Tuesday, September 18, 2012

La Bloga Revisits The Classics. Banned Books Update. Call for Papers. On-Line Floricanto.

La Bloga Revisits The Classics

José Antonio Burciaga. Drink Cultura. Santa Barbara : Joshua Odell Editions, Capra Press, 1993.
ISBN 1-877741-07-8

Daniel A Olivas, Ed. Latinos in Lotusland. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2008.
ISBN 9781931010474

Latinopia. Dr. Thelma Reyna reviews Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.

Michael Sedano

Saturday afternoon, the Autry Museum in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park kicked off fiestas patrias month with a lavish feast of Chicana and Chicano short fiction. The reading and signing were a renaissance for the 2008 anthology Latinos in Lotusland. Four years seems an eternity in a world where literary competition spotlights the latest and the brightest, where yesterday’s sizzling title isn’t today’s.
Melinda Palacio
Bloguero Daniel Olivas edited Latinos in Lotusland but did not take the opportunity to read. However, the readings from Michael Jaime-Becerra, Estella Gonzáles, Lisa Alvarez, Sandra Ramos O'Briant (who read twice), and bloguera Melinda Palacio, reminded readers that quality lives in the thing itself, not the © date.
Sandra Ramos O-Briant

Lisa Alvarez

Olivas’ inspiration to put out the call for writers—and the flood of submissions—provided the editor a rich lode to work through for the finest specimens. Olivas’ work resulted in Latinos in Lotusland becoming a classic upon publication.

Michael Jaime-Becerra
Estella Gonzáles
The exemplary readings should have inspired folks lined up at the signing table to take the volume home and devour it, dustjacket and all. La Bloga readers will find a good reward tracking down a copy on your doublestacked shelves and enjoying it all over again.

Drink Cultura. Chicanismo. C/S.

While the Autry reading offers a renaissance of sorts to Latinos in Lotusland after only four years, there’s no equivocation in the status of Jose Antonio Burciaga’s 20 year-old Drink Cultura. From its hilariously effective logo to the final essay, Burciaga’s riff on specialty magazines where he spins off out of Día de los Muertos into health care, Drink Cultura genuinely refreshes.

There are many people who experience death and remember hovering over their own bodies, speeding down a tunnel, seeing the light at the end and reaching the clouded dunes of heaven only to be turned back like a bad dream, like picking a monopoly game card that says, “Go back to earth. You owe the hospital $10,000.” 144

Burciaga’s essay style recalls a time when newspaper columnists developed large followings for the homespun local angle on stuff that mattered if even in small insignificant ways. In Los Angeles Jack Smith, in The City (San Francisco), Herb Caen and Ralph J. Gleason enthralled readers.

José Antonio Burciaga writes in the same vein, except his homespun comes out of the Chicano Renaissance. Burciaga’s essays peopled themselves with raza, people and places and things. Piñatas, pendejos, politics, Cinco de Mayo, and all manner of entertaining matter put together with a satirist’s razor wit and a genius’ inner eye.

Burciaga’s politics is not the confrontative picket line stance of el movimiento but an overarching awareness of the polis in “politics,” the human landscape of our own history.

“The Joy of Jalapeños” extolls the pleasures of burning your mouth with that first bite of an incredibly hot salsa de molcahete, or a big raw chile picked fresh off the plant. Like Burciaga, one of my fondest memories of life on an isolated Korean mountaintop was care packages from home bringing canned chiles and a rare taste of home.

“Reasons to Celebrate El Cinco de Mayo” needs to be read to classrooms every year for its historical overview. Burciaga’s thesis is the victory of the French dissuaded the grand plan to unite British and French navies to break the US blockade of Southern shipping ports. Think Gulf of Hormuz and Iranian oil.

“Con Safos” wraps up everything you probably heard about c/s but weren’t sure. Now you can be sure Burciaga said this, and it feels right from my memory, too. Así es. c/s

Every essay brings its own particular joy, if only in watching a skilled writer at work. Burciaga saves even an unsuccessful piece, like "All the Things I Learned in School Weren’t Necessarily True,” which suffers from absence of his customarily reflective, controlled anger, but comes together a little in his ruminations about shifting meanings and cashing-in purgatory indulgences.

“Pendejismo” alone is worth finding the out-of-print masterpiece. The essay finds Burciaga at his best, stringing facts together with outlandish evidence that produces both conviction and chortles. Some portion derives from Armando Jimenez’ Picardía Mexicana, whom Burciaga credits as the world’s foremost pendejólogo.

That’s deeper into the essay. Burciaga launches it academically-minded, with the detailed explanation at whose heart lies this:

Pendejo is probably the least offensive of these P words. In Guadalajara and some other parts of Mexico, it is a common everyday word. For the non-Spanish speaking, the word is pronounced pen-deh-ho (not pen-day-hoe); feminine, pen-deh-ha; plural pendejas or pendejos. The noun, or committed act of a pendejo( a), is a pendejada. The verb is to pendejear. The term pendejo is commonly used outside of polite conversation and basically describes someone who is stupid or does something stupid. It's much stronger to call someone a pendejo than the standard Spanish estupido But be careful when calling someone a pendejo. Among friends it can be taken lightly, but for others it is better to be angry enough to back it up. Ironically, the Yiddish word for pendejo is a putz which means the same thing.

By the time the author’s wit has sharpened enough to do harm to the weakly constituted, he’s citing a taxonomy of pendejos, helpful because, as Don Armando avers, “The great majority of people regardless of class, color, or creed, are pendejos”. So re-reading Drink Cultura may help ‘splain some of the weirdness going around lately—“The politicos, who think they will change the world with money, charisma or speeches”—or perhaps help one find one’s place—“The optimistic pendejos, who are naïve, happy, and talkative. They look for hidden treasures, mines, underground water. They also buy lottery tickets, bet on everything and believe in television wrestling.”

Latinopia’s Classics Series

The web’s number one site for diverse Chicana Chicano video and, increasingly, prose, Latinopia, features an outstanding series where Latinopia writers Luis Torres and Thelma Reyna alternate coverage of select greats from the Chicana Chicano canon.

Currently, Latiopia is running Dr. Reyna’s beautifully crafted appreciation of Sandra Cisneros’ trailblazing House on Mango Street. Reyna recognizes Cisneros’ power with the assurance of a seasoned literary investigator.

“La Sandra,” as Sandra Cisneros has sometimes been called by her fans, is perhaps the most famous American Latina writer alive today and possibly of all time. Her books have been translated internationally and are taught in grade schools and universities across our nation. As a multiple award-winner in her long, distinguished career, Cisneros has had a tremendous influence on the contemporary renaissance and evolution of Chicano/Latino literature in the United States.
. . . .
Unlike a novel, the book does not have a plot in the traditional sense. The thread that holds this book together is the recurrence of various characters—most of them Esperanza’s peers and family—from section to section, though many characters appear only once. Cisneros calls this “story cycles” and purposely chose “little stories…connected to each other.” Each “chapter” (not traditional chapters either, but “a little story” instead) can be read as a stand-alone. The vignette may be as simple as a child’s description of clouds, or as complex as girls mocking a dying woman.
. . . .
Like a deft artist, Cisneros paints pictures of her characters in tight, economical brushstrokes. She says little about them in restrained, simple language, and picks unobtrusive details to show us their essence.
. . . .
Those who didn’t know that poetry was a first love of Cisneros would guess this from the book’s imagery. The simplest things are endowed with little grace notes that surprise us, for Cisneros’ language is not what we ourselves would have invoked.

For a couple of reasons, Thelma Reyna’s elegant review merits your full attention at this link. First off, Reyna’s appreciation for the literature and its place in a broader context give her review interest.

Also, it’s an opportunity to hang around and explore the vast resources amassed at Latinopia.

Finally, Dr. Reyna’s essay is another reminder to take some time out of your pursuit of today’s current literature to enjoy some of the old stuff. There’s old stuff you only recently forgot, and maybe some old stuff you’ve heard about but never really got into, sabes? Now you can.

Banned Books Update: Countdown to Nine Two One

What's it to be then, eh?

That's what Alex in Anthony Burgess' classic A Clockwork Orange would ask, just before the caca hit the fan. Arizona's done enough ultraviolence to the flag. It's only a few days until the Court sets things back on track.

This Friday, September twenty first, the court releases its Special Master Report on the Tucson school desegregation case.

Will the Special Master return the banned curriculum, the banned books, to the culture?

What's it to be then, eh?

Global Modernities Conference Coming to Cal State LA

Today's most arresting email comes from La Bloga friend Roberto Cantú from the University on the East Side of Los Angeles, Cal State LA.

Cantú's upcoming conference takes Chicana Chicano scholarship into heretofore unexplored subjects, the May 3-4, 2013 Conference on Global Modernities.

In general terms, the conference expresses its desires to change the world, one academic investigation at a time. Change inevitably begins with the spoken word at conferences, so this is really important news:

We now turn our attention to areas of concern related to global demography, biodiversity, and to political and social movements in different parts of the world. The proposed scope of reflections range from the challenges to rethink and imagine a world that has become increasingly interdependent, to posing new questions, conditions, and possibilities for a better understanding of the ways in which modernity—global and manifold in scope--is shaping our modes of communication, the emergence of local identities, and a financial crisis in an unprecedented global scale.

The Call for Papers suggests lines of investigation. One panel I think I'll pencil into the calendar asks The meaning and function of critique in the age of global modernities.

Visit Dr. Cantú's program website for detailed information along with an exceedingly attractively illustrated webpage.

On-Line Floricanto for September's Penultimate Tuesday
Sharon Elliott, Nancy Green, Sonia Gutiérrez, Andrea Mauk, Hedy Garcia Treviño

Gentrification by Sharon Elliott
Immigration Blues by Nancy Green
The Calculated World of Monsters by Sonia Gutiérrez
The Non-Existent Words and Double Negatives of Education by Andrea Mauk
Walking on the Shards of Broken Dreams by Hedy Garcia Treviño

by Sharon Elliott

or “on the wrong side her whole life”

I want to expand your idea of neighborhood
the real estate agent said
what the heck does that mean

will you take me somewhere
and show me property
that only  a white person can buy
because she has money for a down payment
or access to special programs
or the right color skin
and eyes as blue as the sky

those neighborhoods
are where my beloved compañeros live
skin of many hues
blue eyes a thing of dreams

or a consequence of mixed birth
if I buy the house they are renting
they will have to move
take their children away from their friends
say goodbye to the grocery store where everyone knows their name
the restaurant where their order is a given
the parque where they play congas
dance and sing til clave is exhausted

exactly what is the idea of neighborhood
you want me to adopt
oh exalted real estate agent
not one that can be broken
or blown to ash upon the wind
and should be preserved
you need to make your commission
and I’m the most likely candidate

let me expand your idea of neighborhood
teach you the cost in pain
tears of the children
come with me into the homes
when the tenants are there
talk to them
eat with them
play dominoes
play catch with the kids
understand what you do

before then
I won’t sign your papers
or look at another house with you

This is an experience I had 15 years ago when I was able to be a property owner in Seattle. 

©Sharon Elliott

Immigration Blues 
by Nancy Green

Hatred in the air
Craters of ignorance

Walls of fear
Overwhelming odds

Desperate arrivals
Hidden destinations

Political agendas
Divided alliances

Regurgitated lies
Feigned respect

Immoral decisions
Indecent laws

Adulterated promises
Divided families

Forgotten destinies
Incarcerated souls

Raised consciousness
Mobilized communities


The Calculated World of Monsters
by Sonia Gutiérrez

In all parts of the world,
there are monsters
that eat women
and children.

Monsters smell the nights
and days. With their claws
like hooks, they stalk and snatch
the long hair and the tender
bodies that walk blindfolded
through this calculated world of monsters.

Yesterday, in an isolated place
on her way home,
the captive fell into the very claws
of the rings of monsters—hidden
behind the faces,
behind a gun,
behind a name,
behind a switchblade,
behind the face of money,
behind government positions,
behind a borrowed human’s face.

Monsters hide
and spit the masticated bones
on roads and prairies.

Who are these monsters
that call themselves men,
gentlemen, and sirs?

Who are these monsters
that call themselves fathers,
uncles, and brothers?

Who will put a stop to these monsters—
to The Kings of Misogyny?

El mundo calculado de los monstruos
por Sonia Gutiérrez

En todas partes del mundo,
hay monstruos
que se comen a las mujeres
y a los niños.

Los monstruos huelen las noches
y los días. Asechan y arrebatan
con sus garras como anzuelos
los cabellos largos y cuerpos
tiernos que caminan con sus ojos vendados
por el mundo calculado de los monstruos.

Ayer por la tarde, en un lugar aislado
rumbo a casa, la presa cayó
en las mismísimas garras
de las redes de los monstruos—
escondidos detrás de las caras,
detrás de una pistola,
detrás de alguien con nombre,
detrás de una navaja de muelle,
detrás de alguien con cara de dinero,
detrás de los puestos de gobierno,
detrás de alguien con la cara
prestada de un humano.

Los monstruos se esconden
para escupir los huesos masticados
sobre las carreteras y praderas.

¿Quiénes serán esos monstruos
que se dicen llamar hombres,
caballeros y señores?

¿Quiénes serán esos monstruos
que se dicen llamar papás,
tíos y hermanos?

¿Quiénes les pondrán un alto a los monstruos—
a Los Reyes de la Misoginia?

The Non-Existent Words and Double Negatives of Education 
by Andrea Mauk

Ain’t no Kellogg’s Koko Krispies Global Academy of Advanced Learning,
No corporate-run charter, no back to the basics three Rs,
No scaffolding it down to the infinitesimal to make it comprehensible
Gonna help.

Ain’t no Teach for America teacher who drives a Lexus in from the suburbs -
never lived in the hood, but really wants to be a part of the change,
No multicultural credit on the transcripts, or SDAIE strategies, no hour and a half of
Sheltered ELD instruction
Gonna make the difference.

No standards-based education that serves to set limits
Like impenetrable borders, rather than goals to be surpassed,
No E. D. Hirsch “What Your Third Grader Should Know”
According to his gentlemanly Southern ideals, superimposed on us
Gonna serve the purpose.

It don’t take no school uniform, no Parent Revolution blue t-shirt
They were suckered in to wearing to show they support vouchers and charters
And have a desire to dismantle Public Education. There is no magic bullet, no
Brown vs. the Board of Education, no San Antonio v. Rodriguez,
No children’s intelligence measured by the shade of their skin
Gonna put us on a new road.

Open your eyes to the crisis around you,
Open your ears and let the rhetoric astound you.

Don’t say that sounds good or begin to cave in,
Don’t believe the test scores, the media-hyped panic:
Of all the civilized countries in the world, we rank in
The middle, shame-shame, 18th out of 36 developed nations,
Because Arne Duncan says we have to get serious about
Education out of one side of his mouth, while he encourages
State cuts to funding from the other.
And the man being interviewed on CNN says “ It’s those damn
Immigrant children that don’t know no English, when my
Child's been ready, that slow the teachers down. God knows those teachers try.”

Don’t invoke religion in your message, try to pull God over to your side,
and don’t blame the teachers,
They are not Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher, one and all. It ain’t gonna
Change things because the test is norm- referenced, they throw
Out the questions more than 50% of the students will pass.
Data can be useful but it should not define students. Do you call
Your kid by a ranking, a number? If you do, for Pete’s sake, give the
Child a name, a meaningful one from back in the family, and let
Your offspring know from your heart that you care.
Celebrate their strengths.

What we must do is wake up Paulo Freire, asleep in his grave,
And ask him again, “What did you have to say? Oh, now I got it.
When we allow the oppressors to make all the rules, they only let
The oppressed learn what they want them to learn. Eeeewwww!
Someone give Angela Valenzuela a bullhorn and let's listen to
What she has to offer: Subtraction is taught in our schools every day,
When your child’s culture is extracted and turned bland,
stomped on, given no credit where credit is due, where
If it was instead respected, it would create interest, engagement, and look good on you.
Where speaking two languages is seen as a liability, and
Not memorizing the leaders of the American Civil War is
Met with a look of reprehensibility.

Open your eyes to the crisis around you,
Open your ears and let the rhetoric astound you.

You can follow the teachers' manual line by precious line,
but let me tell you, you'd be wasting your time.
It’s not starting at the college level,
So many of our kids don’t even get there.
It’s starting in pre-school, or even before that
Because we were put through it, too. It was
Done to me and it was done to you,
with an outdated system and more of the same
given a different acronym to describe the game.
This country's crisis is not just about immigration.
I tell you, clear your mind and take a fresh
Look at education. And when you get a good
Picture of what’s going on in your head,
You might just want to cry.

You can spend a trillion dollars, but it will never add up
to a classroom community filled with genuine caring. The revolution can not
be exacted from the outside in.

(And in this case, double negatives will never add up to a positive.)

Walking on the Shards of Broken Dreams 
by Hedy Garcia Treviño

Walking on the shards of broken dreams
scattered voices call
from underneath the desert sand
where nothing grows
Lies still the seed of hope
Awaiting the furrow of the plow
unearthing hope that never sleeps
gaining strength from every storm
Lies still the seed of hope
Called forth by footsteps on the desert floor
keeping rythm with the heartbeat of the sun
comes forth the seed of hope

Gentrification by Sharon Elliott
Immigration Blues by Nancy Green
The Calculated World of Monsters by Sonia Gutiérrez
The Non-Existent Words and Double Negatives of Education by Andrea Mauk
Walking on the Shards of Broken Dreams by Hedy Garcia Treviño

Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.

Nancy Green is author Crucified River/Rio Crucificado a collection of poetry dedicated to the young women who have been murdered in Juárez and the thousands of immigrants who die crossing borders published by Mouthfeel Press (2010). Her work has been anthologized in Sowing the Seeds: Our Spirit…Our Reality, Poetry and Art by Rincón Bohemio, Mezcla: Art and Writing from the Tumblewords Project, Mujeres de Maíz Zines 5 & 6, Chrysalis, and Bordersenses. She can be reached at nancygreen9@yahoo.com

Sonia Gutiérrez is proud and blessed to be part of Poets Responding to SB 1070 and La Bloga’s On-line Floricanto, both promoters of social justice and human dignity. She teaches English at Palomar College, where she co-advises the Palomar Poets and Encuentros United. Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, is forthcoming this 2012. To learn more about Sonia, visit her bloguita chingona, Chicana in the Midst, where she shares the work of artistas and poetas.

Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction,
poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won
awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry. She is currently in pre-production of her independent film, “Beautiful Dreamer,” based on her original screenplay and manuscript.

Hedy M. Garcia Treviño. Has written poetry since the age of eight. Her first poem came as a result of being punished for speaking Spanish in school. Her poetry has been published in numerous journal's and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing. Hedy is also one of the moderators for Poets Responding to SB 1070.

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