Monday, October 31, 2005


From Daniel Olivas

In honor of Halloween and Día de los Muertos, I want to offer something a little different. Here is a little cuento de fantasma that I wrote a few years ago and that first appeared in the anthology, Nemeton: A Fables Anthology (Silver Lake Publishing, 2000), and then was is featured in my short-story collection, Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004). Enjoy.

Señor Sanchez

Señor Sanchez lived a rather nice life in our little pueblo of Dos Cuentos. He sat most days in the Plaza, by the statue of our pueblo’s founder, Don Antonio Segoviano, and waited, eyes closed, lips pursed in a constant little hum, with his dog Chucho panting by his side. You see, people came to him to hear him talk. They paid a few pesos, dropping them noisily into an empty Maxwell House tin that sat between Señor Sanchez and Chucho. With each clank of the heavy coins, Chucho’s ratty little ears would pop up, frisky and alert, and Señor Sanchez would smile as he leaned back into the weather-beaten fold-out chair. He held his elegant, unusually small hands draped over the brass head of his cane, and he laughed with the same question: “What is it you want to hear?”

And the customers would tell him.

“A sad story,” said Señora Cruz, a widow for these last ten years.

“A very funny joke,” offered our priest, Padre Olivares. And he tipped his shaggy head into Señor Sanchez. “One I can tell in my sermon next Sunday,” he smiled.

“Will I ever find a wife?” asked poor, fat Simón, the carpenter.

One day, the Mayor visited Señor Sanchez. I sat not far away, at the Bar Americano, drinking my usual lunch of two (or perhaps three) bottles of Tecate beer, and I listened to what the great man wanted. No noise came from the Maxwell House tin: the Mayor dropped a nice, fat wad of paper bills into the till. The sun hit my face, hard and true, and I put my cool bottle down with a little clink and waited for Señor Sanchez to ask his usual question. But he did not. What did he do? He smiled. That is all. And Chucho slept. The Mayor stood, frozen, for a moment or two. And then he spoke.

“Speak to me as my son would,” he said. “If he were still alive.”

My heart beat hard in my throat. The whole pueblo knew of the horrible tragedy of Mario’s death in April, three months ago. It had rained so hard for six days. No one ventured out. Finally, on a Sunday, in the afternoon on the sixth day, the sun peeked out from behind the dark clouds. Some of us went out to inspect the roads and it’s there that we found him, head deep in muddy water, by the side of Calle Verdad. Mario’s body was so bloated we assumed that he had been dead for several days. And, of course, it was clearly an accident. The Mayor fell into a dark sadness at the loss of his only child.

So, on that day the Mayor went to Señor Sanchez, I tried to listen. He smiled at the Mayor and then I saw his lips move slowly. I strained and strained but could not discern a word. Señor Sanchez’s thin, almost blue lips stopped as fast as they had started. The Mayor jumped back as if a large, brutal man had struck him in the chest. And for a moment, the birds did not sing, and the wind did not blow. I glanced at my watch and noted that the Mayor did not move for a full three minutes! Finally, the Mayor straightened himself, brushed off non-existent dust from his fine, blue suit, bowed, slowly and elegantly, and turned on his heel. Within a few seconds, he was out of view.

The odd thing was what happened afterward. When the Mayor left the Plaza, Señor Sanchez sighed and shook his head. Slowly he stood, folded his chair, patted Chucho’s head, and wandered off. Chucho, for some odd reason, stayed put. As he walked away, Señor Sanchez turned, ever so slowly, and caught my eye. In my embarrassment, I waved and then turned to my newspaper. He disappeared within a few moments.
Señor Sanchez never came to the Plaza after that. A month later, we learned that he had died in his bed. Padre Olivares said that he lived to be one hundred and twenty-five, according to the Church’s baptism records. And, according to some of the older citizens, Señor Sanchez had been talking, in the Plaza, since he was twenty years old. That is a long time to be speaking. No?

BOOK REVIEW: My review of Rudolfo Anaya’s Jemez Spring (University of New Mexico Press) recently appeared in The Elegant Variation.

All done with a short one this busy holiday. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

When Chicano Lit ≠ Latino Lit

by RudyG

La Bloga posts and comments this year have gotten me rethinking what's Chicano Lit and what's Latino Lit. Each author pushed me to revamp my perspective and raised more questions than I could answer. Maybe others could help me sort this out.

I limit this piece to the arena of Chicano Lit (and exclude the question of who or what is a Chicano writer). Bloguistas and others made we reexamine its relationship to what's called Latino Lit.

Chicano Lit is about Chicanos, somehow. I'll dare say that books written about non-Chicanos, even though written by a Chicano (e.g., Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series) are not Chicano Lit, in the sense they are not part of a body of works more or less directly expressing perspectives on the Chicano experience. (Nevertheless, I might enjoy an analysis like "Chicano themes and perspectives in Gabaldon's Scotland.")

I'd add that books about Chicanos, even though written by a non-Chicano, should be considered Chicano Lit, when they successfully, empathically portray that experience. It would seem that, on the other hand, books about Chicanos written by a Chicano and not successfully portraying that experience are still Chicano Lit; they're just badly written.

Chicano Lit has affinities with Latino Lit. For instance, in the case of Boriqua Lit, they share historical affinities due to the similar subjugation by the U.S. Our affinities to Cubano Lit are at least dualistic. Chicano (not Hispanic) Lit connects to works still done on the island when we acknowledge shared connections to Che Guevara, also a hero of the Chicano Movement. Expatriated Cubanos centered in Florida understandably don't necessarily share that experience with us, anymore than all literature from the island does.

Along both sides of La Frontera, shared experiences reflected in Chicano and Mexicano writing merge even more, but tend to blur the further one moves into interior Mexico, and literature more "Mexican" than "Border".

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who writes of Colombia and Latin America, makes his own mold for his work. Several Chicano works obviously or subconsciously owe something to the influence of his works. But one would expect a Nobel Prize winner's obras to have wider influence than most writing.

There is other Latino Lit--Dominican, etc.--that could be examined in the same light, but I don't need to go into that here.

By definition--that of mestizaje--Chicano Lit has its limits and indistinctiveness. A literature about a subjugated people denied their culture and language suffers from that loss of native language. Thus, much of Chicano Lit discussions are forced to discuss in the realm of the English language, since we may not speak, read, much less write in Spanish. Our inability to appreciate, for instance, writing composed in Spanish--no matter that it includes the Chicano border experience--leaves a significant weakness in such discussion. Likewise, lists of Greatest Chicano Lit often include few works in Spanish.

This language gap, and history itself, combine to argue against our including literature from Spain as Latino, no matter that one would think half our mestizaje heritage should work to encompass the conqueror-Hispano experience. However that's a gap we seem to welcome.

A list of Greatest Chicano Works seems a good thing. I understand why 100 Years of Solitude couldn't be on that list, no matter how great a "Latino" work it is. Seems a natural.

What wouldn't seem called for is widening such a list to include Latino, non-Chicano works. Why go along with the U.S. monopolist publishers' Latinization--the corporate, brown melting pot where the Chicano experience gets blender-ed into the experiences of all others subjugated by the criollos.

Good literature is good literature, . But La Bloga could make a distinctive contribution in reviews and discussions of non-Chicano Lit; particularly if such reviews explained how said non-Chicano work related to the Chicano experience, something I think few literati attempt. Perhaps, too, it is something corporate publishers would rather have us not do; for the sake of sales, they might prefer reviews that blurred a work's political and cultural, historical threads to Chicanismo.

Great literature does more than entertain: it explores the human psyche, builds on traditions, opens new paths, and redefines those around it. Its roots spread deeper and its branches reach higher than what is written on an author's birth certificate.

I think La Bloga could help deconstruct even the all-encompassing genre of "Latino", at least in how it relates to the Chicano experience--a guide to how/why it is that Bloguistas choose to discuss or review particular non-Chicano works. We don't often see that.

If I sound like I'm just rhetorically questioning, remember how Chicano Lit is sometimes dumped in university Romance Language depts. with Portuguese, how in bookstores it can be found alongside anti-Castro books, or next to Jennings' Aztec series. For these institutions, the reasons for the categorization vary, from academic paradigms to those of profit motive.

I'm not suggesting La Bloga or others need to hammer out a new literary consensus, but only that exploring whatever makes up our present Chicano-Latino Lit mindset might tell us things about ourselves we didn't know. It might give us literary perspectives we never noticed.

As I said, I throw these questions out because of recent blogger posts, here and elsewhere. My suggestions might help sharpen the direction of "Latino" critique, including of Chicano works. They are not intended to add to history's muddled legacy or corporate publishers' clouding of that great body of work that will always be called Chicano Lit.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Friday, October 28, 2005

Día De Los Muertos or Halloween?

Manuel Ramos

Being bicultural, I get to mix up things and who can say that I'm wrong? Día de Los Muertos and Halloween, for example. My wife reminds me that Día de Los Muertos is not a scary holiday - just the opposite, in fact (still, having all those skulls and calaveras around the house, late at night, in the dark - you get the picture). Meanwhile, Halloween has nothing to do with honoring ancestors and a lot to do with pagan rites and ancient stories originally meant to keep children in line. So, in honor of the upcoming worldwide commemoration of and festivities for those who have passed on, and with a bit of spooky thrown in, here's a list of reading that might keep you up at night.

Two short story collections deserve your attention, and both have Daniel Olivas. Daniel's collection, Devil Talk (Bilingual Press, 2004), is a great mix of off-beat stories that present hard-earned lessons of life or glimpses at an alternative reality. These are the kind of stories that make you go "Oh no, he didn't do that" at the end. Daniel also is featured in Fantasmas (Bilingual Press, 2001), edited by Rob Johnson with an introduction by Kathleen Alcalá. This collection is billed as Supernatural Stories by Mexican American Writers and in addition to Daniel the authors include Carmen Tafolla, David Rice, Stephen Gutiérrez, and sixteen others.

The Festival of Bones/El Festival de las Calaveras: A Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead by Luis San Vincente (Cinco Puntos Press, 1994) is described by the publisher in this way: "Mexico’s Day of the Dead fascinates kids, whether for its joyful celebration or its unusual traditions. With fantastic illustrations and a wild and fanciful poem, San Vicente captures the spirit of this most marvelous holiday. A short and fun essay, directed toward young readers, explains this important Mexican holiday, and the fun things kids can do to join in the festivities."

Cinco Puntos Press also features El Cucuy! A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish (2002)by Joe Hayes, illustrated by Honorio Robledo.

All Chicana/o writers have a story in them about La Llorona. Rudolfo Anaya's contribution is his children's book, Maya's Children: The Story of La Llorona (Hyperion, 1997) illustrated by Maria Baca, a kinder, gentler tale in which the mother, Maya, does not kill her children but instead loses them to a tricky Señor Tiempo.

On the other, more serious, hand, Weeping Woman: La Llorona and Other Stories by Alma Luz Villanueva (Bilingual Press, 1994) has been described as painful and disturbing. The stories portray dark images of violence - rape, incest, abuse - but, as noted by The Library Journal, "out of the ashes of this cruelty rises a sense of hope."

My own llorona story can be found here for those of you who might be interested (originally published in 1986!)

And something unique for La Bloga, Día De Los Muertos by Kent Harrington. This is noir fiction - bleak and as gritty as they come. The book has some relevance to La Bloga since Harrington's mother was from Guatemala, but in no way is this book Latino Literature. Even so, it is a very good book for those of us who like this kind of thing.


The play September Shoes was described by the author as "a complex, lyrical piece about the desert, shoes, forgiveness and redemption. We start you in a place where you are grounded, and then we begin to take you on this lyrical and magical journey." Written by José Cruz González, it runs through December 17 at the Denver Center Theatre Company. The Denver Post observed, "September Shoes is not only the first DCTC play by a Latino playwright since 1999; it will be the first staged by any female director since the same play, Barrio Babies. Director Amy González (no relation) commented that the play is a suspenseful story that is revealed in little increments. 'It's a very personal story that has some deeper and universal resonances,' she said."

Meanwhile, I get to spend most of October 29 at the Boulder Public Library as part of the Guilty Pleasures - Mystery Writers Day. I join seven other writers for talks, lunch, a panel, book signings, and general positive reinforcement about the "writer's life." Come by if you get a chance.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

ROSA PARKS: 1913-2005

I realize that I've already done my post for the week, but I felt compelled to take note of Rosa Parks' passing. Here is one of many articles published today. -- Daniel Olivas

ROSA PARKS: 1913-2005

Revered icon of civil rights

Rosa Parks' refusal to give up seat to a white man set off Montgomery bus boycott in '50s

By E.R. Shipp, New York Times

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, died Monday. She was 92 years old.

Her death was confirmed by former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, who served as Parks' guardian.

For her act of defiance, Parks was arrested, convicted of violating segregation laws and fined. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. into a major civil rights leader.

"Mrs. Parks' arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest," King wrote in his 1958 book, "Stride Toward Freedom." "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices."

Her act of civil disobedience, what seems a simple gesture of defiance so many years later, was in fact a dangerous, even reckless move in 1950s Alabama. In refusing to move, she risked legal sanction and perhaps even physical harm, but she also set into motion something far beyond the control of the city authorities. Parks clarified for public consumption far beyond Montgomery the cruelty and humiliation inherent in the laws and customs of segregation.

That moment on the Cleveland Avenue bus also turned a very private woman into a reluctant symbol and torchbearer in the quest for racial equality and of a movement that became increasingly organized and sophisticated in making demands and getting results.

Over the years, myth tended to obscure the truth about Parks. One legend had it that she was a cleaning woman with bad feet who was too tired to drag herself to the rear of the bus. The truth, as she later explained, was that she was tired of being humiliated, of having to adapt to the byzantine rules, some codified as law and others passed on as tradition, that reinforced the position of blacks as something less than full human beings.

"She was fed up," said Elaine Steele, a longtime friend and executive director of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. "She was in her 40s. She was not a child. There comes a point where you say, 'No, I'm a full citizen, too. This is not the way I should be treated.' "

Parks was active in the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. She and her husband, Raymond, a barber, had taken part in voter registration drives.

At the urging of an employer, Virginia Durr, Parks had attended an interracial leadership conference at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., in the summer of 1955. There, she later said, she "gained strength to persevere in my work for freedom, not just for blacks but for all oppressed people."

But as she rushed home from her job as a seamstress at a department store Dec. 1, 1955, the last thing on her mind was becoming "the mother of the civil rights movement," as many would later describe her. She had to send out notices of the NAACP's coming election of officers. And she had to prepare for the leadership workshop where she would be the host for teenagers that weekend.

"So it was not a time for me to be planning to get arrested," she said in 1988.

On Montgomery buses, the first four rows were reserved for whites. The rear was for blacks, who made up more than 75 percent of the bus system's riders. Blacks could sit in the middle rows until those seats were needed by whites. Then the blacks had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Even getting on the bus presented hurdles: If whites were already sitting in the front, blacks could board to pay the fare but then had to disembark and re-enter through the rear door.

For years blacks had complained, and Parks was no exception. "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest," she said. "I did a lot of walking in Montgomery."

Her arrest was the answer to the prayers of the Women's Political Council, which was set up in 1946 in response to the mistreatment of black bus riders, and for E.D. Nixon, a leading advocate of equality for blacks in Montgomery.

Blacks had been arrested, and even killed, for disobeying bus drivers. They had begun to build a case around a 15-year-old girl's arrest in March 1955 for refusing to give up her seat, and Parks had been among those raising money for the girl's defense. But when they learned that the teenager was pregnant, they decided that she was an unsuitable symbol for their cause.

While Nixon met with lawyers and preachers to plan an assault on the Jim Crow laws, the women's council distributed 35,000 copies of a handbill that urged blacks to boycott the buses on Monday, Dec. 5, the day of Parks' trial.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, the announcement was made from many black pulpits, and a front-page article in the Montgomery Advertiser further spread the word. Some blacks rode in carpools that Monday. Most black commuters -- 40,000 people -- walked, some more than 20 miles, to and from their jobs.

At a church rally that night, blacks agreed to continue the boycott.

The boycott lasted 381 days, and in that period many blacks were harassed and arrested on flimsy excuses. Churches and houses, including those of King and Nixon, were dynamited.

Finally, on Nov. 13, 1956, in the case of Browder vs. Gayle, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on the city's buses. The court order arrived in Montgomery on Dec. 20; the boycott ended the next day. But the violence escalated: Snipers fired into buses as well as King's home; bombs were tossed into churches and into the homes of ministers, including the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy; some blacks were beaten by roving bands of whites.

Early the next year, the Parkses left Montgomery for Hampton, Va., largely because Parks had been unable to find work but also because of disagreements with King and other leaders of the city's struggling civil rights movement. In Virginia, Parks worked as hostess in the faculty dining hall at the Hampton Institute, a black college.

Later that year, Parks, her husband and her mother, Leona McCauley, moved to Detroit. Parks worked as a seamstress until 1965, when Rep. John Conyers Jr. hired her as an aide for his office in Detroit. She retired in 1988.

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Ala., Feb. 4, 1913, the elder of Leona and James McCauley's two children. Although the McCauleys were farmers, James McCauley also worked as a carpenter and Leona McCauley as a teacher.

Rosa McCauley attended rural schools until she was 11 years old, then Miss White's School for Girls in Montgomery. She attended high school at the Alabama State Teachers College, but dropped out to care for her ailing grandmother. It was not until she was 21, and had been married for two years, that she earned a high school diploma.

Parks' husband, Raymond, died in 1977. There are no immediate survivors.

The Opposite of Chicana Chicano Literature?

Michael Sedano

Can there be such a thing as the opposite of Chicano literature?

(1) The question arises, in part, in considering Manuel Ramos’ report on the business-as-usual exclusion of Chicana Chicano writers from Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923.

Who can argue against Vonnegut, Nabokov, Atwood? I would thump the lectern for alternatives to certain writers’ work. Giles Goat-Boy for Barth, A Cool Million for West, Robber Bride for Atwood. As my eyes swept the list, though, I saw numerous titles and writers whose work has been surpassed by Chicana and Chicano writers. Not that I'd read all 100 of Time's list, but the majority. So here’s what I told Time:

The panel needs to read more. A lot more.  Chicana and Chicano writers have produced notable fiction that merits consideration. Sadly, when a reader's literary compass excludes an entire culture's production, there's little wonder a "top 100" list will illustrate a conscious, or unconscious bias.

Here are five titles to get you  started:

Graciela Limon. Memories of Ana Calderon.

Benjamin Saenz. Carry Me Like Water.

Alfredo Vea. Gods Go Begging.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba. Sor Juana's Second Dream.

Ana Castillo. Peel My Love Like an Onion.

(2) The question hit me again, this time in the funny bone, at the Mark Taper Forum Saturday afternoon, where I sat astonished by David Mamet’s farce, “Romance.

Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” had heretofore defined my relationship with the playwright. The telemarketing boiler room drama explodes in deadly intensity, profanity, and just plain human meanness. “Romance,” similarly, is laced with personal animosity and profanity, but unlike “Glengarry,” Mamet’s new play is a courtroom / bedroom farce that takes ethnic and sexual prejudice to outrageously absurd extremes. In one exchange, lawyer and client launch a hate speech assault on one another that builds for five minutes. The Episcopalian defense attorney hurls slurs like “hook nose shimie” and “baby eater,” and lots of exotic stuff I’ve never heard, at his Jewish client. The client gives as good as he gets, denigrating the sect and taunting the lawyer about his son’s pederastic priest in a truly ugly retort that drew gasps from the people sitting near me. When the two men run out of words, they go into several minutes of “f*ck you” repartee that had the audience howling in pain.

Remarkably acted with precision timing and effectively staged by director Neil Pepe,  “Romance,” is so far removed from anything ever staged by a Chicano troupe that it seems absurd even to raise the issue. Except “Romance,” through November 13, launches the Taper’s 39th season, which concludes with the July 27th run of “Water and Power,” written by Richard Montoya with Culture Clash. Obviously the comparison not only is not far-fetched, it’s now a matter of time and Los Angeles audiences will have to deal with it.

Interesante, que no?

Read! Raza.


Monday, October 24, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Demetría Martínez is an author, activist, lecturer and columnist. Her collected essays, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana (Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Americas) (University of Oklahoma Press) is forthcoming in November 2005. Her books include the widely translated novel, Mother Tongue (Ballantine), winner of a Western States Book Award for Fiction, and two books of poetry, Breathing Between the Lines: Poems and The Devil's Workshop both published by the University of Arizona Press. She writes a column for the National Catholic Reporter, an independent progressive newsweekly.

CLASSIC REISSUE: The Elegant Variation recently published my review of HarperCollins/Rayo’s 35th anniversary reissue of the classic novel Chicano by the late journalist Richard Vasquez.

PRESS RELEASE: Con Tinta is a coalition of cultural activists (Chicano/Latino poets and writers) who believe in affirming a positive and pro-active presence in American literature. We come together in the spirit of intellectual exchange, of creating dialogue with our communities and beyond, of recognizing our literary and social histories, and of establishing alliances with other cultural and political organizations. Our mission is to create awareness through the cultivation of emerging talent, through the promotion and presentation of artistic expression, and through the collective voice of support to our members, our communities, and our allies.
In March 8-11 of 2006, Con Tinta members will participate at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference in Austin to engage in a series of necessary discussions about politics, culture, activism and art. As part of its community outreach efforts, Con Tinta will host a celebration through an event outside of the conference grounds. Programming at a local venue will include a dedication to two beloved veteranos of Chicano letters, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and raulsalinas; a reading by renowned authors and emerging talent; a communal meal; and a baile.

Con Tinta Advisory Circle:
Kathleen Alcalá, Brenda Cárdenas, Lisa Chávez, Rigoberto González, Lorraine López, Daniel A. Olivas and Richard Yañez

Con Tinta contact person: Rigoberto González, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 608 S. Wright Street, English Building, MC-208 Urbana, IL 61801. Email: Phone: (217) 333-2926

CRISOL PRODUCTIONS IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE OF LOTERIA DE LA MUJER: Renowned San Diego artist, Nuvia Crisol Guerra, has fused her vibrant artwork with the traditional Mexican game “Loteria.” Crisol’s striking depictions celebrate 20 universal stages of a woman’s life. These colorful portraits speak to men and women of all cultures and generations. In addition to the game, these images are also available as packets of greeting cards and individual post cards. Visit her website for more information.

CONFERENCE: El Clamor Público - 150 Years of Latino Newspapers in Southern California.

The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
October 28, 2005
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Annenberg School for Communication, California State University, Northridge Graduate Studies Program Distinguished Speakers Series, and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.Founded in Los Angeles in 1855, the newspaper El Clamor Público staunchly defended equal rights in California. Though labeled treacherous, incendiary, and anti-American, eighteen-year-old journalist Francisco P. Ramírez‘s newspaper courageously reported lynchings, land frauds, vigilante terror, racial profiling, and legal injustices targeting Spanish-language communities. Ramírez’s faith in the U.S. Constitution guided him as he urged readers to elect trustworthy representatives and to learn English so they could defend their rights. He printed the Declaration of Independence in Spanish and encouraged Californios and Anglos to “work together in the same spirit.” During its four and a half years, the newspaper published political opinion, international news, literary expressions, and social commentaries.This conference will examine the history and legacy of El Clamor Público through and exploration of Latino newspapers in Southern California’s past, present, and future. The conference is free and open to the public; registration is required by October 24. Luncheon will be provided for a prepaid fee. For registration information, go here. For more information on the conference contact conference coordinator Joseph Legaspi at his e-mail.

RAIN OF GOLD LIVE ON STAGE: Don't miss Victor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold live! The most recent version of The Western Stage’s sweeping adaptation is a must see, and will only be in Salinas, October 22nd through November 5th, 2005. For information and tickets visit here.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Sunday, October 30, 6:30PM to 8:00PM - Tongue & Groove: A monthly offering of short fiction, poetry and music. The featured writers include: Glen David Gold ("Carter Beats the Devil"), Salvador Plascencia ("The People of Paper"), Daniel Olivas ("Devil Talk"), Carmen Esquer and Maria Cristina Jimenez. Musical guest: Carmella Rappazzo. Hosted by Conrad Romo.

Venue: The Hotel Café. Address: 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, 90028. Admission: Free! For more information call: 323-937-0136. Or visit:

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro

Friday, October 21, 2005

Time's Best

Manuel Ramos

Time Magazine listed it's choices for the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. As with many such lists, it had some obvious picks and some real surprises. How can anyone argue with books like All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, one of my favorite novels of all-time, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, or Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky? Surprises that clicked with me include The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, although we could quibble about whether these are Chandler's or Hammett's best.

But, and this isn't a surprise, I guess, no Latino books on the list. No Anaya, Cisneros, Hijuelos, Allende, Véa, Alvarez, Rivera, etc. Not one. Please correct me if I am wrong.

However, let's not dwell on the negative.

Time also listed the all-time graphic novels. I'm partial to graphic novels - always wanted to write one, enjoy reading them, even did an interview with Brian Azzarello, writer of the 100 Bullets graphic novels (among many others) for an upcoming issue of Crime Spree magazine. According to Time, a graphic novel "is a vague moniker that gets applied to any extended form of comics, including non-fiction and short story collections." This is a much more exclusive list than the best novels, only ten titles are "all-time" according to Time. And guess what? Chicanos made the list. Here's the quote from Time:

"Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books; 2003)
A kind of über graphic novel that collects a series of smaller graphic novels all situated in a small town 'somewhere south of the U.S. border,' this giant tome by a seminal comic artist will likely be the author's magnum opus. Part of the creative team behind the deeply influential Love and Rockets comic book series (along with his equally talented brother Jaime) Gilbert has created a pan-American epic that spans multiple generations of a family run almost exclusively by women. Hernandez' Palomar combines the look of Archie comics with Faulkner's richness of character and place into the melodramatic sweep of a sexy soap opera to create one of the most remarkable works of any narrative art."

Way to go, bro.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

CPT and Novels Needed Now, More Than Ever

Michael Sedano

There's a cruel jest that has a small wring of truth in it, the "CPT" stereotype, "Chicano / Colored People Time," that holds we cannot start events at an appointed hour, but linger and delay.

What fun I've had the past couple months, proving the invalidity of CPT.

In association with a group of veteran Chicana Chicano artists--as well as a few newcomers to the chicanarte scene--I've helped put together a 2006 calendar featuring Chicana Chicano art. I started as a naysayer, that we should take a year and dar luz for 2007. The editor and artists would have none of it. "Let's go now!" they said, so we carpéd the diem and here comes the calendar! A la brava or not, it's been a great experience.

The publisher, Floricanto Press of Mt. View, Califas, recently added the piece to its catalog, not CPT, but just in time for the holidays. I wrote the introduction, edited most of the artist biographies, as well as drafting P.R. materials and tending to some of the administrivia attendant in bringing the piece to market. Being a Southern California endeavor, there will be November / December signing events in Eagle Rock, Pasadena, and Los Angeles' Placita--Olvera Street. The artists will do the autographs; the writer is merely window dressing, as it were. I hope the intro's message will be heeded: buy Chicano art.

Meanwhile, CPT (Chicago Publisher's LATimes) has an interesting lit op-ed piece, Literature, more than ever that raises a number of useful topics about fiction, nonfiction, relationships of writer to reader, readers to events outside one's immediate world. Times staff writer David L. Ulin begins provocatively, "There's a moment in the life of every writer when he or she questions the relevance of literature." Ulin relates the writer's block Jane Smiley suffers in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the U.S. Smiley tells Ulin, from her home in lovely Carmel, "'I expected to get back to work. And then, the stuff that came afterward — anthrax, Afghanistan, Iraq — just compounded the feeling of intrusion. It was impossible to get away.'"

Ulin ends the piece with another Smiley remark, "'We don't connect with literature in the intellect,' Smiley says. 'We connect to it where we attach to dogs or boyfriends — at the deeper level of the self. The desire we have for long narrative forms is intrinsic; it's a natural human thing. A lot of people worry about the future of the novel, but I don't. It's a part of who we are.'"

I found one paragraph troubling for its futility. Ulin writes, "In her (Jane Smiley's) view, there's a political component here, since the more empathy we develop, the more likely we are to understand opposing attitudes. 'If you have leaders who don't read novels,' Smiley says sharply, 'look what big trouble you get into. They can't imagine other points of view.'

Futility, I say, because the sentiment is wasted on gente who do not read.

Ulin's article may have provoked me because I'm in the middle of reading Salvador Plasencia's The People of Paper, wondering where in the world this writer gets his ideas--parental divorce? a broken romance? fighting through writer's block? a history of enuresis? Now, if you're wondering where that last sentence comes from, you'll have to sink your eyes into Plasencia's novel, and make the conecta for yourself. Like a dog?

Read! Raza. Hasta mañana, which is good enough for some of us.


Monday, October 17, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Esmeralda Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She came to the United States at thirteen, the eldest in a family that would eventually include eleven children. Santiago attended New York City’s Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, she transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship. She graduated magna cum laude in 1976. In 1977, she and her husband, Frank Cantor, founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company, which has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking.

Upon publication of her first book, the memoir When I Was Puerto Rican, Santiago was hailed as “…a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority,” by the Washington Post Book World. Her first novel, America's Dream, was published in six languages, and was an Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild. Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received numerous “Best of Year” mentions, in addition to an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her third memoir, The Turkish Lover, has received enthusiastic reviews as “an earthy, heartfelt tale of liberation, desperation, and the crippling grip of love.” (Booklist) It was selected a BookSense recommendation for September 2004 and appeared on several “Best of 2004” lists. She is also the author of the illustrated children’s book, A Doll for Navidades. Santiago is currently at work on a novel.

ESCUCHE: Michael Jaime-Becerra, author of the short-story collection, Every Night Is Ladies' Night: Stories (HarperCollins/Ray), appeared on "The California Report” on Public Radio on October 10, 2005. You may listen to the program here. You may also read my review of this wonderful book.

STILL RUNNING: In yesterday’s book section of the L.A. Times, Kristina Lindgren offered a short essay about Luis J. Rodríguez. Here is an excerpt:


When "Always Running" came out in 1993, its author — the poet, novelist and Chicano activist Luis J. Rodríguez — hoped that this gripping memoir of his career as a gang-banger in poverty-riddled East Los Angeles would dissuade his troubled teenage son, Ramiro, from la vida loca.

Since then, the author reports, "more of my homies from 30 years ago have died," and Ramiro is serving a 28-year prison sentence for three counts of attempted murder. Meanwhile, Rodríguez's graphic and unvarnished account of "stealing, shootings, stabbings, arrests, homelessness, drug use and overdoses" has become one of the nation's 100 most widely banned books, according to the American Library Assn.

"Always Running," reissued this month by Simon & Schuster, traces his path "from victim to perpetrator to witness to revolutionary." In a new introduction, Rodríguez writes: "The fact is I failed at everything I tried to do, but I kept working at it, failing some more, not giving up, so that eventually, at age 51, I've begun to center my life, get control over my destructive impulses, and become someone my wife, my kids, my grandchildren, and my community can learn from and respect." . . . .

You may read the entire essay along with a selection of Rodríguez’s poetry here.

DESPERATELY SEEKING LATINA WRITERS: Publisher’s Weekly (by way of our comadre, Gina, here at La Bloga) tells us that if you are an "established or emerging author" of commercial women's fiction aimed at "Latinas who are immersed in the American mainstream while maintaining ties to their culture," Warner has a new imprint to showcase your work. Solana (Spanish, we are told, for "where the sun shines"), will publish six such trade paperbacks a year, starting in early 2007, under the direction of associate editor Adrienne Avila.

9TH ANNUAL LOS ANGELES LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL: Authors, book signings, publishing seminars, Folklórico dance competition, entertainment, food, and fun for the entire family.

Venue: Fairplex
Dates: October 22 and 23
Address: 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, 91768
Ages: All Ages
Admission: Free
For more information call: 760-434-4484
Or visit:

NEWS FROM THE UCLA CHICANO STUDIES RESEARCH CENTER (“CSRC”): The CSRC invites everyone to its annual open house at the UCLA campus on Thursday, October 20, 4:00-7:00 p.m., at Haines Hall 144.

Open House Activities:
Balcony—Eat and drink courtesy of Casablanca Restaurant!
Room 144—View Sleepy Lagoon and other archival information!
Room 180—Buy the center’s books, journals, DVDs, and t-shirts!
Room 179—Win door prizes!

Open House Speakers:
Assemblymember Cindy Montañez
Vice Chancellor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
Professor Daniel Solorzano
Director Chon A. Noriega

CONFERENCE: El Clamor Público - 150 Years of Latino Newspapers in Southern California.

The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
October 28, 2005
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Annenberg School for Communication, California State University, Northridge Graduate Studies Program Distinguished Speakers Series, and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.Founded in Los Angeles in 1855, the newspaper El Clamor Público staunchly defended equal rights in California. Though labeled treacherous, incendiary, and anti-American, eighteen-year-old journalist Francisco P. Ramírez‘s newspaper courageously reported lynchings, land frauds, vigilante terror, racial profiling, and legal injustices targeting Spanish-language communities. Ramírez’s faith in the U.S. Constitution guided him as he urged readers to elect trustworthy representatives and to learn English so they could defend their rights. He printed the Declaration of Independence in Spanish and encouraged Californios and Anglos to “work together in the same spirit.” During its four and a half years, the newspaper published political opinion, international news, literary expressions, and social commentaries.This conference will examine the history and legacy of El Clamor Público through and exploration of Latino newspapers in Southern California’s past, present, and future. The conference is free and open to the public; registration is required by October 24. Luncheon will be provided for a prepaid fee. For registration information, go here. For more information on the conference contact conference coordinator Joseph Legaspi at his e-mail.

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Chicano Music

Manuel Ramos

Not much about fiction this week, so let's do music.

CHICANO MUSIC? La cancíon mexicana, latin jazz, movimiento protest songs, oldies, tejano, conjunto, hip-hop, reggaeton, o qué? Maybe all of that. There is a good shelf's worth of books to help figure it out. Keep in mind, this post is mostly old school.

A good place to start is A Texas-Mexican Cancionero by Américo Paredes (University of Illinois Press, 1976, reprint by University of Texas Press, 1995) , subtitled, Folksongs of the Lower Border. Paredes, one of the masters of Chicano research and historical preservation, collected sixty-six songs that were representative of the folksongs of the Lower Rio Grande Border from 1750-1960. Here are the words, the compositions, and the stories behind the songs that tell how life was for the people along the border in the days of shoot-outs with the Texas Rangers (¡rinches cobardes!) - Jacinto Treviño; smuggling tequila across the border - Los tequileros; and the first appearance of television and easy-payment plans (ya no tengo pa' cerveza por estar viendo los monos) - Ya se va la televisión. Unique photographs, too.

Moving several years forward, take a look at Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles by Steven Loza (University of Illinois Press, 1993). This book has it covered. The book jacket says, "Loza provides a historical overview of the music from the nineteenth century to the present and offers in-depth profiles of nine Mexican-American artists, groups, and entrepreneurs in Southern California from the post-World War II era to the present. His interviews with many of today's most influential barrio musicians, including members of Los Lobos, Eddie Cano, Lalo Guerrero, and Willie Herrón, chronicle the cultural forces active in this complex urban community."

The Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music, 1950 - 1975, by Ruben Molina (Mictlan Publishing, 2002), doesn't focus only on Chicano music. This book provides rundowns on the bands and singing groups that taken together defined and continue to define the urban sound of low rider culture - equal parts R&B, Chicano rock and oldies, with bits and pieces of jazz, blues, and maybe one or two corridos or rancheras. The book starts with Johnny Ace and ends with the Youngsters, and in between are thousands of details about everyone else who matters, from El Chicano to Thee Midniters, from the Premiers (photo at the top of this post) to Ritchie Valens. A fun book that looks fine, so fine, on the coffee table.

Back to Texas for The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music by Ramiro Burr (Billboard Books, 1999), another group-by-group, singer-by-singer compilation from Accordion to Henry Zimmerle y Conjunto San Antonio. Burr is a music journalist, syndicated columnist, radio personality and critic. This is the source for information about the wide range of Tejano formats and the diverse musicians who continue to produce the most popular Latino music in the country (yes, even more than salsa.) If the word Tejano means Selena and nothing more, this book is for you.

Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern California, by David Reyes and Tom Waldman (University of New Mexico Press, 1998), is a more-or-less chronological analysis of the various personalities, influences, musical styles, low and high points of the Chicano rock scene in SoCal, from Chico Sesma and Lalo Guerrero to Los Lobos. Many, many details and personal insights that create an insider's attitude.

Two other excellent sources are Chicano Popular Culture: Que Hable el Pueblo, by Charles M. Tatum (University of Arizona Press, 2001), and Chicano Renaissance: Contemporary Cultural Trends, by David R. Maciel, Isidro D. Ortiz, and María Herrera-Sobek (University of Arizona Press, 2000), both of which have sections on Chicano music.

This list lacks a reference for the music scene in the Bay Area (California) - Santana, Malo, et al. - and a definitive work on the music of New Mexico - Al Hurricane, Roberto Griego, Tobias Rene, etc. Any suggestions? Also missing is the newest stuff, the current groups, singers and musicians - but that's the way it is with music. It evolves quickly, progresses constantly and the critics and analysts are usually a few years behind.

On October 18 I will have the pleasure of talking with the students in Mimi Wesson's Law and Literature class at the University of Colorado School of Law. Mimi has published several crime fiction novels and consistently attracts a very interesting group of students for this class. The students have been reading The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz and thinking up questions such as: why do so many lawyers write fiction; is there room in a busy lawyer's life for creativity? Daniel Olivas?


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Doña Flor

Title: Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman With a Great Big Heart
Author: Pat Mora
Illustrator: Raul Colón
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 25, 2005)
ISBN: 0679980024

Award winning Pat Mora and illustrator Raul Colón, an award winner in his own right have collaborated once again in this funny, touching and gorgeous book. They have partnered once before with Tomás and the Library Lady, which won several awards, including the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award.

Doña Flor is a giant woman who lives in the Southwest and makes giant tortillas which the children use as rafts and the grown ups use to roof their houses making the air smell of sunshine and warm corn. Her casa is as huge as a mountain, which she made herself adding estrellas to make the adobe shine. To cheer up the villagers, she scratches them out a rio. Everything she grows in her garden grows to amazing sizes and she lets the children in her pueblo use flowers for trumpets and the huge sunflowers for umbrellas. The people love the beautiful and kind Doña Flor and look up to her so it is no surprise when the villagers hear a loud roaring to call on her for help against the strange sound. What follows is a funny and wonderful tall tale of Doña Flor’s hunt for the creature that is terrifying the villagers she protects and loves. Pat Mora’s story telling is humorous, wonderful and filled with her love for the Southwest. The imagery is amazing; you can almost smell those giant corn tortillas and hear the roar of the “monster gato”.

The illustrations by Raul Colón are lovely, a wondrous combination of watercolor washes, etchings and colored and litho pencils. Doña Flor and her world are vividly portrayed and you can almost step into each page and walk into the fantastic world created by Ms. Mora. The characters faces are so beautiful; Doña Flor in particular is a gorgeous rendition of a Mexican woman with a beautiful oval brown face, full lips and deep brown eyes. She is reminiscent of a Diego Rivera painting or a Da Vinci Madonna. The colors are soft yet vibrant – luscious blue-greens and the rich warm hues of a desert sunset. Ay que bonito! I loved this book and the story made me laugh out loud. I love turning the pages and finding more and more to love in the illustrations of children marching with their flower trumpets – copa de oro my grandmother called those flowers and just about every house in our neighborhood growing up had them growing so the book also brought back a rush of warm and happy memories.

Pat Mora writes poetry, non-fiction and children’s books. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and a Kellogg National Fellowship. She is a native of El Paso, Texas and currently lives in Santa Fe.

Raul Colón has illustrated many books for children. He has been awarded gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators for his picture-book art. Mr. Colón resides in New York City.

Until next week,

Gina MarySol Ruiz

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Educating Parents in Either Language

Michael Sedano

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children is not a literary title. Nonetheless, the book could make a dramatic contribution in a family who reads it. Translated into Spanish as Como Criar Niños Emocionalmente Sanos, the book promotes a wealth of ideas and guidance that any family can put into action.

Jerry Newmark, a seasoned corporate consultant, has been promoting the book for several years. Recently, his company, NMI Publishers, announced the title has been picked up by a San Bernardino County public health/ neonatal services organization. The health educators see in it a key resource for parents.

One key to the book's value is Newmark's view of "the five critical needs" a child has, and his ideas on how to provide and fulfill these. In Spanish, here's the list:

La necesidad de ser respetado

La necesidad de sentirse importante

La necesidad de sentirse aceptado

La necesidad de sentirse incluido

La necesidad de sentirse seguros

Newmark's discussion of these issues may seem "common sense" to some parents. Sadly, one of the rarest behaviors I've witnessed in the general population, is common sense. How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children / Como Criar Niños Emocionalmente Sanos, will be worthwhile to any reader. NMI Publishers are at, or 18345 Ventura Blvd, Suite 314, Tarzana CA 91356. ISBN 0-932767-08-7 (Spanish) 0-932767-07-9 (Ingles).
Have a great week, gente. Read! Raza.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

A New York-born Dominicana, Angie Cruz is the author of Let It Rain Coffee (Simon & Schuster, 2005) and Soledad (Simon & Schuster, 2001). She is at work on her third novel. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Latina magazine, New York Newsday, The New York Times and Callaloo. Most recently her essay, On the Verge, was featured in Border-Line Personalities (R. Moreno and M. Herrera Mulligan; Rayo, Harper Collins 2004). Cruz earned her MFA in fiction from New York University and has received numerous awards, including the Camargo Foundation Fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and The Barbara Deming Award.

On Tuesday, October 18, at 6 p.m., the Queens Library New Americans Program will host a talk with Cruz moderated by Marcela Landres. Address, phone and travel information: Queens Library, Jackson Heights Branch, 35-51 81st Street, 718-899-2500; by train: 7 to 82nd Street; by bus: Q19B, Q32, Q33. You may also e-mail Marcela Landres for further information.


◘ Yolanda Retter Vargas, the librarian of the UCLA CSRC Library, and Lillian Castillo Speed, head of the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library, received a grant from the UCLA Librarians Association Research and Professional Development Committee to collaborate on a project to update the Chicano Thesaurus. The thesaurus provides subject heading guidance for the Chicano Studies Database, which is the primary online research resource for Chicano studies. The project will add new headings in two areas: non-Chicano Latinos in the United States and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people.

◘ This summer the CSRC press worked to forward a number of projects. After a year of focusing on our periodicals (releasing two issues each of our Latino Policy & Issues Brief, CSRC Research Report, and Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies), the CSRC turned to its two new book series: A Ver: Revisioning Art History and The Chicano Archive. The first series, under the leadership of Director Chon A. Noriega and with major funding from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, is devoted to forwarding and preserving the work of Latino/a artists. The first book in the series, to be in full color, is on the artist Gronk. The second series, with collaboration from Latino institutions around the country, is devoted to preserving Latino archives. The first book in the series is on Self Help Graphics & Art and due back from the printers by the Open House this October.

◘ The fall issue of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies has arrived. If you are not an Aztlán subscriber and want to be one, e-mail your postal address to the CSRC Press in order to receive a subscription package.

◘ For more than three decades, Self Help Graphics & Art has been a national model for community-based art making and art-based community making. Through its innovative printmaking and other programs, Self Help has empowered local artists and reached out to the world beyond East Los Angeles with the vibrancy of Chicano/Latino art. In the new CSRC book Self Help Graphics & Art: Art in the Heart of East Los Angeles, Historian Kristen Guzmán draws on archival sources and on interviews with artists to tell the story of this remarkable organization. Edited by Colin Gunckel, this book comes out of a partnership between the CSRC and Self Help. It is published in collaboration with Sal Guereña from the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which provided the book’s finding aid to the CEMA Self Help Graphic archive. Five hundred copies of the book are being donated to Self Help. For more information, click here.

CONFERENCE: El Clamor Público - 150 Years of Latino Newspapers in Southern California.

The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
October 28, 2005
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Annenberg School for Communication, California State University, Northridge Graduate Studies Program Distinguished Speakers Series, and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.Founded in Los Angeles in 1855, the newspaper El Clamor Público staunchly defended equal rights in California. Though labeled treacherous, incendiary, and anti-American, eighteen-year-old journalist Francisco P. Ramírez‘s newspaper courageously reported lynchings, land frauds, vigilante terror, racial profiling, and legal injustices targeting Spanish-language communities. Ramírez’s faith in the U.S. Constitution guided him as he urged readers to elect trustworthy representatives and to learn English so they could defend their rights. He printed the Declaration of Independence in Spanish and encouraged Californios and Anglos to “work together in the same spirit.” During its four and a half years, the newspaper published political opinion, international news, literary expressions, and social commentaries.This conference will examine the history and legacy of El Clamor Público through and exploration of Latino newspapers in Southern California’s past, present, and future. The conference is free and open to the public; registration is required by October 24. Luncheon will be provided for a prepaid fee. For registration information, go here. For more information on the conference contact conference coordinator Joseph Legaspi at his e-mail.

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Benjamin Alire Sáenz's new novel, In Perfect Light (HarperCollins/Rayo). He calls it a “heart-wrenching, beautiful novel.” González is an award-winning writer and associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

LOS GANADORES: The winners of the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Contest have just been announced. This year the genre was poetry; the judge was Valerie Martinez:

1st Prize: Javier Huerta – Some Clarifications
2nd Prize: Pablo Miguel Martínez – Before Stars Were Moored
3rd Prize: Javier Campos – El poeta joven

To read the judge’s comments about each winner, go here.

FINALMENTE: The Write Influence: Valuing Diversity. A day-long multi-panel seminar featuring lively and honest discussions exploring how diversity is making storytelling a richer, more profitable experience. Working writers, those who hire writers, media ad buyers, and those who market and distribute films are set to share their progressive successes and missed opportunities within today's entertainment world.

The day's first panel, The Changing Room, will feature showrunners who've hired diverse staffs that create challenging and quality television content.

The second panel, Everybody Loves Green, will focus on media buyers, as they discuss the economic and moral connection between advertising and entertainment product that features diverse storytelling.

The third panel, Damn, You Wrote That?!, will spotlight successful multi-cultural screenwriters who've excelled in Hollywood by writing against type.

Date and Time: Saturday, October 15, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Writers Guild Theater
Address: 135 S. Doheny Drive , Beverly Hills
Ages: 21+
Admission: Free
For more information call: (323) 782-4577
Or visit:

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Pedazos y Pedacitos

Manuel Ramos

Opportunities for Writers
We've heard about a couple of places offering opportunities for Chicano/a writers. First, a friend forwarded this post from the Freelance Writing website:

"Looking for writers and material ASAP - Posted by Tereso Caspa , Aug 22,2005
One of the largest Latino Lifestyle magazines in the country. #2 to be exact. Searching for creative edgy, artsy material dealing with Latino issues. We explore politics, art, current issues, etc. with, about, or by a Latino perspective. We are looking for material and writers. Please contact by the email above or call 323-344-1239 and speak with Fernando. Pay varies depending on experience and work. We pay .10 a word for most new writers, yet if we like the work we will consider more. We never pay more than $3000.00 for a feature.
Related link: Bello Magazine."

Second, from another friend, we got this note: "Could you give some press to this online journal by fellow Chicano poet Albino Carrillo? Check it out. He's always looking for Chicano/Latino writers. He says it's gotten a bit political of late because of the horrid times we live in, but decide for yourself." The journal is Maverick Magazine found at this link:

Third, November is National Novel Writing Month. That means you can join in on the fun of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. There is a website with details.

Cruisin' The Heart of Aztlán
I spent a few days traveling through southern Colorado and northern New Mexico as part of a Milagro Tour sponsored by KUVO radio - great idea and a wonderful chance to see the beautiful country and meet some simpático people. The trip took us from Denver to the Baca House in Trinidad, the plaza in Santa Fe, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Española, Chimayó, the hot springs at Ojo Caliente, then return over the High Road to Taos and through the San Luis Valley.

Over on the Occasional Blog I have posted a few photos from the trip - of course, they don't do justice to the beauty and grace of the land.

This is Bless Me, Ultima (Rudolfo Anaya) and Milagro Beanfield War (John Nichols) country. Here is where the myths and legends come alive, where the great stories thrive, waiting to be told, and where a writer's imagination can blossom from the inspiration or shrivel from the challenge.

Up on the High Road to Taos a person gets a chance to visit places like Chimayó, home of the miraculous holy dirt and the setting for the book Chiva, by Chellis Glendinning, which is about the heroin scourge in that small village, or Truchas, where the Milagro Beanfield War movie was filmed by Robert Redford (a pretty good movie with an outstanding cast), or Las Trampas, site of the San José de Gracia church built in 1776, or, north of Taos, the D.H. Lawrence Ranch. With a bit of luck and the right timing, a person could attend Cambalache at the Artesanos Center in Questa, where El Kukui is burned along with the past year's pains, ills and other bad stuff.

On the tour we listened to Max Córdova of Los Siete Arts Center in Truchas explain the history of his beautiful valley, from the Aztec village of Quemado to the town's appreciation for but ultimate rejection of Redford's idea to have a "mini-Sundance film festival" in Truchas, to the plague of "social services," to the real fear that the gente in his valley are losing the fight to maintain their lifestyle and homes to unwanted immigrants (trust fund babies from California) whose first acts as Truchas residents are to build fences around their land.

I could have used another week traveling through the mountains, actually seeing the stars and taking stock, as they say. Oh well.

Another thing - the biscochitos and sopapillas in these villages are excellent.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Woman Who Outshone the Sun

I was going to write about Condorito, the new comic book collection that has been recently translated into English and published by Harper Rayo but, as usual, I got distracted and found this book while I was packing up for my big move to San Diego next weekend. Once I saw it, I knew I had to post this one instead. I think it was a good choice for this week's post.

Title: The Woman Who Outshone the Sun / La mujer que brillaba aun más que el sol
(English/Spanish bilingual)
Author: Rosalma Zubizarreta, Harriet Rohmer, David Schecter
based on a poem by Alejandro Cruz Martinez, Fernando Olivera (Illustrator)
Publisher: Children's Book Press (CA); Reissue edition (April 1, 1994)
ISBN: 089239126X
Price: $7.95

This is one of my most beloved children’s books.

The Woman Who Outshone the Sun/La mujer que brillaba aun más que el sol is such a beautiful, compelling and moving story. It is based upon a poem by Alejandro Cruz Martinez, a young Zapoteca poet who spent years collecting the oral traditions of his people. The Zapotecas are great storytellers and the tale of Lucia Zenteno comes from that grand and ancient tradition. In 1986 he published his version of this story as a poem and was later killed in 1987 while organizing the Zapotecas to regain their lost water rights.

The book is about Lucia Zenteno, a woman who was so beautiful she outshone the sun. All of nature loved Lucia and in this magical story, the fish in the river and the river itself love her so much that she combs them in and out of her glorious long black hair. The people of the village, however are afraid of her because she is different. They whisper about her and are so cruel in their fear of her. The village elders are different. They warn the villagers that Lucia is a woman in touch with nature and they hurt her at their own peril but the villagers donít care to listen. She is too different, too odd. Finally, Lucia, hurt by their taunts and whispers, leaves the town followed by her beloved pet iguana.

The river and nature mourn her loss and leave with Lucia caught up in her hair. It is only when the village, now desolate and dry that the villagers repent of their cruelty and seek Lucia out.

The book is fantastically illustrated with lush and magical paintings by the acclaimed painter Fernando Olivera, who was a close friend of Alejandro Cruz Martinez. Each page is a fantasy of beautiful Zapoteca indigenous dress, nature, animals and of course, the river which is as much an important character as Lucia Zenteno. My favorite illustration is of Lucia combing all the little fish and water creatures into and out of her beautiful, long black hair.

The story has a strong moral message for both adults and children and I cannot help but think that to Cruz Martinez, this story was told as an allegory for the water rights he died defending.. His widow gave Children’s Book Press (a wonderful independent publisher that specializes in multi-cultural books based in San Francisco) the permission to adapt the story. All royalties from this book are paid out to her.

I encourage everyone to purchase this and to read it to your children or just enjoy it yourself. Tell the children the story behind the book. Cruz Martinez was an eloquent and astounding poet and his voice should be heard. The book is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Gracias, Poets & Writers

We at La Bloga discovered that Poets & Writers magazine made note of our little venture in P&W's most recent "Focus on California" e-newsletter. This is what P&W said under its "Link of the Month" column:

La Bloga: Readers can get a real feel for the Chicano/a literary landscape by visiting La Bloga, a blog that combines the knowledge, talents, and footwork of a number of different contributors. The combination of loose self-reflection, news, opinions, book reviews, spotlights on writers, event reminders, and interesting tidbits is what makes La Bloga a fairly quick, interesting, and informative read.

So, if any of you gentle readers have dropped by because of P&W's kind words, please make yourself comfortable and join in the discussion. And mil gracias to P&W!

Betabeles & Pieces / Bits & Pedazitos

michael sedano

QEPD August Wilson.


La Bloga's Daniel Olivas nearly got singed by September's fiery swan song in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Dan, along with hundreds of his neighbors, packed only what they could drive out with, then waited the flames, or the "all clear". Scary stuff, fire. Maybe it's the Devil's vengeance for Dan's exposing la diabla's various guises and b.o. in Devil Talk. You think? For sure it's the stuff of stories and poems.

Dan's peril put me in mind of one of my favorite Latina love poems, Ina Cumpiano's "Metonymies". This is one of those "nonLatina" Latina works. proofs of birth? will have a special reverberation for some, que no? Theory aside, what a moment of truth.

From Metonymies . . . .


If the police ordered me to evacuate,

what would I take with me?

Baby pictures, computer disks, the silver,

proofs of birth? The sun

would hang like old fruit until the smoke

gathered it in. Then: night in day, sirens,

and knowing that whatever I took

would hold in its small cup

everything I had ever lost.

So if the police ordered me to evacuate during a firestorm,

I would write your name on a slip of paper,

light it, and--

in those few hurried moments allowed me--

watch it burn, brush the ashes into an envelope

which I would seal and keep with me, always.

   The Floating Borderlands, Twenty-five Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature.
Ed. Lauro Flores. Seattle: UofW Press, 1998, pp. 390-391


Daniel Olivas forwarded PALABRA's call for submissions that bend rules and cross boundaries but "Sorry, no genre work." Odd. The rule evoked an issue that La Blogans enjoyed awhile back in our consideration of "ghettoization" of the chicano literary genre. Will chicano literature be confined to certain literary corners, always excluded from attention in the broader market for writers and stories in the $2.6 billion book market? Curiously irritated, I asked the editors, who say,
the intent of PALABRA is to publish the kind of literary writing that will not, in all likelihood, be published by trade or even mainstream literary publishers. Genre is cool, though. We like it. It's simply that genre, i.e., mystery novels, crime thrillers, spy novels, romance novels, science fiction, etc., isn't what we intend. Gracias. -- The Editors

Their specialization got me wondering. How many thousands of titles, literary or genre work, get published annually? How many published writers each year could, in all likelihood, be Chicana Chicano writers of any ilk, literary or genre? Despite breakout titles here and there--People of Paper for example--the booklists suggest we're confined into a pretty tight corner. Is "confined" the right word?


I was happy to read about the steady growth of US publishing:

Net sales for the entire United States publishing industry are estimated to have increased by 1.3 percent from 2003 to 2004 to a grand total of $23.72 billion, according to figures just released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Overall, trade sales rose 1.9 percent, with sales of $5.16 billion. Adult trade hardbound gained 6.3 percent ($2.61 billion), while paperbound sales were also up 2.8 percent ($1.51 billion). Juvenile hardbound sales were down 16.7 percent ($581 million),

Sadly, 2003 came and went and I hadn't realized it was the year of Latino publishing, as declared by the Association of American Publishers:

Adriana Lopez, the initiative's spokesperson and editor of Criticas, a magazine that focuses on the Latino market for books, said, "It's an amazing time for Latino publishing in both English and Spanish for U.S. readers. I'm thrilled to be part of AAP's timely efforts in 2003 to bring this rapidly expanding market to the mainstream's attention."

I hope it worked.


I recently put up a sentimental photo essay recounting time I spent on an air defense artillery site. Serendipity. Back when La Bloga was a few weeks old, I mentioned the name of a Drill Sergeant and his favorite exercises, including "Position of a Dying Cockroach". I was delighted to get an email from his son, also an NCO. His dad survived Vietnam and an Army career and now lives in jubilacion in Tucson.


      That's Dolores Gonzales Haro's cover featured on a Chicanarte calendar that's hitting the streets next month. Writing the introduction and editing artist biographies has been great fun. Floricanto Press is bringing it out, so look for it in your local bookstore. If you don't see it in your local bookstore or stationers, tell the buyer about access and the growing Latina Latino market, and 2003, and genre lit, and tempus fugit.

Michael Sedano

Monday, October 03, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

María Herrera-Sobek is Chair of the Chicana and Chiano Studies Department and holds the Luis Leal Endowed Chair in Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She taught at the University of California, Irvine for several years and has been a Visiting Professor at Stanford and Harvard Universities. Herrera-Sobek is the author of several books including The Bracero Experience: Elitelore versus Folklore (1979); The Mexican Corrido: A Feminist Analysis (1990); and Northward Bound: The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Ballad and Song (1993).

In addition she is the editor or co-editor of numerous anthologies including Beyond Stereotypes: The Critical Analysis of Chicana Literature (1985); Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in Chicana Literature (with Helena María Viramontes) (1988 and 1996); Gender and Print Culture: New Perspectives on International Ballad Studies (1991); Reconstructing a Chicano/a Literary Heritage: Hispanic Colonial Literature of the Southwest (1993); Chicano Renaissance: Contemporary Trends in Chicano Culture (with David Maciel and Isidro Ortiz) (2000). Santa Barraza: The Life and Work of a Mexica/Tejana Artist (2001).

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: PALABRA, a magazine of Chicano/Latino literary art, invites submissions of short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and short plays that “bend rules, cross boundaries, and explore new territory in Chicano and Latino literature, lenguaje y pensamiento...Pues, ya saben...” Las Guidelines/Reglas: fiction & creative nonfiction up to 3500 words, poems 3-5 with a max of 50 lines each, plays up to 10 pages. Sorry, no genre work. Unpublished work only, including work published online in any manner. Include name, address, phone number and e-mail on each submission. Simultaneous submission OK. No multiple submissions. Response time 2-3 months. Snail mail submissions only. Include SASE for response only. Submissions accepted year-round. Manuscripts not accepted for publication will be shredded and reycled. PALABRA acquires first worldwide serial rights, nonexlusive electronic rights and nonexclusive anthology rights. Some pay. Copyright reverts to author upon publication. Mail submissions to:

P.O.BOx 86146
Los Angeles, CA 90086-0146

For additional INFORMATION ONLY, E-mail

LOS GANADORES: The winners of the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Contest have just been announced. This year the genre was poetry:

1st Prize: Javier Huerta – Some Clarifications
2nd Prize: Pablo Miguel Martínez – Before Stars Were Moored
3rd Prize: Javier Campos – El poeta joven

Visit the Contest’s Web page for more information and news on next year’s contest.

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Sylvia Torti's The Scorpion's Tail (Curbstone Press), winner of the 2005 Miguel Mármol Prize for Latino literature. He says that the novel “is a poignant look at the complexity of responses to the Zapatista movement as seen through the eyes of those who experienced the pivotal event as it unfolded on that fateful New Year's Day.” I note that González is an award-winning writer and associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

MÁS NOTICIAS: The new issue of Somos Primos is now live online. Somos Primos is “Dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues” and is produced by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research . . . BUY A FRIEND A BOOK: You must go here to find out what this is about.

All done. We survived the fires more or less intact. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!