Friday, July 31, 2009

Chicano Music Festival, Bilingual Review, Awards, Event


All events take place at Su Teatro's new space:
215 S. Santa Fe Drive, Denver

THURSDAY, AUG 6, 7pm - 9pm: Opening Night ($8) Su Teatro presents a special screening of the film Chicano Rock: The Sounds of East L.A. Hosted by XicanIndie FilmFest Director Daniel Salazar, and featuring guest commentators Pocho Joe (La Raza Rocks), Johnny "Ritmo" Rodriguez, and Joaquin Liebert (The Risk). Also, get a sneak preview of our annual auction!

FRIDAY, AUG 7, 7pm - 10pm: Noche Tradicional ($10) Musica de Colorado Hall of Fame inductions: folk musician Dr. Lorenzo Trujillo, radio pioneers David Gallegos and Paul Chavez, and KUVO's longstanding Sunday radio program Cancion Mexicana. Featuring performances by The Southwest Musicians and others. Also live and silent auctions.

SATURDAY, AUG 8, 6pm - 11pm: Pachanga! ($18) Pachanga madness returns with the best Chicano Rock and Roll in the state: Sangre Chicana, Next in Line, Johnny "Ritmo Rodriguez" y los Diamantes, and more! Exciting live auctions feature original artwork, resort getaways, spa packages, sports tickets, wine tastings, y mucho mucho mas!

SUNDAY, AUG 9, 5pm - 9pm: Mariachi Tardeada ($12) Enjoy a lovely summer afternoon with great mariachi music, food hot off the grill, and ice cold beer and margaritas. Maricachi Vasquez, Tony Silva and Trio Xochitl with Mariachi de las Artes.

Get a complete festival pass for only $35, or buy a Season VIP and get next year's festival pass plus 2 tickets/2 drinks for this year's festival, all for just $135. Call: 303.296.0219


A half-dozen titles (and blurbs) from the Bilingual Review Press Fall, 2009, catalog:

Anywhere But L.A.
Daniel Olivas

The stories in this collection range from contemporary narratives to more traditional cuentas de fantasma, giving readers a vivid and honest portrait of modern Latinos in search of their place in the world. Funny yet poignant, Olivas's characters frequently amuse, sometimes disturb, and often remind us of our own vulnerability. People who on the surface appear to be ordinary and uncomplicated reveal their deepest secrets and anxieties related to a variety of issues, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and the human condition in general. We are given a glimpse into the complex emotions and attitudes of characters who are trying to cope with the mysteries of life. These stories ring with humor, insight, and power, and, like the city they describe, they shift and slide and refuse to be pinned down as they drive the reader to the very core of human existence through the colorful mural of a thriving Latino community.

Born in the Cavity of Sunsets
Michael Luis Medrano

Poet Michael Luis Medrano shows us life in Fresno, California, a city where one can never see the actual moment when the sun slips beyond the horizon because too many buildings block the view. The picture he paints is not always pretty. In edgy, sometimes angry verse, Medrano reveals a world of shadows and sacrifice. Never shying away from grim detail, he describes frustration, struggle, violence, and frief. But he also shows us light, hope and humor with a wry and refreshing voice. Through it all he remains sincere and versatile, letting the reader absorb intense emotion, from writhing agony to tender joy. Born in the Cavity of Sunsets is poetry for the people, from the initiated and well versed to the beginner who is just discovering the magic of a well-turned phrase.

Second Communion
Nash Candelaria

This memoir by renowned Chicano writer Nash Candelaria focuses on how and why he chose to become a writer. As he investigates his family's more than 300-year history in New Mexico, the author undertakes a more intimate journey that leads him to understand truths about himself: why he chose to become a writer and why he chose the topics he did. Part family history and part self-examination, Second Communion is a must-read for aspiring writers, those interested in Southwest history, and students and teachers of Chicano literature.

Simpáticos: San Miguel Stories
Elva Treviño Hart

Elva Trevino Hart introduces us to the people of San Miguel de Allende. Nestled in the eastern part of Guanajuato in Mexico's mountainous bajio region, the town has a mild climate and an accommodating culture that attract wealthy Americans and Canadians seeking relaxation and escape. In this picturesque setting, we meet a variety of well-to-do Anglo retirees: some are haunted by ghosts, others by their own pasts, some fine renewed meaning and purpose, and still others explore their sexuality. Witnessing it all are the maids of San Miguel, the women charged with making visitors' stays carefree and luxurious.The maids work magic to heal or redeem their employers, but sometimes the sorcery of others trumps their own. Simpáticos movingly describes two extreme socioeconomic conditions and reveals the universal journey we all ultimately share.

Not Myself Without You
Lourdes Vázquez

A working-class Puerto Rican family of the 1950s lives surrounded by spirits, ghosts, and witches, a result of incantations performed in their living room. Chronicling nearly two decades of the family's history -- including their occult activities -- the story involves characters who are centered in Puerto Rico but who move through the Caribbean, Central America, Spain, and New York as they are pulled by the economic, political, and social conditions of the times as well as by their own intense desires. Based on oral history and research, Not Myself Without You is the author's own memoir with a strong fictional twist.

The Scoundrel and the Optimist
Maceo Montoya

Nothing is easy when you are thirteen, and it's especially challenging when everyone thinks you're eight because you are tiny; your father is an abusive, tyrannical lout; your siblings are determined to strike out on their own to escape constant drunken rages; and your mother is deeply depressed. In The Scoundrel adn the Optimist we meet Edmund, a hapless but irrepressible redheaded teen whose magnificent strength of spirit makes him a giant among men. Despite roadblocks and bad advice, Edmund is determined to win the heart of Ingrid Genera and to become a great guitar player. But his most notable accomplishment is teaching his father, Filastro, the value of integrity and optimism.


Guillermo Saccomanno of Argentina and David Torres of Spain share the 2008 Premio Hammett Prize for the best crime novel in Spanish. Saccomanno's novel is entitled 77. The author dedicated the prize to his granddaughter and recalled that one of her great-uncles was one of the tens of thousands forcibly disappeared in Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship. David Torres won for Niños de Tiza. The award ceremony took place during this year's Semana Negra in Gijón, Spain. Also at this year's Semana Negra, Cuban writer Rodolfo Pérez Valero won First Prize for his short story Dioses y orishas (Gods and Orishas) The short story is about immigration, forced prostitution and mafias in Spain. This was the 5th First Prize for Perez in 19 years. A complete list of the Semana Negra winners can be found at this site.


Dance of the Flower Medicine - Danza Xochitl Pahtli
Featured will be curanderos from Cuernavaca, Mexico. On August 4th, the events will start with a Welcoming Ceremony at Cuernavaca Park hosted by the Sister City Council. This two hour event will include traditional dancers, singers, and drummers. Mayor Hickenlooper will present the opening. The following days will include speaking engagements throughout Denver and Lakewood. These events will also include events where the curanderos will offer healings and demonstrations. The events will end at Metro State College. The weekly events are free and open to the public. More information including a schedule of all events at this link.

Event Information Contact: Sofia Chavez-Federick 303-726-7119 Media Contact: Mavis Salazar, (720) 297-3522; e-mail:


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spanish Biographical Dictionary to be fully available online in 2010

From: ARS News

Spain’s Real Academia de la Historia (Royal Academy of History) will publish before the end of the year six volumes of the Spanish Biographical Dictionary, and within two years the remaining 44 volumes of the monumental work will be placed online so that the entire collection will be on the Internet probably in 2010.

“As soon as we have several volumes published, we will immediately ‘post’ the entire book on the Web. In this way, it will acquire a worldwide dimension,” said Academy director Gonzalo Anes, who added that the institution is publishing the Dictionary thanks to the sponsorship of the Marcelino Botín Foundation.

Anes also emphasized the Academy’s project to translate the Dictionary into English so that it can also be accessed online in that language. “Then, worldwide distribution will certainly be assured,” he said.

The Dictionary was a project that the Academy nurtured from its founding in 1735, but its complexity and the difficulty of communications delayed it for centuries.

The 50 volumes of the Dictionary, each of which consists of about 800 pages, and the more than 40,000 biographies it contains of personalities from all epochs of Spanish history “place Spain at the level of the most important countries of the world,” the director said.

The more than 40,000 biographies were made possible thanks to “the important collaboration” of 5,500 experts, among them a good number of Hispanic American historians and “Hispanicists from all over the world,” Anes added.

For the past six months, the Academy has posted on its Web page ( a preview of what the online Biographical Dictionary will be like.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup

By Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Publisher: Groundwood Books
Pub. Date: April 2009
ISBN-13: 9780888998811
Age Range: 4 to 7


For people who have left their homeland for a new country, comfort foods from home take on a huge emotional importance. This delightful poem teaches readers young and old how to make a heartwarming, tummy-filling black bean soup, from gathering the beans, onions, and garlic to taking little pebbles out of the beans to letting them simmer till the luscious smell indicates it’s time for supper. Jorge Argueta’s vivid poetic voice and Rafael Yockteng’s vibrant illustrations make preparing this healthy and delicious Latino favorite an exciting, almost magical experience.
A note from José Luís Orozco


I am writing to give you an exclusive sneak preview of, an on-line community where Spanish-language/bilingual educators and parents can connect and exchange ideas concerning the educational needs of Latino youth. We've been working on the website for a while now and I am excited to announce that we will be publicly launch it before Back to School. Our goal is to create the world's best on-line resource for Latino educators and families.

You can use to:

* Create a profile and meet other people who are passionate about bilingual and dual-language education
* Share videos, photos, lesson plans and experiences
* Keep up to date on conferences and events
* Interact with prominent Spanish-language authors, musicians, academics and thought leaders

Por favor, visit us at and join the conversation around bilingual education!!

El poder de la palabra
Libera a la gente
Aqui la vamos a usar
Aqui decimos PRESENTE.

Jose Luis Orozco

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fourth Sunday of the Month Poetry Reading. Grrr....

Michael Sedano

Luis Rodriguez & Friends Read at La Palabra

Fourth Sunday of a month, Avenue 50 Studio and Gallery Director Kathy Mas-Gallegos opens its doors and ears to poetry. The recent event featured memoirist poet Luis Rodriguez and a lively Open Mic session in a worthwhile afternoon.

People arrive early to chat with friends, others to find parking on near-by streets. Hint: Free parking. Take the drive between the light rail line and the Avenue 50 Studio building to find ample parking.

Here artist Joe Bravo chats with open mic performer Henry Chavez.

Don Newton and Laura Longoria co-host the event, sharing various announcements to launch the day's performances, and introducing each writer as she or he steps to the lectern area to share one or two pieces.

Here, Longoria makes sure all open mic'ers are on the list. Photographers will note the hard backlighting coming through white curtains. Since flash can be a distraction to readers and audience, I open the lens two stops to challenge the setting. Mostly the images work well.

Luis Rodriguez reminds gente that his work and other writers comes from his Tia Chucha Press. In addition, Homeboy Industries publishes an arts magazine. Today's reading will take two parts. Before Open Mic time, Luis reads from work published in Homeboy Review.

Open Mic Readers Wow the House

Akira Yamamoto gives a rousing performance featuring a rhythmic, hard beat chanting style that I find arresting and delightful. Back some years, this would have been called "rap" or "rapping". Maybe young poets still use that term. It feels too inadequate, three letters only to encompass such power and attention-holding verse.

The lineup follows with quiet, serious, passionate readings. Some highly personal, others movimiento tinged but definitely contemporary. La Palabra is an exclusively aural delight, the artists do not sell or provide printed copies for gente like me who enjoy reading and listening. Maybe next month, a ver.

Maria Ruiz

Ron Baca.

Rafael Alvarado.

Antonio Sorcini.

Henry Chavez elects an interesting--and I think ill-advised--medium, a blackberry. The public performer wants to hold eye contact to produce a sense of immediacy and personalize the presentation. Henry struggles to read the tiny screen giving little attention to listeners struggling to give his work an unencumbered hearing.

Henry Lozano.

Don Newton.

Two highlights of the Open Mic session, for me, included "rapper" Yolanda Androzzo, whose Emmett Till "rap" included a call and response section, a technique guaranteed to please audiences because it frees them from merely listening and allows them to become personally involved in the performance.

Another highlight came from, Mary Francis Spencer, who said something in her narrative that gave three listeners, Heriberto Luna, Rafael Alvarado, and Enrique Serrato, something to focus on. I caught the movement in my peripheral vision and swiveled to snap them so fully engaged in Mary Francis' speech.

When Open Mic concluded, Luis took the floor again, for a reading of "old stuff."

Rodriguez kept his audience engaged, such as Angela Penaredondo and Suzanne Lummis. Most Open Mic performers rewarded their audience with strong presentations, though some struggled to achieve a satisfying interaction. A clear difference between Rodriguez and some of the Open Mic readers is Rodriguez' planning, comfort with his own stuff, and experience doing readings.

The wrap-up to the reading were announcements and input from the house. Here David Diaz adds to the discussion.

Kathy Mas-Gallegos, acknowledges her guests, many of whom are regular attenders of La Palabra.

Don Newton and Laura Longoria conduct a wonderful afternoon of poetry and performance. A scattering of empty seats indicate there's space for you the fourth Sunday in August. Here Longoria finally relaxes as the audience adjourns to the refreshment table featuring cold water, fruit, cheese, crackers.

Since there is no charge to attend La Palabra, nor a fee for participating in Open Mic, the luscious spread proves the old adage wrong, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Yours for the gnoshing, snacking, scarfing, devouring, tragando. Check Avenue 50's website for details of La Palabra and the outstanding art exhibits Gallegos sponsors. As Rodriguez noted in his opening remarks, Avenue 50 Studio is a hidden gem that the LA Times ignores with regularity. Tell your friends, make the visit to all the shows.

Thank you Kathy and Don for your help identifying these poets. It's totally comforting to be in a public place where your hosts know your name. Clearly, it's not business but Love that makes La Palabra and Avenue 50 Studio special.

Shame, shame, shame, Obama.
U.S. military veterans have proved we can take a lot of crap and that's a good thing because career politicians, especially non-veteran tipos, dish out crap to veterans in heaping trucksful.

To the public, of course, these tipos pay elegant lip service, Henry Waxman and Barack Obama to name a pair. But they act either with empty gesture, or inimically to the nation's veterans.

Obama, for one, earns high dudgeon because he promised to bring transparency and respect for the nation's military veterans. Instead, he's dashed hopes of veterans who believed his campaign promises but witness instead steadfast support of the Bush status quo

Waxman has been boldly rapacious and dismissive. With Waxman's assistance, the Bush Veterans Administration gave away a prime parcel of veteran land to Waxman's wealthy Brentwood supporters. Waxman was asked by a Marine, a Chicano Vietnam veteran, why the congressman refuses to entertain petitions to rescind this land grab of property deeded "in perpetuity" to veterans. Waxman shrugged with a nonsensical riposte, "where do you draw the line?" He might as well have echoed Tolstoy's story, "All the Land a Man Needs." How much land does an injured veteran need? A hole six feet deep.

Obviously, I am a deranged veteran that I grow this outraged thinking about these two turkeys Obama and Waxman out-Bushing Bush and Cheney in their contempt for veterans. So I'll stop. You may wish to hear what other veterans say on this. Here's an outstanding blog and video on the land grab:

That's the final Tuesday of July, the month of the nation's independence, the Sotomayor hearing, the health care debate, the morass of Iraq and now Afghanistan--bring them home now! Dang, gente, if the VA and elected officials are going to take away land intended to care for the men and women who gave a leg, an arm, or a mind to war, and give that precious land for free to fat cats, then it's time to throw in the towel and stop creating injured veterans. OK, I won't get started again.

Thank you for visiting La Bloga on this Tuesday, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. Walter Cronkite used to say that.


La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and all daily columns. Click the comments counter below to share your views. As you saw Sunday from Olga, tatiana, and Liz, and yesterday, from Thania in Chile, La Bloga welcomes Guest Columnists. If you'd like to be our guest, click here to discuss your column idea.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thania's Chile travelogue & a reading by Rubén Martinez

by Thania Muñoz

(Today's installment by Thania replaces Dan Olivas's usual Mon. post. He needed to attend to family. See Thania's first installment about her visit to South America here.)

Santiago de Chile is very cold. It has rained a few times and the city has been dealing not only with the regular winter season flu, but also the infamous “swine flu” or whatever name they have given to it now. Officials have advised people to be careful, to take care of themselves and avoid crowded places.

Not a lot people have followed this advice; everyone is out and about, downtown stores are crowded and bars and restaurants haven’t lost that much business. I’ve been taking care of myself. I avoid crowded places, but I still walk the streets of Santiago every day.

It’s funny. Santiago hasn’t changed a bit. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to recognize places and people, but it hasn’t been that way; my friends say that I haven’t change a bit, either. I guess the three years since my last visit is not as long ago as I thought.

I arrived on a rainy morning at “my family’s” house. They received me with warm sopaipillas, a traditional Chilean snack or appetizer that is fried and made out of flour, lard, pumpkin and salt. It's traditional for Chileans to eat them during the winter season, especially when it rains, because they are warm and delicious. It compares to having a cup of hot cocoa and cookies for us back in the states.

Almost every day late in the afternoon we gather in the kitchen, waiting for the pastry to be taken out of the oil. Street vendors also sell them outside metro stops or at street corners, but as in most cases, homemade ones are exceptionally good. As I caught up with my family that morning, I had a few sopaipillas and a cup of warm tea.

The first time I went to Chile I lived with the Arteaga family for six months and after all the good times we spent together I now consider them my family. Back then they used to rent out rooms of their house to students from places like England, Haiti, Germany, Perú, Brazil and Chile.

Living with the Arteaga family is one of my most cherished memories. They taught me all there is to know about Chilean culture. The Arteaga sons were one of my many idioms--bad words included--instructors. I still remember how I used to write down words I heard in school and read the whole list to them when I got home. After a few laughs, they’d explained them to me with detail and examples. I’m a quick learner when it comes to idioms. Some easy ones include “flaite” or “cuico,” and some of the hard ones, “agarrar pa'l leseo,” “barsa,” “fome.” Any guesses?

The Arteaga family is originally from southern Chile, from a town called Los Angeles (yes, as in California), and during the summer I went on vacation with them to meet the rest of the family. Mr. Arteaga’s family has a “fundo” there, a house in the country or a rancho, with a brick oven, next to a river. I went during the summer so during the day everyone would go swimming or sunbathing at the river.

At night we sang, played the guitar and some of the older ladies even gave “cueca” lessons, Chile’s national dance. During this trip I ate and drank traditional Chilean food: warm “humitas” (similar to Mexican tamales) that are usually eaten with chopped tomatoes and sugar on top; drinks such as a homemade white wine mixed with blended strawberries, and “chicha,” a fermented drink made of grapes or other fruits.

When I started this post I didn’t intend to write about food, but being here has brought back all those wonderful memories. As of now, I’m almost done eating a cheese empanada, and later I’m going to Paseo Ahumada, a lively and crowded pedestrian street downtown to buy some sweetened warm peanuts. Enrique Lihn, a Chilean poet, has a wonderful book of poetry named after this street:

Que los que se paren,
en Ahumada con la Alameda,
escuchen si corre un poco de aire,
el relincho del caballo de Bernardo O’Higgins.

(Paseo Ahumada, 1983)
I’ll stop at this point and maybe hear the horse’s neigh.

Thania Muñoz
de Santiago

p.d.: Dieting is forbidden in Chile, I swear.


An Evening of Stories and Songs by Rubén Martínez,
Featuring Joe Garcia, with Ruben Gonzalez and John Schayer.

An evening of spoken word and music (with a band!)—material from my book-in-progress on the Desert West and Borderlands.

Thursday, July 30, 7:00 pm
CENTRAL LIBRARY • Mark Taper Auditorium
Fifth & Flower Streets, Downtown L.A.
PARKING: 524 S. Flower St. Garage

Visions in the Desert: Searching for Home in the West
Writer Ruben Martinez, accompanied by his longtime musical partner, explores some of the oldest American symbols and the newest motley cast of characters to confront them.

(Please note, reservations strongly recommended!)

Rubén Martínez

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guest Columnists: Olga Garcia, tatiana de la tierra, Liz Vega

La Bloga is happy to introduce a three-woman guest column today, Olga Garcia, tatiana de la tierra, Liz Vega. As you'll see from their biographical sketches following, they are an accomplished team of poets, educators, mujeres chingonas. It's a genuine honor they have chosen to join us today as La Bloga guests. For today's post--which La Bloga hopes will be the first of many-- they share a bit about themselves and their relationship to writing and art.
El Blogmeister: Michael Sedano

My Life as a Beet by tatiana de la tierra

I’d like to say that I’m rooted like a red beet with my head in the earth and my feet in the sky, that I am always in the land of metáforas and dramatic structure. But in reality, most of the time that I’m upright you’ll see me as a car potato, sitting in the driver’s side of my little blue Yaris, zooming along the 405 with the music blasting. Or I’m a wedge of hard aging cheese plopped in front of a computer monitor at home or at work.

You get the picture: I am a beet stuck in the body of a cheese-stuffed baked potato. I feel for my transgender brothers and sisters, as I know what it's like to be one thing on the inside (a writer and creatrix) and another on the outside (a professional something-or-other).

But back to the roots. My mom handed me over to a world of words when she read me poetry as a child. She read me children’s poems and prose by the brilliant Colombian author Rafael Pombo, and she also read me Neruda and Benedetti. She blasted music and sang along while doing housework, knitting and reading, introducing me to bambucos, boleros, and baladas, gifting me with music and melody. I took it from there. I was a budding writer in junior high, when I published my first haiku in the school’s literary newsletter. By high school I was writing feature articles and editing the school paper. I discovered the power of the word by listening, reading, and finally, writing.

I have been writing, editing, and publishing in multiple genres for the longest time—from poetry and songs to encyclopedia entries—and I’m nowhere near done. I really resonate with creative non fiction, with the rough, the raw, and the real. My bloga space will be filled with reflections of writing, music, and the arts. I can’t give too many details now because first I have to stick my beet-head back in the earth and plant my feet firmly in the sky. Until next time, I send everyone lots of beet luv.

Self-Proclaimed Poetry Prodigy by Liz Vega

One of my earliest memories is of me sitting around the kitchen while my mom cooked and recited poems. I grew up listening and reciting Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Amado Nervo and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

At family gatherings I was always part of the entertainment. For some time, it was adorable to watch a five-year old tackle the philosophical musings of older, depressed men and intellectual reclusive nuns. The adorableness quotient faded when I became a tall, budding fifteen-year old reciting traditional verse among my more animated competition—boisterous, bratty kids lip-syncing and dancing to Menudo, a band so alluring even I, the self-proclaimed poetry prodigy, had to worship them. Despite the ridicule and yawning adults, I held on steadfast to my poetry. I was enchanted with the beauty of words, the strength of metaphors, the swirling sounds of alliteration.

My love for the arts includes films, outsider art, contemporary art and reading good literature. Writing has also always been a hobby of mine. Fifteen years ago in D.C, a psychic named Fatima told me that I would become insanely wealthy through writing. I am still waiting. Until that happens I am excited about sharing my passion for what I find beautiful with La Bloga readers. I seek to review books, films, events and venues where children and families can develop and nourish their relationship with art and literature. I believe that through art and literature we transcend, evolve, and bridge seemingly different worlds. Art is essential to the nourishment of our souls; it is as essential as relationships and love. Al rato!

I Don’t Need No Stinking Roses by Olga García Echeverría

My writing roots stretch back to a tiny one-bedroom apartment that I shared with six siblings in East Los Angeles. Our home stood a few yards from the edge of the 710 freeway, where the never-ending roar of the speeding cars was our perpetual soundtrack. In our tight living quarters where hand-me-downs were the norm, there were few things I could claim as my own--writing was one of them.

As an adolescent, I created my first journal by stapling a stack of papers together with a title page that meant to say “Diary,” but since I was a terrible speller it read “Dairy.” Despite my rancho spelling errors, words on paper gave me then what they still give me now—testimony. I write, therefore I know I’m here.

We had few books at home when I was growing up, so my “literary classics” were telenovelas, ghost stories, El Cucui, La Llorona, and the family drama that never ceased to unfold. There were also the robust sensory details of barrio life--fearless cucarachas, chickens in the backyard, a Nina Simone record stolen from the local library (sorry!), Funky Town grooves blasting on an old record player, and the occasional slaughtered pig being dragged into the kitchen by my father who made and sold homemade chorizo. Poetry was everywhere—in the thundering freeway roar that I pretended was an ocean, in the mish-mash of English and Spanish, in the smell of frying tripas, in the eyes of the severed pig that greeted us when we opened the refrigerator door. These are the things that rooted me in poetry, instilling in me a love of language, details, and stories.

I look forward to sharing many words and thoughts with La Bloga. In particular I’m interested in seeking beauty and art in obscure places and exploring creative topics that may otherwise go under the radar. Hasta la próxima, I bid you all peace and poetry.

Olga Garcia
Astrological Sign: Ultra Libra
Zodiac Year: Qui Quiri Quiiiii!

Olga García Echeverría was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. She has a BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. Currently, she teaches ESL to adult immigrants in Koreatown and English to high students via the Upward Bound Program. Her first book, Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas, was published by Calaca Press and Chibcha Press in September of 2008.


Tatiana de la Tierra

Astrological sign: Tauro (Sun & Moon)
Zodiac year: Ox
Occupation: librarian and writer
Location: Long Beach, California
Born in Villavicencio, Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida, tatiana de la tierra is a bicultural writer whose work focuses on identity, sexuality, and South American memory and reality. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Master of Library Science from University at Buffalo. She is author of For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las duras: Una fenomenología lesbiana and the chapbooks Porcupine Love and Other Tales from My Papaya and Píntame Una Mujer Peligrosa. foto: Hillary Crook.

Liz Vega
Astrological Sign: Scorpio
Zodiac Year: Rooster

Liz Vega works in education and is an avid supporter of the arts. When she is not juggling students or her two daughters, she is immersed in poetry, prose, or film. She was born and raised in East L.A., but in typical Mexican migratory fashion she moved back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico while growing up. Her formal education was marked by marijuana-growing nuns in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, bilingual classrooms in East Los Angeles, the sink or swim methods of a New England preppy boarding high school, and finally Cornell University, where she earned a degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in gerontology. Liz is currently putting her degree and concentration to good use as she is sandwiched between the needs of her aging parents and raising a family.

La Bloga welcomes your comments on this, and every post. Share your comments by clicking on the Comments counter below. La Bloga welcomes Guest Columnists, as you can see. If you'd like to be our guest, to share an extended response to a La Bloga column, your own review of a book, arts, or other cultural event, click here to discuss your invitation.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Search of Wise Latinas

by Annette Leal Mattern

Even Anderson Cooper is Tweeting about them, these “wise Latinas,” as though they are a rare discovery. CNN managed to convene a panel of them by gathering noted journalists from Spanish media and other accomplished Latinas . . . evidently an uncommon assemblage the network considered newsworthy.

I’m not sure what Sonia Sotomayor intended when she first spoke those words about a wise Latina making better decisions, but I do know that the naysayers in Congress are desperate to make something out of nothing, mostly because they can’t find anything more offensive to block her appointment to the Supreme Court. Truth be told, I’m amused to see the Capitol Hill Boys Club choking on how to raise their objections, dancing gingerly around their arguments for fear of being branded by a racial hot potato.

But what is fascinating is their fascination with the phrase “wise Latina.”

I’ve thought a lot about that word “wise,” mostly because my mother made me. The dictionary defines it as having the ability to discern properly what is right. And “wisdom” is that knowledge coupled with sound judgment. People who are wise exhibit sense, understanding, and enlightenment. To my mother, it was imperative that I understand that life was full of choices – the challenge was to make the wise one.

So back to the Congressmen’s question: Do wise Latinas make better decisions? Although Sotomayor is trying to defuse her opponents’ obsession with this off-hand statement, I believe the answer is yes. Yes, because a wise Latina has to deal with more obstacles - from perception to prejudice - than did her white male counterparts. Just getting to the starting gate tempers Latinas differently.

Without question, Sotomayor is an Obama-esque success story. But, what seems lost in the chatter is not just what she became, but whom. The tenacity, commitment, conviction and perseverance it takes to rise to the top of any field as a Latina is tremendous. There are no fast-tracks, no network, no club. Sotomayor had to discover her own human potential without insights or experience, for she is living a life her mother could never have imagined, a parallel universe in which an immigrant’s daughter stood before the world court of opinion and emerged triumphant.

Talking about Sonia Sotomayor has raised the conversation about Latinas everywhere. Hopefully, our national scotoma about this vibrant, intelligent sector of our society will be healed and opportunity will embrace these newly discovered wise Latinas.

Regardless, history now knows the face of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who stood before them, being judged by them - not the fiery, hot-tempered Latina they might have hoped to elicit - but the calm, composed, exceptionally competent professional.

And yes, Sonia, in many cases you will make better decisions.


About Annette Leal Mattern

Annette held numerous corporate leadership positions with Fortune 100 companies where she championed development of minorities for upper management. She received the National Women of Color Technology Award for Enlightenment for diversity achievements and was recognized by Latina Style and Vice President Gore as one of the most influential Latinas in American business. In 2000, she left the corporate world to devote herself to women's cancer causes. She published a book, Outside The Lines of love, life, and cancer, to help others cope with the disease. She has also published in Hispanic Engineer and several other media. She serves on the board of directors of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and founded the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Arizona, for which she serves as president. She also writes for and is a motivational speaker on survivorship.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ficción Rápida #2

Copyright 2009 by Manuel Ramos. All rights reserved.

Three more laps around the writer’s block. For Ficción Rápida #1, go here.

I steered her car to the ramshackle gas station that surprised us by being open at midnight.

“I’ll see about a motel.” She didn’t respond.

A tall, skinny young man with a receding hairline slouched behind the counter, surrounded by beer nut packages and car deodorizers. I asked if there was a place to spend the night. He pointed at a sign on the wall that advertised the Dew Drop Inn Motel – newly renovated and the last chance for a hundred miles.

“That’s all we got around here. It’s about a mile up the road, the way you was headin’.”

“How about the highway to the city?”

“You goes the other direction. Make a u-turn, then left at the crossroads. Five miles more or less.”

“Is there a back way out of here?” He paused, stood up straight, pointed again.

I handed him two twenty dollar bills. “Fill it up for her. Keep the change. Tell her how to get to the freeway.” I walked out the back door and ran to the Dew Drop Inn.

When David was eight he watched Al pick on Fatty Lombardi until Fatty punched Al. The fight was over in less than three minutes. Al bled from his nose and upper lip and whimpered all the way home.

As Al lay dying in the hospital, David reminded his brother about the fight.

“Why bring that up now?” Al asked.

“I felt like hitting you myself. You asked for it and then you couldn’t handle it. I lost respect for you.”

“Because of that damn fight? We were kids, David.”

David shrugged and looked away. “You were my older brother.”

Al reached for his brother’s hand. He never found it.

Alvarez sighed. The blood-spattered scene was too familiar. His knees cracked as he examined the woman’s bruised and battered corpse. TV cops made jokes about dead bodies, black humor to show how tough they were. Alvarez never joked.

His partner, Copeland, read from her notes. “Some of this you know already. Lupe Vargas. Forty-eight. Unemployed, some kind of disability payment each month. Her daughter said that she came home this morning about six, after work, and found her mother. The daughter’s a waitress at the twenty-four hour diner around the corner. Taking it hard. Lupe had a boyfriend about three months ago. Tommy Levin, a truck driver who’s on the road, not expected back until the weekend. Not many other friends. The old lady next door, who heard nothing, of course. What else? Yeah, the M.E. estimates T.O.D. around eleven last night. That’s all I got.”

“Was she a good mother?”

“Uh, not something I would know, Ben. Why do you ask? You think the daughter’s hinky?”

“No.” He sighed again. “We should talk to the truck driver. I made some calls while you were here with the M.E. Levin’s schedule changed this week, first time in years that he’s been on the road for more than two days at a time. The trucking company faxed me the manifest. The way his route worked out he had to double back. If he drove all night, fast, he could have been in town around midnight, maybe a little earlier.”

Copeland shook her head, once again impressed. “Now we just got to find evidence to back up your theory.”

“We’ll get it. We always do.” He sighed a third time.

“So why ask whether she was a good mother? Just curious?”

He stood up and peeled off the department-issue latex gloves. He stepped gingerly around the body but he could not ignore the smears on the wall and the stench in the air.

“Yeah. Curious.”


In case I haven't mentioned it, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Lineup #2 - Poems on Crime. Excellent stuff as well as a contribution from me entitled The Smell of Onions.

Watch for our special guests on Sunday, July 26: poets Olga Garcia, Tatiana de la Tierra, and making her writing debut, Liz Vega. Give them a big welcome to La Bloga bright and early Sunday morning.

Next week I'll have the schedule for the Thirteenth Annual Chicano Music Festival (August 6 - 9).

Ya'all come back, ya' hear?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sandra Posadas, Vida Bella y La Voz Puertorriquena

Gente: I met Sandra many years ago, when we were both doing very different things....While our paths diverged, it looks like we both found our way to making art. Here's at look at a local women in the arts and an up and coming Latino theater group in Chicago.

Sandra Posadas is a second generation Puerto Rican woman born and bred in Humboldt Park, Chicago, Illinois. She is a teacher, published artist/illustrator, actress; cast member of the Vida Bella Ensemble, artisan; creator of Coqueta Creations by PiXie- a jewelry line for women. Sandra has been a Bilingual educator within the Chicago Public Schools for 12 years and was recently nominated for the Illinois Golden Apple Award. She's also an educator of teachers, and has presented her progressive early childhood approach to curriculum development and implementation at a variety of teacher conferences throughout Chicago. Sandra successfully co-wrote her first production, "Brown Girls Singing" which was successfully staged at University of Chicago and Jane Addams' Hull House.

Sandra performs her poetry at various Chicago venues and has presented her art work at various local venues including the University of Illinois @ Chicago Symposium for Women of Color in 2008. She holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University and is currently a working on her M.A. in Bilingual/ Bicultural Education at DePaul University. Sandra believes strongly in that art can educate. Through her poetry, canvasses, and performances. She believes in using art as knowledge and transformation so that all participants and spectators examine themselves in relation to their place in society. Through different modalities that she uses, whether visual, interactive, or the performing arts, the audience can explore, reflect, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.

The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience
Written & directed by Yolanda Nieves, executive producer Mike Oquendo

Vida Bella Ensemble is thrilled to announce its upcoming performance of The Brown Girls' Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience was SOLD OUT. Written and directed by author/playwright Yolanda Nieves, “The Brown Girls' Chronicles” are the stories of second generation Chicago Puerto Rican women who in their daily lives embody the struggle for independence of mind, soul, heart and body. The three-night run of “The Brown Girls’ Chronicles” will took place at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. The production will be mounted again, in Fall 2009. Check the group's myspace page for more info.

Following audience acclaim and a previous sold-out run in March, the May performances mark the second sold-out run of The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience. “I stand in awe of the support…” shares director Yolanda Nieves, “This play is a testament to the intelligence, beauty and resilience of who Latinas are.” The May performances took place May 28-30, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. in the 140-seat West Town Studio Theater at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green Street in Chicago.

# # #

About Vida Bella Ensemble: Vida Bella Ensemble is an all Latin, all-female Chicago-based collective of inter-generational artists committed to communicating the stories of the trials and triumphs of the urban woman. In collaborative partnership the stories of such experiences are told through the performance of poetry, dialogue, monologue, song and movement. For more information about Vida Bella Ensemble visit or email

About Director Yolanda Nieves: Award winning Chicago poet, author and playwright Yolanda Nieves uses the power of verse and the written word to teach and inspire. An accomplished writer, her work has been extensively published by college/university and independent presses and journals around the country. Her newest book, “Dove Over Clouds” (Plainview Press, 2007) has again garnered her acclaim for the themes revolving around the issues of race, gender, class and colonialism as it relates to the Puerto Rican/Afro-Puerto Rican Diaspora. Her work captures the spirit of hope, shaped by her Puerto Rican heritage, growing up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and by the direct impact of women impressed upon her. Performing her poetry and plays in Chicago and all over the world, her performances have received great acclaim in England, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

She’s the founder and artistic creator of Vida Bella Ensemble performance troupe. Her collection of artistic work gives audiences the clarity of the experiences of women, mothers and immigrants. Full of passion and candor, she inspires audiences to expand their understanding of their own lives and the inspiration for them to tell their own stories. Yolanda resides in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and teaches at Wilbur Wright Community College.

About Executive Producer Mike Oquendo: Mike Oquendo combines his love of live arts and his production experience to produce over 70 shows a year in both the Chicagoland area and throughout the country. Creator of the "Mikey O Comedy Show,” Mike is a prominent force in independent productions. His shows and events have been featured on local TV, radio and print media including coverage by Telemundo, WGN-TV, People en Español, TimeOut Chicago, Chicago Reader and Metromix.

Two notable accomplishments include sitting on the Board of Governors for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which produced the first Latin Grammy's in 2001, and being a concept contributor on three HBO Latino specials in 2006. Mike was a production consultant for the Adler Planetarium’s "Luna Cabana Series" and the International Latino Film Festival, positions he held for 6 years respectively. Mike is particularly proud of continually raising funds for non-profit organizations that provide services and programs to Latino and non-Latino communities.

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Children's Book Press- Videos

Lorraine García-Nakata is the Publisher & Executive Director of Children's Book Press. In this video, Lorraine discusses the power of the written word and how Children's Book Press has changed lives.

Dana Goldberg is the Executive Editor of Children's Book Press. In this video, she discusses some of the Press' achievements, and the evolution of its publishing program.

My Papa Diego and Me / Mi papá Diego y yo is a bilingual picture book published by Children's Book Press. This intimate collection of stories by Guadalupe Rivera Marín and artwork by her father, Diego Rivera, reveal the pleasures and mysteries of a childhood spent with a larger-than-life master artist. In this video, Guadalupe Rivera Marín discusses what inspired her to create this book, and what she hopes readers will learn from it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Havana Fever.

Leonardo Padura. Translated by Peter Bush. Havana Fever. London (UK): Bitter Lemon Press, 2009.
ISBN: 978-1-904738-36-7

Michael Sedano

Havana Fever burns with resentment that Cuba’s ruined culture shows itself in every vestige of its modern form. Whole barrios given over to crime and desperation, a city whose collapsed and patchwork buildings reflect society’s structural failure that began with Batista’s overthrow. Decaying mansions are little different from outrageous underclass brothels, the one stripped of anything saleable, the other sold out by the revolution. There’s no love lost between Leonardo Padura and official Cuba. But these things have become commonplaces of Cuban exile writers.

What sets Havana Fever apart from other Cuban exile novels is Padura’s absence of malice. His lead character, Mario Conde, isn’t looking to clean up crime, corruption, morality. He’s been retired from the police for ten years now. Conde’s retirement, in his late 40s, has come about because his old boss was railroaded into retirement and Conde acted to protest the injustice. Padura shares this information in a small plot divagation. Conde doesn’t regret the history, he wastes no emotion in lamentation, not for the public, commodity shortages, blackmarketeering, nor police corruption.

Today, the Count sells books and leaves the world as he finds it, to its own devices. But out of the blue, a gut feeling burns through his chest when he stumbles upon a Cuban equivalent of the ancient Library of Alexandria.

The novel will delight bibliophiles with its description of the Montes de Oca library: the earliest book published in Cuba, nineteenth century treatises featuring hand colored engraved plates, first editions of laureates of Cuban poetry—autographed. Conde could defraud the clueless owners but instead gives them a fair price, and points out the rarest volumes that must not be sold.

Such nobility cannot go unpunished. Leafing through a cookbook filled with impossible recipes, Conde finds a folded rotogravure photo from the 1950s of a gorgeous nightclub singer wrapped in gold lamé, Violeta del Rio. Conde falls in love not solely owing to her allure but because the photo awakens a dim memory and that nagging gut feeling that something is not right.

The magazine page leads Conde on the trail of a cold case murder dating back to the heydey of Havana nightlife. Batista gets the boot, sending his gangster business partners, along with rich Cubanos, in headlong flight with whatever dollars remain of their riches, leaving behind their mansions to fall into rot. One such Cubano, Alcides Montes de Oca, scion of a respected family de nombre, had fallen head over heels with the alluring Lady of the Night, bolero singer Violeta del Rio. The rich man flees in 1960, without Violeta del Rio. Because police have their hands full investigating counterrevolutionary terrorist violence, the singer’s death by cyanide remains an open case.

Montes de Oca leaves behind the fabulous library, the devastated mansion, and three caretakers, his dedicated personal assistant and her two children—Montes de Oca’s children carrying the surname of a chauffeur to keep up appearances. The novel follows Conde from sympathy for the emaciated brother and sister to suspicion that one of them withholds secrets to unlock the mysterious death of the almost forgotten singer. On the trail, the detective tracks down a musiciologist who identifies the single recording of Violeta del Rio, the singer’s top rival--a once-ravishing beauty now a sadly vain old woman holding in bitterness at her fifty year old feud, and another wizened body formerly known as Lotus Flower--a sensational nude dancer and high-class madam, who gladly shows off a portrait of her young self in costume.

The mystified Conde calls upon all his resources to resolve events the reader already knows from letters interjected into the narrative. Mysterious love letters by Nena to her Love parallel Conde’s investigation. Love is definitely Montes de Oca. Nena is not a character in the story and there’s some fun to be had in guessing her name. The letters allude to the events Conde has not yet tracked, filling in some details, offering misinformation here and there, but eventually spelling out the killer’s identity, and Nena’s. It’s a fun bit of dramatic irony, with added irony, Conde will never read the letters, the poisoner having destroyed them.

Beyond weaving an engaging mystery, crafting vivid tours of battered barrios, sentimental interviews that evoke that earlier hustle and bustle, Havana Fever reminds a reader of the inevitability of getting old. And its consequences. Conde has lost a step, in fact gets his ass kicked viciously because he loses focus. Conde’s best friend, Skinny Carlos, is killing himself with food, alcohol, and as much excess as a paraplegic shot in Angola can muster. Carlos deserves a happy ending, Conde reasons, and spends lavishly to bring rich food and quality rum to regular late night bullsessions.

Cuba is aging too, but not as well. The old are starving to death and when they’re gone, memories of the old days will be gone with them. While the old order changes it yields place to ever more bullshit, corruption, drugs. The gaps grow between then and now. And what can one do about it? Make compromises, survive, hold to your principles. They are their own reward. Or, one can leave, disappear from involvement in whatever comes next. Or, one can give in.

A final thought on publishing emerges in the British English of the translation. Cars have boots and bonnets, an envelope contains a pair of black and white winkle-pickers, and several colloquialisms drive my curiosity what Padura’s Spanish actually read. These linguistic lacunae aside, Peter Bush offers a masterful completely readable text that flows with a beautiful vocabulary and a clean sense of authenticity. Readers who have enjoyed Conde’s earlier stories, notably the Havana color series, Black, Red, Blue, and Gold novels, will find this story of the aging Conde a capstone to the series. In an afterword, Padura reveals he’s been working on movie versions of his work, and that is fabulous news. Read the books, read Havana Fever, and you can join those discussions one day, “it didn’t happen like that in the book, but…”

And that's the penultimate Tuesday in July, 2009, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and all columns. Click the comments counter below to share your views. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. If you have alternative views to this or another column, or a cultural/arts event to report, perhaps something from your writer's notebook, click here to discuss your invitation to be our guest.

Be sure to visit La Bloga this Sunday, July 26, when our Guest Columnists will be poets Olga Garcia, Tatiana de la Tierra, and making her writing debut, Liz Vega.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Attacks on Sotomayor Unwarranted

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

I’m baffled that some Republicans have viciously attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Too often I’ve heard Republicans talk about the lack of the so-called Protestant work ethic in minority communities and how if only poor minorities worked harder, pursued higher education and stopped depending on government welfare programs, then, they too could achieve the American Dream.

But what happened when President Obama appointed the exact type of hard-working and ambitious individual that these Republicans say they admire—the pull-yourself-by-the-boot-straps ideal—to replace retiring Justice Souter on the Supreme Court?

Instead of applauding someone with Ivy League degrees from Princeton and Yale Law School, someone with 17 years of experience on the federal bench, someone with the highest rating from the American Bar Association, many Republicans have engaged in a smear campaign aimed at portraying Judge Sotomayor as biased and outside of the mainstream.

Prior to [last] week’s hearings, the de facto leaders of the dysfunctional Republican Party, which includes former Speaker Newt Gingrich, political commentator Pat Buchanan and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, portrayed Judge Sotomayor as a racist and radical judge.

At the hearings, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as Senators’ Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), acted as if they had the moral high ground on the issue of prejudice. This is the same Republican Party that opposed many of the major civil rights laws in the past forty-five years.

While the Republican members did show more restraint when directly questioning Judge Sotomayor compared to rightwing commentators on talk radio and Fox News, they still played a divisive game by harping on Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark, even after she herself had backed off it. Laughably, the senators attempted to portray themselves paragons of impartiality.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I hope most Americans will recognize and renounce the condescending line of questioning by these Senators. It should not be lost on the American public that here we had a few privileged white men standing in judgment of a highly accomplished female member of a minority group that has historically been exploited for low-wage work, segregated in inner-cities and treated as second class in this country.

Sotomayor was absolutely correct when she said, “We’re not robots.” She explained what should have been obvious to the Senators: “Life experiences have to influence you.” But she insisted that “the law is what commands the result,” not your feelings or life experiences, which a judge must put aside.

Senator Sessions, who led the charge against Sotomayor, himself has a history of making prejudiced comments, a history that prevented him from being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee two decades ago for a U.S. district court judgeship. For instance, he called white civil rights lawyers “race traitors” and said he used to think the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoked marijuana.

Maybe his own life experiences and prejudices have been influencing him too much. He should put them aside—not flaunt them at the hearings.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate should confirm the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has proven—with her impressive record and her calm and thoughtful presentation at the hearings this week—that she is eminently qualified for the job.

[This essay originally appeared in The Progressive.]

Álvaro Huerta is a doctoral student at the University of California Berkeley and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.