Friday, May 07, 2010

Luis Rodriguez in KC and Los del Valle

Today we feature a guest post from our friend from the Latino Writers Collective, Xánath Caraza, reporting on Luis Rodriguez's recent visit. But before we get to that, I have to tell you about a series of archived short films featuring interviews with several Tejano writers, musicians, and artists. The films are part of an oral history project of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Rolando Hinojosa sent me the information about these films and now I pass on that same info to you.

The Los del Valle Oral History Project, begun in 1993, includes edited autobiographical sketches of people from the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas and accounts of historical and cultural events that document the rich heritage of the area. The twenty one volume series includes personal interviews, photographs, film clips and music that convey the uniqueness of the area not usually found in traditional sources.


Included in this series are: Américo Paredes, Rolando Hinojosa, conjunto legend Narciso Martínez, Chicana artist Carmen Lomas Garza, activist José Angel Gutierrez, and many others. These interviews have a wealth of information, history, and cultural struggle. For example, Dr. Paredes (With His Pistol In His Hand, George Washington Gómez) talks about the "ethnic cleansing" that was going on along the border when he was born in 1915 - the so-called "border troubles." Trouble along the border? And Carmen Lomas Garza tells a story about how her older brother was punished in first grade for speaking Spanish - this in an area of the United States where Ms. Garza can trace her family roots back to the original indigenous inhabitants. She explains how her brother did not understand that he was punished not for anything wrong that he had done but for political and racial reasons. Political and racial reasons -- the more things change, the more ...

The series is available at this link.

And ... a little surprise at the end of this post. Check it out.


Luis J. Rodriguez in Kansas City, MO




By Xánath Caraza
For Xicome T ochtli

It was no t a secret that the Latino Writers Collective (L WC) had been long awaiting the visit of Luis J. Rodriguez to Kansas City, MO for one of our important events in the Cuarta Página Reading Series. That time finally arrived last Wednesday, April 28, 2010, and ended on Thursday night with a public reading at the Kansas City Public Library in the Plaza.

On Wednesday evening, tasks were divided and while some drove him from his hotel to the Writers Place (TWP), most of the LWC members were already waiting for him at TWP.

LWC warmly hosted him with a casual potluck. This welcoming potluck has now become a tradition for LWC for welcoming visiting readers. LWC members and allies including Maria Vazquez Boyd, José Faus, Tina Landis, Sofiana Olivera, Mario Duarte, Gloria Adams, Maria, Jason Sierra, Linda Rodriguez, Moises Cabrera, Monique Maes, Stephen Holland-Wempe, Ben Furnish and I welcomed Luis J. Rodriguez.

What an evening! It was such a pleasure to spend time with Luis J. Rodriguez. We had great food, exciting conversation, and words floating in the air.

To close the evening, LWC improvised a poetry and fiction reading session for Luis J. Rodriguez. LWC members read from Primera Página: Poetry From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2008) and from Cuentos del Centro: Stories From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2009). Laughs, intensity in words, childhood memories, social awareness, and passion were translated into the diverse voices of the many LWC members gathering in a circle at TWP on Wednesday evening.

Thursday was filled with activities for Luis J. Rodriguez. First, he visited the Guadalupe Centers (http://www.guadalupecenters.org ). The visit to the Guadalupe Centers was organized by LWC member, Chato Villalobos. Luis J. Rodriguez talked to Latino students, teachers, and community leaders. Students were engaged with his words and Luis J. Rodriguez ended his participation by encouraging Latino youth to find art and creativity in everything they do, create a community, find a cause that motivates them, have passion for what they do, and develop a spiritual life.

After a series of group photos and students approaching him individually, the Guadalupe Centers session transitioned to the evening activities. Luis J. Rodriguez finalized the evening with a reading at the Kansas City Plaza Library, in Kansas City, MO.

Approximately 109 people were anxiously waiting for Luis J. Rodriguez at the Plaza Library in Kansas City, MO at 6:30 p.m. Introductions were given by Crosby Kemper III, Director of the Kansas City Public Library, and by Chato Villalobos, LWC member and youth advocate.

Luis J. Rodriguez started his reading and talk with a question for the audience, “What can we do to expand our imagination?” He emphasized that living between languages, Spanish and English, was his every day sustenance, “Words became my thing”. He shared with us how he wanted to be a writer even before he knew what it meant. Books and words captured his imagination even at the most difficult times of his life. He would find his way into libraries and lose himself between words. As such, his literary inspiration would develop.

During his childhood, he did not have the support he wanted to become a writer, but in spite of all odds he became a writer with a very prolific production and developed Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Tia Chucha Press. What a great role model to follow.

Something that caught my attention was his memory of the first time he listened to poetry. It changed his life. Poetry is healing and creativity in words. He shared that listening to Jose Montoya and Pedro Pietri’s words among others impacted his life deeply. He listened to the words of Che and Malcom more than those of Shakespeare. As a result, poetry for Luis J. Rodriguez is condensed language and images, he added.

He ended his presentation by sharing with the audience three new poems. What impressed me the most was that he read these poems from his notes, as any ordinary author would do, but coming from someone with a significant collection of renowned books.


He closed the evening with a Q&A session. Many young people asked him questions about his experience of gang life and his recovery. He insisted on the necessity of finding art in everyday life, creating community, finding a cause and a passion, and importantly a spiritual life. In his words, “Learn to own your own life” and keep reading. His salvation has been books.

Additionally, Margaret Clark of the Kansas City Library summed up poignantly significant themes approached by the audience during the Q&A. “I don’t know when we’ve had a Library speaker draw as many tough race questions as Luis did at the conclusion of his talk. For instance: a question about brown and black gangs inspired him to say that instead of fighting we should unite over issues such as better schools, better jobs, better communities. He also offered tips for working oneself out of a life predicament: find your art because everyone is an artist; get help—create a community; find a cause and act on it; find a spiritual life and get engaged; learn to own your life”.

The Latino Writers Collective is inspired by the visit of Luis J. Rodriguez to Kansas City, MO. Y con esto me despido, hasta la próxima. Ciao, chao.


Luis J. Rodriguez en la Ciudad de Kansas, MO

Por Xánath Caraza
Para Xicome Tochtli

No era ningún secreto que el Latino Writers Collective (LWC) había estado esperando por tanto tiempo la visita de Luis J. Rodriguez a la Ciudad de Kansas, MO para uno de nuestros importantes eventos de la Serie de lecturas Cuarta Página. Ese tiempo finalmente llegó el miércoles pasado, el 28 de abril de 2010, y terminó la noche del jueves con una lectura pública en la biblioteca de la Plaza de la Ciudad de Kansas.

La noche del miércoles las tareas fueron divididas y mientras algunos lo condujeron de su hotel al Writers Place (TWP), la mayoría de los miembros del LWC estaban ya esperándolo en TWP.

El LWC lo recibió cálidamente con una cena informal. Esta cena de bienvenida se ha convertido ahora en una tradición del LWC para la recepción de sus lectores invitados. Los miembros de LWC y sus aliados incluyendo María Vazquez Boyd, José Faus, Tina Landis, Sofiana Olivera, Mario Duarte, Gloria Adams, María Díaz, Jason Sierra, Linda Rodriguez, Moisés Cabrera, Monique Maes, Stephen Holland-Wempe, Ben Furnish y yo dimos la bienvenida a Luis J. Rodriguez.

¡Qué noche! Fue un placer pasar tiempo con Luis J. Rodriguez. Tuvimos comida excelente, conversación amena y palabras flotando en el aire.

Para cerrar la noche, el LWC improvisó una sesión de lectura de poesía y ficción para Luis J. Rodriguez. Los miembros de LWC leyeron de Primera Página: Poetry From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2008) y de Cuentos del Centro: Stories From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2009). Risas, intensidad en palabras, recuerdos de infancia, conciencia social y pasión fueron traducidos a través de las voces diversas de los varios miembros del LWC, quienes formaron un círculo en TWP el miércoles por la noche. El jueves estuvo lleno de actividades para Luis J. Rodriguez. Primero visitó El Guadalupe Centers (http://www.guadalupecenters.org). La visita al Guadalupe Centers fue organizada por Chato Villalobos, miembro del LWC. Luis J. Rodriguez habló con estudiantes latinos, maestros y líderes comunitarios. Los estudiantes estuvieron involucrados con sus palabras y Luis J. Rodriguez terminó su participación animando a la juventud latina a encontrar arte y creatividad en todo lo que hagan, a crear una comunidad, a encontrar una causa y una pasión que los motive y a desarrollar una vida espiritual.

Después de una serie de fotos grupales y de que los estudiantes se le acercaran individualmente, la sesión de El Guadalupe Centers giró hacia las actividades de la noche. Luis J. Rodriguez finalizó la noche con una lectura en la Biblioteca de la Plaza de la Ciudad de Kansas, MO.

Aproximadamente 109 personas esperaban ansiosamente por Luis J. Rodriguez en la Biblioteca de la Plaza en la Ciudad de Kansas, MO a las 6:30 p.m. Las presentaciones fueron dadas por Crosby Kemper III, el Director de la Biblioteca Pública de la Ciudad de Kansas y por Chato Villalobos, miembro del LWC y consejero para la juventud.

Luis J. Rodriguez comenzó su lectura y plática con una pregunta para la audiencia, “¿Qué podemos hacer para expandir nuestra imaginación? Él enfatizó que vivir entre idiomas, español e inglés, era su sustento diario, “las palabras se convirtieron en lo mío”. Compartió con nosotros cómo quería ser un escritor aun antes de saber lo que significaba. Los libros y las palabras cautivaron su imaginación hasta en los momentos más difíciles de su vida. El encontraría su camino a las bibliotecas y se perdería entre las palabras. Así fue como su inspiración literaria se desarrollaría.

En su niñez, no tuvo el apoyo que quería para convertirse en un escritor, pero a pesar de todo se convirtió en un escritor con una producción muy prolífica y desarrolló Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural y Tia Chucha Press. Qué gran modelo a seguir.

Algo que llamó mi atención fue su recuerdo de cuando escuchó poesía por primera vez. Cambió su vida. La poesía es curativa y creatividad en palabras. Compartió que escuchar las palabras de Jose Montoya y de Pedro Pietri entre otros impactó su vida profundamente. Escuchó las palabras del Che y Malcom más que las de Shakespeare. Como resultado, la poesía para Luis J. Rodriguez es lenguaje condensado e imágenes, agregó.

Terminó su presentación al compartir con la audiencia tres poemas nuevos. Lo que me impresionó más fue que leyó estos poemas de sus notas, como cualquier autor ordinario lo haría, sin embargo este gesto viene de alguien con una colección significativa de libros bien conocidos.

Acabó la noche con una sesión de preguntas y respuestas. Muchos jóvenes le hicieron preguntas sobre su experiencia en su vida en las pandillas y su recuperación. Él insistió en la necesidad de encontrar arte en la vida diaria, en crear una comunidad, en encontrar una causa y pasión y de sobremanera una vida espiritual. En sus palabras “Aprende a ser dueño de tu propia vida” y sigue leyendo. Su salvación han sido los libros. Además, Margaret Clark de la Biblioteca de la Ciudad de Kansas resumió perspicazmente temas significativos abordados por la audiencia durante la sesión de preguntas y respuestas. “I don’t know when we’ve had a Library speaker draw as many tough race questions as Luis did at the conclusion of his talk. For instance: a question about brown and black gangs inspired him to say that instead of fighting we should unite over issues such as better schools, better jobs, better communities. He also offered tips for working oneself out of a life predicament: find your art because everyone is an artist; get help—create a community; find a cause and act on it; find a spiritual life and get engaged; learn to own your life”.

El Latino Writers Collective está inspirado con la visita de Luis J. Rodriguez a la Ciudad de Kansas, MO. Y con esto me despido, hasta la próxima. Ciao, chao.

Photo credits: Stephen Holland-Wempe and Mario Duarte



I can't resist - go to this page and watch the video. With love, for the AZ guv and legislature.


Later.

8 comments:

used car said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caitlin said...

I was very impressed with Luis's presentation on the 29th. I really loved how he spent so much time addressing the questions of the crowd and not just saving all of the time to talk about his books. He talked about so many pertinent issues with today's youth. What he is doing for communities especially in California is very honorable. After listening to this lecture I can't wait to read one of his books!

Gloria Martinez Adams said...

Xánath's post about Luis's visit to KC right on targeting Luis's keen observations and recommendations for youth to connect with their passion and their art (whatever that art may be). We were all impressed by Luis's unassuming brilliance.

Thanks to all for the tremendous feature on Luis today! His organization deserves all and more...

'brazos Luis y todos,
Gloria Martinez Adams

MARK said...

Luis' talk was captivating. His use of imagery to capture the essence of the poem's subject is unrivaled.

Anonymous said...

The way Luiz openly shared his life's story was amazing. Despite all of the bad decisions he had made throughout his life, both dangerous and illegal, he has still managed to turn his life around. In his struggle to leave 'the vida loca' Luis was able to overcome addiction, poverty, violence and gang life. He is an inspiration to anyone going through a rough time in their life. It is never too late to make a change in your life.

Juanita said...

Thank your for sharing the experience of Luis J Rodriguez for those of us who could not attend. Adelante, LWC! -- Juanita

Xánath Caraza said...

Thank you all for you comments. It's a pleasure and an honor to publish these words in La Bloga.

Peace,

Xánath Caraza

Anonymous said...

My name is Romney Hartsfield. I was thoroughly impressed by Mr. Rodriguez's poems he shared. Being that english was not his primary languageand the fact that he was involved in a gang made me even more excited about reading his book. So I bought the book and read it over the weekend. The book was quite entertaining and informative. I look forward to future readings from him.