The Catholic Archdiocese of Tucson is holding a conference in the Hotel Arizona, where I reside for the night. The book smuggler caravan hit town with a joyous bang. The Friday afternoon lobby teems with stragglers after their full day's conferencing on their misión.
I'm in full hi-ya hi-ya mode which means I'm smiling at strangers, greeting them, invading their space. When I was working, this was Trade Show Mode, herding salespeople and keeping the crowd flowing into the booth from the aisles, stopping people who try to avoid me. Greet and Meet, that's the strategy. Be the churn.
When I board elevators with others I talk to them. Unitedstatesians get freaked out by the practice, but these churchpeople wear name tags that cry out for desultory probes. "Did you have a good day, Lupe?" or “Do you have a good preacher at St. Chrysostom’s?”
A young married couple stiffen when I do my thing. She responds more relaxed than he, but much reserved in her manner. I'm on the 3d floor so the interactions should be quick except they share a room on my floor, next to mine. Have a good day. Sorry.
fabulous conference at CSULA and gave me the shirt. As it happens, here comes the young couple from Do Not Disturb.
I'm holding the elevator door for him so he can maneuver their luggage in but she cuts him off hitting me with a big smile and enthusiastic good morning! He's still pissed at me for flirting with his wife yesterday. He really looks like Rick Santorum, pobrecito. Pobrecita.
Now his woman is hitting on me. This is in his mind, his growling eyes tell me. She's simply being the friendly woman he fell in love with, now that she knows I'm not some dangerous brown predator dressed in the Of course I'm perfect, I'm Chicano tee shirt from yesterday.
It’s a joyous morning reconnoiter through the lobby. All sorts of people brighten and smile, and greet me first. Then someone says good morning Bishop. I look to the distant couch. I don't know if that's the Bishop in tailored black frowning in my direction. Hey, ése, I want to say. My eyes are up here.
|Studio One, hosts wetbooks breakfast with high school students|
These Catholics, most of them, would welcome news of the Librotraficante caravan. They're good people, that's why they spend several hundred family dollars to eat wheat in the lobby. The sandwiches are for sale, no free lunch here. Like most people, they want to save a buck. Like most people, they just don’t realize what happened in this town.
|Susan K. Smith, Studio One Director|
Read the books
Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over. It would become the last novel my mother read, her eyesight ruined by diabetes. "Good book," she pronounced it, handing it back. Who could offer a better review?
Belinda’s not banned in Arizona and she’s not the only one. Tom Miller emails complaining that his books are just as seditious as the next writer’s and haven’t been banned. Instead of crying “shut up and deal” Miller vows to try harder.
The books beef is a bureaucrat's view that certain books treat people as members of a group not individuals, that these books foment ethnic exclusiveness, that these books advocate the overthrow of an entrenched Order. That's against an Arizona law written specifically targetting Tucson school children. See this article from Librotraficante Caravan-embedded journalist Megan Feldman.
Some Arizonans are likely frightened by titles like “The X in La Raza,” “Feminism is for Everybody,” “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” “A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present.” Worse, reading social science or egghead essays with niche-audience titles won’t be everyone’s inclination. Yet, if frightened haters of Arizona would hear, or read, the literary works--one or two of them at least for gosh sake--they'd get the same joyous bang when recognizing that the guy with the nun on his chest today is yesterday's boogie man.
Less easily daunted readers might learn that the “X” is a metaphor. Two nightstick blows right between the eyes left that mark on a journalist, beaten while taking a photograph. The beautiful symmetry of the wound gives the attacking cop a sculptor’s pride of accomplishment.
What the good people of Arizona need is a transitional reading program that gently guides them from denial to understanding.
Ease into it reading krypto-seditious stuff like Tom Miller’s “Revenge of the Saguaro.” Replete with murder and revenge, Miller exposes immigrant contempt for our environment contrasted to nobility of the indigenous victim. The details: a pendejo from the east moves to Arizona, sucks down a case of birongas and shoots up a hundreds-year old Saguaro. The victim comes crashing down on the shooter’s 4th Amendment rights and bans him from ever breathing again.
Miller’s tale will eventually lead the reader to José Antonio Burciaga’s Drink Cultura, whose capstone essay explains diverse meanings of the word “pendejo” with side-splitting examples of pendejas, pendejos, and pendejadas. “You might be a redneck…” takes its inspiration from Burciaga. This will surely be in the ken of the uninformed.
Burciaga is gateway lit to Luis Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North. The novel weaves a journey by innocents there and back again. Characters filled with hope, love, wonder, trust, much like Miranda’s wonderment and innocence, “O brave new world to have such creatures in it!” Note to self: find a different example; Arizona banned Shakespeare’s The Tempest, along with a pair of Urrea titles.
Aside from vomiting, there are three ways of looking at Arizona book banning.
There are the ban-deniers. These manifest as irate letter-writers to Tucson media, pettifogging over personalized definitions of “banned.” These tipas tipos deny books are banned because the books are in the library. “They’re available,” the ban-denier screams.
For many of this ilk, their anguished rebuttal doesn’t deny that evil inheres in banning. Instead, they rationalize a dewey decimal number supplants access by students under a skilled teacher’s guidance. Still, there is hope for some of these people.
Hopeless are the “go back to Mexico” spewers. These evolutionary vestiges of homo erectus are the cactus shooters, Shawna Fordes, Joe Arpaios of Arizona, the kind of traitors who wear U.S. flags in their lapels while they’re objecting renaming “squaw peak” for Lori Piestewa.
Mostly there are the Uninformed. The brown waitress in Deming who hadn’t heard about yanking books off the shelves only a few hours travel west. The incredulous Pasadena waiter who returns with the check and a stunned look in his eyes after someone in the kitchen confirms my horror story of the screaming books clawing to remain on the shelves, only a few hours travel east. "There's something wrong in this country," he whispers.
Like a game of Go, We surround Them and They surround Us. A lot of gente don’t know. Good people will do the right thing when presented with a choice effectively. Aristotle wrote, in essence, all other things being equal, Good overcomes Bad, unless the portavoz for Bad is a really good speaker with good market penetration. Dittoheads. Ken&Menso. Savage.
Poetry is the answer.
Ban-deniers have insufficient information to do other than give in to innate cultural fight or flight impulse. Hypersensitive to illumination, some huddle agoraphobic in the dark, Fox news looping across the television screen.
Most uninformed gente simply want to learn and make up their own mind and be diverted at the same time. Complicating the public discourse, it’s a market truth that people love to buy but they hate being sold. So far, Tony Diaz and his fellow caravan organizers, Liana Lopez, Bryan Parras, Lupe Mendez & Laura Acosta, have hit amenable territory.
The performance art element infused events in the Spring Break Librotraficante Caravan with an infectious spirit of disbelief witnessed in the wetbooks pun and Tony Diaz’ signature chiasmus, the school board erased our history so we decided to make more. The New York Times’ editorial picks up on the same slightly off-gravitas kilter.
The people have no books. Then let them have poetry. The El Paso and Alburquerque floricantos brought sets of powerful messages to full houses. Scattered prose and ritual speeches, the fullness of the events sprouted from the poets.
From whimsy to elegy to taunt to screed, the poets’ eloquence hit with piledriving emotional force that moved audiences to cheers and abrazos. These were the initiated, attending with the expectation of getting what they got.
When fearful but good people feel besieged they set up nearly impenetrable emotional and linguistic defenses that lets folk hear but not listen to messages. I do not expect such essentially good people would have driven over to the Mercado Mayapan in EPT, nor even the elegant National Hispanic Cultural Center.
|Tony Mares opens the evening with|
Ode to los librotraficantes
You carry books as you roll along
in your caravan through Texas, New Mexico,
and on to Arizona. You are
the most dangerous caravan in America.
Give good gente the opportunity to participate privately, via television, and there’s the chance to catch the conscience of the un- or poorly informed good people; the hidden liberal in fundamentalist garb; the out-of-touch just plain old standard Unitedstatesian who instantly understands when something's wrong in this country.
Everyone can take the opportunity to enjoy the poetry. The Librotraficantes brought a video crew to document the journey and the floricantos, and from L.A., Jesus Treviño caravaned.
Treviño, creator of the video site Latinopia, recently posted a reading including some of the artists pictured in this La Bloga column.
Treviño updates Latinopia with new material weekly. Over the coming weeks Latinopia regulars will share new performances and documentaries, as well as Latinopia’s ongoing expansion of history, food, music, culture, criticism and related programming.
The long haul starts now. Diaz bills this as Phase II of the operation. Communication will be continuous about the poetry and literature, especially with Latinopia and the dual Traficante-oriented websites, www.Librotraficante.com and www.NuestraPalabra.org, as well as Nuestra Palabra's Tuesday radio program 7:30pm – 8:30pm CST on 90.1 FM, KPFT.
Note: This wraps my week-long On the Road series:
Ernest Hogan Chicano Sci-Fi Writer
Wenona Benally Baldenegro and Sal Baldenegro, Jr.
Felipe Ortego and El Paso
Portraits of the Artists of Alburquerque
I appreciate your help identifying yourself or your friends in these images.
Photographing public speakers puts me on a quest to capture the perfect moment: eyes expressive, mouth open, gesture in the air, posture in puro readiness to express.
Much of the challenge comes from anticipating and exposing the frame the instant a word or phrase occurs. An image seen in the viewfinder is too late. There's a technical challenge as well. The NHCC auditorium covers vast open space from the stage setting to my tripod against the rail for disabled seating. It's dark and the distance requires a long lens. This is a 70-300 mm f/5.6 lens, used mostly at 300mm, 1/25 f5.6.
I like some of these images and look forward to getting or confirming each name. It's going to be especially fulfilling when Latinopia runs the videos Jesus Treviño recorded.
|Librotraficante Liana Lopez|
|Hakim Bellamy aka Hakimbe|
|Levi Romero, Centennial Poet of New Mexico|
|Librotraficante, had to read and run to airport|
On-Line Floricanto - Penultimate Tuesday in March 2012
Sonia Gutierrez, Chato Hernandez, Renato Rosaldo, Leticia-Diaz Perez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Juan M. Perez
“The Books” by Sonia Gutierrez
“I just want to heard” by Chato Hernandez
“Lo Prohibido” by Renato Rosaldo
“Hermanito Tecato” by Leticia-Diaz Perez
“Not Enough-Too Much” by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"El Corrido De El Librotraficante" by Juan M. Perez
By Sonia Gutiérrez
After hearing the ruling,
some people say
they went hiding behind trees.
Some escaped the classrooms
and ran across fields, deserts, cities, borders
looking for the place of books.
While others once caught
were stamped with green Bs
on their chests. (Those books
are lost—and nowhere
to be found.) They were taken
by officials to places unbeknownst
to readers—places where their words
and formed into secret algorithms
and placed into memory chips
and carefully encrypted
Others wore scarlet
Cs across their breasts. These
books always walked in fear
of being booknapped.
Others, veiled and wrapped
in brown paper bags,
were singled out during routine patrols
with a, “You. Show me your pages,”
as their private parts
were publically leafed
through, and their words
were poked with accusatory
Startled by the news,
others tripped as their letters
fell from the pages
and lay transfixed collecting memories—
of hands grasping their scuffed edges,
of hundreds of identical books being burned,
of being trampled and kicked
on the spine and then urinated on
and stuffed in plastic bags.
And yet, these books
found their words,
organized, and stood up
in unison shoulder to shoulder
the contents of their pages
as they exchanged smiles
with their ineradicable
trailing ghosts always always always
looking for the place of books.
Traducción por Sonia Gutiérrez
Después de oír la sentencia,
algunas personas dijeron
que se fueron a esconder detrás de los árboles.
por todas partes.
Algunos se escaparon de los salones
y corrieron atravesando campos, desiertos, ciudades, fronteras
buscando el lugar de los libros.
Mientras otros una vez atrapados
los estamparon con la letra P de color verde
sobre sus pechos. (Esos libros
están perdidos—y no se han
encontrado). Fueron llevados
por oficiales a lugares desconocidos
por los lectores—a lugares donde sus palabras
y formadas en algoritmos secretos
y metidas a chips de memoria
y cuidadosamente codificadas
en bases de datos.
Otros llevaban puestas la C
escarlata sobre sus pechos. Estos
libros siempre caminaban con miedo
de ser librocuestrados.
Otros, cubiertos con velos y envueltos
en bolsas de papel café,
fueron señalados durante el recorrido de rutina
con un, “Tú. Enséñame tus páginas”,
mientras sus partes privadas
fueron hojeadas públicamente
y sus palabras picadas
con dedos índices acusantes.
Asustados por las noticias,
otros tropezaron mientras sus letras
caían de las páginas
y yacían paralizados coleccionando memorias—
de manos sujetando las rozaduras de sus bordes,
de cientos de libros idénticos quemados,
de ser pisoteados y pateados en sus lomos
y después orinados
y metidos en bolsas de plástico.
Y aún así, estos libros
encontraron sus palabras,
se organizaron, y se levantaron
al unísono hombro a hombro
los contenidos de sus páginas,
y ellos intercambiaron sonrisas
con sus imborrables
fantasmas siempre siempre siempre rastreando
buscando el lugar de los libros.
“I just want to heard”
By Chato Hernandez
I just want to be heard.
Im screaming, but there is no sound.
Locks and chains are holding me down,
placed on me by society,
reinforced by institutionalized racism,
injustice in the barrio,
displacement of my soul,
misinformation on my identification.
I’m not a cholo gang member, drug dealer, or wife beater...
so I’ve been told.
I don’t need to drink or inject a foreign object to heal my pain.
Sometimes, I want to run away, but it’s all the same.
From one block to the next,
there is a mother crying in pain,
a queen without a king,
a little girl without a teacher or protector in the home,
a man on the street corner poisoning our community,
a boy being schooled up on how to fight with his fists,
how to take life with a knife,
and how to pull the trigger and...just walk away.
A hood education that says,
never back down, always be ready, watch your back and never become a rat.
I don’t belong in a prison cell and don’t deserve to be put through hell.
I’m not a disease or an infestation.
I’ve been told I’m a manifestation of Cuauhtémoc,
but I don’t know who he is...
I was never taught.
The flor in me never blossomed,
and I don’t have a song to sing.
The education I learned didn’t teach me to read or write,
it taught me to fight to stay alive.
That people like me,
can’t be all that they want to be.
They taught me that I was special,
That I couldn’t learn like others,
my brain didn’t have the capacity.
That I would never amount to anything.
I learned that it’s easier to quit and not try,
than to give my best and still fail.
I won’t give them a chance
to laugh in my face.
So, I guess I’ll just take my place were I belong.
But deep down inside,
I know that I’m wrong.
Can’t you see?
I have a disease.
I’m trying to find my identity.
I was told “La Cultura Cura”,
but who will teach me?
I want to be connected and accepted
not dejected, rejected, or disconnected.
I want to feel important.
I want you to ask me “How’s it going?” and sincerely want to know.
And when I respond “It’s going very shitty”...
please don’t judge me,
just love me
for who I am.
Because I need you
and you need me.
My heart is bleeding,
there is a hole in my soul,
and something is missing.
I forgot how to speak with words,
or maybe I just never learned.
If I’m angry and mad,
it’s because I’m really sad.
If I fight, it’s because Im scared.
If I pull away, it’s because Im scared.
If I don’t say I love you, it’s because Im scared.
If I don’t speak up, for what?
I can’t find my voice,
but I just want to be heard.
Close your eyes and see with your heart.
Look beyond the mil mascaras.
because I really just want to take flight,
and be free,
like a hawk in the sky.
I want to be a warrior,
but I don’t know how.
I want to have hope and
I want to believe,
but I need you.
I need you to teach me,
not by your words,
but your example.
I need you to be strong,
so that I can be stronger.
I need your compassion.
I need your laughter.
I need your love.
I need you to step up
and not give up
By Renato Rosaldo
ICE states its mission: to protect national security,
enforce immigration laws, fight crimes and terrorist activity.
In Manhattan, the phone woke me.
My daughter Olivia in Oakland told me
what José, one of her fourth-grade students,
had told her that day.
His face flushed, eyes bulging, he tried
to muster English, but could speak only Spanish,
el idioma en que pudo decir lo prohibido.
On his way home from César Chávez
Elementary school in Richmond, the migra,
the one called ICE, he said, stopped him and asked,
Does anybody in your house have no papers?
The boy said, I was born here, I’m a citizen.
José kept walking, entered his living room.
The migra--their dogs straining on leashes--broke in.
The boy’s terrified eyes locked on the dogs,
jaws curled in snarls around their white teeth.
His family had papers, but the boy won’t finish
the school year. In five days he’ll be sent
back to Mexico, where he’s never been,
the walk home from school without dogs.
to Izzy, hermano del alma
By Leticia Díaz Pérez
your hands are like
tus manos son
I almost can’t describe
long skinny fingers
that look like they haven't been
can't figure them out, tecato
can't find the words for your hands
like you've worked with them your whole life
but I don't remember you ever saying
that you've used your hands to make a living,
like they've lost their
their sense of feel
como si ya no sintieran mas
there's the rest of you
tu cuerpo - exploSIVO!
como si la energía no tuviera fin
flailing in the air
when you explain something to us
like a crazy man's eyes
never - satisfied eyes
you see una mujer hermosa
by the drinking fountain
a friend walks by and:
"...hey yo! ven, ven aquí, where've you been, bro?
yo, bro, quien es esa mujer over there?
tu la conoces? como se llama?
introduce me man,
and your laugh
that loud, mocking laugh
that fills the empty rooms of your
Boricua street soul
"... yo soy de la calle, I gotta know what's
goin’ on around me, know what I mean?
that's why I'm always lookin' around..."
your eyes roaming endlessly around
the smoke-filled café
of this oh - so - white college town
that's what you are
smoking, “... I gotta stop smoking, man...”
all at once
all in one breath
like a Celia Cruz album
playing real loud in a taxicab
somewhere in New York City
with six people sitting in the cab
talking all at once
in Spanish and English
and you can't hear a word that
so someone yells out
" ...co-ño, shut the fuck up and let me listen to the
so everyone stops and listens
for about 20 seconds
and then they all start talking again-
all at once, in two languages
like a Boricua Salsa party
and no one is listening to the music
everyone is just
snapping their fingers
tapping their feet
congas in their laps
but no one is really listening to the
that's what you're like, hermano
you never stop
you never listen
to your own música
to your cuerpo
to your hands
como si ya no tuvieran mas vida
listen to them
se están muriendo
and maybe, just may--be
you might be dying
~ I recently heard that this hermano finally stabbed the "chasing dragon" in the heart. Called it quits. His magical hands are now enlightening kids in the barrios, where he is working as a professional magician and mentor to young Latinos.
Not Enough-Too Much
By Andrea Hernandez Holm
They sent me a letter explaining that my kind of writing is not what they are looking for.
I must be broken
some kind of illegal Spanglish
poet del este lado
crossing borders between identities
with words and dreams
that reveal my truth
not enough too much
not enough too much
not enough too much
of everything and nothing.
copyright 2012 Andrea Hernandez Holm
El Corrido De El Librotraficante
Por Juan Manuel Perez, Poeta y Librotraficante
En el estado de la Arizona
Esta una gobernadora muy bocona
Pasando siempre la mala palabra
Encontra mi gente, linda mejicana
Con eso comenzo todo este guato
De remover lo nuestro con contrato
Por las escuelas, entre los cuartos
Libros escribidos por nuestros vatos
Ponte trucha, chicas y chicanos
De aqui semos y no los vamos
Nuestra palabra es nuestra historia
Dale en la madre hasta la victoria
Entre Tejas por todos lados
Comenzaron los librostraficanos
Para Nuevo Mejico de paraditas
A tomar tequila con compadristas
Despues llegaron a la Arizona
Para darle lumbre a la comenzona
Porque aqui se acaba, les dice Diaz
Y porque este jale ya no valia
De mente a frente fueron cambiando
Estos gueys menos confiando
Hasta por fin ya se calmaron
Y los chicanos con fe ganaron
Pues, si te dicen que estas en mal
Por tu color de cuero o lengua tal
Cantales los echos del caravan
De librotraficantes y ya veran
Sonia Gutierrez, Chato Hernandez, Renato Rosaldo, Leticia-Diaz Perez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Juan M. Perez
Renato Rosaldo's first poetry book, Rezo a la mujer araña/Prayer to Spider Woman won the American Book Award, 2004, and his second book, Diego Luna's Insider Tips, won the 6th Many Mountains Moving Poetry Book Manuscript prize, selected by Martin Espada and available from Small Press Distributors. As an anthropologist he is author of Culture and Truth. He is a graduate of Tucson High School.
Leticia Diaz-Perez was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan.Leticia has a BA in English and American Literature and an MA in Spanish and Latin American Literature from the Univeristy of Michigan. While attending Uof M she co-hosted "Radio Caliente" at WCBN FM , one of the first Latino radio shows in the Ann Arbor area. It was at WCBN that she interviewed Latino writers Pedro Pietri, Tato Laviera, Trinidad Sanchez,Sandra Cisneros and Piri Thomas-inspiring her to start writing and telling her story.Leticia has taught Spanish at the University of Michigan and in the Michigan public school system. She also taught in the New York City public school system, (4th grade bilingual teacher) where she had the opportunity to work with a group of beautiful children who had recently arrived from the Dominican Republic.She is currently living in Argentina(her mother's home country) where she hopes to continue writing, teaching, taking long walks, and playing her guitar.
Andrea Hernandez Holm lives and writes in Arizona. Her work has appeared in Our Spirit, Our Reality; Wisdom of our Mothers; La Sagrada, and The Blue Guitar Magazine. Her poetry was featured at the 2011 Indigenous Poets and Writers Exhibit at Arizona State University and she recently participated as a presenter on the Sowing the Seeds Panel Presentation at the Tucson Festival of Books. Visit Andrea at www.andreahernandezholm.webs.com
Juan Manuel Perez, a Mexican-American poet from La Pryor, Texas, is the author of Another Menudo Sunday (2007), O’ Dark Heaven: A Response To Suzette Haden Elgin’s Definition Of Horror (2009), WUI: Written Under The Influence Of Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. (2011), and six poetry chapbooks. Juan is also the 2011-2012 Poet Laureate for the San Antonio Poets Association. His poetry has also appeared in New Texas, Concho River Review, The Langdon Review Of The Arts In Texas, The Mayo Review, Writers Of The Rio Grande.Com, Homenaje A Miguel Hernandez En Su Centenario, Desahogate, Boundless, International Poetry Review, and numerous other publications. Juan is a ten-year Navy/Marine veteran and former Combat medic serving in the First Gulf War (1991). Presently, he is also a successful public high school history teacher in La Pryor where he lives.