Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Magic Night, Noche Mágica

This is one of my new picture book manuscripts. I hope it would become a picture book in the future.

Story Copyright © by René Colato Laínez

Once a year, I have a double delight.
Two nights in a row, I have tons of fun.
First I have a magic night and then I have una noche mágica.

My Mamá and Papá help me carve a big pumpkin.
Triangles, circles, goggled eyes, knives going up and down and around and around.
We light the candle inside and the jack-o’-lantern casts a giant shadow.
Magic night, Halloween, here I come!

When the moon smiles and the stars twinkle, I make holes in a blanket and become a mean ghost.
“Boooo!” I holler and dash to the door. My friends are waiting for me.
Magic night, Halloween, here I come!

We knock at our neighbors’ doors.
“Trick or treat,” I say and smile from ear to ear.
Big, round, colorful, tasty candies fill my bag.
Magic night, Halloween, here I come!

Spooky music starts, children parade, everyone claps.
A little mermaid shakes her tail. A pirate carries a treasure chest.
I moan and move my arms, “Boo!”
Magic night, Halloween, here I come!

In the haunted house, bats fly in the ceiling. Spider’s webs cover the doors. A mummy follows us.
Magic night, Halloween, here I come!

Back at home, we eat our candies and tell scary stories.
“Too bad Halloween is over,” my friends say.
“This is only the beginning. I invite all of you tomorrow to una noche mágica.”
¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!

My friends help me spread a white tablecloth on our table. We put marigolds in vases and light the candles.
“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco,” we say.
Then we put my abuelitos and tíos pictures on the table.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

My friends and I draw and cut bones. We put them together and make calacas.
We dress them with fancy hats, colorful skirts, and elegant suits.
“La Catrina and Señor Calavera!” we say, dancing with the skeletons.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

“The sugar skulls are here!” Papá says.
“Bravo!” we all cheer.
We decorate the skulls with beads, feathers and colored foils. We write our names on the skull’s foreheads.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

“It is time to bake pan de muerto,” Mamá says.
“We are ready to help,” I say as my friends and I roll up our sleeves.
We mix water, yeast and flour in a bowl. Then, we add eggs, milk, butter and sugar. We roll the dough to make bones.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

We carry the delicious dishes to the altar: abuelito’s favorite mole, abuelita’s yummy carne asada, and tíos’ special hot chocolate.
We lick our lips.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

Mamá and Papá tell us stories about my abuelitos and tíos. We dance to their favorite music, cha cha cha. The windows open and cool air touches my cheek. The breeze hugs and kisses me just like my abuelitos and tíos used to do.
“¡Noche mágica, día de los muertos, aquí voy!”

We eat the yummy food. Then we go outside and listen to the mariachi music, visit the cemetery, and have a great time.
Yeah! Once a year, I have a double delight.
A magic night and una noche mágica.
Next year, you are invited too!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Review: Walter Mosley. Blonde Faith.

Hachette. ISBN:0316734594 978031673459. 2007.

Michael Sedano

If Blonde Faith had been the first Easy Rawlins novel I’d read, I’d probably be distracted by its frequent references to events in the previous novel in the ten title series. I might even stop, go read number nine, then pick up Blonde Faith, to make sense of the abject depression that grips Rawlins as the book opens. Not a bad plan, the two read as a continuation of one another.

Rawlins’ relationship with Bonnie deteriorated toward dissolution in the prior story. Now Bonnie’s announced marriage to the prince consumes Easy with regret. Circumstances deny the detective any chance to wallow; Mouse has gone into hiding behind a shoot-to-kill LAPD warrant and Christmas Black’s adopted daughter has landed unannounced on Easy’s doorstep. Easy has to prove Mouse innocent and solve the mysterious disappearance of the ferocious Vietnam commando.

Easy is left on his own for almost the entire novel, turning to the computer guy and the curandera from earlier stories, for clues to tracking down the absent comrades. The violently bloody trail of the missing friends keeps readers turning pages to see how the ex-janitor card-carrying detective solves another puzzle.

Much of the action takes Rawlins into the white world. Easy’s confrontations with white guys often leave a bitter taste in a reader’s experience, even after Mosley might cap off matters with a delicious irony and Ezekiel Rawlins getting over. In Blonde Faith, racial interactions have changed in Easy’s L.A. An L.A. cop has become Easy’s snitch, a decent guy. Other white people, like the old detective mentor, or a restaurant manager, help balance out the crap that comes Easy’s way just because he’s black. In one scene, a snooty hostess tries to humble Easy and his fancy date, but Easy’s grateful former client the manager humiliates the woman instead, assigning her to wait on Easy and his date through a compliments of the house fancy dinner. It’s an indication of Mosley’s mastery of irony that he lets the event speak for itself, he doesn’t editorialize on the white woman’s experience. It’s an interesting silence in that Mosley rarely misses an opportunity to highlight everyday gestures of racial expression.

The Easy Rawlins series has long been a reliable source of reading pleasure. The mystery’s only part of the fun. Much comes from observing Rawlins and Mouse make their way through black and white L.A. like a Jekyll and Hyde, the one works with reason the other pure anger. Sometimes the one is as good as the other. But times change, and as the Rawlins saga continues we read about a more tolerant California. Easy’s beginning to slow down--despite his bedding two luscious fantasies—it’s been forty years since Easy left the Army. And it’s obvious Mouse is heading for a big fall.

What comes next? Mosley started then stopped the Socrates Fortlow story. Fearless Jones and Paris Minton have lots of possibilities and were last seen only last year, que no? A ver. I hope the author will explore the Rawlins clan. An early Easy Rawlins story has the detective rescue a Mexican boy, Jesus, from a pederast. This introduces an East L.A. story line and set of characters. Now Juice is all grown and ready to take on his own story.

That’s the final week of October 2007. October. See you in November.

Guest columnists always welcome. It's been La Bloga's pleasure to welcome so many guests recently. If you'd like to join us, drop a line here or leave a comment with your idea.


Monday, October 29, 2007


Gonzalo Barr was born in Miami. He says that he learned to speak English by watching television when he was a very young boy. Barr notes that his first English words were, “Please stand by. We are experiencing transmission difficulty.”

In high school, Barr says that he skipped class to read in the school library. He sat at a table where he could see the bay and the sailboats. The librarian knew exactly what he was doing, but never called him on it. He read everything by Camus and Vonnegut, and wrote short stories. Two of his stories were published in the school literary magazine. He also read García Márquez, Borges, and Cortázar.

Barr wistfully notes that college and the years that followed were devoted to getting an education, which left little time for writing, then to learning practical things, like how to earn a living, which sapped all desire to do anything else. Barr earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, then spent three years studying medicine at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, and eventually earned his law degree from the University of Florida in 1990. He is a litigator with the Miami office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, an international law firm currently in its 117th year.

But Barr had the spirit of literature burning bright in his soul. He read or re-read classic literature from Homer to Hemingway and wrote his first novel, an unfinished work filling nine notebooks with tiny handwriting. Barr says that everything came together in 2000, when he enrolled in a writing class taught by Leejay Kline. Since then, he has attended the Seaside, Wesleyan, Kenyon, and Bread Loaf writers’ conferences, where he studied under John Dufresne, Christopher Tilghman, and Julia Alvarez. His stories were published in Gulf Stream and The Street Miami. In 2005, he won the Bakeless Prize for Fiction, awarded by Bread Loaf and Middlebury College, for The Last Flight of José Luis Balboa, which was published in 2006 by Mariner Books.

Of his short-story collection, Entertainment Weekly said: "Set in Miami, these nine stories are an entertaining end-of-the-mojito-season read. The first seven tales are amusing enough to tide you over till the last two, more intricate gems, including Gonzalo Barr's title story … about three people whose lives become interconnected, a la director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's films."

Even as he practices law, Barr is working on a novel. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions for La Bloga:

DANIEL OLIVAS: You're a lawyer by training and profession. Why did you decide to start writing fiction?

GONZALO BARR: First, thank you for inviting me to La Bloga. Saludos to you and to all your readers. To answer your question: I don't think that writing is a decision. It is a vocation. You are a writer or you are not a writer. If you are a writer, then you have to write. You are constantly making up scenes in your head. You feel an unalloyed joy when you can remake those scenes into living words. And when you can't or you won't, you pay for it in many, subtle ways.

OLIVAS: What do your fellow lawyers think of your "other life" as a writer?

BARR: I was concerned at first. I thought that when the book became public, I would be summoned into a windowless conference room for a meeting with two partners and the department chief, all very Berlin circa 1971 -- a single hooded lamp with a overly bright bulb swinging over my head. But it didn't happen that way at all. My colleagues have been very supportive. Dozens of people from my office in Miami attended the book launch at Books & Books and a good number from our San Francisco office attended my reading at Cody's. I'm very grateful to them for that.

OLIVAS: How important is your Cuban heritage to your fiction?

BARR: You may be surprised to learn that I'm not Cuban. I could be, though. I can talk to you in any number of Cuban accents and probably fool you. But my maternal family lives in Dominican Republic, where they have been living since the first one came over in the late 1600s to drive the French off the western end of the island. My paternal family came from Scotland (therefore my mongrel name) in the late 1800s and settled in Peru. There are four of us living in the U.S. I spent my childhood and early adulthood playing cultural hopscotch. During summer vacations, I visited my grandmother in Dominican Republic. After high school, I left Miami to attend college in New York. Each time I left to live elsewhere, I discovered what I was not. After several absences and lot of nostalgia, I found my cultural center. It is here in Miami. Although we have people from several nationalities, they are colored by the one thing that makes us all from here, even those of us who were originally from somewhere else. That's what is so unique about this city. If you look at the stories in The Last Flight of José Luis Balboa, there are characters from several Latin American countries.

OLIVAS: Did you have any mentors when you first started writing?

BARR: John Cheever wrote that writers largely teach themselves. The same happened to me. For years, I wrote and read books about writing, and wrote some more, all by myself. There were also the novels that changed my life, that made me realize what a writer can do with words. And there was experience too. Experience gives you the raw material that you hone into stories and it gives you the knowledge of how to hone that material. There are no child prodigies in literature. On the other hand, Leejay Kline made it come together in a course that he taught in 2000. Suddenly, those rules I had read, like Show Don't Tell, made sense and I had my first publishable story, which was "Braulio Wants His Car Back." Come to think of it, there are nine stories in the collection and I wrote a first draft of five of them in that class. I don't think we met but six, maybe eight times.

OLIVAS: Are you currently working on another book?

BARR: Yes, I'm writing a novel in which the protagonist is Silvia Duany. She was the young girl in "A Natural History of Love," the longest story in the collection, almost a novella. In the story, she was 16 years old. In the novel, she is 22, has recently completed her first year of law school, is involved with an older man she does not love, reads Montaigne a little too closely, and is seriously examining her life.

OLIVAS: Thank you for spending time with La Bloga…and I’m sorry I assumed you were Cuban!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Nightlife of Saints

By Fernando Castro

paperback; $15.00; 96 pp.

Book Review by Tobey Kaplan

Poet Fernando D. Castro is the master of the collage, combining the prose line of swaying thought with the impulses of verse, intersecting family and relations, social injustice manifestos and pop media diatribes, along with our day-to-day survival as memories surface and surge -- and we cannot help ourselves getting caught up in the effervescent vortex of idea and statement and memory and reflection, word and object, a cultural menudo spicy and sassy liberating in this telling of story and rhythmic delight; and we don't want to stop really, we want to soak it all in, bathe in his chutzpah of poetic discourse:

…..It is October on Chickasaw but the jasmines have been generous tonight--
it smells like February,
about the time my friend Mark comes to visit from up north.
He oohs and aahs at the scents carried down the street,
no more chichat about lovely San Francisco.
This scent forgives the skunk and garbage of Tuesdays,
a scent without visible flowers as Mark and I look down the street do neighbors hide the flowers in the safety of backyards.
The sprayed aroma spices the dullness of our 'hood,
and the pooch and master processions delivering turds.
I confess I do my share of master sniffing without rewards….

(from "Moon Over Chickasaw")

Fernando's home is in his poetry and longing, his mix of the serious and insane -- breaking down his familiar locations as he invites into his visits and visions, to cover this territory we want to know and want to avoid. Fernando tells us we cannot escape the roots that have enabled us to grow:

….My cousins who live in the burbs scared of the old downtown
stared at me like an apparition of their dad,
my uncle Julio, a man detested by my father, a melancholic stocky man
who distained my father's peasant roots.
Yes, I said pleasantries to those gathered with a Columbian tamal to greet me.
Everything familiar, everything spooled in a gray diagram of gray conventions.
I always dread the price of return.

(from "Assigned Drivers")

But I am most willing to give into his voice of desire, whispering throughout his tenderly impressionistic and surreal love poems:

….The deer are loose. Hear the hoofs beyond.
Small rooms open and close
their doors and windows, look out
to the smoky iris of your fixed stare.
I receive you,
breathe your body
as a solid gasp of air.

(from "Calling All, Calling All")

And through it all, Castro's poems of spinning and weaving, we're invited into his rhythmic mastery -- engaged with political sensibility and personal histories, spiritual forces and philosophy learned through "the nightlife of saints.” We're into these poems for the thrilling ride, the revolution and revelation of whatever and wherever his linguistic energy and spontaneously practical musings can take us.


Tobey Kaplan, a poet originally from New York City, has been teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost thirty! years. An adjunct faculty member at several East Bay/SF Bay Area community colleges where she teaches literary studies, reading and composition, Ms. Kaplan also has a long-term involvement with California Poets in the Schools. She has given readings, workshops and presentations throughout the country for writers and teachers regarding creative process, literacy and social change. Honors include: numerous artist in residence awards through the California Arts Council, Dorland Mountain Colony Fellow, and Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, recipient of a Bay Area Award (New Langton Arts, 1996). Among her publications are Across the Great Divide (Androgyne, 1995) and her poems are contained in numerous literary anthologies and on-line publications such as Red River Review.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cruising with Nayto

By Alvaro Huerta

I have always been nervous about visiting my old neighborhood.

One day, my brother Salomon—a renowned artist—invited me and my two other brothers, Noel and Ismael, to meet him at the Ramona Gardens housing project in East Los Angeles, where we grew up.

My brother had to retouch his mural in memory of Arturo “Smokey” Jimenez, who was wrongly killed, according to many witnesses, by the cops in 1991. The killing sparked days of protests and riots from local residents against a long-time history of police brutality and harassment in the neighborhood.

Two days later after receiving Salomon’s invitation, I drive my silver ‘67 Mustang to the projects.

More than twenty years ago I left the projects to go to UCLA.

I’d feared returning to my old neighborhood ever since, not knowing how my childhood friends and local homeboys would receive me.

I’d abandoned them all: Buddy, Herby, Ivy, Chamino, Peanut Butter, Nayto and Fat Ritchie--there is always a fat kid. I left them in a hostile place. Together, we were safe. Separated we became vulnerable.

My heart pounds as I approach the graffiti-decorated projects. I park at the Shell gas station on Soto. I look at the rear-view mirror as I comb my dark black hair slicked with Tres Flores and remind myself that this is where I come from. I regain my composure and slowly don a stoic look. I re-start the engine, cruise over the railroad tracks and speed bumps, pass the vacant Carnation factory and park in front of La Paloma Market—two blocks away from the Smokey mural.

Getting out of my car, I notice that I am early and am quickly confronted by the homeboys.

“Where are you from, ese?”

Before I can answer, a stocky homeboy replies, “Hey man, leave him alone. I know the guy. We go way back.”

“Fat Ritchie, is that you?” I ask, relieved.

“Yeah, man,” he says, as he welcomes me with a bear hug.

“Hey bro, how’d you get so buff?” I say, amazed at his transformation from the neighborhood fat kid to the muscular gangster. “Where do you work out? Gold’s Gym?”

“San Quentin State Prison.”

“Oh,” I say. “Hey, man, have you seen Nayto?”

“I don’t know what happened to him,” Fat Ritchie responds. “Most of the guys are either dead, in jail, on drugs or moved away. Only the dedicated ones stuck around to protect the neighborhood.”

As kids, we roamed the projects without scared parents dictating our every move. Life was simpler back then. We were a bunch of kids hanging out, playing sports and getting into trouble. Every time we got into trouble, Nayto seemed to have something to do with it.

I remember the summer of 1981. Baseball season had just started. It was a hot Sunday morning. We met, like always, in front of Murchison Street School. We had no park to play ball so we played on Murchison’s hot asphalt playground. We brought our cracked bats, old gloves, ripped based balls and hand-me-down uniforms.

One by one, we scaled the school’s eight-foot fence. Most of us climbed like Marines performing boot camp drills. But Fat Ritchie struggled. Like many other times, he found himself sitting atop the fence as Buddy shook it.

“Don’t mess around, man,” Fat Ritchie said.

“Hey Buddy,” said Nayto, “leave him alone or else I’ll kick your ass, again.”

On the playground, we picked teams. As we did, Nayto ran off without a word. The game was never the same without Nayto. We missed his home runs and wild curveballs. But the game must go on, and we started without him.

Short a player, the captains argued over the odd number of players to pick from. They decided that the team with fewer players got Fat Ritchie.

As the game began, we heard a noise coming from the storage area, adjacent to the empty bungalows with the broken windows.

“It’s just Nayto messing around,” yelled Chamino from right field.
In the bottom of the third inning, Nayto finally emerged from the storage area. He raced across the playground with his clothes drenched in motor oil.

“Nobody say shit or else,” he said, as he ran by.

“What did he say?” asked Buddy.

“Nothing,” I replied. “Let’s keep playing, it’s just Nayto trying to scare us.”

“Come on, let’s play,” said Herby. “I need to go home before I Love Lucy starts.”

A few minutes later, a LAPD helicopter appeared over the school’s storage area. Five police cars surrounded the school. Before we could run, the cops cut the chained fence and stopped our game.

We knew the routine. We got down on our knees, put our hands behind the back of our heads and waited to be spoken to. “Did any of you punks see a kid run through here a few minutes ago?” said the tall, white cop. “He’s about five feet tall and full of oil.”

Following the neighborhood code, we all stayed quiet and looked baffled.

“Fine,” said the exasperated cop. “I want this playground cleared before I arrest all of you project kids for trespassing.”

The cops drove off. We slowly picked up our bats, gloves and balls to leave the school. Out of nowhere, Nayto reappeared on the playground and again broke into the storage room. He emerged carrying a large, oily item. Fat Ritchie checked out the storage room.

“Nayto ripped off Toney-the-Janitor,” said Fat Ritchie in a panic.

We all ran home before the cops returned.

Days later, as we played in the parking lot, Nayto cruised by in a gas-powered go-cart. We chased after Nayto in our bikes and skateboards to get a look at what he was driving.

It wasn’t a typical, wooden go-cart that had to be pushed from behind. It was a customized, low rider go-cart—cherry red, with velvet seat covers, a leather steering wheel, and small whitewall tires with chrome-plated, spoke rims. The engine was positioned in the back, like a VW bug. It was a gem.

“Where did you get the go-cart?” I asked with great envy.

“I made it myself,” Nayto said.

Aware of his tendency to exaggerate, I examined the go-cart. The frame consisted of parts from Nayto’s old bike. The seat, under the velvet cover, was a milk crate from La Paloma Market. And I will never forget the steering wheel. Nayto took it from the ’85 Cadillac Eldorado convertible the homeboys left in the parking lot before they torched it. It still had the shiny Cadillac logo in the center. The engine looked familiar.

I couldn’t figure out where I’d seen it.

“Read what is says on the engine,” Nayto said, impatiently.

I took a second look at the oily engine. I read aloud with a look of confusion, “Property of M.E.S.”

“Are you a dummy or what?” Nayto asked with a smirk. “Murchison Elementary School.”

“Oh, man!” I said like a good detective. “You stole that…I mean you borrowed that from the storage room when the cops were looking for you at Murchison.”

“Why do you think they haven’t cleaned the play ground anymore,” he said. “Do you remember that big vacuum cleaner that Toney-the-Janitor drove after school when he would chase all the kids who stayed late after school.”

“Yeah, he almost hit me one time,” I said. “How about a ride?”

“Get on before the cops come by,” he replied.

We cruised the projects in his customized, low rider go-cart until we ran out of gas. Luckily, Nayto was always prepared. He had a small water hose handy and I volunteered to siphon some gas from an abandoned Toyota truck. I can still taste the gasoline in my mouth. But that ride was worth every drop I swallowed.

Those were the days.

I still wonder what became of Nayto.

[Alvaro Huerta is a writer, social activist and doctoral student at UC Berkeley's Department of City and Regional Planning. He lives with his wife Antonia and 8-year-old son Joaquin. One of his short stories is featured in the forthcoming Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press). This story first appeared on Sam Quinones's Tell Your True Tale site. Photo credit: Pablo Aguilar.]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Note fromTeatro Luna

Teatro Luna is so excited to share with you the projects we have coming up! We hope you can come and share in the excitement with us! We are performing a new short play from Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Teatro Luna, Tanya Saracho, SURFACE DAY, commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival, in collaboration with Steppenwolf Theatre on Saturday October 27th.

We are also performing S-E-X-OH! at the University of Chicago on Friday October 26th at 6:00pm. MACHOS, our newest ensemble built show opens in just under weeks, with previews beginning 5 November 2007, and Opening Night taking place on Thursday 8 November 2007. Read on to see how you can get involved and support Teatro Luna on these and other artistic endeavors. Happy Halloween!

SURFACE DAY. A new short play by Tanya Saracho. Commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival. A collaboration between Steppenwolf Theatre and Teatro Luna Theatre Company Saturday, October 27th @ Steppenwolf Theatre. Saracho is the Co-Founder of Teatro Luna and a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists. She is the author of QUITA MITOS, OUR LADY OF THE UNDERPASS, and KITA Y FERNANDA. Performances will be followed by discussion among the playwrights, creative team members, and other special guests.

Teatro Luna...Anda performs S-E-X-OH! at the University of Chicago, Friday October 26th 2007!

MACHOS... Teatro Luna's newest ensemble built show opens in November @ Chicago Dramatists!


Want to get involved? Here are some ways:

-Come to Proyecto Latina or OYE-LISTEN, two free events we offer every month/every other month.

-Are you proactive, enthusiastic, and love Teatro Luna? If yes, then talk to us about joining our Board! With your support we can continue to grow and produce new work.
-Join our Myspace and Facebook


Six writers were commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival, in collaboration with Steppenwolf Theatre to write about climate change. SURFACE DAY is what Tanya Saracho A. came up with.The Lovely and Talented Coya Paz co-directs the piece.

Come and see Teatro Luna ensemble members Belinda Cervantes and Gina Cornejo, with new LUNA friend, Carlo Garcia, as they play post apocalyptic citizens of a new territory called AMEXICA...where "Caucos" (whites) are the minority, Spanglish is the national tongue and NOTHING grows.

Saturday, October 27 | 3pm and 7:30 pm
Upstairs Studio @ Steppenwolf Theatre Company
1650 N. Halsted St.
Tickets $5

As part of our annual Caras de América—Latina/o Heritage Month Celebration, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs is proud to present S-E-X-Oh!, a witty and provocative cabaret-style show performed by members of Teatro Luna, Chicago's first and only all-Latina Theater company. S-E-X-Oh! offers a bold new look at Latina sexuality from the point of view of six very different Latina women. Based on true life stories and a few strategic re-imaginings, it uses Teatro Luna's trademark ensemble-based aesthetic to enter into the taboo terrain of sex, gender, and sexuality. The themes are universal, crossing cultural barriers, and presented with humor and brutal honesty.

The play will begin promptly at

Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Biological Sciences Learning Center
Room 109
924 East 57th St.
Room 109

Chicago IL 60637

Stay after the play for an exciting Q&A session and reception!

This show is co-sponsored by The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) and Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP).

Lisa Alvarado

Teatro Luna --Bright, Bright Light

Teatro Luna was founded in June 2000 by Coya Paz and Tanya Saracho, with an original ensemble of ten women from diverse Latina/Hispana backgrounds. They came together because they realized that the stories and experiences of Latina/Hispana women were undervalued and underrepresented not only on the Chicago stage, but beyond. Many of them had similar experiences of being asked to perform stereotyped images of that were often one-dimensional and, at times, offensive: spicy sexpots, voiceless maids, pregnant gangbangers, timid "illegal" immigrants, etc. They were also concerned that the few parts written for Latina women often went to non-Latina actresses. They felt that they had to do something. Their answer was Teatro Luna, Chicago's first and only all-Latina theater.

En el Futuro, they plan to perform published pieces and original works by new and established Playwrights along with their own original works. Teatro Luna is constantly looking for new works written by Latinas/Hispanas or about Latina/Hispana women.

If you'd like to make a submission, send a copy of your script to Reading Series Director, Teatro Luna, 5215 N. Ravenswood, Suite #210, Chicago, IL 60640 or email her at
They look forward to nurturing la voz de la mujer Latina inside their artistic home, to giving Latina/Hispanas of all backgrounds an opportunity to tell their story.

In the meantime, a large percentage of their energia is spent on creating original pieces, developed by the ensemble. This has prompted the creation of the "Teatro Luna Developement Process." Poco a poco, the ensemble developed its own vocabulary and artistic vision which improves with every project. The ever changing process is described below. Ensemble members share stories, memories, ideas and thoughts with each other in a brainstorming session.

Members then bring in written stories, monologues, or more specific research to propose specific ideas for pieces.

During workshop/rehearsal, members divide into smaller groups (2-4 people) and experiment with adding movement, chorus, additional characters and other stylistic devices to the stories. The responsibility of these smaller groups is to find two or more dramatically different approaches to present the idea/story.

Versions of the story are "presented" or "pitched" to the rest of the ensemble, who critique and comment on the proposal. Often, different actresses will "try on" the same role to further expand and explore the possibilities of the subject and style of the piece.

Once the ensemble has chosen a "format", the scene is improvised several times (with the game of "character musical chairs" described above). The women who are watching write down character traits, story concept and themes, and any dialogue that stands out (at times particularly lively workshops have been videotaped).

5 The scenes are then scripted by an ensemble member and presented to the group in an "official" version.

6 Creating doesn't stop there. The rehearsal process remains open. Although actors work from the script in a relatively traditional manner, the entire process involves on-going discussion and collaboration from the ensemble. A couple of times, a finished scene or two were not finalized until a few hours before opening.

7 This is the "official" teatro luna process when developing original works, but they continue to refine and expand it to fit their needs, practicing our techniques in on-going workshops that include both established Teatro Luna members and newer Artistic Associates and Friends.


COYA PAZ (co-founder/co-Artistic Director) was raised in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, and Brazil, and moved permanently to the United States in the late 1980's. She is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, where she also holds her MA. She has collaborated with Teatro Luna on all of our ensemble built projects (Generic Latina, Dejame Contarte/Let Me Tell You, The Maria Chronicles and S-E-X-Oh!) Additional Chicago acting credits include Impassioned Embraces, Etta Jenks, Death of a Salesman and Baby Boom En El Paraiso.

Directing credits include The Maria Chronicles and S-e-x-Oh! (with Tanya Saracho), The Drag King Rooftop Karaoke Hootchie Cootchie No Name Show and Musical Latin Extravaganza (with Michelle Campbell), Diane Herrera's The Dress and Marisabel Suarez's Three Days (part of Teatro Luna's Sólo Latinas Project). She has appeared in numerous independent film and performance projects, and enjoys singing in the shower. Coya is a contributor to the Oxford University Encyclopedia of Latino/as in the United States, and is committed to using performance as a strategy for social and individual change.

TANYA SARACHO (cofounder/co_Artistic Director) is a proud Co-Founder of TEATRO LUNA: Chicago's All-Latina Theater Ensemble and a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists. She was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and moved to Texas in the late 80's. Saracho attended Boston University where three of her plays, Miss Norma and the Alligator, Maya Takes a Moonbath and La Dueña, received Premiers. Tanya has studied writing with Maria Irene Fornes (Latin Am. Writers Retreat), Derek Wolcott, Kate Snodgrass and Claudia Allen. In Chicago, La Dueña received a staged reading at the Tony-Award-winning, Victory Gardens Theatre. Also while in Chicago, her writing has been featured in all of Teatro Luna's ensemble-built works including Generic Latina, Dejame Contarte, The Maria Chronicles, SOLO Latinas and S-E-X-Oh! Saracho's play Kita y Fernanda received a full production at Luna in early 2003, along with a reading at Repertorio Español while a finalist for the 2003 Nuestras Voces playwrighting competition. Other Awards include: The Ofner Prize given by the Goodman Theatre and Christopher B. Wolk Award at Abingdon Theatre in NYC (finalist).

Directing (and co-directing) credits include: The remount of Generic Latina, Piece of Ass for Estrogenfest and The Maria Chronicles for both the Goodman's Latino Theater Festival and the critically acclaimed full-length run at Teatro Luna, S-e-x-Oh!, Que Bonita Bandera and Three Days for SÓLO Latinas, and the upcoming Knowhatimean written by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval.

Chicago acting credits include: Sandra in Living Out with American Theatre Co./Teatro Vista, Vecina in Electricidad at the Goodman Theatre, The Angel in Angels in America, and Martirio in La Casa De Bernarda Alba with Aguijon Theater. In the winter of 2005, Saracho premiered her solo play To Red Stick at Chicago Dramatists, in Teatro Luna's critically acclaimed evening of solo work, SÓLO Latinas, which was later remounted in the 2005 Theatre-On-The-Lake Season. Tanya's voice can be heard around the country in many radio and television commercials.

DANA CRUZ (artistic ensemble) loves the ladies de Teatro Luna and is excited to team up with them. Recent Chicago credits include the Let the Eagle Fly at the Goodman's Latino Theater Festival, Maria Chronicles, and S-E-X-Oh! with Teatro Luna and Generic Latina with the touring company Teatro Luna... Anda, CityGirl & Game/Place/Show with the Neofuturists and Acts of Mercy by John Michael Garces with Flushpuppy Productions to name a few. She has performed professionally with companies in Chicago, New York and Boston and is currently teaching theater at Our Lady of Tepeyac High School and working as a massage therapist in Evanston, IL. She is an Aries. She hates talking about herself in the third person and is oh so excited to be marrying the T-man on June 2005.

MIRANDA GONZALEZ (artistic ensemble/touring director) is an original founding member of Luna. Teatro Luna credits include the original production of Generic Latina, Probadita, Mas Probadita, both the New York and Chicago mountings of Dejame Contarte, SOLO Latinas and S-E-X-Oh! She has appeared in numerous industrials and commercials in the midwest, as well as the dearly departed Joan Cusack television series What About Joan? where she played a recurring role. Miranda is a loan officer and mother by day, and a Lunatica by night.

suzette MAYOBRE(artistic ensemble) comes to us from the sunny state of Florida, where after a life of sun and fun, she decided to move to the bitter cold of Chicago! Fortunately, she met the wonderful ladies of Teatro Luna, who have made the transition easier and have provided her with numerous opportunities to nurture her art. Her roots in entertainment were planted while at the University of Miami, where she co-hosted a live, weekly morning show, worked at the university radio station, and produced a feature-length documentary entitled Last Night In Cuba, which she holds very dear to her heart. After receiving her degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami, she decided that she wanted to pursue her acting. She has worked on several commercials, industrials, voice overs, independent films and television, most recently as a guest reporter for Control, a Univision Network program. Her theater credits includes work with Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista, Salsation! and Eclipse Theatre among others.

maritza Cervantes (artistic ensemble) is a Mexican-American actress/musician/artist born and raised in Chicago. Past credits include: Al son..que me toques Lorca La Molecula Artistica: Nido del Mar, La Casa De Bernarda Alba, Aguijon Theatre, Polaroid Stories, En Mortem Flush Puppy Productions, and S-E-X-Oh! with Teatro Luna. Maritza is Co-founder of the acoustic/hip-hop/soul influenced musical outfit the LUNA BLUES MACHINE.

yadira CORREA (artistic ensemble) Crazy curly haired Puertorican who's acting credits include: Vagina Monologues, For Colored Girls/Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough, María Chronicles, Sketchbook and S-E-X-Oh!


November - December 2007 at the Chicago Dramatists Teatro Luna is doing WHAT???? This fall, presentamos A new play by Teatro Luna.

MACHOS: Be a Man?...
Men. Women. Women dressed as men. Teatro Luna, Chicago's All-Latina Theater Company, announces the world premiere of MACHOS, an interview based play about contemporary masculinities. In 2006, frustrated with boyfriends, brothers, and bosses, the company of Latina women set out to answer the question: what are men really thinking?

The result is MACHOS, a performance drawn from interviews with 50 men nationwide and performed by an all-Latina cast in drag. From a young man's relationship with his correctional officer father to man cheating on his wife with himself, to an epic confrontation between fraternity brothers, MACHOS presents a range of true-life stories with Teatro Luna's trademark humor and unique Latina point of view.

MACHOS follows the critically acclaimed shows S-E-X-OH and LUNATIC(A)S and moves beyond the everyday stereotypes of gender, offering a complex look at how 50 men (and eight Latina women) learned how to be men. As always, Teatro Luna is cheeky, straightforward, and willing to ask even the most hard hitting questions: exactly how did you learn to use a urinal? MACHOS is presented In English with a sprinkle of Spanish.

Developed and directed by Coya Paz . Created by El Teatro Luna. Coya Paz is the Co-Artistic Director of Teatro Luna, and was named one of UR Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2005 and one of GO NYC! Magazine's 100 Women We Love in 2007. She was the 2006-2007 Artist-In-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Previous collaborations with Teatro Luna include Generic Latina, Dejame Contarte, The Maria Chronicles, and S-e-x-Oh!

Chicago Dramatists 1105 W Chicago Ave Chicago, Il 60622 Previews: November 5, 6, 7 @ 7:00 pm Runs: November 8th 0 December 16th 2007 Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays at 7:30 pm & Sundays at 6:00 pm

For more information, please call 773-878-LUNA
or email us at:


Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore

A Sentence with the District
A compelling collection of essays based on the actual experience of a former at-risk youth who became an inspired teacher at his alma mater high school in the San Fernando Valley. The stories reveal a moving glimpse into LAUSD, the nation's second largest school district, which repeatedly fails students of color and those on the front lines -- classroom teachers. The author sheds insight from a first person point of view that others, including administrators, dare not mention. In its frank and passionate tone, the book raises key issues that underscore a dire need for change.

SATURDAY Oct. 27th at 1p.m.
Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore
10258 Foothill Blvd.
Lake View Terrace, California 91342

Celebrate with Amigas Latinas!


November 3, Saturday

¡Siempre Latina!
Gala Dinner

Garden Manor

4722 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL
$60 advance
$70 at door


1010 W. 18 Street Chicago, IL
312 563 0132

Early to Bed
5232 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL
773 271 1219

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Highlights Fiction Contest 2008 and PaperTigers' Interviews

René Colato Laínez

Three $1,000 Prizes to Be Awarded in Fiction Contest

Highlights for Children will accept submissions to the publication's 29th annual fiction contest during the month of January 2008. The contest is open to anyone interested in writing for children and three winners will receive $1,000 each.

For this year's contest, Highlights seeks stories set in the future.

Under contest rules, any unpublished story is eligible, whether submitted by a professional or a new author. Previous winners have included both published and first-time authors.

"Kids deserve the best, and we've long been committed to doing all we can to help raise the quality of writing for children," said editor in chief Christine French Clark. "Encouraging children's writers is what we do every day, but this annual contest allows us to recognize them in a special way. It's especially gratifying when we discover new talent."

Contest guidelines state that all entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2008. The stories should not exceed 800 words, and they may be considerably shorter for younger children. Stories glorifying war or crime or containing violence or derogatory humor are not acceptable.

Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked "Fiction Contest." Those not marked in this manner will be considered as regular submissions to the publication. There is no entry form or fee. Authors who wish their work to be returned should enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with each submission.

The three contest winners will be announced on in June 2008. Winning manuscripts become the property of Highlights and will appear in the periodical at a later date. All other contest submissions will be considered for purchase at regular rates and terms. A list of winners will be sent by mail if a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with submissions.

Highlights also accepts the submission of articles, stories, and fillers throughout the year.

For guidelines or additional information, write to Fiction Contest, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, 803 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.


PaperTigers is a website about books for young readers, with a special focus on the Pacific Rim and South Asia, that offers a wealth of book-related resources for teachers, librarians, parents and all of those interested in the World of young readers’ books. This month, they interviewed Gary Soto and Amada Irma Perez. Take a look at these fantastic interviews at

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lear at Royce. Nokia Hall Opens in LA. Bits & Pieces

Michael Sedano

A ticket to Royce Hall this week brings a hot return on investment if scalpers can be trusted. Tickets to King Lear command upwards of $3000 per ducat from a scalpee. Come let us see which of our fans loves us most!

My pair of balcony seats would scalp for around $800 each, which isn't worth the hassle so I'll keep them and attend in propria persona. I bring binoculars and gladly take a relatively comfortable seat in the big old lecture hall doing double duty as a Shakespearean stage.

I am happy I did not scalp tickets to the opening concert of Los Angeles' latest experiment in urban gold mining, Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. Content aside, I'll avoid Nokia.

I ordered my wife our anniversary present for the Dixie Chicks, who, I learned, would open for The Eagles, in the inaugural event at a brand new venue.
Linked by pedestrian space to Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center, and new hotels in the works, the developer hopes to turn this into an entertainment nexus. To add to its distinction, it has banned the article "the". Both big attractions, the sports arena and the music hall, bill themselves sans article.

Prior to its renovation, the area featured transient hotels populated by typical raza underclass. When one of those hotels was hit by a rare tornado thirty years ago, I overheard two women outside a ballet studio discussing the news. One remarked to my chagrin, "thank heavens it didn't hit anywhere important!" I wondered if one of those young mothers were among the post middle-age mothers surrounding me at the Nokia for the Dixie Chicks.

I sat row Z last seat on the right and thought I'd be the only mexican in the house when behind me sat a couple fresh out of Sinaloa. Someone unkind would say a couple of chuntys, but they looked right in style with the crowd. I chatted them up a bit, turns out the fellow knows all the words to the Eagles' music and sang loudly the entire performance. Con gusto. Lots of gusto.

Getting to the Nokia is half the confusion. There are new street names that my Prius GPS hasn't yet learned, so navigation is catch-as-catch-can luck. The traffic uniforms answered a query politely, but wrong, leading me through a long way around maze to a point half a block from my starting point, faced with a left turn against oncoming traffic.

Arriving by car directs one to the rear entrance. The neon lit mall and pedestrian space sit somewhere beyond the entrance. Parkers enter directly into the door into a cavernous auditorium. Photographers experience the oppression of no cameras allowed, and the injustice of ubiquitous cell phones twinkling in the darkness like thousands of Tinkerbells.

Nothing distinguishes the interior of the hall. Flat black walls surround the immensity of engineering and construction--no support beams obstruct anyone's view, it's one huge tent. And the show goes on. Sadly, the Dixie Chicks had a bad night. The women sang their bits, the backup guys played theirs at the same time but they never hit it. The Eagles offered a complete performance, satisfying. It's the first time I'd heard their music in one sitting like this and recognize they've earned their reputation. The crowd gave them the kind of wild applause Esa Pekka Salonen got from his Beethoven 7th last month, but with more gusto. That was the best part.

My least favorite experience and this will keep me away for a long time, are the tightly packed, endless rows. To their favor, the Nokia designers leave room enough so my knees don't hit the seatback (unlike many Disney Hall seats). While the absence of aisles means long pan shots for awards t.v. shows, plus hundreds more seats to sell, the uninterrupted rows make a nuisance of thirsty fans. Throughout both performances people trekked from mid-aisle, fifty seats away, to me. Minutes later, they reappeared at my right with two large cups of brew in hand. Across the house the rows did the wave, it wasn't just my row. The Nokia is just too tough a row to how, so I have opted out until something really good comes along. Like a Beatles reunion.

Bits & Pieces. Late news FYI from Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Daniel Alarcón announces South America: Untold Stories. Wednesday October 24, at UC Berkeley, Ted Genoways (Virginia Quarterly Review) Jon Sawyer (Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting) and Alarcón will be hosting a panel discussion called South America: Untold Stories. We'll be presenting the current issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review entitled "South America in the 21st Century."

Panelists include:
Filmmaker Gabrielle Weiss screening her film on the Ghost Train of Buenos Aires
Journalist Pat Joseph discussing the environmental impact of soy production in the Brazilian Amazon

Journalist Kelly Hearn exploring Camisea, Peru's largest natural gas deposits, and the race to control it

The work of Etiqueta Negra journalists will also be presented.

South America: Untold Stories
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
Townsend Center for the Study of the Humanities
UC Berkeley
Oct 24, 6pm

For more information about the magazine, please see
*This event is sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies*

The Mystery Bookstore
36-C Broxton Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90024
Phone: 310/209-0415 800/821-9017
Fax: 310/209-0436


Saturday, October 27 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday afternoon begins with a celebration of Latino noir, as local favorite Alex Abella and best-selling Bolivian novelist Juan de Recacoachea discuss their books.

HAVANA NOIR is the 17th in Akashic's series of "Noir" anthologies.

ALEX ABELLA discusses and signs HAVANA NOIR, edited by Achy Obejas
Akashic Books, $15.95 (trade paperback original) and JUAN DE RECACOACHEA discusses and signs AMERICAN VISA. Akashic Books, $14.95 (trade paperback original)

AMERICAN VISA is one of the very few Bolivian novels ever to be translated into English. Unemployed English teacher Mario Alvarez goes from the country to La Paz in an effort to get a visa to visit his son in Miami. But his paperwork is faked, and he needs better documents – which plunges him into an underworld of desperate men and even more dangerous women.

Add your own late-breaking announcements here. Let's see what's happening in your neck of the woods, gente!

At any rate, that's Tuesday, the 23d of October 2007, a day, like any other day, and that's not so bad, que no?

See you next week.


Monday, October 22, 2007


Francisco Aragón directs Letras Latinas at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Among the initiatives on the horizon in 2008 are: Latino Poetry Review, an online journal that will publish prose on poetry, and the Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship, a brand new partnership with the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Red Wing, Minnesota. To keep up with Letras Latinas news visit its blog, Letras Latinas Blog.

Aragón kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga and answer a few questions about Letras Latinas:

Who founded Letras Latinas and what is its purpose?

When I joined the staff of the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at the University of Notre Dame, its primary focus was the social sciences. The field I wanted to impact was Latino literature, especially poetry. So I set out to develop initiatives that would support Latino writers. The first two were the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and Poetas y Pintores: Artists Conversing with Verse. As I conceived of, and implemented more projects, I came up with a name for the ILS’ literary program. Its mission statement is as follows:

Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies, seeks to enhance the visibility, appreciation and study of Latino literature both on and off the campus of the University of Notre Dame. We are particularly interested in projects that identify and support emerging Latino/a writers. Letras Latinas actively seeks collaboration with individuals and organizations in order to more effectively carry out its mission.

Letra Latinas is issuing a special edition poetry chapbook, Braille for the Heart by Robert Vasquez, to help raise funds. How did the idea of using a chapbook for fundraising purposes evolve?

Around 2004 I officially brought Momotombo Press — a small press I founded in 2000 — to Notre Dame. Long before the fundraising idea surfaced, I’d had in mind to publish a chapbook of Robert Vasquez’s poetry. The project sat on the back burner for a couple of years. And then the fundraising angle occurred to me: About a year ago, I was lucky to secure a generous pledge from a private donor for Letras Latinas: he agreed to match all the money I could raise in 2007 (up to $25,000) in order to start the Letras Latinas Endowment. On the one hand, I knew that I would be soliciting donations from individuals (starting with the co-founders of Momotombo Press). These would be contributions that would often start at $100. But I wanted to figure out a way to get support from individuals naturally sympathetic with Letras Latinas’ mission (like readers of La Bloga, for example), but on a more modest scale. So I thought: Momotombo Press will publish a special limited edition (300) chapbook of Robert Vasquez’s work in order to raise funds for this good cause.

What was Robert Vasquez’s reaction when approached about using his poetry for fundraising?

Well, the private donor who pledged the matching gift guided me. You see, the Letras Latinas initiative that caught his attention and which will be the first beneficiary of the Letras Latinas Endowment is one, I believe, that most people can easily get behind the Letras Latinas Young Writers Initiative. Let me explain: the poet Allison Joseph directs something called Young Writer’s Workshop that caters to high school students and takes place in the summer at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago is a dual language school that caters primarily to the Mexican community in Pilsen. Allison had mentioned to me that Cristo Rey students who often wanted to attend her workshop couldn’t afford the tuition. So Letras Latinas, even before the private donor stepped forward with his offer, decided that providing scholarships to carefully selected creative writers at Cristo Rey was very much consistent with its mission. It was the initiative that most attracted my private donor. When I spoke to Robert Vasquez about it, as well as my idea of using his chapbook to raise money for it, he expressed full support. In fact, Robert Vasquez is one of Momotombo Press’ original co-founders. My hope is that people reading this interview will share his view and consider purchasing Braille for the Heart.

How may Braille for the Heart be purchased? How much does it cost?

Momotombo Press is a very modest operation. We don’t have, for example, a Pay Pal situation set up, or anything that would allow for an online purchase with a credit card. So getting Braille for the Heart will require a fairly banal operation: sending me a check (made out to “University of Notre Dame”) and a snail mail address. But before I say how much Braille for the Heart costs, I would like to stress that anyone who purchases this chapbook in 2007 will have their money matched, dollar for dollar, by my private donor.

The price, which includes shipping, is $35. Checks should be sent to me at the ILS office in Washington, D.C.:

Francisco Aragón
Institute for Latino Studies/Notre Dame
1608 Rhode Island Ave. Suite 348
Washington D.C. 20036

Are book readings scheduled?

So far, the only reading scheduled is on March 28, 2008, at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, where Robert teaches. I will be joining him. But it occurs to me that perhaps there might be a way to produce a podcast and make it available on the internet.

Do you have a favorite poem from the chapbook?

It would be hard for me to single out one, but the poem that closes the volume and from which the chapbook gets its name is one of my favorites. I love the way it takes on music as a subject and its masterful use of the tercet. It’s called “The Woodrow Childs Blues” and it originally appeared in a special supplement of Notre Dame Review edited by Orlando Menes. It goes like this:

"The Woodrow Childs Blues"

for the Woodman

Tractor or trumpet, the bumpy staccato
of the Woodman’s blues summons you,
a familiar song of heat that coils

within earth and flesh, the old grammar
of longing. Your portrait’s canvas
must issue Missouri field smoke

and the slow burn of saxophones.
A believer, you let Blind Man Lemon
take you elsewhere with his night-long

notes and his curlicues of groans.
Even now, in vineyard rows
or scuffed hallways, your shadow

sways as the hour swells, your graceful
hum ascending and then set adrift.
Music is Braille for the heart.

Do you envision publishing other chapbooks to raise funds for Letras Latinas?

In many ways, this fundraiser is an experiment. Whether or not Letras Latinas ever attempts this in the future will depend on what kind of results Braille for the Heart yields. Having said that, I will say this: buying any Momotombo Press title is a big help. So even if there are people reading this interview who can’t afford to purchase Braille for the Heart at $35, they might consider visiting Momotombo Press’ website and purchasing one of our other titles. The proceeds from the sale of the chapbooks helps to support two very worthy causes. Finally, I cannot end these comments without underscoring another aspect of this particular Momotombo Press title that was very special, and that was counting on the collaboration of poets Diana Marie Delgado, who wrote a wonderful introduction, and Eduardo C. Corral, who provided the blurb on the back. One of the things I might venture to say about how Robert Vasquez’s work is perceived in the Chicano/Latino poetry community is that his work is especially valued among those younger poets who are looking for newer models, newer ways of writing Chicano/Latino poetry.

Thank you for spending time with La Bloga.

◙ If you missed yesterday’s guest post by Gregg Barrios, you missed a great interview with Junot Díaz as well as a book review of his new novel. But it’s not too late…click here to enjoy.

◙ 17TH ANNUAL PEN OAKLAND-JOSEPHINE MILES NATIONAL LITERARY AWARDS ANNOUNCED: PEN Oakland, A Bay Area Chapter of the International Organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists was founded in 1989 to address multicultural issues, and educate the public as to the nature of multicultural work. These award-winning authors address the diversity and uniqueness of American culture, and represent the new voices of American literature. The late Josephine Miles, in whose honor the awards are presented, was a highly regarded poet, critic, and professor of English at the University of California in Berkeley.

The awards and reception will be held on Saturday, December 8th from 2-5 p.m. at the Rockridge Branch Library, located at 5366 College Avenue from 2-5 PM. Well-known and emerging Bay Area and international authors will be honored for excellence in multicultural literature at the 17th Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards. A reception will be held after the awards. During the program, winners will be presented with a plaque and asked to read selections from their work. This event is free to the public. For more information, please call (510) 228-6775.

The award winning books include two that are of particular interest to La Bloga's readers:

Samba Dreamers (Novel) by Kathleen de Azevedo (University of Arizona Press)

Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del Norte (Essays) by Lorena Oropeza and Dionne Espinoza, editors (Arte Público Press)

Congratulations to all the winners!

◙ Over at AmoXcalli, there’s a fascinating interview with Ana Castillo whose most recent novel is The Guardians (Random House).

◙ Over at the Los Angeles Times, Agustin Gurza profiles my favorite DJ, Raul Campos, host of KCRW’s Nocturna. After recounting the end of Campos’s stint as a club DJ, Gurza notes:

Today, Campos is still playing music he hopes will move the masses, but he's doing it behind a microphone as one of the few Latino DJs on English-language radio in L.A. As host of "Nocturna," a nightly show on KCRW, where he was groomed by respected music director Nic Harcourt, Campos has begun to amass both audience and influence, reaching an average of 80,000 listeners per week in a time slot (10 p.m. to midnight) typically dead for public radio. The shift from noisy nightclubs to an isolated broadcast studio hasn't been easy. For starters, Campos can no longer get the high of watching his listeners react. And he had to learn to modulate his playlist, rather than blasting non-stop dance music that "didn't translate as well as I hoped over the airwaves."

Campos is one of the main reasons I am a subscriber to KCRW. Check him out. As I’ve mentioned before, Gurza covers Latino music, arts and culture for the Los Angeles Times. E-mail him at with comments, events and ideas for this weekly feature.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Tuesday, October 23rd @7pm
ACENTOS Bronx Poetry Showcase
The Uptown's Best Open Mic and Featured Poet


A poet and creative writing teacher, Blas Falconer teaches poetry and
the memoir at Austin Peay State University where he is an Assistant
Professor in the English Department. Falconer completed his MFA degree
from the University of Maryland in 1997. He earned a PhD in English,
with a concentration in Creative Writing, from the University of
Houston in 2002.

Falconer has won the New Delta Review Eyster Prize for Poetry (2000) .
He was a semifinalist for The Nation Poetry Prize in 1998, 2002, and
2003. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including
Another Chicago Magazine, Third Coast, Puerto del Sol, Lyric Review,
Poet Lore, New Delta Review, and the Baltimore Review.

The Bruckner Bar and Grill
1 Bruckner Boulevard (Corner of 3rd Ave)
6 Train to 138th Street Station
FREE! ($5 Suggested Donation)

Coming from MANHATTAN:
At the 138th Street Station, exit the train to your left, by the last
car on the 6. Go up the stairs, to your right, to exit at LINCOLN
AVENUE. Walk down Lincoln to Bruckner Blvd, turn right on Bruckner.
Walk past the bike shop. The Bruckner Bar and Grill is at the corner:
One Bruckner Blvd., right next to the Third Avenue Bridge.

Coming from THE BRONX:
By Train:
At the 138th Street Station, exit to your RIGHT, by the FIRST car on
the 6. Go up the stairs, to your right, to exit at LINCOLN AVENUE.
Walk down Lincoln to Bruckner Blvd, turn right on Bruckner. Walk
alongside the bridge, past the bike shop. The Bruckner Bar and Grill
is at the corner: One Bruckner Blvd., right next to the Third Avenue

By Bus:
Bx15 to Lincoln Ave. and Bruckner Blvd. Walk one block west, past the
bike shop, to the Bruckner Bar and Grill.
Bx1, Bx21, Bx32 to 138th and 3rd Ave. Walk five blocks south along
the left side of 3rd Avenue to the end (Bruckner and 3rd). The
Bruckner Bar and Grill will be on the corner.

For more information, please call 917-209-4211.


This Wednesday October 24, at UC Berkeley, Ted Genoways (Virginia Quarterly Review) Jon Sawyer (Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting) and I will be hosting a panel discussion called South America: Untold Stories. We'll be presenting the current issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review entitled "South America in the 21st Century."

Panelists include:

Filmmaker Gabrielle Weiss screening her film on the Ghost Train of Buenos Aires

Journalist Pat Joseph discussing the environmental impact of soy production in the Brazilian Amazon

Journalist Kelly Hearn exploring Camisea, Peru's largest natural gas deposits, and the race to control it

The work of Etiqueta Negra journalists will also be presented.
Refreshments will be served, and the magazine will be available for purchase.

South America: Untold Stories
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
Townsend Center for the Study of the Humanities
UC Berkeley
Oct 24, 6pm

Lisa Alvarado