Friday, December 02, 2016

Party Like It's 2010

Melinda Palacio

 
Happy 12th Birthday La Bloga

After a brief bout of depression over our presidential election, I went into complete denial and celebrated my birthday and feasted like it was 2010 and Obama had just been elected POTUS. Maybe POTUS didn't mean much to the Twitter sphere. Was I even twittering or twerking in presidential glee? I'm not sure. It was six years ago, after all, when I began another landmark milestone in my literary life, that of Bloguera, writing about my writing life or life in general for La Bloga. I am proud to mention this nice segue since while I was partying up a storm last week, I completely ignored fellow Bloguera, Xanath Caraza's call for some celebratory words on being part of La Bloga.
Before La Bloga, I was like this Denver bear looking into the literary world.

La Bloga has always been a special place for me. It's where I first started reading about the Chicano Literary scene, where I first read short stories by Daniel Olivas and then heard about a new anthology he was editing, Latinos in Lotusland. I pestered Daniel by sending five different submissions until he finally accepted a short piece of fiction for the anthology that launched my writing career over a decade ago. I built an entire portfolio on having one short story accepted in 2005. The anthology wouldn't be published until 2008, but I had one forthcoming story (and I made sure everyone knew it). I also won a contest on La Bloga thanks to Ernest Hogan. Since five of the blogueros, Daniel Olivas, Michael Sedano, René Colato Lainez, lived in Los Angeles and wrote about literary events in town that I often was a part of, La Bloga seemed omnipresent. I realize this is an overstatement that many people from Los Angeles would make. Especially since La Bloga happens nationally with our heartland blogueras Amelia de la luz Montes and Xanath Caraza, and our strong Denver contingent including founder Rudy Garcia, Manuel Ramos, and Lydia Gil, our lone huarache Ernest Hogan in Arizona.

In 2010 at the AWP conference in Denver, I had the chance to meet the mighty three blogueros from Denver and it's at that conference where Manuel Ramos invited me to be part of La Bloga. His father was ill and he needed some time off from the weekly gig. I was honored to step in and the rest is history or herstory as we like to say at UC Santa Cruz, where I took a master's course in feminism taught by Angela Davis.
My first AWP in Denver 2010


When Manuel asked to have his Friday slot back, he and I decided to share the month and we are still alternating Fridays. This twelfth year, we celebrate La Bloga with the continued presence of our newest bloguero, Sam Quiñones and a pause as Lydia Gil has decided to take a brake for much needed time off of reporting on all things in Spanish, and we forever remember Tatiana de la Tierra. Happy 12th birthday La Bloga. Since joining La Bloga, I now have a chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, a poetry book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting and a novel, Ocotillo Dreams. More books are forthcoming, stay tuned and thank you for reading La Bloga. 

Ocotillo Dreams

How Fire Is a Story, Waiting




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado /Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest


By Lulu Delacre

Age Range: 5 - 11 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 6
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Children's Book Press (CA); Bilingual edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892393270
ISBN-13: 978-0892393275


Alto, allá arriba en los Andes brilla un bosque bordado de bromeas…

High up in the Andes blooms a brilliant forest embroidered with bromeliads . . .


With lyrical text in both Spanish and English, we travel to the magical world of a cloud forest in the Andes of Ecuador. We discover the bounty of plants, animals, and other organisms that live there as we help a zoologist look for the elusive olinguito, the first new mammal species identified in the Americas since 1978. Not your usual ABC book, the alphabet is an organizing feature to introduce children to rich vocabulary as they learn about a unique environment.

Thoroughly researched and exquisitely illustrated with colorful, realistic images, the book is a visual delight while it provides a wealth of information. Backmatter includes articles about cloud forests and the discovery of the olinguito in 2013, and an extensive glossary with the scientific names of the species pictured. This is a unique book to treasure on many levels.


Reviews


Lulu Delacre is the author and illustrator of many award-winning children's books, as well as a nonfiction novel for teens. Winner of several Pura Belpré Award Honors, Delacre has been named a Maryland Woman in the Arts and served as a juror for the 2003 National Book Awards. A native of Puerto Rico, Delacre lives with her husband in Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information about Lulu Delacre visit luludelacre.com.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twelve. Bermejo Launches Posada



La Bloga Turns Twelve
Michael Sedano

Twelve years is a long time. Or it’s a trick of time that so many days have passed between yesterday to a Sunday in 2004 when La Bloga’s first column hit the internets of Aztlán with RudyG’s declaration that it had begun. It seems almost yesterday but it’s been twelve years, writing, inviting guests, increasing our number to eleven writers. We write about books, health, food, cultura, y más. Pero sabes que?  La Bloga has always been about the books, the literature.

It would be cool to review the emails Rudy, Manuel Ramos, and I exchanged in the days leading Rudy to get it started with that first post. Of the exchanges, all I remember is not knowing what a blog is, and finding seamless ways to fit a weekly deadline into what I was doing for a living. Then there was the “who are these guys?” factor.

I live in LA, Rudy and Manuel live in Denver. In person we’d not yet met. I knew Manuel and Rudy via CHICLE, the pioneering listserv Teresa Marquez managed from her office at University of New Mexico Zimmerman Library. When Marquez had to close down CHICLE, we were out in the cold.

CHICLE, which stood for Chicana/Chicano Literature Exchange, was the first chicano literature-centric email-based communication channel on the internet. Miguel Juárez has an interesting history about CHICLE here. CHICLE’s passing hurts. For one thing, it means Rudy, Manuel, and I would no longer have a place to kick around ideas, to find out literary and publishing news, to catch up with chisme.

In these years, Blogs were emerging onto the social media landscape. Rudy discovered Google’s blogspot service, signed us up, and La Bloga was ready to see light.



While La Bloga has always been about the books, literature, reading, writing, right now it’s about time. Twelve years going on thirteen, La Bloga’s built a library of material that has use. Our author website sidebar, interviews, reviews, photographs, news and notes bits and pieces about literature, cultura, y más are on file, no advertising or hassles. There’s some good stuff in here. We should archive it, some tell us.

I was talking to Latinopia’s Jesus Treviño recently about archiving our respective material. Treviño’s challenged to find a visionary library or university agency to take on bringing Latinopia as a public resource and ongoing active channel. It’s a massive undertaking with Treviño’s encyclopedic visual record of chicanismo and the technical requirements of digitizing video art. Archiving La Bloga would not be nearly as tricky. We are open to suggestions.


Holiday Hero: This Sale

My wife's jewelry invariably catches people's eye. Whether at the University Women's luncheon with her contemporaries, or at some reception or other gathering, people ask where she got that bracelet or those earrings. "Michael bought it for me" invariably wins her admiration for having a husband with impeccable taste.

Here's my secret, and here's your opportunity to make your partner incredibly happy:


Yolanda Gonzalez' studio, Ma Art Space, is easy to reach from any place in SoCal. Located at 800 S Palm Ave # 1, Alhambra, CA 91803, Phone: (626) 975-4799, the sale features silver and gold wearable sculpture of Zergio Florez. Also wonderful ceramics, paintings, sculpture by worthwhile artists.


Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo Celebrates Publishing Her First Book: Posada 


I suffer from anomia so having guests to the house creates repeated chances to forget someone’s name within three seconds of meeting them. Still, recently I welcomed the prospect as the only less than felicitous aspect of hosting poet Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo’s publication party for Posada. Offerings of Witness and Refuge.

Bermejo is one of those poets who make it worthwhile to attend poetry readings. Her poetic voice is powered by a ferocious spirit that fuels thoughtful oral presentations of the poet’s words.

Listening to Bermejo read her own stuff shows an artist who respects her work. Well thought-out phrasing, clear enunciation, and forceful projection extracts all the meaning these words contain and guides the way readers approach the poet’s work.

Back in 2015 I made a promise to myself, that I would host Bermejo’s book party out of respect for an act of incredible character.

When the Association of Writers & Writing Programs announced its program for the organization’s 2016 Los Angeles AWP conference, a host of members protested the selections as exclusionary, the selection process as opaque. Poisonous words roiled relations between members and the executive director.

One member of the conference planning group, publisher Kate Gale of Los Angeles’ Red Hen Press, wrote and later retracted a diatribe. AWP disowned Gale’s position. Gale was called privileged, elitist, and out-of-touch. For Los Angeles’ writing community, Red Hen Press had sunk from exalted to pariah.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo would be a casualty of the pedo. Her first book had been accepted for publication by Red Hen Press. Bermejo quickly made a decision. She wrote:

Publishing with Red Hen isn’t something I can do at this point even if it is a press I’ve admired for years with writers I love and respect like Eloise Klein Healy, Doug Kearny, Veronica Reyes, and Terry Wolverton. Publishing with Red Hen isn’t something I can do at this point, if I am to have any credibility in my own community.

I must have met Bermejo at a reading shortly after she published her decision. Maybe I Facebooked my feelings. When that book finds its publisher, I told Bermejo, I will host a publication party for you. She agreed. Neither of us was being desultory. Not in the promise. Not in the acceptance. We schedule it for the weekend after Thanksgiving Day.



Saturday afternoon arrives and the gente start showing up. Latinopia’s Jesus Treviño is first on scene, to set up the lighting and camera position. Then Xochitl, to see if she could do anything? Nope, my wife loves entertaining and Barbara has everything laid out.

Rain is always welcome but not a good weather for people to drive the freeways to get to Pasadena, so a handful miss this sparkling engagement. I’d planned to do this outdoors, but Barbara knew better and she was, of course, right.

We have set up the food and beverages for buffet self-service and the layout works well. There is enough food prepared but I have supplies at the ready to whip up a few more tacos de chicharron de carne, or tostadas de ceviche. There’s nopalitos—Bermejo will read a nopales poem in their honor—pan dulce (elicits another poem), cookies and macarons, and strong hot coffee.


A montón of people arrive. I shake hands or embrace, say people’s name in welcome, and true to form, forget the names. The people from New York City. Jessica and her friend, poet Rocio whom I haven’t yet read nor heard. We shared a table at Jessica’s wedding. An aspiring novelist finds a good listener in Jesus Treviño, who recently won a National Book Award. Mario Guerrero tells me about the near-completion of his 3-D printing studio.

I smile in conversation with the scientist from Colombia and her daughter the scholar. The woman with the injured leg and the cane drove them. Later Liz Gonzales and Jorge Martin step inside. Jorge’s a sound artist whose work fascinates me and I corner him with lots of questions. Iris de Anda and her little girl arrive for a brief visit. I hope they ate. Some people stand and talk and laugh like old friends. Others pull furniture into corners and discuss Spanish phonology, cultural variance between la chicanada and other hispanoparlantes. It’s a great time whose tenor, warmth and camaraderie come from those rare few minutes of this poet reading her work.

Bermejo gave up a lot by going to Sundress Publications, out of principle and strength of character. She has to promote extra hard to get the word out. This houseparty is the poet’s ninth such reading in the past few weeks. Latinopia will have video of the reading; visit regularly to catch up.

Not that the other publisher wouldn’t have expected the same labor. Abjuring Red Hen foregoes the push that house exerts in the regional market. Red Hen’s maillist would open doors with contact names and phone numbers that are the currency of marketing. Maybe instead of nine, Bermejo would have completed twenty readings by now, and introduced hundreds more readers to her powerful, deeply moving work.


No shoulda woulda coulda. Get a copy, tell your friends. Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing.

Order directly from the publisher or via your local independent bookseller. Buy a personal copy and copies for familia and friends. Orders at the publisher through Wednesday do double duty. The money buys your copies of Posada. Offerings of Witness and Refuge, but also Sundress Publications is donating the funds to the water protectors at Standing Rock. Click here for Sundress' offer.



Monday, November 28, 2016

El Aniversario: Twelve Years and Counting


El Aniversario: Twelve Years and Counting

Xánath Caraza




It was twelve years ago the first post on La Bloga came to light.  Today we celebrate La Bloga’s anniversary.  A strong team of writers, La Bloga continues to bring a myriad of news stories to the world.  Pero, aside from writing for La Bloga, de qué escriben los blogueros? Here are some palabras of this team of diverse Chicanos and Chicanas.  May these words fill you with strength, dear La Bloga readers.


Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes:

Felicidades a la Bloga!  Here is a paragraph from my latest publication, “Rituals of Healing,” in _The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Popular Culture_.  


RITUALS OF HEALING
"Illness and wellbeing is a topic that is of much interest today.  The media continually feature advertisements touting drugs, surgeries, the latest program that will relieve us of pain, of illness, of chronic diseases.  A number of Chicanas and Latinas are looking to incorporate indigenous ancestral healing methods, often much different from Western medicine, which tends to rely, at times heavily, on pharmaceutical drugs to mask pain.  Alternatives to western medicine focus on herbs, foods, physical movement, and touch that nurture the body to heal itself.  Food is an important healing component and has figured prominently in Chicana/Latina culture and literature."



Rudy Ch. Garcia, Denver, Aztlán:
excerpt from first chapter of The Closet of Discarded Dreams (2013), honorable mention in SciFi/Fantasy, from the International Latino Book Awards, 2013:



"More odd than all these oddities, was that the participants seemed totally involved in their own special thing, paying no attention to groups near them. As if they didn’t know they had neighbors. It was like I’d Google-mapped in real-time and max-zoomed on a world of suburban barbecues. A place where each backyard gathering pretended it existed in its own private mini world, despite the nearby competing commotion. Except, these people needed no eight-foot fences to aid the illusion, and suburbia had never looked this loco..." 



Manuel Ramos:



 "I need your legal advice, Luis.  So, what do we do counselor?"

Móntez stood up and stretched his arms over his head like he was greeting the sun.  He reminded me of the prison's yoga class.  He walked behind his desk with his arms reaching for the ceiling, his fingers vibrating.  Gray hair streaked his temples and mustache.  His dark jaw tightened and his shining eyes shrunk to black dots. He stared at a poster that hung on his wall:  a bunch of deep purple grapes dripped with blood.  The words "Boycott Grapes!" stretched over the fruit like an ironic halo.

"Time to call the cops."






“They were in the storm now. The two Koreans were sharp silhouettes against the blinding whiteness. Ski gunned the motor at the third switchback. Something felt wrong. The truck slid weirdly sideways. To the furious spinning of wheels and grinding gears the truck slid backward. The two Koreans coiled their bodies in readiness to leap out. Costillas’ eyes bulged in sheer bloodcurdling terror. “Oh fuck, I’m not gonna make it. Damn it, menso. Damn it damnit.”

He should have been with his wife back in warm California, going about his quotidian duties of taking roll, ogling hippie chicks…not plunging off a mountain in a picturesque arc in the middle-of-nowhere.”



Ernest Hogan:



“That was Itzcóatl O’Gorman, who I used to consider to be one of my best acuaches—I was one of the charter members of his Surrealist Terrorist Voodoo Network—but lately he’s been taking everything too seriously, wanting to be a terrorist rather than a cultural rabble-​rouser. “Reality makes terrorists of us all,” he once told me. I’m not ready to believe that.”


Daniel Olivas:




“When I first met Elizondo, he lived in the small house at the back end of my abuela’s property.  Ana Ortiz Camacho, my grandmother and the only grandparent I had the opportunity to know, had died the week before, a life of cigarettes and Mexican food and hard work and not a little beer finally catching up with her.  My mother, abuela’s only child, died seven years ago when I was in my senior year at Reed College, so it fell on me to make the funeral arrangements and then begin the arduous task of emptying out abuela’s house and selling it.”  From the short story “Elizondo Returns Home” (first published by the literary journal, Fourth & Sycamore) which will be featured in Daniel Olivas’s new collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures (fall 2017, The University of Arizona Press). You may read the full story here.



Xánath Caraza:
Mammoth Publications, 2016




Puertos silenciosos

Zarpan las miradas de los puertos silenciosos
ondulados recuerdos se impregnan en las conchas.
Racimos de algas verdes bailan con el vaivén de las olas.
Agua que choca en el corazón, se estrella en la profunda voz.
Grave exhalación es el sonido del mar
con el que me enredo, me jala, no hay salida.
Puertos donde los taciturnos viandantes suben
y arrastran pesado equipaje, doloroso ayer
terror en las maletas, Pandora se inquieta.
Mar, mudo destino de las inmóviles almas
extensas aguas llevan los cuerpos endurecidos
nos dejamos llevar a esos puertos silenciosos.
Algunos muertos en vida saben dónde desembarcar
otros, nos dejamos llevar por la brisa de esta noche violeta
por el último rayo de sol que ingenuamente seguimos.
Lacustres sílabas exhalamos con el suave movimiento de esta barca.
Espesos pensamientos nos embriagan, nos engañan los líquidos
aún no he encontrado mi último Puerto
el silencio no ha llegado para mí.


Silent Ports

Gazes set sail from silent ports
undulating memories soaked in seashells.
Clusters of green seaweed dance with the swaying of the waves.
Water that strikes the heart, crashes into the profound voice.
Deep exhalation is the sound of the sea
where I’m entangled, it pulls me, there’s no exit.
Ports where taciturn travelers arise
and drag heavy bags, painful yesterday
terror in the luggage, Pandora distraught.
Sea, silent destiny of motionless souls
extensive waters carry hardened bodies.
We let ourselves be taken to those silent ports.
Some of the living dead know where to disembark
others let ourselves be led by the breeze on this violet night
by the last ray of sunshine that in our innocence we follow.
We exhale lacustrine syllables with the gentle movement of this boat.
Heavy thoughts intoxicate us, liquids confound us
I still haven’t found my last port
silence hasn’t come for me.







Sunday, November 27, 2016

You Are Not Alone: Students Uplifting Students

Olga García Echeverría




5th Grader Reading a Letter of Support From a College Student

In the week following the election, in an attempt to acknowledge and help dismantle (perhaps transform) some of my students' fears, I facilitated a writing activity between 50 Cal State LA students and 50 fifth graders. It was an unplanned activity thrown together at the last minute, born out of necessity and executed in 3 days. At the onset of the exchange, all l knew was that so many of us were feeling bruised and deflated; we needed some light. We needed some solidarity. We needed to step outside of our own grief/anger/fear and help someone else in need. 

"The 5th graders need uplifting!" I  told my Cal State students. "Can you help me send them messages of support?"   





When I next visit the 5th graders I tell them I've brought them a surprise, personalized letters from Cal State LA. 

“Letters from your college students?” 
“Yes.”
“They're writing to us? Why?”
“They were wondering how you were doing after the election and they wanted to say hi.”

I hand out their letters one by one, instructing they don't open them just yet. “Wait until everybody has one.”

“For suspense!” Someone says. 
“Yeah, for suspense.”

One student peers into his name on the envelope and asks in astonishment how the college students know all their names. 

“Because I gave them your names.” 

“But Ms., do they know us? Do they know who we are?”

“They don't know you know you, but they know you through me because I talk about you all the time.” 

Questions start flying. How old are they, my college students? Did they vote? Are they mad about Trump? Are the college students gonna come visit them at their school? Was this letter thing the college students' idea or mine? Isn't this like having a pen pal? Can we all take a trip to Cal State LA? Wouldn't that be so much fun? The school bus only costs $700.00. Isn't there a Pollo Loco at Cal State LA? “I think I've been there, Ms., to Cal State, I ate at that Pollo Loco,” says one of the girls. 

“I have an important question,” interjects one of the boys. “Did the boys write to the boys and the girls to the girls?” 

When I answer no, he protests, "Ah, man." He says he's too shy to write to a girl and plus, he only knows how to draw cars. 

“If you get a girl, you can still draw her a car.” He shakes his head and makes a face, letting me know I totally don't get what he's talking about. 

When everyone has a letter, I give them the green light, “Okay, go!” Hands eagerly dig in and unfold. Rustling paper fills the room. It's like Christmas, only the gifts they are unwrapping are words of encouragement being transported from one classroom to another. 







  
Some of the 5th graders are holding their opened letters in front of their faces, reading them in the air. Scanning eyes, wrinkled brows, sudden smiles. 



Someone is hunched over and peering into his letter on his desk. His buddy comes from behind and leans over him, “What did they write you? Did you get a boy or a girl?” 

Some of the students are running their index fingers along the page as they read. 

There's a kid coming towards me with a creased forehead and a creased letter in his hand, “Ms. Olga” he whines, “I can't read this writing. I already tried two times.” He hands over the paper annoyed. “Can you read it for me?” I do an on-the-spot translation of the cryptic handwriting. He seems appeased, takes the letter, and goes back to his seat.  





Jacquelin stares at her letter with a mixture of seriousness and some kind of awe. “Look!” She's talking to no one in particular. She points to the penciled sketch of an old man using a walker and the crayola-colored Mexican flag at the bottom of the letter. Andrew, who wrote her the letter, wrote near the sketch, “I am 18, but sometimes I feel like I'm 80. LOL.” Jacquelin laughs and then proudly says, “I like the way he draws! He's so funny!” 




Within minutes, they're all sharing, talking, and laughing. Some re-read their letters aloud. Some switch and read silently. Some students start wandering to other tables and desks. More questions: 

“Can we draw them Pokémon characters?” 
“Can we start writing back?”
 “When will you give them our letters?” 
 “Are they gonna write back again?” 

They get to writing. There's still all kinds of excitement and noise, but some of them impress me with their fierce focus and their determination to lay down some words. 





Do not bug these kids. 




A couple of students come up to me pointing to the last names of the two students who wrote them. They've made a discovery that intrigues them. “These two guys have the same last name! Are they brothers?” 

“As far as I know, they're not brothers.” 

The “As far as I know” seems to encourage them. “We're just gonna ask them ourselves in our letters to make sure.” And they do. 

In her letter to a college student, Nathalie writes... “Dear Edwin, I just want to say thank you and you don't have to worry because you are you and you are special...It's okay to be different because different is cool...Trump thinks he can just tell us to leave...but to do that he still needs to go through Congress." 





The 5th graders' previous lesson with me (prior to the letter exchange) was on affirmations, so they use these abundantly with the college students. 

“Believe in you!” 
“Don't let the election get you down!” 
"You can do it!"



















When these letters make it back to Cal State LA, my college students turn into 5th graders. They're excited and completely surprised. “They wrote back to us?” They dig into their envelopes and start pulling out tiny drawings, cutout figures, letters with specialized folds. 5th grade origami. Their eyes scan the small pages. Sonrisas beam.

“Somebody gave me .50 cents! How cute!” 
“They sent us little drawings.”
“I got a Pokémon.” 
“Ha ha, this student wrote Dump Trump on my envelope.” 
“I love this," says one student, holding her letter. "I feel like I wrote to myself and myself wrote back."



*A special thank you to Angels Gate Cultural Center for their arts/creative writing programming in elementary schools, and to las maestras Ms. Cabrera and Ms. Altamira at New Academy of Science of Art for their dedication in the classroom and their assistance in facilitating this letter exchange. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Few Words


Oh, by the way, it's way too late
We're all waiting for the world to end
.
The Mavericks - Waiting for the World to End


The day after Thanksgiving. 


As I said in this same space several years ago, for this same day-after post, I hope you all had a peaceful and meaningful holiday. I’ve been on La Bloga since its wobbly birth (we celebrate twelve years on November 28) and sometimes I feel like I’m writing the same page for the twelfth time. Or, it’s all brand new to me and I wonder how in the hell I come up with some of the stuff that appears above my byline.

The current Bloga crew is a hard-working, talented group of dedicated writers. You already know that if you’ve spent any time reading La Bloga. I’m quite proud of all of our writers and contributors, past and present, and especially proud of the panoramic collection of articles stashed in our archives, ready and waiting. Our writers produce, almost every day, a kaleidoscope of words, a helter-skelter array of sentences and paragraphs that run the gamut from book reviews, to interviews, to recipes, to health advice, to polemics, to slice-of-life, to poetry, to any number of other things that we live, teach, and write, and all of it pointing to the truth about what it really means to be a person of color in this country, in these times.  In case you are curious, I don't accept a post-truth world.  

Not that it was easy getting up the day after the election. I didn’t want to believe the truth, but there it was. Was I hallucinating from an election hangover? If only. Voters in key electoral states chose a man who is so obviously a phony, a racist, a misogynist, a … well, we’ve been through all that already. Now we face at least four years of phony, racist, misogynistic governance, at best. We’re spurred to study again the meaning of fascism, the danger of appeasement, the strength in united fronts. We recall past struggles, defeats, and victories. We return to the words of past movements and activists, and we tell ourselves we will remain vigilant. Don't wait for the world to end.  Organize, organize, organize …

But, hey. We’ve been through this before. This, and worse. As a Chicano, I share a bloody, violent history of oppression and resistance. As a Chicano, I cling to the fragility of the thin ribbon of hope that many of us reference when we speak of justice, equality, freedom, or democracy – and that many of us believe can be shredded in an instant by unbridled power that goes unchallenged.

So, the election of Trump is not the greatest evil that people of the United States have inflicted on other people of the United States. Actually, far from it. Consider a long list that includes Japanese American concentration camps, Native American genocide, lynchings, slavery. That’s not to say that we can ignore Trump and all he stands for. As Frederick Douglas said, no struggle, no progress. And we will progress past Trump. On that you must rely.

Finally, relevant words from César Chávez:

“It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity." 


____________________________________________________________

Later.

Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in October, 2016. 


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chicanonautica: Time Tripping the Around Alamo

by Ernest Hogan


History is hard to know because of all the hired bullshit,” Hunter S. Thompson so wisely said. Then it has to pass to things like sci-fi and television. With a lot of folks thinking that school should teach it as propagandistic mythology in the service of patriotism, it can get to be a real mess.


So when I got a heads-up that the new show Timeless was doing an episode about the Alamo, I got interested.


Timeless is one of many TV shows this season about time travel in which the possibility of changing history is a main plot point. This is interesting because Harlan Ellison, back in the nineteen seventies, tried to pitch a show called Man Without Time, about this same basic concept. It came close to happening, but an important executive just couldn’t understand said concept. It says something for media and pop culture's ability to educate in that a couple of generations most folks have no trouble conceiving of multiple time tracks. 

The show tries to be of the current century in that the owner of the time machine is an African and one of the crew of time travelers is black, which puts an interesting spin on visiting a lot of time periods. Then the white guy and gal are the typical trained professionals who act like teenagers seen in too many sci-fi shows. CGI makes bringing things like the Hindenburg and Nazi rockets doable, and period costumes are readily available.


Which brings us to the Alamo.



The Fall of the Alamo (1903) by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk
It must have seemed like a natural when sifting through the grab bag of history: “ The Alamo! Texas! Davy Crockett! Jim Bowie and his famous knife! Hoo boy!”


The somebody remembered that the bad guys on this little drama were Mexicans, and it ends with a helluvalota “good guys” -- including women, children, and beloved folk heroes -- die.


I heard some concerns about how would impact the media image of Chicanos/Latinix/Mexicans. But I am happy to report that this episode probably isn’t going to be remembered very long. It’s just not that impressive. It looks like they just plain chickened out in the face of possible controversy.


We aren’t tourists here,” says one of the time travelers, then they go on to skim the surface of history, contriving a feel good action-adventure plot that comes off as a lame compromise. 

Davy Crockett is shown to be a bullshitter, but not the failed politician who has left the United States and was helping to steal part of Mexico. I keep getting this vision of Donald Trump in a coonskin cap . . . he charms the time travelers who worship him.  

What is the difference between a pioneer and an illegal alien, anyway?

The problem of how to depict Mexicans was dealt with in the time-honored tradition of simply not showing them. Mexicans/Tejanos fought alongside Crockett and Bowie against Santana’s army, but the only Mexicans seen are Santana and his troops, who come off like slick, sinister invaders, very much like the Nazis. This inhuman horde is actually a step up from the barbaric, rapist/bandidos that we see everywhere from spaghetti westerns to political campaigns.


The episode suffers from what may be the series’ fatal flaw: a self-imposed rule about bending history, but not breaking it. It’s after the breaking point that the real fun -- the dangerous game of What If – begins. As it is, Timeless backs up popular misconceptions, but lacks the punch to stick in the memory bank. It’s what happens when popular culture is generated by corporations, for an audience that has forgotten that there actually is a real world out there.


But in a world brimming over with turmoil, people need their escapism. I suppose that after the election, a lot of people feel that they’re in they’re own version of the Alamo -- or maybe I should say Little Big Horn -- with no time machine to escape in.


Ernest Hogan is the author of High Aztech. He didn't realize that this post was going up on Thanksgiving, and begs the Go Go Gophers for forgiveness.