:

She the little girl
Didn’t talk for long time…
Caged bird sang
Rose up as Poet Laureate
Phenomenal Woman
On the Dawn and Cusp
Of morning… only you
And Baraka can cut the
Rug on Langston…
You and he doing that
Angelou Immortalized

Maya Angelou paper bag book with inspirational quotes

And my lunch bag book was for my querida amiga tatiana de la tierra.
Pages of a fragmented poem for tatiana

Since tatiana's passing in 2012, I have been writing poetic fragments for her, but up until now I haven't really known what to do with them. The paper bag book gave me an opportunity to create mini collage poems. Healing via fun. These libritos are good medicine. By the end of the session, I felt the high of artistic creation, my moon of inspiration waxing. Thank you A.K. Toney for the work you are doing and for sharing your art with me and our Bloga readers.


Healing Arts

There are many ways to make a book out of a lunch bag. A.K. Toney said he first learned the skill via a YouTube video. If you search under "lunch bag mini album" you will get dozens of instructional videos. Making albums or books out of recycled materials isn't a new art, but every artists/writer can take the basics and expand on them. In Toney's case, he's taken the lunch bag into the inner-city classroom to inspire interest in the literary arts and to empower students and all writers to scrap their truth. As the Reading is Poetry motto states, “Read to write...then write yr story.”

To learn more about Reading is Poetry: http://www.readingispoetry.com/

About A. K. Toney
In a few words, A. K. Toney is a poet, writer and performance artist. For almost 20 years Toney has been an active member of the renowned cutting-edge African American arts enclave World Stage Performance Gallery’s Anansi Writer’s Workshop in Leimert Park Village (Los Angeles), Ca. As a member of the World Stage Toney had the honor to be mentored under the tutelage of Community leaders and Jazz greats such as Billy Higgins (founder of the World stage). Since 1993 Toney’s skills as a performance artist have lead him across the nation and abroad. While studying through various workshops he was given the opportunity as a part of the Mellon/Pew Grant Series to lecture about Performance Art at the California Institute of the Arts. Empowered by teaching A. K. became a Literacy Coordinator in 2005 creating a literacy program called Reading Is Poetry. Toney has dedicated his life to teaching people how to express their truth through poetry and literacy. His work has been anthologized in the following books:

Tough Love: Cultural Criticism and Familial Observations on the Life and Death of Tupac Shakur, Edited by Michael Datcher and Kwame Alexander 1996

Catch the Fire: Cross Intergenerational Anthology, Edited by Derrick Gilbert aka D-Knowledge 1998

Black Love: An Anthology, based from writing workshops and publication through Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center, Edited by Michael Datcher 1999

Drum Voices Revue: A Confluence of Literary Culture and Vision Arts, Edited by Eugene B. Redmond 1999

Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story, Written by Michael Datcher 2001

Caprice, Mischief, and Other Poetic Strategies: An Anthology of Poems Based on Twenty Little Poetry Projects, Edited by Terry Wolverton 2004

Catching Hell in the City of Angels, Life and Meanings of Blackness in South Central Los Angeles, Written by Joao H. Costa Vargas 2006


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    14. New Books. Su Teatro/Encuentro Latino. Sor Juana Festival. Museo de las Americas End of Summer. Cowboy Poetry. Pueblo Progressive Poetry Project. Desperado Events.

    Lots happening here at the End of Summer (and later) including summer reads.  Get out there and enjoy.


    New Books

    Alejandro Morales
    Arte Público Press/September 30, 2014

    [from the publisher]

    “I’m sick of you punks,” Micaela said. “And I’m warning you now. I’m going to get you for that murder!” In the title story, the Latino community in East L.A. suffers horrible gang-related violence. Children are killed in the crossfire and young people use and sell drugs. But the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl is the last straw for Micaela Clemencia, a local teacher. With the help of other women in the neighborhood, Micaela keeps her promise to punish the murderer. And much to the dismay of the police and other city officials, the women take control of the barrio, their “little nation.”

    While some characters face a violent world driven by greed, others long for a sense of belonging or a place to call their own. In “Mama Concha,” a grandmother shares her ancient wisdom with her grandson, teaching him to appreciate the land and the fruits and vegetables she grows. In “The Gardens of Versailles,” a home with beautiful gardens is a local favorite, until it stands in the way of “progress” that will benefit the entire community. And in “Prickles,” an artist who is a grotesque oddity because of the thorny tumors that sprout all over his body develops a special, unusual relationship with the Virgin of Guadalupe.

    Alejandro Morales returns to his native Southern California community of Montebello in four of these five stories. Originally written in Spanish, this volume includes the first-ever English translation of these thought-provoking stories, in which Morales explores the Chicano community’s marginalization and search for a space to call its own.

    La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris
    Alina García-Lapuerta

    Chicago Review Press/September, 2014

    [from the publisher]

    Until now, little has been known about the adventurous woman nicknamed La Belle Créole --a Cuban-born public figure who was years ahead of her time as a writer, socialite, and political participant in the Cuban slavery debate and the earliest female who deserves a place in the canon of Latin American literature. Curious to know more about Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, a mysterious Cuban-born star of nineteenth-century Parisian society, García-Lapuerta searched for traces of Mercedes and transformed her research into a full-blown pursuit around the globe, rummaging in archives and libraries in the US, Cuba, Spain, France and England. The final result of her quest is this book; the first full-length English-language biography of the Condesa de Merlin, La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris.

    Angelica’s Smile
    Andrea Camilleri
    Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
    Penguin Books/June, 2014

    One of my favorite detective heroes is Inspector Montalbano of Sicily.  I look forward to each translation so I can keep up with the adventures of one of the most intriguing, entertaining, perplexing, and intelligent cops you might ever encounter in the pages of a book. Here's the latest installment, as described by the publisher.

    A rash of burglaries has got Inspector Salvo Montalbano stumped. The criminals are so brazen that their leader, the anonymous Mr. Z, starts sending the Sicilian inspector menacing letters. Among those burgled is the young and beautiful Angelica Cosulich, who reminds the inspector of the love-interest in Ludovico Ariosto’s chivalric romance, Orlando Furioso. Besotted by Angelica’s charms, Montalbano imagines himself back in the medieval world of jousts and battles. But when one of the burglars turns up dead, Montalbano must snap out of his fantasy and unmask his challenger.


    Su Teatro Invited to Encuentro Latino

    Denver Chicano/Latino theater Su Teatro has been chosen from a field of 80 entries throughout the country to participate in the month long Encuentro Latino: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival in Los Angeles, California.

    The company will perform the award winning production Enrique's Journey based on the Pulitzer Prize winning work by Los Angeles Times reporter Sonia Nazario, and adapted for the stage by Su Teatro Artistic Director Anthony J. Garcia.

    The company will perform for three weeks at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles. In anticipation of the Encuentro, Su Teatro will open their 2014 season with a remount of Enrique's Journey on September 18-October 4 2014.

    Enrique’s Journey
    Adapted by Anthony Garcia from the Pulitzer Prize winning work of Sonia Nazario
    Directed by Anthony J. Garcia

    Music composed and directed by Daniel Valdez.

    Enrique’s Journey depicts the contemporary odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reunite with his mother in the United States. He pushes forward using his wit, courage, and hope-and the kindness of strangers. Torn from today’s headlines, it is an epic journey that thousands of immigrant children make each year to find their mothers in the United States.

    Here's a summary of the festival from The Los Angeles Theatre Center's website:

    2014 LATC Encuentro: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival
    October 12 – November 10, 2014
    The largest National Latina/o Theater Festival in over 25 years

    The Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), in association with the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC),is proud to announce the 2014 LATC Encuentro: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival. This groundbreaking festival will be the first national Latina/o theater festival in over 25 years, bringing together 100 artists from across the country to explore the aesthetic, thematic, and cultural diversity in the field. The overarching question the festival seeks to address through performances and discussions is – “What is the State of Latina/o Theater today?” The festival offers an exciting range of productions including Pulitzer Prize winning plays, English and Spanish language plays, devised theater, experimental work, community based plays and solo plays.

    Encuentro translates to “an encounter,” a theme that is a core component of this festival as audiences and artists alike will be able to encounter, and interact with companies from coast to coast. This festival will celebrate the richness of contemporary Latina/o theatre in the U.S. through presenting over a dozen selected companies from across the country that will perform in repertory over four weeks at the historic Los Angeles Theatre Center. The Festival participants were chosen through an open application process by a selection committee made up of Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee members. The selected companies provide a snapshot of national contemporary Latina/o theatre practice.

    What would happen if companies could spend a month making work together, mixing aesthetics and sharing practice? What would the new work look like, and how would it impact the collective aesthetic(s) of contemporary Latina/o Theatre?

    More than a Festival, the Encuentro seeks to provide this opportunity to explore aesthetics and art making for the participating companies. Beyond presenting their work to the public, artists will work together during the month-long residency sharing their creative methodologies in artistic workshops that will culminate in public performances of co-created devised works.

    This unique opportunity will allow participants and audiences to take an in depth look at the range of aesthetic diversity in the field. Public conversations about the work will include post-performance discussions, roundtable conversations, symposia, and distinguished speakers.
    The final weekend of the Encuentro will also serve as the second Latina/o Theatre Commons National Convening, November 6-9, where over 50 influential Latina/o theater practitioners and scholars will come to Los Angeles to view the festival offerings, including the newly co-created cross-company work. The convening participants will engage in dialogue around aesthetics and art-making, and strategize the implementation of ongoing and future initiatives in support of the continued vibrancy of the field.
    Encuentro Companies/Artists and Productions (full schedule forthcoming)

    • About Productions – Properties of Silence by Theresa Chavez, Alan Pulner & Rose Portillo. Directed by Theresa Chavez. (Los Angeles)
    • Aurora Theater – Mariela en el desierto (Mariela in the desert) by Karen Zacarias. Directed by Tlaloc Rivas. (Atlanta, GA)
    • Borderlands Theater – Maria’s Circular Dance by Medrano Treviño. Directed by Eva Zorrilla Tessler. (Tucson, AZ)
    • Caborca Theater – Zoetrope Part I Written and Directed by Javier Gonzalez (New York, NY)
    • INTAR Theatre / Unit 52– Patience, Fortitude and Other Antidepressants by Mariana Carreño King. Directed by Daniel Jáquez. (New York, NY)
    • The Latino Theater Company – Premeditation by Evelina Fernández. Directed by José Luis Valenzuela (Los Angeles, CA)
    • Marissa Chibas – Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary Written by Marissa Chibas. Directed by Mira Kinglsey (Los Angeles, CA)
    • Pregones Theater – Dancing in my cockroach killers by Magdalena Gomez. Directed by Rosalba Rolon (The Bronx, NY)
    • Rickerby Hinds – Dreamscape Written and Directed by Rickerby Hinds (Riverside, CA)
    • Su Teatro – Enrique’s Journey Written and Directed by Anthony Garcia (Denver, CO)
    • Tantai Teatro – Agua a cucharadas (Water by the Spoonful) by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Directed by Ismanuel Rodriguez (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
    • El Teatro Campesino – La Esquinita U.S.A. by Ruben Gonzalez. Directed by Kinan Valdez. (San Juan Bautista, CA)
    • Teatro Luna – Your Problem With Men by Emilio Williams. Directed by Alexandra Meda. (Chicago, IL)
    • Theater Mitu – Juarez: A Documentary Mythology Written and Directed by Ruben Polendo (New York/Abu Dhabi)
    Staged Readings and Presentations

    • Cornerstone Theater Company – reading of Alisal by Cornerstone Theater Company and Juliette Carrillo. (Los Angeles, CA)
    • South Coast Repertory – The Long Road Today / El Camino Largo de Hoy  by José Cruz González  as part of South Coast Repertory’s Dialogue / Dialogos Project: A two-year bilingual theatre project to gather and tell the stories with and by the Santa Ana Latino/a Community.
    Additional Programming held at local Latina/o Theaters

    • Casa 0101 – Julius Cesar by William Shakespeare. Directed by Robert Beltran
    • Frida Kahlo Theater – Las Mujeres de Juarez Written and Directed by Rubén Amavizca-Murúa
    • Bilingual Foundation of the Arts – Lara, el flaco de oro by Margarita Galban & Lina Montalvo. Directed by Margarita Galban

    The Los Angeles Theatre Center
     514 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
    (213) 489-0994


    Join us for one of this year's many 
    Sor Juana Festival performances!
    This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sor Juana Festival, dedicated to Mexico's great Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, known as "La Decima Musa", or the Tenth Muse. A great poet and philosopher, this 17th century nun is known as the first feminist of the Americas! The Sor Juana Festival puts special emphasis on presenting women artists from both sides of the border.
    This year's festival features a wide variety of performances, so there is something for everyone. Visit www.NationalMuseumofMexicanArt.org for more information about the performances taking place September through November.

    * Sones de Mexico 20th Anniversary Concert, September 3, 7:00 pm at Millennium Park, free admission

    * Mariachi de Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, September 11, 7:00 pm at National Museum of Mexican Art, tickets $50. Presented by the Mariachi Heritage Foundation. 

    * Carmen Boullosa: Las Paredes Hablan film screening, Q & A, book signing, September 12, Reception: 6:00 pm Film: 7:00 pm at the National Museum of Mexican Art, free admission. Presented by Producciones Carlos and the Mexican Consulate of Chicago in celebration of Mexican Independence Day 2014.

    * Soprano Alma Rocio Jimenez in Concert, September 16, 7:00 pm at the National Museum of Mexican Art, free admission. Ms. Jimenez is a special guest for Mexican Independence Day 2014 in Chicago.

    * Las Cafeteras, a musical fusion with a unique East L.A. sound, September 19, Doors open at 8:30 pm, Concert is at 9:00 pm at National Museum of Mexican Art, free admission. Presented by the World Music Festival 2014.

    * Guadalupe Pineda in Concert with Cuerdas Clasicas, October 30 at 7:00 pm at the Copernicus Center 5216 W. Lawrence, tickets from $35-75.

    * Xochitl Bada Book Presentation November 11, 6:00 pm at National Museum of Mexican Art, free admission

    * Aida Cuevas and the Mariachi Reina de Los Angeles, November 15 at 7:00 pm at the Auditorium Theater, tickets from $35-$80. Presented by the Mariachi Heritage Foundation. 

    * Maruca Hernandez - Musica for Children, November 22 at 1:00 pm at National Museum of Mexican Art, free admission.

    For more information about the artists and ticket information, visit our web site. 

    National Museum of Mexican Art | 1852 W. 19th St | Chicago | IL | 60622


    Please join us for an evening al fresco in our new outdoor space with cocktails, dinner, and entertainment to celebrate another successful year at Museo de las Americas.

    Performance provided by Sabor Latino, Lorenzo Ramirez & Juan Carlos DJ Cuba

    **Ticket price includes dinner & two drinks.**

    Tickets may be purchased over the phone with
    Guest Services (303) 571-4401


     [from the event website]

    The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is an annual celebration of the ranching and rural West. Through poetry, music and stories, ranch people express the beauty and challenges of a life deeply connected to the earth and its bounty. Every year, thousands travel to rural Elko, Nevada, in the heart of winter, to learn and share. It's been called the most honest and open-hearted festival in America, but it is also a darned good time! At the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, you can discover cowboy cultures from around the world, learn a traditional skill, dance the two-step, plan for the West's future with ranchers and conservationists, watch home-made films of rural life, meet new friends over a Buckaroo Brew, enjoy Basque food, listen to tall tales, dispel myths, build bridges and be inspired.

    The Vaqueros are coming! For the 31st Gathering, we are visiting a remote corner of Mexico and celebrating the vaquero culture of Baja California Sur, a living link between the Spanish and the American buckaroo. For nearly 300 years, ranching families have carved out an existence in the rugged, arid environment of the sierras of the Baja California peninsula. These rancheros are the direct descendants of Spanish missionary soldiers, and continue to maintain their horseback traditions, using riding equipment patterned after their Spanish ancestors. Baja California Sur vaqueros will be our guests at the Gathering, where they will share past-century and traditional acoustic music, muy rico cuisine of their ranching heritage, local art and craftwork, traditional lore and humor. Join us for a glimpse of this community's history and daily life, and look at the roots of the Californio cowboy, still alive in the sierras of Northwest Mexico.

    Tickets to the 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering go on sale to Western Folklife Center members September 2, 2014, and to non-members one month later. To become a Western Folklife Center member or renew your membership, click here, or call Dayleen Eiselein at 888-880-5885 ext. 222. Read more about what to expect at a Gathering, tickets, and planning your trip.

    January 26 through 31, 2015 in Elko, Nevada


     Pueblo Progressive Poetry Project - ARTery

    Come rediscover Downtown Pueblo as we share the power of the spoken word along the ARTery and Central Plaza. This inaugural event will feature the works of Maria Melendez, Juliana Aragon Fatula and Juan Morales. Join us for a progressive evening and experience poetry like never before.

    The evening begins with a gathering at Central Plaza. At 7:00 pm the audience will walk one block to the 'Lucky the Horse' mural at 2nd and Main Street which will be the venue for the first reading. The second reading will take place at the ARTery juncture one half block away and next to the Marriott Courtyard overflow parking lot. The final stop will be Central Plaza where the third and final reading will take place.

    Refreshments along with a savory and sweet treat will be offered at each stop in the traditional progressive dinner format.

    Come celebrate Pueblo with three amazing poets and see how the arts are transforming the community of Pueblo at every corner.

    September 19 - 7:00 PM - Central Plaza, Pueblo, CO


    Finally, I'm scheduled to speak, read and sign books at various events to help promote Desperado:  A Mile High Noir, winner of the 2014 Colorado Book Award. Here's the list so far:

    September 16,  Arapahoe Community College, Littleton Campus, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, with fellow writers Sheryl Luna and Denise Vega;

    September 27, Rawlings Public Library, Pueblo, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Pueblo Book Festival. I will speak at 9:30 AM on Chicano Noir: It's Black and It's Brown.

    October  25, Zoe's Cafe, Greeley, 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM, ReadCon 2014 - Books & Brews (more than 35 authors!)

    I'm also hopeful that I will have a day long event in another venue in Pueblo in early November.


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    15. Chicanonautica: Flying Across the Border, 1928-Style

    by Ernest Hogan

    In this era of the vanishing bookstore, I find a lot of books in antique stores. That’s where the title Rex Lee On the Border Patrol snagged my eyeballs. I yanked it off the shelf, eager to check out the cover, and was surprised. Instead of the six-guns and somberos pulp art there was a twisted view of a smoking World War One biplane and a guy falling to certain death.

    Confused, I turned to the front flap of dust jacket:

    “Framed” by Dave Fitzpatrick, the powerful and notorious Texas border criminal, Rex Lee faces disgrace. A quantity of opium, “planted” by Fitzpatrick, has been found in the ship of the intrepid young flyer, and he is accused of being a smuggler. But, Rex’s father is a power in Texas politics and soon strong influence are at work to bear Fitzpatrick and prove the air hero’s innocence.

    The book's hooks dug into my curiosity. Copyright date was 1928. And the frontispiece was more like I was expecting: a scene of stiff figures and awkward perspective in which a sombrero was sent flying by the impact of an all-Americano fist.

    On the back cover, the publisher, Grosset & Dunlap, touted the author, Thomson Burtis as a real life version of the rootin’-tootin’, rip-roarin’ hero:
    All the air lore and thrilling exploits of the author’s own experiences as an army flyer have gone into this red-blooded series of a daredevil young American who became one of the country’s greatest heroes of the sky.

    Like a lot of writers, Burtis has a variety of other jobs:  postal clerk, hobo, actor, writer, mutton-chop salesman, preacher, roughneck in the oil fields, newspaperman, flyer, scenario writer in Hollywood and synthetic clown with the Sells Floto circus!

    Rex Lee is literally a cowboy with a plane instead of horse, back from the GreatWar, ready to take on the world. The western genre updated for the new century. He was like a lot of other pulp heroes of the time, a brother to the two-fisted heroes in Amazing Stories, that included Buck (called Anthony in the magazine stories) Rogers.

    Though essential to the plot, drugs aren’t a big part of the story. The opium planted in Rex’s plane isn’t described. The effects of drugs on people or society aren’t mentioned. It’s like the film La Banda De Carro Rojo, based on Paulino Vargas’ pioneering narcorrido, with Los Tigres del Norte acting as a musical Greek chorus, where the drugs don’t make it on screen. Also like Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me Deadly, where Robert Aldrich had no trouble changing Mike Hammer’s adversaries into dealers of radioactive materials rather than heroin.

    Drugs are just an excuse for daring-do.

    And even though the book has the expected 1928 racism, Mexicans turn out not to be the brains behind the drug smuggling. There’s a stereotypical bandido from whom the hero rescues a pretty white girl -- she's also from a "good" family -- but the illegal operation is run by an Anglo American corrupt business/gangster (is there a difference between the two?) who takes over a border town, and brings in Mexicans to do the heavy lifting and thug-work

    As it’s explained to Rex: “It’s a teeny little place, as you can see, but there’s something funny about it. Awful lot o’ spigs here, and hardly a single negro. Pretty rough sort of gang o’ whites and about half of ‘em don’t seem to be doing a thing to justify living.”

    Like some folks here in Arizona have explained to me: “We won’t have crime if we just keep the Mexicans out.”

    We still have Mexican bad guys, and all these years later, they aren’t evil geniuses. Maybe what 21st century pop culture needs is a Mexican supervillain, like Fu Manchu, who can take on the likes of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. It would be nice if we could be feared for our diabolical brains for a change.

    Ernest Hogan is back from a vacation in New Mexico. He’ll now be blogging about it, and working on the new editions of his novels, and his first short fiction collection.

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    16. El Piñatero/The Piñata Maker

    Review by Ariadna Sánchez

    Ejutla de Crespo is a small town located in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Many years ago Don Ricardo, or Tío Rico as people usually called him, was the man responsible for creating astonishing piñatas. Tío Rico’s creativity is the inspiration for El Piñatero/The Piñata Maker by award-winning author and photographer George Ancona.

    Tío Rico created artistic white swans, silky herons, cheerful dolls, and delicious orange carrots just to mention some.  His piñatas made birthday celebrations special all over Ejutla de Crespo. My father and my mother told me wonderful stories about Tío Rico’s work. For example, they told me that Tío Rico’s piñatas were the most popular items in the community all year round. My grandparents bought piñatas from Tío Rico for my parents, uncles and aunts for their parties. If you ask me where magic and fun meets, I have to respond by saying, “inside Tío Rico’s piñatas.” Ancona’s lovely pictures capture Tío Rico’s patience during the step-by-step elaboration of his one-of-a kind art pieces. El Piñatero / The Piñata Maker is a bilingual book that offers an additional guide to create your own piñata at home. Each page of El Piñatero/ The Piñata Maker is an open invitation to discover the beauty of Ejutla de Crespo, Oaxaca.

    Visit your local library for more interesting stories. Reading gives you wings!

    Additional information for El Piñatero/ The Piñata Maker:

    Meet Mr. Ancona:

    <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->

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    17. Review: Not For Everyday Use. On-line Floricanto 7 X 5

    Elizabeth Nunez. Not For Everyday Use. NY: Akashic Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781617752339 e-IBSN: 9781617752780

    Michael Sedano

    You won’t necessarily take a phone call one day, maybe you’ll be there. You won’t necessarily be 64 like that song, but you’ll be old when you get the news your mother is dead. Not For Everyday Use is Elizabeth Nunez’ memoir of the hours and days following her mother’s passing.

    In the course of a few days, the family reunion, funeral and church rituals, sibling expectations, and the author’s own disconnectedness spark reflections upon memories that guide the daughter’s comprehension of the immensity of this change in her family.

    While the theme of the matriarch’s death is universal, readers will appreciate the writer’s post-colonial, immigrant, and person-of-color themes that play strongly throughout the memoir. Nunez devotes elaborated discussion to class v. color arguments, fidelity, decolonized mindsets, the isolation and hardship of an immigrant single mother on her own, why her mother pushed her away.

    Written with a novelist’s pen, the story flows from incidents and anecdotes juxtaposed in time. In one section, the reader learns that Nunez and Betty Shabazz work in the same academic department. Any sense of solidarity between the Trinidadian and the US Muslim quickly dissipates in another account, Nunez being told off by a U.S.-born black woman that the Trinidadian black woman should know her place. They were competing for a student leadership position. Another tale, in dialect, reflects an attitude that infects and strengthens the Nunez clan, what don bile, don spile. It's the attitude the old man displays looking upon the corpse of his wife of 65 years. He nods and says before walking away, "Well, that's that."

    Mourning often gives way to old resentments and unfinished business. Nunez has some of this, perhaps, in her descriptions of her sisters and brothers. Her sister Karen really gets under her skin. Her father’s cheating and her mother’s pain at it are recurring jabs at the 90 year old demented man. The father’s Carnival dance at the funeral parlor comes as total surprise and author's restrained humor. You’re not supposed to laugh, are you?

    Not For Everyday Use is the autobiography of Nunez’ novels Anna In-between and Boundaries. For practitioners of the craft of memoir writing, the author shares a writer’s insight on using one’s life and family to populate her fiction, and how a moment's recognition winds and unravels skeins of time recorded in the words.

    Readers of those two excellent novels will appreciate the connections between the writer’s world and that of the novels. Prior reading won’t be required with Nunez calling attention to key parallels and differences between the novels and the author's life. The writer treads a storyteller's line that leads her familia to accuse the author of getting too honest about private matters. The writer’s defense, “I’m a writer.”

    Reading Elizabeth Nunez’ two-novel life of Anna Sinclair, Anna In-Between and Boundaries, introduces readers to a flinty mother, a daughter wanting more affection, a divorced single mother immigrant black woman employed in New York publishing industry. That’s almost Nunez’ profile. She’s an English professor.

    In the novels, Anna and Beatrice suffer one another’s needs but maintain an icy distance. Nunez' friends say she's too hard on the fictional mother. That’s also the mother-daughter relationship the author weaves together in Not For Everyday Use. It’s not a spoiler to say--look for it--Elizabeth and Una have a warm reconciliation when both manage to say, without choking on the emotion, “I love you.”

    Readers and writers of US ethnic literatures will find Nunez’ voicing of immigrant sentiments familiar, eloquent, and distinctive. Coming from a newly de-colonized gente--she's first generation--the author’s voice and insight into exigencies in-common will prove vitalizing to readers and writers.

    You can order Not For Everday Use through your local independent bookseller, or directly from the publisher, Akashic Books’ website here.

    Seven by Five: On-line Floricanto for September 2
    Gabriel Rosenstock, Francisco X. Alarcón, Jackie Lopez, Frank de Jesus Acosta, Mario Angel Escobar

    The Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070 Poetry of Resistance recommend five poets from two continents writing in three languages for today's La Bloga On-line Floricanto.

    "An End to Borders" by Gabriel Rosenstock with his original poem in Gaelic, "Deireadh Le Teorainneacha"
    "Frontera / Border" by Francisco X. Alarcón
    "Slithering Our Way to Heaven" by Jackie Lopez
    "Why I Write?" by Frank de Jesus Acosta
    "Brown Chronicles" by Mario Angel Escobar

    by Gabriel Rosenstock

    An end to borders
    An end to flags
    An end to barbed wire
    An end to towering walls
    An end to nations
    End the base tinkle of currencies
    End wars
    Let the planet breathe freely
    Without borders
    Without flags
    Without barbed wire
    Without towering walls
    Without nations
    Without the base tinkle of currencies
    Without wars
    An end forever to borders

    by Gabriel Rosenstock

    Deireadh le teorainneacha
    Deireadh le bratacha
    Deireadh le sreang dheilgneach
    Deireadh le fallaí arda
    Deireadh le náisiúin
    Cuir deireadh le cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
    Deireadh le cogaí
    Lig don phláinéad análú gan bhac
    Gan teorainneacha
    Gan bhratacha
    Gan sreang dheilgneach
    Gan fallaí arda
    Gan náisiúin
    Gan cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
    Gan chogaí
    Deireadh go deo le teorainneacha

    Gabriel Rosenstock. Poet, novelist, playwright, haikuist, essayist, author/translator of over 170 books, mostly in Irish (Gaelic). Taught haiku at the Schule für Dichtung (Poetry Academy), Vienna, and Hyderabad Literary Festival, India. Prolific translator of poems, plays, songs, he also writes for children, in prose and verse. Represented in Best European Fiction 2012 (Dalkey Archive Press) and Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Co. 2013). Books Ireland, Summer 2012, says of his detective novel My Head is Missing: ‘This is a departure for Rosenstock but he is surefooted as he takes on the comic genre and writes a story full of engaging characters and a plot that keeps the reader turning the page.’
    New and selected poems I OPEN MY POEM …(translated from the Irish) published in 2014 by PoetryWala, Mumbai, India and The Partisan and other stories published by Evertype, 2014.
    Rosenstock’s Blog address:

    Frontera/ Border
    by Francisco X. Alarcón

    Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, born in Los Angeles, in 1954, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), Sonetos a la locura y otras penas / Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company 2001), De amor oscuro / Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press 1991, and 2001).
    His latest books are Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun / Poemas para el Nuevo Sol (Swan Scythe Press 2010), and for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú/Animalario del Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008) which was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and as an Américas Awards Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para sonar juntos (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award.
    He teaches at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Spanish for Native Speakers Program. The issue of eco-poetics and xenophobia are a the core of three upcoming collections of poems, “Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to SB 1070,” “Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems / Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas.” He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 where more than 3,000 poems by poets all over the world have been posted. This is the link to the Facebook page:

    Slithering Our Way to Heaven
    by Jackie Lopez

    I see love, peace, and joy slithering like a snake in the grass up to our spines.
    It enables us to see Heaven on Earth when there is plenty of Orisha-orientations.
    We sink into Mother Earth for her comfort and strength in our enterprise for survival.
    And, we will survive.
    Every border,
    every genocide,
    every racist, sexist, classist sentiment is thrown out the window for our survival.
    Every history book will speak the truth of our organization.
    Every Thursday we shall have dinner with wonderful disorganization.
    Now and then, we cross the border of discontent and organize an evolution.
    We march in the streets.
    We picket on the line.
    And, we shall nail our edict on the cross.
    There is hope in a word.
    There is hope in a dance.
    There is hope in a march and we go marching on.
    We claim the universe complete.
    We are anointed and know that the only way to survive is if we take a trip to the truth.
    I am not agnostic and esoteric at the same time.
    I am survival of the kindest.
    I am survival of true love.
    We sink or swim in misbehavior.
    For our solution is found in the consultation of our souls.
    And, where does it all start?
    And, where did I come from?
    It all started with a misbehavior one evening when I was anointing the masses.
    We are organizing an evolution for the promotion of restitution.
    We are aghast with philosophy, and we shall anoint whomever washes a dish.
    And, the saints are marching in.
    We wear mini-skirts and shorts.
    We wear an Alaskan mask and we shoot the breeze with the namesayers.
    We are closet scientists and we mistake enamorations for flirtations.
    So, now I say, Let us rejoice for the world has opened up with dire pollution in order for us to be united as emancipators.
    We shall cross the border.
    We shall reach the sea.
    We have been accosted at every turn with oppression.
    And, it is getting thick like molasses.
    So, I cling to hope and enamorations.
    I cling so that I might see the universe for what it really is and what it does to us.
    We are disjointed at the ends, and we are getting the Heaven out of Hell.
    So, speak your truth.
    I am listening.
    Sing, for boyfriends offer patrimony to the lovely creationism that you bring.
    And, I dive into the lies and remember that the only thing that can get through my pores is the truth.
    We are shamans.
    We promote the non-toxicity of the world.
    We are crazy with love and emotional control.
    We sing in the spirit of a saint.
    And we embark on traffic control.
    There is not such a thing as hope without despair.
    It is now our golden opportunity to live on Earth and say, “We are hope.”
    So, little is said about the misogynistic era of enlightenment.
    However, I am one to say it.
    This is the millennium of Heaven.
    There is an ocean of forgiveness somewhere out there.
    There is emancipatory proclamations out there as well.
    And, we are ones to ride that wave.

    Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a uniform poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com

    Why I write?
    by Frank de Jesus Acosta

    I write to:

    Give scope to my growing understanding of truth;
    Impart my dreams and visions;
    Honor the sacrifice of the ancestors;
    Remember the stories, traditions, and history of my people;
    Reflect the duality of pain;
    Express gratitude for the miracle of creation;
    Acknowledge the integrity of all cultures;
    Celebrate the expression of my own;
    Lament the anathema of hate, greed, egoism, and tyranny;
    Witness to justice, compassion, respect, and non-violence;
    Incite aspiration to human possibility;
    Voice the inspiration of love;
    Commune with the presence of God in others;
    Leave footprints of my dance to the song of life...

    Reflection by: Frank de Jesus Acosta

    Frank de Jesus Acosta is principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consulting group that specializes in professional support services to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency. In 2007, he authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His professional experience includes serving in executive leadership positions with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), the Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. Acosta most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up by Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community-focused institutions on select initiatives focused on advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. He is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.

    by Mario Angel Escobar

    If you ever want to walk
    the corners of your streets,
    Be ready to put your hands up
    because the pigmentation of your skin,
    Has already made you guilty.
    Be ready to hold your last breath
    because eyes with a sense of supremacy
    will stalked you
    following your foots steps.
    Don’t hold anything in your hands
    Open them like roses in the spring
    accelerating their process
    because if you don’t
    the law will drop a white blanket
    on a puddle of blood
    covering a history
    that has been deny
    over and over again
    but why cry
    if the tears will continue to blossom
    flooding with sadness
    our sunsets.
    Wherever you go
    Will stalked you
    suffocated your path
    with the scent of your
    dead ones
    If you ever want to walk
    the corners of your streets,
    Be ready to put your hands up
    because a single phrase
    I am not guilty!
    I am not guilty!
    I am not guilty!
    Will not do
    and in the vortex
    of the hourglass sand
    you will find
    that the dream
    still a dream
    in the corners
    of your street.

    © Mario A. Escobar 2014

    Mario A. Escobar (January 19, 1978-) is a US-Salvadoran writer and poet born in 1978. Although he considers himself first and foremost a poet, he is known as the founder and editor of Izote Press. Escobar has stated that his exposure to “poetic sounds” began during his childhood and that his foundation in poetry stemmed from what he witness during the Salvadoran Civil War. Escobar began his writing career by the age of 13 as a poet. He cites Roque Dalton, Tato Laviera and Jaime Sabines as some of his early poetic influences. Escobar’s work has been feature in UCLA’s publication Underground Undergrads which recognizes the poet as an activist for the undocumented Student Movement. In 2004, Escobar was placed under arrest and was scheduled to be deported. In 2006, Escobar won his case for political asylum making him one of the last Salvadorans to win a political case fourteen years after the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in 1992. Escobar is a faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages at LA Mission College. Some of Escobar’s works include Al correr de la horas (Editorial Patria Perdida, 1999) Gritos Interiores (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), La Nueva Tendencia (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), Paciente 1980 (Orbis Press, 2012). His bilingual poetry appears in Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry by Kalina Press.

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    18. The Fabricator

    Speculative fiction by Daniel A. Olivas

                Rigoberto sat on the large, cold boulder.  His eyes rested upon the lake’s calm surface discerning no more than a ripple at the base of the partially submerged tree twenty or so yards from where he sat.  Probably a happy family of waterbugs enjoying the safety of the root, he thought.  He noticed another ripple in the middle of the lake and imagined that a Loch Ness-type monster would languidly rise out of that small aquatic disturbance once Rigoberto had walked away, out of sight.  But this was not the Highland region of northern Scotland.  No.  This was a carefully planned, gated community in the suburbs with a man-made lake carved out in the middle of it all, for the recreation and esthetic enjoyment of its residents.
                Rigoberto rubbed his hands together and then cupped them before blowing warm breath into his palms making an almost whistling sound.  The lake made him remember Mrs. Lewis, his favorite English teacher in high school, who once lectured on Virginia Woolf.  He recalled how he chuckled when she described how Woolf committed suicide, filling her pockets with heavy stones and then walking slowly into a lake.  Which lake?  Someplace in England.  Right?  He couldn’t remember.  Time dims memory.  And Mrs. Lewis had lectured to him over twenty years ago.  But Rigoberto remembered the odd look Mrs. Lewis threw his direction when she heard him chuckle.  It wasn’t an angry look but it stopped him in mid-chortle and his face had grown hot and red and he’d felt stupid.  At the time, he didn’t know how to describe that look.  But now, as he sat on the boulder, with the stone’s coolness seeping through his thick woolen slacks, he finally could describe it.  It was a look of disappointment.  Nothing more.  But it was enough.  Just enough.  Too much.
                “Mi cielo,” were the words that pulled him from his reverie.  “Mi cielo,” she said to Rigoberto.  “What are you doing here?”
                Rigoberto didn’t turn around.  He blew into his hands again.  She walked over to him making a crunching sound on the well-raked gravel.
                “Sonia,” said Rigoberto still not turning in her direction.  “Hola, mi amor.”
                Sonia lowered herself onto the boulder, almost leaning into Rigoberto, but not quite.  He could feel her warmth travel the quarter-inch of empty space to his shoulder and arm.  Rigoberto took in Sonia’s scent, a whirling mix of cigarettes, coffee and lemon shampoo.  He thought of Mrs. Lewis.  Her face.  White, perfect complexion.  Six months pregnant at the end of the school year.  Beautiful, peaceful face.  Except for that one look of disappointment.  A willet appeared out of the shrubs and walked gingerly to the lake’s edge.  Its gray-brown feathers reminded Rigoberto of his favorite tweed jacket, the one he wore when he and Sonia first went out on a date.  He couldn’t believe that this remarkable woman, this published poet – an award-winning poet – would agree to go out with him.  Even for coffee.  But she did.  After a reading at the Barnes & Noble.  After she’d read from her second book of poetry.  He’d sat in the audience because his girlfriend asked him to go.  Arlene.  Poor Arlene!  She had dragged her boyfriend to a poetry reading and he ended up asking the poet out for coffee afterwards.  And the poet had said yes.  And Arlene didn’t know what to do so she slinked away, into the New Releases section.  Six years ago this September.  And he couldn’t believe it when Sonia said yes to his marriage proposal a mere five months after their first date.  This beautiful, brilliant woman.  And he wondered if Mrs. Lewis were still alive.  And whether the child she had carried was now a young man or woman, in college perhaps, falling in love, living a separate life from the lovely, disappointed Mrs. Lewis.  And he wondered if he and Sonia would ever decide to have children.
                “Catherine called,” said Sonia.
                “My sister?”
                “No,” she said.  “Kabayashi.”
    “She needs you to come a bit early this morning.”
                The willet pecked at something hidden under the water’s surface.  Rigoberto finally turned to his wife.  He caught his breath, forgetting how exquisite this woman, this poet was.
                “Why?” he whispered.
                Sonia leaned into him.  “Several last minute bodies.”
                “Oh,” he sighed.  “Oh.”
                “She said you’d be happy.  The artist in you, and all.”
                “You’re the only artist in this family,” he offered.
                Another willet appeared from the shrub and approached the first willet.  The morning’s sun began to warm Rigoberto.
                “You should go,” said Sonia.  “Catherine sounded a bit panicked.”
                “Yes, of course,” he said.
    Rigoberto stood and his movement startled the birds.  They looked up suddenly, in unison, but didn’t fly away.  Then Sonia stood.  This time the willets could take no more and took flight.
    “I’m surprised there aren’t more birds here,” she said.
    Rigoberto reached for Sonia’s hand and kissed it.  Without a word, he turned and headed toward their house.
                                                    *                      *                      *
    “You should be able to finish them,” said Catherine as she scratched her left ear with long, gleaming, red nails.  “So, don’t start panicking.”
    “I never panic,” said Rigoberto.
    “I know, I know.”
    Rigoberto walked to the first table and lifted the sheet.  Perfect, he thought.  Wonderful job.
    “Castro Brothers?”
    “Of course,” said Catherine in a calmer voice.  “They do beautiful work.”
    “Makes my job easier.”
    Rigoberto dropped the sheet and scanned the other three draped tables.
    “Four in one day,” he said.  “All Castro Brothers?”
    “Don’t tell me.”
    Catherine sighed.  “Sorry.  One is from Gretsch Mortuary.”
    She pointed to the table at the far end of the room.  Rigoberto went over to inspect.  He lifted the sheet.
    “I know,” said Catherine.
    “No life at all.”
    “I know.  I’m sorry.”
                “Forces me to use too much imagination.”  Rigoberto dropped the sheet.  “Sam Gretsch embalms the way I cook.”
    “Yes.  Sorry.”
    “Do you know what I wish?” said Rigoberto.
    “I wish I could make a mold.  Just in the hard cases, you know.  Just once.”
    Catherine walked over to him.
    “Don’t even think of it,” she said.
    “I know.  I just….”
    “We’d be prosecuted if anyone found out.  That’s in the statute.  This has to be a hands-off process.  Artistic.”
    “You don’t have to lecture me,” he said.  “I helped write the damn law.  Testified before Congress, you know.”
    “I know, but you make me nervous when you talk about making molds.”
    Rigoberto rubbed his hands together.
    “Well, I guess I have to get started.”  He looked around the room.  “I’m in a grandmotherly mood.  Any sweet abuelitas here?”
    Catherine looked about the room.  She pointed to a table.  “I have a nice, old aunt for you.  But no grandmother.”
    “Good enough.  Let me see the file.”
    Catherine clicked over to a large, metal desk across the room and riffled through a pile of files.  She said, “Ah!” and plucked out a manila folder.  She brought it to Rigoberto who already perused the aunt.  Without looking at Catherine, he took the file and flipped it open and scanned the several pages’ worth of information.
    “Looks good,” he murmured.
    “Yes.  It’s an easy position.”
    “Yes,” he said looking at Catherine.  “Sitting.”
    “On a living room couch.”
    Rigoberto smiled.
    “Dear, old Tía Raquel will never leave us,” he said.
    “Yes.  Never.”
    “How much time to I have?  Before they pick up the bodies?”
    Catherine looked away.
    “How much time?” asked Rigoberto, this time a bit louder, a little tenser.
    “Well, they all have to be picked up tonight.”
    “That’s why I called you at home,” said Catherine trying to keep her voice from trembling.  “We’ve never had this happen before.  It must have been that interview you did.”
    Rigoberto shook his head.  “I told you we shouldn’t have let them in here and ask me questions.  I told you.”
    “But it’s a lot of money, getting four in one day, don’t you know?  A lot of money.”
    Rigoberto walked over to his workstation and grabbed a camera.
    “Then you should hire another fabricator.”
    “There aren’t enough to go around,” she said through a forced smile.  “The state only gives ten licenses a year, you know?”
    “I know,” he said as he took a few shots of the aunt.  He removed the sheet completely and continued to take pictures.  Catherine turned her head.  “Remember, I help write the law.”  He lowered the camera and admired the aunt.  “Pretty good body for sixty-seven, eh?”
    Catherine didn’t respond but she turned to look at the aunt.  He was right.  She did look pretty good.  Rigoberto took a few more shots.
    “That should do it,” he said.  “Now for some sketches.”
    He walked to his workstation, returned the camera, and searched for a sharp pencil and a new tablet.  He found them, pulled a chair over to Tía Raquel, sat down, and started to draw.
    “All of their personal effects here,” said Catherine pointing to a stack of labeled, plastic boxes by the desk.  “Clothes, jewelry, everything.”
    “You can start the fabrication tomorrow,” she said.  “Just focus on the pictures, sketches and measurements today.  The bodies will be picked up around 6:00 or so.”
    “Who’s going to fabricate me when I die?” said Rigoberto as he penciled in more detail.
    Catherine admired Rigoberto’s easy strokes.  The aunt’s face already took shape.
    “Sonia might not want such a reminder of you when you leave this world,” she said as she patted Rigoberto’s shoulder.  Catherine could feel his muscles tighten under her touch but she didn’t remove her hand.  “Memorial fabrication isn’t for everyone.”
    Rigoberto stopped sketching and looked up at Catherine.  He wondered why she got into the business in the first place.  She had little stomach for the bodies, she possessed paltry compassion and even less artistic sensibility.  But Catherine saw the opening.  A way to make money once the memorial fabrication law passed.  But was she only about making money?  Didn’t she want to fall in love?  Maybe get married?  Anything romantic?  Rigoberto never felt comfortable enough around Catherine to ask.  So he’d probably never know.
    “I need to work alone,” was all he said.
    “Yes, I’m sorry.  Yes.”
    Catherine lifted her hand from his shoulder and stood there for a moment.  Rigoberto turned back to the aunt.  With that, Catherine clicked out of the room.  When she closed the door behind her, Rigoberto stood with a crack of his knees.  He walked to his workstation and turned on the ancient CD player, the one his father bought him when Rigoberto graduated from middle school.  You can’t buy a new CD player anymore.  But he refuses to give up his old CD collection.  Sounds better than the new technology, he likes to say.  Nothing beats the warmth, the depth of a CD.  John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” came on.  Rigoberto smiled, got into the beat, and returned to his seat.
                                                                *                      *                      *
    The hours passed.  One, two and then three bodies were completed: photographed and sketched with measurements put into the computer for Sylvia to start designing the basic body structures to be refined later by Rigoberto.  He stretched and rubbed his eyes.  He noticed that the CD player was silent, for how long he didn’t know.  Rigoberto wanted to push on.  Finish well before the 6:00 deadline.  He walked to the last body and pulled the sheet.  A boy.  No more than eight, maybe nine.  What a shame, he thought.  Rigoberto pulled the file and opened it.  Fernando Torres.  Age nine.  In the personal information all that was written in a tight, controlled hand was the name of the boy’s favorite book: My Friend Fernando.  Rigoberto opened the personal effects box.  A red shirt, blue shorts, a pair of Nikes and white socks.  And the book.  Rigoberto picked up the book, pulled up a chair and sat down by the boy.  On the cover was a smiling, playful, floppy-eared, brown and white puppy.  The pages curled at the edges like the boy’s tousled hair; it had been read and re-read during his short life.  He turned the first page and saw the copyright year: 2003.  So long ago.  Before the boy was born.  Before Rigobertowas born.  The pages were not quite brittle.  He turned another page and read aloud: “My Friend Fernando by María Elena Menes.”  Rigoberto touched the boy’s hair.  It didn’t feel real: too soft, not of this earth.  He sighed, looked at his watch, and sighed again.  Rigoberto cleared his throat, turned the page and began to read the book in a soft bedtime voice: “This is the story of my friend Fernando who is the best friend anyone could ever have.”
                The book was not long.  It had bright pictures on each page.  When he reached the end, Rigoberto closed the book and said, “The end.”  He looked at the boy.  Of course this was his favorite book.  A book with his name in the title.  A silly little story about a talking puppy who becomes friends with a butterfly.  But it was his favorite.  Rigoberto stood and walked over to his workstation.  He plucked a fresh pencil out of a smudged, ceramic mug and picked up a drawing tablet.  He walked back to the small body.
                “So,” said Rigoberto.  “Let’s begin, my boy.  Let’s begin.”
                                                    *                      *                      *
    Rigoberto swirled the cream in his coffee slowly, with calculation, as Sonia read the newspaper.  Yesterday had sucked his energy; he hurt and each movement took great effort.  His eyes fluttered up to Sonia.
    “Why?” he asked.
    “Why here?”
    Sonia put down the paper.  “What?”
    “Why do we live here?  This state?  It’s not home.  It’s not L.A.”  As Rigoberto said this, he kept his spoon moving steadily in his coffee.  The morning sun came in brightly, happily into their kitchen.
    “Well,” she ventured slowly, “you went to college here.”
    “And then you stayed.”
    “And then you met me.”
    “And I’m from here.”
    Sonia pulled her chair closer to the table with a squeak.  “¿Por qué?”
    “I mean, you know, this state.  This state.  It’s hot.  Hot.  Too hot.”
    Sonia scratched her nose.  “This is about weather?
                Rigoberto put his spoon down on the napkin.  He watched the cotton soak up the coffee creating a small but steady bronze stain.  “Never mind.”
    Sonia looked at him for a few moments.  Her eyelashes fluttered and she took a deep breath.  “Okay.”
                “I mean,” said Rigoberto, “I don’t have to be here.  Wedon’t, I mean.  You know?”
                “But Californiahasn’t passed the fabricator law.”
                “I know.”
                “My state has.  This state.  And MassachusettsTexas, too.”
                “Yes,” he said.  “I know.  And New Hampshire.  But I’m not from any of those states.”
                “Yes,” said Sonia.  “Why?”
                “California almost passed that proposition.”
                “Proposition 40859.”
                Sonia frowned.  “You remember the number?”
                “Yes.  It was easy.”
                “Odd number,” she said.  “I mean, strange.  Hard to remember.”
                “No,” said Rigoberto.  “It’s my grandfather’s birthday.  So I remember it.”
                Sonia’s eyes widened.  She coughed, a forced cough.
                “What?” he asked.
                “You,” she said.
                “I what?”
                “You never mentioned that to me.  About your grandfather.”
                “April 8, 1959.  His birthday.  I told you.”
                Sonia stood up.  “No.  No you didn’t.”
                Rigoberto wiped his forehead.  “Yes I did.”
                “No.”  She walked to the sink and looked into it.
                “I know I did.”
                “Because it’s important to me.  That’s why.”
                Sonia turned on the water and rinsed a cup.  “I know.”
                “To me.”
                “I know,” she said.  “Forget it.”
                “Yes,” said Sonia.  She turned off the water and looked out the window.  She saw a bird, not a willet, by the lake.  It pecked at something in the grass.  “Forget it,” she whispered.
                Rigoberto gazed at Sonia’s back, his eyes moving slowly from her short, black hair, to sharp shoulders, and then small waist, sliding around pleasant, wide hips, down long legs and finally resting at her small feet.  He didn’t want to talk about yesterday.  But he had no choice.
                “One of the bodies was a boy,” he said.  “Young.”
                Sonia turned, not quickly, but she moved with a deliberation that startled Rigoberto.
                She walked back to the table and sat down.  “Who would want to have a child fabricated?”
                “Actually, you’d think children would be the most common,” he said softly.
                “I don’t know that.”
    “But they’re not,” he said growing more animated as if he were lecturing.  “Usually older people.  People grown used to so that it would be hard not to have uncle so-and-so sitting on the couch with everyone else while the TV buzzes away.”
                “Yes,” said Sonia.  “I understand that.”
                “Yes.  Me too.”
                They sat in near silence for a moment with the hum of the air conditioner offering a constant white noise.
                “What position?”
                He looked at her but didn’t answer.
                “Position?” she asked again.
                He cleared his throat.  “Standing.”
                He cleared his throat again.  “In the backyard.  With a ball.”
                Sonia reached out and touched Rigoberto’s arm.  “Outside?”
                “Yes,” he said.  “Yes.”
                “Outside?” she said again as she moved her hand from Rigoberto’s arm to her lap.  “More coffee?” she finally said, reaching for his cup.
                “No,” he said.  “Tomorrow.”
                “Tomorrow I begin the fabrication.”
                The air conditioner clicked off.  They sat staring at his empty cup.
                                                    *                      *                      *
    Though he missed L.A., Rigoberto appreciated the night sky here.  The heat of the day had ebbed into a comfortable, slightly breezy evening, and the stars—God, those stars!—almost frightened him with their brilliance.  He stood, frozen, at the beginning of the red brick walk, head angled back, admiring the celestial bodies, ignoring the bustle of partygoers coming and going from the two-story house.  Sonia slid her arm around his waist.
                “Ready, mi cielo?” she asked.
                Without turning away his gaze from the sky, he said, “Funny you call me that.”
                “Am I really your heaven?”
                Sonia pulled in deeper and leaned her cheek on his shoulder.  “Cómo no.”
                “¿Verdad?” Rigoberto said, now turning to her.
                “Of course.  Time to go in.  Meet some of my friends.”
                “But it’s so beautiful outside.”
    0 Comments on The Fabricator as of 9/1/2014 4:21:00 AM
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    19. Poetry Para la Gente in El Salvador

    Xanath Caraza

    El 2o Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente, Leyla Quintana, 2014, organized by Fundación Metáfora was held in a variety of cities in El Salvador from August 10 to August 16.  Hoy comparto parte de esa experiencia.

    First, let me discuss some important background information about El Salvador to give a broader context of this wonderful country to situate the significance of this creative gathering, the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente.  El Salvador is a beautiful, small country in Central America that experienced a traumatic war in the 80’s.  Many Salvadorian families fled the country and came to the U. S. during that time, others ended up in Mexico, Canada and a number of European countries.  Lately, here in the U.S., our attention has been directed to the unfortunate situation of the children who are traveling alone from Central America to the U.S. and have been detained in the U.S., being placed in what seems to be more of a concentration camp than anything else.  We also hear about the tremendous violence that El Salvador experiences due to the Maras.

    Yes, El Salvador is all of the above and has areas definitely not recommended to enter.  It is hot and humid, and is a country that is still rebuilding.  However, El Salvador is also poetry and through the hard work of poets and activist like those of Fundación metáfora (Robert Deras, Marisol Alfaro, Mixtli Alejandra, Anthony Molina, Nestor Duran, Vladimir Baiza, Lili Alfaro and Otoniel Guevara), El Salvador is changing minds, and bringing hope one poem at a time.

    For the Fesitival itself this year, we,  the other guest poets and I, visited San Salvador, Santa Tecla, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Ahuachapán, Caluco, Chalchuapa, Metapan, Coatepeque, San Marcos and other communities, reading poetry, as part of el 2o Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente, Leyla Quintana, 2014, from August 10 to the 16.  We, the poets, were taken care by all members of Fundación Metáfora, we had a special bus that picked us up and drove us to the different communities where our presentations and Q & A sessions took place.  I was not just surprised, but impressed by the numerous audiences that attended our readings. 

    Of the readings we had, most were in public schools; many students were from junior high and high schools.  We read twice a day, one reading in the morning and a second one in the evening.  Many times our readings prolonged for almost three to four hours, and yes, I will do it all over again. 

    During these readings with the bright, young people we met, it was hearing the questions that our young audiences had for us after our presentations that brought light and hope to me.  They, as many of our young audiences here in the U.S., want to be poets; therefore, these wonderfully eager young people in El Salvador also asked about what they can do to improve their writing skills.  They continued to inquire if we are born a poet or if we become one along the way.  What is more, they were inquisitive about where to publish, how to come up with a manuscript, or simply, these young audiences wanted us to hear them, the young people, read a poem. 

    In the U.S., I have met several young men and women who are either originally from El Salvador or whose parents are from El Salvador.  I have wonderful poet friends from El Salvador too, who have lived here in the U.S. since the 80’s.  Visiting this small and beautiful country, for the first time, made me remember of my own childhood in Mexico, where with very few, but with tons of corazón and much curiosity, my friends and I learnt and discussed about poets and writers.  Some of us even became poets and writers thanks to those discussions and in a very few occasions thanks to an encounter with a poeta de carne y hueso. 

    How important is it to remember or to know where we come from or where our parents have come from was a constant thought during my visit to El Salvador?    How important is it to know the history of our countries of origin and to learn about those powerful culturas prehispánicas that we, in many occasions, know very little about.  How important is it to hear los testimonios of those who experienced la Guerra, how hard and heart breaking it is to listen, or at least that was my own experience.  Will I go back to El Salvador, por supuesto, the same as I would go back wherever I am called to read la poesía.

    Why is important for us to learn about la literatura salvadoreña?  It is vital since a great deal of our youth in the U.S. have raíces en El Salvador, simple and plain.  How many of us know about Leyla Quintana, Otoniel Guevara, Kenny Rodríguez, Salarrué, Roque Dalton, Luis Borja, Noé Lima, Argelia Quintana among many more poetas y escritores.  I invite you to learn more about our own poetas in the U.S. whose orígenes are salvadoreños and as well I invite you to celebrate them. 

    Thankful and with hope I am, one poem at a time, one word one mind.




    “La oportunidad de viajar y conocer a poetas con tanta sensibilidad me ha dejado el alma liviana, del festival me llevo historias hechas poemas, a través de esta patria sin tiempo comprendí lo que significa la lucha y el amor, como lo diría Silvio Rodríguez “¿Te molesta mi amor? Mi amor de juventud y mi amor es un arte de virtud” Eso era Leyla Quintana-Amada Libertad juventud hecha arte en revolución,  la conciencia y las letras se desbordan después de este encuentro, supongo que esta es la victoria que no esperaba dejar Amada Libertad, reivindicar la poesía y la mujer.”

    Lourdes Soto, poeta



    “Siempre participar en un festival de poesía es provechoso, pues se comparte el trabajo con un público en vivo, es posible confrontarse con otros autores contemporáneos, se idean proyectos compartidos. Pero la participación a este festival fue algo más. Creo que hemos logrado hermanarnos entre poetas a un nivel sincero y profundo y también creo que el público que asistió al evento, en su mayoría jóvenes, han entrado en comunicación con nosotros con entusiasmo. Me llevo, entonces, mucho más de lo que di: las historias de estas mujeres valientes, de las que tanto aprendí, y los ojos asombrados de éstos jóvenes a los que espero haberle enseñado algo.”

    Silvia Favaretto, poeta


    “El segundo festival internacional de poesía de occidente en El Salvador incluye el desarrollo de aspectos intelectuales, culturales, históricos y emocionales-vivenciales. Significó para mí una especie de graduación como poeta, porque el sentido de la poesía incluye emociones, asombro y disciplina, aspectos cumplidos literalmente.

    Recibí además del apoyo a mi poesía, conocimiento in situ de un legado histórico de los sucesos de una guerra que han marcado a un país hermano,  el regalo hermoso de amistades auténticas que serán permanentes y que guardo como un tesoro entre las mejores. El cariño sincero de los estudiantes salvadoreños nos revela que la poesía llega a nuestra vida en momentos donde solo ella puede explicarnos el porqué se vive. Sostengo apretados a mis versos los de Leyla Quintana, para dejar claro en este mundo que la vida convoca a la rebeldía y a la lucha.”

    Perla Rivera, poeta


    “Traigo los ojos llenos de verde y juventud; el paladar ebrio de yuca y maíz. Mis honduras colmadas de palabras que resucitan anhelos enterrados en las montañas de la existencia. Traigo el testimonio de un amor. Amor es fuego que transforma el corazón; llama que lucha en vilo, siempre “en la punta del delirio”. Amado es el hombre, amada la tierra, Amada Libertad. La inútil e imprescindible poesía, tan como el amor, voz que busca el centro donde Verdad coincide con Libertad. Traigo de vuelta amigos nuevos y un manojo de Camelias que tanto había buscado Leyla en el manglar.”


    Zingonia Zingone, poeta







    In Other News


    Hot off the presses! Angels of the Americlypse.  An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing (Counterpath, 2014)




    Celebrating 100 years of Octavio Paz on August 28, 2014 at the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City


    0 Comments on Poetry Para la Gente in El Salvador as of 8/25/2014 4:55:00 AM
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    20. Review: Journey to Aztlán Goes In Search of Its Audience

    Review: Juan Blea. Journey to Aztlán. Parker CO: Outskirts Press, 2014.
    ISBN: 9781478700371

    Michael Sedano

    With a title like Journey to Aztlán, no one reasonably expects the book to fulfill the title’s self-help promise and cultural mystery. Journey to Aztlán is not for nationalists looking for fantasy history, nor poets researching visions and philosophies of our separate Eden.

    In this self-disclosing memoir, Juan Blea takes readers along on his journey to aware, self-sustaining sobriety, which he calls, Aztlán, or choosing life.

    Journey to Aztlán accounts one man’s conquest of crippling depression and drug addiction. For Blea, expression is therapy, for certain readers likewise. For that audience, Journey to Aztlán offers a therapeutic, inspirational narrative of use in forming one's own narrative.

    Structurally and stylistically, Journey to Aztlán is an easy, quick read. Blea begins in February 2000 in crisis, then flashes back to July 1977 and launches the story of the boy who lived to this moment. Each chapter moves the story forward, skipping months, or years, cataloging provocative, interesting incidents in Juan’s life, from how he abandons suicide that February to teaching, and writing books for people afflicted like Blea, in 2011.

    Presented as a patient's autobiography, the novelist in Blea lets his creative juices flow in the description and selection of key events and people. Keeping the narrative interesting, selected chapters change voice from first person to third. The tactic shows off Blea’s considerable skills in the third person. More importantly, third person allows him to tell and explain matters succinctly that escape tidy first-person illustrations.

    Cultural nationalists will hate the Aztlánish elements of the narrative. At a point in life when Blea thinks himself an expert on chicanidad, especially Aztlán, a wise Japanese scholar sets him straight in a nearly “you see, grasshopper?” scenario. Humbled, Blea vows to abandon his tolerance for “good enough.” He vows to hold higher expectations of his students, and himself. A focused pursuit ever on goal is another name for Aztlán.

    The simplicity of the argument strikes Blea as noteworthy so he recreates a story involving a tough group counseling session that rejects his--the counselor's--magic formula to “choose life" which is how the therapist translates Aztlán for these clients.

    It’s a familiar lesson couched in intercultural terms. Behavior, not commitment, defines value. Blea realizes he can’t go after Aztlán in a half-assed manner. He insists his clients can’t go after their goals half-assed and, like Blea, turn to the pen to write it down and work it out. In the book, Blea makes believers of them.

    Creative nonfiction is fun to read up to that point the writer makes a message or moral. This is Journey to Aztlán’s narrative flaw, fortunately it's at the end and the reader makes accounts, doesn't leave too disappointed.

    Blea doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion to the book. The story is ongoing so there's no ending there. But ending the book escapes Blea. The final paragraphs find him wandering around a message until he runs out of equivocations and stops.

    What else could he do? Growing conscienticized to living with a concept that “Aztlán is within everyone” defies narrative's capacities and reader expectations. It's an insight best suited to poetry.

    Contact the publisher’s website here for ordering details.

    Marketing Your Work
    Reviewed in La Bloga-Tuesday
    Note: Self-published writers have equal opportunity to be considered for a review by La Bloga-Tuesday. La Bloga is a team of eleven writers, each of whom follows her or his own practice. This is Michael Sedano’s.

    Among the pleasures of doing criticism are the regular letters from self-published literary workers wanting a review in La Bloga. It’s encouraging learning how many writers in Aztlán are being productive, finishing manuscripts in a broadening range of genres, looking for an audience.

    It’s a unique privilege to read new voices, even if some don’t make much of an impression. It's good knowing we are out there. The gems, those are worth reading through handsful of pulp, and ill-edited work to find the gems and semi-precious treasures la cultura churns out.

    For the most part, La Bloga-Tuesday reviews work from independent, university, commercial publishers by established or notable emerging authors. Owing to marketing power and prowess, their product is what I read mostly. Así es.

    I report on books I enjoy, that have value for a readership. Some come to me off the library’s new book shelf, others recommended by readers, and accidents. I came across Juan Blea’s 2007 novel, Butterfly Warrior, serendipitously. I liked it enough to share in a La Bloga Review. I later ran into Juan at a National Latino Writers Conference and we chatted.

    Juan sent me a press kit early this year, offering his new work after seven years. It was an ideal entrée to get Journey to Aztlán into the stack of to-be-reads and possible reviews.

    For writers coming in cold, there are sure-fire ways to be left out. For example, I get inquiries similar in entirety to these:

    “Dear La Bloga: Please send me a mailing address so I can send you a review copy of my novel. Signed,…”

    “Dear La Bloga, I would like you to review my latest novel. It’s a 60s based unbelievable novel somewhere between Naked Lunch and Wuthering Heights. Signed…”

    I look at hapless efforts like those, disappointed at the lack of respect shown the writer’s art. Like reading one’s work aloud, respecting the labor of creation demands an effective presentation of one’s work to a public.

    Debut novelists seeking a review from any genre-appropriate reviewer need to make a credible and competitive presentation to earn consideration. The work of writing a book ends when the work of marketing the book begins. They are both sides of a one-sided coin.

    Respecting one’s time energy emotion poured into finishing the manuscript demands spending more time labor emotion putting together a marketing campaign.

    At minimum, bring the book to market with a press kit prepared with all the professionalism you and collaborators can muster. Your press kit doesn’t sell the book, it sells the would-be critic on ordering and reading the book.

    The competition does it. Every successful book gets to market as the result of a marketing plan. Self-published authors are no different except they have a bigger hill to climb: no track record, no corporate money, no sales history. Y que?

    Send a press kit like the pros do. There’s a fifty-fifty chance you get a reply. If you ask wrong, or not at all, it’s a hundred percent chance of No. When you ask again, take the second "No."

    Just because you do everything right doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Think of the odds your novel faces from big-time competition and dozens of self-published authors with slick press kits. That’s why you have a competitive press kit!

    There’s no limit on the number of winners. Give yourself that fifty-fifty chance of being one.

    On a Personal Note

    August 31, 1968 was one of those penetrating heat hot summer days in Los Angeles. The bride and groom kneeled for what seemed hours as the Monsignor droned on about marriage like a barbeque, the coals grow hotter, then cool, then the coals grow hotter.

    That 23-year old groom turns 69 on his 46th anniversary next Sunday. I'm still having the time of my life.

    0 Comments on Review: Journey to Aztlán Goes In Search of Its Audience as of 8/26/2014 3:21:00 AM
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    21. New Children's Books from Piñata Books- Arte Público Press

    Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family’s Hands

    by Samuel Caraballo
    Illustrated by Shawn Costello
    ISBN: 978-1-55885-795-7

    Publication Date: 10/31/14
    Bind: Hardcover

    Pages: 32

    Ages: 4-8

    In this heart-warming ode to family, the young narrator compares the hands of family members to plants in the natural world. “Your hands, the most tender hands! / When I’m scared, / They soothe me,” she says to her mother. The girl compares her mother’s hands to rose petals, which represent tenderness in Latin America.
    Her father’s hands are strong like the mahogany tree; her siblings’ friendly like the blooming oak tree. Grandma Inés’ are the happiest hands, like tulips that tickle and hug tightly. And Grandpa Juan’s are the wisest, like the ceiba tree, considered by many indigenous peoples of Latin America to be the tree of life and wisdom and the center of the universe. His are the hands that teach his granddaughter how to plant and care for the earth and how to play the conga drum.
    She promises to give back all the love they have always given her, “Dad, when your feet get tired, / My hands will not let you fall.” Samuel Caraballo’s poetic text is combined with Shawn Costello’s striking illustrations depicting loving relationships between family members. An author’s note about Latin American symbols will introduce children both to the natural world and the idea that one thing can represent another.

    Cecilia and Miguel Are Best Friends / Cecilia y Miguel son mejores amigos

    by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
    Illustrated by Thelma Muraida
    ISBN: 978-1-55885-794-0

    Publication Date: 10/31/14

    Bind: Hardcover

    Pages: 32

    Ages: 4-8

    Cecilia and Miguel are best friends, and have been since the third grade when he gave her bunny ears in the class picture. Their life-long friendship is recorded in warm recollections of bike races and soccer games, beach time and fishing from the pier.
    Their closeness endures separation, “even when he drove north to college and she drove west.” The relationship evolves and grows, but remains strong even when … he dropped the ring and she found it inside her flan … he set up one crib and she told him they need two … the twins climb into their bed and beg for another story. In this celebration of friendship, best friends forgive mistakes, share adventures and—sometimes—even become family!
    Popular children’s book author Diane Gonzales Bertrand teams up with illustrator Thelma Muraida to create an album of memories that reflect their shared Mexican-American childhood in San Antonio, Texas: swinging at birthday party piñatas, breaking cascarones over friends’ heads and dancing at quinceañeras. Young children are sure to giggle at the adventures of Cecilia and Miguel, and they’ll be prompted to ask about their parents’ relationship as well as explore their own.
    <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->

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    22. Cuba en Boston, NYC y Miami

    En BOSTON:

    El Museo de Arte McMullen en el Boston College presenta "Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds", la primera exposición retrospectiva del importante artista cubano en Norteamérica en muchos años.

    La muestra se inicia con una recepción el doming, 31 de agosto, de 7:00-9:30pm en el museo. 

    Y permanecerá expuesta hasta el 14 de diciembre.

    Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds - August 30–December 14, 2014
    Presenting more than forty paintings and a wide selection of works on paper by Wifredo Lam (1902–82), this retrospective is the first to examine the artist as a global figure whose work blurred boundaries among established artistic movements of the twentieth century. Lam was born in Cuba to parents of Chinese and African/Spanish descent. He gave expression to his multiracial and multicultural ancestry whilst engaging with the major political, literary, and artistic circles that defined his century.

    The works displayed in Imagining New Worlds are drawn from major public and private collections in Europe, Latin America, and the United States and from all of the artist’s major periods. These outstanding examples reveal the imprint on Lam’s hybrid style of surrealism, magic realism, modernism, postmodernism, and the syncretic religion of Santería practiced in the Caribbean and West Africa. Also examined in the exhibition is the influence of Spanish baroque poets and Spanish, French, and Latin American avant-garde artists and writers like Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Federico García Lorca, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, and Aimé Césaire. Exhibited together for the first time are many of Lam’s greatest masterpieces, allowing for a reexamination of the breadth of the artist’s oeuvre and chronicling how his poetic imagination inspired his depictions of "new worlds."

    Organized by the McMullen Museum, Boston College, this exhibition has been curated by Elizabeth T. Goizueta. The accompanying catalogue contains essays by Claude Cernuschi, Roberto Cobas Amate, Elizabeth T. Goizueta, Roberto Goizueta, and Lowery Stokes Sims. The exhibition, which travels to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (February 14–May 24, 2015), has been underwritten by Boston College and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.

    Y en NUEVA YORK,
    el Centro Bildner de estudios hemisféricos presenta la película
    de Fernando Pérez (2003)
    el viernes 12 de septiembre a las 6:30pm
    Segal Theatre, The Graduate Center
    365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street)

    Habrá una discusión después de la película.
    Para más información o para asistir, envíe un mensaje a: bildner@gc.cuny.edu

    Y en MIAMI, próximamente:

    Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres
    Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery
    Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, First Floor
    September 19, 2014 – August 30, 2015

    The Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery is a permanent space dedicated to the impact of Cuban culture on South Florida and throughout the world. The inaugural exhibition Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres presents a selection of iconic photographs of various writers, performers, composers, designers, and artists from the photographer’s Cuba Out of Cuba series. The exhibition will take a unique and historical approach in surveying the legacies of individuals who influenced the greater culture of their time. 
    Rodríguez-Duarte was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1968 he moved with his parents to Miami, where he was raised. At the age of 10, he was given his first camera by his grandfather, which sparked his interest in photography. Today, he is an internationally renowned photographer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar, among others.

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    23. Window of Isolation: Louisiana's Leprosarium

    Carville: Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
    Poems by Gina Ferrara

    Poet Gina Ferrara's new chapbook, Carville Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
    (Finishing Line Press 2014) delivers a new way of looking at leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. The beauty of these poems is arresting and surprising, given the once taboo subject of leprosy. The leprosarium at Carville operated for over a hundred years.

    As a child in catholic school in New Orleans, Ferrara grew up hearing about lepers. Four years ago, when she visited the colony in Carville, Louisiana, she learned more about the lives of the patients. Carville is located off River Road, near Baton Rouge. However, it is essentially in the middle of nowhere. Ferrara captures that sense of isolation in her Carville Poems. The title references the fact that moss and resurrection fern can be found in the oak trees at Carville. Ferrara was taken by the physical beauty of the landscape at Carville and how the beauty of the land was intertwined and connected to the personal experiences of the patients. From "A Perfect Terrain": 'Drenched in moss and resurrection fern, the oaks stayed stoic--/a perfect terrain for the ostriches, swift-footed and flightless/that would never arrive.'

    In writing these poems, Ferrara never lost sight of the loneliness experienced by Carville residents. "I wanted to convey how people who had the disease became isolated--very removed from the lives they had lived and previously known, " she said. "They no longer saw their families or loved ones. They had to establish a new and different way of living."

    Residents at Carville may have been isolated, but they lived life to the fullest, put on dances and Mardi Gras balls, and published a newspaper with a circulation of over 250, 000. The poem, "Tea Hour on Point Clair Road," shows how the ladies would take their tea, 'The fingerless/Even the unmarred waited for the sips and stains of tea hours,/ Something miraculous as a cure/under a sun no longer at apex.'

    Gina first began writing the poems in the spring of 2010 and finished the book over a period of two years. She approached Finishing Line Press because they had published her first poetry chapbook, The Size of Sparrows, in 2006. She met one of  the patients, Pete from Trinidad, who was about ten years old when he arrived and is now in his eighties. He is one of the last patients to live there, rides around on his bicycle, and is eager to talk to visitors. The lyrical poems, along with photographs by Elizabeth Garcia, offer a window into life at Carville, Louisiana.
    Gina Ferrara

    Carville in the Spring
    Gina Ferrara

    Sugar surrounds this sanctuary
    far from ordinary or Galapagos.
    The road ends each time
    I check my appendages
    for open wounds, red splotches in tandem.
    I remember the last pliant hand I held.
    Would the constellated sky feel like a hand?
    Each finger with its own unblemished identity—
    supple and tapering to a square tip,
    the bony range of knuckles
    buckling only to brush inside my palm.
    I squint and scan for semblances of past lives.
    Who is the gypsy? Who is the physicist?
    I have my suspicions.
    Today a woman arrived.
    She strolls through the covered corridors
    with memories of her identity and scepter,
    helpless and unable to reign over the bacilli
    waiting to uprise in time as unwanted suns.

    Gina Ferrara's work has previously been featured on La Bloga. Her latest full-length poetry book, Amber Porch Light was also recently reviewed by Frank Mundo in the Examiner.

    0 Comments on Window of Isolation: Louisiana's Leprosarium as of 8/29/2014 2:05:00 AM
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    24. About politics, spec fiction, Zombie Baseball Beatdown

    With Chicano and Latino speculative fiction* blossoming, I and others believe its authors can blaze our own trails to not follow the paths of mainstream Anglo authors. This might sound like a risky way of succeeding as a writer, but the rewards go beyond book sales and personal income. All across the planet, writers advocate and practice this.

    Cherokee author Celu Amberstone says of Indigenous speculative fiction: “Our fiction is alive with new possibilities inspired by our cultural heritage, fiction that can offer new insights to our troubled world. As Indigenous peoples, we understand that the specters of colonialism and corporate greed still haunt Earth’s future. It is our responsibility to offer humanity a new vision of the universe.”

    An Australian aborigine from the Palyku people, YA spec fiction author Ambelin Kwaymullinais another. In a speech earlier this year, she said, "We are, along with speculative fiction fans in the world, the people who know. We understand the great promise and the great flaws of humanity; we have seen both writ-large across magical kingdoms and alternate realities and far off planets. So the question for us is not what the future will hold, because we’ve already seen a thousand variations of it. The question for us is, how do we create the futures of our dreams and not our nightmares? Like other spec fiction writers before me, I believe humanity is now living in the times that will define what is to come for our species."

    American author Paolo Bacigalupi expects even more for writers of any nationality: "The real purpose of novels of Sci-Fi, apocalypse, dystopia, etc. should not be escapist. A spec lit novel that doesn't tell about the present moment is no more meaningful than a romance or tea cozy mystery. If it doesn't, then why did it have to be Sci-Fi to begin with?"

    I agree with all of the above. More in my alternate-world fantasy novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams than in my short stories, issues of immigration and border "security," militarization of the police, gentrification of barrios, "Christian" intolerance have all played roles. As a Chicano in the U.S., when I write, the reality that we and others live pushes for inclusion. I can't imagine any other approach that would make my stories worth reading.

    Here's an example of what I mean: French kids don't suffer weight problems, obesity, diabetes & hypertension like ours do. They get fresh and freshly prepared fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that are locally sourced; only filtered tap water for drinks. Three recess periods, a total of 90 min./day; and they walk or bike alone (if you can believe!) to school. No school on Wednesdays. All of this, U.S. kids are denied. It doesn't mean we're stupider than the French; we've simply allowed food corporations to victimize our kids. So what?

    So how would a spec author include the junk food we're sold into a novel? How about the pink slime served in school cafeterias? Written into a YA zombie novel, with the two main, non-white characters, one the mexicano Miguel. Add racism and flash round-ups of undocumented workers. Sound like a stretch? Not so much, even after you realize that Paolo is not a Chicano writer.

    In a podcast this month, here's what he said about learning the story and facts behind pink slime: "The politics makes you angry enough to write fiction--the company "ethics", and government "protection" [of our food]. The status quo doesn't see us being able to talk about the data surrounding us. I was a sci-fi reader growing up and spec genre held my interest. But lots of sci-fi books were dated and not relevant to kids. Zombiewas for my own joy, my own creativity, to feel passionate about. I knew that if I found something interesting, I could strive to make it interesting for my readers."

    The publisher's synopsis of Zombie Baseball Beatdown: "In this inventive, fast-paced novel, award-winning author Bacigalupi takes on hard-hitting themes--from food safety to racism and immigration--and creates a zany, grand-slam adventure that will get kids thinking about where their food comes from.

    "The zombie apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are practicing baseball near a local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant's toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters! The boys decide to launch an investigation into the plant's dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation's plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive...and maybe even save the world."

    The author didn't stop at publication. On the book's website, the political matters lace throughout the jokes, zaniness and funny, zombie madness. Here's a sample, and you might want to give the URL to your kids. (If you think this is violent, see the videogames kids play.)

    How kids can prepare for a zombie outbreak in ten simple steps.
    • 70% of evil monsters come from nasty places like toxic waste dumps. 100% of documented zombie outbreaks originated from an infected food.
    • Protect Your Head. To a zombie, your brain tastes like the best food ever.
    • 9 out of 10 zombies say they prefer brains to any other food.
    • The brain size of kids who like reading is 1/10 larger than that of kids who don't.
    • On average zombies find bigger brains 33% more appetizing than small brains.
    • 92% were easily able to bite through a single layer of clothing, penetrating the skin.
    • 33% of zombies were unable to bite through 5 or more layers of clothing, and left to starve.

    I recommend the book, even for some kids as young as twelve. Latino kids will sympathize with and enjoy Miguel, a main character. Politically, the book promotes investigation, exposing the facts gathered, organizing other kids, and the success of defending your beliefs about what's true, even when corporations and adults don't know or hide the truth.

    Paolo is beginning to mull ideas for a sequel to Zombie. Not to critique, but  to suggest ways I think a sequel could improve over the first of the series, I note the lack of major girl characters. To all spec writers: the boys-only legacy of old sci-fi can and should be discarded. Research show boys will read books with girl protagonists and more, if they are intriguing and well written. And we need to help boys break down whatever impedes their working and living well with the opposite sex.

    Secondly, I think the climactic battle (obvious from the title, but most of this is spoiler) has two huge real-world, emotional and action gaps that the author could have used to heighten conflict.

    The hero organizes his friends in the final battle WAY too easily. Anybody who's had or worked with boys knows--organizing them is like herding olive-oil-slimed pigs in the middle of a muddy field, away from their trough of amphetamines. The protagonist Rabi should have had to more realistically overcome those problems. Yes, I know it was the climax, and maybe the author didn't want to give his hero too much to overcome. Still.

    The second, emotional gap that the author missed out on was the trauma of who the boys had to beat, hurt and kill to escape the zombie breakout. Their friends, siblings, parents and adults they knew. According to my read, none of the boys had much trouble beating down their family and community. Obviously, in the real world, this would be major PTSD. (That coming in the sequel?) Adding bits of scenes about this conflict would have extended the big battle, which might be why the author excluded it. I won't say how he might have been able to do it; he's the author. As a reader, the gap left me unfulfilled, pick-pocketed.

    Read the, buy it and give it as a present, order it for your room or library. If you're a Latino author, read it and see if you can say that we Latinos can't do the same or even better at bringing politics into our spec lit. For our gente to learn and read and enjoy.

    Es todo, hoy,
    RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano fantasy author Rudy Ch. Garcia

    * Speculative fiction - spec lit includes fantasy, magical realism, horror, alternate world and alternate history, fables and science fiction, at the least.

    0 Comments on About politics, spec fiction, Zombie Baseball Beatdown as of 8/30/2014 3:11:00 PM
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    25. The Cha Cha Files: a Chapina Interview With Maya Chinchilla!

    book cover by Rio Yañez and Yolanda Lopez
    Maya Chinchilla is a Central American/Guatemalan poet, performer, video artist, and educator.  She is a “bridge” the way that feminist and lesbian writer, GloriaAnzaldúa describes “bridge” in her book Borderlands/La Frontera. Anzaldúa writes: “Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar” ("Voyager, there are no bridges: one builds them as one walks").  In her newly released collection of poetry, The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poetica, each poem is a carefully crafted “bridge” the reader crosses, entering and journeying into and through a Central American/U.S. bildungsroman, a reflexive and powerful coming-of-age lyrical narrative.

    La Bloga is very fortunate to have Maya with us today to talk about her work. 

    Amelia Montes:  Welcome y Saludos, Maya!  First--tell us how you came to poetry.

    Maya Chinchilla:  Poetry opened up my world in so many ways.  I could tell you so many stories about this, but one of the ways I first started writing poetry was as a form of poetic code in my adolescent diaries.  I think I secretly wanted someone to find them, so they would know the depths of my little kid, later teenage, angst, and heartbreak—my observations about how unjust the world, my parents, my sister, and of course, the kids at school were to me and others.  Some of those themes have shifted in attention and depth, but that need to connect is still there.  I am inspired by the musicality and play with language that poetry offers, and the push to use the space on a page, and sometimes the stage, carefully.

    Maya reading: Brava Theater at "Our Mission, No Eviction" fundraiser, in
    San Francisco. Photo by Jean Melesaine
    My intention was to show up as a full poeta in ways I had never personally seen.  Although I identify with a whole host of writers and artists from different backgrounds, growing up, I didn’t see anything like me or know any other Guatemalan (hyphen) American queer writers telling stories like mine.  I am first and foremost writing for that little kid who played with gender and other expectations, who essentially had to fight her way out of a suffocating silence.  She is still here because of this creative work.

    Also, I wanted the whole book to be a work of art that could travel beyond myself as an individual.  The cover is intentional as well; Rio Yañez and Yolanda Lopez collaborated to create the most beautiful reflection of the many parts of me and the characters inside my head that I could have ever imagined.  If I could, I would have covered the whole inside of the book with illustrations too, but I might do that in another project. 

    Amelia Montes:  As I read through your collection, I felt Gloria Anzaldúa’s work infused within your writing.  Her work in Borderlands/La Frontera is a call to all of us to arrive at la “conciencia de la mestiza”—“to be the bridge” and I feel that is exactly what you are doing here: giving us a perspective that we have not read.  You are breaking more assumptions and stereotypes of the Latina/Latino, as you say in “Baby Holds Half the Sky,” “I was born a bridge.” 

    Maya Chinchilla:  Anzaldúa, along with many other women of color writers from her generation, have been important influences in my life, my work, and my teaching, and have especially pushed me to consider and reclaim the many languages we speak as well as the languages we are told not to speak.  The bridge is more than a burdensome metaphorical structure used to connect two places, but is a perspective and experience all unto itself.

    As well as reading women of color writers for the first time as an undergrad, I studied poets like Martín Espada, José Antonio Burciaga, CherríeMoraga, Sandra Cisneros, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Lorna Dee Cervantes, for example, and Latin American Poets like Giaconda Belli, Daisy Zamora, Otto Rene Castillo, Rubén Darío, Pablo Neruda, Roque Dalton, Claribel Alegría, Gabriela Mistral, to name a few.  Something about these poets, some I read in both Spanish and English, split me open and gave me permission to write as a cultural translator of sorts, until I recognized the “in-between-ness hyphen life” as a unique position place of endless possibility.  

    Amelia Montes:  I love how you say “in-between-ness hyphen life.”  I think you’ve just given more readers/writers permission to be more conscious of this “unique position place.”  And so you divided your collection into four sections. 

    Maya Chinchilla:  Yes, each section and poem can be read on its own, but experiencing the sections together is like reading a narrative of my life. 

    Amelia Montes:  Yes!  In Part I, “Solidarity Babies,” we arrive at a historical moment where children of 1980s Central American revolutionaries now have a voice and are using that voice to give us their perspective.

    Maya Chinchilla:  Yes, one of the driving forces behind (especially) my early work was to tell stories from the perspective of a second generation Central American in the U.S., who was hungry for her own history and reflection that is not mediated by one-dimensional stereotypes.  I decided I needed to write myself in where we are often left out.  There are definitely autobiographical elements to this work that provide the grounding for these stories, but there are parts that are also about imagining oneself into being when no one is hearing or seeing you and you want to be seen. It is absolutely imperative that U.S. Central Americans tell their own stories as many have already started to do.  Everyone wants to romanticize parts of our culture such as the pyramids, the revolution, the colonial cities.  They romanticize the Mayas as if they are only in the past, but many of us are hybrid beings consuming pop culture, and repurposing it with all our conflicts, contradictions, and cultural baggage. 

    The picture with the group is taken in my childhood living room in Long Beach, California.  My mom is in the center back with glasses.  I am up front holding the white cat and my dad is left front.  The people in the picture are members of a  Guatemalan solidarity organization of which my parents were members.  
    Amelia Montes:  In reading this last poem from Part I, “Central American-American,” the lines “am I a CENTRAL American?  Where is the center of America?” are so powerful given this particular moment in history where so many young children are fleeing Central America and now find themselves in detention centers on this side of the border. 

    Maya Chinchilla:  As of late, there have been moments that I have screamed at the television or computer screen:  “We’ve been trying to tell you about this ‘crisis’ since the 80’s!  We are here because you were there.  You caused this.  You exported military and government resources and your 'gang problem' and your drug war exploited our colonial history . . .” We are all implicated in this.  We can’t just send this problem away.  Our immigration policies need to take into consideration our humanity and the ways U.S. policies have directly affected people’s ability to live peacefully. People don’t just want to come here.  They would stay where they are if that were possible.  They want to live decent and productive lives without fear of repression, violence, and hunger. 

    Seeing those pictures of the young children curled up on bare mattresses placed next to teach other on the floor, behind gates, and bars, in over-crowded detention centers, as if they are criminals for surviving their harrowing journeys—it tears me apart.  It’s about survival.  Pure and simple.
    No one put them on trains or sent them on this journey as if what lay across multiple borders was some sort of easier lifestyle.  Many of them are without parents because they have been victims of violence, or their parents made the journey to the U.S. earlier for similar reasons.  

    They leave because there is no other way.  In their faces and their stories, I see my friends and family members who came to the U.S. previously; thinkers, workers, teachers, business people, family members, who are now integral to helping make this country run.  Militarizing the border, incarcerating and deporting people does nothing to solve the problem.  It does not help to reduce the amount of people searching for a better life nor does it contribute to our collective healing.  No one is looking for a savior.  You should share our outrage and encourage stories that don’t treat Central Americans as victims, but as canaries in the mine, story-tellers with wisdom that reveal something about all our humanity. 

    That particular poem, for me, was written many years ago when I was looking for a cultural movement to call my own that was specific, and didn’t just assume that I fit under some umbrella generic version of Latino-ness that erased all these tensions and concerns I felt.  It’s so strange to hear people talk about your people as if you’re a ghost or a problem to be fixed.  Ask us.  I’m sure we have lots of suggestions. 

    Amelia Montes:  Your words here are so powerful and important, Maya.  They connect with what you wrote in Part II regarding “the unicorn.”  You write:  “What if I tell you that I am usually the only one of my kind.”  The unicorn is a universal myth spanning the Greeks, the Middle Eastern civilizations (Indus Valley Civilization) and Asia too.  But you bring it home to what is happening now.

    Maya Chinchilla:  The Central American unicorn is a metaphor for that feeling you get when you are seen as who you truly are with all your parts intact.  Not just as a daughter or student, or teacher or queer, woman, or immigrant, or Guatemalan, or poet; fragmented –only allowed to exist one piece at a time.

    I could also describe it like this.  I am a Voltron of the worlds I walk between.  My right arm is a Queer fierce femme red lion.  My left arm is second-generation Guatemalan green lion, still coming to grips with its struggle.  My right leg is a blue lion that negotiates space with the Chicanos/Chicanas/Latinos/Latinas in my world. Lastly, my left leg is a yellow lion who pours her heart into a "Hello Kitty" diary while listening to The Smiths.  When you know what they are like, when they are complete, they hang in the imagination like a protective nahual. 

    The Unicorn is that feeling of recognition that is illusive if you are not reflected in the media and culture as a full and complex human being.  If your eye is tuned to it, you can see it despite the non-believers.  Seeing someone who is similar to you, and who just gets it, it is the sweetest feeling because the heaviness and loneliness lifts in that moment. 

    Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
    Amelia Montes:  I see in your description and in this section, there is much “play” – a kind of wondrous creation of identity. The poem, “Guatemala Place of Trees” is one such piece. 

    Maya Chinchilla:  Chapines are all about that play with language.  We have this dry playful humor that comes out even in the darkest of moments.  In my family, someone is always playing with you.  Some of these poems reflect that play.

    This is one of those poems that couldn’t exist in sentences traveling across the page.  It’s a list of possibilities, messages, taunts, and reminders that slice the page in half forcing you to look at all its parts.

    Amelia Montes:  Yes, and the poem “Chapina Dictionary,” links up as well.  The use of the letter “X!”

    Maya Chinchilla:  Again, more playfulness.  I am fascinated with the “X” as a political statement or as a reclaiming, but also the sounds of words, the fear of the “X” in the English language and the embrace in Spanish.  In this poem, there is desire to explain, but in that Guatemalan way of playing with language where there are several levels, where you’re not sure if you’re in on the joke and another story emerges.  This poem is inspired by so many things, in particular, my study of Spanish from the bilingual yet English speaker experience.

    Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
    I first learned the alphabet in Spanish.  The “Ch,” the “LL,” and the “ñ” are letters you sing in the alphabet with their own sections. I have had to spell out my own last name for people in both languages; I have had to correct the pronunciation in English (Chinchilla, like tortilla . . .) almost every day of my life.  I am intimately aware of the possibilities of using "Ch," or "C," "H," to spell my name.  Also, sounds.  The sounds of some of these words and the ways we use them in different regions of Latin America has always fascinated me.  Some of the words are favorite words, some are words that I collected polling some friends one night online . . . many of them are specifically words and slang used in Central America.  Others are the ones that stick to you, having shared space with other Spanish speakers and infiltrators. 

    Amelia Montes:  In Part III, you are respectfully honoring the elder mujeres (“Homegirls and Dedications”) while also proudly voicing a queer epistemology.  It’s a powerful section.  The lines in “Jota Poetics,” are key to this section: 
    Broken Tongues Speak
    Jotas into harmony
    full of living theory
    and supported creativity

    Maya Chinchilla:  Yes to all of this.  Again, more reflecting and more imagining what our language of self looks like.  Raw, burning, wild, wanting to be desired, with all the edges and necessary tenderness. 

    Amelia Montes: There is also disappointment in love or the experiences of the highs and lows of relationships.

    Maya Chinchilla:  Love is integral to my transformation.  I have learned the most in those intimate spaces where theories fall away and you have to figure out how you really show up in the world.  Intimate relationships and their successes and failures show you exactly who you are.  There’s no running away from yourself when you show up for love and when you fail miserably.  Damn, sometimes my most dramatic stories come out with an unexpected humor and honesty in their hyperbole when I think I meant to write something else.  There’s no hiding here, and yet there are versions of myself here that are able to show up differently than I did in real life.  In the end, it’s about letting it go with a wink, a nod and a desire to channel that ferocity into the kind of transformative love that doesn’t need so much as it just is.

    Amelia Montes:  In Part IV, “Cha Cha Files,” you come back to bridging Latinidad, to breathing.  It begins with “Wanted,” and having the space to breathe one’s truth, ending with “Nuestras Utopias:” “I wish I didn’t lose my breath when I need to speak my truth.”  Here, readers reach the writer’s maturity—a place of working through equilibrium. 

    Maya Chinchilla: Yes, I intended for this work to embrace multiple arcs or grow like a tree with branches.  I like to read books in a nonlinear fashion, so I think you could pick any page and go on a different journey.  I also thought about this work with this particular spine from beginning to end as if witnessing snapshots of the main character’s journey.  In the editing process, I tried several versions and orders.  Another version closed the book, like a bookend, returning to the beginning.  I chose instead to leave the end with a sense of questioning, looking towards the future, and openness.  

    Some of the earlier voices were more declarative with an urgency to define oneself with an expectation that if you didn’t get it, then you needed to do more work, not me.  The urgency is still there, but by the end, she is more comfortable with her complexity and uncertainty, and there is a peace and an openness to other possibilities or worlds.  I am embracing all parts of myself and believe that my/our survival depends on our creativity and ability to imagine alternative futures.  That brooding angsty girl is still there, but she’s not as hard on herself because she knows she sees the world for what it is.  This attention is a skill she needs to manage instead of just absorbing it all in the hopes of minimizing the impact of the world’s ills on others.  Now she’s letting that go in preparation for what is next.

    Amelia Montes:  In addition to The Cha Cha Files, what other Latina writing would you suggest we read?

    Maya Chinchilla:  There are too many.  I will be here all night so I will just name a few.  Anything from Kórima Press.  I am so in love with my Press-mates.  They are all so amazing and inspiring.  I’m going to take this opportunity to mention some names that are some of my favorites right now, and are probably not on a list of the usual suspects:  Vickie Vertíz, Rachel McKibbins, Sara Campos, Meliza Bañales, Alice Bag, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Lorena Duarte, Sandra GarciaRivera, Lizz Huerta, Ramona Gonzalez, Nancy Aide Gonzalez, and MelissaLozano. 

    I also constantly think about the women I know that, in my mind, will always be writers but stopped writing because they had another gift to offer the world or something else took priority.  I think any one of them could still be writers, but for whatever reason, aren’t able to do it.  These are the women who motivate me to write as well.  When I feel doubt, I remind myself that any one of them could be writing, but often women are expected to take care of others or are just handling so many things that make it not possible. 

    Amelia Montes:  Important words about women and writing, Maya!  Thank you so much for being with La Bloga today. Is there something I haven’t asked, that you would like to share with La Bloga readers? 

    Maya Chinchilla:  This book really is a dream.  I am thankful to those that coaxed me to complete the work I have spent my life cultivating.  I am grateful to the many storytellers I have met on this path and feel a sense of peace that this work is now doing what it is supposed to do, and I can now release it as an offering for the ones who were meant to read and connect with it.  Hopefully, it raises some questions, offers some comfort, makes you smile, pushes you to write your own versions, and provides some clues that we were, we are, here. 

    Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
    BIO Maya Chinchilla
    Born and raised in Long Beach, California, by a mixed class, mixed race, immigrant activist extended family, Maya currently lives and loves in the Bay Area.  Her work has been published in anthologies and journals including: Mujeres de Maíz, Sinister Wisdom, Americas y Latinas: A Stanford Journal of Latin American Studies, Cipactli Journal,and The Lunada Literary Anthology.  She is quoted (and misquoted) in essays, presentations, and books on U.S. Central American poetics; Chicana/Latina literature; and identity, gender, and sexuality. Maya is a founding member of the performance group Las Manas, a former artist-in-residence at Galeria de La Raza in San Francisco, California/ and La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California; and is a VONA Voices and Dos Brujas alum.  She is also the co-editor of Desde El Epicentro: An Anthology of Central American Poetry and Art.  She holds an MFA in English and Creative writing from Mills College and is a lecturer at San Francisco State University.  Maya is currently touring her first book, The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poéticaacross the country.

    Check Maya Chinchilla's websites for touring details:  

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