Tuesday, January 17, 2017

H6: New Huizache. C/S Reunion. Kid's Opera

H6: Huizache Flowers Again
Michael Sedano

Dagoberto Gilb fondly recalls the motivation for naming his magazine after the palo verde tree that shitkickers irritably call the "Wee-satch." The Huizache tree is tough to eradicate; cut it down and where one once stood, five new trees spring from the attempt to wipe it out. Resistance!

The tree is a metaphor for raza. The Huizache, like raza, insists on its right to grow, in its own space, in your face, cowboy. ¡Aqui estamos y no nos vamos, cabrones!

Dagoberto Gilb holds H6

Gilb’s project out of Centro Victoria in Victoria TX is exactly like its namesake. Publishers want nothing to do with raza authors not named Junot, so they cut them off at the knees content to let them resurface at some other house. But Huizache keeps coming and coming. 

Now in its sixth issue since 2011, Huizache, the Magazine of Latino Literature, celebrated H6 in a festive gathering dubbed “Pachanga Huizache” at the Los Angeles home of Virginia Espino and Héctor Tobar on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

Hosts Héctor Tobar and Virginia Espino react to Gilb's introduction

Joining the hosts in their art- and book-filled living room and outdoor patios were four readers from H6, musicians from El-Haru Kuroi, and deliciously spicy, aromatic catering from Vegan Moni. Except for some empanadas, Moni’s food was gluten-free and beautifully presented.

Masterfully emceed by Abel Salas, publisher of the eastside’s Brooklyn & Boyle literary newspaper, Pachanga Huizache brought together friends and colleagues in a dynamic assortment of literary, art, and political personalities,

Claude Fiddler and Vegan Moni

Claude Fiddler, one of Gilb’s long-time Los Angeles friends, recounted how he and the author went door to door,  to coffee houses and independent booksellers, selling Gilb’s first book, a self-published collection of stories.

Maria Cabildo, Candidate for House of Representatives 34th Congressional District

La comadre of the hosts, Maria Cabildo, took the floor to speak movingly about her run for Congress in the local district vacated by California’s new Attorney General. Cabildo drew laughs and knowing head nods when she disclosed that local politicos discouraged her entry, crying, “It’s Jimmy's turn!” Whoever Jimmy is, Jimmy doesn’t stand a chance faced with Cabildo’s fervor and record of providing housing for disadvantaged gente.

Nikolai Garcia  
Josephine Nericcio
Emerging writers Nikolai Garcia and Josephine Nericcio kicked off the readings with powerful work.  Nericcio gives voice to raza who've died along the border. It's fascinating work.

You can read Garcia’s powerful “The Sound of an American Flag Burning” here.  Garcia is also published in The Coiled Serpent, published by Luis J. Rodriguez’ Tia Chucha Press. 

Dagoberto Gilb provided the entracte, relating the “wee-satch” legend and regañando those people who speak Texan instead of Chicano. He shared that Junot Diaz had planned to join the festivities that evening but circumstances pulled him away. Diaz' work is not in H6.

Veteran writers Lisa Alvarez and Jesus Treviño capped off the reading part of the program. Alvarez read from H6 along with a new piece. Treviño, who filmed the readings for Latinopia, read from his story published in H6.

Lisa Alvarez

Jesus Treviño in camera monitor

Ordering Huizache is fast and easy via the magazine’swebsite. Single copies and back issues are only $15.00. Two-year subscriptions run $25 and ensure getting each issue hot off the press.

When Dago handed me the first Huizache—in Tucson during the Librotraficante book smuggling tour—I knew it had greatness written all over it. 

Librotraficantes, Dagoberto Gilb, Tony Diaz

Time has proven that absochingaolutely accurate. Every issue has engaging poetry, arresting fiction, artwork, and amazing covers by artists such as Patssi Valdez, Linda Gamboa, and for the current issue, John Valadez. 

Huizache makes a great Valentine’s Day present for everyone who loves Chicana Chicano Literature. You can prove your love, of literature and the recipient, by giving a complete set of Huizache, while supplies last.

A long time ago there was a magazine named Con Safos. A brilliant collective of writers, artists, and visionaries brought it out. But C/S went by the wayside. Raza, don’t allow Huizache to fade. Buy, subscribe, give it to friends, tell your librarian to stock Huizache

Stand in a grocery store line, visit the library, it's easily seen that the market is flooded with popular consumer magazines. There is only one magazine of Chicana Chicano, Latina Latino literature: Huizache.

Con Safos Is Semi-Back

At my fifth birthday party, an older kid named Johnny Roque scratched something on the stucco wall of the garage. I could read the letters but didn’t know what they meant. Johnny explained that c/s meant “you don’t mess with this.” I took a rock and scratched across the letters, at which point the little pachuco picked up an empty nickel deposit bottle and clunked me on the head with it. I tearfully realized he was serious about not messing with placas protected by C/S.

That lesson lurked at the back of my mind when I returned to the United States from Korea in 1970. That was when I learned that in my absence a magazine called Con Safos had gained popularity. I was delighted to learn C/S was a sterling exemplar of community-based media featuring raza arts and letters. C/S had stories, essays, drawings, photographs, and cartoons. Amidst all the good stuff—and there was a montón of good stuff--one cartoon stood out, Arnie and Porfi.

Drawn and scripted by Sergio Hernandez, the strip unraveled the continuing misadventures of street-wise Porfi and a Chicanerd named Arnie. It was the fabulous furry freak brothers but without the drugs and movidas, and puro Chicano. A few years back, Hernandez revived the strip at Latinopia, about the same time the surviving C/S editorial staff began stirring the waters looking to bring back the seminal magazine.

Although C/S hasn’t yet made it all the way back, there is a book about its history, penned with the cooperation of the C/S veteranos, by Maxine Borowsky Junge, Voices From the Barrio. The $32 book from internet publisher Amazon, launches at Los Angeles’ LA Plaza de Arte y Cultura on Thursday, January 19th.

Arnie and Porfi will make a live appearance, along with original members of the production team. Serge tells me he's still writing the dialog. I'm guessing Serge will carry el papel de Porfi and Michael Sedano will be Arnie. Or vice versa. Come Thursday and see.

Kid’s Opera In Limited Run

La Bloga friend Teresa Marquez turned us on to the opera-in-progress of Bless Me, Ultima that was featured in last week’s La Bloga-Tuesday. Teresa commends to your attention Opera Cultura’s March 2017 children’s opera, The Coyotes and The Rabbits, A bilingual Children's Opera.

Only two performances mean it’s time to hop to it, getting tickets for the Mexican Heritage Theater - School of Arts & Culture auditorium in San Jose , CA 95116.

From Opera Cultura's website:

Hector Armienta has adapted one of the oldest Mexican folk tales known, The Coyote and the Rabbit, and turned into a lesson about the value of an education. It is told by two mischievous but well intentioned rabbits known as Chiquita and Banana. The story begins when a young Coyote, named Scrawny, is visited by his cousin, Loco. When Loco finds out that Scrawny is learning how to read, something no decent Coyote would ever do, Loco has made it his mission to set his cousin on the “right path”. What follows are a series of misadventures, due to Loco’s inability to read and his ignorance. In the end, Scrawny realizes that an education is the key to long and fruitful life.

Buy your affordable tickets on-line via Opera Cultura’s website: http://www.operacultura.org

Watch excerpts from The Coyotes and The Rabbits here:

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Meaning of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (#MLKDay)

By Coretta Scott King

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example -- the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.

We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.

The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.

On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.

It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples' holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.

We commemorate on this holiday the ecumenical leader and visionary who embraced the unity of all faiths in love and truth. And though we take patriotic pride that Dr. King was an American, on this holiday we must also commemorate the global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world. Indeed, on this day, programs commemorating my husband’s birthday are being observed in more than 100 nations.

The King Holiday celebrates Dr. King’s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence. The holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community.

The Holiday commemorates America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence --- the man who taught by his example that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.

This holiday honors the courage of a man who endured harassment, threats and beatings, and even bombings. We commemorate the man who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but kept on marching and protesting and organizing anyway.

Every King holiday has been a national "teach-in" on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately-needed to unify America. It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin’s philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflict-reconciliation. The Holiday provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil, not people, to get in the habit of asking themselves, "what is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?"

On the King holiday, young people learn about the power of unconditional love even for one's adversaries as a way to fight injustice and defuse violent disputes. It is a time to show them the power of forgiveness in the healing process at the interpersonal as well as international levels.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can't read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.

Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we "will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life's most persistent and nagging question, he said, is `what are you doing for others?'" he would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John "...whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all." And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. "I'd like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others," he said. "I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life...to love and serve humanity.

We call you to commemorate this Holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.

May we who follow Martin now pledge to serve humanity, promote his teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st Century.

[To read and listen to the “I Have a Dream” speech, visit this page of American Rhetoric: Top 100 Speeches.]

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Call for A National Write Out


The time to expand the country’s literary and political imagination is upon us. Join many of the country's leading storytellers, poets, and creative nonfiction writers in a National Write-Out #Natlwriteout

Wednesday, January 18 through Saturday, February 18, 2017.

Writers and non-writers alike recognize the election of Donald Trump as an unprecedented threat, one that demands we deploy our craft and words in the service of justice. We call on writers-poets, playwrights, essayists, short story of the world to unite by joining poets, authors, playwrights, essayists and other writers participating in the National Write-Out.

Who: You. Everyone who writes, draws, thinks, dares, creates…

What: Write or share a poem, a piece of flash fiction, short story, essay, inspired long tweet, handwritten ars poetica or other literary creation responding to this prompt:

What’s fighting for is worth writing for.

How: Publish your work (suggestions below).
Then use Hashtag #Natlwriteout anywhere in the text to link to the movement.

When: Now. Let your words stand against the flood of fake news, messages of hopelessness and hate, and the normalization of extremist thought in the early days of this new administration.

Using the hashtag #Natlwriteout, we want to invite and incite writers to create literary works that rise boldly to the challenge of the day.

We also encourage nonprofit organizations, literary magazines, zines, blogs, and other publications and organizations across the country to embrace the call and promote the work produced under the #Natlwriteout hashtag. Several national organizations will be sending out the call to their members. Please join them. We know that the very ideas, stories and values that stand boldly against infringement on our rights and freedom will also inspire and ultimately save us.

How to Share Your Words and Join the Movement:

Snapchat, Instagram love: write a handwritten love poem to what’s worth fighting for, take a picture of it and then share it using the #natlwriteout hashtag

Do you use Facebook? Do you have an old short story you think speaks to the current moment? Create a link to it and then share it using our #Natlwriteout hashtag with your friends and with the larger “public”(the little world near the bottom of your post).

Do you keep a blog? Write an essay and then share it on your favorite social media platforms with our #Natlwriteout hashtag to your Wordpress, Tumblr or other blog.

Twitter much? Our hashtag is there for your creative tweets. Create a 130 character #fightofourlives haiku and then share it using the #Natlwriteout hashtag

Prefer a more literary venue? Add our hashtag to your published work, or host your work on open publication sites, such as Medium.com

SMS users of the world unite! Write a poem and share it with all your contacts using the #Natlwriteout hashtag

Feel free to contact Us at fightandwrite@gmail.com to keep informed and learn more.

(The National Writeout is a student-led initiative born during a brainstorm held by students at the Antioch MFA program, the country’s only social justice-focused MFA program. For more information email us at fightandwrite@gmail.com.)  

*A special thank you to poet Sesshu Foster for sharing this information with La Bloga

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poetry in the Wet Air: Three Anthologies

Melinda Palacio
Rainbow in Santa Barbara. Keep raining California. 

I have the pleasure of being included in three wonderful anthologies: Maple Leaf Rag VI, the Wandering Song, and Poetry in Flight. Maple Leaf Rag VI is the latest sampling of poems read at the Maple Leaf Bar. For those unfamiliar with the poetry scene in New Orleans, the Maple Leaf Bar holds the longest running poetry reading series in the South. The reading began in 1979 and was founded by Everett Maddox who passed away in 1989. Nancy Harris has been hosting the weekly readings for more than 25 years. The collection includes many New Orleans poets, past and present, as well as first-time visitors, such as La Bloga friend Maria M. Kelson of Pueblo and Santa Barbara poets Chryss Yost and George Yatchisin. My poem, "Bones for Feathers" is included in the anthology. The book launch for the Maple Leaf Rag VI is this Sunday, January 15, at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, 8316 Oak Street.  For those unable to attend the reading, you can order a copy of the book through the Portals Press website.

Maple Leaf Rag VI: An Anthology of Poetic Writings New Orleans
Portals Press, 2017

Next month, at AWP, Tía Chucha Press will present The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, edited by Leticia Hernández Linares, Rubén Martínez, and Héctor Tobar. The Wandering Song is a much anticipated anthology of Central American writers living in the United States. This is the first time a comprehensive literary survey of the Central American diaspora by a U.S. publisher will be available for readers and scholars, a collection appropriate for high school, college, or university courses in U.S. Literature, Latino Literature, Multicultural Studies, and Migration Studies. The multi-genre collection includes poems, short stories, essays, memoir, novel excerpts, and creative nonfiction. I'm looking forward to this collection and am honored to have two poems in the book, "This Is How the World Ends" and "All Things Precious." The anthology is available for pre-order through Tia Chucha Press and Northwestern University Press. The book launch and reading will be in DC, Wednesday, February 8 at the AWP, details TBA, stay tuned on La Bloga.

The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States,
Tía Chucha Press 2017.

The Anthology Poetry in Flight/Poesía en Vuelo celebrates contributors of San Francisco's, El Tecolote. In the words of Juan Felipe Herrera, "this is the El Tecolote Anthology, the pioneering, fiery, soulful eye of this community, keeping watch and ward on our realities, without borders-even if the border makers insist on doing their border work. This is a volume of dreams, battle, play and the magic of the people-new freedom of thought warriors, word-salseras-checking on that odd-angled thing called 'progress,' on that viral tsunami of corporate, social and economic encroachment." My poem, "Age-Old Poetry" is included in this long-awaited collection. This anthology has witnessed the deaths of two of its co-editors, Francisco X. Alarcon and Alfonso Texidor. The cover art is by Juan R. Fuentes and the design work by Adrian Arias. An endorsement by Juan Felipe Herrera graces the back cover. The new publication celebration and reading will be held on Sunday, March 19 from 1-4 at Acción Latina in San Francisco in their beautiful remodeled facility at 2958 24th Street.

Poetry in Flight/Poesía en Vuelo
Anthology in Celebration of El Tecolote 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Los Bloguitos

Los Bloguitos will celebrate 10 years in 2017. Thank you for all your visits. Due to changes in Google and G Suite, Los Bloguitos will now use the domain www.losbloguitos.blogspot.com.

Los Bloguitos. This is a blog for children who speak or are learning Spanish. Los Bloguitos is full of songs, poems, cuentos, dichos and riddles. Our goal is to post beautiful stories from Latin American and create new ones. We want our niños to be proud to speak Spanish, here, there, anywhere.

Creative minds from Mexico, Argentina, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and El Salvador will be posting from Monday through Sunday at www.losbloguitos.blogspot.com

Los Bloguitos celebrará 10 años en 2017. Gracias por todas sus visitas. Debido a cambios en Google y G Suite, Los Bloguitos ahora usará el dominio www.losbloguitos.blogspot.com.  

Los Bloguitos es un blog para niños y niñas que hablan y leen español. Encontrarás cuentos, poesías, adivinanzas, dibujos y mucho más. Nuestra meta es publicar bellas historias de Latinoamérica y crear historias nuevas. Queremos que nuestros niños estén orgullosos de hablar Español, aquí, allá y en todos lados.

Mentes creativas de México, Argentina, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico y El Salvador publicarán de lunes a domingo en www.losbloguitos.blogspot.com.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: Sci-Fi a la raza. Ultima the Opera. 11th Best Poem of 2016

Review: Matthew David Goodwin, ed. Latina/o Rising. An Anthology of Latin Science Fiction & Fantasy. San Antonio: Wings Press. 2017.  ISBN 978-1-60940-524-3

Michael Sedano

In a skillfully organized anthology, Latina/o Rising eases gently into the reader’s interest with short, softly imaginative stuff like Kathleen Alcalá’s time displacement fantasy, “The Road To Nyer,” and Pedro Zagitt’s pair of one-page fantasies. The collection races through a handful of dystopic and cybernetic futures, then reaches a climactic middle with “Caridad” about a Miami Cubanita forced to become the hive mind of her extended family.

To this point, fantasy and harmless dystopia are the stuff of smiles and reverie. There’s even a foto-novela of sorts. Editor Matthew David Goodwin then changes pace offering a couple of personal, hard-edged pieces that make for considerable discomfort owing to their intrusive failure to be escapist. But this subsides and the collection again finds its sweet spot to wrap with stories from José Older, poetry from Carl Marcum, and a story about Mexicans losing cultura and identity in a distant-future New York.

Some of these stories feel like they’re breaking the rules of fantasy and speculation. Stories can be thought-provoking, morally pointed, but a lot of fun. In Carmen Maria Machado’s “Difficult At Parties” a woman descends into insanity via eye-glazing hard core pornography. Giannina Braschi offers a pair of deeply disturbing pieces, one, a speculative essay centered around the collapse of the World Trade Center, the other an abstract playscript. Carlos Hernandez’ story about a soldier’s cheating wife, his missing legs, and their miracle baby, pierces one’s heart for hitting so close to current events. Reality and the hard facts of life are supposed to be over there, just beyond the margins of the page, outside the first word and the final period. Instead these stories impose not dystopia but ugly reality that sits there, big as life and twice as ugly in the middle of the paragraph, pounding a fist into that space between the eyes, hard. They’re not fun.

The reader takes a deep breath and turns the page to find ever more rewarding experiences. Alejandra Sanchez taps into one’s fear of something lurking in the drainpipes. “The Drain” will get the horror juices flowing with some masterfully crafted asco-inducing descriptions of warm, slimy matter enveloping a woman taking a shower. But “The Drain” is far more than a scary story. Sanchez weaves in elements of a woman’s perception of her beauty and how she presents herself in everyday life, and then domestic violence and the just desserts wrought upon an asshole woman-beater. It’s an unsettling yet satisfying story.

Wrapping up the collection are Daniel José Older’s wonderful futurist New York where the living, the dead, and the half-living compete to maintain order between their dimensions. There’s some thrilling emotion when long-dead African slaves emerge out of an entrada from the underworld. “I feel the wind of hundreds of years of pent up rage and frustration release across my face. Riley’s screaming as loud as he can beside me and we’re both laughing hysterically and crying at the same time.” So will readers.

So what makes sci-fi “latina” “latino”? The final story offers a blatant answer. A XicanaYork woman wants to explore history but by creating electronic games. Her hundred-fifty-years old abuela is worried about the future of Mexican cultura in the city, and frustrated the live-in machine exhibits more interest in carrying on grandma’s curanderisma than la nieta. In this world, identity and cultura feel the threat of technology and institutional power while a succeeding generation seeks its own way through those pressures, using cultura while adapting to what’s coming.

There’s a decidedly east coast and Caribbean lurch to the settings and characters, but for the most part decidedly raza. Gente will see themselves in these stories. Characters have brown skin, speak some Spanish or as in Junot Diaz’ story, get a hard time from friends for not speaking good Spanish, engage in word-play mixing languages. They have names like Mictan (not Mictlán but close), Jesús, Gordo (two of them, one in Ana Castillo’s New Mexico-set story and Older’s), and Paco.

These are “latina/o” stories as a result of character, setting, language, and writer. One thing the collection is not is an insider’s fiction. It’s highly accessible while providing intimate insights about the way these writers, and writers like these, see the world. For the most part, Latina/o Rising will keep any reader interested just because these are worthwhile, good stories.

I’m not a fan of the arroba as a gender marker. Does one pronounce the key title word “Latinat” or “Latinarroba”, or "Latinao," or just give up and ingloriously drop the diacritic and say “Latin”? Perhaps when Wings Press brings the book in a second edition to market they’ll yield to the insurgent use of el equis and make things even more problematic with “Latinx”. A ver.

See if you can read Latina/o Rising in one or two sittings to gain the full benefit of its stomach-churning ride that here and there gives you a fist to the face but more so wide-eyed gasps, some laughs, some primal fear, and a montón of fun.

Order Latin@ Rising from your local independent bookseller, or publisher-direct here: http://www.wingspress.com/book.cfm?book_ID=220

Bless Me, Ultima, the Opera

Rudolfo Anaya’s timeless novel, Bless Me, Ultima has entertained millions of readers and hundreds of film-goers. Today, there’s an opera in the works. Thankfully, the production will be more Giuseppe Verdi than Philip Glass. That’s the impression I have from a conversation with Héctor Armienta, who is writing the music and libretto for the 2018 debut.

Armienta is Artistic Director and General Director of San Jose California’s Opera Cultura. Opera Cultura, working with Albuquerque’s Opera Southwest and the National Hispanic Cultural Center, will premier the work as early as next January in Anaya’s hometown, Alburquerque. In addition to the opera performances, the NHCC plans an art exhibition of artworks inspired by Bless Me, Ultima, and created by New Mexico artists. The 2018 production moves in May, or in the Fall, to California.

Contemporary U.S. opera often yields musicality to favor spectacle. I’m thinking of the LA Opera’s “Akhnaten” whose singers performed in English, Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Hebrew and Akkadian in a visually stunning production that put me to sleep. To my unbridled relief, Héctor Armienta describes himself heavily influenced by late Verdi.

Armienta grew up in Los Angeles, near MacArthur Park. He completed his undergradudate work at California Institute of the Arts before moving to San Francisco to complete a Master’s at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

When I spoke to him via telephone he was in the final stages of the piano vocal score. This means the opera is nearly completed. The composer follows the piano vocal score with an orchestration draft. From here, the company brings in a Stage Director and musicians to workshop the piece. Composer and Stage Director consider issues as does it work dramatically, on stage with characters, musically, does it create “that important moment?”

Casting is all-important. Armienta has a strong sense of who will sing Ultima. Less certain is the young Tony. With three boys choirs in San Francisco there’s ample talent pool. Alburquerque may prove a bit more challenging in finding a Tony, though Armienta doesn’t say that.

Rudolfo Anaya and Héctor Armienta
The opera has been in development since 2013 when Armienta and Rudy Anaya met to develop the synopsis. Armienta focuses on three themes, good/evil, destiny, the natural world versus our physical world. The boy, Tony, and Ultima lead the cast, with Tenorio, Narciso, and Tony’s familia supporting.

The story contains all the essential elements in the novel: the question of Tony’s destiny, Ultima’s journey to her death, the imbalance in the order of things because of a curse. As with any book adaptation, characters and scenes will be omitted, and instead of a third person narrator, dialog will carry the story into action.

Bless Me, Ultima’s music will be neo-romantic with a modicum of modern dissonance. Musically it’s not New Mexico per se, although Armienta researched a trove of New Mexico traditional music and at least two corridos will reflect historically authentic regional song.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center, along with Opera Southwest, commissioned the opera. Multiple sources and donors are contributing as well.

Rebecca L. Avitia, Executive Director of NHCC says “We are incredibly excited about the project and its potential to bring the magic of Anaya's writings and this incredible novel into an unexpected, but important genre.”

Héctor Armienta adds, “These are our stories. We need our stories told in our community. How better to do it than with the magic of opera?”

La Bloga will report additional details as the opera of Bless Me, Ultima advances through its production phases. You can read more about the production and listen to a workshop aria here. Make reservations to attend a June 17, 2017 Bless Me, Ultima Workshop in San Jose CA by clicking here.

Tejer la Tarde is Eleventh “Best Poem of 2016”

Owing to a clerical oversight, last week’s collection of Best Poems of La Bloga On-line Floricanto 2016 shared only ten of the eleven nominated poems.

It’s a pleasure for La Bloga to join the Moderators of the Facebook poetry community Poets Responding to SB 1070: Poetry of Resistance in celebrating the work of Oralia Rodriguez and her poem, “Tejer la tarde.”

Tejer la tarde
Por Oralia Rodríguez

Montar la cadena,
de los primeros días
pespuntes a las paredes,
encontrarme en la risa
en la incertidumbre
de hilos rojizos
para bordar la tarde,
un derecho, un revés.

Buscar lo que no soy,
historias remendadas,
voces en la sangre,
una vuelta,
sobrehilar los pasos
de pájaros ciegos,
cuando la metáfora
es pecado
y el dolor es sólo
un derecho o un revés.

Los demonios deshilan
punto tras punto los miedos,
recodifican la identidad,
punzan el subconsciente,
me anudan a la soledad,
y no encontrar
la geometría de un cuerpo,
un derecho, un revés.

Inocencia de palabras,
un punto al aire,
palabras que danzan silentes,
un derecho, un revés.

Adolecer apegos,
noches fragmentadas
que alfileres no sostienen,
códigos y puntos
para remachar
los días sin esquina
y remendar la casa de la infancia,
volver a ser niña
y no ser nombrada,
un derecho, un revés.

Fronteras trazadas al vuelo,
fragmentos de intimidad,
mariposas de caleidoscopio.
Anillar los instantes de tu sexo
al naufragio de tus muslos,
florecer en lluvia roja,
un derecho, un revés.

Trozos de tarde
para anudarlos
a la mirada,
volver, recorrer los rincones,
atar lo que me fue negado,
menguar y
gritar lo que no soy,
las palabras, los días,
el abandono.

Punto, tras punto,
un derecho,
un revés,
un derecho,
un revés,

Oralia Rodríguez. Originaria de Jerez Zacatecas, radica en Tijuana B.C. Estudió la Licenciatura en Informática en el Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana, y la Licenciatura en educación Primaria en la Normal Fronteriza Tijuana. La maestría en Cultura Escrita en el Centro de Posgrado y Estudios Sor Juana, cursó el Diplomados Creación Literaria certificado por el INBA.

Se desempeña como docente. Ha participado en diferentes antologías de México y Argentina. Publicó dos cuentos infantiles ¨Lobo, Lobito¨ y ¨Murmullos en el bosque¨. El poemario ¨Habitada de nostalgia¨ para el 5º Encuentro Latinoamericano de escritores Hidalgo 2013. Y el poemario Trozos de tarde para no ser olvido de Nódulo Ediciones 2016.

Here is the full complement of 2016's Best Poems (click for link):
Canto for Francisco X. Alarcón By Juan Felipe Herrera
To the Man Sitting across from Us at the Hospital in Harlingen, Texas By César L. De León
The Pulse of a Rainbow By Kai Coggin
Geographic Dreaming or what it means to be Chicana By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Remembering Fukushima, Nagasaki and Hiroshima By Sharon Elliott
We speak of mighty things By Jolaoso PrettyThunder
Notes on the Holy Ghost and Her Atheist Daughter By Sonia Gutiérrez
Mni Wiconi By Iris De Anda
Leaving the Candle On Overnight By Edward Vidaurre
Nochixtlán Por Guadalupe González Pérez
Tejer la Tarde Por Oralia Rodríguez