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1. Chicanonautica: Are We Discovered Yet?



It's the year 2015, and looking back at 2014, some interesting stuff has happened, and it has to do with the core Chicanonautic concerns. Seems that science fiction and fantasy – or at least the offical stuff from big time publishers – has discovered diversity, and is giving awards to women of color. Big news! The future and the universe are diverse!

Since I've been doing this for decades, and jumping up and down screaming to get people to notice, I have mixed feelings about it. I was diverse before diversity was cool.

I remember when all science fiction was considered trashy, and fantasy didn't quite get picked up on the radar. Getting published was considered a minor miracle, and if you made any real money, maybe you weren't really sci-fi after all.

Add the fact that you might be a Chicano or something weird like that -- well, I had a lot of people look at me like I was crazy and try to talk me out of it. I guess I got used to it. I never did expect much acceptance or cooperation. I figure I'm like movie monster, running amok until the authorities bring in the heavy firepower.

I was out to see if I could get away with things, and I managed to do it.

But the times have changed. Magazines like The Atlanticand The New Yorkerare publishing articles that would have been the stuff of fanzines when I was getting started. The masses eat up sci-fi franchises brought to them by multinational corporations that they know and trust.

Maybe a book or two gets bought now and then, but I don't see my writer friends and acquaintances getting rich.

I'm not getting rich either, but 2014 was a successful year for me. My multi-book deal with Digial Parchment Services' Strange Particle Press is going well. Editors doing “diverse” antholgies are getting in touch with me for stories. And academia has discovered me, so if I play my cards right, my books will taught on campuses all over. My readers, who have been called a “noisy minority” have grown up to be editors, publishers, and professors.

Seems like all the hard work I've been doing for decades is paying off, but I do wonder. I've been right here all along, stomping the terra, and it took this long to discover me. Haven't I been visible or noisy enough?

Maybe it's because I've always been an outsider, waging a guerrilla war for my own existence, that I'm uneasy about diversity in science fiction and fantasy being the coming thing. I don't know how to be in. I don't trust the Establisment. What if they decide that it's just a fad: “Diversity? That so 2014!”

But then, what if writers like me are the coming thing? Science fiction is busting out all over the place, in real life, with changes happening faster and faster. Is it more than a coincidence that this is happening simultaneously with the post-Ferguson racial strife?

The future is coming, and it's looking scary. It'll cause some freak-outs. People are going to need new visions to help them sort it out. Diverse writers with wild imaginations can do that.

Ernest Hogan is the author of the novels Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues. Watch for his story collection, Pancho Villa's Flying Circus.

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2. Remembering Michele Serros


Michele Serros we will miss you. Te vamos a extrañar.

Thank you for your books. They will continue inspiring new generations.

In this video interview Michele Serros chats story, skateboarding and ethnic politics with llan  Stavans.







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3. QEPD Michele Serros. Floricantos Rock Rose and On-line.


My intent was to hook the preponderantly raza employees on reading, so I stocked lunchrooms with sci-fi, detective novels, a classic or two, and Michele Serros' Chicana Falsa. The most disappeared title was Michele Serros' Chicana Falsa.

One day while walking through an office I heard loud guffaws and poked my head in. One of the executives had picked up Chicana Falsa and couldn't put it down. He was reading instead of working. Michele's chicharrón story had him in tears. Better still, the vato had been one of the company's English-only crowd, and the book softened his heart. Orale, Michele.

Michele Serros had that effect on everyone whom she touched with her rapier wit, cultural insight, and elegant prose. Ave atque vale, Michele.

Que en paz descanses.



In lieu of flowers/gifts, Michele humbly requests you please contribute to her Give Forward campaign. Donations can be made online or sent via mail to:
Michele Serros
c/o Flacos
3031 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703


Art and Floricanto at Rock Rose
Michael Sedano

The phone caller told me she was looking at new-to-her lyrics to Quirino Mendoza y Cortés' Cielito Lindo and had I heard these? Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin planned to sing the song, along with Las Mañanitas, at the artists' reception for Images of La Virgen de Guadalupe through the eyes of Aparicio de Guatemala, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Pola Lopez, Julie Soto, and Antonio Rael at Highland Park's Rock Rose Gallery.

Coincidence? That is my grandmother's and mother's favorite song. I'd been playing Cielito Lindo daily during the holidays, remembering my gramma and my mom. Vibiana invited me to be the accompanist on Rock Rose's baby grand.


I arrived tempranito so Vibi and I could rehearse. Gallerist Rosamaria Marquez had the piano in tune. We sounded good, though we needed a bit of work. As with many highly popular songs, gente tend to alter the tempo and shift the tied notes to different measures from the score. "De la sie..rra" becomes "De la sierra..." A lifetime of singing it that way is tough to unlearn.

Few experiences match a pianist's joy at hearing voices singing along with one's fingers. Cielito Lindo is a waltz, so I emphasized the 1-2-3 bass and endeavored to keep the melody consistent with the singers' habitual styling. The singing was totally beautiful and together we found our rhythm. Everyone knew the words and the entire audience joined in with broad smiles and sentimental warmth. We did three choruses and I know my gramma and mom enjoyed it. For me, it was puro magic.

Chamberlin--one of the veteranas from the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto, emceed with excellent improvisation. We skipped Las Mañanitas, a good thing because my plan to segue into Happy Birthday to You depended on my fingers remembering a chord change I invariably mess up.


Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin reads and performs "La Llorona." Aparicio-Chamberlin opened her reading honoring her mother Isabel Luna Aparicio (b. 1917).

Luna De Leche
by Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

Dedicated to my mother, Isabel Carrasco Luna Aparicio

Sacrificial scent of a bursting moon.
Violet and taut are the veins
on your forehead.
Abundant and clear is the liquid
released down your thighs.

From you,
I am expelled
in spasms of heat and ice,
a bruised slippery body.

I am alone.
Torn from your velvet womb.
My desperate mouth,
my tongue, my throat cry out.
Searching for you.
Mamá. Madre.
Luna de leche.

You give me comfort,
you give me courage.
Your gift is your milk.
Warm healing honey.

Each breast, a promise of a
brown wooden bowl of flour,
 shortening, un poquito de agua
and a pinch of salt,
for an endless meal
of warm round tortillas.

Mamá.
Mi luz.
Source of endless leche,
de su ser
Persimmons
Your blood
Mi sangre
Cada gota
Cada pulso

Suckle.
Sup.
Pleasure sweeps between us.
Sleep.
Stomach satiated.
Soul sanctified.


Miriam Quesada follows with a Spanish language piece as sculptor Aparicio de Guatemala looks on.



Abel Salas, publisher of Boyle Heights' community newspaper, Brooklyn & Boyle, shares a reading from his telephone screen.


John Martinez stepped out of his comfort zone and read his work in Spanish translation. His is a beautiful effort to expand the role of language in poetry for monolingual Chicanos like him. Ajua! John--Juan--for a magnificent strategy.




Poets with sculptor Aparicio de Guatemala stand in front of Aparicio's Guadalupe sculpture, one of two. The second, a standing piece not pictured, he fashioned from red heart wood, acquired locally from a tree-trimmer.

Images of La Virgen de Guadalupe through the eyes of... runs through January at Rock Rose Gallery, 4108 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, California, (323) 635-9125.



Spanish Novels in English Translation


Hispabooks seeks deeper penetration into the United States' Spanish-Literature-in-Translation movimiento. Editorial Director Gregorio Doval writes, "Ya distribuimos desde hace más de un año a través de Ingram / Lightning Source (en librerías y online, paperback & ebook). Pero el próximo 1 de junio de 2015, nos comenzará a distribuir "on a larger scale" Consortium. Desde entonces nuestros libros estarán ya en todas las librerías que los deseen."

If you're Spanish-challenged, or faltando el Castellano, but enjoy excellent writing from an Iberian imagination, you'll be pleased learning Hispabooks has been distributed in the US by Ingram / Lightning Source. In June, distribution steps up to una escala más grande via Consortium.

From Hispabooks' Facebook About:
"Hispabooks is a publishing house focusing on contemporary Spanish fiction in English-language translation, both in eBook and trade paperback format, targeting readers around the world who want to explore the best of today’s Spanish literature."

Already released titles include:
"THE FAINT-HEARTED BOLSHEVIK", by Lorenzo Silva
"NOTHING EVER HAPPENS", by José Ovejero
"THE HAPPY CITY", by Elvira Navarro
"UPPSALA WOODS", by Álvaro Colomer
"THE HOTEL LIFE", by Javier Montes
"THE BIRTHDAY BUYER", by Adolfo García Ortega
"THE STEIN REPORT", by José Carlos Llop
"ANTÓN MALLICK WANTS TO BE HAPPY", by Nicolás Casariego
"PARIS", by Marcos Giralt Torrente
"RAIN OVER MADRID", by Andrés Barba
"A MAN ON HIS WORD", by Imma Monsó
"WOMAN IN DARKNESS", by Luisgé Martín
"THE HISTORY OF SILENCE", by Pedro Zarraluki

Forthcoming titles:
"THE PLIMSOL LINE", by Juan Gracia Armendáriz
"UNPAID DEBTS", by Antonio Jiménez Barca
"THE SAME CITY" by Luisgé Martín
"LA MALA MUERTE", by Fernando Royuela
"OJOS QUE NO VEN", by José Ángel González Sainz
"VENÍAN A BUSCARLO A ÉL", by Berta Vías Mahou
"LA HORA VIOLETA", by Sergio del Molino
"LA MALA LUZ", by Carlos Castán
"PADRES, HIJOS Y PRIMATES", by Jon Bilbao
"LANDEN", by Laia Fàbregas
"INTENTO DE ESCAPADA", by Miguel Ángel Hernández

La Bloga happily shares this news, and hopes the editorial will open its presses to more women writers.


On-line Floricanto: First in 2015
Kai Coggin, upfromsumdirt, Mario Angel Escobar, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Xico González

La Bloga On-line Floricanto is a monthly feature at La Bloga-Tuesday. On-line Floricanto, now in its fifth year, features poetry nominated by the Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of ResistanceFounded by Francisco X. Alarcón as a poet's response to the hate legislation spewed by Arizona's legislators in 2010, Poets Responding to SB1070 is a living resource for contemporary poetry from a diverse community of like-minded gente.

A second On-line Floricanto in January will feature the Best Poems of 2014.

February's On-line Floricanto celebrates St. Valentine's / Love and Friendship Day. Visit Poetry of Resistance on Facebook for guidelines on submitting for February.


“⌘ Planting An Acorn After A Massacre” by Kai Coggin
“An Open Letter To My Daddy Anem” by upfromsumdirt
"I can't breathe"by Mario Angel Escobar
“We Can't Breathe” by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Free Birds" by Xico González


⌘ Planting An Acorn After A Massacre
by Kai Coggin

When I heard the news
of the 132 school children massacred,
the taliban suicide bombers in
explosive-lined vests
blowing up the lights of brightened futures,
emptying thousands
of shell casings into the heads of innocents,
I went outside with my grief,
couldn’t hold it indoors,
I walked in circles
and wondered
how the sun
could continue this charade,
how the breeze could decorate
the almost barren trees
with dancing dried skirts,
quivering leaves.
I held the hands of the sky
and whispered unknown names
into the afternoon silence,
as two turkey vultures
cut the blue by
flying infinities overhead.

I walked.
Each step accompanied
by the sound of dried leaves
crunching underfoot,
and fallen acorns shone slick
in the light of the sun,
some dusted with grains of sand
that reflected prismatically
into the tiniest rainbows,
almost invisible.

I picked one up.
It had cracked open,
its red root arm reaching out for earth,
seed sprout seeing possibility,
the process of growth
inherent in its nature.

Without question and without fail
scores of acorns around me
had split open
in these cold months,
split open and started the process of
digging themselves down into the dirt,
the brilliant design that unlocks
wooden hinges and breaks free.

I thought of the children,
their arms reaching toward futures
that they could not see
but could feel,
their brilliant design,
their chubby reddened cheeks,
their laughter,
their learning becoming
scattered schoolbooks
and bomb-blasted classrooms,

they will not become trees,

they will not get past the point
of just barely breaking through,
red blood arms shielding faces
that wonder how this could be the end,
then it is,
was,
blackness,
ending.

The innocents should not die
for a God that does not live by the moral code
that innocents should not die.

I get lost in all this,
the soft breeze,
the blood,
the peaceful valley of my home,
the massacre that touches the same earth floor
dirt on which I stand and gather bursting-open acorns,
juxtaposition of death and life,
my red root fingers dig for the meaning,
for the karmic and cosmic balance,
and all I can do is find a patch of softened moist soil,
a spot that gets good sunlight,
and I shovel a small hole with a jagged flat rock
and lay the
acorn
inside
the hole
with the red root
pointing toward the planet’s core.

“Something small must have a chance,”

I say to myself,
and I cover the acorn with the supple
ground.

I encircle the life burial plot
with a mandala of 11 acorn caps,
(you know the little hats that acorns wear)
I make a circle,
because circles are unbroken,
because life should be unbroken,
because something small must have a chance.

I close my eyes,
and let the sun kiss me
until I am warmed inside
with the red of late afternoon,
until I see the mightiest oak tree in my mind,
132 sprawling green limbs
reaching up, up, up,
for
Heaven.



An Open Letter To My Daddy Anem
(a non-poem)
by upfromsumdirt

maaaan, i really wish yall'da made
a world for yall then and not one
for us today, because
all of our tomorrows are borrowed.
i really wish yall'da fought for land
(mississippi, georgia, florida, 'bama)
places to farm and fort and export...
placing Black America on an actual map,
an african american Writ Of Existence.
maaaaan, with a land your own
yall coulda built a car company,
"university" universities
without the need for culturally
enabling signifiers. coulda built
museums and rockets
and slums as low-end shelter
and not slums as black-face-hiders.
yall coulda built a wall
to stall the racists. a gall divider.
green parks and industrial dumps
all ours... maaaaan, but naawww...
oppression turnt us into pacifists
and dream-merchants with new
access to pension plans... but
no places for us to go in a pinch
when those with the most rights
are unruly.
point blank:
i wanna die a surprise
and not die the price
for equality
insufficiently funded.
maaaan, i recognize yall did yall's best
teaching us to trust a system
not built to embrace us. but
that was wrong.
and i dont want my own son
singing this samosong
in his letters to me.



I can't breathe
by Mario Angel Escobar

In memory of Eric Garner

Officer, officer,
My family is waiting for me.
Please listen to me.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
I don't want to be another anonymous death
in the holocaust of indifference.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
Don't let me fall on the sidewalk.
Dirty pavement where I've been since the days of slave patrol.
Ancestral language
stripped naked
in chains.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
people will missed me at the dinner table.
I am lifeworthy.
Please listen to me.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
The soul bleeds.
Please don't let darkness open its jaw.
Earthquake in my lungs.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
Don't deny me of that precious oxygen.
This drum still beats strong.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
don't dismiss my plight.
Don't erase my name.
You and I travel together
in this floating asteroid.
Please let me be.

I can't breathe!

Officer, officer,
Every time you see me,
you try to mess with me.
Please listen to me!

I can't breathe!



We Can't Breathe
(no justice, no peace)
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

we witness

that without justice

there can be no peace

without justice

there can be no peace

no justice     no peace

when we must raise our children

to be murdered at anytime

on these mean streets

by those whom we pay to protect us --

there is no justice

no justice      no

PEACE



Free Birds
by Xico González C/S

Black birds
And
Brown birds
And
White birds
And
Yellow birds
And
Red birds
And
Multi colored birds
And
Rainbow colored birds
Fly together in rhythm
Yearning to be free

Pajaritos y pajaritas
Preparan nidos
Para protegerse de los elementos
Y de los golpes duros de la vida

Little birds
prepare nests
to protect themselves from the elements
and the hard knocks of life

Perseverancia
hace fuertes las plumas débiles
de nuestras alas y de nuestras almas
Volar es nuestro destino
Duro es el camino
pero se tiene que atravesar

Perseverance
transforms feathers of wings and souls
from weak to strong
Flying is our destiny
The trail is rough,
but it must be crossed

Pájaros de todos colores
No reconocen fronteras
Se mueven de aquí pa’allá y de allá pa’ aca

Birds of all colors
Do not recognize celestial borders
and move freely in the immense sky

Pájaros de todos colores
Piden libertad, respeto,
Igualdad y justicia social

Birds of all colors
Demand freedom, respect,
social justice, and equality.

Black birds
And
Brown birds
And
White birds
And
Yellow birds
And
Red birds
And
Multi colored birds
And
Rainbow colored birds
Fly together in rhythm
United and free.



• Meet the Poets • 
Kai Coggin, upfromsumdirt, Mario Angel Escobar, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Xico González


Kai Coggin is a full-time poet and author born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Southwest Houston, and currently a blip in the three million acre Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs, AR. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. She writes poems of feminism, love, spirituality, injustice, metaphysics, and beauty. Kai has been published in Elephant Journal, Cliterature, The Manila Envelope, [empath], Catching Calliope and an anthology released summer 2014 called Journey of the Heart.

She released her first chapbook, In Other Words, in August 2013. Her first full-length book of poetry PERISCOPE HEART was published by Swimming with Elephants Publications in September 2014. She is also a Teaching Artist with the Arkansas Arts Council, specializing in bringing poetry and creative writing to classrooms around the state.

Kai knows that words hold the potential to create monumental and global change, and she uses her words like a sword of Beauty. She can be found most Wednesdays at Maxine’s, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world. Find more about her at her website.



upfromsumdirt is a visual artist and poet who operates under the grand delusion that he is the spiritual lovechild of singer Nina Simone and artist Pedro Bell. he shares his work and life with author and professor, Crystal Wilkinson. he lives in Lexington, Ky where he is currently running their bookstore, The Wild Fig, into the ground.
Eshu help him!



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 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.




Odilia Galván Rodríguez, eco-poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of four volumes of poetry, her latest, Red Earth Calling: ~cantos for the 21st Century~. She’s worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops nationally and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.



Xico González is an educator, artist, poet, and a political and cultural activista based in Sacramento, California. He received a MA in Spanish from Sacramento State, and a MFA in Art Studio from the University of California at Davis.  González currently teaches Spanish and Art Studio at the Met Sacramento High School.

The work of Xico González seeks to empower people uniting in common cause against a common oppressor disguised in different máscaras.  Gonzalez’s silkscreen posters address and support numerous political causes, such as the struggle for immigrants’ rights, the Palestinian and Zapatista struggles, and the right for Chicana/o self determination.  González is not only an artist, but is also an activist/organizer that puts his artistic skills to the benefit of his community.  Xico’s work contributes to the long dialogue of art, activism and the legacy of the Chicano Art Movement.  González has been influenced primarily by his mentors, Chicano artists Ricardo Favela (RIP), and Malaquías Montoya, and by early Chicano art collectives like the Mexican American Liberation Art Front (MALA-F), and the Rebel Chicano Art Front also known as the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF).


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4. An interview with Tony Diaz on the legal fight against Arizona HB 2281

Tony Diaz (Photo Credit: Divinci)

La Bloga is pleased to offer this interview of Tony Diaz, leader of the Librotraficante Movement, on the legal fight against Arizona HB 2281. But first, some background. The Seattle University School of Law offers this concise explanation of the law in question and the procedural posture of the case—students from the law school’s Korematsu Center's Civil Rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic has worked on the case. This is a condensed version of that explanation which can be found in full here:

In May 2010, House Bill (H.B.) 2281 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona. The law, since codified as A.R.S § 15-112, prohibits courses or classes that "1. [p]romote the overthrow of the United States government... 2. [p]romote resentment toward a race or class of people; 3. [a]re designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group; [or] 4. [a]dvocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals." Enforcement of this statute led to the elimination of the highly successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) courses program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) as well as the removal of books illuminating Mexican American history and perspectives from TUSD classrooms.

A group of teachers and students challenged the constitutionality of H.B. 2281 in federal court. Though the teachers were dismissed from the lawsuit, the students, Maya Arce, Korina Lopez, and Nicolas Dominguez, continued the challenge. In March 2013, the district court declared subsection (3) above unconstitutionally overbroad, but granted summary judgment to the defendants on all of the students' other claims.

The students appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit… The legal team working on the students' opening appellate brief included Richard Martinez of Tucson; Anjana Malhotra, formerly a clinical teaching fellow at the Korematsu Center and now Associate Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School; Sujal Shah, Marcelo Quinones, and Jennifer MikoLevine who led a team of lawyers at the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices of Bingham McCutchen; and the Korematsu Center's Civil Rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic. Professors Lorraine Bannai, Robert Chang, and Charlotte Garden led the efforts of the clinic. Students from the Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, and Spring 2014 clinics have assisted on this case. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, joined the students' legal team in October 2013.

As Tony Diaz reportedfor the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices column, the day of reckoning has come: On January 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear the plaintiffs’ arguments to overturn the law used to prohibit Mexican-American studies in Tucson.

Diaz, the leader of the Librotraficante Movement, has been reporting on and fighting against these attacks on Mexican-American studies for quite sometime now; one example is this pieceon the banning of Chicano/a books. He is the co-host of the Nuestra Palabra Radio Show in Houston, Texas, and Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris and the Chair for the NACCS 2015 Tejas Foco, scheduled for February 26-28, in Houston, at Lone Star College.

Diaz took time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions on about the legal fight and to explain how you can help.

DANIEL OLIVAS:How important is this case for the very concept of Mexican-American, Chicano/a and other ethnic studies programs across country?

TONY DIAZ: This is a major case of truth being stranger than fiction. And it will take several semesters of Mexican-American studies courses to fully appreciate, comprehend, and document all the nuances, cultural subtexts, historical facts, and fiction against our fiction. We are a blessed generation that can fill that San Francisco courtroom to witness a young Chicana making history and fighting for every American's freedom of speech.

Apparently Democracy has to re-boot every 40 or 50 years. This time the work as fallen on the broad shoulders and broader imaginations of Chican@s.

DO: All studies show that these types of programs help students succeed in school and do not make them separatists or people who hate the United States. Why are opponents so scared of these programs?

TD: Arizona passed a law to prohibit Mexican-American Studies. The sense that makes is non-sense. So I have to take the legislators at their word. They believe that 6-year-old to 17-year-old Mexican Americans reading books by Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, Carmen Tafolla, Rudolfo Anaya somehow promotes the overthrow of the government.

The folks who profess that are simply trying to sabotage the American Dream.

The books that some Arizona officials fear inspired me to not just finish college, but to get a Master's Degree, to become a professor. My parents were migrant workers. Because of education, my family has gone from the farm fields to where I now have the privilege of representing my culture on national platforms—in just one generation.

Officials who want to prohibit Ethnic Studies do not want to see our young flourish.


DO: How can our readers help Tucson students come to the oral arguments in San Francisco?

TD: The Librotraficantes have raised $2,450.00 to donate to the cause.

We hope to help raise $3,000. We invite everyone to pitch-in to help cover the travel costs to get Maya Arce and Korina Lopez to San Francisco to testify. You can donate directly to travel costs by clicking here: MAS Trial.

Put Tejas Foco or Librotraficante in the note, just for us to keep track of the pledge goal.

If you are in San Francisco, help swarm the court room, Monday, January 12, 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at:

THE JAMES R. BROWNING COURTHOUSE
95 7TH STREET,
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103

There is also an Ethnic Studies Solidarity Event: Summit and Teach-In on Saturday, January 10, 2015 at Mission High School in San Francisco, CA.



[Additional note: If you are on Twitter, follow Librotraficante at @Librotraficante and use the hashtage #MayaVsAZ if you Tweet on this subject including Tweeting this interview with Tony Diaz.] 

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5. Celebrate the New Year with "La Santa Cecilia" & "Cascada de Flores"





How about this for a New Year’s resolution:  Fill your 2015 with musica!  Here are two musical groups that deserve our La Bloga attention:  “La Santa Cecilia” and “Cascada de Flores.”  Both groups are different in sound, rhythms, acoustics, and yet they are similar in their efforts to bring us traditional songs with a modern and/or urban/working class twist.  Their music, then, takes on an important relevance to our cultural, political, and historical moment. 

La Santa  Cecilia with their Grammy (Grammy Awards, January 2014)
“La Santa Cecilia” is one bold, brash, and colorful conjunto.  La Mirasoul (Marisol Hernandez), the group’s lead singer is a powerhouse of energy.  Her gorgeous singing is accompanied by Jose “Pepe” Carlos, (accordion and requinto); Miguel “Oso” Ramirez, (percussion); Alex Bendana (bass); Hugo Varagas, (drummer); Marco Sandoval (guitarist).  Together, they take rancheras, norteñas, cumbias, Afro-Cuban, Bossa Nova, folk, rock, jazz to create a sound that is fresh, provocative, and intellectual while seducing you to the dance floor.  You can’t help but move with “La Santa Cecilia.” 

 Their latest album, “Someday News” (2014) follows their Grammy-winning album, “Treinta Dias” (2013).  When La Santa Cecilia received their Grammy award, they made sure to dedicate it to the undocumented workers in the U.S.  (click here) The video to their song, “Ice El Hielo,” places a heartbreaking lens on immigration workers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  (click to watch ithere!)

In “Someday News,” their video cover of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” is another triumph in taking a classic song and offering it to us in a much more sobering light.  (click to watch it here!)

In their website bio, the musical ensemble, “Cascada de Flores,” is described as a group “dedicated to the exploration, preservation, and dissemination of Mexican and Caribbean traditional music and dance.  Arwen Lawrence (vocals) and Jorge Liceaga (guitar) are the creative force behind ‘Cascada de Flores,’ celebrated for their heartfelt and authentic approach to old classics from Mexico and the Caribbean (ranchera, bolero, guaracha) weaving in traditional poetic dance musc from the countryside (son).”
"Cascada de Flores" conjunto
“Cascada de Flores” latest album, “Radio Flor” is an amazing compendium of classic songs.  Like “La Santa Cecilia,” “Cascada de Flores” takes traditional songs and brings a fresh, vibrant patina to each one.  Unlike “La Santa Cecilia,” “Cascada de Flores” seeks to stay in the realm of traditional music.  For example, check out their version of “LaChuparrosa” (click here). 


Together, both musical groups are a lovely blend of transnational, border musica. 

I’m wishing you all a dance-filled 2015!
"La Santa Cecilia" 

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6. Some stuff Anglos taught a Chicnao author


In an interview, Sherman Alexie once told Bill Moyers, "I know a lot more about being white than you know about being Indian.”

Similarly, Latino authors likely know a lot more about Anglos than Anglos do about us. This regularly plays out in some Latino literature's Anglo characters. This brings to mind growing up in San Antonio decades ago, and how Anglos gradually worked their way into my life. Although mine is no template for the "Chicano lifestyle," here's how it taught me the first things I learned about Anglos.

A highway like this "improved" my 1st neighborhood
Given the decrepitude of ageing, I don't remember most of the names, but the first one was a neighborhood kid my age, maybe five. He came over regularly and taught me that playing "cowboys and Indians" was fun. Ignorant of the fact that I was part "Indian," we'd ride around the dirt yard on our stick horses, shooting at each other, falling down, and getting dirty. I sort of remember sometimes getting to be the cowboy. He taught me that some Anglos would play with me.

The next ones were female teachers, first through third grade. They were mostly nice, even if I don't remember what I learned from them. Before entering first grade, mi 'amá had already taught me to read, so I assume I picked up whatever math and writing I was supposed to learn because I kept passing to the next grade. The teachers taught me that teachers were Anglo women.

Two incidents in elementary school stick out in my mind. The first was halfway through first grade. Our teacher announced that three of us were being skipped into higher grades. This one poor white boy who could've been twelve years old--the biggest, burliest kid--was being "skipped" to third grade, which was probably still less than age-appropriate for him. I remember thinking the teacher just wanted him gone from her room. From him I learned there were Anglos were much less intelligent than me, even if they were bigger, older and meaner.

Then our teacher announced that two of us--I think the other one was named Judy--were skipping into second grade. That meant something to other kids, my parents, relatives, and the teacher, but I don't remember being impressed by this, since I didn't know what it meant.

Judy gave me another memory, of dancing. During one of those school activities everyone had to participate in, maybe May Day. Out on the playground, we were all paired up and for some reason, nerd-brain, skinny, too-tall, blond Judy got paired up with the shortest kid--a "Mexican" as we called ourselves--who was me. I faked it, going around in circles, thinking I it was supposed to be having fun. Though, not as much fun as getting to be the cowboy. From Judy, I learned Anglo girls would at times be willing to hold my hand, at least in public.

San Anto was the military's playground
Next came my uncle Jack, a military-lifer who later married my mother's sister. He was real white, tall and big, loud and always made his presence known. Whenever the couple came by our house was a treat, probably because their income was higher than most of the family. Before they had any of their own kids, Uncle Jack would take me out while he courted my aunt. The best time was a zoo visit where I got to eat lots of junk because he could afford it. He taught me the military had it much better than most people, though maybe his Anglo-ness had something to do with his good fortune.

Projects like where we lived
About my age, Mary B. didn't teach me as much as I'd have liked. In the federal projects where we lived, her family was one of the few Anglo families around. She had an older sister who was a template for juvenile delinquency, and sort of respected by all the younger kids. Whenever they let her out of juvey or prison, she'd visit with her latest tattooed boyfriend who also looked like he was on parole. They taught me there were tough, young Anglos in the world, whenever they were let out.

Marie B's were shorter than this
Mary B. could've been my first love, or at least experience, except that never happened. She was hotter than her older sister and usually wore shorts that couldn't have been cut any shorter. Neighborhood culture dictated she was unapproachable because she was white, something I didn't understand. For my only teen birthday party I can remember, I invited her and, chingau, she showed up. I danced with her at least once and that was as close to heaven or to Mary B.'s shorts that I ever got. Like Judy, she taught me Anglo girls would dance with you in public, but that my life experiences might be limited to that.

like the coach who "taught" me
There were so few Anglo kids in my junior high (middle) school, none of them would've stuck out. The gym coach, however, taught me corporal punishment and how much it hurt. I got busted doing some regular-Mexican-kid obscenity to another Mexican kid, in jest. But it wasn't funny to the teacher establishment. The board the coach used on the two of us--the "victim" of my jest was deemed guilty as me--taught me to never get caught again. That's how I learned that an Anglo's "paddle" could hit as hard as my pinchefather's leather belt.

My mother snuck me into another school district so I've get a college-prep education. Thomas Jefferson was heavily Anglo, from higher incomes and taller parents, and being the shortest kid from being skipped a grade became a bigger joke; most of the kids were a foot taller than me. I learned they were much more silent around me and resembled actors on TV or commercials, with nicer clothes, make-up and styles of strutting that showed they were better than other humans.

Real pic of my high school
I had some great Anglo teachers, especially in the sciences, possibly why I later imagined studying to become a physicist. I don't remember facing prejudice from the teachers, but that might've been due to my I.Q., more than anything else.

My French teacher came straight out of an 18th century novel. She exuded European style and aloofness that I'd never seen in any "Mexican." Despite being ignored by most of the Anglo student body, I'd come to understand it wasn't that hard to get good grades, especially A's. There was only one student better than me in French class, and her grandmother was French-born.

Everybody knew your grades
Each grading period, we'd go up to the blackboard and write down every one of our grades that the French teacher dictated to us, and then figure out our average. As a private joke, through three years of French, I made it a point to totally fail one test. So, I'd stand at the board, copying down A after A, but always with one F. It was obvious what I'd done. Funny thing is, no student, much less the teacher, was ever impressed by this. It took me years to understand how difficult it was for old or young Anglos to admit when a Mexican could do better than them. And how much they didn't like being involved in my sarcasm.

I could write a book: How Chess Can Pay for Your Lunch
The only friends I had in high school were other nerds, the straight-As, headed-to-Harvard kids who sat together before school playing chess or sat at the lunch table playing chess. No other club, except for science clubs, would have them as members. I was comfortable among them, especially since the only way I ever had money to buy a Coke or breakfast was from beating them at chess.

One of them--name withheld--was as fat as Fat Albert and became my best friend. With coke-bottle lenses, he was definitely smarter than me, possibly the smartest kid in the school of a thousand. Midway through, he spent a summer losing weight, getting contact lenses, and returned as New Hunk on campus, and was admitted into the exclusive club for the richest, cool Anglos. He still came around us, and I learned that if you were Anglo, you could change your outside appearance and improve your status in society.

Berkeley radicalism my best friend's parents saved him from
After we graduated, that best friend and I played tennis for the summer, until we got into a fight over a racquet, and he disappeared. I don't remember why we got in the fight, whose "fault" it was. He taught me I could have Anglo best friends, at least for a stretch. He also taught me that Anglos were sometimes smarter than me, were able to raise their societal standing, and could be accepted to schools like Univ. of Berkeley.

last time I returned to San Anto, for my novel
When his parents refused to let him go to that college, because of the student radicalism of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, he taught me Anglos could be more fragile than me, who'd only be accepted to UT. His suicide wasn't the last thing I learned about Anglos, but it's enough, for now.

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano fabulist-mextasy author Rudy Ch. Garcia, striving to put on paper some of the things I learned about Anglos. And others. And some things I never learned.

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7. We Travel by Train


Melinda Palacio

The Santa Barbara Amtrak Depot
Santa Barbara
All Aboard!



The first thing I wanted to do after driving back to Santa Barbara from New Orleans was visit my sister. The parking lot on the 101 freeway gave me some reservation until my friend Lora suggested I take the train. A trip on the Pacific Surfliner was among the best presents I could have given to myself. Fellow Bloguero, Rene Colato Lainez took the train from Union Station in Los Angeles to Santa Barbara earlier this year with a group of writers. They did a mini writing residency on the nearly three-hour ride. When they set foot in Santa Barbara they were happy to briefly leave their lives behind in Los Angeles and enjoy a beautiful day in Santa Barbara. I was just as happy to make a similar trip last Sunday to Los Angeles.
Union Station, the Los Angeles Amtrak Depot

You can go anywhere in the country from Union Station.
Downtown L.A.
I met my sister and Marley for lunch at Olvera Street. While there are plenty of better Mexican restaurants a little further away from the center of where it all began, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, I enjoyed playing tourist for a day. We also had the pleasure of meeting fellow Bloguero, Michael Sedano, for lunch.
Inside Union Station

Although we laughed and joked about Michael's last days on this earth (He goes back to surgery next week.), I expect Michael to not have any visits with his ancestors or hiccups with his hospital visit. Earlier this year, a trip to the ER and OR caused him to miss the International Latino/Latina Studies conference in Chicago, where La Bloga also celebrated our 10th anniversary. This was the same conference I missed because I broke my leg last Summer.

Michael Sedano 

Sunday, the weather was picture perfect. I've always realized Union Station's stature. Although I grew up a few miles away, near Alameda Street, the train station frequently served as a backdrop for movies and television shows. Although my family rarely took the Amtrak to Del Rio, Texas, the station loomed in the background, on our way to Chinatown, Highland Park, or Pasadena. And as seen on TV or in the movies, I arrived to a sunny town lined with palm trees, mountains to my right and sky scrapers beyond Olivera Street, my lunch destination.


This first weekend of the new year, I may find myself on the train again, although the trip to Berkeley is much longer and not as direct as the ride to Los Angeles. On Sunday, January 4, I have the honor of reading at the benefit for Michele Serros at the Berkeley (my alma mater) Alumni House. If you are in the bay area, join us for a dinner andfloricanto benefit for Michele Serros on Sunday.
Join us for a dinner and floricanto in honor of Michele Serros



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8. Happy NEW Year, gente!











Blogueros share their 

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS


for some Bloga-style accountability...  

Michael's:
"I can count my 2015 resolutions on one hand:
Attend to HEALTH and RECOVERY.
FIGURE OUT what happened on The Other Side by writing it down.
  USE GoPro camera to video The Gluten-free Chicano's RECIPES,
 Conduct WORKSHOPS FOR POETS and other writers to develop oral performance skills.
CELEBRATE turning seventy on my 47th wedding anniversary.
"

Amelia's:
"My resolutions are to continue MEDITATION practice, 
to continue the morning "send out” of calming and HEALING ENERGIES
to all sentient beings,
to continue this wondrous LOVE and generosity of familia (friends also being familia), 
which also leads to excellent work practices,
leading to the joy in my writing/research/teaching.  May I send out these two books into the world this year, and let go of all
that is not necessary, let go of all that is not connected to love."

Manuel's:
"I resolve to write the BEST damn book I can in 2015."







Rudy's:

"I do resolutions every day, 
hopefully not out of regret or self-abuse. Because 
the future's always bright as long as there's 
rebelliousyoung people, and some old ones, 
 still young-thinking
2015 could surprise us more than ever 
and make the 60s and 70s pale in comparison. 
Maybe I resolve to stick around to see that."

Daniel's: 
"I resolve to find publishers for my new short-story 
and poetry collections...and lose ten pounds."

Melinda's
"No more broken bones or broken body parts or broken spirit. Adios 2014! I resolve to undue all the damage done by my broken leg. I will walk with confidence and grace and, now and then, I will break into a strut and dance down the street. Sure, I want to lose weight and clean house more often, but writing and reading will come first. I wish everyone a kind and loving 2015. Cheers

 René's:
"Write more often in my personal blog,
Finish writing my middle grade novel,
Continue writing more picture books and
Be happy for the next 52 coming weeks.
Feliz año 2015"



 Ernesto's:
"I'm going to finish those neglected fiction projects,
and do more art, dammit!"

Lydia's:

"I'm going to enjoy doing things badly
like playing the piano and ice skating... 
And baking at altitude.
I'm not going to take on other people's stress...
(I'll smile and let them deal with it).
I will WRITE more and regret less..."




Xanath's:



"I want to be happy.  For 2015, I want to publish my new collection of poetry, Ocelocihuatl, but must importantly I want everyone to find inner peace and spread it throughout the world.  We need it; do I sound cliché?  Good, because I do really want peace for the world.  Blogueros y Blogueras keep up the good work and I wish you a healthy 2015, peace and creativity.  Be kind and write some poesía.


FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR OWN RESOLUTIONS...
(We'll revisit this list at the end of the year).


HAPPY NEW YEAR!  ¡FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

2015

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9. Happy New Year 2015/ Feliz año 2015






EL BRINDIS BOHEMIO

Guillermo Aguirre Fierro (Mexicano)
El Paso, Texas 1915

En torno de una mesa de cantina,
una noche de invierno,
regocijadamente departían
seis alegres bohemios.

Los ecos de sus risas escapaban
y de aquel barrio quieto
iban a interrumpir el imponente
y profundo silencio.

El humo de olorosos cigarillos
en espirales se elevaba al cielo,
simbolizando al resolverse en nada,
la vida de los sueños.

Pero en todos los labios había risas,
inspiración en todos los cerebros,
y, repartidas en la mesa, copas
pletóricas de ron, whisky o ajenjo.

Era curioso ver aquel conjunto,
aquel grupo bohemio,
del que brotaba la palabra chusca,
la que vierte veneno,
lo mismo que, melosa y delicada,
la música de un verso.

A cada nueva libación, las penas
hallábanse más lejos
del grupo, y nueva inspiración llegaba
a todos los cerebros,
con el idilio roto que venía
en alas del recuerdo.

Olvidaba decir que aquella noche,
aquel grupo bohemio
celebraba entre risas, libaciones,
chascarrillos y versos,
la agonía de un año que amarguras
dejó en todos los pechos,
y la llegada, consecuencia lógica,
del "feliz año nuevo".

Una voz varonil dijo de pronto:
- las doce, compañeros;
digamos el "requiescat" por el año
que ha pasado a formar entre los muertos.
¡Brindemos por el año que comienza!
porque nos traiga ensueños;
porque no sea su equipaje un cúmulo
de amargos desconsuelos.

- Brindo, dijo otra voz, por la esperanza
que la vida nos lanza,
de vencer los rigores del destino,
por la esperanza, nuestra dulce amiga,
que las penas mitiga
y convierte en vergel nuestro camino.

Brindo porque ya hubiere a mi existencia
puesto fin con violencia
esgrimiendo en mi frente mi venganza;
si en mi cielo de tul limpio y divino
no alumbrara mi sino
una pálida estrella: Mi esperanza.

¡Bravo!, dijeron todos, inspirado
esta noche has estado
y hablaste bueno, breve y substancioso.
El turno es de Raúl; alce su copa
y brinde por . . . Europa,
ya que su extranjerismo es delicioso.

Bebo y brindo, clamó el interpelado;
brindo por mi pasado,
que fue de luz, de amor y de alegría,
y en el que hubo mujeres seductoras
y frentes soñadoras
que se juntaron con la frente mía.

Brindo por el ayer que en la amargura
que hoy cubre de negrura
mi corazón, esparce sus consuelos
trayendo hasta mi mente las dulzuras
de goces, de ternuras,
de dichas, de deliquios, de desvelos.

-Yo brindo, dijo Juan, porque en mi mente
brote un torrente
de inspiración divina y seductora,
porque vibre en las cuerdas de mi lira
el verso que suspira,
que sonríe, que canta y que enamora.

Brindo porque mis versos cual saetas
lleguen hasta las grietas
formadas de metal y de granito,
del corazón de la mujer ingrata
que a desdenes me mata.
¡pero que tiene un cuerpo muy bonito!

Porque a su corazón llegue mi canto,
porque enjuguen mi llanto
sus manos que me causan embelesos;
porque con creces mi pasión me pague.
¡vamos!, porque me embriague
con el divino néctar de sus besos.

Siguió la tempestad de frases vanas,
de aquellas tan humanas
que hallan en todas partes acomodo,
y en cada frase de entusiasmo ardiente,
hubo ovación creciente,
y libaciones, y reir, y todo.

Se brindó por la patria, por las flores,
por los castos amores
que hacen un valladar de una ventana,
y por esas pasiones voluptuosas
que el fango del placer llena de rosas
y hacen de la mujer la cortesana.

Sólo faltaba un brindis, el de Arturo,
el del bohemio puro,
de noble corazón y gran cabeza;
aquel que sin ambages declaraba
que sólo ambicionaba
robarle inspiración a la tristeza.

Por todos lados estrechado, alzó la copa
frente a la alegre tropa
desbordante de risa y de contento
los inundó en la luz de una mirada,
sacudió su melena alborotada
y dijo así, con inspirado acento:

-Brindo por la mujer, mas no por esa
en la que halláis consuelo en la tristeza,
rescoldo del placer ¡desventurados!
no por esa que os brinda sus hechizos
cuando besáis sus rizos
artificiosamente perfumados.

Yo no brindo por ella, compañeros,
siento por esta vez no complaceros.
Brindo por la mujer, pero por una,
por la que me brindó sus embelesos
y me envolvió en sus besos;
por la mujer que me arrulló en la cuna.

Por la mujer que me enseñó de niño
lo que vale el cariño
exquisito, profundo y verdadero;
por la mujer que me arrulló en sus brazos
y que me dió en pedazos
uno por uno, el corazón entero.

¡Por mi madre! bohemios, por la anciana
que piensa en el mañana
como en algo muy dulce y muy deseado,
porque sueña tal vez que mi destino
me señala el camino
por el que volveré pronto a su lado.

Por la anciana adorada y bendecida,
por la que con su sangre me dió vida,
y ternura y cariño;
por la que fue la luz del alma mía;
y lloró de alegría
sintiendo mi cabeza en su corpiño.

Por esa brindo yo, dejad que llore,
que en lágrimas desflore
esta pena letal que me asesina;
dejad que brinde por mi madre ausente,
por la que llora y siente
que mi ausencia es un fuego que calcina.

Por la anciana infeliz que sufre y llora
y que del cielo implora
que vuelva yo muy pronto a estar con ella;
por mi madre bohemios, que es dulzura
vertida en mi amargura
y en esta noche de mi vida, estrella.

El bohemio calló; ningún acento
profanó el sentimiento
nacido del dolor y la ternura,
y pareció que sobre aquel ambiente
flotaba inmensamente
un poema de amor y de amargura.

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10. Poet in TedX Talk. Next Year in Havana. Content Creator Contest. 2014 Through a Keyhole

Guest Columnist Raúl Sánchez: Poet's TedX Talk

Raúl Sánchez was surprised to learn that the Yakima County Dream Team was using poems from his poetry collection, All Our Brown-skinned Angels, at immigration rallies and assemblies. He did not realize that had launched a thirst for his, and related work, in the local communities. He was invited to present at TEDx Yakima Salon on October 24. 

Here is Raúl’s account of the presentation at the Yakima Valley Museum.

The process of preparation began by watching the videos already available from other local conferences and cities in order to get the idea of the flow, intent, punctuation and impact to be delivered to the listener.

The theme for the event was “Growth”. The organizers picked that name based on one of the poems in my book titled “Dandelion”. They told me that the metaphor of the fuzzes like words flying in the breeze and landing in the ear of those who listen thereby growing and developing into a new idea, a new poem to heal, moved and inspired others.

I started by describing the genesis of the original idea. On a walk with my daughter, she picked the biggest dandelions and blew the fuzzes with her breath ,watching them fly in the breeze. I immediately thought: What if those fuzzes were the words in a poem and what impact would those words have on people far away from me?

All of us have experienced these feelings when we read poems other poets have published. That was precisely the experience some of the folks in the Yakima Valley experienced when they read or heard the poems at those Dream Team assemblies. I was honored to learn of their response, that my work had an effect on people I’ve never met.

I organized my talk about the experience of creating a poem and how the idea shapes up into a compact story by “using the best words in the best order.”

My presentation highlighted words from W.B. Yates, Philip Larkin and Martín Espada. I was careful to use images the audience would find easy to see in their minds’ eye. I enhanced the pieces using rhythmic alliteration, metaphor and mystery.

I made a point of exactness and slowing down to see what is always there but which remains unappreciated because we are always in a hurry to appreciate other people or the nature around us. That had a tremendous effect as part of the message in the presentation as well as the tenderness expressed when my daughter and I write poems together.

The TedX talk experience brings satisfaction from knowing that my work is appreciated somewhere else, even though I may not have first hand knowledge of the effects of my work. It was a significant honor, being on that stage. It magnified and encouraged me to write poems that seek to inspire and move others, like “Dandelion,” one of my favorite poems in All Our Brown-Skinned Angels.

Dandelion
by Raúl Sánchez

My daughter and I wrote a poem last night
We picked ideas and objects to write about
We mixed them up
in a salad bowl
carefully tossed

We picked funny words
to make happy sounds
We added, repeated, deleted

We laughed and fell to our toes
pretended to be dandelions
waiting for the wind
to shake us up

We acted like daffodils
and tulips soaked in rain
We opened ourselves in the morning
and closed our petals
when the sun ran away

We agreed that our poem
should be like a dandelion
so when shared with others,
the words will float to the ears
of those who listen

Carried by our breath
like the dandelion fuzzes
in the breeze
and so, my daughter and I
wrote a poem last night



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

Brown-Skinned Angels was published in March 2012 by MoonPath Press a small press, Kingston WA.

 Pres. Obama's Cuba-U.S. Initiative Also Means: Read About Travel In Cuba

The New York Times and The Daily Beast both chose La Bloga friend Tom Miller’s book about Cuba among the best reads about the island.  Miller's book, Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels through Castro’s Cuba, was called “fun and engaging,” one that “introduces readers to the country’s intellectual elite, criminals, and ordinary citizens.” Miller has long conducted literary tours of Habana and environs. This year's journey lifts-off on January 3. For details, click here.

March Deadline Looms for Content Creator Contest
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, teaming with BabyFirst TeeVee network, announces annual opportunities for gente without Hollywood or industry conectas to see their childrens programming idea come to fruition. From the NHMC's press release: 


BabyFirst, the TV network devoted to delivering high-quality child development programming to tots and their parents, announced has teamed up with NHMC to launch an annual Latino-themed programming competition.

Called Rising Creators Project, the competition invites emerging talent - writers, musicians, animators and producers - to submit their idea or existing children's TV series for consideration.

An esteemed panel of media executives will select one winner whose show will appear on BabyFirst for two years, reaching 41 million households throughout the U.S.

Entries can be submitted now through March 15, 2015 at www.risingcreators.com.

A panel of judges will review the submissions and select finalists and, ultimately, a winner. The winning producer will then work with the network's production team to create their content or fine-tune their existing work before it premieres on BabyFirst.

The winner will fully own the rights to the series and will be entitled to 50% of revenues the series directly generates across platforms other than the BabyFirst television network.

All submissions must be suitable for children 2-4 years old, and should have an educational basis for early childhood learning. Acceptable content includes music, animation, scripts, show concepts and existing works. The content should embody and embrace Latino culture. Judges will consider educational and entertainment value, ingenuity, age-appropriateness and cultural relevance.


Michael Sedano's Highlights of the year--2014

La Bloga reached our Ten Year Anniversary in November. Earlier this year, our one millionth reader visited La Bloga. Thank you for reading La Bloga, for your Comments, for recommending La Bloga to friends and colleagues.

Over the course of a year, La Bloga's eleven writers, plus guest reviewers, present book reviews, new books, foto essays, interviews, original fiction and poetry, loads of literary news, food news including The Gluten-free Chicano's Celiac-friendly recipes, tips and techniques for reading your stuff aloud, and a host of diverse cultural updates.

July was a bummer. Two of La Bloga's writers had medical emergencies in July. Melinda Palacio, who shares Friday with La Bloga co-founder Manuel Ramos, fell down a flight of stairs, bringing horrid pain and a foot that pointed backwards. La Bloga-Tuesday's Michael Sedano had two emergency surgeries, one of which sent him to The Other Side where his ancestors told him to get out of line and burn sage. Whew. Both are back on their feet. Next week, will be Sedano's final column for a while as he returns for more surgery.

Medical highlights aren't the only ones La Bloga notes today. But because so many media produce lists of top ten, top twenty, top N of this and that, today La Bloga highlights three significant 2014 events.

Big screen: they didn't do well but they did it, Chicano filmmakers. Cesar Chavez and Water & Power came and went. With audiences rushing to suck down an outlandish tale of assassination to the tune of a couple million dollars in a few hours, it's a crying shame the box office combined for two Chicano movies with substance won't be as rewarding. The take-away: raza doesn't support raza film. Punto. Here's to 2015 changing that as gente acquire DVD copies of the two movies.

Novels: Poetry continues to be the most productive literary genre for raza writers. But it's novels that bring the big audiences. In 2014, feminist eroticism rubbed me the right way with Ana Castillo's Give It To Me. Castillo's wondrously funny and provocative novel is on those Top- lists, so if your Xmas stocking didn't come with Give It To Me, buy copies for yourself and all your friends. The take-away: give it to your friends.

LA Poetry scene: A generally high level of expertise among Los Angeles presenters continues with literary events ranging from Eric Contreras' garage in Bell to LA's newest public park, to important art galleries like Avenue50Studio. As in past years, many readers remain in their comfort zone, stuck to the page, minimal eye contact, limited personal contact with the audience. The take-away: Poets, your art deserves better readings. In a notable and wonderful change, the year ends with Luis J. Rodriguez giving an SRO audience a fabulously energized presentation.

In other poetry news, La Bloga's On-line Floricanto became a monthly feature after four years going weekly. Poetry is current events; we share our sorrow and outrage que faltamos 43. The emotions of Vivos los queremos will outlive 2014.

¿What are your 2014 highlights in Chicana Chicano Latina Latino literatura, cultura, life, y más? Leave a Comment to share two or three of your personal 2014 highlights.

See you next week, next year, same difference. And when you wish your friends a happy new year in Spanish, don't forget that tilde.

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11. When in Seattle Do as Los Norteños Writers Do


By Xánath Caraza

 

Los Norteños Writers, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle University (Department of Women and Gender Studies and Department of Modern Languages and Cultures), Hugo House, la Sala, José Carrillo, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Catalina Cantú, Robert Francis Flor, Denise Perez, Alex Bautista, Jim Cantú y todos, mil gracias for planning and sponsoring such a meaningful visit to incredible Seattle from December 10 to December 14, 2014.

 


Oh, yes, we had two wonderful poetry presentations, three poetry workshops, one writers workshop and one teacher training workshop.  Seattle kept me happy busy, just as I love my visits.


 
 

Today, I have several guest writers.  First is Kriten Millares from Seattle, who was kind enough to moderate our reading at Hugo House on December 12, and then I also have several poems from some adultos y some niños y niñas who were part of my workshops in Seattle.

 




Here is a piece from Kristen Millares, a few photos of the marvelous different events and poetry, la poesía written by all these norteños y norteñas y con esto me despido.  Happy 2015 y viva la poesía!

 
LAS PALABRAS DE KRISTEN MILLARES

                Few poets claim the stage like Xánath Caraza.  Forget the modulated singsong of poetry voice.  Caraza resounds.  She sings.  She breathes new life into her work with every performance.  In short, she delivers.


            I was honored to introduce Caraza’s reading at Seattle’s Richard Hugo House on December 12th along with Los Norteños poets Jose Carrillo and Catalina Cantú, who organized a series of readings and workshops to celebrate Caraza’s new book, Sílabas de Viento/Syllables of Wind, just released by Mammoth Publications, which also published her collection Conjuro in 2012.
 
 

 

                But what does it mean to deliver a poem?  Consider her poem “Yanga,” reproduced in part here with permission of the author. 

Yanga, Yanga, Yanga,
Yanga, Yanga, Yanga,
Hoy, tu espíritu invoco
Aquí, en este lugar.

Este, este es mi poema para Yanga,
Mandinga, malanga, bamba.
Rumba, mambo, samba,
Palabras llegadas de África.


            In a linguistic tradition practiced by poets like Nicolás Guillén, Caraza summons the contributions of African culture to her motherland with onomatopoetic repetitions that recall percussive chants.  Sounds academic, right?  It wasn’t.  


            While Caraza is a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, her stage presence is bold and anchored the deep reverberations of her voice and created an atmosphere in which anything might happen – in which the fugitive slave leader Yanga might appear, if only in the imaginations of the audience. 


            The recordings from that powerful night are not yet online, but you can sample Caraza’s style by listening to her read “Ante el río,”selected by the Smithsonian to promote Day of the Dead in 2013.  Published in Conjuro, I’ve reproduced “Ante el río” below with permission from Caraza.  Learn more about her at http://xanathcaraza.webs.com.

Ante el río

Como llorona estoy ante el río

Lamentándome por ti

Niño perdido

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!

 

Como lagarto estoy sobre las piedras

Esperándote

En el río

 

Ave negra que nace del agua

Que abre sus alas

Y deja su historia salpicada

En el cauce del río

 

Dejando surcos en su vuelo bajo

Con su vientre pegado al río

Trinar sobre mis oídos

Rumor del agua

 

Bugambilias anaranjadas, fucsias, rosadas y blancas

Que están en mis sueños y

Me llenan la garganta

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!

 

Eres tú el brujo y hechicero

Que se mete en mis sueños

Con el agua te lavo

Y te canto ante al río

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! Niño perdido

 

Como Llorona estoy

Ante el río

Llévate mi tristeza niño hermoso

Lava mis penas en el río

 
Before the River

 
As Llorona I am before the river

Moaning for you

Niño perdido

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!

 

As an alligator I am on the river stones

Waiting for you

In the river

 

Black bird born of the water

Opens its wings

And leaves its history sprinkled

By the flow of the river

Leaves tracks in its low flight

With its underside close to the river

Singing above my ears

Murmuring of water

 

Orange, fuchsia, pink and white buganvilias

Are in my dreams and

Fill my throat

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!

 

You are the wizard and sorcerer

Who enters into my dreams

With water I wash you

And I sing to you before the river

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! Niño perdido

 

As Llorona I am

Before the river

Take my sadness with you beautiful niño

Wash my sorrows in the river


 


Kristen Millares Young is a writer and journalist whose work has been featured by the Guardian, the New York Times, KUOW 94.9-FM, City Arts MagazinePacifica Literary Review, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Miami Herald and TIME Magazine.  Kristen was the researcher for the NYT 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning story “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” which also won a Peabody.  Hailed by The Stranger as one of the “fresh new faces in Seattle fiction,” she was a 2014 Jack Straw Writing Fellow. She has been researching and writing her first novel for seven years.  Kristen graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and from the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Washington, where she studied and taught creative writing.  She is a co-founder and board member of InvestigateWest, a nonprofit journalism center in the northwest.       


LA POESÍA DE LOS ADULTOS

 
 

Daisy Chain

By José Carrillo

 

I had a dream

the sky was filled with blue stems

showers of them on the ground

they turned to daisies.

My hair, as if ready to welcome them,

stretched all the way down

to greet them

I loved the rising flowers on me

I looked at them, smelled them

for a long time

soon they began to grow out of my body

until I became one with them.

To my surprise

I heard someone in the distance

shout my name: Margarita!

 

Also by José Carrillo here is his interpretation of my poem “Yanga”.
 

 

El Juego

By Denise Pérez Lally

 

Red Rover, Red Rover

The Queen asks, “Please come over.”

This dimond crown, so loved, so cherished, and worn with honor

…should not deceive you.

I ask myself, would you recognize me, sweating from waiting tables,

Or crawling on my hands

And knees cleaning their floors,

Or caring desperately for their children.

How did I get her? And to think those

Closest to me were left behind…

Red Rover, Red Rover.

 
 

My Primavera

By Denise Pérez Lally

 

Dolor, esperanza y sol

My country this’ of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

My primavera,

Where is she?

 
 

Dear Mirella

By Xilen Ramírez

 

Too often,

mujeres Latinas,

mujeres de color,

are painted into de background. 

I’m here to tell you that

we don’t have to stay there.

 We can come out,

 and we can paint

our own vision

 of the world.

 

 

Movimiento

by Catalina M. Cantú

 

Day two of First Grade, I was shoved and called a nigger.

It was the first time; I heard the “n word”.

I felt their venom in my pores.

Teachers were mute.

 

Northwest postage stamp town of chalk people.

Where ever my family walked, they stopped us.

What are you?

Where are you from?

 

Papa, his wavy, ebony hair slicked back,

elegant in his suit, tie, and shinned shoes.

Met his ill dressed inquisitors with a stony gaze,

We are Americans, born in the U.S. of A.

 

Chalk people chortled and shook their pointed heads.

Their rancid racism reeked.

We escaped that time

And the next.

 

As a boy, Papa saw men lynched in Texas.

His pluck moved us further north

Not to a global city melting pot.

But, Surburbia with Barbie, Ken and their schools.

 

The Civil Rights movement tugged at my heart.

Where did I fit in the world?

Who were my people?

MECHA meeting brewed the tempest in my soul.

 

Doe-eyed whisper

Ravenous desire

Flor y canto.

 

Pungent rage

fueled by injustice howls

Justicia y libertad.

 

Sirens crush

Pavement kissed

Pinche vida.

 

Venceremos roar

Pomegranate gritos

Viva La Raza!


LA POESÍA DE LOS NIÑOS Y NIÑAS

 

¿Qué eres?

By Fernando B.

 

Yo hombre

Hombre soldado

Hombre fuerte

Hombre bueno

Hombre grande

Hombre de luz

Hombre de paz

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12. Birdman Unbroken: A Film and A Book Review

Today La Bloga welcomes two guest bloggers, Maritza Álvarez and Sandra C. Muñoz. Here are their reviews on the film Birdman and the novel Unbroken. Enjoy!

Review of Birdman by Maritza Álvarez






"If you don't do something that does not terrify you,
why do it?"
 
-Alejandro G. Iñárritu









Prior to Alejandro G. Iñárritu's recent film Birdman, it had been too long since I watched a worthwhile film. También la lluvia or Even The Rain, directed by Spanish actress Iciar Bollain, was the last film that left me with a deep respect for storytelling on the silver screen. También la lluvia is about a Spanish film crew's attempt to shoot a historical period piece about the colonization of the Americas. Concurrently as the film is being shot, the indigenous population is organizing to protect their local water sources from neo-colonial government policies and corporate privatization. The film crew's producer and director are confronted with the challenging decision to either “do whatever it takes to get the shot” or to re-evaluate their principals as humans and do what they must to support the current indigenous uprising to protect the water. It's a highly charged political piece told with courageous directing and creative spirit. Right as my fix for film creativity was running low, here comes Birdman with a refreshing dose of cinema storytelling.


Birdman, co-written and directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, is a film about surrendering, trusting, and letting go. Its cast has an array of hard-hitters, like Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone. But the grand slam lead is none other than the Birdman himself, Michael Keaton. His performance is impeccable and has Oscar nomination written all over it. Since Amores Perros, my respect for Mexican director Iñárritu was born. His sensibilities for me were always on target. His characters portrayed the gamut of human complexities and emotions. In a world where rationality, emotional distance, and coldness are so ingrained at every level, Iñárritu's films (21 Grams, Babel, Beutiful) are reminders that validate our vulnerability as humans. His characters and stories portray issues of class, global migration, and alienation. In contrast, Birdman soars on a distinct and introspective level. It is primarily about the struggle between an artist and his alter ego. Despite the exclusiveness of the film's focus (upper class white privileged actors), the voice that haunts Keaton throughout the film is representative of that internal voice that most of us struggle with when we doubt, seek validation, or simply wish to escape. Iñárritu is unafraid in developing Keaton's character. We witness the character's borderline delusional self as he is pushed to the edge of his artistry as an actor and director. Keaton's anxiety-ridden character is often hanging on the ledge, yet fear does not hold him back. As viewers, we are on an emotional roller coaster, riding through the dim lit hallways and dressing rooms of Broadway's St. James theater. True, all the characters are white in this film (except for one anonymous black Jazz drummer), but the range of complex human emotions portrayed in each of the characters are well worth the two-hour ride. Perhaps Iñárritu's artistic choice of long shots that appear un-cut also help the audience not feel removed from the story. At one point I thought, “What the hell do I care about this white dude who is complaining about his midlife crisis and trying to prove to himself and others that he is worthy?” But that moment was brief. I was immediately drawn back into the story when Birdman's daughter (played by Emma Stone) poses that same question to Keaton. In reality, who does not struggle with issues of self worth? The difference is that some of us hide it better. For me, “Birdman” is an honest, courageous, and creative story about the redemption of the human spirit in the arts. Once again, Iñárritu's creation has fearlessly taken flight into new and daring realms.

Review of Unbroken by Sandra C. Muñoz


 

 

I have always been intrigued by the subject of World War II, mainly because my father fought in the war when he was a part of the U.S. Army. My father's death when I was 10 years old deprived me of the opportunity to learn the details of his own personal battles during that time. He was a recovering alcoholic throughout the short time that I knew him and I suspect the demons resulting from his time in Germany were the root cause of his addiction. Even without this backstory, Unbroken is a magnificent story but, for me, Unbroken also connected me to my father. This is the story of Louis Zamperini who, to say the absolute least, lead the most remarkable of lives. From the streets of Torrance, California to the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the brutality of various prisoner of war camps in Japan in the 1940s, his life is a testament to sheer human perseverance, strength, and will. Just when I'm sure he (and I as a reader) imagined things could not possibly get worse, they always did. There were moments when I had to put the book aside because the severe adversity to which Zamperini was subjected was utterly overwhelming and I could not keep reading.

Laura Hillenbrand is an astounding storyteller. Her ability to weave necessary data and facts into these human stories is remarkable. In so doing, she provides historical context without ever muddling the intimacy and the humanity of the stories she has clearly thoroughly researched. This is the kind of book that never leaves you and that makes you feel that, in the face of all that is bad in this world, everything will be ok.

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13. For you writers, belated presents for your works

What you wanted wasn't under any tree this week. So, to give you some inspiration, here's things stuck in the bottom of your stocking. Hope they give you some ganasto begin the new year. Check all upcoming deadlines.


Nakum - a website for mestizo writers
For Chicanos y otros to connect their writing better to our indio roots.

Info from the website: "For centuries, the identities of the peoples native to the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico have been subject to legal, political, and social interpretations that serve colonial interests.  The mission of Nakum, the Coahuiltecan word meaning “we speak” or “I speak to you,” is to offer a public forum through which scholars of Native and Chicana/o studies can do precisely what the title suggests: speak from their own perspectives.

"In keeping with the general mission of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, this journal offers a space for the continued exploration of Hispanics’ indigenous identities.  The journal thus brings together many of the conversations that the Institute has cultivated and, through its online presence, makes them available to a vast and growing audience of scholars, journalists, creative writers, and students with an abiding interest in hearing the voices of those who contribute to those discussions."


Open call for Sci-Fi reprints

Deadline: 4 January 2015.
Upper Rubber Boot Books issued an open call for reprintsubmissions for an upcoming anthology of fiction and poetry, The Museum of All Things Awesome And That Go Boom, to be published in 2016.

"Editor Joanne Merriam is interested in explosions, adventure, derring-do, swashbuckling, dinosaurs, ray guns, von Neumann machines, fanged monsters, flame-throwing killer robots, chainsaws, antimatter, and blunt force trauma. She is also interested in writing which explodes our perspective of science fiction itself—literary fiction employing SF tropes, cyberpunk, speculative fiction, magical realism, infernokrusher, etc., are all welcome."


Open call for First Contact submissions

Book Smugglers Publishing is looking for original short stories from all around the world, written in English. "Our goal is to publish at least three short stories, unified by a central theme. Each short story will be accompanied by one original piece of artwork from an artist commissioned by us separately.

"The theme is: FIRST CONTACT. While we are huge fans of aliens and would very much like to receive submissions featuring first contact with aliens, we would love to receive a broader pool of stories and traditions. We welcome authors to subvert this theme, to expand horizons and adapt the prompt to other possible connotations and genres within the Speculative Fiction umbrella.

"What We’re Looking For:
Diversity. We want to read and publish short stories that reflect the diverse world we live in, about and from traditionally underrepresented perspectives.
• Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult audience submissions are welcome.
Creativity & Subversion. We love subversive stories. We want you to challenge the status quo with your characters, story telling technique, and themes.
• We are looking for original speculative fiction, between 1,500 and 17,500 words long. These SFF offerings must be previously unpublished."


Hidden Youth: Submissions

Crossed Genres Publications will publish Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History (expected release Jan., 2016).

"We welcome stories by authors from all walks of life. We especially encourage submissions from members of marginalized groups within the speculative fiction community, including (but not limited to) people of color; people who are not from or living in the U.S.A.; QUILTBAG and GSM people; people with disabilities, chronic illness, or mental illness; and atheists, agnostics, and members of religious minorities. The protagonists of your story do not have to mirror your own heritage, identities, beliefs, or experiences.

"We also especially encourage short story submissions from people who don’t usually write in this format, including poets, playwrights, essayists and authors of historical fiction and historical romance."
Follow submission details carefully. Submissions due April 30, 2015


Before you sign a contract–things writers should know now


An article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch contains only her opinions about where U.S. publishing is headed. It's not all good, but seems to be worth knowing about. Read it after half a bottle of whiskey.

 

From: Business Musings: What Traditional Publishing Learned in 2014.

"Change has been happening for years, as mergers and acquisitions grew. Some of it has come from the fact that the large companies have finally understood the impact ebooks and online shopping have had on the industry.

"Much of the change is in response to 2013’s dismal fall sales, which happened courtesy of the Justice Department’s investigation of six major publishers and Apple for price-fixing. It didn’t matter how that case turned out; the case itself changed business as usual inside publishing."

Es todo, este año,

RudyG

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14. Good News for the New Year




The First Chicano Movie Is Added To The National Film Registry

Earlier this month twenty-five movies were added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The films were recognized as "cultural, historical or aesthetic cinematic treasures."

The list included Saving Private Ryan, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Big Lebowski. But it also included some lesser known ones, like the 1976 drama Please, Don't Bury Me Alive! (¡Por Favor, No Me Entierren Vivo!)

The film was directed by Efraín Gutiérrez and historians consider it the first Chicano feature film.

Professor Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, and director Efraín Gutiérrez joined Take Two on Southern California Public Radio, KPCC, 89.3 FM, to talk about the film, how it was recovered, and its place in American film history. Click here for the interview.

The announcement from the National Film Registry said:

Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
The San Antonio barrio in the early 1970s is the setting for writer, director and star Efraín Gutiérrez’s independent piece, considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film. A self-taught filmmaker, Gutiérrez not only created the film from top to bottom on a shoestring, he also acted as its initial distributor and chief promoter, negotiating bookings throughout the Southwest where it filled theaters in Chicano neighborhoods. He tells his story in the turbulent days near the end of the Vietnam War, as a young Chicano man questioning his and his people’s place in society as thousands of his Latino brethren return from the war in coffins. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, wrote, "The film is important as an instance of regional filmmaking, as a bicultural and bilingual narrative, and as a precedent that expanded the way that films got made." Cultural historians often compare Gutiérrez to Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African-American filmmaker who came to prominence in the 1920s.




__________________________________________________________________________________


Chicanos Visit The State Capitol - From Justicia y Libertad

The recent half-hour documentary about the Colorado Chicano Movement aired by The Colorado Experience on Rocky Mountain PBS is now available for streaming at the RMPBS site. Click here to see the show. This is a very good project featuring several knowledgeable commentators including La Bloga's friend Pocho Joe of radio station KUVO in Denver.




RMPBS also has archived online its two part series entitled La Raza de Colorado. Episode One is La Historia; Episode Two is El Movimiento. These documentaries are each an hour long and offer a much broader and deeper view of Chicano history in Colorado. Click here for Episode One. Go here for Episode Two.

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The Recording Academy® announced its Special Merit Awards recipients, and this year's recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards are: the Bee Gees, Pierre Boulez, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter. Quite a list!

The announcement goes on to say:  "Five-time GRAMMY winner Flaco Jiménez has enjoyed a career that has spanned more than six decades, throughout which he has collaborated with artists such as Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Doug Sahm, and Carlos Santana among others. Jiménez has maintained a huge influence on the Tex-Mex genre by continuing to record and tour, as he upholds his status as the definitive Tex-Mex accordionist."

Great recognition for one of the legends of American roots music.  Here's a clip of Flaco and his pals workin' the groove.



  __________________________________________________________________________________

 Oxford American Music of Texas

Photo of Lydia Mendoza at XEJ. Courtesy of the Arhoolie Foundation's Frontera Collection

And speaking of American music: the Oxford American's annual music issue is on the stands and this year the focus is on the music of Texas. Not only does the magazine have some of the best writing and writers, but the CD that comes with this edition is loaded with absolutely terrific music. Everyone from Barbara Lynn (You'll Lose a Good Thing) to Big Brother and the Holding Company (Bye, Bye Baby.)  The CD includes songs by Los Super 7 (Sunny Ozuna's iconic Talk to Me), Rosita y Laura (Esperando), Rick Treviño (El Gustito), the Texas Tornados (She Never Spoke Spanish to Me), and Freddy Fender (Paloma Querida). Ada Limón has a fine piece in the magazine entitled An American Sound, a tribute to Lydia Mendoza, La Alondra de la Frontera. Here's a sample from the article, which you can find in its entirety at this link:

But the music of the border is as much a part of the heritage of American folk music as Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, or the Carter Family, and the Tejano sound has existed and evolved for just as long, and dealt in similar themes. Mendoza's songs were saturated with stories about the darker side of human love, the hardships of working life, and the isolation experienced by the outsider.  While her ballads of heartbreak voiced individual, though universal, laments, much of her music reflected a larger sense of loss -- that of an entire country -- with a relatable austerity.





Ada Limón is the author of three collections of poetry. Her fourth book, Bright Dead Things, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions.
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End-of-Year Bits

To end 2014 with some encouragement and get the right jump on 2015 with some reality, here are two paragraphs from Patrick Modiano's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature 2014, which he delivered on December 7.

Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This
creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.


I have always thought that poets and novelists are able to impart mystery to individuals who are seemingly overwhelmed by day-to-day life, and to things which are ostensibly banal – and the reason they can do this is that they have observed them time and again with sustained attention, almost hypnotically. Under their gaze, everyday life ends up being enshrouded in mystery and taking on a kind of glow-in-the-dark quality which it did not have at first sight but which was hidden deep down. It is the role of the poet and the novelist, and also the painter, to reveal the mystery and the glow-in-the-dark quality which exist in the depths of every individual.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014 was awarded to Patrick Modiano "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation". 

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Happy New Year.  Peace. Justice. Love.

 Later.

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15. Chicanonautica: A Christmas Card from the Mama Goddess con Tamales




The year is coming to an end, and is there ever a helluvalota stuff happening . . . but it's Christmas, and I should do a holiday greeting instead. So Merry Christmas, mi gente, from Coatlicue, AKA the Virgin of Guadalupe, with her connection to Mary, mother of Jesus.

Yup, it's Mama Goddess time!


It's totally appropriate, December 12 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day, and I wroteabout it a while back.



But what I really want to celebrate is one of the Goddess' great gifts – tamales. They are one of the true markers of the season. You know you've got a bad case of cultural assimilation when you can go through December without a tamale fix.

I live in Arizona, far away from my family in California, so I miss my sister Linda's traditional tamale parties. I definitely have to do something about that. It's been too many years.

 

Meanwhile, I'm lucky to live in the Metro Phoenix area, where there are more Mexican restaurants per square mile than in parts of Mexico.

Also, my mother-in-law tutors English-As-A-Second language, and has often made connections with students who can supply homemade tamales. I remember this one time we made a buy in a college parking lot, after dark, like a drug deal. I wonder what the police would have thought if they spotted us?

My wife is good at scouting out the local restaurants so we can stock up on supplies for the season.

Ever the neomestizo non-traditionalist, I enjoy zapping them in the microwave, wrapping them in a wet paper towel to make for proper steaming.

I'm just an All-Purpose Heathen Devil, indulging in creative blasphemy for fun and profit.

Ernest Hogan is already working on stuff for 2015.

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16. Feliz Navidad



Written by Jose Feliciano
Illustrated by David Diaz

"Feliz Navidad" is a bilingual song in Spanish and English--a perfect accompaniment to this book that teaches children about both a typical Caribbean parranda and a traditional winter Christmas feast in a fun, flip book format!

Join the parranda--a Christmas caroling party with traditional songs, instruments, and lots of delicious food! Children will learn about this typical Caribbean celebration, where family, friends, and musicians surprise their neighbors with nighttime caroling, travel from house to house gathering more and more guests, and end the festivities with an outdoor cookout!

Jose Feliciano was born on September 10, 1945 in Puerto Rico and moved to New York at age five. Being born blind never slowed this self-taught musician down. Feliciano is a six-time Grammy Award winner with 45 gold and platinum records. He is the recipient of Billboard's 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award and the Ricardo Montalban Lifetime Achievement Award. Feliciano wrote the lyrics for "Feliz Navidad" (released in 1968) when he was homesick for his native Puerto Rico.

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David Diaz is the winner of the 1995 Caldecott Medal for SMOKY NIGHT, written by Eve Bunting. Diaz has been an illustrator for fifteen years serving such clients as American Express, PepsiCo, and Benetton. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and the Washington Post. He developed his bold art style after a trip down the Amazon in Brazil. He has illustrated many books for children, including GOING HOME and THE INNER CITY MOTHER GOOSE. Diaz lives in California with his wife and three children.


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17. Rediscovering Sueño. La Palabra Wraps for 14. GF Chicano.

Review: Martin Limón. The Iron Sickle. NY: Soho Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9781616953911

Guided serendipity led me to find a Martin Limón novel on the new books shelf of the library and in a flash I realized I hadn't seen a Sueño and Bascom novel in a while. Turns out I've missed two since enjoying 2009's G.I. Bones. Finding The Iron Sickle went ahead and made my day.

Reading a Sueño and Bascom crime novel comes with everything, and more, readers find in the best cop novels: Intriguing setting, local color, irrepressible heroes, insurmountable odds, ingenious plotting. The add-ons include an outcast Chicano detective, Korea, and the U.S. Army in the 1970s.

Martin Limón weaves all the elements together in The Iron Sickle, latest novel in the long-lived cop series. One needn’t have read other titles to enjoy everything The Iron Sickle offers, but Limón consistently alludes to events happening in earlier novels, head-turning, momentous stuff, dropped into a paragraph in passing. Limón gives a reader plenty of motivation to seek other titles in the series.

The Korea and Army setting will be completely foreign to all but a tiny fraction of U.S. readers. This makes the author responsible for a lot of explaining about language, culture, and attitudes, both Korean and Army. Limón uses that as a way to enrich the novels with fascinating local color and military slang.

George Sueño is the only Chicano in the novels, so his East LA background is noted only spottily in the series—he has no contemporaries at work, no one to talk to, so it doesn’t come up. Such is the life of being “the only one.” Plus, he’s a cop. But Limón isn’t glorifying cops shooting U.S. civilians. The cops in The Iron Sickle battle the Army as much as criminals.

In the novel, it’s been twenty years that events spun out of control on a remote mountainside during war, launching a murder spree for revenge and ruining lives. Sickled necks and a butchered rat lead the CID agents to a remote commo site in the middle of nowhere to discover a morally ambiguous criminality.

Bilingualism singles out the agent for going against the Army’s monolingual grain. In series novels, he speaks a little Spanish, but that’s not the issue. Sueño is the only CID agent in country who speaks and reads Hangul. Knowing the language inevitably leads to cracking the case while providing interesting insights into local language and culture. It’s also a signal that Sueño not only is a lifer, he’s addicted to Korea. Sueño’s so alienated from The World, as overseas GIs call the US, he’s never coming home.

Military culture puts obstacles in the investigation’s path. Hardheaded Officers and Senior NCOs follow the Army way which is uniformity and chain of command. Sueño and Bascom hold that in contempt and are the opposite of STRAC troopers expected of high headquarters minions.

Their results make them immune to all but spite, no matter how wild and impetuously the detectives act. Limón gives them lots of ways to act up; Bascom, a ville rat and short-fused jerk, Sueño, the oddball who thinks too much and hooks up with the wrong woman. When Sueño’s thinking too much he misses clues or gets his ass kicked.

When the boss or some general gets a case of the ass, the pair catch their ration of shit details, like arresting housewives for buying too many toothpastes. What really irks the chain of command is having the Koreans request Sueño and Bascom work a case.

Limón tirelessly exposes mindless military rivalry between US forces and local authority. These cops are righting wrongs despite established power, not to further the military’s goals. Solving crime often gives a well-deserved black eye to military politics. Higher ups prefer to keep matters quiet and tidy. Sueño and Bascom are loud and unruly, and that’s only half the fun of reading a Sueño and Bascom mystery.

The Iron Sickle treads on forbidden territory, cannibalism. While fiction can take readers into the most perverse territory, it won’t stop them from getting queasy at the horror of the crime, the imperative of revenge, and the unasked question, “how many wrongs make a right?”

The Iron Sickle is a great companion for a winter read. Curling up next to a fire and whiling away the hours until 2015 might be just the ticket for mystery readers with a hankering for off-the-wall travel writing.

Korean farmer at DMZ 1970. foto:msedano


La Palabra Has Last Word

Gente crowd into the main gallery at Northeast Los Angeles' Avenue 50 Studio. Here for the final La Palabra reading of 2014, the prospect of hearing three of the city's most distinctive poetic voices draws them in well after the Open Mic is underway. Late-arrivers line up against the wall between the art or step gingerly into the space between the circled chairs to sit on the floor. SRO means "sitting room only" for Poet Laureate Luis J Rodriguez and friends Peter J Harris and Hector Flores.

Today's reading culminates the first year of emcee Karineh Mahdessian's service organizing the monthly series. La Palabra at Avenue 50 Studio has enjoyed a thirteen-year run showcasing high calibre art and engaging an Open Mic poetry community nurtured by the social churn of working class eastside L.A.
Karineh Mahdessian
Mahdessian's high spirits spark the already energized crowd as she gets the Open Mic started. The day offers wonderful examples of the "community" in "poetry community." Visitors today include people from Arizona and the U.S. midwest. One reader is making her debut in front of an audience today. People exchange abrazos and introduce new friends.

The first speaker doesn't read. He's a social scientist with a book and rambles for awkward minutes before audience members interrupt him with applause. He's reluctant to finish but the relieved Mahdessian steps in and the fellow fills his chair. The presentation offers one of the awful moments in an emcee's role, how to use the hook.

Rudy Calderón
Rudy Calderón works from memory, in Spanish and in rhyme. The packed house and floor eliminate the lectern and lets speakers choose reading in situ or using the constricted bit of open space.

Calderón stands and projects with excellent resonance. There's so much energy in his body aching to break loose if allowed a stage. He controls it well and redirects much of that energy into the reading.

C.E. Jordan
C. E. Jordan is the fourth poet after Calderón. Jordan stands in place to share a holiday piece that makes an appreciated change-of-pace. That microphone is ironic because Jordan projects sonorously with crystal clear enunciation that serves her words well. One reader uses the mic and it doesn't go over well. No reader uses the mic again.

Juan Carlos Valadez
Juan Carlos Valadez follows Jordan in one of those change-of-pace presentations that keep audiences coming back to La Palabra.

Mahdessian announces the next reader. From his chair, Valadez introduces his wife and daughter. He walks into the open space, and asks the teenager's permission to read a poem letter he wrote her from prison.

Rosalio Muñoz
Rosalio Muñoz is the final Open Mic reader. He selects a few paragraphs from the Laguna Park section of Stella Pope Duarte's movimiento novel, Let Their Spirits Dance. Muñoz is sitting next to me so I point and shoot hoping for a good moment. This is approximately the perspective the crowd had of Rosalio up on the podium that day in Laguna Park.

Muñoz is the final name signed to the Open Mic. A number of poets have asked for a slot so Mahdessian announces a second Open Mic after the three featured readers.

The featured poets have conferred and adapted to the setting and audience. Rather than do three stand-ups, Hector Flores, Peter J. Harris, and Luis J. Rodriguez will do a round-robin. Harris goes first.

Peter J. Harris

Peter J. Harris
The round-robin is a wonderful way to treat an audience. People universally appreciate variety, whether within a single poem or a set. The three featured writers each performs with unique voice and distinctive style. Harris and Flores read so deeply moved by their own emotions that their words come out as heartfelt music.

Hector Flores
Hector Flores
Luis J. Rodriguez greets his audience today as a proud father, local poet, and Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. The Laureate vows to infuse LA with poetry during his tenure, though the exact program remains in development. Today's reading signals an important development.

It's not that Luis forgot his stuff back at the house and will read old stuff. Rodriguez' good stuff is timeless and he keeps working on them, if not in the craft in the performance.

Rodriguez has rarely read these poems with the kind of sustained energy he displays in the packed space today.

He's loud, he's angry, he's emotional, ya se cansó. Thoughts and emotions in words come out in his arms, eyes, brow, posture. He fills the space allowed. He reads today focused on content over form, breaking at thoughts instead of lines.

Media aren't the Laureate's friend today. One poem comes from an orange quarter-fold booklet, another from a telephone screen, two from a book. He needs his anteojos, plus he's getting off the floor every third reader.

Rodriguez, like Harris, works to personalize the reading through eye contact. Reliant upon their text, it's sparse and momentary. Their work has enough power that audiences don't miss what they're not getting. But because these poets could do these poems from memory without the prop, there's a lost opportunity to magnify their audience's enjoyment of the work.

Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

The Gluten-free Chicano
Good Mexican Girl Hits the Spot

Earlier in December, The Gluten-free Chicano sat around feeling sorry for himself that gluten-free analogs are crummy and he needed a snack. The Gluten-free Chicano, in a fit of antoja, wrote about a gluten-free bakery that sounded like it would hit the spot, the Good Mexican Girl's cookies.

The Good Mexican Girl herself took the column as a challenge, to get some of her cookies to The Gluten-free Chicano. She did it. And he's glad.

GMG gluten-free Mexican Wedding Cookies aren't quite the powdery puro butter and wheat flour nuggets of yesteryear, but GMG Mexican Wedding Cookies are number hana, as they say in Korea, number one.

They hit the spot.

GMG discovered the secret to a velvety texture on the tongue. Other GF treats have a raspy grit to them like 440 sandpaper on the tongue. Yuck. Bite into the crumbly texture of a GMG Mexican Wedding Cookie and all the flavor and a pleasing tooth greet one. Savor it and allow the crumbs to work their magic. Smooth all the way down. Next: GMG chocolate chip cookies.

¡Ajua! Good Mexican Girl. Te aventastes.


Late-breaking News!

https://www.facebook.com/events/484993604975550/

Click link to get your tickets.


Floricanto for Michele Serros
Sunday, January 4, 2015at 6:00pm
Alumni House, UC Berkeley
1 Alumni House, Berkeley, California 94720

La Bloga encourages readers to purchase tickets to support Michele Serros' challenges during her health crisis. Gente in the Bay area will want to appear in-person for this important event. Here is the latest organizer report.

Hosts/MCs: 
Joseph Rios- friend of Michele and poet
Jennie Luna- friend and Cal State Professor of Xican@ studies at Cal State Channel Islands

Readers/Friends of Michele: 
Melinda Palacio- author and friend
Joe Loya- author and friend
Cindy Cruz- close friend of Michele and professor of education at UCSC
Alberto Ledesma- friend, UC Berkeley professor and DREAM artivista

Silent Auction at the event with works by: 
Malaquias Montoya
Maceo Montoya
Melanie Cervantes
Mitsy Avila Ovalles
Santos Shelton
Lalo Alcaraz
Ester Hernandez
Jessica Sabogal

Signed vinyl records from the band, Chicano Batman 

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18. The Last Dream of Pánfilo Velasco


A Fairy Tale by Daniel A. Olivas
            One Monday evening, as he walked home from his dreary job making things nobody needed, Pánfilo Velasco saw two coffins that floated just within his peripheral vision.  This did not alarm him in the least.  Rather, Pánfilo knew that he was weary and that sleep was just the balm he needed.
Pánfilo entered his small, empty house, bathed, and went to bed without eating dinner.  Sleep enveloped him within minutes.
And so began Pánfilo Velasco’s last dream.  Faces from his life flickered and ebbed into view.  First, he saw his beautiful mother, Hortencia, as she looked in a photograph that appeared on the front pages of all the newspapers the day a jury convicted her of murdering the Benedetti triplets who had lived two houses down.  Hortencia never looked so exquisite!  She hung herself during the fifth year of her incarceration, though some say that the guards killed her out of disgust.  But Pánfilo could only be enchanted by his mother’s face.  He smiled as he fell deeper into his dream.
Hortencia’s face faded into that of Pánfilo’s brutish father, Octavio, who did not understand the poetry of wine nor the splendor of certain shadows that fall upon the ground during the months of September, October and November.  Oh, Octavio’s loutishness was the true crime, worse than a triple murder!  Pánfilo stirred and struggled with his sheet, his heart racing.
Octavio’s face eventually bled into darkness.  Pánfilo’s heart slowed, his limbs quieted.  Soon, Pánfilo’s dream vision filled with the countenance of his first lover who went by the title “Countess” though her real name was María de la Cruz.  She was the most famous prostitute who plied her trade within the town of Pánfilo’s childhood.  In her prime, the Countess taught many a young man the ways of love, for a reasonable price.  Pánfilo’s loins grew warm and he let out a low moan.
Suddenly, the amorphous surroundings transformed into a beach.  Pánfilo found himself standing at the edge of the water.  He looked down and saw that he carried his mother’s draped body.  The Countess, perched upon a gigantic heart, commanded the frightened Pánfilo to step into a small boat that floated in the water before him.  “What shall I do with my mother’s body?” he asked.  “Toss her into the boat, mi amor,” she answered.  And Pánfilo did what he was told.  He settled in near his mother’s body and the boat started to move forward of its own volition.
As the boat steadily moved across what appeared to be an endless lake, Pánfilo forgot about his mother’s body that lay at his feet.  His stomach rumbled and he allowed his mind to drift to wonderful memories of delicacies he had enjoyed throughout his life.  Pánfilo remembered so many delightful foods: toast with melted cheese and roasted red chiles … slices of New York pizza … sweet blocks of candy that resembled prehistoric amber … salted pecans … charred marshmallows … succulent bits of ham and lamb.
The boat finally reached the other side of the lake.  Pánfilo lifted his mother’s body and put it upon his back.  He stepped out of the boat onto the warm sand.  Pánfilo grew angry with himself because he had forgotten to ask the Countess for further direction.  But no matter.  He would trudge forward.  As he did, Pánfilo noticed that the terrain changed.  He saw objects that reminded him of a mobile that hung over his bed when he was a child.  And Pánfilo’s burden grew heavier as if someone had dropped a large bag of uncooked rice onto his mother’s body.
After marching across the sand for a very long time, Pánfilo realized that the terrain had grown more fantastical with each step.  Indeed, the shapes he saw seemed to become something more than terrain, something akin to a language.  No wait!  Not merely a language … but a hieroglyph, ancient and mysterious, that spoke only to him.  Without much effort, he deciphered the message.  Pánfilo now knew what he needed to do.
Pánfilo, armed with knowledge, finally reached the place where he could allow his mother to rest.  He looked up and saw a large boulder shaped like a hand holding a ripe fig.  The boulder balanced upon a pedestal of rock that jutted up from the sand.  With a strength he did not possess while awake, Pánfilo inserted his mother between the boulder and the rock.  When he had completed this sacred task, Pánfilo offered up a benediction: “Sleep, mamá, sleep.”
After a few moments of silence in honor of the dead, Pánfilo started his long trek back to the boat.  The sun warmed his body and the gentle sand seeped through his toes with each step.  But his serenity was dashed when the long-murdered Benedetti triplets captured him.  They did cruel things to Pánfilo, things too ugly to describe.  But he remained strong, and cried for help but once.
Those Benedetti monsters!  They are nothing more than three evil bastards who deserved to be murdered!  But even the atrocities they visited upon poor Pánfilo had to come to an end, more out of boredom than mercy.  They released Pánfilo, bruised and bleeding, and told him to leave RIGHT THIS INSTANT or else they would begin again with their tortures.  Pánfilo limped away as fast as his battered body would allow.  But in his heart, he felt proud that he had laid his mother to rest.
Pánfilo made it to the boat which seemed to be waiting for him like a loyal dog.  He got in, sat down, and closed his eyes.  Pánfilo could feel the boat move, sliding slowly across the vast lake in the direction from where he had come.  He eventually felt a presence near the boat, floating out before him in the water.  Pánfilo’s eyes popped open and what he saw made him smile.  A few yards from the boat’s bow floated three figures amidst flotsam.  Ah!  There is justice!  The three figures were none other than the Benedetti triplets, wrapped tightly in tarpaulins, surrounded by the malevolent debris of their short lives.  The boat slid by the bodies and Pánfilo grinned in satisfaction.
In time, Pánfilo’s boat reached the shore.  His bruises and lacerations had miraculously healed, and he felt as fit as a young boy.  He stepped out of the boat.  The moment his left foot touched the sand, Pánfilo fell into darkness, fast and dizzying, deep, deep, deep into an abyss.  And it is here that he saw his mother’s face once more: elegant, loving, familiar.  And Pánfilo smiled because he knew that she would be his mother forever.
Before Pánfilo hit bottom, he awoke from his dream, a smile still upon his face.  He sat up and looked around his small room.  Pánfilo knew that he had shown the ultimate love for his mother, even though it was in a dream.  He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and sat in silence.  But then he realized that this would be his last dream.  There would be no more.  He knew this as well as he knew his own name.  And with that, Pánfilo Velasco closed his eyes and wept.
[“The Last Dream of Pánfilo Velasco” first appeared in The Fairy Tale Review(Emerald Issue, 2014).  To read an interview I gave regarding the story, visit here.  The story will be featured in my as yet unpublished (i.e., searching for a home) new collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures: A Novella and Stories.  Image: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dalí.]

In other literary news...

◙ On Saturday, December 27, Danny Romero returns to South Los Angeles to read poetry at Graham Library, 1900 E. Firestone Boulevard at 3 p.m.  Romero grew up in the Florence area and worked at the local library branches in the late 1970s.  His poetry and short stories have been published in many anthologies and journals.  He is the author of the novel Calle 10 (Mercury House) and a book of poetry, Traces (Bilingual Review Press).  Romerao now teaches writing and literature at Sacramento City College.
 
Danny Romero

◙ Writing for the El Paso Times, Donna Snyder reviewsXánath Caraza’s bilingual story collection, Lo que trae la marea / What the Tide Brings (Mouthfeel Press).  Snyder says, in part: “Caraza’s stories vibrate with the sensuality of the female body as it moves through heat, reacts to a man’s gaze, responds to the rhythms of jazz, or fills the memory of a man being subjected to torture.  Her writing is filled with the redolence of jungle, copal and flesh, the pungent taste and feel of food and drink, the gratification of tactile details.”



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19. Desde Guadalajara, Jalisco la poesía de Luis Armenta Malpica y más


Por Xánath Caraza

 

La Poesía de Luis Armenta Malpica
 
Luis Armenta Malpica
 

THE IMMERSED FISH

 

The fish will be an absence when it is no longer named,

so long as the spiders can't see it

they won't even give it up for dead

in some nest.

 

The fish will be the astonishment

that is feigned at the zoo

when it is gazed upon in the historical section

dissected

above a label:

                        Extinct

                                    fish.

 

Then will it be missed.

 

More than one will say that they knew it:

it possessed a pair of powerful pectoral fins,

was covered with metal scales

and at the tip of its body,

in the control helm,

a curtain of smoke

shadowed

its advance.

 

And another will say: no,

the fish was an ancient skyscraper,

a kind of glass and mortar pyramid

where boys hid the money

they stole from their parents.

 

And one glorious old lady

(which indicates her lineage and her gender)

will open the ruffles of her blouse

to bare her torso

and show in the areola

the unmistakable body of the fish

in her ribs.

 

And she will not say the name that once was

the water's inheritance,

will not say that jellyfish was an invention of the ancients

and that no other animal but man exists...

 

She will remain

naked,

as much a fish

now as she was

so very

long ago,

lying in wait

for a new blow

of years

that lead her back

to the water.

 

The woman

in the middle of the bubble of air

that sprang from her aureole

will drink in one gulp what she once gave

her son,

forever caught

on her fishhook of motherhood,

and will die in peace,

her lips crossed by a kiss,

her eyes a crepuscular white

and her heart

split into three parts

by a drop of water.

 

And strangers would say to one another...

                                                                        "She was the anointed one."

 

She,

in the agony of the fish,

convulsing

will deny it with her eyes.

All that was a lie.

 

There is only one thing that will be said about her

without man being suspicious:

                                                the woman was

                                                            the fish.

                                    She always has been.

 

But the men wait

because from some part of man

must come

                        the tarantula.

 

EL PEZ INMERSO

 

 

El pez será una ausencia cuando ya no lo nombren

mientras no puedan verlo las arañas

ni se le dé por muerto

en algún nido.

 

El pez será el asombro que se finja

cuando al ir al zoológico

en la sección de historia se le mire

disecado

encima de una ficha:

                                    Pez

                                                extinto.

 

Entonces se le echará de menos.

 

Más de alguno dirá que él sí lo conocía:

era dueño de un par de poderosos alerones

cubierto con escamas de metal

y en la punta del cuerpo

en el timón de mando

una cortina de humo

ensombrecía

su avance.

 

Y otro dirá que no

que el pez era un antiguo rascacielos

especie de pirámide de vidrio y argamasa

en donde los muchachos escondían las monedas

robadas a sus padres.

Y una anciana gloriosa

(lo que denotará su estirpe y sexo)

abrirá los olanes de su blusa

desarmará su torso

y enseñará en la aréola

el cuerpo inconfundible del pez

en sus costillas.

 

Y ella no dirá el nombre que una vez fue

la herencia del agua

no dirá que malagua fue un invento de ancianos

y que no existe otro animal que el hombre...

 

Se quedará

desnuda

tan pez

como hace ya

muchísimo

estuviera

al acecho

de un nuevo golpe

de años

que la conduzca

al agua.

 

La mujer

en medio de la burbuja de aire

surgida de su aureola

beberá de una vez lo que una vez dio

a su hijo

se enganchará por siempre

en su anzuelo de madre

y morirá tranquila

atravesados los labios por un beso

los ojos de un crepúsculo blanco

y el corazón

partido en tres

por una gota de agua.

 

Y los desconocidos se dirán entre sí...

                                                          «Era la ungida».

 

Ella

en la agonía del pez

convulsionada

negará con los ojos.

Todo eso fue mentira.

 

Solo hay algo que de ella va a decirse

sin que el hombre recele:

                                                la mujer era

                                                            el pez.

                        Siempre lo ha sido.

 

Mas los hombres esperan

porque habrá de llegar de algún sitio

del hombre

la migala.

Light’s Volition/Voluntad de la luz by Luis Armenta Malpica, translated by Lawrence Schimel (Mantis Editores, 2012)
 
 
 
EXCAVATION OF THE AIR

 

There, far away –Là-bas– was a sunken stone

where the air seemed to stop.

A piece of basalt –a vestige of when the volcanoes

            were the dictators of the mineral kingdom    and the plants

            (all unknown) battled the smoke

            for the earth–

seemed miraculous among the burning lava.

A stone larger than the dust     a diamond of the intact

drenched with moss; it burned

in the air.

With its green footprints it slid a path

of ash and fire:

scripture of calcium      rupestrian and cuneiform

on the bones of the air

the voice (of primeval workmanship)

became solid.

 

And what was said –Là-bas

that there, far away

in the fictitious world of the Tyranasourouses

the tarantulas tried to seize her

with their teeth.

 

How did the new coelacanths translate her

if there, far away –Là-bas

in the depths,

no megalodon saw the sign

of the basalt?

It said nothing that could explain

the world to itself:

man had not yet been born

from the spine of the fish,

from the egg,

from the stone.

 

It was just the air,

foreseeing the wings that would come to plough through it,

who searched for it in the depths of the basalt.

It was a wind –Là-bas

that blew so slowly: unmoving,

but stuck to the dust that the smoke acquired

on turning into

rock.

And it was not stone

because then (and even more if it were basalt)

it contained the ash –fish     volcanic oil–

of what would become

water.

Thus every tectonic plate that shook the earth

was baptized in fire

in the name of the air.

 

We had to wait for God to create water

to believe in fish.

 
EXCAVACIÓN DEL AIRE

 
Allá lejos Là-bas hubo una piedra hundida

donde el aire pareció detenerse.

Un trozo de basalto vestigio de cuando los volcanes

eran los dictadores del reino mineral     y las plantas

(todas desconocidas) peleaban con el humo

por la tierra

parecía milagroso entre la lava ardiendo.

Piedra mayor que el polvo     diamante de lo intacto

se mojaba de musgo; al aire

ardía.

Con sus huellas verdosas resbalaba un camino

de ceniza y de fuego:

escritura de calcio     rupestre y cuneiforme

en los huesos del aire

la voz de primigenia hechura

se solidificaba.

 

Y qué decía Là-bas

que allá lejos

en el mundo ficticio de los tiranosaurios

las migalas intentaron asirla

con sus dientes.

 

Cómo la tradujeron los nuevos celacantos

si allá lejos Là-bas

en las profundidades

ningún megalodonte vio el signo

del basalto.

No decía nada que pudiera explicarse

sobre el mundo:

el hombre no había nacido aún

de la espina del pez

del huevo

de la piedra.

 

Era el aire tan solo

presagiando las alas que vendrían a surcarle

quien lo buscaba al fondo del basalto.

Era un aire Là-bas

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20. South El Monte Stories.

Michael Sedano


Everyone has a story and everyone’s story deserves telling. Alex Luu conducts workshops with young adults that guide their planning, structuring, and telling their stories to an audience in an evening of theatrical expression.

Stories emerge raw and in the vernacular the students live daily. It's a no-holds-barred world and the writers let loose.

A girl stands in the dark, glamour images projected behind her show a pretty, fit beauty. She screams words she hears when she dresses like the pictures, “Whore!” “Can it be any lower?”

Another girl projects birthday portraits remembering each year’s gifts and parties. Absent always was her one perfect gift, the presence of her father. Other children’s autobiographies express the same single-parented pain.

One boy wants to be a musician but hears his mother’s angry voice that he’s wasting his. Another boy listen to his soccer ball's consejos and taunts in a funny, imaginative piece.

A lot students speak of abandonment, loneliness, powerlessness, helplessness, and others of their dreams, plans, visions of a happier future.

Teenagers have the worst and best of two worlds, childhood and adulthood. The impacts of their parenting simmer and accumulate until the children reach their teens and young adulthood. Now the consequences of those experiences, and their influence upon decisions, will reverberate far into their adult future. It’s the divergence of two roads and there’s no going back.

There is in creative non-fiction. Luu coaches his performers to fantasize. Several presentations engage  scenes where the kid;s persona works up the gumption to tell off an overbearing adult. Spirits soaring, the speaker turns to the audience and admits “I didn’t really say that but I wish I had.” And presto, they have. It’s a South El Monte story and this is why you tell them.

Bringing mostly bad experiences, and how the person feels about them, to life can bring a person to a skidding halt, a good thing if matters are running on intertia, or have taken a bumpy path.

Writing about a situation becomes a way of handling and making sense of one's daily storms. For numerous exigencies, expression offers the sole means of gaining control over a problem.

After the performance--they ran three nights--the standing room only audience keeps their seats for a Q&A. Most questions wonder how the students worked up the confidence to share such intimacy with strangers, publicly. A couple answer they started out withdrawn but opened up and forged community with their workshop peers. Being of the group loosened them up in private and it was easy progression to public expression.

A questioner says she's with drama students from another high school. These students have learned from South El Monte and leave encouraged to tell their own stories. The South El Monte Storytellers brim enchanted that their voice has found listeners outside the confines of their South El Monte universe. This is, after all, why one speaks.



Alex Luu


Audience packs the house



Yesenia Velasquez



Anamaria Flores


Anthony Morales


Audrey Youshimatz


Isaac Caudillo



Steven Reyes


Jenna Flores


Linda Catano



Rosario Morales


Taking a Bow

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21. The Fifth Children's Poetry Festival in El Salvador

From the Macondo Newsletter

Edited by Reyna Grande


MACONDISTAS GOING ABROAD

Macondista Rene Colato Lainez recently visited his native country, El Salvador, as a featured author. Read about his visit!


The Fifth Children's Poetry Festival in El Salvador



by Rene Colato Lainez

As a child in El Salvador, I loved to visit the old National Library and read books. I would wonder about the authors whose books I would read. Where they nearby or did they live far away? Were they young or old? How could they have written all those wonderful words that I so enjoyed reading? 

Then one day, when I was living in Los Angeles, I saw on TV and read in the newspaper that an earthquake had destroyed the National Library. I was a sad to know that I was enjoying the public library in Los Angeles while the children in El Salvador no longer had a library, the place that I had loved to visit. 

Years later, the library in El Salvador was rebuilt in a place that used to be a bank and was named after the Salvadoran writer Francisco Gavidia.I wondered if one day, I would be able to visit this new library.



I never dreamed that one day I would, in fact, visit this library, and not as a patron, but as a featured author! I am so privileged that now as an author, I can go back every year to my native country and read my books at the annual Children's Poetry Festival in San Salvador which is hosted by this library.The festival is organized by Salvadoran children's book author Jorge Argueta and his wife Holly Ayala in San Francisco and author Manlio Argueta and the National Library in San Salvador. 



At the festival, the children were very excited to meet authors and poets. Some were local authors, such as Silvia Elena Regalado, Alberto Pocasangre, Jorgelina Cerritos, Ricardo Lindo and Manlio Argueta.Other authors came from abroad, such as Jorge Argueta, Mara Price, Margarita Robleda and myself.

Since some of my books are about Salvadoran children (Waiting for PapáRené Has Two Last Names, My Shoes and I and I am René, the Boy) I was able to connect with the children at the festival through my books. The children there could see themselves, their culture and their country in my books. I told them that dreams do come true. When I was a kid in El Salvador, I had two dreams: to become a teacher and to be an author. Now my dreams are a reality because I believed in myself, did my best and did  not give up. Children looked at me with sparkles of hope in their eyes. They told me that they will also reach for their dreams, and they were so proud to meet me. 

As the children were listening to my books, I could see my own reflection in their eyes. I could see the young boy who had loved visiting the library, enjoyed reading books and wondered about authors. 



The spirit of Macondo is to give back to our communities. I am so happy that I am giving "mi granito de arena" to the children of El Salvador. Many of these children are from rural areas where their parents work hard to provide for them and often there is not enough money to buy books or school supplies. 

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At the end the festival, each child received a festival tote bag with school supplies and gifts, and they also enjoyed a delicious lunch. I am so happy to instill in them the love of books!



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22. A most cautious joy...

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I imagined it would happen differently. Dancing in the streets of Miami and La Habana; frenzied crowds parading in front of TV cameras; bonfires fed by framed photographs of the old guard; and  fountains overflowing with rum and Coke, a new miracle at Cana: Lie becomes Truth. 

I really thought it would come to us, from the east or from above. But instead it was something much simpler. And capricious. Like flicking the switch that lights up the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Yes, I'm supposed to be overjoyed, but instead I'm guarded.


My parents, who left Santiago de Cuba in one of the Freedom Flights and spent their first nights in exile at the Casa de la Libertad in Miami, would they have rejoiced?  How can a relationship that has never in my lifetime been normal all of a sudden be "normalized"? Is normalization a transition, like democracy with braces? What should we do with the cavities?

What will it mean to my generation, to those of us who forged an identity from the scraps of exile? 

We, who learned to walk on stilts between two lands, between two languages... will we become pieces of the Berlin Wall peddled to sunburned tourists?  Or did we miss that boat already? 


I am overjoyed, I tell myself. Like so many children during this time of the year, I too, at middle age, want to believe. But since I'm out of practice, I must start slowly... with a simple toast I learned from my parents. I will repeat this mantra nightly until the year is spent, so as the clock strikes midnight on that last night of 2014,  I will be able to say without trepidation: "Next year in Santiago!"

********

Aquí podrán leer un artículo/entrevista de EFE sobre Cartas del cielo en Univisión Boston:

********
AMIGOS DE DENVER: 
Les recuerdo que el sábado, 10 de enero a las 2pm 
presentaré mi nueva novela juvenil en la librería  
Tattered Cover de la avenida Colfax: 

¡Los espero!

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23. Checking It Twice

Melinda Palacio

Saturday, December 20, Winterlandia's Anti-Mall Marketplace



My final gift suggestion for the year: books. Tía Chucha Press and Centro Cultural has a great online  book shop. But if you are also looking for a bit of entertainment and fun while rounding out your holiday shopping. Tía Chucha's is hosting their 4th annual Winterlandia Anti-Mall. 

Whenever I mention Tía Chucha's, it's always with a soft spot because Luis J. Rodriguez has always inspired and informed my work. I'm also very honored to be a Tía Chucha Press Poet. They did a gorgeous job with my poetry book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting. Whenever I go to Tía Chucha's, I always find myself buying some of their local handmade crafts in addition to books. 


If you missed Rudy's books by La Bloga guide, here it is: Holiday Gifts from La Bloga's Latino Authors
Felíz Navidad!



Over in New Orleans, on Sunday, José Torres-Tama gives his final 2014 performance and signs his new book of poems, Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares (Dialogos Books 2014) at Faubourg Marigny Art & Books, December 21 at 6pm, 600 Frenchman Street, New Orleans.

At the Latino Book and Author Festival in 2010,
Luis Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Melinda Palacio and Daniel Olivas

Earlier this year, I reported on Michele Serros's campaign and fight against cancer in the September post: A Latina en Lucha Needs You Mucha Campaign. Thank you for your contributions to La Bloga friend, Michele Serros. In April 2013, Michele was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, adenoid cystic carcinoma. As the disease has advanced to stage 4, she continues to ask for support and has upped the ante in her GiveForward campaign.

Thank you to everyone who reads La Bloga. I appreciate all of your well wishes for my broken leg which is healing. I'm able to walk without a limp and soon I'll be dancing. Gracias!

One of over 300 children in Iguala who will benefit from Reyna Grande's Posada.

Also, your generosity has helped fund Reyna Grande's toy drive. She will be distributing toys to over 300 children in her hometown of Iguala, Guerrero. Her campaign will also continue into the new year as she plans on including a toy give away to the kids at the ayotzinapa school. Reyna says the school has been turned into a campground with many people and kids. If you missed her guest post on La Bloga, read about how Reyna is bringing some Christmas Cheer to a Town Missing 43


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24. Different Chicano stocking stuffers

If you forgot stuff to stuff stockings with, try cutting up and using these memorias:
Not mine, but maybe...
* "Traíste mis Kreesmas?" My abuela would say those words, pronouncing the last one like I spelled it, with a very long E sound. It was the closest that an old india-mexicana could do to melt into the pot of conquered south Texas. She was asking if I'd brought her a Christmas present, maybe wondering whether I'd forgotten her.

Her chemistry and electricity passed into the ether long before I was old enough to gift her anything of value, and I only wish I'd spent more time chatting at length with her, like I did towards the end, hers, not mine. I still think it's one of the cutest things--an old person asking about "mis Kreesmas," a heavy Spanish-laden accent that goes back even further in history to the time before the Olmecs. Before there was a Xmas.

* The most memorable Kreesmases when I was young were those held at my abuela's house. All the tíos would come and the primosand, sometimes, relatives that we didn't even know we had. The abuelo died early, from cirrhosis and spending months or years away from abuela, that she always forgave him for, and took him back. In between his stopovers, abuelafilled in her life with El Otro, whatever current man had moved in that she's hooked up with. El Otro's name changed, but there was usually one there. Especially on Kreesmas mornings when cabrón Tío Jesse would wake us all up at 5 or some unnatural hour. To open presents that we'd already opened. His family lived in Colorado, so they rarely came, but it was a treat to see the out-of-state cousins. I don't remember El Otro ever getting one, though abuela probably gave him late night treats.

* Tamales. Every Chicano family always makes tamales for the holiday, right? (Actually, not if they're cheap enough to buy, which they no longer are in Denver.) Over the years, our families had also cooked other things. Argentinian empanadas, fried or baked, buffalo burger or of cualquier cosa. Or albóndigas soup or tons of burritos, on occasion. The type of food didn't matter. It was the communal, tribal means of production that made the cooking enjoyable.

Not one of mine.
* Gingerbread houses. I loved making those, once upon a time. Not gringo gingerbread houses, but adobes or Zuni pueblos or barrio dioramas with Homie figurines. When I was a teacher, I'd make one for my class and let them play with it, destroy it (not always just the boys) and eat their hearts out, diabetically. I'm thinking of trying a new type, less diabetic-inducing and healthier, out of corn meal. Maybe with some Homies and other knickknacks I have around. I'll post a pic, if it happens.

* Possibly my best Krismas teaching was a first-grade class that got a visit from Greg Allen-Pickett, a teacher-friend who'd guided my wife and I through Yucatan a previous Krismas. My class of mostly immigrant students knew Santa would visit the room because I'd arranged it with Greg who had his own outfit. When this near-seven-foot man of broad shoulders and build entered the room, in costume, the kids were delighted. When they tugged on his huge white beard, they were surprised to learn it was real! But, when he spoke Spanish to them better even than their regular teacher, they were astounded. Greg left the state, and I left teaching. However, I doubt the memory of the most realistic, bilingual Santa ever left them.

Definitely not gentry
* My gentrified barrio has dark corners to show who's a gentry just living here temporarily, as an investment, who's the Chicanos with families, and who are those in transition. No Xmas decorations? A transient investor or a Chicano widower whose kids rarely visit. A few decorations? A really poor Chicano family or gentry who might be identifying their neighborhood as a home. Chingos of decorations? A hipster-rich gentry or abuelos with lots of kids and grandkids who do visit them. I'm stereotyping, but it gives you an idea of why I'm not overjoyed by the 7 out of 10 bare-front houses on my block.

* Most of you know that author Reyna Grande is spending the holidays in Iguala, Guerrero, where the 43 students were disappeared. It was her hometown that she trekked north from, as described in her books. She recently raised more than $5k for toys and food to present to the people of the village she left decades ago. It's like she's playing Santa, among some of the poorest people in the world, with some of the most minimal facilities, and walking around every corner wondering who might lurk to disappear you. Hopefully, she'll provide La Bloga with an extended report after she returns. I imagine that the only thing better than reading it will have been accompanying her. I'm sure that waiting list is longer than Santa's.

* Now that my two siblings are in their 30s, and wife Carmen has mellowed, neither bunch pays much attention to this father's ideas. But once upon a time, I'd come up with different gift-giving ideas. "No gift over $20," when I knew they had no money. "Everybody make gifts to give instead of buying any," when they were all young enough to have fun doing that. "Save newspaper comics to use as wrapping paper instead of buying any" was one of my better ones I still try to practice. There were other ideas, but I've forgotten them. Not sure how many more Krismases there will be, for me, but I won't run out of ideas, even if I run out of believers.

* Ya son muchos años that I had this asshole boss. One Xmas night, he took his young kids and his 38 Special outside. Shot into the sky. Told them he'd killed Santa Claus. He said they cried but they stopped believing, which was his intention. Go figure. He wasn't a Chicano guy. Chicanos shoot their 38s on New Year's Eve night.

* I'm completing work with dramatist Jose Mercado, on my first stage play, Los Doce Días de Mis Krismas. (I needed help since my two CU-Denver college classes mostly taught me professors were superior to any student's work or thoughts.) Some of you have read the story on La Bloga, as a radio script, but Mercado formatted it for a play and says it's funny now. I thought it was before. After it's officially copyrighted, I'll get it out in the world, however that's done. And maybe you'll get to see it one Krismas. It's even funnier than Jose thinks.

* The "American" gift-giving around Krismas makes less sense the longer I live. Stuff to fill an assumed obligation is no gift; it's some type of duty that lacks the spirit of. This ironically reminds me of the year I made umpteen individualized, riding horse sticks for  nephews and nieces. The kind that's like a horse head on a pole, and you ride it around using your leg-power, dragging the bare end of the stick over the polished wood floor or carpet. The kind my generation had when we were kids. They were cool. The ones I made went over like Obama's Cuban announcement at Rubio's Xmas party. A couple of kids tried riding them, looking for the gas pedal or the electronic display, but most of my creations soon found themselves in the attic or garage or Goodwill pile. I should have been crushed; they'd taken weeks of cutting wood, sanding, painting and decorating. Which turned out to be the most fun they provided anyone.

* Whenever I go to Mexico or even a poor neighborhood in the U.S., I inevitably see little kids playing with a lot less than electric Hummers they can ride or remote drones they can spy with. Instead, I've seen little girls in raggedy clothes stirring the ground with a twig, making designs, drawing scenes or imagining future paths. Or a couple of boys sorting rocks of different sizes, maybe preparing their teams or armies for a slaughter. Kids don't need stuff; they need opportunity for their imaginations, time to explore and discover the world's wonders.

* In that spirit, below are the opening paragraphs to my first children's story in English, that three bilingual publishers have already decided should be put where the wooden horses are gathering dust. I made copies of the tale for people who helped me with it and for relatives who have small kids. It may not have happened on a day that would become our Krismas, but it's my attempt to capture the wonderment that children find in the world, instead of in stuff. I hope it provides you with a touch of the same. Es todo, hasta que recibes tus Kreesmas. - RudyG

* * *
The legend of Sleeping Love begins in the most ancient times on the Central Continent. For the hundred members of a tribe of First People, a day of marching and foraging seemed like it would end as countless others had.
Instead, dozens of the boys and girls suddenly sprinted far ahead. On the mountaintop, they stopped. Only a little of the cold penetrated their animal-skin clothes, and their run had warmed them. They shaded their eyes against the low sun, and what they saw, steamed them up. Hopping around like crickets, they screamed, "Grand Ta, Grand Ta, come look at it all!"
As Grand Ta shuffled faster, his chest filled and he sensed it glowing. He thought, Almost makes me cry whenever they want to share their discoveries with an old man. Smiling, he patted his wrinkled cheek. Ah, nothing smooths out this turtle skin, anymore. Sweeping back his rabbit hair cloak, he accidently passed it directly through his nagual. The mountain lion-spirit growled a friendly warning at him. Too bad no one else can see or hear you, huh, my faithful companion. Its growl turned to a purr.
When he reached the youngsters, he let himself hope. Maybe we finally found it. They let him through and dozens of fingers pointed. At gigantic ahuehuetlcypress trees holding up the sky. Over an endless, deep-green valley full of wonders. He was so amazed, he couldn't hear every child.
"See, Ta, see?" He saw armadillos escaping into the underbrush. Children saw the hunter, a spotted ozelotl jaguar. They heard it cough-grunt, and they got the giggles from trying to imitate it.
"Look at them!" The youngsters saw dancing pieces of rainbow, which they playfully mimed. Grand Ta saw red-green-blue-feathered parrots and quetzalscrossing the rainforest.
"Just listento those!" Scores of ozomatlimonkeys swung from branch to branch. They chattered in funny tongues, making the children giggle louder. Grand Ta also caught the giggles.
He thought, This land is so bewitching, they could forget our Ancestors and their teachings. I will be remembered as a worthy Elder only if I use this moment to strengthen their minds and hearts. When they were out of wind, he signaled for the children to gather where he had started a sacred circle. Adults moved aside and stayed back.
The young people sat and squeezed one another's hands. They hoped there would be time to play before night fell, but they could wait a little longer. The tribe had been traveling for thousands of years and even more miles. Searching for a prophet's vision….

[I'll give you a hint: it wasn't a shining star.]

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25. A Letter to You, Dear Caregiver . . .


Dear Gente,
This posting is for all the caregivers out there, past and present.  You have or are presently accompanying a family member or friend as they transition.  This journey may be swift, or it may take weeks, months, years.  But you were there, or you are there now.  And it’s the holidays.  TV commercials, store music, radio channels are all blasting jovial lyrics about “sleigh rides,” “jingle bells,” and informing you that “from now on our troubles will be miles away.”  You want to stop this music, postpone the holidays just this once, because it’s another burden, another reminder that your world is not at all looking a lot like Christmas (or Hanukkah), or any other festivity taking place around you.  You feel alone. 


My mother tells me the story of our familia en Mexico -- how parents, aunts, cousins, comadres, compadres, all living in close quarters would help each other through elder transitioning.  There were no “assisted living” housing arrangements, no social workers or nurses coming to the house.  It was simply “the family” who became the network.  It makes me think about the Mayan communities who have settled here in Nebraska, some of whom I’ve met.  They’ve taught me how their community handles births, deaths, illness.  Because many are undocumented, they don’t go to the doctor or hospital.  They take care of their own.  Some of the immigrants have come already with medical knowledge:  either degrees from medical schools in their home country, or they are curanderas and/or doulas.  They have created a strong support system.  This is not to say it’s easy for them.  It’s just a reminder that in this country, the majority of people cannot afford “assisted living” or even assistance in the home, which then demands much from the one or two people helping. 


With each generation, close familial networks become fragmented and disappear.  And so I think of you, dear one, who is without a large, supportive network, who is overwhelmed with the work of taking care of your father, mother, or other family members or friends.  I think of you who may have forgotten how tired you are, but your body reminds you:  the ache in your back, your feet, your arms, the headache you get in the afternoons or late evenings.  

I am thinking of you who cannot sleep well, always on the alert in case the family member with “sundowners” tries to walk out the door at 2a.m.  I am thinking of you who works hard to keep the dignity intact for the loved one whose mind is shutting down (because that’s what happens first when the rest of the body is dying).  I am thinking of you whose father, mother, or other loved one can no longer recognize who you are.  I am thinking of you whose loved one, after many years of illness, has transitioned, and another kind of grieving begins. 


A few days ago, I wrote to close friends, telling them how much I cherish their friendship, and wishing them much love.  They wrote back and said:  “It is a pleasure to see you, hear you, and share ideas, joy, laughter, and some pain to make it real.”  That’s it in a nutshell, I thought.  It is so important to share our lives, and that includes “some pain to make it real.”  It’s not a friendship/relationship without what is “real.”  There is much sadness, anger, fury, frustration, laughter, joy (a kind of bittersweet joy), respect, and exhaustion, in accompanying a loved one toward final transition with dignity.  I’m keeping it “real” for you, dear one, who finds these words familiar.  I’m keeping it real and thinking of you, sending you strong energies of calm, comfort, deep breaths, many moments of humor, and the knowledge that you are not alone.  You are not alone, dear one.  I am thinking of you and others are too.  You, dear one, are a member of this larger familia of caregivers. Con paz y fortaleza. 






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