Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jefe!

For you, Michael, 
for all your humor, your wide ranging interests, your thought-provoking posts.....

Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC Notebook - August 24 - 28

From street-level, downtown Denver, a look at mundane, quirky, and otherwise ignored details of the Democratic National Convention.

A man rushes through the throngs on the 16th Street Mall, speaking loudly, but to no one in particular. I realize he’s using a Blackberry. He gesticulates wildly as he says, “The changing demographic changes everything. There’s no more need to go deep into the South, all that can be different.” He weaves down the Mall, still loudly explaining the Democratic strategy necessary for victory.

We walk to the other end of the Mall and cross the railroad tracks. We cruise by the Patrón Tequila Express and ask the security cop if it is a bar. No, he says, just a train car built in 1929, now part of the display of old train engines around Union Station. Flo asks if they are giving away samples. The cop laughs. Flo was serious. I wanted a tour, but that wasn’t happening either.

We wander by the MSNBC stage but don’t linger. We can see Chris Matthews on TV at home, if we really want to.

There’s a two-story tent near the Tattered Cover Book Store. People are rushing in and out. I ask the security guard (there is a lot of security in Denver these days) if it’s a private party. He perks up; I get the impression that not too many people have spoken to him while he’s been on duty. He’s a young guy. He says that it’s “sort of” a private party, but if we give our names and email addresses to the “young ladies” sitting at the tables in front of the tent, we can get in. I ask, “What’s it for?” He laughs. “I have no idea.” Then he adds, “I doubt it’s much of a fun party, if you know what I mean.” “Because of the people going in?” I ask. “Exactly,” he answers, and laughs again.

The Mall is beaucoup busy; and it’s easy to see that the Dems are playing tourist before they get down to the serious business of “Change.” We stand in line at The Market on Larimer Street for some refreshment. The guy who serves Flo a huge and marvelous piece of Spring Fling Cake and a cold Red Stripe to me looks at the bustling crowd, frowns then smiles and shakes his head. I say, “And it’s only Sunday.” The guy laughs. “You’re right. That’s classic.”

We run into our nephew and his pal in Larimer Square. They tell us that they were in the antiwar march earlier in the day. They had gone downtown to try to see a concert but it was a closed event. The two young men say they were surrounded by police because they carried peace signs on the Mall, something that apparently was illegal at that particular hour on that particular Sunday, and the two thought they were going to be arrested. The march was over so they ditched the signs. They say that out of the blue, the cops went into the crowd and dragged away a boy, “about nine,” for no apparent reason. They assume the kid was taken to the detention center/old warehouse. (There is nothing in the news later about a boy getting detained.)

We don’t see any celebrities.

Lunch time on the Mall is crazy with people – conventioneers, protesters, reporters, and cops – many, many cops. A young man wearing a yellow T-shirt, and appearing to have something to do with the antiwar marchers, speaks into a walkie-talkie: “Come in Boner. This is Hard-on. Calling Boner.” He sprints after the marchers, trying to catch up.

[To the right, your intrepid reporter strolls past bored policemen.]

People are taking pictures of the cops and protesters. Some get right in the face of the cops and snap a shot. The officers who look like blue-uniformed Star Troopers (helmets with visors, bullet-proof vests, cradling serious weapons) are especially popular with the photographers.

The conventioneers sport lapel badges or lanyards with convention ID (Arena, Perimeter, Hall, etc.) and wear T-shirts that say things like “Barack Star,” or are over-dressed (for August in Denver) in suits, ties, high heels. Two older women walk by carrying Hillary Clinton signs. They are lost in conversation and appear oblivious to the multitude of Obama signs, buttons, posters, and T-shirts that are hocked from kiosks and tables strung out along every block of the Mall.

Protesters sport T-shirts; black primarily, but there are other colors, and many with a message: “No War For Empire,” “U.S. Out of Iraq Now!” “Books Not Guns” is my favorite.

A troop of mounted cops rides by, following a protest march. The horses have visors and protective head gear; is this in case the tear gas flows backward? Red flags flap in the mid-day heat; the marchers chant antiwar slogans “One, two, three, four. Peace is what we’re marching for.” I stand on a corner to watch the unfolding scene and have to conclude that the cops and reporters heavily outnumber the protesters. The marchers veer off the Mall toward the Federal Courthouse. I follow and mix with dozens of cops in small groups, waiting. A group of cops is putting on armor – bullet-proof vests. A cop in another group shrugs at them and spreads his arms, as if to say, “What are you doing?” I hear one cop in the first group say to another, “Just helmets and clubs” and he uses hand signs to indicate that his group should take off the armor.

There are several protesters and multitudes of cops at the old Federal Courthouse; lines of cops in helmets and armor, carrying impressive-looking guns and rifles and very long truncheons; another group of cops on horses, a few on bicycles. Some of the cops march off in organized fashion, like a drill team at practice; others mill about, waiting. Two young black men dressed in yellow coveralls and black hoods follow a squad of cops, and a bystander says, “I wouldn’t mess with a bunch of guys in bulletproof vests carrying automatic weapons.” A man talks into his phone – “at the Federal Courthouse, but it’s quiet.” A woman tells her friend, “Nothing’s going on.”

My lunch hour is over and I walk back to my office. (Later, I learn that the protesters gave a water boarding “demonstration” and that several of the protesters wore yellow jail uniforms and black hoods as a protest against the continued violations of human rights at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.)

Again, no celebrities.

About a hundred protesters were arrested last night near the Civic Center; pepper spray was used. The cops say the crowd refused to disperse and was coming at the cops after being ordered to stop. The protesters say the cops attacked without warning or saying anything. There's a video of the event here - judge for yourself.

Meanwhile, inside the Pepsi Center, Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy celebrated the transition of power within the Democratic Party, while the pundits speculated about how the Clintons will handle the loss of power. Three powerful political families, each at a different stage in their political lives. Historical.

The Mall is heavy with pedestrians but I also get the feeling that the delegates have learned that there is more to Denver than the 16th Street Mall. The day is hot and dry. I hear someone say, “It’s just the next couple of weeks that are nice.”

There are fewer cops on the Mall. The overbearing high security paranoia appears to have been relaxed. Maybe the previous night’s theatrics appeased the adrenaline jones carried by cops and protesters alike.

Tuesday seems to be the day for wackiness. A large white truck waits at an intersection. There is a huge color photo on its side, which I don’t look at for long. A sign on the truck says: “Abortion is an Obama Nation.” A couple of long-haired, tattooed young men eye the driver. One says, “Should we go drag him out of his truck?” The other says, “You notice he has his window rolled up.”

At the next corner, a woman carries a sign: “Democrats – Stop Bird Porn.” Further along, two men are handing out Bird Porn pamphlets. One shouts through a bullhorn – “McCain is a bird watcher. Stop bird porn.”

A line of people stretches down the sidewalk. They are waiting for T-shirts, and then to have their pictures taken. The T-shirts say “Tacos for Obama,” “Burritos for Obama,” “Nachos for Obama.” I finally figure out that it’s a promotional gimmick for Qdoba and that the pictures are for the company website. I might have waited in line for a T-shirt that said “Chile rellenos con frijoles, arroz, y tortillas de maíz for Obama.”

I end up in a restaurant where I sometimes do eat chile rellenos, but today I order a chicken sandwich with chipotle BBQ sauce (allegedly). The crowd is a bit smaller than usual, so it doesn’t look as though the DNC has had a positive economic impact on the place. There is one difference – rather than the telenovela or Mexican music video that is usually playing on the television that sits on the bar, I watch the CSPAN2 broadcast of film from the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, without sound. It’s an unreal situation. The restaurant staff is too young for the film to register, and when they do stop to look at the screen, it’s with bemused grins. LBJ goes on for several minutes, quite animated about something. The podium sign says Biltmore Hotel and LBJ is surrounded by dozens of white men and a few white women, who occasionally give him what looks like polite applause. Perhaps it’s a press conference. The camera angle changes and I recognize RFK, who looks bored. It is an eerie moment. RFK in the city where he would eventually die watches LBJ, who also has died, and who finally steps aside for JFK, another dead man. Kennedy is looser than Johnson, more friendly, and the spectators laugh as JFK flashes his famous smile. He is brief and when he quits, LBJ looks surprised; he wears a sheepish grin as he shakes JFK’s hand.

No celebrities.

It's the day after Hillary has united the party and brought peace to all things Democratic with her clever and passionate speech on Tuesday night. Tonight her husband takes the stage and I'm sure there's a prayer being said by more than one Democrat big-shot along the lines of, "Please don't screw it up, Bill."

My trek along the Mall reveals nothing really new. A street performer stands still for several minutes and "portrays" a statute of a Colorado Rockie. Not all that exciting. A pickup truck decked out in red, white and blue bunting passes by. In the truck's bed is a giant cardboard cut-out of Obama standing in what is supposed to be a glass container. A sign on the truck says ObamaInABottle.

I stroll over to the Convention Center where DNC caucuses and smaller meetings are taking place. In the shadow of the Big Blue Bear I find cops (of course), and vendors (of course). Fourteenth Street in front of the Convention Center is a busy place and it is here that I pick up my first DNC souvenir - a cardboard pen from Coca-Cola Recycles. But the pen has no reference to the DNC, Obama, or the election, so it's not really a souvenir, is it?

The McCain camp has noted that Barack Obama is a celebrity, and there are many entrepreneurs who are willing to make a buck or two off that fact, including the Democratic Party. The official Democratic Party Merchandise Tent is across the street from the Blue Bear. This is where you can find several different T-shirts, badges, pins, pennants, etc., all sanctioned by the Party as legitimate. I was ready to buy an Obama bobble-head doll for $24.95, to add to the figurines that sit on the top shelf of my home office desk (Cheech and his giant bambú; three of the Homies bobble-heads, several Transformers and super heroes that I share with one of my grandsons, and so on), but the slow-moving line of customers stretched around the inside of the tent, and I had neither the inclination or the time to wait around.

More vendors have established themselves on the sidewalks. For many people, this convention is nothing if not about making a buck. The unofficial T-shirts include slogans like "McCan't," and a few of Michelle Obama framed in pink, to emphasize her femininity, I assume. There's a nice looking shirt that brings together Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. The slogan is something about a dream.

I quit looking for celebrities.

Wednesday was quite a night for Democrats, wasn't it? The protesters also had a big night. Rage Against the Machine played a free concert and then the crowd of about 4,000 marched to the Pepsi Center, led by antiwar vets. The three demands are reported as: Out of Iraq immediately; complete health benefits for returning vets; reparations to the Iraqi people. Apparently the Obama camp has agreed to meet with representatives of the marchers, to give them a chance to officially air their grievances. The three points sound right to me. I hope Obama listens.

The Mall is abuzz with talk about Obama's upcoming acceptance speech at Invesco Field. Everyone is told to arrive early. The speech is scheduled for 8 - 9 PM but the folks I know who will attend are on their way to the field by 1 at the latest. Traffic, security, etc. Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, and Will I. Am are scheduled to entertain, among others, so I guess waiting in the football stadium for eight or nine hours won't be too bad.

There are more protest marches and alternative political gatherings today: marches supporting immigrant rights, marches against the war, marches to legalize marijuana. The news reports of these marches congeal into quick, fading images that float away like photographs dropped in a fast-moving stream. The commentators say that Chicago, 1968 was not re-created, "that chaos was avoided in Denver, thankfully." The politicians are quoted as concluding that it's been an exciting but relatively quiet week and that Denver has done a marvelous job; a reporter says that the protests have "diminished;" and one policeman remarks that the last evening has been a "calm ending to a good week."

I drive home from work across quiet streets. The crowds are gone, tucked away in Invesco, waiting for the man. The freeway is closed, so there is no rush hour. After the crowds and fevered stimulation of the previous days, I feel like I'm driving in a post-apocalyptic city, looking for signs of any other human being. But the radio reassures me that the masses are in the football field, and that the people are loud, boisterous and partying. I get a grip and appreciate the quick drive home.


As I conclude these notes it's about an hour before Barack Obama is scheduled to make his acceptance speech on August 28. It's hard not to get carried away with the excitement of the night. This is an historical, important event, happening on the anniversary of the historical "I Have A Dream Speech," which serves to emphasize the importance in case we do not get it. I allow myself the thought that the Democrats have probably over-played the night. Football stadium? Hours of speeches and popular music? A set so pretentious that it easily has become the butt of jokes before the speech has even been given.

But, hope is the key word tonight. Obama has raised expectations, and I assume that the remaining few months before the election will reveal more about his plans to meet those expectations. Tonight, the thousands of people in Invesco Field and millions watching on their televisions or computers are ready and willing to be moved, to reach for the dream and the promise, to let their hardened hearts be taken over by rhetoric and political poetry and visionary ideals. We can only hope.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

De Chicago y Nuevo Mexico and a Cautionary Word


recognizing the best books in New Mexico & the Southwest
Mission: To promote and recognize great books published in the Southwest and New Mexico. Uncovering the best in New Mexico's books (and the entire Southwest)! The purpose of the New Mexico Book Awards is to honor great books from New Mexico and the Southwest. Each year, the New Mexico Book Awards Program honors special New Mexico authors/publishers for their special contributions to New Mexico's book community. In 2008, the New Mexico Book Awards will present Friends of New Mexico Books Awards to Denise Chavez (Las Cruces) and David Morrell (Santa Fe) for their support of local New Mexico books. In 2007, Tony Hillerman (Los Ranchos) and Rudolfo Anaya (Albuquerque) were honored with the Friends of New Mexico Books Awards.

Reservations New Mexico Book Awards Banquet

The banquet for the 2008 Book Awards will be on November 21 at the MCM
Elegante Hotel in Albuquerque. The winners will be announced at the banquet (finalists will be announced in late September). Last year the banquet tickets were all sold out by October 1. Reserve your tickets early and guarantee a seat. The cost is $36 per person if paid for by October 15; after October 15 the price goes up to $46 per person. The hotel is offering a discount on rooms for any attendees. The room rate is $79 for two.

This includes free breakfast for two people and two fee
cocktails from the Hotel bar. Mention “New Mexico Book Awards” when making your reservation. The hotel is at 2020 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107 (505) 884-2511. For more information, go to the NM Book Coop website at: THANK YOU to Paul Rhetts and NM Book Coop for all their hard work and true devotion to literature, writers and readers!!


Where: Memorial Park Public Library 3200 Copper Avenue, El Paso, TX (915)
566-1034 Cost: Free, but donations accepted for the presenter
When: All events are Saturday afternoons from 12:45 to 2:45

Contact: Donna Snyder at 328-5484 or
Sept 6 and 13

Robin Scofield Art and Affection

Scofield is a respected poet and educator whose publication credits include
the Paris Review, the Texas Observer, Sin Fronteras, Border Voices, Rio Grande Review, and the Western Humanities Review among other literary journals. She has presented workshops and readings at the Border Book Festival, the Border Voices Festival, Bridge Center for Contemporary Art, UTEP, and EPCC. She has participated and volunteered in the Tumblewords Project for over twelve years, and regularly attends the poetry workshop at San Miguel de Allende.

Sept 13
Sept 20 Nancy Lorenza Green
Tumblewords Poetry Compilation.
Nancy Lorenza Green, M.Ed. is an Afro-Chicana performance and recording artist from El Paso and Cd. Juarez who uses poetry, percussion instruments and flute music as mediums of communication and cultural expression. Nancy has recorded three cds: Music From the Heart, Life Is Sacred, and a Tumblewords poetry compilation. Her poetry has been published in Border Senses, Chrysalis, Newspaper Tree, and Mujeres de Maiz Zine 5& 6. Nancy is the recipient of the 2006 Art & Entertainment Hispanos Triunfadores award and the 1999 Que Bonita Familia Homenaje a la Mujer award.

Sept 27 THE BIG READ: Sun, Stone and Shadow 20 Great Mexican Short Stories

In collaboration with El Paso Library’s Big Read program, Tumblewords
Project will host a discussion of an anthology edited by Jorge Hernandez, published in June of this year by Fondo de Cultura Economica USA. The collection presents twenty short stories by the finest Mexican authors born in the first half of the twentieth century, including Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes, and was created specifically for use in The Big Read. El Paso Library will be one of two libraries nationwide to present an event in Mexico as well as the US. Other writers included in the collection include are Salvador Elizondo, Jose Revueltas, Elena Garro, Francisco Rojas Gonzalez. Martín Luis Guzman. Edmundo Valades, Sergio Pito, Ines Arredondo, Juan Garcia Ponce, Juan de la Cabada, Efren Hernandez, Francisco Tario, Juan Rulfo, Rosario Castellanos, Alfonso Reyes, Juan Jose Arreola, Jose Emilio Pacheco, and Jorge Ibarguengoi.

Save the date of Saturday, October 18 for the Release party of the CD, La
Concha de La Tortuga, a collaboration between artists Nancy Green, Ricardo Valencia, Denise Chavez, Corina Gabaldon and Kris Wroblewski. The project began at an Origens of World Music workshop by Nancy Green for the Even Start Family Literacy Program through the Las Cruces Public Schools under the direction of Corina Gabaldon. Denise Chavez and Corina Gabaldon were given a turtle conch shell and a pair of deer antlers with instructions to go at it. From this workshop emerged a creation myth about the origens of the world featuring Mother Turtle. Following this, Nancy Green wrote a grant to the City of El Paso Arts Program and musicians Ricardo Valencia (originally from Mexico City) and Kris Wroblweski joined the collaboration to create the story of Emergence, Migration and Return with original music by Nancy Green, Corina Gabaldon and Kris Wroblewski, with a text by Denise Chavez and Corina Gabaldon. The CD will be available through the Cultural Center and from the artists as well at other area locations. More information forthcoming!! For the real scoop, contact La Jefa/La Mera Mera Nancy Green at:


In a time of less and less support of literacy and literary discourse, we have this information to share with our readers:

Concerning Oscar Villalon's leaving as book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Sad news but symptomatic of what's going on with book review section. Oscar is (was) one of maybe two Chicano newspaper book review editors. Here's an interview from Critical Mass where he does talk about how unusual this is:

Lisa Alvarado

Can you Imagine? ¿Te imaginas?: Beautiful Bilingual Books for Children

by Monica Brown

This article was published by Reforma Newsletter.
For more information visit

Can you imagine flying though the air on a magic carpet? Can you imagine a trail of yellow butterflies fluttering their wings to songs of love? Can you imagine gold and silver fish swimming in air? Once, there was a little boy named Gabito, who could.

¿Te imaginas cómo sería volar en el aire en una alfombra mágica? ¿Te imaginas una fila de mariposas amarillas aleteando al son de canciones de amor? ¿Te imaginas peces dorados y plateados nadando en el aire? Había una vez un niñito que se llamaba Gabito, que sí podia.

I like to say that I write magical multicultural books for children, and not just because of my picture book on Gabriel García Márquez. After all, what could be more magical than showing how beautifully different languages can be put in the service of captivating storytellers? What could be more magical than demonstrating how much we share in common though our first languages might be different? What could be more magical than creatively exploring the ways so many of us have blended vastly different traditions? Find beauty in being mixed?

Storytelling is not limited to one voice, one rhythm, one cadence. Language joins us together, and nothing more so than multi-lingual texts. I have had the joy of seeing this first-hand when children—and even adults—respond to my Spanish-English bilingual books. So why write multicultural, bilingual books for children? Here’s how I begin to answer this question.

Because. . . bilinguality should be celebrated, not denigrated! Books open minds—let children’s writers and illustrators lead the way in acknowledging the linguistic and cultural diversity of our nation’s children.

Because. . .the best of bilingual, multicultural literature encourages children to not only be proud their American heritage, but to think of themselves as citizens of the wonderful wider world.

Because. . .bilingual, multicultural books help teachers, librarians, and their students bridge their differences and understand each other across cultures, languages, and traditions.

Because. . .bilingual books offer a unique opportunity for children to share the experience of reading literature and with their parents and grandparents, across language divides. A first generation latino/a born in the United States, fluent in English for example, can share a literacy experience with a Spanish-speaking grandmother, for example.

Because. . .surprisingly, bilingual Books can help adult English language learners, because of the bilingual text on each page. Adult learners are often more inspired by the lyricism, poetry, and fun to be found in children’s books than the traditional textbooks. I’ve been told that my book, My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz, has been used as a teaching tool by our local literacy volunteers.

Sugar! My voice is strong, smooth, and sweet. I will make you feel like dancing. Close your eyes and listen. My voice feels like feet skipping on cool wet sand, like running under a waterfall, like rolling down a hill. My voice climbs and rocks and dips and flips with the sounds of the congas beating and the trumpets blaring.

¡Azúcar! Mi voz es intensa, suave y dulce. Te dará ganas de bailar. Cierra los ojos y exchucha. Mi voz se siente como unos pies que resbalan en la arena mojada, como correr bajo una cascada, como bajar por una loma. Mi voz trepa y se mece y sube y baja al ritmo de las tumbadoras y el sonido de las trompetas.

Much more fun than a textbook, don’t you think?

Imagining and creating beautiful bilingual books is very personal for me. I am a California-born Latina raised by a South American mother and a North American father and it has been a gift to be able to write multicultural books for children. Who is Gabriela Mistral? Celia Cruz? Pelé? What did Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez fight for? I write about these inspiring Latinos because I want all our children to know. I feel sure that their understanding of the literature, art, and history of the Americas will be richer for it. From chewing gum, chocolate and potatoes, to salsa music, murals, and magical realism, Latino/as, nosotros mestizos, have left an indelible mark on the Americas, North and South. Let our children’s books rewrite history to acknowledge these accomplishments.

As our field becomes increasingly diverse, it is time for children’s writers and illustrators to explore our unique histories and common joys. Let’s celebrate the beauty of bilingualism and the cyclical nature of human migrations. In my book Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas en la Calle Carmen, little Juliana learns about the migration of monarch butterflies from her Michoacan-born grandfather. When the time comes to let her own butterfly go, she thinks of:

Flying off into the sky, toward Abuelito’s magical Mexico, where the air is warm and the trees shimmer with golden butterfly wings. Sometime, in the future, I will fly away too. . . .

Volando hacia el cielo, hacia el México mágico de Abuelito, donde el viento es cálido y los árboles brillan con las alas de oro de las mariposas. En el futuro, yo también volaré. . . .

It is, after all, through storytelling, the telling and hearing, that we celebrate the ways we are linked, connected through language, history, and our common humanity.

Monica Brown is the award-winning author of My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz(Luna Rising), My Name is Gabito: The life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/Me Llamo Gabito: La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Luna Rising); Butterflies on Carmen Street (Piñata); and the forthcoming Pelé, King of Soccer/ Pelé, El Rey de Futbol (HarperCollins Rayo); and Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (HarperCollins Rayo).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review: Falling Angels

Angel lintel. Diego Rivera. Secretaria de la Educación Publica. DF. Foto Msedano.

Olga Garcia Echeverria. Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas. San Diego: Calaca Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-9717035-6-8/ $14.00+S/H / Perfectbound/ Flipbook (one side stories/one side poetry)/ 136 pages total. Cover and illustrations by Ricardo Islas.

Michael Sedano

Some readers are never satisfied, including me. When Calaca Press brought out its spoken word CD, “Raza Spoken Here, Poesia Chicana Volume 1” Olga Angelina Garcia Echeverria’s captivating reading of her “Meztli Chingona” and “Sonia on Hope Street” weren’t enough for this listener. I complained that a printed companion would have made “Raza Spoken Here” a perfect literary achievement. Garcia’s unique voice and characters stand out in a stellar collection.

Later that same year, 1999, when Calaca released “When Skin Peels,” featuring Elba Rosario Sanchez and Olga Garcia, the jewel case included a printed insert offering all of the CD’s poetry. I complained that the microscopic type size makes reading impossible without a magnifying glass. But what a completely satisfying experience, to hear these two poets and be able to follow along, as one might follow an orchestral score of a great symphony, just for the awe of watching its grandeur unfold.

Calaca, in conjunction with Chibcha Press, have now laid to rest those complaints. Their 2008 collection of Olga Garcia’s poems and stories publishes for the the first time those beautiful pieces from “Raza Spoken Here Vol 1,” and reprints in legible type with ample white space a substantial number of Garcia’s work from “When Skin Peels.” If you were fortunate enough to buy the CDs, both now out of print, you owe it to yourself to own Falling Angels so as to experience to the fullest Garcia’s arresting poetry and characters.

Falling Angels’ poetry is only half the story. Flip over the poetry book and read a handful of intriguing short fiction, much of it humor. The first story, “The Disappearance” offers a sad and multi-level account of its title event. A neighbor woman, somewhat the local harridan, mysteriously vanishes, her car found later abandoned. At the same time, a street person named Zelma has taken up daily residence at a bus stop. When the vendors attempt to run her off, Zelma fights them into a humiliating truce. When, one day, Zelma fails to appear, the mango vendor asks, “Who’s Zelma?”

There’s a saying about people who attempt to whitewash their identity. Such a person can put on airs, talk all fancy and dress muy mainstream, but one look at their indio face tells the whole story—you can’t escape who you are con el nopal en la frente. Self-denial is oft termed selling out, or vendido. To me, that’s too strong a charge and I prefer to designate such people as vencidos, gente beaten down into cultural submission. Garcia has a lot of fun with a story of one such fellow’s cultural redemption. A vencido returns home after an extended absence. His tía regañars him for being mean to his departed abuelo, mean to his suffering mother, and generally being a bad son. Nature treats him like a chicano-Mexicano Gregor Samsa. He is transformed into an enormous nopal. At first, the fellow grows a nopal en el frente. Literally. A cactus grows out his forehead, then tunas. Finally, the man has become a useful member of the community—his pencas and tunas are delicious.

The prose collection in Falling Angels includes a bizarre funeral in “Death of a Kleptomaniac” that highlights Garcia’s outrageous imagination, likewise her “Assault with a Deadly Donut.” One of my favorites, reprinted from The Calaca Review: La Revista Calaca, is Garcia’s hilarious “Ana Leticia Armendáriz: Matando cucarachas.” Readers will find great fun in reading “Matando cucarachas” in tandem with the poetic piece, “Conversation Between Two Dead Bilingual Roaches.” Do the rich offer roaches a better death?

Much of Garcia’s poetry work is just plain fun to read, “Lengualistic Algo,” being the best example. A hilarious, pissed-off satire offering gems of expression such as

I've already eaten the thin white skeletons
of foreign words
choked on the bones of Inglés Only,
learned the art of speaking in codes
and code switching,
learned to spit palabras
out of boca abierta
like bullets

More of Garcia’s work explores the poet’s image of a womanly ideal. Meztli, Mamá Azucar, and the unnamed persona of “Beso” offer up a “toda mujer” for whom the term “liberated,” seems so tame and misleading, but “nihilistic” perhaps dangerously misleading. I might heed MacLeish’s conundrum that poems should “not mean but be” and simply enjoy Garcia’s work. But I would love to have teenagers and young adults read and think about some of these women.

Meztli—full name Meztli Chingona—lives pura carpe diem, life to its fullest,

You turn the tide red
turn tough illiterate colos
into poets

Mamá Azucar has a scandalous reputation in the apartment house, drawing tsk-tsks of chismosas and object lesson of outraged morality.

Didn’t matter what Simón
or anybody else said
Mamá Azucar was the only woman
in the building who didn’t have a man
yelling at her

What Garcia suggests about woman’s freedom in apostrophe or third person takes its own voice in “Beso.” The kiss of the title is a metonymy for one woman’s life and choices, consequences be damned.

this kiss
tired of Sunday mass
and pleated skirts
has painted herself rojo
burning orange
bruised purple pressed
against cold mirrors
and warm faces

Consequences, indeed, lurk in the background—the bruised purple. Ultimately, nothingness resolves itself into mere existence, and for this woman, that seems to be more than enough.

she’s disappeared

but she comes back every time
like an endless mambo
a full grown woman
in bare shoulders and bangles
all fucked up and beautiful
dancing beneath a raining showerhead
cold water on hot skin
she steams
splits herself open
like a ripe pomegranate

she breathes

Four poems titled “Vuelo” offer a counterstatement to those lives. The first Vuelo has a little girl daydreaming out the window of her mid-rise apartment. Her mother warns her against falling out—the vuelo of the title—but looking out into the urban landscape the little girl dreams that she would exit the window in flight,

They didn’t know it but
she had already fallen
226 times
. . .
her flight was always
and elegant
body gracefully ascending
arms and shoulders opening softly
into wings

In the second “Vuelo,” Rosie, a woman who, perhaps having tired of the excesses of bare shoulders and bangles, or hopscotching kisses across shirt collars, has leapt to her certain death. In mid-vuelo Garcia recounts the woman’s instantaneous regrets. The powerful vision ends with a snapshot of her tumbling body seen from afar, she

Wanted to be
Blue silk

Vuelo three could be one of Rosie’s final thoughts.

she lost her memory in the wind
a cold gust of air swept
across her hair rose
danced like angry fuego
en el viento

The final Vuelo poema comes as a dirge, a eulogy, sung at Rosie’s funeral. Imagine a gathering of weeping gente and what will you tell the children? Should they, like Mamá Azucar’s neighbors, admire her from afar, not heed Simón’s warnings about “two kinds of women”? Should they live with abandon, “La party girl / who smokes mota / and drinks too much tequila” like Meztli Chingona? No. Find your own place, the mourners hear,

mujer sembradora
suelta semilla
lo que llevas sembrado
bajo tu lengua
entre tu pecho
en tu puño
abriéndose como flor
mujer suelta
las flores moradas
mariposas blancas
tan blancas
que llevas
suelta la mascara
échala al río

The answer is there is no answer, other than what remains when the woman sows her seeds and lets go her masks. Puro choice. Obviously, it’s futile to extract “meaning” from poetry, especially when the poetry offers such richness and insight as the twenty-two titles contained in Falling Angels. The answer, clearly, is contact Calaca and order copies for yourself and all your friends.

As I noted, some readers are never satisfied. My only complaint about Olga Garcia Echeverria's latest work is the fact so much is reprinted from earlier editions. Olga, I want to say, find a way to write more! Your friends may be all forgiving--Garcia notes in her "Thanks" page separating the poetry from the prose, "Gracias to my family and all of the artists and allies who throughout the years have supported my work . . . tolerated my long hibernations and encouraged me to grapple with my words and finish this book."--but readers don't need to forgive, they need to read! And we can read only when you write. Adelante, Olga, otra!

Kansas Chicana Chicano Poets Earning Notice.

La Bloga friend Rigoberto Gonzales writes up the outstanding collection from Kansas City MO's Latino Writer's Collective, Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland, from Scapegoat Press, 2008. La Bloga reviewed the collection itself, in June. Note: the group's site seems to be broken right now. Here's the URL to their site:

Here's an excerpt from Rigoberto's interview with Latino Writer's Collective portavoz Linda Rodriguez:

Although Latinos thrive in every part of the U.S., not just along the coasts, it always seems to surprise people that Latinos have a long history in the Midwest. A project like this is an excellent reminder of that relationship, and of how Latinos also contribute to the cultural life of the country's "heartland." Can you discuss the genesis and history of this collective and how this project came to be? Can you also speak to the decision not to name an editor?

As you mentioned, there have been strong Latino communities in Kansas and Missouri for a hundred years or more, but no one elsewhere seems to know about them. The Latino Writers Collective came about because there were no local Latino writers (and hardly any nationally known Latino writers) giving readings in the area. Two of our members, Jose Faus and Angela Cervantes, came together with the hope of forming a supportive group for Latino writers. The rest of us coalesced around that tiny core. We always had the same mission, articulated at a very early stage--to support each other's writing efforts, to provide role models and instruction for Latino youth, and to provide an opportunity for the diverse voices of the Latino community to be heard. Early on, we set up the first of what we hoped would be an annual reading series, and while we were still in the throes of trying to do that, we decided we wanted to do the anthology. That series was hugely successful and continues to grow each year, and our first anthology grew out of it. Hence its title, which, like that first year's series, is Primera Pagina.

Here's that link again to read the full interview.

Denver Convention Chisme.

Don't forget to send your fotos, chisme, news, views to RudyG. Rudy's posting the next two Mondays during Daniel Olivas' vacation in the piney woods and granite massives of northern Califas.

That's the view for the last Tuesday of August 2008. August 31 marks my wife's 40th wedding anniversary to her first husband. Since I got married on my birthday, when next you hear from me, I'll be a year older and working on number 41. Tempus fugit. Yo! hymen hymenaeus. See you next week.

La Bloga welcomes your comments on this or any column. Click the Comments counter below right to leave your observations.

If you'd like an opportunity to do a guest column at La Bloga, please click here for details.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Novelist Michael Nava roars back into the literary world!

As readers of La Bloga know, Michael Nava not only has a distinguished legal career that includes, most recently, being a research attorney for California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, he is also an award-winning novelist of the Henry Rios mystery series. While Nava admits that his literary career has been on hiatus since 2000, next month he is coming back with a reading of his novel-in-progress at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society's offices in San Francisco. Nava is appearing with two Latina writers, Carla Trujillo and Achy Obejas, as part of the GLBTHS's Passing on the Pen literary series, which Nava and another board member put together. So, if you can, come on over to the reading and invite your friends, family and colleagues. Here is the information:

WHERE: GLBT Historical Society at 657 Mission Street, Ste. 300 (near 3d Street, just around the corner from Museum of Modern Art)

WHEN: September 9, 2008

TIME: 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.


Here is Nava’s description of the new book which is now in a complete first draft:

The novel is entitled The Children of Eve, and it charts the friendship between two 11-year-old boys, Jose Sarmiento and Mateo Flores, in the Arizona border town of Douglas where they meet in 1912, after each of them has fled revolutionary Mexico; Jose because his father was a supporter of the martyred President, Francisco Madero (pictured), and Mateo, a full-blooded Yaqui, as part of the Yaqui diaspora. The first section of the novel, called The Revolution, set in Mexico City, tells the story of the Mexican revolution, from the fall of Diaz to the murder of Madero, through the eyes of Jose and his father. The second section, called Exiles, tells the story of the extermination of the Yaquis by the Mexican government through Mateo's eyes and how the boys meet and become friends in Douglas. The final section, Arrivals and Departures, tells about the arrival in Douglas of a traveling theatrical troupe and its impact on the boys' lives and friendship. The character of Jose is based loosely on the early life of the silent film star, Ramon Novarro while Mateo is based loosely on my own Yaqui grandfather, Ramon Herrera.

For more information on Michael Nava, visit his new webpage.

◙ Fresh off the successful debut of Gronk’s stage sets for Ainadamar and the Santa Fe Opera, L2kontemporary will present a selection of recent work that explores the dynamic relationship the artist has with the operatic world. The scenes presented in the work reflect the artist’s “staged” world views, intuitively created in various mediums. Gronk’s sense of color and space, which has evolved over time, gives the work an exceptionally lush and rich quality. Please join Gronk for a discussion of his various recent projects (including Ainadamar) at L2kontemporary on October 22, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The exhibit will run from September 6 through October 11. Reception: September 6, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Gallery hours: Thursday through Sunday, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. or by appointment. Also, if you wish to read about Gronk’s life and art, I strongly recommend Max Benavidez’s fascinating and well-research book, Gronk (CSRC/University of Minnesota Press).

990 N. Hill Street # 205,
L.A., CA 90012
phone: 323-225-1288
facsimile: 323-225-1282

◙ I just learned (from a double-secret source) that iconic Los Angeles artist and poet, Marisela Norte, will soon publish her first book of poetry, Peeping Tom Tom Girl (City Works Press), which has an official release date of September 30. I’m attempting to get my hands on a copy. Norte is a winner of the San Diego City Works Press's Ben Reitman Award. According to her publisher, with this debut collection, she “takes the reader on fantastic journeys into the heart and soul of what it means to be Chicana, human, a woman in 21st-century southern California.” Norte describes herself as a performance artist who writes most of her poetry on the No. 18 bus that takes her from East Los Angeles into downtown L.A. She has conducted readings and workshops throughout the United States and worked in collaboration with other notable artists, including Luis Alfaro and Diane Gamboa.

◙ Some exciting news from Luis Alberto Urrea’s website:

The Hummingbird's Daughter movie is officially revving up. Antonio Banderas, as I've hinted here, is playing Tomas Urrea. Ivana Barquero, from Spain (the young girl in Pan's Labyrinth) is playing Teresita. Full pre-production starts in November, with filming kicking off in March '09. Ought to make for an interesting Spring, since Into the Beautiful North comes out in hardcover in April. Luis Mandoki (Innocent Voices, The White Palace, When a Man Loves a Woman, Message in a Bottle) directs.

◙ My day job has me working on Spring Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The area has been invigorated (or resurrected, if you want me to be honest) by the influx of mostly young folks moving into the early-1900 business buildings that have been converted into lofts almost single-handedly by developer Tom Gilmore. So now there are coffee shops (such as my favorite spot, Lost Souls Café), restaurants, mini-grocery stores, Metropolis Books, tattoo parlors, and art galleries. One such gallery is the Museum of Neon Art housed at 136 W. 4th Street between Spring and Main Streets. I wandered in last week during a short lunchtime walk and was flooded with memories as I viewed many salvaged neon business signs that used to flash and buzz to Angelenos. But there were also newer art pieces many of which used neon as their esthetic center. If you visit the museum’s website, you may learn more about the museum and its hours as well as such fun neon adventures as the Neon Cruise which is a tour of all things neon from “classic movie marquees of downtown Los Angeles theater district to the glittering lights of Hollywood and the glowing pagodas of Chinatown.” Support your local galleries!

◙ There’s been some buzz around Piece of Mind, a documentary that follows the lives of four graffiti artists in Los Angeles as “they evolve from street tags to graffiti bombing to canvas art to gallery showings.” These artists come from different backgrounds, paint the same walls, and move on to jail, art school, and beyond as the culture clash of art versus vandalism meets them head on. The documentary, which is produced by The Tom Lynch Company, tracks the young artists "as they struggle to reach beyond the gangster-thug perceptions, and become artists in their own right, giving the world their piece of mind." To learn more about Piece of Mind, click here.

◙ My family and I will be on a well-earned vacation for the next two weeks. Thus, my Monday slot for September 1 and 8 will be ably covered by exquisite posts from other members of La Bloga. And if you missed Rudy's post from this weekend where he's La Bloga's very own political reporter in Denver, the site of the Democratic convention, go here. So, while I’m away, remember: ¡Lea un libro!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver's DNC, from a distance

La Bloga has no party affiliation--me, I'm indep.--but since it's in Denver like two of us, maybe it bears some blogging, even from afar. I'm on the other side of I-25, will work with 2nd graders this week and may only get a chance or two to jump on the bike and try to cross I-25, and get through the police's Anti-terrorism/Unfriendly-to-protesters Gauntlet to make any real blogging.

So far all I heard is that thousands of bricks were discovered under downtown Denver trash cans. Googled for it and found nothing. Maybe it's just an anti-protesters rumor started by whoever passes for COINTELPRO these days. Maybe they were put there by whoever can't get a hold of powdered anthrax anymore. Maybe nothing.

A young Denver gentry-type woman who somehow got onto the Terrorism Watch list was visited by dark suits. She was emptying her car of bricks for the landscaping she's doing of her yard. Haven't heard how the bricks are doing.

You can get a Classic Megastar talking/rocking doll at Walgreens just over Speer on Federal for $11.99. Take your pick of Obama, Hillary or that other one. (No Joe at this time.) It sings something supposedly funny to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. Just what you need to liven up that delegate fiesta that's dragging from only Coors being served.

None of our own to post yet, but you gotta check out the Denver Post's Sunday online home page, the first, biggest thing on the website. (I post it here for the purpose of analyzing the Denver press's political bias.) This kind of macho-posturing photo won't stop any terrorist or ultra-militant protest. It will scare off some peaceful protesters who'd rather avoid a nightstick beating. And it certainly doesn't portray the kind of state that serves to protect the right to democratic dissent and protest. Lastly, it'll probably play havoc on the bottom lines of Downtown Denver businesses, though.

You might need an ACLU Bustcard, in English or Spanish, in case you get arrested, sent to Gitmo, waterboarded--try to keep it dry--or otherwise detained. Go here for your very own:

A Friday Denver Post article entitled, "Police to be friendly but firm with crowds" has Mayor Hickenlooper explaining that, " If Denver police see the potential for violence or destruction brewing during the Democratic National Convention, they have been trained and instructed to swarm in and take down troublemakers with immediate and direct force. [emphasis added]

Apparently the Mayor has pulled back the welcome mat for anybody who appears to have merely just the potential for violence. So, this week all tourists should be careful about their appearance. When you pull out a tire iron to fix that flat, wield it like an ice cream cone, not a sword. Try not to appear too angry about LoDo parking rates and snap back at anyone. That might constitute potential.

The chances of anthrax powder hitting the convention this week are slim. [20,000 instances of suspicious white powder in the U.S. mail since 2001 "and all have proven false."]

OTOH, we hear about real accusations of police brutality in this country every week. Mayor Hickenlooper appears to have set his national stage with the potential for violence by police, in the manner of pre-emptive Bush-style tactics, higher than it has been in some time. Maybe since Chicago, '68.

One of our readers just sent us this site where you can get the news mainstream media doesn't cover or covers so slantedly: Colorado IndyMedia. Looks great, and thanks, Clayton.


So, this week only, La Bloga is seeking news from on-the-floor or in-the-back-room Democratic National Convention attendees.

Got a rumor nobody else will post because it's unsubstantiated, but you just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time? Did you take a photo of a celebrity in a less-than-delegate-level-behavior moment? Did you accidentally pick up a copy of U.S. foreign policy for the next 8 years, and it's making you wonder?

If so, send it to[AT]cybox(DOT)com and if our lawyers say it won't land us in the DNC Detention Center, we may use it. Here's your chance to become famous, or at least posted for an Internet 15 seconds.

PLEASE only send Web-size photos, 300 dpi screen quality. Higher resolutions won't be useable.
All material will be credited, unless you prefer otherwise.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Death of the Stick Shift

Lately I’ve been waxing nostalgic, lamenting how fast things are changing, and sometimes not for the better. I’m no Luddite, I feel naked without my FauxBerry and start to shake and seize when I’m away from Facebook for more than four hours, but there is something so…romantic about those things that have been the same for dozens if not a hundred years. For example, I was at the post office the other day when the postmaster pulled out one of those ancient date stamps and began twirling the bands around until he arrived at the proper combination for that day’s date. The soft click of the rubber bands over metal throwing me back to childhood afternoons spent playing in my parents' office.

I had to say something. “Boy, those haven’t changed much have they? You would think they would have come up with some modern alternative that would break down every few weeks and necessitate the purchase of a new one.”

His response surprised me. “Do you know we’ve been ordering these from the same family-run company for a hundred years? In fact, they’re guaranteed for life. They repair or replace them forever.”

“Forever?” I was shocked. I mean, how much could one of those things cost? Ten, maybe twenty bucks? Repair them for life? These people would give LL Bean a run for their customer service dollar.

As I looked around our house that afternoon, I thought about the many things that were throwbacks to—if you’ll forgive the cliché—olden times: sewing needles, cast iron pots, natural paintbrushes. But my gaze fell on the driveway and the one throwback that I most fear losing to “progress”: my car’s manual transmission.

I love my Ford Escape but I had just found out that Ford is no longer making it in stick version, from this year forward they will all be automatics. In fact, when my husband went to replace his F-150 truck a few weeks later he discovered that they no longer even offer that with a manual transmission. I mean really, pick-up trucks and stick shifts go together like a house and its foundation, or a road map and squiggly lines (forget GPS’s for a minute…work with me here). Now only sports cars and big ass trucks (it’s a technical term, I swear) come in manual. I can’t tell you how distressing this is to me. Yes, I can switch to a European brand, but they are harder to get repaired up here in rural ass (another technical term, give me a break) Vermont, and it’s more the point that disturbs me.

Now, over the years I’ve happily made the switch from vinyl to cassette tape to CDs to MP3s (yes, I skipped right over 8-tracks…but if you want to buy some my husband has a couple dozen rotting in the attic that he can't seem to part with), I mean, I now carry 8,000 songs with me wherever I go and that makes me really happy, but this is different. The manual transmission serves a real purpose.

Have you ever driven a stick shift? Even when I was a kid I used to play with our newfangled (it was the 60s) single-handled kitchen faucet pretending it was a stick shift. Vrum, vrum, vrum, making sounds with my lips that vaguely approximated the roaring sound of shifting gears as I imagined the New Jersey scenery whooshing by me as I drove 120 miles an hour down Broad Avenue, the wind in my hair. Even now I feel that thrill exercising a certain level of control over acceleration and braking you just don’t have otherwise (have you ever tried to pass with an automatic? It is scary, people! Lurching forward and hoping you get in front of the car you’re passing before the Mack truck that’s bearing down on you hits you head on).

And then there’s the winter. Trust me, when it is icy and you don’t want to hit the brake hard (which you certainly don’t unless you have a death wish), being able to gently downshift really comes in handy. Yes, I know you can downshift with an automatic but it just isn’t as…I don’t know, subtle…finessed…fun. And I don’t care what the car salesmen tells you, if you drive a manual transmission responsibly (no peeling out of the parking lot, vatos!) you will use less gas.

I hope this doesn’t sound like one of those “When I was young we walked eighteen miles to school uphill through twelve feet of snow in the summer with newspapers tied to our feet and we didn’t complain!” kind of rants. I really welcome advances in technology, but what I’m saying is that it’s nice to have to do something by hand once in awhile, to be able to feel the purring of the engine as you ease it into fifth gear on that empty stretch of tree-lined highway. And I recognize that even the technology of the manual transmission itself has changed significantly, but to lose it forever? I just don’t know.

For me this issue ranks almost as high as the electronic book. Sometimes you just need to feel the road, or the pages. As they say up here in the North Country: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Books y Más

There's a nice (but short) interview at with Luciano Ramirez and Tonia Bustamante-Ramirez, owners of Latino Books y Más in Palm Springs, CA. Mr. Ramirez explains his motivation for the store, now in its fifth year, as : "I always wanted to work with books, and I've always read books in English by Latin American authors. We wanted to open a bookstore that looks like our house (and) carry books and things that Borders, Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart didn't carry." You can also watch a promotional video for the store at this link.

The store has scheduled Victor Villaseñor for a reading of Crazy, Loco Love (Arte Público, September, 2008) on October 25 at 2:00 PM. More info here.

While visiting Latino Books y Mas, or your favorite indie bookstore, you might look for Day of the Dead Crafts : More Than 24 Projects That Celebrate Día de los Muertos by Kerry Arquette, Andrea Zocchi, and Jerry Vigil (Wiley, 2008). No, it's not too early to start preparing for Día de Los Muertos, and this book offers many clever ideas including step-by-step instructions, ideas, and inspiration for a wide range of projects: calaveras; masks and skulls made from paper maché, gourds, and sugar; artistic ofrendas, or altars, to honor those who have passed; necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more. Jerry Vigil is a well-known Denver artist who has created some iconic pieces including his Zoot Suit series of muertos, so you can expect exceptional quality in these projects for the classroom, your home, or event.

The September Harper's Magazine carries a new story from Dagoberto Gilb, Willows Village. Gilb appeared in Harper's back in 2001 with Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Pocho Tours Mexico, an article that emerged from Gilb's well-known hassles with Texas Monthly. The new story contains a familiar Gilb character - the down-and-out Chicano trying to make the best of a bad situation, at risk of being his own worst enemy. But the story veers into unexpected territory, and the reader is treated to a fascinating study of human interaction at very basic levels. Desire (sensual and material) clashes with crude, almost mundane kindness, generosity, and jealousy. The story is satisfying without being over-indulgent and, as usual, Gilb's writing is crisp, clean.

I'd recommend getting a copy of Harper's just for Gilb's story. Of course, you will read more in the magazine, which also features a review of A Universal History of the Destruction of Books,by Fernando Báez (Atlas, August, 2008). By the way, Noam Chomsky said Baez's account of the massive and centuries old war against writing is “Impressive. . . The best book written on this subject.”

I hope you saw or get a chance to see the recent documentary, Writ Writer , directed by Susanne Mason, which aired on June 3 on PBS and is now making the art film/independent circuit. Dagoberto Gilb was involved in this project, too. The film tells the story of Fred Cruz, a different kind of hero of the Chicano Movement. Here's a quote from the film's website:

"WRIT WRITER tells the story of a self-taught jailhouse lawyer named Fred Arispe Cruz who challenged the constitutionality of prison conditions in Texas in the 1960s, and launched the state’s prisoners’ rights movement.

The film uses narration adapted from prison diaries, letters, legal pleadings, and courtroom testimony by writer Dagoberto Gilb (The Flowers, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña, The Magic of Blood, and Gritos) and performed in voice-over by actor Jesse Borrego (24, The New World, Blood In, Blood Out)."

Cruz's story is enlightening and presents a part of American history that was about to be lost. The interviews with the former wardens are amazing - unrepentant racists and brutes. I came away from the movie with an image of Cruz as a tough, intelligent man who managed to rise above his personal demons to actually change the world.

There's a good summary of Cruz's life here. And a trailer for the movie here. Watch it.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) will present their annual Writer of the Year Panel with authors Jeanne Stein, Mario Acevedo, Carol Berg, and Robin D. Owens at the Tattered Cover LoDo (Downtown) - 1628 16th Street, Denver, CO on September 4, 2008, at 7:30 p.m. The panelists will share their insights on how-to-get published, reveal tips on honing your craft, and illuminate questions that surround the world of publishing. This event is free and open to the public.

The announcement I received about this event said this about one of La Bloga's faves:
"Mario Acevedo is an RMFW 2008 Writer of the Year nominee and the author of the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series published by HarperCollins including: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, and The Undead Kama Sutra. Mario attributes his writing success to the support and advice provided by RMFW. Mario is currently working on translating his books into jive and

Keep on reading.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lost Girls, Eros and Fairy Tales

Lost Girls
Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie have created a groundbreaking work of genius in Lost Girls. Genius? Unequivocally, and absolutely, yes. It is a trilogy of supremely drawn, lush, graphic novels, but it is so much more than that.

Lost Girls brilliantly deconstructs three childhood female icons, Dorothy, Wendy and Alice. Moore and Gebbie create a universe where Oz, Neverland, and the Land through the Lookingglass are recast as a landscape for desire unbound, a landscape set in pre-World War I. This duo casts an unblinking eye on sexual desire, its myriad permutations, with every kink and taboo brought into the light. But rather than create the standard motif where woman is solely object of male desire, it takes those icons, flips the storyline to create a female centered erotic world where the women are the actors, rather than acted upon. In this universe, our heroines find each other, reveling in each other and their sexual past, with liberal lashings of fin de siècle plus, Colette, Apollinaire, Mucha, Wilde and Schiele.

Lost Girls is hallucinatory, elegant, and profoundly arousing, a masterpiece of more than one genre, apocalyptic in its intensity and its ultimate message. Do not allow yourself to be lulled into a sense of false security. Do not write off Lost Girls as a mere pillow book. Lost Girls is a stunning liberatory and cautionary tale.

After more than one read of this mind-blowing work, it's the ending that resonates at the deepest level, forcing the reader to look at the double edge sword of sexual liberation, what we use sex to feel or not feel, to see or not see, the erotization of violence. I have had only a few experiences that have so deeply challenged and excited me. Read Lost Girls, and I dare you not to be changed.

Top Shelf Comix
ISBN 1-891830-74-0


NALAC Receives $475,000 from the Ford Foundation

Grant to Support NALAC Fund for the Arts and a New Transnational Arts Fund

SAN ANTONIO – The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) has been awarded $475,000 from the Ford Foundation to support the NALAC Fund for the Arts and launch a new regranting initiative designed to promote intergenerational cultural transmission and community participation in the United States, Mexico and Central America.

NALAC, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2009, delivers important services to the national Latino arts and culture sector through a series of core programs. These programs include direct funding support, leadership training, regional and national convenings, and field research.

“It is an honor to receive this generous award,” says NALAC Executive Director Maria Lopez de Leon. “This grant will enable NALAC to provide much needed support to an innovative community of Latino artists and organizations whose work greatly enriches the cultural life of the nation and promotes understanding among culturally and economically linked populations in other communities in the Americas.”

The NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA), which was launched in 2005 with major support from the Ford Foundation and JPMorgan Chase, has awarded more than $379,000 in three years to 128 Latino artists, ensembles, and small and mid-size Latino arts and culture organizations. The grantees reflect every discipline and region of the country.

The new Transnational Cultural Remittance (TCR) initiative builds on NALAC’s longstanding leadership role in supporting artistic work that addresses issues of social justice, cultural transmission and economic empowerment. The TCR initiative will support the creation and dissemination of new artistic works that directly explore, engage and articulate the complex issues facing transnational communities in the United States, Mexico and Central America.

“We are thankful for the Ford Foundation’s continued support,” says Abel Lopez, Chair of the NALAC Board. “Through their partnership in programs such as the NFA, the Ford Foundation is making a difference in the quality of life in communities across the country. Through the Transnational Cultural Remittance initiative, we look forward to addressing serious cultural issues and creating new avenues for artistic, social and economic participation throughout North America and Central America”

The NALAC Transnational Cultural Remittance initiative builds on NALAC's experience administering the NALAC Fund for the Arts and its long-term commitment to empowering artists and arts and culture organizations working on issues vital to communities in the United States, Mexico, Central America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Guidelines for the new NALAC Transnational Cultural Remittances regranting initiative will be available later this year.

About the Ford Foundation: The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Russia.

About NALAC: Founded in 1989, NALAC is the only national Latino arts and culture service organization in the United States. It plays a vital role in fostering understanding, providing advocacy, conducting original research, creating networking opportunities, and providing leadership instruction that ensures the health and sustainability of the national Latino arts. NALAC’s core programs include the NALAC Fund for the Arts, the annual NALAC Leadership Institute, Regional Arts Training Workshops, the NALAC National Conference, El Aviso Latino arts magazine, and the monthly eBoletin online newsletter. NALAC is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.

Support: NALAC receives generous support from the Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Southwest Airlines, MetLife Foundation, Heineken USA, Texas Commission on the Arts, The Tobin Endowment, City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs, Tucson Pima Arts Council, PEC United Charities Inc., H-E-B, Our Lady of the Lake University, NALAC members, individual donors and volunteers.

For more information, call 210-432-3982, email or visit


Lisa Alvarado