Friday, September 29, 2006


Manuel Ramos


October 10, 2006 7:30 PM The Tattered Cover, Colfax Avenue
Reyna Grande will read from and sign Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria), described as "a stunning and poignant story of migration, loss, and discovery as two women - one born in Mexico, one in the United States - find their lives joined in the most unlikely way. The phenomenon of Mexican immigration to the United States is one of the most controversial issues of our time. While it is often discussed in terms of the political and economic implications, Grande, with this brilliant debut novel and her own profound insider's perspective, puts a human face on the subject."

Request a signed copy:

La Bloga's Denver contingent is eagerly anticipating this visit from Ms. Grande. We hope to be at her reading and may even report on the event. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the Tattered Cover has lined up an impressive and stellar list of authors, politicians, and celebrities for events during October, at all three stores. Check the store's website for complete details.

Visit Reyna Grande's website.

Congratulations to Helena María Viramontes who, as reported previously by Daniel Olivas here on La Bloga, receives the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature at the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival on September 30.

The first, maybe annual, La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest. Here's your chance to get exposure for your great piece relating to el Día de los Muertos. Through Oct. 24th we will accept prose, poetry, essay, in English or Spanish or Spanglish--just about anything concerning this indigenous/modern tradition. Fantasy, children's stories, young adult, horror, serious, or not so--anything you want to share on La Bloga. Shorter pieces are preferred (less than 500 words), since we are the editorial staff and will base decisions on quality and how little work is required of us. We will feature one prize winner each day of the week of Day of the Dead. For more details, scroll down to the September 28 issue of La Bloga.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Call for Submissions

Announcing the first La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest:

If you don't know what El Día de los Muertos is, go here:

In indigenous MesoAmerica, Amoxcalli was a little book house the Aztecs built, areas "inside temples to gather valuable manuscripts for consultation by nobles and priests." (

Descanso is the resting place of a dead person; from descansar,," the Spanish verb for "to rest." Also, a roadside memorial.

Driving through the Southwest, you'll pass an occasional small, hand-built shrine of stone or wood, adorned with flowers, ribbons and even a photo, constructed by local chicanada in memory of a deceased loved.

If you throw these definitions into a big olla, add a dab of picoso and the optional bottle of tequila añejo, ala Bloga Chef Gina MarySol Ruiz, what you come up with is possibly a week's worth of Bloga posts from our readers.

Here's your chance to get exposure for your great piece relating to el Día de los Muertos. Through Oct. 24th we will accept prose, poetry, essay, in English or Spanish or Spanglish--most anything about this indigenous/modern tradition. Fantasy, children's stories, YA, horror, serious, satirical or comical--anything you want to share.

Shorter pieces are preferred (less than 500 words), since we are the editorial staff and will base our decisions on quality and how little work is required of us.

Los Bloguistas, or Blogueros if you prefer, will still do regular contributions on the subject, along with readers' submissions, with one prizewinner featured each day.

Did I forget to mention the prizes? In addition to the ignoble honor of having your submission featured on La Bloga, since we think multiple prizes are cool, we scraped up the following:

1st prize: copy of Manuel Paul López's "Death of a Mexican and other poems" -- kinda fits, no?
2nd: "Devil Talk" (signed) -- appropriate, no?
3rd: "Moony's Road to Hell" (signed) -- hell: get it?
(Prizes mailed inside continental U.S.; otherwise, we keep it 'til you come for it.)

Length: 500-words or less
Format: MSWord or RTF; 12-pt. Courier or Times
Languages: Spanish (please don't strain our work-in-progress, trilingual literacy), English, or Spanglich.
Deadline: Oct. 24th, midnight PST
E-mail submissions to:
(Stories pasted into your E-mail; no attachments will be opened.)
Include your name and contact info and a statement that you own the rights to this work.
Judging: We'll be the judges of that. Period.

Our hope is to spread your prose or poetry out like roadside descansos, ending up on Nov. 2nd, el Día de los Muertos, with a series of amoxcalli for consultation by the nobles and priests that make up our audience.

So, shinea up that chiste, put a shine on your short story, or lucirse tu pensamiento. Your editors await.

the La Bloga staff

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Celebrating Bukowski at the Huntington Library

Michael Sedano

I wonder how many readers have not spent hours laughing at Hank Chinaski’s wino antics, or joining his lament at some everyday brutality, or merely reveling in writer Charles Bukowski’s mastery of word, language, and story? I reckon only a handful.

The 1970s reader came well-prepared for Bukowski’s characters. Events of the day bred a taste for literature with distinct risk, irony, satire, and authenticity. They had made cult favorites of works like Candy, A Clockwork Orange, Stranger in a Strange Land, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Enter Henry Chinaski’s unique take on the blue collar world and authenticity. Whereas Bob Dylan had said a bum, seen at a distance, vomiting in the street is “real”, Bukowski had been drinking all day with that bum, then writing about the experience all night. And attracting eager readers.

Bukowski’s world complemented the cult reader’s appetites. Here is McMurphy’s craziness, but lived on the outside where Chinaski can outwit the big nurses, or just walk away. No politics, no protest, no changing the world, just the laid back futility of alcohol. Yet, the fellow wrote and wrote and wrote. Better, this stuff has staying power. Parents handed down to their high school kids, tattered copies of the 1971 Post Office, 1975’s Factotum. The kids, in turn, handed their parents 1983’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories. Bukowski was on the English 101 reading lists. “Dad, you were right.”

That Charles Bukowski left cult status years ago is not news. It may be news that the author’s widow, Linda Lee Bukowski, donated his literary estate --manuscripts, letters, artifacts—all the incunabula of the writer’s career, to San Marino’s Huntington Library. A scholarly research institution, the Huntington’s home page lists its treasures including “the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America, and an unsurpassed collection of the early editions of Shakespeare's works.”

The first exhibit of Bukowski materials comes in 2010, after the library catalogs and digitizes everything. Visit the digital library for an inkling of how the Huntington treats its materials.

In the meantime, an audience spanning the generations of Bukowski readers—including one mother pregnant with a third generation of Bukowski readers in the house-- were treated by the Huntington to “Celebrating Bukowski,” an evening of greetings, readings and interviews.

Sadly, John Martin, whose Black Sparrow Press published Bukowski, was ill and did not attend the celebration to be interviewed on stage. Sharing their personal anecdotes of working with the artist were Joanne Gordon, producer of a stage piece, “Love, Bukowski,” and Jim Stark, producer of the movie “Factotum”.

Oral readings included “On The Hustle”, performed by John Short, Ham on Rye selection read by Clive Saunders, “Crucifix In A Death Hand” read by Neeli Cherkovski, “Clothes Cost Money,” performed by Shaunte’ Caraballo, “I am Known” performed by John Short, “Torched-Out” read by Harry Dean Stanton, “The Genius of the Crowd” read by S.A. Griffin, “The History of a Tough Motherfucker” performed by Mark Piatelli, “No Eulogies” performed by Short. The capstone was Stanton’s oral interp of Linda Lee Bukowski’s favorite of her husband’s poems, “The Crunch.”

Huntington staff express delight at the acquisition but can’t help tittering that its newest literary treasure is definitively different. They also are straightforward in accepting that “motherfucker” finds a welcome home in the auditorium.

The highlight of the evening for me came when Mrs. Bukowski answered the question that must have resounded through the nation’s libraries when news of the Huntington’s acquisition arrived. “Why the Huntington?”

Linda Lee smiled out at the adoring audience. When her husband wanted solace and joy, his paradise was the stands of Santa Anita race track. Linda Lee would drive him to the track but not hang around. Instead, she drove five miles west to spend the day in the botanical gardens and rarified atmosphere of the library galleries. The Huntington is Linda Lee’s paradise so there can be no better place for her husband’s papers.

◙ CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The first, maybe annual, La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest. (More about the title, later.)

Here's your chance to get exposure for your great piece relating to el Día de los Muertos. Through Oct. 24th we will accept prose, poetry, essay, in English or Spanish or Spanglish--just about anything concerning this indigenous/modern tradition. Fantasy, children's stories, young adult, horror, serious, or not so--anything you want to share on La Bloga.

Shorter pieces are preferred (less than 500 words), since we are the editorial staff and will base decisions on quality and how little work is required of us. That week, los Bloguistas will do their regular contributions on the subject, along with readers' submissions, with one prize winner featured each day. So, get it polished 'cause more details are coming Thursday.

And here arrives the last Tuesday of September 2006. Tempus Fugit, so carpe a few diems and get that chimney cleaned out in readiness for that first crisp morning, reading a book by the fireplace. Does it get much better than that?

See you next week.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Writers Write. Period.

By Daniel A. Olivas

When I hear would-be authors proclaim that they could write the Great American Novel if only they had time, I simply want to laugh. It reminds me of the story (perhaps apocryphal) about a dentist who blithely informed Isabel Allende that he planned to become a novelist when he retired. She quipped: “Oh really? And when I retire I’ll become an oral surgeon!”

What I’m about to say will sound like tough love or even cruel, but here goes: A writer finds time to write regardless of hectic schedules, energetic children, and needy lovers. No excuses.

Rather than leave it at that, let me describe how I’ve written five books (four published, one making the rounds awaiting judgment), edited a 115,000-word anthology of short fiction set for publication next year, in addition to posting each Monday on La Bloga, and writing book reviews and essays for numerous print and online publications. I do this while juggling the time demands of marriage, parenthood and holding down a stressful, full-time day job as an attorney with the California Department of Justice.

First, I note that as a lawyer, I essentially write for a living. Though some time is spent in court, most of the “heavy lifting” occurs in my office at my computer as I write legal memoranda, motions and briefs. I work under tight, court-determined deadlines. There is no room for writers’ block. My goal with legal writing is simply to tell a coherent, compelling story. So, if you have a “day job” where you must write, you have an advantage that other budding authors don’t because you are constantly honing your writing skills. True, writing a memo to your boss on how to improve sales might not resemble that detective thriller brewing in your brain, but I truly believe that being required, on a daily basis, to craft sentences and paragraphs in a non-literary forum will benefit your creative writing.

Second, I specialize in short stories. Even the novel I’m working on is made up of interconnecting short stories. In other words, I write self-contained pieces that I can complete within a relatively short period. This works for me. But if you want to write a novel and you feel as though you can barely get an hour alone at the computer, let me suggest that you break it up into baby steps so that the mountain you’re about to scale doesn’t seem so daunting. Promise yourself to write 500 words a day. That’s two, double-spaced pages. Not so scary, right? I write in the evening, usually when my son is asleep and my wife is relaxing. I find that I can squeeze in one or two hours of writing each night. On weekends, I’ll sneak in another one or two hours in the morning. Those hours add up as do the pages.

Third, I don’t waste my time talking about what I want to write. Don’t get me wrong. I love discussing the craft itself when I’m in the company of other writers or on a book panel. But there is nothing more boring than someone telling me what he plans to write when that person hasn’t produced a word. It sounds like this to me: Blah, blah, blah. I’m sounding cranky now, right? Oh well.

Fourth, when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about plots, characters, dialogue, the perfect description of a book I’m going to review. This often happens during my long commute from the West San Fernando Valley to my office in downtown. In other words, much of my writing happens before I actually sit before the computer.

Finally, there is an element of writing that I have trouble explaining but I’ll give it a try. Words want to come out of me and take shape in the form of a story, poem, essay or book review. I am incapable of subduing these words. If I don’t get them out of my head and onto paper, I will explode. I’m lucky that some folks have wanted to publish my words, sometimes even paying me. But I suspect that I’d write no matter what. That’s why God created blogs. Now go forth and write. You have no excuses!

◙ NUEVO LIBRO: My review of Manuel Paul López’s debut collection, Death of a Mexican and Other Poems (Bear Star Press) appeared yesterday in the El Paso Times. As I noted earlier, the collection is this year's winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize.

◙ THINKIN’ BROWN: The ever provocative author Himilce Novas shares her thoughts on Hispanic Heritage Month.

◙ NEW LIT: The new issue of Tertulia Magazine is now live for your online reading pleasure. And the Southern Cross Review celebrates its seventh anniversary with a new issue.

◙ FROM THE NEWS WIRES: ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives has chosen El Paso native John Rechy as the first recipient of its ONE Culture Hero Award. Rechy has written 17 volumes of fiction, documentary, drama and essays. He teaches at the University of Southern California. Rechy also wrote and published City of Night, the landmark novel and panorama of the gay lifestyle in Los Angeles and other cities in the United States. The award will be presented Oct. 28 at a reception in Los Angeles, where Rechy is scheduled to talk about his experiences as a writer and activist.

◙ CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The first, maybe annual, La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest. (More about the title, later.)

Here's your chance to get exposure for your great piece relating to el Día de los Muertos. Through Oct. 24th we will accept prose, poetry, essay, in English or Spanish or Spanglish--just about anything concerning this indigenous/modern tradition. Fantasy, children's stories, young adult, horror, serious, or not so--anything you want to share on La Bloga.

Shorter pieces are preferred (less than 500 words), since we are the editorial staff and will base decisions on quality and how little work is required of us. That week, los Bloguistas will do their regular contributions on the subject, along with readers' submissions, with one prize winner featured each day. So, get it polished 'cause more details are coming Thursday.

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

Friday, September 22, 2006

Events and an Opportunity

Manuel Ramos

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15, San Antonio celebrates with an all day event at the central library downtown on Saturday, 23 september 2006. Here's the program:

10:00 AM
Testimonios: How the Library Changed My Life

Sandra Cisneros leads this panel discussion, as writers and community leaders José García de Lara; Elizabeth de la Portilla, Ph.D.; Gregg Barrios; John Philip Santos; Norma Alarcón, Ph.D.; Dennis Martínez; Norma Cantú, Ph.D.; and Edward Schumacher-Matos discuss the role the library plays in their lives. Location: Auditorium, 1st Floor
2:00 PM
Latino Voices: Carmen Tafolla

Author of Sonnets and Salsa. Free presentation highlighting Latino authors Xavier Garza and Carmen Tafolla. Presented by the Texas Center for the Book. Location: Auditorium, 1st Floor
2:00 PM

Using traditional, brightly-colored fabrics, mothers in Guatemala make their children little stuffed toys knows as animalitos. Come enjoy a few animal stories and make a paper animalito of your own. This is a Family Fun program—all ages welcome.
2:30 PM
Visit with real professional wrestlers from American Championship Wrestlers. Learn about their training, their moves and how to become a wrestler.

Saturday, October 14th at 7:30 pm - Stories for all Seasons: Peyote Tales. Storyteller Renee Fajardo and Photojournalist Todd Pierson share their research on the unique perspective of the Peyote Way. West Side Books, 3434 W 32nd Ave, Denver, Colorado 80211 303 480-0220

Palabra Pura
promotes literary expression in more than one tongue through a monthly bilingual poetry reading featuring Chicano and Latino artists. With an aim to foster dialogue through literature in Chicago and beyond, each evening pairs a local poet with a visiting writer along with an open mic to engage the interaction of diverse voices, ideas, and aesthetics. The readings are held the third Wednesday of every month (except August and December) throughout 2006. Upcoming Events: October 18: Richard Blanco & Achy Obejas November 15: Ada Limon. Go to the Guild Complex website for more info.

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur who discovered how hard it is to get published is behind the new Sobol Award for unpublished novelists. The rewards are great for the top three writers: first prize of $100,000, first runner up award of $25,000, $10,000 for the second runner up. Plus seven $1,000 prizes for the rest of the longlist. The submission process begins now and runs through the end of the year. For more information: However, be aware that this "contest" requires an $85 registration fee - very high in my experience.

This just in -- Librería Martínez presents Orange County Housecleaners, Photos by Frank Cancian, September 24, 2006, 3:00 PM

The Orange County Housecleaners book features Julieta Noemi (Mimi) Lopez, Esperanza Mejia, Leidi Mejia, Tina Parker, Sharon Risley, Victoria Rua, and Sara Velazquez. In this book seven women tell their life stories. Each one of them began with her childhood and talked about whatever she thought was important in her life. All women work or recently worked as housecleaners.

Libreria Martinez, 1110 N. Main Street Santa Ana, CA 714-973-7900

That's it for me -- I'm way too busy for a guy my age so this week's post is quick. My La Bloga comrades have all produced excellent posts this week. Make sure you scroll down or use the links to the left to look over their contributions.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Family Traditions

September 16, 2006

Just before dawn on September 16, 1810 Miguel Hildalgo y Costilla (better known as Padre Hidalgo) rang the church bell in village of Dolores and called the indigenous community to war against the Spanish. His historic cry of "Mexicanos, Viva México!" signaled the beginning of the war for independance and is known as El Grito de Dolores. Every year on September 15th, the President of Mexico gives the Grito but this year, with the furor over the election it was a very near thing. They actually considered not doing it. But I'm not here to talk about the elections. I only bring it up because it's a beautiful and important tradition. (For more on that, see Luis J. Rodriguez' excellent blog at

Tradition is important to me. In my family when my grandparents were alive, we followed our traditions with great anticipation. We were proud of them. Care was taken. Everything had deep meaning and there was a reverence about it. When they died the family fell apart and the traditions that I grew up with died too. I became the only one left that clung to the old traditions.

To me they became more sacred, my personal Holy Grail. I resurrected them, added to them, researched them and made a new family made up of friends, neighbors and co-workers to share them with. In doing this, my old family traditions became new again and glowed with a new light.

The September 16th El Grito party is one of the traditions that I’ve kept alive and saved for my children. It used to be a big deal for my grandparents. We’d spend days making paper flowers, confetti in green, white and red, a homemade piñata and cooking all the special, traditional foods. My grandmother’s sisters and cousins would come over and we’d all cook and tell stories as we worked together cooking, baking and singing. I remember baking my first bandera cake made with Duncan Hines yellow cake mix, canned frosting dyed red, white and green with food coloring and an eagle made of broken lifesavers. I was eight and I’ll never forget my grandfather’s face and how proud he was when he saw it. I remember he would get teary-eyed over the bandera. It meant that much to him.

Well things have changed. I haven’t used a box cake mix since I was ten. My recipes have gotten more traditional, more elaborate and I go out of my way to find old recipes that are almost forgotten. I get a kick out of bringing the old into the light. I’d like to take my post time this week to invite you, my La Bloga family to this year’s celebration of El Grito, held in a little pink house in Eagle Rock, Califas. You’re Mexicanos for the day y nuestro casa es tu casa. Bienvenidos!

On this year's menu: Mole con pollo, rajas con queso y crema, chiles en nogada, nopale salad, chips, salsa, guacamole, taquitos, stewed apples with goat milk cajeta and guayaba, arroz con leche, melon, margaritas de orchata de melon, tequila, cervecita, sangria, arroz bandera (white, red and green rice), frijoles borrachos, enchiladas Sarita (made with squash flowers, tomato, onions, cheese and cream) y una piña rellenado.

Too many Margaritas, Chris?

What would I do without my best amiga y comadre Elodia? Aren't mother and daughter beautiful?

Mara Price, illustrator; Mary Wynton, our Eagle Rock librarian (hey authors, Mary's trying to get a Chicano author series going for Eagle Rock library so swing by and help her out. The library can't pay but they sure can publicize. Be down for the community and the public library!) and Rene Colato, author of children's books like Loteria! (he devoted his September 16th to teach the kids at Eagle Rock Public Library how to play loteria. How cool is that?).

PEDRO INFANTE!!! Yeah, baby we watch Pedro Infante movies on September 16th. What's a Mexican party without Pedro Infante? Who can tell me what movie this is? I bet Denise Chavez can.

And speaking of Pedro Infante....

Sol y Victor acting silly as we hang the lights

Read: 1) my La Bloga review of Loving Pedro Infante and 2) Loving Pedro Infante

He's a papi chulo though, nice and a hell of a lot of fun.

And then there's my roommate Rachel with Jerry from Jerry's Mexican Grill. Jerry and Kiko kicked us down with everything from chafing dishes and chiles to guacamole and taquitos. The taquitos there are damned good! Feel like some good cooking and can't get to Sol's house? Head on down to Jerry and tell him Rachel and Gina sent you. They have two locations now because they're so good. Nice people too.

Eagle Rock Location
4923 Eagle Rock Blvd.
(2 blocks south of Colorado Blvd in the CVS Shopping Center)
323-257-8815Santee Food Court716 F South Los Angeles Street(7th and Los Angeles)213-624-TACO

Kiko is a sweetheart! Y caramba!!! El vato can sing!!! When you're down at Jerry's ask Kiko to sing you El Rey. Oh yeah and he was one of the very few at the party that knew all the words to the Mexican National Anthem!!!

Do you?

Mexicanos, al grito de guerra

El acero aprestad y el bridón;

y retiemble en sus centros la tierra Al sonoro rugir del cañón.
Ciña oh patria!

tus sienes de oliva

De la Paz el arcángel divino,

Que en el cielo tu eterno destino

Por el dedo de Dios se escribió.

Más si osare un extraño enemigo

Profanar con su planta tu suelo,
Piensa, oh patria querida, que el cielo
Un soldado en cada hijo te dio.

Guerra, guerra sin tregua al que intente

De la patria manchar los blasones!
Guerra, guerra! Los patrios pendones. En las olas de sangre empapad.
Guerra, guerra! En el monte, en el valle Los cañones horrísonos truenen
Y los ecos sonoros resuenen Con las voces de Unión!Libertad!
Antes, patria,que inermes tus hijos
Bajo el yugo su cuello dobleguen,

Tus campiñas con sangre se rieguen, Sobre sangre se estampe su pie.
Y tus templos, palacios y torres Se derrumben con hórrido estruendo,

Y sus ruinas existan diciendo:De mil héroesla patria aquí fuePatria! patria!

Tus hijos te juran

Exhalar en tus aras su aliento,

Si el clarín con su bélico acento

Los convocaa lidiar con valor.

Para ti las guirnaldas de oliva!
Un recuerdo para ellos de gloria!

Un laurel para ti de victoria!
Un sepulcro para ellos de honor!

Sedano is off the hook on that one, he left before the mariachi came over. There he is hanging with his lovely wife Barbara and Rachel's friend Johanna.

Isn't it cool to have a mariachi next door? He took requests too and sang a lovely duet with Rachel.

His name is Gus and he and Kiko seriously kicked some musical butt!

El Rey, Volver y Volver, Tu Solo Tu, Las Mananitas for Johanna who's birthday is this week and a few other amazing ballads to finish off the night.

Check out Sarah in the background listening. Sarah is editor in chief of, an online publication dedicated to serving the animation community. The guy with wings belongs to her.

All nights should end in baladas, laughter and the scent of night earth and flowers.

Rene won the hula hoop competition!

We hope you enjoyed the party. As always, I invite your comments. What traditions do you treasure? Which ones have fallen by the wayside and how can we resurrect them? How did you spend your September 16th? A comment might get you an invitation to the next party.

Hasta la proxima,

Gina MarySol Ruiz y amigos

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Piece & A Bit: Chicken soup for anxious bar examinants. Prettiest Girl in Arvin

Michael Sedano

I was talking recently to a woman who took the grueling California Bar examination. Waiting is the worst part. Dread mixes equally with anxiety even for the most confident law students. I’m sure Manuel and Daniel can attest to the emotional churning a person goes through in that awful interim between the bar exam and getting your results. Here's a glimpse into the future of this woman, and of all such former law students sweating out the bar.

It was time.

The woman pressed the enter key and sat down. Her computer screen woke from black into the familiar blue desktop. A single icon occupied center screen. CABAR, she had named it.

Pulsing the link would fill her screen with the white oval against a striped blue field. The California Bar Exam. The woman would type in her examinee’s serial number and press enter. One of two messages would populate the oval text hole. Every bar exam, more than half the applicants got the dreaded message: “Your name not found.” You failed. All those years. All that studying. All the money. Shot to Hell.

On the other hand, the taste of joyous exultation when the screen filled with the reader’s name. I passed. It’s all been worth it!

Last May, the woman had rented the robe and walked with her class. Juris Doctor she was now. “No, I’m not a lawyer yet, Ma,” she explained for the hundredth time. “I still have to pass the bar.”

The day after graduation she started studying for the bar exam. Every available hour, day in, day out. She read. She outlined. She briefed and practiced essays. Somewhere out there, people had paid thousands of dollars for bar prep classes. Money narrowed the odds but there are no guarantees. Answer the questions. Write the essays. Hold your breath. The best preparation was to review everything twice. In three years of law school she’d mastered the art of drudgery, so the work was effortless, second nature. It was what she did. And then she studied some more.

The week of the Bar Exam, the woman rose at 4:00 a.m. to meditate on the day’s challenges. The bus ride to the exam center gave her a chance to glance through the daily paper, sit among her fellow riders, eavesdrop on the chisme, but mostly stare out the window for the hour long ride to the convention center. A hotel room would have been a ridiculous extravagance. Day after day she rode that bus, wrote the exam, then rode that bus home.

She would have no results for months. Months and months of waiting, job hunting, and more waiting until the hour when the results would be available on the internet.

It was time.

The processor talked to the modem which talked to the internet which found the state bar’s website, navigated to the file the woman’s icon had linked. The colored ball spun for two seconds. In the first second, the woman felt the pangs of buyer’s remorse. The Macintosh had cost twenty five hundred dollars. She added the cost into her student loan and held her breath against tonight’s moment. In the last second, reason took over. With a JD and a bar number, she knew, she’d have the Mac paid off within about five years. Maybe more, but five years against a lawyer’s salary would be just about right. And if she could stomach it, a position in a firm, with a six figure salary, pay it off in one month. Unthinkable. But still, the bar number would be, could be, should be a . . . magic key?

The signal passed through the modem into the waiting processor. Text flowed across the liquid crystal luminosity, line by agonizingly slow line. Damn this modem! The woman’s eyes scanned the text for something that made sense. Bla bla bla… there! She saw her name. She pronounced it out loud. My Name. “Hey,” she said to the empty room, to no one in particular, to the world at large, “I see my name. I passed. I passed the bar!”

New Title from Chusma House Publications

I received the following announcement of something that sounds worthwhile. It’s good to see Chusma sustaining its efforts.

Title: Provocaciones, Letters from the Prettiest Girl in Arvin

Author: Rafaela G. Castro

Publisher: Chusma House Publications
P.O. Box 467
San Jose, CA 95103
Available: November, 2006

Brief Summary
A collection of sensitive essays that depict the lives of a close knit Mexican family living first in Arvin, in the San Joaquin Valley, and later in the San Francisco Bay Area. These insightful, loving, guilt ridden, and at times very sad narratives, reveal the religious, moral, cultural, and ethical values of a young girl raised in the 1950s and 1960s in a Mexican Catholic working class home. We are told stories about a special Mexican mother-daughter relationship; about loving one’s family but needing to leave it; about living in another country and loving it; and about the role of the Peace Corps in the lives of young Americans of the 1960s. The essays cover the years from the late 1930s, when the author’s parents married and came to California from New Mexico, to the 1990s when their lives ended. In between those years their special marriage experienced intense love and intense tragedy.

Short Bio
Rafaela Castro was born in Bakersfield, California, but has lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent two years in Brazil with the Peace Corps before receiving degrees in English Literature, Library Science, and Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. She has lectured in Ethnic Bibliography and Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley, and recently retired from the Humanities/Social Sciences department of Shields Library at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Dictionary of Chicano Folklore.

For all you law students out there, your time will come. Keep your chin up! See you next week!


Monday, September 18, 2006


Monday's post from Daniel Olivas...

Each year Bear Star Press awards the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize ($1,000 and publication) to a writer living west of the central time zone. (Dorothy Brunsman pictured.) The prize for 2006 has gone to Manuel Paul López for his debut collection, Death of a Mexican and Other Poems, which is now available. My review of this powerful, playful and insightful collection will come out shortly in the El Paso Times. You can read a sample and order the book online from Bear Star Press.

The founder of Bear Star Press is Beth Spencer who was recently profiled in Chico Statements, a magazine from California State University, Chico. Spencer is an alumna of Chico State (B.A. and M.A. in English) and teaches in the literary editing and publishing program. Spencer's mother, Dorothy Brunsman, funds this annual poetry prize. Brunsman, now 84, lives in Placitas, New Mexico, with her husband Donald, a playwright. Politically active, especially in pro-choice matters, Brunsman is also an accomplished photographer.

Competition Information & Guidelines from Bear Star Press:

Manuscripts will be read in September, October, and November 2006. Postmark deadline is November 30, 2006.

Manuscripts should be between 50 and 65 pages in length.

All work must be original and accompanied by a $20 reading fee. Previously published poems can be included in your manuscript if you retain the copyright (this is standard).

Writer must currently reside in the Western States (those within Mountain or Pacific time zones, plus Alaska & Hawaii). Previously unpublished writers are welcome to submit!

Any form or subject is acceptable. Use a plain 10-12 font.

Rights revert to author upon publication.

Simultaneous submissions absolutely fine so long as we are apprised of changes in manuscript status.

Please do not send your manuscript by registered mail (doing so necessitates a 40-mile roundtrip drive to the P.O., very inconvenient for us). If you want to know whether we have received your work, simply enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard.

Winner notified on or before February 2007. Check web site for winner information or send a SASE marked “results.”

Publication by Fall 2007 (with luck, in Summer 2007).

Name, address, and phone number should appear on a separate cover sheet only.

No manuscripts will be returned. They will be recycled. Please do not send your only copy. Please DO send SASE for contest results.

Mail submissions to:

Bear Star Press
185 Hollow Oak Dr.
Cohasset, CA 95973

◙ LATIN@ VOICES: Tongue and Groove is a monthly offering of short fiction, personal essays, poetry and music. Up next: An evening of Latin@ writers featuring Taylor Negron (Murder in La Quinta), Milcha Sanchez-Scott (Roosters), Suzanne Chávez Silverman (Killer Crónicas), Danette Rivera and a musical guest. It's hosted by the incomparable Conrad Romo.

DATE: Sunday, September 24
TIME: 6:15 to 7:45 p.m.
PLACE: The Hotel Café (website:
1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Hollywood, Ca 90028
COST: $5.00

For more information call 323-937-0136

◙ MORE LATIN@ VOICES: I just received my copy of a special “Latina & Latino Writers” issue of the Indiana Review. It’s filled with fine writing from dozens of authors including Gary Soto, Judith Ortiz Cofer, David Hernandez, Angie Cruz, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ray Gonzalez, and many, many others. To order a copy, visit IR’s website.

◙ NEW EDITION: The latest offering from Somos Primos is now available. Somos Primos is “dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues.”

◙ EVEN MORE LATIN@ VOICES: The fall issue of Literal: Latin American Voices is now available. It’s a handsomely produced magazine that “provides a medium for the critique and diffusion of the Latin American literature and art, recognizing its potential strength as a point of departure for understanding that the broad cultural universe is not overshadowed by any single language, but is bathed in the light of a unified spirit.”

◙ BOOK REVIEW: In yesterday’s El Paso Times, Rigoberto González reviewed Jessica Abel’s graphic novel, La Perdida (Pantheon, $19.95 hardcover), which is set mostly in Mexico City, “where the landscape slips into sensory overload, disorienting and seducing the visitor.” He also observes: “As a contribution to Chicano literature, La Perdida is a welcome and unique addition. It explores biculturalism and a biracial ethnicity, but without resorting to clichéd representations.”

◙ OTRO BOOK REVIEW: In the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday Book Review, Susan Salter Reynolds sings the praises of A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture (Rio Nuevo) by Denise Chávez. My review of this fine memoir appeared in the El Paso Times last month and was reprinted here on La Bloga.

◙ MOVIN' ON UP: MARGIN, an online journal dedicated to magical realism, has a new home:

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

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chicks and Pugs

Manuel Ramos

The Latina Safehouse Initiative will host a literary event on Friday, September 22, 2006, at the Denver Book Mall, 32 Broadway, 303-733-3808. This event, which is open to all, is to help raise funds to establish a battered women shelter to meet the special needs of Latino families.

Local author Lynda Sandoval will discuss and sign her several books, the latest of which is Chicks Ahoy. There is no admission fee for the signing, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a light buffet at 6:30; admission for the buffet is $10. Reservations for the buffet are encouraged, but not required. Please contact Diana at 303-935-6634 for reservations or with any questions.

The food is being donated, the author herself is donating the books, and the Denver Book Mall is covering administrative costs, so ALL PROCEEDS will go toward the Latina Safehouse Initiative.

Mail orders and advance orders for the books are welcome. If you have any questions, please call Nina Else or Pat Grego at 303-733-3808.

Francisco Jiménez's Breaking Through has been selected as the featured book for Napa County Reads, a community-wide reading program. This critically acclaimed book has won numerous awards. It continues the author's fictionalized memoir of his youth spent in the migrant stream and then at various jobs when his family finally settled in one place. As noted in the Napa Valley Register:

"Francisco Jiménez's life journey has taken him from a poor village in Mexico to a professor's chair; from a child searching through trash to help feed his family to an acclaimed author and educator as well as a father, grandfather and husband -- enjoying the prosperity he's earned.

He sums it up with a characteristic simplicity: 'My experience is part of the whole American experience.' " Jiménez will visit the Napa Valley Oct. 11 to 13 as part of the program.


Pound for Pound By F.X. Toole (Ecco)
F.X. Toole is bigger in death than he was in life.

When Toole died at age 72 of complications from open-heart surgery in 2002, his passing was barely noted. After all, Toole only had a lone book of short stories, Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner (2000), to his credit.

Despite the literary accolades Ropes drew (novelist James Ellroy called the work "the best boxing short fiction ever written"), few could augur that four years later one of Toole's stories would become the Oscar-winning blockbuster Million Dollar Baby. Or, that his unfinished novel Pound for Pound— edited from an unwieldy 900-page manuscript — would be published posthumously as a lost masterwork.

What distinguished Toole from other boxing writers was his insider status in the fight world. He had been a boxing trainer and later a cutman, the guy who stops the bleeding between rounds. The white-haired Irishman Jerry Boyd — his real name — worked out of the Broadway Boxing Gym in the California coast town of Hermosa Beach — where he kept his day job separate from his literary aspirations.

This newspaper [San Antonio Express-News] assigned me to write a profile on Toole while he was in town to research Pound for Pound — a tale as familiar as Million Dollar Baby, but with a young Tex-Mex boxing contender as protagonist.

After sitting for the interview, Toole moved on to an impromptu demonstration of his training savvy at a South Side gym where a professional woman boxer volunteered to work out under his instruction.
Unlike the trainer in his original story Million Dollar Baby, Toole appeared to enjoy training the young woman, but still doubt lingered: What was his gut feeling about women in the ring?

If Toole had lived to share in the fame and glory of the Clint Eastwood film, he might have rehearsed an official answer. But on that day, it was the unrehearsed Boyd who answered.

"I've trained women who are good fighters," he said. "They only fight two minutes and wear chest protectors so it doesn't hurt them up there like it does a man. That's the reason they throw a lot of headshots. My point is the bar has been lowered.

"That is not to say there aren't any good women fighters. As much as women may be competitive, I don't like to see women fight and get hurt. We best serve ourselves, our family and culture to whatever gender we're born."

A year later as a book editor, I assigned Toole to review a Dagoberto Gilb collection of short fiction. Later, when I had to inform him that several explicit words in his review wouldn't make the final cut in a family newspaper, Toole wasn't fazed. "I want people to read Gilb, and if my review helps accomplish that — then cut away."

We spoke regularly on the phone and by mail — checking on his novel's progress, his health or talking boxing from A-Z. From time to time, he'd send a chapter from the novel asking for a second opinion on the accuracy of his use of Chicano slang, style and family history.

Toole's Irish gift of gab and strong convictions often made for hard-hitting verbal sparring lessons from the square ring. Since he didn't have cable TV and worked most fight nights, it fell upon me to send videotapes of championship fights. The payoff came with his phone wrap-up of that month's tape.

Two weeks before his death, Toole called to chide me. I had been remiss in sending new fight tapes. When I asked about his health, he recounted instead an incident after his latest medical emergency.

He had asked a nurse for ice cream. "She wouldn't do it. So I told her exactly what she could do with her applesauce and chicken noodle crap."
Later, he unplugged his monitoring device, dressed and left the hospital.
"I drove straight to a 7-11 store and headed straight for the ice-cream freezer for Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia. As I shut the freezer, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door haze. 'What are you looking at, you crazy S.O.B.?'"

Whether my friend was actually embellishing a true story or whether Toole was floating a new narrative twist remains a mystery. Nevertheless, for the rest of our conversation, he avoided his albatross and my question: Was the novel finished?

Posthumous novels, whether written by Hemingway or Melville, can be a bane or a blessing. Pound for Pound hit bookstores in August to both critical cheers and jeers. In addition, Hollywood announced with great fanfare that a film version was in the works. Meanwhile, book publishers and film producers were vying for rights to a trunk of unpublished work that Toole left behind.

Still, some argue that Toole got a raw deal — that he could have been a contender — that cruel fate denied him one more round, one more edit.

I disagree. The 72-year-old writer and boxing cutman I knew beat the odds when, four years before his death, he sold his first short story after 40 years of toiling at his craft.

"All of a sudden I got lucky. I caught a break because open-heart surgery kept me alive and because I kept punching. I had no guarantee. But you know what? I didn't want a guarantee — that would have taken the fun out. Going against the odds was part of the fun. I want to take that chance and roll the dice — put my life on the line. It's stupid, it's insane, it's unreasonable, but that's what my heart tells me to do.

"You're going to tell me I can't follow my heart?"

Gregg Barrios is a playwright and a former Express-News book editor. As part of Gemini Ink's fall semester, Barrios will teach the one-day seminar Real Life Characters: Biography as Play on Sept. 30.
San Antonio Express-News publish date Sept. 10, 2006


Thursday, September 14, 2006


David Hernandez and Charles Harper Webb

will read from their latest poetry collections

September 15, 2006 at 8:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble
1201 3rd Street Promenade (at Wilshire Blvd..)
Santa Monica, CA 90401

DAVID HERNANDEZ's poetry collections include Always Danger (SIU Press, 2006), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press, 2003). In January 2008, HarperCollins will publish his first novel, Suckerpunch. His poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Field, and The Southern Review.

CHARLES HARPER WEBB was a rock guitarist for fifteen years and is now a licensed psychotherapist and professor at Cal State University, Long Beach. He has written five books of poetry, including Liver, which won the 1999 Felix Pollak Prize, and Reading the Water, which won the S.F. Morse Poetry Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

-- DAO

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brother Trini, 2006: D.E.P.

by Ralph Garcia, Houston

It was that time before the computer age when I would encounter Trinidad Sanchez, or as I came to call him, Brother Trini. Given his association with the Catholic Church and as a fellow Jesuit, our meeting was more of a divine inevitability--I as the assistant to the pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; he, advocating on behalf of the less fortunate.

There was a plan in motion to create a Chicano cultural facility, the end product the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Enter Trini. Sanchez joined our board of directors and served as its chair. There were countless planning sessions and debates conducted in San Antonio’s bars and cantinas, chief amongst them the Esquire and Tacoland.

One thing Trini taught me was never to admit being wrong in these negotiations. “Say: I regret this happened or that was done. But never apologize.” In the midst of all this, one day Trini up and left, to Chicago I believe.

Three decades later, out of curiosity and with the knowledge I obtained on the use of computers, I googled myself. Amongst the listing appears Trini’s web site. I am hesitant to contact him after so many years. A few weeks pass, and I finally E-mail him; he quickly responds about how long it has been. I often joked with him about how much poetry San Antonio had, telling him about the poetry groups organized around every subculture that existed. We spoke about him coming to Houston and the possibility of teaching at the local college, a real job.

Somewhere here my oldest sister Marie passes away from cancer. I write a piece dedicated to her. It’s about our younger days when we danced as a ballet folklorico team. I send a copy to Trini. He writes back about how it reminds him of going to the school sock hops, describing the polarity of boys on one side of the gym and girls on the other. He continues with the point of how the girls have the power to crush a young man’s heart, by simply saying no to a dance request.

Program monies are available and we ask if he will come to Houston to do a reading. We arrange a reception with local political dignitaries, including three city council members, two U.S. Congressmen, the county treasurer, and others. Scheduling an elite group like this becomes difficult in a town like Houston. The death of one elected official and other logistical problems delay the event. The elections pass and some of the hosts are no longer in office. We agree to bring Trini in anyway, as a presenter in the Latino Book Fair.

[Postcard of the proposed Sept. event, showing the sponsors]

The Book Fair itself is struggling to happen because Hurricane Katrina makes the convention center facility unavailable. Throughout this time Trini is hesitant about coming. Finally at the last minute he calls to let me know he’s coming and driving alone.

Trini arrives, and I offer to house him for the nights he will be here. Cinco de Mayo festivities are in full swing. About 7:00 p.m. I tell him we are going to eat and get some culture. We drive to Houston’s north side, one of the city’s oldest and most stable Mexican communities. I take him to Moody Park, site of the historic Moody Park riots in the late 70’s. We stop and view the original “Vaquero” statue of Luis Jimenez. Then we head to Doneriki’s Mexican Food Restaurant further down Fulton Street. Here the owner always provides entertainment during Cinco de Mayo.

As tradition, the restaurant is full and a line of people wait to be seated. Each year the owner removes tables from the center of the restaurant and sets up a temporary stage. One of the managers spots us and immediately waves to the waiters to place a small table directly in front of the stage area. As we make out way to the table we are greeted by waiters and others in the audience who are looking and pointing, wondering who we are to deserve this attention. I want to describe it as something you see in the movies, but it’s not. This is as real as life gets and something the movies try to replicate. We are so close to the stage, when the girls' skirts brush our faces when they swirl. After a plate of nachos and three rounds of beer we exit.

Outside, I introduce Trini to the manager and others. We offer our thanks and next go to Ray Ray’s (swear: the place has two Rays in it) Ice House. Here again there is a crowd listening and dancing to Tejano music. The owner Ray is introduced to Trini, and we consume two or three more rounds.

It’s getting late, ten or so, and on our way home we stop at the Harrisburg Country Club. It’s more of your neighborhood dive, owned and operated by two Vietnamese brothers. On tonight’s menu is a DJ with loud Tejano music. It is necessary to strategically seat yourself contingent on how much conversation you want to carry on. Again, I introduce Trini to the owners, and we have a couple more drinks.

Since Trini has to read the next day, we leave the Harrisburg, five minutes from my residence. At home I have no alcohol because I believe if one drinks alone that means you're an alcoholic. Trini gets out his backpack. We have this long discussion about recent passings of our friends and fellow artists, including Dr. Ricardo Sanchez, Jose Montalvo, and Rudy “Diamond” Garcia.

I tell him I had conversations with Montalvo, about death. I share with him some of the exchanges we had that I’ve never divulged to anyone else. I tell him I spent two days with Montalvo. He reminds me that when Montalvo rented off of Fredrickburg Road, how the doorbell to the apartment didn't work. Someone had penciled, “Neither does the tenant”. Montalvo had his trademarks: that black hat, his “A mí que?” bumper sticker. I told him Montalvo after many years of being an artist had met a woman, bought a house and life was going fine. His illness came and she left and once again he was alone. Trini said in the end Montalvo was nothing but anger.

I ask Trini what was really going on in his life and he tells me. He then to read from his book of poems--me, the private audience. Again it’s one of those things the movies can't replicate.

Next day Trini is off to the Book Fair and tells me he’s gonna stay at the home of another poet, Later that day I went to the Book Fair and find Trini in the company of Victor Vega and Lorenzo Cano, two other seldom recognized do-gooders. I realize how we as a collective, off and on have helped to change the world.

[A doodle done while on the phone with Trini. He was always at poetry group meetings--Fathers without Children Poets, The Sleeping Giant, Enchilada Vendor Poets, the list seemed endless. San Antonio must be the Mecca for Latino poets.]

I am beginning to understand his poetry. It’s about self and worth. I was just beginning to understand him. After this I hear no more from Trini. In a couple of days, I call and find him in San Antonio. He thanked me for everything. He also tells me how he saw so many people, writers he had not seen in a long time. He tells me, “Write, just write."

Our conversations continue mostly via e-mail. Trini seems to have gotten back to his beeline schedule, seldom home. He talks about pool parties at his residence, about his woman returning from Denver. We talk about another engagement in September.

Then comes the devastating news, the stroke, his death. I received many e-mails and articles. I was asked to write a piece in his memory, but I said no, because I say there are so many others that are much better at writing. Maybe someday Hollywood will replicate him in a movie. I remain doubtful.

Hermano Trini: descanse en paz.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chicano: Pronouncing Diversity. Mental Menudo Artists Exhibit New Work in Landmark Show.

Michael Sedano

To see the photos of the exhibit, visit

It’s almost incredible that chicano art shows keep getting better and better. An excited crowd is its own reward; energized by ambience, conversations flow among strangers sharing delighted moments of inspiration. In such moments, crowd and art fuse into the same thing, culture. Every show brings new talents to the walls, but for me, seeing the maturation of talent in new work by familiar artists offers the greater pleasure.

So it was at the opening reception for Chicano: Pronouncing Diversity, in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock Cultural Arts Center. An encouraging display by a new generation of artists and a core of veteranas and veteranos from the old days. Holding it all together the familiar materials and attitudes of chicanismo.

At one point during the exhibit, I was leaning against a pillar taking candid shots of Vibiana Aparacio-Chamberlin speaking animatedly with Serge Hernandez about Pola Lopez’ irreverent piece combining loteria cards and la Virgen. Out of the blue, I remembered Salvador Plasencia saying he’s glad to be published outside the chicano mainstream.” And here’s Pola placing her work squarely in the heart of that mainstream.

I asked Magu, who curated the exhibit, what qualifies a piece for the show? Not what makes the work “good,” but what makes it “chicano.” I got the answer the question deserves: go inside and have a look.

The excitement of the moment begins at the door with Raoul De La Sota’s painting of cactus pencas. Hugely magnified and rendered in fanciful warm colors, the canvas evokes Rousseau’s “Magical Kingdom”. Turing left into the main gallery, the visitor will be welcomed by the curator, who will nudge the visitor to take in the vendor’s cart, and photographer Oscar Castillo’s tribute to Frida.

Joe Bravo and Serge Hernandez hung out near the door, looking for old friends as Magu invites the new arrivals to grab a plate for the buffet. Later, Oscar will tell Diane Hernandez she is the subject of the first multiple image Oscar printed, back at Cal State Northridge in the 70s.

A perennial chicana chicano theme, la Virgen de Guadalupe’s familiar cloak covers the muscled black of a Pacoima loyalist. The orthography is a high level script echoing grafitti art.

Pola Lopez' large canvas offers a delight of color. Eight virgins and one diosa decorate a luciously red-orange huipil. A phallic cactus thrusts out of the collar. It’s interesting to compare Lopez’ manifestations of the virgin with Sculptor Robert Graham’s bronze door to Los Angeles’ new cathedral using a multitude of virgins in much the same manner.

Conjunto Los Pochos had the crowd tapping their toes. Left of the stage, Joe Bravo tortilla art featuring a sabana-sized tortilla de harina. Behind the conjunto, holding center focus of everyone’s eyes, a brilliant mural by Martin Charlot featuring a young Arnold Schwartzeneggar lower right, Magu, lower left. Right of the stage is an exaggerated portrait by Neri Lemus of a boy in a striped t-shirt and ear-flapped hunter’s cap.

A little boy gets so caught up in the joyous music that the accordion player hangs the precious instrument on the tyke, who pulls the bellows and sounds his first note!

Sculptor Armando Baeza is a WWII veteran. His small and medium sized bronzes attract admirers wherever Baeza shows his work. The show features a handful of medium sized work. The free-standing bases are themselves beautiful sculpture. A photograph is not enough when an admirer falls in love with Apache Dancer, or Emerging Power.

Mario Triillo 's usual medium is polaroid photo transfer. Taking up the Diversity theme, Trillo builds a shrine to upward mobility. The bottom rung of the ladder features a beat up old huarache. The second rung a clean white Nike sneaker. The top rung sports a spit-shined black lace-up shoe. At the top of the ladder the U.S. flag. The umbrella protecting the ladder sports corporate logos of Pepi, McDonalds, Union Oil Co.

As Magu says, you really have to be there, see the art, feel the energy. Just enjoy. Don't ask, "What makes this 'Chicano' art?" Instead, share your views on what you see in the work that qualifies your assessment. Please leave your comments.

Until next week, that's Tuesday, Nine One Two.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Still Foreign Correspondent

By Daniel A. Olivas

“Thank you,” she said as I signed the book.

“You’re very welcome,” I responded without looking up.

“No, really,” she said.

“Thank you for introducing me to a whole new world that I didn’t know existed,” she explained.

The middle-aged woman, who did not appear to be Latina, smiled broadly and walked away. As I continued to sign my book for the other customers, I remained puzzled by the exchange.

I’ve written four books: a novella, two short-story collections and one children’s book. My fiction tends to center on the lives of Chicanos and other Latinos. I usually pepper my stories with a little Spanish to reflect the way my characters speak, though it’s at a fairly basic level and easily understood by context. In any event, when people decide to attend one of my readings, they usually know what they’re going to get.

What confused me about the woman’s comment was that my stories, though reflecting my cultural experiences, nonetheless focus on universal themes such as love, family dynamics and life’s struggles. In other words, I use fiction to confront the vagaries of the human condition. But here was a woman who thought that I had introduced her to a world she never knew existed.

More than anything else I do, my book appearances remind me that to many people, the “Chicano experience” is still quite exotic and unfamiliar, even in a city such as Los Angeles. Perhaps I should be surprised or even angry about this. But I can’t get upset with people who make the effort to learn something new. In fact, I give them credit for taking a step many might consider difficult or even unpleasant.

But this doesn’t answer my basic question: how can Chicano characters in fiction be so unfamiliar to some? Are we still so segregated as a society that even in Los Angeles, there are adults who, when exposed to Chicano culture, feel as though they’re watching a National Geographic special on a newly-discovered tribe?

Perhaps I should approach this from a different angle. During the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, I attended a Roman Catholic elementary school in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles. Thus, my primary exposure to the “dominant” white culture came from four sources. First, most of the nuns and lay teachers were white. Second, virtually all of the literature we studied was written by people with names such as Hemingway, O’Connor and Kipling. Third, my family’s favorite TV programs included Bewitched, The Ed Sullivan Show and Batman. Finally, the magazines and newspapers that came into the house were the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Time.

I then attended a Jesuit high school that was predominantly white. Did I suddenly feel as though I had entered a foreign country? No, not really. I joined the football team and made plenty of friends, regardless of ethnicity. And my formal education and pop culture immersion remained decidedly mainstream.

Though print and electronic media don’t necessarily reflect reality, they do convey a sense of their creators’ culture. Thus, the fact that I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood did not prevent me from being immersed in the dominant society. It happened so naturally and constantly that I never even noticed.

But what will it take for the opposite to occur? Chicano culture certainly can be presented by the media more widely than it is today. But we need honest representations that are free of ugly and deceitful stereotypes. How can this be done? First, Chicanos can take the financial risk and start magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, production companies and the like. Second, the mainstream media must start figuring out that it makes good business sense to rely on Chicano talent as news anchors, authors, artists, actors and film directors. Again, by going to the source, I assume the representation of Chicano culture would be more honest and accurate than what we often see.

All of these things are already happening, though much more needs to be done. But I do hold out the hope that eventually the common non-Chicano response to my fiction will be: “Thank you for telling it like it is!” That would make my day.

[This essay first appeared in Tu Ciudad.]

Friday, September 08, 2006

This And That

Manuel Ramos

The announcement for this year's award says:
"A recent newcomer to book writing, Susanna Reich brought dance and choreography icon, José Limon, back to center stage with her latest book, José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limon. This children’s book, targeted at children ages 5 to 8, chronicles the life of a young boy who dreamed big and stopped at nothing to make his mark as a world-class dancer and choreographer."

This book was illustrated by Rául Colón and published by Simon & Schuster. The publisher says: "Susanna Reich's lyrical text and Raúl Colón's shimmering artwork tell the story of a boy who was determined to make a difference in the world, and did. José! Born to Dance will inspire picture book readers to follow their hearts and live their dreams."

Livin' the dream - that's what it's all about, no?

In a review of David Treuer's new book, Native American Fiction: A User's Manual, Denver Post columnist David Milofsky brings up a few points that many readers of La Bloga might find intriguing. I'll quote a few paragraphs from the review, all of which you can find here:

"Aren't writers of one ethnic group or another inevitably labeled as being spokespeople, whether or not they desire this designation? When Philip Roth first published Portnoy's Complaint in 1969, few Jews were able simply to accept it as literature but rather took it as Roth's ungrateful attack on the Jewish community that had sheltered him and its customs and beliefs. Some Jews went so far as to claim that the novel's whole sensibility was false, that Jewish men are never attracted to gentile women, an assertion made ludicrous by the growing number of inter-marriages in society. Others said Roth was guilty of what is sometimes called 'Jewish self-hate' and the novel and others by Roth were often dismissed without even having been read.

Similarly, Mario Puzo's Godfather saga was taken by some to be an unfair portrayal of the Italian community with few being able to separate Puzo's characters and the themes of revenge and eventual punishment from an apparent need to demonize hard-working Italians everywhere. In both cases, there was concern that outsiders would judge Jews and Italians based on what they read in novels by authors that happened to be from those minority groups.

But these concerns cross ethnic lines. Black writers like Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright were villainized by militants in the '60s for not being sufficiently political, even though Wright had been a member of the Communist Party, and Richard Garcia (sic) became controversial within the Chicano community in recent years because of what some considered his conservative views.

The point is that writers of virtually any minority group will find it difficult simply to be considered only or primarily as writers, a demand it should be pointed out that is rarely if ever leveled against white male writers. The idea that anyone would criticize, say, John Updike for being unfair to upper middle- class white suburb dwellers is ridiculous on its face."

Meanwhile, Luis J. Rodriguez has written a column that you can find here that takes on the subject of the "hysteria of Spanish-speaking people in the United States." The column, entitled End The Hysteria Over 'Spanish', includes the following:

"The 'English Only' campaigns are designed not to bring unity but to suppress other languages - particularly Spanish - and impose the supremacy of English on our tongues.

I, for one, love the English language. I've spent years trying to master it. But I'm also for having Spanish, Japanese, Hmong, Navajo and Nahuatl (still spoken by millions of people in Mexico and Central America) wherever these may apply. The U.S. Census estimates there are 329 languages spoken here, 154 of which are indigenous. Other reports claim the United States is currently the third-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

That is not something to be ashamed of or worried about. It's something to celebrate. The ability to speak Spanish is becoming a necessity in today's America. We all might as well face up to that.

Plus, isn't it better to know more than one language? Many other countries put us to shame in this regard."

Amen, brother.

According to Hispanic, "when Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s The Dirty Girls Social Club was published in 2003, Latinas everywhere celebrated the birth of their own commercial ethnic literature. Latina characters, Latina culture, Latina stories. Who then would have guessed that in three years the demand for stories featuring Latina characters would move beyond the Latina market and into mainstream America?" The article also notes that " in these lively books, the characters speak English, Spanish and Spanglish, depending on the situation, so readers everywhere are getting into the hearts and minds of Latino and Latina characters, enjoying their pursuits and tasting their culture."

I haven't read Dirty Girls Social Club or the other book mentioned in the article (Dirty Little Lies by Julie Leto - everything's "dirty"?) so I can't comment on the accuracy of the observation above. Anyone read these? Any comments? Are Valdes-Rodriguez and Leto "spokespersons" for their ethnic group?


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Frontera Norte Sur - Border news

I've read Frontera Norte Sur for years and have relied on its valuable information and insights, and their Email newsletter is invaluable.

I'm reprinting the message below because the richest country on the planet is spending most of our money bombing other peoples and watching us. Bush and his Rep. sheep and Demo. apologists don't like counter-news services like Frontera, so maybe you'll be interested in helping. I'll let the message speak for itself, except to advise anyone interested in learning more about Mexico, the border and info about what the U.S. press doesn't tell us, to visit their website to see the service Frontera provides. You can go to:

September 5, 2006

Dear Friend,

Frontera Norte Sur has a 15 year history of providing
steady, reliable news coverage about the Mexico-US border.
Everyone who uses this service describes it as a unique
source of news and features that combine summaries from the
Mexican press with original reporting and analysis --
information that never finds its way into the traditional
US media. In addition, our website contains an archive of
stories that date back to 1996; another valuable resource
for in depth research.

Frontera Norte Sur has encountered a serious financial
hurdle that has obliged us to suspend service. Until now,
grant resources have enabled us to provide this as a free
news service but after the loss of this funding source, we
must broaden the base of support for this news service to
ensure its long term future.

Your financial support can help us resume publication of
Frontera NorteSur. We are also working to find alternative
sources of long-term funding.

We need you, our readers, to invest in this news service
you find so valuable. Working together, gifts of $50, $100,
$500 or $1,000 can meet our immediate goal to raise
$25,000. Send your tax deductible contribution to the NMSU
Foundation either on-line or through the mail.

Visit the Foundation’s web site at
for more information. Click on Give Today (highlighted in
blue) and follow the directions for either on-line or mail-
in contributions. Please insert “Frontera Norte Sur” in the
box marked “Where the need is greatest, please describe.”
Together we can build a stronger news service that reflects
our commitment to keep information flowing freely across
the border between Mexico and the US.

Thank you for your generous support!

Dr. Neil Harvey, Director Kent Paterson, Editor, Frontera
Norte Sur
Center for Latin American and Border Studies,
New Mexico State University

PS: If you know any foundations or individuals that might
invest in Frontera Norte Sur, please e-mail me at

Review of The Moon Will Forever Be a Distant Love by Gina MarySol Ruiz

“AMID THE MARKETS AND CANALS of the great city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, smack on the corner where nowadays Dolores Street runs past the Chinese restaurants and umbrella stores, Conquistador Balboa is in a rush to run an errand for the Marquis, and the Indian girl Florinda is walking to the flea market.”

This is the first sentence in this marvelous, surreal novel by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, one of Mexico’s well-known novelists and Cinco Puntos Press has done a marvelous thing in bringing this author’s work to the US for us to enjoy.

The book is about Florinda and her Conquistador love, Balboa who is fired from his bureaucratic job with the other conquistadores because of downsizing. The two leave to Tijuana by bus hoping to cross The Border into the Northernish Empire.

As with many couples, real life intrudes on their fairy tale. They find without the proper papers they cannot cross The Border, Florinda (Xochitl) has to live with Balboa’s lisping Castillian family who treat her like a maid. Meanwhile Balboa’s uncle gets him across the border stuffed into the trunk of a car while still wearing his conquistador armor.

In this bizarre and wonderful quirky novel, centuries are traversed and lives change. Florinda comes to work in a factory in Tijuana, becomes a serious shoe-aholic and learns to live on her own. Balboa starts wearing jeans and a t-shirt, loses his lisp and takes up with the fair haired waitress Maryanne before getting rounded up by La Migra. This is such a fun and well told story filled with chistes and puns. I think my favorite part was when the Conquistador gets picked up by La Migra and deported. I encourage everyone to read this book and to find more Crosthwaite in his native Spanish. Kudos to Cinco Puntos for bringing him to the light here in the Northernish Empire!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Review: Adios Hemingway

Leonardo Padura Fuentes. Trans. John King. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2005.
Isbn 1841955418 (pbk.)

by Michael Sedano

It has been a month already that Manuel Ramos reviewed Leonardo Padura’s Adiós Hemingway, the murder mystery featuring retired Havana cop turned writer, Inspector Conde. Good tip, Manuel, thanks.

I hope other readers at La Bloga have been able to read this and we can hear from others about this interesting and fun novel.

Cuba and Cuban writers have given us plentiful evidence of a battle for the hearts and minds of the United States reader. Reading works like Daniel Chavarria’s Adios Muchachos is liable to lead a person to think Cuba has a wildly ribald sense of humor; Jose Latour’s The Outcast, that Cubans want to seize a share of the US noir fiction market. Now along comes Leonardo Padura’s ironic murder mystery, Adiós Hemingway and a reader is liable to think Cuban fiction deserves an extended investigation. There goes the domestic market.

As Ramos told us in July, Conde gets to solve a fifty year old murder, be good to his friends, think about getting to be an old man, dream about Ava Gardner’s knickers, and conduct a psychological post-mortem on Papa Hemingway in his final days.

Knickers. Frilly lacy see-through things that a movie star would have trysted to attract a man’s fancy. What we called “panties”. But translator John King writes a British Engliish, so knickers it is. And “–our” spellings, and other foreignisms that are the unexpected consequence of the US blockade of dangerous tipos like Conde and his lifelong friends. Protect us from scenes like this:

Despite the heat he found the streets teeming with people. They all seemed trapped by an anxiety that could only be relieved through shouting, violent gestures and resentful glances. Life goaded them on and flung them into an everyday war that took place in the open air and on all fronts. While some sold anything you could imagine, others bought, or dreamed of buying. While some expended their last drop of sweat pedalling a bicycle, others smiled coolly from behind their chilled cans of beer, on sale only for dollars
. . . .
In the midst of this maelstrom Conde tried in vain to find where he belonged. (p. 122)

In his review, Ramos also raises the age-old question involving art, mystery writing, and literature. He puts it in context of chicano literature. A corollary question might be why a chicano literature blog would devote two columns to a Cuban mystery writer--and hopefully three or more when readers send in their comments.

Because Adiós Hemingway has a lot to recommend it. As a story. As fiction from another culture. As an interesting set of characters you won’t find anywhere else. Ni modo it’s a Cubano telling it. Padura spins a darn good detective yarn. Obviously the Hemingway connection sets up sentimental familiarity that will hold a US reader in rapt attention, well disposed to the glimpses of every Cubano life that the ordinary reader will be blockaded from. But that’s another ni modo, because, as in the “is it literature” question, the national origin of the work is less important than its existence as a good read.

Conspiracy theorists and red-baiters will thrill to learn Adiós Hemingway is a subversive book. But more so to Cuba than the United States, whose culture looms so ominously in Conde’s everyday life. The good food, the good beer, the good stuff all come from places that deal in dollars. The young girls hitchhiking into town, to earn dollars. When Conde takes his buddies for a sentimental reunion at Cojimar, they remember the last time they’d been there. Their friend, now ten years expatriated, tonight sits somewhere across the strait thinking about them, staring in their direction just as they now stare hard into the darkness, remembering him. To a nation that refers to exiles as gusanos, the impossible long message in a bottle boils down to a simple truth; our friend, you left us behind. We forgive you. We love you, we’re still of one another.

Part of Conde’s trouble with the case rests in his youthful dalliance with the Hemingway style; it infected his own persona and theory of literature. Conde in some way became Hemingway, but a beatified version. In his view, the character of the story must necessarily be that of the writer. The youthful Conde wants to be the man who wrote “Big Two Hearted River”.

All comes crashing around the man as he learns Papa was a despicable person. Conde’s offended nationalism—Hemingway found local writers irrelevant--and writer’s ego clash with what the young Conde saw in the words. In the end, though, Conde forgives Hemingway but sets up a big ironic zinger to tweak the generic US. nose: Hemingway’s suicide was J. Edgar Hoover’s fault.

Bits & Pieces - Los Angeles Califas Art Event
Chicano: Pronouncing Diversity.
A Mental Menudo Forum / Art Exhibitioin.

September 9 - Nov 4, 2006
Opening reception Saturday, Sept 9, 3-7 p.m.
Curated by Magu.

This Chicano exhibit presents artworks that refer to a complex cultural diversity and to the Mental Menudo process of constructive dialogue among artists. Over forty emerging and established Chicano artists are included in this exhibition. The exhibition will be surrounded by a sound art installation.

Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
2225 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90041

OK, that's it for the first week of September 2006. So who's read Adios Hemingway? Have we mined its riches? Does Padura write like Hemingway in some places? Good or bad Hemingway?

See you next week.