Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guests: Roberto Cantú, José Antonio Villarreal. Juanita Salazar Lamb, Mission Santa Barbara Revisited. On-Line Poetry Festival: Responses to Arizona

José Antonio Villarreal: Pioneer of the Chicano Novel

Roberto Cantú
California State University, Los Angeles

José Antonio Villarreal (1924-2010) was a Mexican American writer who published three novels and many short stories in different anthologies throughout the past 50 years. His first novel Pocho was released in a hardcover edition by Doubleday in 1959. Don José, as we called him affectionately, published The Fifth Horseman in 1974, and Clemente Chacón in 1984, novels which spotlight the life of Mexican families during the 1910 Mexican Revolution, or on the U.S.-Mexico border in modern times. Don José passed away near his beloved Mt. Shasta on January 13, 2010. His wife Barbara will host a June celebration for don José that includes family and close friends.

I first met José Antonio Villarreal in Los Angeles in 1973. I was a graduate student at UCLA and had selected the paperback edition of Pocho (1970) as a reading assignment while tutoring Chicana inmates detained at Corona Institute for Women. I had sent Villarreal a letter suggesting I work on a Spanish translation of Pocho and his response, written in a graceful and ornate script, was prompt: he informed me that if he needed a Spanish translation of his novel that he would do it himself. Shortly afterward a brief note arrived in the mail asking me to meet him at his sister’s house in Los Angeles. I accepted the invitation.

On our first meeting, I saw Richard Rubio in the adult Villarreal: contemplative, observant, a chain-smoker. I also noticed that on a nearby table stood a bottle of tequila; before our meeting, Villarreal had enjoyed half of its contents. In a semi-humorous tone, he pointed with a smoldering cigarette to the memory of several boxes with copies of the hardcover edition of Pocho he had stored in his garage for many years. Doubleday had paid him in part with hundreds of unsold copies of Pocho. After giving away free copies to neighbors and to most of his family, one day he ordered the remaining boxes to be disposed by the garbage collector. We did not talk about the translation, but I got the point. It was evident he didn’t think there would be any interest in Pocho in the Spanish-speaking world; after all, hardly anybody had noticed in the United States. Nobody had any interest in literature that represented Mexicans in the United States, he argued; besides, Villarreal’s mind was on other, more important projects: he was waiting for the publication of his second novel, The Fifth Horseman, where he recounted the life background of Heraclio Inés (known in Pocho as Juan Rubio), and the national conditions that led to the 1910 Mexican Revolution. He assured me that this was his best novel yet. We drank another glass of tequila and continued with our conversation. I would have to wait until the summer of 1993 for the opportunity to translate Pocho. Meanwhile things were turning hazy around me as I listened and sipped tequila, so I rushed a few questions.

Villarreal informed me that his decision to be a writer was reached shortly before graduating with a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley in 1950. His plan was to write a cycle of four novels—he referred to it as a tetralogy—that would constitute a vast social landscape depicting the dispersion of a Mexican family through three generations, illustrating various modes of acculturation to urban life in the United States. As I would soon learn, the term “tetralogy” derives from Greek drama, and refers to three tragedies and one satyr play staged during the festival of Dionysus. Villarreal had given me a clue to his narrative cycle: it included aspects of satire and tragedy in four interconnected narrative compositions. Evidently Pocho corresponded to the first tragedy in the narrative cycle, with satire forthcoming.

After the publication of The Fifth Horseman, Villarreal intended to write a third novel telling of Richard Rubio’s return from the Pacific after the Second World War, thus continuing with the semi-autobiographical design that shaped Pocho’s storyline. The third novel was to be called The Houyhnhnms (later renamed The Center Ring), after Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a satirical novel in four parts that narrated voyages to remote nations around the world. In 1984, Villarreal published a third novel, Clemente Chacón, but it does not belong to the tetralogy. Of the four novels initially proposed, only the first two reached print. According to Barbara, don José’s wife, the completed manuscript of The Center Ring and several of his short stories remain unpublished.

Pocho is a novel that complies with most of the rules of realism, and yet the novel’s aesthetic disintegration in relation to its rhetorical and iconographic patterns (the tree, Richard Rubio’s list of readings, and so on), coupled with the apparent “dismemberment” of its chapters that seem to some readers as being adventitious to the narrative (such as chapters one and four), turn instead into symptoms of an avant-garde aesthetic that was latent in Villarreal’s early writing but did not fully develop in The Fifth Horseman nor in Clemente Chacón. Villarreal’s heirs in Chicano literature—from Alfredo Véa to Michael Nava and Helena María Viramontes, to name a few--have begun to experiment with narrative structure and continue to write transnationally, that is, beyond the United States. Significantly, these authors underscore the importance of language and experimentation with time and space; moreover, they include in their novels intertextual references to world writers (for instance, Dante in Nava’s novels, Aristophanes and Robert Frost in Véa’s), and favor a new America, less xenophobic, and thus committed to its democratic ideals.

The world that Villarreal envisioned fifty years ago in Pocho continues to haunt the best of Chicano novelists writing today. Admittedly, the work of these novelists has gone beyond Pocho in terms of formal innovations, and yet Villarreal’s first novel--with its inquisitive hero who is intellectually gifted, rebellious against tradition, critical of his immediate environment, and who seeks self-realization in a modern world--illustrates a Mexican American tragedy that retains to this day its narrative singularity in the developing Chicano literary tradition.

We thank José Antonio Villarreal for his narrative contributions to the literary history of Mexican Americans, Chicanas/os, and Latinos. We won’t forget him.

Roberto Cantú and José Antonio Villarreal in a July 1994 reception in Tijuana (México) for the Spanish translation of Pocho (Anchor, 1994).

Left to right (back row):
Eliud Martínez, Roberto Cantú, and José Antonio Villarreal, with students. In the background: Mt. Shasta. April 1993.

About La Bloga's Guest Columnist Roberto Cantú (pictured Left, and below, standing Right with Don José and Jim Beam):

Roberto Cantú has a joint appointment in the Departments of Chicano/a Studies and English at Cal State L.A., where he began teaching in 1974. His areas of teaching and publications are in Latin American, Chicano, Mexican, and Mesoamerican literature, including literary theory, criticism, and the European novel. In 2007, his proposal for a Minor in Mesoamerican Studies at Cal State L.A was approved. Recently he has been involved in the organization of conferences on Mesoamerica, Octavio Paz, the Big Read, and the Latino Book and Family Festival, to be held each year at Cal State L.A. In 2009, Roberto was recognized by his Cal State L.A. colleagues with the 2010 President’s Distinguished Professor Award. He lives in San Gabriel with his wife Elvira and their three children: Victoria Guadalupe (age seven), Isabel (age six), and Roberto (age three).

Mission Santa Barbara – Revisited

Juanita Salazar Lamb
© 2010

The last time I walked the paths at Mission Santa Barbara I was 11 years old, and we were living in Oxnard, California. A day trip to Santa Barbara was, at the time, an inexpensive getaway from our crowded life on Felicia Court. The vast apron of neatly manicured lawn that rolled out from the mission to the edge of the street was a welcome contrast to the anemic grass that grew in the common areas of La Colonia housing project. And although no sign was posted, the beauty of the gardens and walkways made even children speak in hushed tones, and spoken words were captured by the flowering plants and the gurgling fountains on the grounds. A trip to Mission Santa Barbara was a break from the concrete block apartment walls that absorbed no noise, but rather transmitted voices between apartments, so that we always knew when our next door neighbor’s husband had come home late and she wanted an explanation “NOW!”

And now 47 years later I walked the paths again when I took a break from a professional conference held at a resort hotel where I had a room with a view of the ocean. I rode the shuttle up State Street to the end of the route, then made my way to Mission Street and followed that past stately homes with lush gardens and well-manicured lawns. Past Roosevelt Elementary school where mothers waited in late-model cars to pick up their children at the end of the school day.

Where Mission Street turns and becomes Laguna, the street rises on a slight grade as if to acknowledge that it leads to a sacred site. A sense of serenity and a need for hushed voices, a memory of those long-ago walks, surround me as I approach the Mission.

One of the first sites is the ancient lavandería, the open-air waterchannel where mission residents washed clothes by beating them against the curved sides of the channel. It’s fenced off now but if not then, perhaps my mother ran her hand along the rough masonry and considered the loads of laundry she did for her family every week.

At the entrance to the Mission is a statue of Padre Junípero Serra who traveled from Spain to build missions in the western-most reaches of Nueva España in the 18th century. As my father contemplated this man who traveled to a foreign land and faced hardships to achieve his life’s work did he consider his own journey from Mexico from which his family had fled in times of revolution? Did he think of his most recent journey from Texas hoping to build a better life for his own family?

Echoes of my own footsteps call to me as I follow the well-worn paths toward the patio, where another fountain whispers its notes, a water-voice absorbed by the lush plants in the garden. Did my parents stand here and think of the lush yard and flower garden they had left behind? Perhaps they wondered whether they would ever again have a garden whose fragrance and beauty they could enjoy any time they stepped out of their own house?

As I pass el portal at the edge of the garden, I remember racing my brother to the far end of this long corridor. I was older so could have easily won, but he was athletic and fiercely competitive. Who won? I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Maybe it didn’t matter then, either.

Through the door is the Mission cemetery where a sense of eternal quiet hovers over all. The tombs are weathered and gray, yet stately as they watch each person who slows as they pass. Which tomb remembers me? Did I stop and consider them those many years ago? Or did I rush through this part of the visit, eager to move away from death as it was something I couldn’t fathom for myself or anyone else I loved.

But the only way out of the cemetery was through the doorway of the skulls. I have no memory of this doorway, although I can easily imagine myself hurrying through this portal to leave death and dying behind and rush through to return to the beauty of the gardens.

Mission Santa Barbara has withstood its own hardships since it was built in 1786: earthquakes, Pacific storms, battles, fire and of course, hundreds of thousands of feet walking its paths. Yet it stands with its lovely gardens and fountains, holding on to memories only to release them for relishing by a not-so-young girl who returned nearly 50 years later.

Juanita Salazar Lamb is a guest bloguera and a member of the Latino Writers Collective. Her essays and short stories have appeared in Latina Magazine, Border Senses, Azahres, and in the anthology Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland. Originally from Texas, she spent some time in California as a child with her family before returning to Texas, where she now lives. Her stories are strongly influenced by her experiences growing up in South Texas.

Mariam Muradian
Juan Felipe Herrera
Genny Lim
Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Devorah Major
Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
Andrea Hernandez Holm
Jules Villanueva-Castaño


My Place by Mariam Muradian

Is it my place
To champion your misguided soul?
To be the accused exhale to your inhale
To seek your bordered map of shapes and shades to lightly trace
To each the body ground, seasoned out loud, a treaty-stabbing unsettling tale.

Is it my place
To navigate your misguided soul?
To plant the mother line between your need and your want
To seek revolution and justice in the united universal teat or exposed face
To each a stay of mercy, a chisel, a spirited ancestoral hunt.

Is it my place
To keep or cover your misguided soul?
To be ready with pangs and utterings to display, betray or to root
To shake hope, not knowing what will stir, break, storm or erase
To each a tribute, a shoulder stripes bare, a call to drink.

Is it my place
To challenge and defy your misguided soul?
To be ready armed with the very ill history you repeat
To turn and tell you to cook your own bloody dinner, and make your own fascist bed, to your disgrace.
To each a language of abiding, a safe place, a power and fury like Guadalupe and Abuela scorned.

2010 Copyright. All Rights Reserved to Mariam Muradian.


Juan Felipe Herrera

ARIZONA GREEN (manifesto #1070)

For all those marching & writing against SB1070 & for all those who want to believe it

So it came to pass –

After the boycotts left the Arizona banks tortilla burnt & chipotle dry

After the boycotts shooed away the Repugnicants from the casinos & spas

After the boycotts jammed all the Holiday Inns the Westins & the rest

After the airports only served three-day old Nachos

After the Gun Show tents frizzled into piñata bits

After all the lawns in Scottsdale rolled themselves up en route to Naco

After all the turistas popped-a-wheely en route to Mesquite then El Paso

After all the jailbirds busted out singing de colores de colores

After all the city councils got bumped down by los panaderos

After all the mayors got spanked up by las barrenderas

After the last vigilantee skipped out incognito as George López

After Governor Jan Brewer offered free workshops in Pendejismo

After all the bordo walls & scanners & patrols shriveled & popped

Arizona went green

Arizona went .......... green

Yes Arizona went absolutely.......... .......... greeen

Chile verde green

Celery & lechuga green

Jalapeño green Serrano green

Broccoli green artichoke green green grape green

All those campesino greens all those.......... .......... .......... .......... greeens

All those Folklórico dress greens & danzante penacho bead greens

It was a kinda flowery Virgen de Guadalupe green

It was a kinda green you notice after an August monsoon storm green

It was a kinda green you notice after ICE agents zoom zoom out green

It was a kinda green you notice when you are runnin’ ilegal yes

You know the earth is with you

You know it because everyday you touch it you speak to it

You say

with your cilantro-shaped voice.......... .......... .......... you say

Eres todo lo que tengo

You .......... are all I have

You say it because it takes a road ramblin’ crossin’ life to say it

You say it because it takes lost familia hands to touch it so you lift them

You join them with other hands even if they are miles miles away

That is when you dance

That is when you dance green in the green wind

That is when you dance green on the blown southern deserts of Arizona

Wild blades of green among the borderdead

You rise again


§ los panaderos, the bakers, givers of bread on your corner

§ las barrenderas, the cleaning women, as in people’s flags as in

banderas de la gente green

§ Pendejismo, stupidity with a pen, a pen with Repugnicant ink inc.

§ bordo, border as in the shape of an “Oh-rah-leh, chale!)

§ lechuga, lettuce, (ley-chew-gah, and as in “let us,” as in ley as in people’s law)

§ campesino, farmworker all amped up, ampesino, ampesina, ampesin@ green

§ Folklórico, Chican@ Mexican regional dance group, feelin’ good, a national

green zapateado across community centros & schools & streets in Phoenix all the way to Tenochitlan and beyond green

§ Danzante penacho, Aztec ceremonial dancer breast-plate & a green pen, a feathery pen made of ceremonial stomps across the green migrante trails that erase all borders with green songs, green insence & puro corazón.

- Juan Felipe Herrera / 5-3-10 ©



The Immigrant by Genny Lim

In honor of the lives lost crossing the Border and Canal:

Who is the immigrant?
You or I?
Asleep between the wings
of day and night
This bird caught in flight
keeps singing her song
though no one traps her echo
I heard her lyric braided in the
barbed wire around the hollow stems
along the canal at dawn where I saw
the shimmering flowers
clothed in jeans and tee-shirts
shaming the constellation
‘Take me to myself!” they seemed to cry
“I have no mother to birth me here!
Take me to where the sun rises in my manhood!
To where the moon fashions my lover’s eyes!
Take off my soaked collar, my shoes
Take my backpack and banished suitcase
I left for tomorrow!
What need have I for sorrow on this journey?
What need have I for dreams or love songs?
Light passes between each breath
but this river of stones will not deny the
border between my hand and yours
between life and death
Love is the only branch to which I cling
What need have I for breath?

May 3, 2010
by Genny Lim


Nepantla by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

two worlds
two cultures
in our crown
of thorns
(as if) nopal spines
were not enough

barbed wire
lands held
hostage by goons
with guns
the people must
now outrun to
return home
where heart is
where familia
has always lived

on both sides is
not so easy seeing
it's treason
to tell truths they say
are all lies

we crossed
no borders they
double-crossed us
justice would be
to honor all treaties
your word
for once

we all
hear how great
the US of A State
is and how
if we don't like it
we should leave
but our ancestors
hearts are buried here
in this red earth
this, the place of our birth
this land that they toiled
this land that they grew
prosperous for the few
new days
are coming when
we will have to stand for
the truths that live
in between

like that border

for now
we pad softly
across the hard
packed earth
red with the blood
of those who've gone
before us

©/s Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2010


on issues of aliens and immigration

by devorah major

truth be told we are
all aliens now
traveling in outer space
are our rocky, blue sea planet

only a few of us stayed nestled
in the belly of our ancestors' birthing
on the lips our mother's womb

all of the rest of us have traveled
to here where our heads now sleep
to where our children grow and flourish
or wither and perish

but once we all were natives

long before the ones
whose names we have forgotten
began their trek

we all were natives

before the ones who stayed
stopped telling stories
of we who had left

eons ago we had no questions
about who was our kin

everyone was related

then we began to travel
turned each the other
into opposites
becoming and creating


we traverse this planet
near the edge of our dark milky galaxy.
rotate steadily circling one sun
ghosted by one moon
in concert with no less than eight planets

we revolve with and without each other
some times meet meteors
who whistle through star dust
creating craters
sand storms
lake beds
depositing minerals
and fossilized ameoba

and as we travel
comets sail by
their tails shimmering
hot smokey ice

and as we move past comets
moving past us
we see stars fall
from the sky and marvel
at being in the middle
of all these galactic wonders

thus we are travel
with and as aliens
in outer space on this planet
where we live

and everywhere we stay
we are surrounded
by other voyagers
like and unlike us

i know
i've always been an outsider
amidst immigrants
beside aliens
next to strangers
just like you

© devorah major 2010



By Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

I call out to my antepasados in Morenci.

I call out to my great-grandfather who drove a mule wagon laden with rocks streaked with copper.

I call out to warn him of the Mesquite branch overhanging the road, the branch that blinds him forever.

I call out to my great-grandmother who had to support the family by washing, starching, ironing the stained white sheets from the company hospital.

I call out to her, as she kneads her large arthritic hands together, raw and red from scrubbing laundry.

I call out to her grandchildren, the children of her two daughters, the children she is raising.

I call out "help her" but they won't, can’t because they are too young.

I call out to my grandfather, his body thin and frail always coughing – unable to clear his lungs of dust from the tunnels below the earth.

I call out to him to quit, to stop working in the mine, to stop destroying his lungs.

I call out, but he can’t hear me; can’t stop – for if he does, there will be no food for his children, no home to shelter them.

I call out to my grandmother, in constant motion from sunrise to sunset.

I call out as she pulls on cotton stockings, laces sturdy shoes that support her through the day, wraps her apron around her waist.

I call out to her “don’t work so hard, let your daughters share the work.” I see her smile, content to let them have a childhood, something she never had.

I call out to my aunts, and my mother. Run, run, escape from Morenci – escape from the fate that awaits you.

I call out, I call out, and I call out, but no one can hear me.



by Andrea Hernandez Holm

Arizona dirt, warm and thick
Place where I am rooted
Planted here because my abuelos had to choose
Which side of our mother’s severed body
They would cling to.

They embraced Texas
Where the high desert didn’t change just because there was a border
Where the river still carried their songs,
Where they could feel the heartbeat of the earth beneath them.

Until, tired of being
Mexicans Not Allowed
Mexicans Not Served
Mexicans Not Welcome
Mexicans Not Wanted
In stores, in schools, in lands
Where their bones and blood filled the earth,
Where they belonged,
They gathered up their sorrows and headed west.

Like hormiguitas pacing ancient paths,
Searching frantically for the scent of the familiar,
They found the long tunnel home here
In Arizona dirt, warm and thick.
And I’m not leaving now
Just because you want this land.

You say
Illegals Not Allowed
Illegals Not Served
Illegals Not Welcome
Illegals Not Wanted
And we hear the voices of long ago
Still shouting
Still trying to push us away.
But we are not leaving now
Just because you want this land.
We are already home.


Legal Humans

By Jules Villanueva-Castaño

How do we tell them they have no rights.

How do we look in their open ojos and say,

“It will be ok.”

When it is so clearly, not.

Quieren to jump, play, run, scream,

breath, grow, love, fight, hide,

without being guilty of being brown.

La policia can come at any time,

ask for papers,

and take them, their tio, tia, mama, papa, grandma o grandpa away, forever.

They understand the world is hateful before they can times two by two.

They know that they are guilty of having brown skin before they can spell their names.

They know this world by what we teach them.

We must not betray our precious young people, who trust us to fight for them,

and ignore this hate filled law.

Until humans (who love, breath, eat, fight, sing, cry) together

are equal in the eyes (laws) of this land, we must fight.

The right to be whatever color your skin shines is universal;

gifted to us by the eternal greatness that has brought us into this universe.

Our young people will continue to be hunted, categorized, catalogued and organized into

legal and illegal.

Is human life, illegal?

Do we choose consciously to oppose a law that makes living while brown illegal?

I do.

The children need to know their elders want them to grow free.

We must say, “NO!” to a law that takes away the innocence all children own.

We must protect them from those who wish to make it illegal to breathe while brown.

If we do not, those brief years of innocence will be filled with hate, fear, loathing and finally, bloody violence.

Las antiguas of this land must look at this time, this law,

and weep salty tears down their dusty faces, languid drops of anguish y dolor.

Thunder clouds, white, black and brown grow ominously as they steal the innocence,

of children who know nothing of this hate until it is shown to them.

We must yell, a grito of freedom:

“It will never be illegal in our hearts to be the color that shines from our skin!”

** Gracias Mom for inspiring me to write this poem and many others.

About today's Guest Poets

Mariam Muradian

I was born an Artist. My Father was a cellist, artist, mathematician, and composer. My Mother was a concert pianist who wanted to be a doctor (who later attended the University again in her 50’s and became an HIV/AIDS researcher.) My parents always encouraged and nurtured my gift.

I am a formally trained artist, alumni of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and La Universidad Literaria de Salamanca, Leon, Spain. I lived in both Spain and Mexico for a period of three years.
My Bachelors and Master of Science degrees/works are in Fine Arts, Foreign Languages & Literature, Linguistics, International Studies,
Educational Leadership: Instructional Technology Systems Design, Cognitive & Behavioral Science, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Industrial & Educational Psychology, Human/Computer Interface Design.

I have lived and studied many places in the world.
I love to garden, to create art, to cook and entertain interesting people.

I have spent several years as a fine art model at the universities. A job I absolutely LOVE! It is such a privilege every time! And when specially requested, it is because you know what you are doing, you are a professional. I enjoy being able to contribute to the ARTS from both sides!

I am currently writing my Autobiography, a children’s book, and a book of poetry.

I care deeply about the world I am leaving to my Daughter, and the body of artwork I am leaving to both. I believe the Artist has the largest social and cultural responsibility.

Art/Activism is my passion everyday! I am the Painter of “The Genetic Bill of Rights Painting Series” and its Signature Piece “Consequences”. I am also the Artist & Scribe for the Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts for the Regeneration.

My artwork is exhibited and part of collections, both public and private, nationally and internationally.

Thank you for your interest in my ART.

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe has been a lover of experimental theatre since high school, good flour tortillas and guacamole. His poetry was sparked by his parent’s farm-worker corridos and flourished in the civil rights movement of the 60’s. In additional to his twenty-eight books, Juan Felipe’s recent books are Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press) a New York Times best books of 2008, 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry 2009, 2009 PEN Beyond Margins Award, Latino International Award in Poetry, PEN Beyond Margins Award 2009 and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments (City Lights) which won the 2008 Pen National Poetry Award and the 2008 Pen/Oakland Josephine Miles National Poetry Award. His forthcoming book for young adults is Skate Fate. (Harper Collins). Guggenheim Fellowship 2010 winner, Juan is the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside. In 2004, Juan Felipe’s children’s book, The Upside Down Boy, became a musical in New York City for young audiences and in 2008, he wrote the lyrics and libretto for another children’s musical – Salsalandia (La Jolla Playhouse).

Genny Lim

Genny Lim is the author of two poetry collections, Winter Place, Child of War and co-author of Island:Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island. Genny's live and recorded poetry/music collaborations have included jazz greats, Max Roach, Herbie Lewis, Francis Wong and Jon Jang. She’s performed at jazz festivals from San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego to Houston and Chicago and has been a featured poet at World Poetry Festivals in Venezuela, 2005, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, 2007 and Naples, Italy, 2009. Her play "Paper Angels," was performed at Settlement House in New York City in 2009 and her performance piece, "Where is Tibet?" premiered at CounterPULSE, S.F., Dec. 2009. Genny is a adjunct faculty at CIIS.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Poet/Writer/Social Justice Activist

Poet and writer, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is of Chicano-Apache ancestry born in Galveston, Texas and raised on the south side of Chicago. She has done extensive work as a labor/community organizer, with the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO, and as a cultural worker and social justice activist. Most recently she worked as the English edition editor for Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She is the author of three books of poetry, of which Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems is her latest. Odilia offers Empowering People Through Creative Writing Workshops internationally.

Devorah Major

California born, granddaughter of immigrants, documented and undocumented, devorah major served as Poet Laureate of San Francisco 2002-2006. Her poetry books include street smarts, where river meets ocean, and with more than tongue. She has two novels published, An Open Weave and Brown Glass Windows. She has two chapbooks published in 2009 Black Bleeds into Green and as a part of Daughters of Yam with Opal Palmer Adisa, Amour Verdinia . She is currently performing her commissioned performance poetry show Black Classic: African-American Voices from 19th Century San Francisco throughout California. She performs locally, nationally and internationally with and without jazz musicians, and has poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction published in several anthologies and periodicals. A new collection of poems, we are the living, even when we are the dying and a speculative novel Ice Journeys are forthcoming . She is a poet in residence at San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums and adjunct Professor at the California College of the Arts.

Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

Elena Díaz Björkquist was born in Morenci, Arizona. The town was demolished in the late 60’s to expand the copper mine. Elena is an author, artist, and historian who writes about the Chicanos of Morenci. Her books are Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. She is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos. Her website is www.elenadiazbjorkquist.net.

Andrea Hernandez Holm

Andrea Hernandez Holm is an instructional specialist at the University of Arizona. Andrea has worked as a research/publications specialist, a freelance writer, editor and writing consultant. Her most recent projects have included serving as the Project Researcher/Writer of the award-winning Tiller's Guide to Indian Country: Economic Profiles of American Indian Reservations published by BowArrow Publishing. She is also a published poet with works appearing in La Sagrada, Tribal Fires, Collegiate Latino Underground, Red Ink, and the Cuentos del Barrio II art exhibition of the Tucson/Pima Arts Council. Her professional experiences include teaching a variety of courses to students at the elementary and middle school levels, including Creative Writing, Introduction to Drawing, Creative Expression, and Arts & Crafts. She has also taught American Indian Oral Traditions, American Indian Literature, and American Indian Religions at the college level. She has served as editor of Red Ink and as a board member of ArtsReach Board of Directors. Andrea is a long-time resident of central and southern Arizona. She was born and raised in the Casa Grande area. Her family arrived in the region in the 1940s, on a journey that began in their homelands of Chihuahua, Mexico. Her heritage is mestizo of Tarahumara, Nahua, and Spanish ancestry. Visit Andrea at www.andreahernandezholm.webs.com

Jules Villanueva-Castaño

Jules Villanueva-Castaño was born in Sacramento, California in 1981. He grew up in Santa Cruz, California. Often thought of as a sleepy hippie and surfer town, it in reality sits just miles from Watsonville, home of the farm workers struggles and hotbed of Chicano and Chicana political activism. At an early age he learned that he had to navigate the explosive racial lines that exist between brown and white in this culturally, economically and racially mixed area. Villanueva-Castaño attended the University of California, Irvine and received his Bachelors Degree in Sociology. After travelling and living for a year in Guaunujato, Mexico, he returned to his hometown with a strong sense of himself and his Raza. Currently, Villanueva-Castaño works as a counselor with at risk youth in the Bay Area and writes poetry and short stories. In his work as a counselor he works with a dedicated group of people supporting the children and parents in finding safe places to live outside of the system; as well as working to help them learn how to love and respect one another, including themselves, in these times in which, tragically, our young people are not often taught to do so.

Last Week, La Bloga was pleased to share the Arizona poems of the following two artists but failed to include their Biography. Worse, Carmen Calatayud's name was misspelled!

Carmen Calatayud

Carmen Calatayud is a psychotherapist in Washington, DC. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother, her poetry has appeared in journals such as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Red River Review and PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. Her poems are anthologized in various collections, including DC Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press). Her poetry manuscript Cave Walk was a runner-up for the 2010 Walt Whitman Award and a finalist for the 2010 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She lived and wrote in Tucson in the 1990s, where she worked as a literacy advocate.

Manuel Lozano

Chicano. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas - a.k.a. El Chuco - birthplace of the pachuco. On the borderline. Author of four poetry chapbooks published by Book Publishers of El Paso - Where the Creatures Roam, At the Break of Dark, Rhythm of the Heart, and most recently Seeds of Rebellion in 2009. "My words are written with the torch light fading, to the rhythm of the Matachines."


Francisco Aragón said...

great post/poemas

Gloria Martinez Adams said...

Juanita y Elena y todos -- beautiful posts and poetry. What a sadness about Villarreal, a true visionary. And I vividly remember the mission in Santa Barbara. The familiarity was so intense, I continued to dream of living there in a long ago time...hmmn. And, Morenci, Elena, our home town. There are not enough tears that can be cried for it...

Manuel Ramos said...

So much great stuff - thank you. I want to express special appreciation for Roberto Cantu's tribute to José Antonio Villarreal. Very moving and informative.