Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Let Yourself Be Sidetracked By Your Güiro" & Other Musical & Culinary Notes

Barbara & Michael Sedano at their home.  They are holding a Güiro which Michael hand carved. 
Reporting from Pasadena, California, with La Bloga co-founder, Michael Sedano and his wife, Barbara.  Michael has more talents than we know.  First, he is often busy at his computer managing the La Bloga site or posting his Tuesday articles.  What you may not know is that Michael plays the piano and, in a corner of his house, his piano is surrounded by various instruments which include Güiros that he makes by hand from bamboo bark.  He tells me that the poet, Alurista wrote “Let yourself be sidetracked by your Güiro” (from Alurista’s poem, “Nation, Child, Pluma Roja.”  As I’ve discovered, playing the güiro is indeed quite the experience once you let it sidetrack you. (Read what Michael has written about the güiro here.)

Playing the Güiro
And as you know, Michael also enjoys cooking and writing about non-gluten cooking and recipes he's discovered.  The day I came to see him, he didn’t cook for me (as he had done during my last visit).  Instead he was very excited to take me to “Amara Chocolate & Coffee,” a Venezuelan Restaurant he wrote about last fall (click here for his review).  He knew I had made Arepas (a corn-based flatbread) back in Lincoln, Nebraska with the help of my Colombiana student, María Antonia García de la Torre and he wanted me to try Amara’s arepas here in Pasadena.  So we headed to Amara's café. 

Indeed, the arepas at “Amara Chocolate & Coffee” restaurant were indeed sublime. They served me an arepa stuffed with creamy black beans and non-dairy cheese.  I even tried their famous Venezuelan hot chocolate (which I had with almond milk).  

Amelia Montes & Amara Barroeta at "Amara Chocolate & Coffee"
Amara Barroeta loves what she does.  She, along with her husband, Alejandro, have created a sensuous culinary delight in every cup of chocolate, coffee, baked good, or culinary dish they prepare.  Amara’s passion and love come through. 

Barbara,  Amelia, and Michael at "Amara Chocolate & Coffee"
Often, when I tell people that I have diabetes, they think that I cannot eat many foods or what they think are “dessert” dishes.  They also think that I only eat “sugar free.” I can certainly go to most restaurants and choose foods that are both delicious and that won't suddenly raise my glucose levels.  There are ways to do this.  Here's how:

First-- a note on the term “Sugar Free.”  Sugar is a carbohydrate found in most foods.  For many years, we have been tricked into thinking that we should only eat something that is free of sugar (hence the term "sugar free").  But carbohydrates are important to the body.  It’s not the carbohydrate (sugar) that is the problem.  It’s the “kind” of carbohydrate and the amount of fiber in the particular food that needs to be considered.  For example, a cup of raspberries is not at all “sugar free.”  It has 15 grams of carbohydrates.  However, along with those carbohydrates, one cup of raspberries also contains 8 grams of fiber.  When a food has over 5 grams or more of fiber, you subtract the number of fiber grams from the carbohydrates.  Eating a cup of raspberries, then, only contains 7 grams of carbohydrates.  Its estimated glycemic load is only 3.  The lower the glycemic load number, the less it will affect one’s glucose levels in the body.  Those of us with Diabetes (type II) always need to keep a low count on our glycemic intake.  So what is meant by glycemic load?

The glycemic load measures different kinds of carbohydrates and their impact on the body and blood sugar.  The more fiber a food has, the less glycemic load.  This is why eating an apple with all the fibrous parts of it included is so much better than drinking apple juice without its fiber.  Drinking apple juice (or any "juiced" fruit) is like mainlining sugar into your system.  There is no fiber there to slow down its affect on the body. This is why "juicing" is not a good idea for those of us with diabetes, type II.  

The University of Sydney has a wonderful website which explains the glycemic load and also includes a web search.  Type in any food and it will tell you the glycemic index for that food (click here). 

The day I went to "Amara Chocolate & Coffee," I did my usual walking/exercise (which also brings down glucose levels) and I chose foods there carefully.  I did not have the sugar encrusted churros (although they looked lovely).  Nor did I have any of the other baked sweets.  However, I was quite satisfied with the arepa, the delicious creamy black beans, and the almond milk chocolate.  It’s all about choices and being knowledgeable about carbohydrates and the glycemic index!  

Amara Barroeta, owner and cook, "Amara Chocolate & Coffee"
And thank you to Michael and Barbara Sedano for a lovely Venezuelan cafe afternoon in the heart of South Pasadena, California.  Abrazos!  May you, dear readers, choose your foods well and have a most delicious culinary experience this coming week!  And don't forget to "let yourself be sidetracked by your güiro!"

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Santa Fe--more livable than Denver

Playing Lotería with Juan

My wife and I took in award-winning artist John Picacio's Lotería reception at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, Thursday night. Owner G.R.R. Martin showed up to support him and treat his guests as guests of his own digs. We all played Lotería, with prizes galore, except for me, but I suspect the game was rigged.

Prints of Picacio's re-interpetation of the classic Mexican game cards and sets of cards were the prizes. Luckily, everyone had a chance to sample a local favorite, George R.R. Martin's own ale. It was good enough to have more than a couple, but that wouldn't have increased my chances of winning a prize. My Lotería tabla sucked.

One guy in the back must have held the twin of my tabla because he'd periodically yell, "Bullshit!" after Juan announced the next card. I take that back; that guy couldn't have had a shittier tabla than mine. One round finished, and there was a single bean on my tabla. Did I mention it was cursed?

Juan's event alone was worth the trip, but we'd also come down for a little vacay, and in the next days, I at least discovered more about what we've lost living in Denver than about what Santa Fe still has to offer. Not that it's paradise.

Other ways Denver sucks

A Denver Post headline this morning: "Denver building implosion to bring closures." It's about a high-rise being demolished, but it could also describe well the damage being done to Denver's communities by so-called gentrification.

Starbucks signs push out Chicano murals, "bistros" push out affordable family restaurants. The process resembles someone cutting their own throat in order to have their say. Actually, more accurately, cutting the throats of long-time residents who have roots in the community. Investors buying houses to flip them for a profit. So, "American."

Arguments for "gentrification" commonly center around economics. But the community suffers from those economics--higher property taxes for the aged and less prosperous, less parking, more traffic, young professional drunks on the streets, outrageous prices for food and drink, among many other financial burdens.

It's hard for me to understand how the young, supposedly educated, professional "gentry" allow themselves to be exploited, crammed into multi-storied apartments, overcharged for what the old residents know was once less costly. And much more livable.

Then in contrast, there's the city of Santa Fe where my wife and I are spending a few days. New Mexico itself is not wide open to developers. Although it's not perfect, all around is evidence of the community preserving itself, culturally, architecturally, liveably.

We entered a place called Tiny's, to hear Chris Abeyta's 4-man band of keyboard, congas, and guitars. And no cover charge. I ask the bartender what's on tap. "Jägermeister," she says, not kidding, and I know I'm in a real bar, not some preppy Denver brewery. I order a glass of Santa Fe Nut Brown Ale that costs $3.50, almost half of what Denverites allow themselves to be charged. Down here, I could afford to become a bar-n-grill lover.

Sometimes it's the little things that indicate what you've lost. A small Native American woman approaches us. "You wanna buy some nice earrings?" We pass on it, and she continues down the bar offering her hand-made jewelry. A while later, a Chicano offers to sell us red chile at a reasonable price. It wasn't hot enough for me, so, it's another pass.

Denver's now-gentrified bars don't allow people to enter and sell their wares. The community-feel and openness to supporting local residents went out the window when the IPhones and espressos entered. Plus, the bargains are gone.

We do a short stop at Omira's to hear Brian's acappella, sax and clarinet [no cover charge, again]. The Belgian draws are $4.50, but they're 8 and 9% potent. Then we head over to 2nd Street Brewery, where Tiffany Christopher's blues/folk is rocking the place [no cover charge]. Beers were $3.50 to $4.50. People are listening to her music and not texting like Denver's gentry addicts.

Santa Fe has gentry, gentrification, Starbucks, etc. But you can find parking. Free, not the $30 you might pay in Denver's LoDo. Traffic gets heavy, like everywhere, but the concentration of urban professionals is less per square block. You can drive to get to several locations without much difficulty. Controlled growth and controlled new construction. Not the spread-our-legs exercise that Denver's city government offers nearly any developer who's got the cash.

Perhaps what the Denver "gentry" have lost on most, besides the enjoyment of music with tickets costing $40 and more, are the other arts. Galleries, shops, gardens, museums, cultural events fill the pages and calendars of Santa Fe. Bistros are here, but not as if to preempt culture. Culturally deprived Denver "gentry" are the norm up north, and the poorer for it.

There are many more contrasts that speak to what I'll call the intelligence of nuevomexicanos who maintained enough control of their communities to not become a developer-raped Denver. Add your own to the list. Lament the loss. Or maybe try educating the "gentry" about how it used to be. If they don't believe any other kind of life is possible, point out Santa Fe on the map.

Commemorating 45 years ago

On August 29, 1970, the National Chicano Moratorium march and protest was held in East Los Angeles, with over 25,000, mostly Chicano people demanding an end to the war in Vietnam. As Jimmy Franco Sr. on says, "The experiences of an older generation need to be shared with the younger generation."

Read his article to hear some of those experiences. In Denver, though we had fewer protestors, we often marched with the Anglo anti-war movement activists. The streets aren't so often filled with protesters, as before. But the lessons are still there for handing down to younger people. Today would be a good day to share that.

Es todo, hoy, because I'm on vacation. Heading down to Albu to interview Victor Milán about his just-released book The Dinosaur Lords. Details, later.
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, fantasy author and travelogue cynic

Friday, August 28, 2015

Photo Essay: Summertime in Santa Barbara

Melinda Palacio

When my friend,  Karen Kersting from New Orleans decided to visit Santa Barbara, I made a vacation out of the trip too. Karen's project managing and design expertise were invaluable when our house in New Orleans flooded.  First, I joined her on the Sunset Limited, the Amtrak train that runs from New Orleans to Union Station in Los Angeles. After a short layover in L.A., we took a commuter train to Santa Barbara, where Steve picked us up and we played tourists in our hometown, venturing as far north as Cambria and Hearst Castle. August was the perfect time for a final Summer hoorah. The weather was perfect, hovering between 72 and 80.

Wednesday, I joined my friend in New Orleans and we rode the Sunset Limited to Santa Barbara.

Thursday: On the train, we saw two sunsets.

The parade of sunsets continued. Nothing like a sunset or moonrise over the Santa Barbara Harbor. 

The Santa Barbara Courthouse Gears Up for the movie Cabaret last Friday.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse at night.

Saturday: Let the road trip begin. First stop: wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Sunday: Poetry reading at the Ojai Valley Arts Center.

Emma Trelles and I read to a SRO crowd on Sunday in Ojai.
In honor of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Steve read a poem about New Orleans.

Sunday: Sunset at the Douglas Preserve.

Monday: We toured beautiful Cambria and Hearst Castle.

Tuesday: Look closely and notice the elephant seals.

Tuesday: We took a quick trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

We take a different train trip, this one tours the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Wednesday: The last breakfast at East Beach Grill in Santa Barbara.

The Last Stop: Karen takes the Sunset Limited back to New Orleans.
She returns to her job as wonder designer and over all super project manager at Alane Designs. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Libros de Lorito

El catálogo de la distribuidora de libros iberoamericanos Lorito Books se enfoca en títulos infantiles en español y bilingües a fin de fomentar el aprendizaje de un segundo idioma.Según Pam Fochtman, presidente de la empresa, la selección de títulos que producen como audiolibros o distribuyen desde Latinoamérica y España promueve la apreciación de la cultura hispana y celebra su riqueza. 

Fundada en 2009, Lorito se enfocó inicialmente en la producción de audiolibros en formato bilingüe para acompañar la lectura del libro impreso y facilitar el aprendizaje. Sin embargo, en años recientes se ha visto una demanda creciente de material literario original en español, lo cual impulsó la iniciativa de distribución de libros infantiles en español para el mercado estadounidense. Actualmente en el catálogo de Lorito figuran más de 400 títulos infantiles y juveniles de México, Chile, EE.UU. y España.

El enfoque principal de la colección es el libro mexicano, ya que, según Fochtman, refleja la demografía de nuevos lectores en el sector bibliotecario de EE.UU. Entre los clientes más importantes de Lorito están las bibliotecas públicas, lo cual refleja la misión comunitaria de la empresa. Según Fochtman, al ver su realidad lingüística reflejada en un libro de la biblioteca, el usuario puede llegar a identificar la biblioteca como parte de su vida familiar y animarse no solo a leer más, pero quizás también a participar de alguna clase o taller.

El criterio de selección se basa principalmente en que la voz literaria sea auténtica tanto creativa como lingüísticamente.

"Mi prioridad es siempre que el libro refleje el uso auténtico del español", dijo Fochtman. "Sobretodo el español de México, ya que esta variante corresponde a un porcentaje muy alto de lectores latinos en EE.UU., y es una forma importante de elevar el perfil de la cultura mexicana en el país".

Fochtman confesó una afinidad especial por la cultura mexicana, ya que estudió en ese país durante sus años universitarios y más adelante trabajó de voluntaria en un orfanato en Chihuahua. Estas experiencias reforzaron su deseo de construir puentes culturales entre EE.UU. y México, dijo.

"Creo que hay mucha negatividad inmerecida entre ambos países, y puentes culturales como la lectura podrían ayudarnos a rebasar estas barreras", consideró.

Las novedades de esta temporada destacan la diversión y la aventura como condiciones esenciales para el aprendizaje. Entre ellos se destacan "Óscar y la máscara misteriosa" y "Domingo Teporingo, invierno" del escritor e ilustrador mexicano Marcos Almada Rivero. 

En la serie de Óscar, el divertido tlacuache o marsupial mexicano encuentra todo tipo de objetos que lo ponen en contacto con criaturas y elementos de la cultura mexicana pero siempre mediante la aventura y la diversión. 

Para los lectores más avanzados, "Domingo Teporingo" narra las aventuras de invierno de un conejo teporingo muy curioso que habita con otros animales en El Refugio en uno de los bosques del Popocatéptl.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem

Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Series: Bilingual Cooking Poems
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books; Tra Blg edition 
  • ISBN-10: 1554984424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554984428

In this new cooking poem, Jorge Argueta brings us a fun and easy recipe for a yummy salsa. A young boy and his sister gather the ingredients and grind them up in a molcajete, just like their ancestors used to do, singing and dancing all the while. The children imagine that their ingredients are different parts of an orchestra — the tomatoes are bongos and kettledrums, the onion, a maraca, the cloves of garlic, trumpets and the cilantro, the conductor. They chop and then grind these ingredients in the molcajete, along with red chili peppers for the “hotness” that is so delicious, finally adding a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt. When they are finished, their mother warms tortillas and their father lays out plates, as the whole family, including the cat and dog, dance salsa in mouth-watering anticipation.

Winner of the International Latino Book Award for Guacamole, Jorge Argueta's text is complemented by the rich, earthy illustrations of Duncan Tonatiuh, winner of the Pura Belpré Award. His interest in honoring the art of the past in contemporary contexts is evident in these wonderful illustrations, which evoke the pre-Columbian Mixtec codex.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: War is not cool. Call for volunteers in Austin.

Review: Hiroko Falkenstein. War is not Cool at all, Fools!: As I Remember It. Victoria BC: Friesen Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4602-7047-9

Michael Sedano

Hiroko Falkenstein's 108 Tanka poems distill the immensities of three periods in history. Horrors of bombardment and escape to countryside survival. Chaos, disappointments, disabilities after war's end. World-changing growth, and finally, escape to a new land and ultimate renewal. Falkenstein's 3,348 syllables expose depths no fifty-thousand word novel can ever express.

That's the blurb I contributed to the back cover of Hiroko Falkenstein's autobiographical collection of Tanka poems, War is not Cool at all, Fools! Illustrated by Johnnie Dominguez, War is Not Cool at all, Fools! in hard bound has the elegant beauty of a fine art book. For electronic readers, the publisher includes editions for most devices. I can imagine a computer screen reader magnifying Dominguez' images and spending minutes enjoying the art, magnifying and scrolling, finding relationships to Falkenstein's Tanka.

Similarly I picture readers reading particular Tanka over and over before turning the page or wiping to the next screen. A Tanka requires three readings by its nature. The first reading grasps the expression as a whole, a second reading rolls the syllables on one's tongue, a third reading puts sound and sense together with a keener sense of the poem as a whole.

Falkenstein subtitles the Tanka collection, "As I Remember It," to remind a reader the experiences of the 108 Tanka actually occurred. The poet opens wounds from 60 year old memories, some that heal slowly. It's important not that she put to rest these matters but that others acknowledge today's victims of wars while political processes struggle not to make more war.

Born during World War II, a girl flees the firebombing of Tokyo to hardscrabble village life. Father returns from the war, starts drinking and fails at numerous enterprises. Mother’s strength keeps their heads above water while the economy booms along without them. Falkenstein closes the collection aboard a trans-Pacific steamer casting off for life in the United States.

Tanka in English normally follow a 5-line, 5-7-5-7-7 structure with aesthetic expectations. In her introduction, the poet remarks about the nature of the English language Tanka,

In Japanese, one has to write in 5-7-5-7-7 letter counts, so it is extremely difficult. In the case of English, I counted syllables. For this reason, I often omit articles, predicates, and I am sometimes forced to use simpler vocabularies to fit the Tanka constraints.

Falkenstein’s adaptations of the Japanese form to the English language reader adds to the interest and uniqueness of War is not Cool at all, Fools! For more on Tanka, follow this link from the Academy of American Poets.

That thirty-one syllables can hold in their confined space a life, or a moment, a thought, a report, a feeling, is a measure of the poet's skill. Falkenstein's skill with English language Tanka connects things of history to moments of empathy with one person’s journey.

Hiroko Falkenstein has been holding back all these years and in this collection lets it out. War Is not Cool at all, Fools! seethes with an undercurrent of rage that these things happen, happened to her, and perhaps worse, that her story is all-too-familiar in today’s world of war-flattened cities and traumatized lives.

Our house, now ashes,
lifetime collections were gone,
money lost its worth.
At the end of wandering,
we found a fishing village.

Order Hardcover, paperback, and eBook through the publisher’s website for fast service and greater benefit to the author.

Purveyors of electronic books also distribute the collection.

Amazon Kindle store

iTune e-book store!/id1031383493?mt=11

Austin Centro Seeks Volunteers For Pachanga

Only a few Tuesdays past, La Bloga shared news of ongoing Flor de Nopal writing workshops at the anonymized ESB-MACC. The alphabet sopa belongs to Austin's Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

If I were in the neighborhood, I'd make it a point to take up the ESB-MACC gente helping stage their fiestas patrias pachanga.

Visit the Barrientos Centro website for details, or contact Linda Crockett, Media Marketing & Events Coordinator, 512-974-3789, for more information.

Monday, August 24, 2015


By Xánath Caraza

A Transcendental Train Yard (Wingspress, 2015) by Norma Elia Cantú and Marta Sánchez will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, August 25. 

Norma E. Cantú graciously accepted an interview for La Bloga readers.  Muchas gracias Norma!




Xánath Caraza (XC): Who is Norma Cantú? 
Norma Cantú (NC): I write poetry, creative non-fiction and fiction. Since most of my work blurs the lines between genres, I guess I cannot be defined within the confines of any definition. As you know I call Canícula a creative autobioethnography. Most of my academic work is also a blend of poetry and scholarly prose. I can say that my work defines me as an author—un poquito de todo. I also have to acknowledge the work of Gloria Anzaldúa because it was after reading her that I felt free to write without the restraints of genres.

XC: As a child, who first introduced you to reading? 
NC: Who guided you through your first readings?  My maternal grandmother was the first one who taught me to read and write. I must’ve been five or so when she taught me to read in Spanish. I have memories of sounding out words from El Diario, the newspaper from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. I didn’t even know what I was reading! I began writing stories and poems when I was in third grade and my teacher allowed me lots of free time in class. I would usually finish assignments and just sit or read while the rest of the class was working. I remember that I then became writing stories like those I was reading.

XC: How did you first become a poet?  Where were your first poems written?
NC: I guess I became a poet by reading poetry—and memorizing poems. Again it was my grandmother who instructed me in declamación—I memorized poems and recited them in public at Mother Cabrini Church for a mother’s day program…I was around 4. I wrote my first poems when I was at Saunders Elementary School in Laredo, Texas—they were simple rhymes. I first published in my high school newspaper, but not poetry—articles. I won a contest in high school and my poem was published but I don’t remember where and I don’t have a copy of it—the first line was “When seasons change” and I remember memorizing it…but then I forgot all about it. When I was in graduate school, I published poetry in a Chicano magazine from Seattle, but again, I don’t have a copy and I don’t remember what poem it was. I felt strange seeing my name in print the first time—as if it were someone else. But I also felt elated and thrilled. I also felt that there was a responsibility—perhaps because I have always loved to read and I also worked for a newspaper as a copy editor when I was in high school, I knew that writers had a responsibility to the readers.

XC: Do you have any favorite poems by other authors?  Or stanzas?  Could you share some verses along with your reflection of what drew you toward that poem/these stanzas?
NC: Wow! There are so many! I memorized Invictus when I was in junior high—seventh or eight grad. I still remember most of it. I also memorized long poems in Spanish—El seminarista de los ojos negros I loved reciting. I also memorized Poe’s “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” Of course, many sonnets by Shakespeare—No. 29 is one of my favorites. “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment…” and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s Hombres Necios and Amado Nervo’s “En Paz” and Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art. Anzaldúa, So many many more poems—when you live a long time and you read poems all the time, pos it becomes a long list of favorites—I adore Mary Oliver, Claudia Rankine, Edwin Torres, y toda la chicanada—Tafolla, Cisneros, Castillo, Corral, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Rosemary Catacalos, Carmen Ximenes Smith, y un monton de mejicanas: Minerva Margarita Villarreal,

XC: What is a day of creative writing like for you?
NC: Most days, I write in my journal and if I do not have other compromisos I spend a hours writing—not just creative work but academic too. I am most engaged and “alive” when I am writing.


XC: When do you know when a text/poem is ready to be read? 
NC: Usually it is a gut feeling—when it feels finished…although some never do and I still publish and read them publicly, but I don’t feel they are quite finished. It is an intuitive feeling…
How I have developed as a writer/critic/or poet depends on what you mean by developed. I can say that my poetry has become less formal and I have honed the craft. I have only once taken a class—at Gemini Ink in San Antonio when I was on their board of directors. As a writer, I think the process is neverending and I am still developing. The same as a critic—I write book reviews or academic articles and I finally feel I have found my style—the hybrid style I mentioned earlier where I blend genres. It feels freer. I am not just a literary critic, I also write quite a bit of folklore and cultural studies—on quinceaneras, on matachines, women’s tradiitons like huipiles. Asi que the writing has changed according to the piece. I am aware of the audience when I am revising, never at the outset when I am just putting it out there.

XC: Could you describe your activities as professor/poet/author?
NC: This could take up reams of paper! I am a very multifaceted person and my activities are numerous. In any one day, I will do all the things a professor does (teach, meet with faculty and students, grade papers, read articles or books in preparation for classes, and mentor and counsel students) as well as do things writers do (revise some piece, write a poem, arrange a gig, answer someone’s questions about writing [like today] and read [ every month I try to read a non-ficiton boo, I just finished Sleuthing the Alamo by Jim Crisp, a novel, I am in the middle of a Willa Cather novel I had not read, and a book in Spanish, I am reading a Ferrete novel).  I also love to walk and when I go for walks I have all kinds of ideas and of course, if don’t write them I forget them! Same when I have fantastic dreams and if I don’t write them when I wake up they fade and eventually they are just gone!


XC: Could you comment on your life as a social activist? 
NC: Pos, again, it could take a book. I call myself an activist scholar and I have always done some kind of activism—in high school it was in my school and then in college—I was also working full time—I registered voters and worked for Sissy Farenthold’s campaign for governor in Texas; I then became involved in the Chicano movement and it was different form traditional political activism. I am very proud of having started Literacy Volunteers of Laredo in my hometown—it is still ongoing—to teach literacy to adults. I have some incredible stories of that time. We also had a group called Las Mujeres and I founded an Amnesty International chapter during the 1980s when we were getting hundreds of immigrants from Central America and the violations of human rights were horrendous, even worse than now. Many of the groups I belonged to in the 80s and 90s were very political and leftist. A very rewarding time in my life. I am currently not as involved at the grass roots level but I do militate for social change in various organizations like Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social and within organizations like the American Folklore Society and the MLA – I belong to the Radical Caucus of the latter and the Cultural Diversity Committee in the former—I was also elected to the Board of the AFS. My activist scholarship means that all my work whether creative or scholarly or community based aims to create a better world for all of us. As a scholarly activist, I use my work to work with folks in the non-profit sector. For instance, I trained community scholars to do oral history projects in San Antonio’s Chicano communities.

XC: What project/s are you working on at the moment that you would like to share?
NC: I have a bunch of writing projects—a novel, a collection of poetry, two academic essays, a review article for a book on Danzón, two edited volumes—one on young adult literature and one on Tejanas.


XC: What advice do you have for other writers/poets?
NC: Follow your passion and do the work. The most important advice anyone ever gave me was to keep reading and writing every day. It’s not hard for me—I love both—but it is difficult sometime sot find the time. I also think that getting together with other writers is a good idea. I worked with others to start CantoMundo because I felt that having a community helps us. I am also a mentor for AWP – so I would say, take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Take classes, share your work with readers,

XC: What else would you like to share? 
NC: Two current projects that are dear to my heart—the book on the Camino de Santiago and the poetry collection have both taken years and years, but I am still working on for a long time…I believe things come at the right time, so I have to trust. Gracias, Xanath….hay tanto más que decir…





Fiery gold crown sunset over Mexico, death defies life. A packed train speeds by, transports precious cargo, arrives with the moonlight.


El ocaso es corona de oro ardiente que cae sobre México. La muerte, un desafío a la vida. Retacado el tren pasa, transporta carga preciosa, llega con la luz de la luna.



Moonlight Vigilant guardian, Luna guerrillera, we ask, we plead, soften the pain with your light, Coyolxauhqui help us remember our true selves ¡Gracias!


Luz de luna,  guardián vigilante, warrior Moon, te pedimos, te suplicamos, suaviza el dolor con tu luz, Coyolxauhqui ayúdanos a recordar nuestro verdadero yo ¡Gracias!
Women's Work is never done—at home in the fields, at the office. We are workers all. Doing work that matters. Protesting wars, writing poems, doing laundry, fighting injustice, baking bread, living. Blanca Estela Sánchez, Emma Tenayuca. Manuela Solís. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Dolores Huerta. Jovita Idar. Sara Estela Ramírez. Gloria Anzaldúa. Audre Lorde. Rosa Parks. La Adelita. Rosario Ybarra. Virginia Cantú.



El quehacer de la mujer nunca se acaba: en el hogar, en los campos, en la oficina. Somos obreras, todas. Elaborando tareas importantes. Protestando contra las guerras, escribiendo poemas, lavando la ropa, luchando contra la injusticia, horneando el pan, viviendo. Blanca Estela Sánchez, Emma Tenayuca. Manuela Solís. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Dolores Huerta. Jovita Idar. Sara Estela Ramírez. Gloria Anzaldúa. Audre Lorde. Rosa Parks. La Adelita. Rosario Ybarra. Virginia Cantú.




Alone with others a (wo)man forgets (s)he is not alone. ¡Juntos! ¡El Pueblo Unido! Sí.  No. ¡Jamás sera vencido! Juntos we eat, meet, talk, sing. Somos nada. Somos todo.



Sola/o y con otras la mujer/el hombre se olvida que no está sola/o. Together! The people united! Yes. No. Will never be defeated! Together comemos, nos reunímos, hablamos, cantamos. We are nothing. We are everything.

Caminos y más caminos,
unos van, otros vienen,
pero todos llegan a su destino.
Vericuetos del corazón,
meandering pathways,
veredas only traveled alone.

Paths and more paths,
some go, others come,
but all reach their destination.
The heart’s intricate paths,
veredas serpenteantes,
caminante solitaria.




Pechera, cachucha,

Botas, steel-tipped, worn with pride.

Angels of steel whisper

amid the silent noises of the yard.



Overalls, cap,
lleva con orgullo sus boots con punta de acero,
Ángeles de acero susurran
entre el ruido silencioso de las vías del tren.



R con r cigarro, R con R barril

que recio corren los carros, los carros del ferrocarril

waiting for trains, lives come to lives; trains follow tracks

leading to ends and beginnings

R con R cigarro R con R barril

que recio corren los carros los carros del ferrocarril

Coming and going -La vida es un tren y los pasajeros viajan siguiendo

su destino

Camarón que se duerme se la lleva la corriente.

The engine hums a lullaby, reassuring whistle in the night,

R con R cigarro R con R barril

que recio corren los carros, los carros del ferrocarril.



R and R, cigarette, R and R, barrel

How fast those train cars run, the railroad cars!

En espera de los trenes las vidas llegan a otras vida; el tren sigue las vías

Que llegan al fin o al principio

R and R, cigarette, R and R, barrel

How fast those train cars run, the railroad cars!

Vienen y van –life is a train and passengers travel following

their destiny

The current takes the sleeping shrimp!

La máquina tararea una canción de cuna, silbido en la noche

R and R cigarette R and R barrel

How fast those train cars run, the railroad cars!


Dancers, Tents. Dances. Music. Songs. Fiesta.

Musicians, standup comics, actors

Llegan con la primavera—

tambourines and drum rolls.

La Chata en el ferrocarril

Rielera de siempre.

Sueños y lágrimas. Life.



Carpas, Bailes, Música, Canciones. Fiesta

Bailarines, músicos, cómicos, actores.

They arrive with the spring time—

tamborines y tamborazos

La Chata by railroad,

Eternal train traveler.

Dreams and tears. Vida.

Norma Elia Cantú

Norma E. Cantú, currently serves as professor US Latin@ Studies at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She has published widely in the areas of folklore, literary studies, women's studies and border studies. As editor of two book series: Literatures of the Americas for Palgrave and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo for Texas A&M Press, she fosters the publication of critical scholarship on Latinas and Latinos. Her numerous publications include the award winning novel, Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera that chronicles her coming of age in Laredo, Texas. The (co)edited volumes: Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change, Dancing Across Borders: Danzas y Bailes Mexicanos, Paths to Discovery:autobiographies of Chicanas with Careers in Mathematics, Science and Engineering, Moctezuma’s Table: Rolando Briseño’s Chicano Tablescapes, and   Ofrenda: Liliana Wilson’s Art of Dissidence and Dreams.  She is cofounder of CantoMundo, a space for Latin@ poets and a member of the Macondo Writers Workshop; her poetry has appeared in Vandal, Prairie Schooner, and Feminist Studies Journal among many other venues. She is currently working on a poetry collection tentatively titled Border Meditations/Meditaciones Fronterizas: Poems of Life, Labor, and Love, a novel, Champú or Hair Matters, and several scholarly projects.


On September 5 in Houston, TX:  María Miranda Maloney and Ching-In Chen
Failure to Identify Poetry Patio Party at 7:30 p.m., 5036 Jefferson Street

On September 5 in Kansas City, KS: Xánath Caraza
The Writers Place, Riverfront Reading Series and Kansas City Public Libraries
South Branch Library, 3104 Strong Avenue at 2 p.m.
On September 16 in Topeka, KS: Reyna Grande
Washburn University, Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center
Topeka, Kansas, hosted by Tonantzin Society
Wednesday/Miercoles, Sept. 16th | 6:00pm

On September 24 in Chicago, IL: Jorge García de la Fe
Northeastern Illinois University at 6 p.m. Room 214
Aunque la nieve caiga de repente, Book Release