I was struggling to come up with a hook for a review of Lorna Dee Cervantes' wondrous collection Drive: The First Quartet, when the day's mail caught my eye. No, not the guy on the cover illustrated here, but a bright red 8-1/2" x 11" page featuring a slim woman with a come hither smile and not showing a lot of skin. So I'll review Drive: The First Quartet next week. In the meantime, please buy your copy of Drive: The First Quartet and find your favorites. With over 300 pages of work, you're sure to find Cervantes' collection a worthwhile way to spend those quiet moments between tasks, or rewarding yourself with extended periods of personal enjoyment paging through the collection's five distinct sets.
Tu Ciudad's Dec/Jan 2006 issue is the publisher's third. The magazine debuted with its June July number, with plans to appear every other month. Subtitled, "Your Guide to Latino L.A.", it works to live up to its billing. The cover story on television actor Vanessa Marcil, "Unwrapping My Masa Memories", does a gorgeous layout of samples from Mama's Hot Tamales. The article is not for las delicadas, los delicados, by the way--writer Carolynn Carreño is shown making a tamal sans headcovering in the otherwise sanitary-appearing kitchen. I hope Carreño washed her hands!
Lifestyle magazines aren't noted for their crusading work, so I wasn't surprised that Carreño glosses over Mama's Hot Tamales' raison d'etre. To the magazine's credit, it does note the pushcart venture Mama's launched, but doesn't delve. The enterprise, located south of MacArthur Park, manufactures pushcarts that it sells--call it technology transfer--to local immigrants who can then peddle their comida and botanas to the gente who throng to this busy crossroads of Latino L.A.
I am pleased to note the magazine's guest columnist in the striking red covered December/January number is La Bloga's Monday columnist, Daniel Olivas. Dan's insightful piece on literacy bears reprinting; perhaps the publisher will encourage Olivas to share the piece with La Bloga readers.
Tu Ciudad is no home-grown proposition but that of a conglomerate, Emmis Publishing, who puts out Los Angeles Magazine, as well as eponymous monthlies for Texas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. Indeed, Tu Ciudad reads exactly like Los Angeles Magazine, but with what I'll call and Eastside focus. The publisher declares circulation at "110,000 total: 70,000 mailed, 35,000 newsstand, 5,000 public distribution."
I approached the magazine with trepidation, fearing the advertising would be a monton of booze ads. A three-pager from Cuervo tequila, in Spanish, a double truck "Advertorial" from Dulseda liqueur, and a full pager from Miller Lite were the prominent alcohol buys. Luxury automobiles take the big play. I chuckled at Mercedes-Benz' ad, misreading !Oh, Cielos! for "Oh Celos", thinking, aha, an advertiser with a finger on the pulse of the community. Wrong. The tiny print and eloquent Spanish clearly shows an advertiser out of touch.
Tu Ciudad is still finding its way. It needs to update the webpage to illustrate the current cover. The humor piece, the golden bean award, recyles Esquire magazine from the 1970s. But that's good. The champurrado article chooses to ignore the hundreds of pushcart and street corner vendors selling champurrado, tejuino, orange juice, and tamales, in favor of naming only licensed concerns. And that's blind. Do Upscale Chicanas Chicanos not care about tasting the best of the best, irrespective of accessibiliity? Then again, I wonder if there's a cost for being listed? The publisher elects a bit of a defensive pose--or assimilationist hard-headedness-- arguing with reader Alfonso Alvarez Carson that "tamale" is the correct singular form for "tamal," based on the publisher's "in-house English dictionary." I think Editor Oscar Garza needs a different dictionary.
You may find Tu Ciudad on a local newstand, or you can inquire at the website linked above. I'm looking forward to the February/March issue. It's cool seeing a magazine that turns its sights on my side of town for once.
Atentamente y sin otro motivo other than read! raza and fellow readers, hay les wachamos next week. (I'm not doing diacritics well this week, sorry).