Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Anaya's Billy the Kid. Mural Restored. Champions. On-Line Floricanto.

Review: Rudolfo Anaya. Billy the Kid and other plays.

Rudolfo Anaya. 
Billy the Kid and Other Plays. Afterword By: Cecilia J. Aragón , Robert Con Davis-Undiano. Norman: UOklahoma Press, 2011.
ISBN: 9780806142258

Michael Sedano

There's a burden on Rudolfo Anaya's back that rivals Sisyphus' rock: being "El abuelo" the "founding father" de Chicana Chicano Literature. It is his fault, after all, that Bless Me, Ultima is the megaseller it has become so he must accept that responsibility. Fortunately, unlike that accursed's mythical burden, an ever-inspired Anaya easily shoulders his on to myriad heights.

2012 marks the fortieth anniversary of publication by TQS of Bless Me, Ultima. (Look for a special announcement later at La Bloga.) Aside from illustrating that quality surpasses the limitations of a tiny obscure publisher, Bless Me, Ultima helped bring Chicana Chicano cultura into United States Literature on our own terms.

As if that weren't sufficient career achievement--Harper Lee, recall, published only a single novel in her career--Anaya goes beyond Ultima to bring readers childrens books, warm folktales, travel writing, and edge-of-your-seat detective novels.

Every family should own Serafina's Stories, read it to the kids for bedtime storytime. Once you've read all the way through it, expect the kidlet to request you read it again.

The lesser-known A Chicano in China documents ways a chicano uses his US-bred xenophobia to find bridges across the cultures and personal enchantments. Then there's the uniqueness of it all; how many chicanos are writing about the PRC?

Every reader of detective fiction will want to devour the Sonny Baca novels. From Sonny's first appearance in Alburquerque through the seasons, Zia Summer, Rio Grande Fall, to Jemez Spring. Baca's a great character plus there's fun seeing Anaya in the character "Ben Chavez," and CHICLE-founder Teresa Marquez appear as herself.

Now Rudolfo Anaya's playwriting has been collected in the University of Oklahoma's 2011 Billy the Kid and other plays. The volume is the 10th in the Press' Chicana And Chicano Visions Of The Americas Series. The title piece and "Who Killed Don José?" appeared in The Anaya Reader. Five plays will be new to most readers.

"The Season of La Llorona" is a fitting opening piece for the collection. It echoes the actos of movimiento teatro, and, like any YA piece is transparently designed to instruct. The piece is a visual treat, too, whose setting alternates between Abuelo's lap on Hallowe'en night, and 500 years earlier to Doña Marina and her slavemaster.

A reading through the collection to its final two works, "Billy the Kid" and "Angie,"tracks refinement in the playwrite's art. "Billy" reads vividly. Irrespective of the formalities of a printed script, the narrative flows effortlessly. One hesitates to praise the play for reading like a novel, but Anaya gives the speeches a coherency that fills in the absent narrative.  A play is not prose, but speech. Anaya's ear so effective his characters jump off the page with distinct voices.

Anaya's intent to soften the historical image of cold-blooded murderer Billy calls to mind the Anglo pachuco in Luis Valdez' Zoot Suit. "I'm Chicano too!" But Billy, Anaya admits, killed that vato. And the other one. Billy is a bicultural victim of cultural schism, an outsider boy raised with manito sensibilities who finds himself on the wrong side of a landgrab. Billy's pursuers know him--he's one of them--and use his passions to gun him down. At curtain, Anaya has effortlessly blurred lines between the historical Billy's life and the stage Billy's life.

"Angie" is contemporary U.S. theatre at its best. Whereas audiences can observe Billy's tragedy safely behind the distance of its historical setting, "Angie" slams theatre-goers and readers right between the eyes with its in-your-own-family theme of warehoused elders.

Angie is a broken, old woman, forced into a convalescent home for her own good. Angie's daughter is trapped between a controlling asshole vendido husband and being a daughter who is failing her responsibility to care for an aging mother.

The playwrite weaves a thread of enjoyment for readers of the Sonny Baca thrillers, who recognize the land grab scheme that has captured Angie's son-in-law's soul. But that's a sidelight to the quandary Anaya sharpens in building his audience's vicarious guilt trip. The villain's a hateful Nurse Ratched tipa who uses drugs and mindless rules to squeeze joy out of patients, keeping them hyped for convenience of the staff.

Other elders glumly deteriorate in this setting. Angie, despite her wheelchair, nurtures her lust for life. From that arises an opportunity to inject life into the day room with music, dance, sex, and that most precious absence in old gente's lives, puro fun.

In the end, Angie does what she came to the nursing home to do, she dies. The tragedy is never death--Angie, as Randy Lopez does, goes home--because whatever truths and lies she leaves behind don't matter now. The tragedy is how Angie gets there, and how, in those final years, things could have been done differently. Some theatre-goers will leave the auditorium thinking about their mothers, as will an aging reader.

In a fitting way, this play about the viejitos fighting to stay alive brings to a close the collection that begins with chamacos learning about La Llorona. Anaya's foreword and the afterwords from Cecilia J. Aragón, Robert Con Davis-Undiano provide additional perspective on the plays. Thanks goes to the University of Oklahoma Press for bringing such an excellent opportunity to acquire a captivating and instructive collection of Rudolfo Anaya's theatrical work.

Lost and Ruined Mural Re-Born

The City of Los Angeles recently reversed a long-held belief that murals violated the city's advertising and visual blight laws. It's the latest evidence of a progressive attitude toward the city's treasures of muralism.
Ernesto de La Loza beams vibrantly as his palette.

With so much pedo in El Lay's local governance, I'll take all the evidence I can find, especially when it comes in the form of grants to restore  faded artifacts of muralism's movimiento heyday in the 1970s, like Ernesto de La Loza's 1975 "Organic Stimulus" in historic Estrada Courts.

Estrada Courts' murals make its walls among the more remarkable collections of public art in the world. The deteriorating murals are targetted for restoration through efforts of people in organizations like the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. Through MCLA's efforts, restoration of "Organic Stimulus" is funded by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Muralist Ernesto de la Loza, Isabel Rojas Williams MCLA 

In LA, two public housing sites, Ramona Gardens and Estrada Courts house stupendous galleries of art in the monumental scale covering twenty foot high walls. Sadly, the work has been unconserved and defaced by generations of taggers layering placazos, ironically obscuring a lasting cultural heritage.

2012 detail

circa 1980, scanned Ektachrome

Then again, a few pendejos have gone on to produce outstanding gallery and authorized wall work. The late artist Magu was always quick to defend tagging and the tagger as malunderstood, a form of culture and importance, even when the tagger hit walls of great value.

La Bloga has long followed the survival of the enchanting "El Corrido de Boyle Heights." Its prominent corner makes it among the highest visibility targets in the region, its beauty irresistible to nihilists with spray cans. Now, with the City's new mural law and its Department of Cultural Affairs joining efforts like Amigos de Siquieros, UCLA's Fowler Museum, the Getty museum, and the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, we're presented the most hopeful evidence to hit the block in ages.

Visit the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles' Facebook page to observe the restoration process and the full mural before and after.  https://www.facebook.com/muralconservancy

For these and additional images at higher resolution of the dedication of Ernesto de la Loza's "Organic Stimulus," see Read! Raza's foto essay at readraza.com/edelalozarestored.

Late-Breaking News
UCSB C/S Honoring Luis Leal

Back in 1963, I was the only Chicano in the freshman class at UC Santa Barbara, which makes it all the more amazing to this alumnus of the English, Speech, and Classics programs that today there's a room in South Hall named for Dolores Huerta and a Department of Chicana Chicano Studies.

It's in that Dolores Huerta room in South Hall, where C/S holds an event dedicated to their late Chair's memory on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.

Click the middle image below for a slightly higher resolution view, or visit the Departamento's  Chicanarrobas Facebook page. Is that Chicanats, in English?

Open Call for Champions

Power of the press belongs to the person who owns one. That used to be a bad thing. Today, access to the internet is the same as owning a press, and that’s a good thing. But there's a problem or two.

It’s not that traditional print is in trouble. It is; big corporate media, to be more precise, is in trouble. That’s a consequence of the power of the internet press. Everyone is the same click away. With tightening discretionary budgets people increasingly cut back on magazine and newspaper subscriptions, migrating to some mix of fee-, advertising-supported, and wholly satisfying no-fee internet alternatives.

Print or digital, periodicals remain a huge market in the monetized segment of the information economy. According to advertising clearing house Standard Rate and Data Service, the US offers consumers over 3000 print and 5000 advertising-supported digital magazines.

Most readers support traditional media. I am a long-time subscriber to a handful of consumer magazines, plus enjoying a couple of free trade magazines. Kids in the family can count on me for a holiday gift subscription to some magazine--someone has to collect Ranger Rick and National Geographic back issues, after all.

Old media as traditional gatekeeper has lost control to the masses, unleashing flood gates of competition from every Fulana de Tal with enough computer literacy to operate Macintosh software. Given inspiration and nimble fingers any numerate and literate person becomes equal rival to the Grey Lady, or the Saturday Review for that matter.

Not only are there more of us than Them—think of the 99 percent v. the 1—alternative media are cheaper. For readers, here’s where a problem lurks: the honey trap of low price tag and easy acquisition.

An impulse dime there, twenty there, the occasional hundred dollars for a handmade poetry book that never arrives. All the while the bankers are chirping away collecting their transaction fees and taking their cut as click after click adds one’s personal contribution to Obama’s economic recovery.

¿Pero sabes qué? After a while, another $2.50 here, another $20 there, and one’s discretionary lana looks like the fleece at the bottom of a wallet. In the vastness of an unruly democratized media landscape, readers need a new gatekeeper role to influence their decision-making choices!

It’s unquestioned that invaluable information lies within a click’s effort of acquisition. What’s absent is a form of guided serendipity, an advocate, someone who finds and champions a title, who talks or writes to convince fellow readers to click.

With so much competition for a reader’s dollar, a personal endorsement from a credible source goes a long way toward impelling a buyer’s decision to seek more information, to click, to acquire access, to spend. Ditto worthwhile information. With ever-increasing volumes of  information out there in the tubes, advocates perform a filtering function, picking and choosing from what came their way. Clearly, everyone can be a Champion.

An opportunity reached me recently, a pair of poetry-related print and digital publications. The first is the $4.50 American Poetry Review special feature on a dozen Chicana Chicano poets.

The second, one that includes a couple of La Bloga On-Line Floricanto friends, the $20 Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%, so new there's no picture yet.

Will someone become the Champion for one of these opportunities? If so, click the Comments link at the end of today's column and leave your recommendation.

On-Line Floricanto On January's 4th Tuesday

La Bloga's On-Line Floricanto began in conjunction with planning for the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow celebrated at the University of Southern California.

That floricanto scheduled two father-son readings, two Montoyas and two Dominguez. Happily, January's penultimate La Bloga On-Line Floricanto features the father-son poets Sanchez plus the son of past floricanto performer Gaby Sweningsen. It's a delight that in floricanto, an old order doesn't pass, giving place to new. Instead, generations share the stage while embracing and making one's own energies.

"Rise" by Braja Mandala Sanchez
"Hollering My Discovery" by Luis Ascencio-Cortez
"The Creator’s Gift" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"Poeta y Guerrero" Raul Sanchez
"Morelia" by Samuel Duarte

by Braja Mandala Sanchez  

The pen's mightier than the gun
Why tote a strap when u can utilize ur tongue???
This 1 iz dedicated 2 my people of the sun
Who've toiled in the mud
Shed sweat, Tears, & Blood.
Only 2 be victims of ignorant racism
Knowledge iz tru bliss.
Everyday I pray 2 the Sun-God
up above,
Plz shine ur light into the darkness.
Erase the hate & replace it with love.
Mexi-Kingz will rize,
While abominable racist haterz
accumulate devastating Karma.

~~~Sun-chez~~~ 12-2011

Hollering My Discovery 
by Luis Ascencio-Cortez

Drip, drip, drip, drip
Is the sound of the blood that flows
Out of bodies of innocent fellows,
That fell victim to a relative’s stupidity
Sorry, but similar race doesn’t mean immunity
Mothers smother their children, to walk the right path
But even if they do, they’ll fall to their environment’s wrath
Now, we expect others to solve this
But we can do it ourselves
Just toss some books at the ignorant
Allow their brains to develop, out of the stage of an infant
Bigger problems than ourselves
Like, the children getting hungry
The poor still losing money
Kids still losing mommies
Being sent across borders
Restrained by metal orders
Look, now we’re being slaughtered
Have an examination of our dependence
And expectation across the nation
Not on ourselves but others
Educate yourselves on the truth not fiction
Maybe then, we won’t have such restriction
But rather the freedom of thought
Because, we don’t think, this isn’t what we sought
But rather what we fought….
Against many years ago
When disease spread among us
And I am not just talking physical
But hatred is a disease, trust
It’ll eat and eat
Then we will lay here as we accept defeat…..


© Luis Ascencio-Cortez

Creator’s Gift
by Andrea Hernandez Holm

We always drive the backroads
Of Pinal County
With our windows open wide
Enough to let the desert in.
We turn down dirt roads
Bump through sandy washes
Sometimes close enough to reach out
And touch the guama leaves with our fingertips.

We go by el Rancho~
The three-room wooden casita
Where my mom grew up
Between the cottonwoods.
“That’s where the piñon groves were,”
She says, pointing to some space in the distance.

We drive among the saguaros and ocotillos,
Stop near the mountains
And walk gingerly past the jumping cholla
And over the pincushion cactus
Picking fruits and blossoms along the way
Letting their flavors saturate our senses.

We walk between the hills
Rising and falling swells
Always going west toward the crimson evening.

© Andrea Hernandez Holm 2012

Poeta y Guerero / Warrior and Poet
by Raul Sanchez 

para  Francisco X. Alarcón

Se siente el fuego
de un Dragon Negro
y el de un guerrero
vengador sin espada
ni capa
ni daga
solo un arma—
la pluma
y su voz
cuando el Poeta
la verdad!

© Raul Sanchez 1-16-2012

For Francisco X. Alarcón

The heat
of the Black Dragon’s breath
can be felt
along with the breath
of the avenging warrior
without sword
without cape
without dagger
only one weapon at hand
his pen--
and his resounding voice
when the Poet
the truth!

© Raul Sanchez 1-16-2012

by Samuel Duarte

I have come to sit and dine under
your ancient portales, across from your
cathedrals and cobblestone pathways
where camera-happy tourists rush to prove
you were once part of their lives.

I have walked under your archways
beside monolithic resorts sprawled
across magnificent horizons,
under the surrounding aqueducts
where our indigenous brothers and sisters
wait outside your lavish banquets of progress.

I have visited your points of interest
in your colorful brochures; your murals,
gardens, museums, your courtyards and
fountains adorned with fauns and naiads
from which a revolution once flowed

And have strolled the Plaza de Armas,
where I first saw reflected in your eyes
Moorish and Spanish conquests buried
in a kaleidoscope of time.

But as beautiful as you are, Morelia,
I figured we are all born with flaws.
And that even if we manage to rid of a few
we end up picking up another bundle along the way.

With this in mind, I lifted your veil
and searched for the other you
behind the Cathedrals of Perfection.

I searched your dark streets and alleyways
where apparitions gather alongside shoeshine boys
drumming fistfuls of earth-pounding prayers.

I searched for you, Morelia,
until I found you in the
coloresque Colinas of your youth,
inviting me to dance in a dusty swirl,
where you cared to embrace me
and all my imperfections.


"Rise" by Braja Mandala Sanchez
"Hollering My Discovery" by Luis Ascencio-Cortez
"The Creators Gift" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"Poeta y Guerrero" Raul Sanchez
"Morelia" by Samuel Duarte

Braja is a resident of Alachua, Florida. His inspiration comes from the Renaissance of his Chicano culture, rap music, the fight for social justice and his internal spiritual journey.

Raúl Sánchez, a Seattle Bio-Tech technician, prosody enthusiast, translator, and DJ, who conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead in Tieton WA. Featured in the program for the 2011 Burning Word Poetry Festival in Leavenworth WA. Board member of the Washington Poets Association, Los Norteños writers group and recently a moderator for the Poets Responding to SB 1070 Facebook page. His work appeared on-line in The Sylvan Echo, Flurry, Gazoobitales, Pirene’s Fountain and several times in La Bloga. His most recent work is the translation of John Burgess "Graffitto" released  by Ravenna Press. Also, he appears in the Occupy San Francisco Anthology by Jambu Press, in the Anthology Speaking Desde las Heridas (Publisher: Universidad Nacional Autónoma  de México). His first Chapbook to be released early Spring 2012 by Path Moon Press.

Samuel Hiram Duarte was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico in 1974. Along with his parents and three brothers, he migrated to California and settled in the agricultural Central California Valley. His poetry has been featured in Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets, a yearly journal for the arts, Differentia Press and in The Sound of Poetry Review. He has also written a short story compilation; Stories from the Other Side of Town, and a second book of poetry; Seven Standard Roads. He lives in Santa Maria California with his wife Jessica and son Kael.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Such a great article which A play is not prose, but speech. Anaya's ear so effective his characters jump off the page with distinct voices.The playwrite weaves a thread of enjoyment for readers of the Sonny Baca thrillers, who recognize the land grab scheme that has captured Angie's son-in-law's soul. Thanks for sharing