Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the Road for Banned Books: This is Why

Librotraficantes exit the bus
Starting in Deming NM, continuing to Silver City's Western New Mexico University, then into Texas, Jesus Treviño and I met up with the Librotraficante Caravan in El Paso Texas for a fabulous evening of banned books, corazón, poetry, and community. I figured this is why Jesus and I are doing this journey, to find and document. But at breakfast, a more compelling reason emerges.
Michael, Cesar, Diana, Jesus, Tony, poet1, poet2
front row: Traficante1, Liana, poet1's mother

In Deming, New Mexico, there are two standard questions. "Where you from?" and "Where you headed?" That's what the mesera wanted to know at breakfast. Our answer: We're from LA and we're here smuggling books. This elicited a look of surprised confusion, pobrecita. Then we explained. The child did not know that Tucson schools had banned books and ripped them screaming from the classroom bookcases in full view of astounded students. She was upset at the idea of depriving gente of history and literature, hasta el Shakespeare!

Now she knows and will tell her familia and friends and look for news of the events and spread the word some more.
Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

Off we drove to Silver City for  a delightful morning with Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Under the handle Phillip Ortego, Felipe published We Are Chicanos, the second anthology in the world to have the word "Chicano" in its title. The "F" in Felipe also stands for First. He designed and taught the first Chicano Literature class in the state of Texas. In those days, there were no textbooks and anthologies, so much of that first class relied upon dittoed literature.

We described the interview to the Librotraficantes who joined us for a late supper and several gave blank looks at the word "ditto". That's how long Felipe has been in the field. He, for instance, coined the metaphor "Chicano Renaissance." Look for Ortego's interview, and video coverage of the events, at Latinopia in the near future. There's lots of good stuff at Latinopia now, so visit and catch-up.

The third highlight of the day--or is it the fifth?--is the floricanto held at a former sewing factory shuttered by owners who'd rather go out of business than pay fair wages, Centro Mayapan.

The place is packed with supporters, the energy in the room is contagious, not solely from the art but also the unity of purpose in the cross-generational multicultural audience. Emcee Roberto Santos keeps the lively evening going while managing to exercise a modicum of crowd control.

A difficulty for the temporada is identifying the speakers depicted below. Each performer signed a release, but I haven't had a moment to organize the paper. I apologize in advance for knowing only a few names. But I have an excuse: last month a neurologist explained the reason I forget stuff like names, details, music: I am getting old. Darn. If you know the names of these writers, please share that info via a Comment.

Benjamin Alire Saenz

Dennis Castillo. Jumped on the bus in San Anto.

My Canon T2i has an annoying picture style knob that's easily and unknowingly changed, ruining lots of exposures.

Rich Yañez does hommage to several poets, reading
their work in lieu of a few grafs from his novel, Cross Over Water.

This is totally wonderful. Yañez invited one of
his students,  Vincent D. Emery Jr., to join him on stage to read. 

La Rana is a crowd favorite

Boxes of banned books. 
Banned in Arizona, so why is this Chicano smiling?
He's smuggling in cases of banned books.


Anonymous said...

The young man that Professor Yanez invited to read is my Nephew Vincent D. Emery Jr. And we are very proud of him!

msedano said...

Dear Anonymous:

Your nephew Vincent no longer is anonymous. Thank you for the details.