Friday, August 31, 2012

Las Comadres y Los Compadres Writers Conference and Other Special Events

Melinda Palacio

Las Comadres Para Las Americas to host Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in Nueva York

On October 6, aspiring writers can purse and polish their own dreams of publishing their novel, collection of stories, memoir, or book of poetry at the Las Comadres y Compadres Writers Conference in New York, held at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, Brooklyn. Registration for writers and vendors is now open for the conference.
Writers will also gain an insider's perspective into the big time publishing industry. In addition to the usual panels, attendees can choose one-on-one meetings with agents and editors, specializing in books by Latino authors. La Bloga represents: I will be on the poetry panel.The Keynote speaker is author and television personality Sonia Manzano.  Having originated the role of “Maria” on Sesame Street, Manzano wrote two children’s books, No Dogs Allowed (Simon and Schuster, 2004) and A Box Full of Kittens (Simon and Schuster, 2007), and will have her first YA novel, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, published by Scholastic in Fall 2012. Some of the publishing professionals on hand include Johanna Castillo, Vice President & Senior Editor/Atria, Simon & Schuster: Jaime de Pablos, Director/Vintage Español, Knopf Doubleday Group; Adriana Dominguez, Agent/Full Circle Literary; Mercedes Fernandez, Assistant Editor/Dafina Books, Kensington Publishing; Sulay Hernandez, Editor/Other Press; Cheryl Klein, Executive Editor/Arthur A. Levine Books; Selina L. McLemore, Senior Editor/Grand Central Publishing; Christina Morgan, Editor/Harcourt Houghton Mifflin; Lukas Ortiz, Managing Director/Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency, Inc.;  Diane Stockwell, Founder/Globo Libros Literary Management; and Stacy Whitman, Founder and Editorial Director/Tu Books.

Adriana Dominguez, Literary Agent

Adriana Dominguez of Full Circle Literary talks about her involvement in the first Comadres Writers Conference:
"I am so proud to be part of the wonderful group of people organizing this important conference. This project is very personal for all us. We have joined together around three basic concepts: access, guidance, and community. We want to provide Latino writers with access to the world of publishing by exposing them to successfully-published Latino authors, as well as editors and agents who have a track record of helping Latinos get published. During a full day of panels and one-on-ones with industry experts, the conference will provide writers guidance on how to navigate the world of publishing, and what they need to do to increase their chances of getting published. Finally, we believe that there is power in numbers and that everyone needs support, so we would like Latino writers to walk away from this experience as community builders; to create writers' communities, critique groups and workshops that support other Latinos on their journey to getting published. There are not nearly enough books written by Latinos in today's marketplace. We have united some of the best and brightest minds in publishing under a single roof to help change that. Please join us!"

Upcoming Events:

Next week, September 8, Melinda Palacio offers a memoir writing workshop for Tucson's Sowing the Seeds Writing Collective.

September 15
Authors read from Latinos in Lotusland, edited by La Bloga's Daniel Olivas

Latinos in Lotusland at the Autry, September 15, 2pm to 4pm. Don't miss a full day of Latino Heritage month at the Autry Museum in Burbank. La Bloga will feature this event on Friday, September 14. Stay tuned for more inside accounts of Lotusland contributors.

Friday, August 31, Lunasol Bookfestival tonight in Whittier:

August 31 from 6pm to 10 pm 6711 Bright Avenue, Uptown Whittier.

LunaSol Book Fest Line-Up:

Meet and Greet Reception: 6-6:30pm

Lizette Valles (Author)                               "land of the Lost Socks"                     6:30-6:42pm
Esau Andrade (Illustrator)                          "Perfect Season for Dreaming"           6:42-6:54pm
Joe Cepeda(Author/Illustrator)                    "Lado a Lado"                                  6:54-7:06pm
Javier Hernandez(Comic Creator)                "El Muerto"                                       7:06-7:18pm 
Rosa Maria Silva(Author)                            "Oropel"                                           7:18-7:29pm


Melinda Palacio (Poet/Author)                               "Ocotillo Dreams"    8:00-8:12pm
Reyna Grande (Author)                                        "The Distance Between Us"        8:12-8:24pm
David Reyes and Tom Waldman (Authors)              "Land of a Thousand Dances"    8:24-8:36pm
GustavoArellano (Author)                                      "Tacos USA"                            8:36-8:48pm
Lalo Alcaraz (Author)                                            "Latino USA"                            8:48-9:00pm

Book Signing with Authors/Illustrators: 9-10pm

Countdown to publication... Less than two months...

Less than two months until the release of How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, Tia Chucha Press October 2012.
Read all about Margaret Garcia's family at KCET. Garcia painted the above portrait for my poetry book.

Last, but not least...
Happy Birthday Michael Sedano!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicanonautica: My Spaghetti Western Revolutionary Chicano Awakening

by Ernest Hogan

My awakening to my Chicano identity happened years before the Chicano Moratorium. It happened at a drive-in movie theater, triggered by a spaghetti western, called A Bullet for the General, also known as El Chuncho Quien Sabe?

I wasn’t a big fan of the horse operas from Italy back then. As a kid who grew up on the Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger TV shows, they seemed fake. I remember my reaction to Old Shatterhand -- an adaptation of the German writer Karl May’s novel -- was, “Those ain’t Apaches! Haven’t these people seen any John Wayne movies?”

Later, I realized that the Wild West was myth rather than history. Hollywood’s West, where Utah stands in for Texas, is just as phony as Italy’s where the Mediterranean plays Aztlán. Even now, in the 21st century, the myth is mutating . . .

But back in 1966, A Bullet for the General won me over with its delirious, non-stop action, and Gian Maria Volonté as El Chuncho. 

There was also Klaus Kinski as Santo (!), the monk who wears crossed bandoliers and a sombrero over his robes, who did a sensational sign of the cross punctuated with hand-grenades:
“In the name of the Father!” BLAM! “And the Son!” BLAM! “And the Holy Ghost!” BLAM! That planted the seeds of creative blasphemy in my developing sensibilities.

English actress Martine Beswick, brownfaced as the sexy revoltuionary woman Aldelita, made an impression on my youthful libido.

But it was Volonté -- who was fresh from shooting it out with Clint Eastwood in both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More -- as the powerfully heroic rebel chief, El Chuncho, charging into and cheating certain death, that stole the show. He’s everything that every wannabe revolutionary dreams of becoming. 

El Chuncho wasn’t a simple superhero. He had flaws -- he is played by the pretty-boy, blond, gringo mercenary who ends up assassinating the general.

But ultimately he sees the light, and he had the last word -- or rather fires the last bullet, and goes dancing down the train tracks.

I’m reminded of the words of Chester Himes, “. . . all unorganized violence is like a blind man with a pistol.” In the end, this pistolero sees and becomes organized, no longer a mere bandido, but a true revolutionary, and therefore truly dangerous.

After that, my father bought some Charro Avitia records that he would play around the house and take to tribal gatherings at my Grandparents' house. Hearing those songs of revolution and love of firearms reminded me of El Chuncho.

Before seeing El Chuncho I would be insulted when people called me a Mexican. I was born in L.A.! I was an American, dammit! But if being a Mexican meant being like El Chuncho -- hey, that wasn’t bad.

I still wondered why they kept doubting my American citizenship. And why some would like me to go around showing my “papers” everywhere I go. Seems I needed El Chuncho’s attitude if I was going to survive in a world where lawmakers see my skin color and my ancestors as a threat.

Ernest Hogan has been going over his novel Smoking Mirror Blues, getting it ready for release as an ebook, like Cortez on Jupiter. Meanwhile, High Aztech is waiting in the wings . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THAT MAD GAME Growing Up in a Warzone: An Anthology of Essays from Around the Globe

Edited by J.L. Powers

Seventeen writers contribute essays about how they became adults in times of war. Essays focus on modern history but take no sides. Vietnam from both sides. Bosnia. The Gulf War. Rwanda. Juárez. El Salvador. The list goes on and on. There are no winners, just the survivors left behind. Picking up the pieces. 

The Box

When I came from work, my mother said, "René, there is a box for you."

It is always amazing to receive a box. I  wondered "What could be the surprise inside the box?" 

What a great gift,  it is THAT MAD GAME Growing Up in a Warzone. My books are finally here! 

This book is an anthology of essays from around the globe. My essay is about my childhood during the civil war in El Salvador. It is wonderful to hold a book for the first time. 

I looked at the spine, title, cover.  That red fly trying to fly freely in the sky! Now the book is not the image on my computer screen. It is the real book.

It is time to read my essay LEFT BEHIND IN EL SALVADOR

But there are more essays in this incredible book. The editor is J.L Powers and it was published by Cinco Puntos Press.

These are  the titles and authors of the essays.

A Talib in Love by Qais Akbar Omar / AFGHANISTAN

No Longer Young by Phillip Cole Manor / VIETNAM

Holland 1944-45 by Elisabeth Breslav / THE NETHERLANDS

Across the River by Nikolina Kulidžan / BOSNIA

Hand-Me-Down War Stories by Jerry Mathes / U.S.

Left Behind in El Salvador by René Colato Laínez / EL SALVADOR

Ways of the Khmer Rouge by Peauladd Huy / CAMBODIA

My War and His War by Alia Yunis / LEBANON, PALESTINE, U.S.

Our America by Marnie Mueller / JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMPS, U.S.

Exiled to Gansu Province by Xiaomei Lucas as told to Becky Powers / CHINA

Brass Shells by Aria Minu-Sepehr / IRAN

Half a Continent, Step by Step by Andie Miller / RWANDA, DRC, SOUTH AFRICA

Statistical Life by David Yost / BURMA, THAILAND

The Light of Gandhi's Lamp by Hilary Kromberg Inglis / SOUTH AFRICA

From Fear to Hope: Raising Our Children in the World's Most Violent City by Fito Avitia / JUAREZ, MEXICO

A Separate Escape: The Chin of Burma & the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program by Rebecca Henderson / BURMA, MALAYSIA, U.S.

Symphony No.1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945) by David Griffith / U.S., IRAQ, GERMANY


Kirkus Reviews
“Uplifting tales of survival… War’s most vulnerable victims have their say.”

School Library Journal
[R]readers will be rewarded by [this] compelling and often uplifting anthology … That Mad Game surprises with its variety. From Taliban-controlled Kabul to a Japanese internment camp in northern California, from a teen girl’s “soundtrack of war” in Beirut to a young man’s long walk across much of Africa, the startling stories make for rough going at times. But the humor, beauty, and humanity shining through the darkness are what make this collection a must-have for all libraries serving high school students.

Charles London, author of One Day The Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War
"There is heartache in the stories J.L. Powers has assembled here, as well as loss and pain and death. They are about war, after all. But there is humor too, and also love and faith and hope, because they are human stories too, and as each one testifies in its own way, humans are able to heal."

Trent Reedy, author of Words in the Dust and Stealing Air
"I was sent to the war in Afghanistan with a lot of slogans in my head about freedom and fighting terrorism. What I found instead was a tremendous respect for the good Afghan people, a deep sympathy for the Afghan children struggling for better lives, and a profound hatred of the Taliban for the way they brutalized their own people. That Mad Game is a reminder that such hatred is the same mistake from which all the world’s wars are born. The fact that That Mad Game can steer my hard heart toward sympathy for a young Talib is a sure sign of this book’s tremendous potential to foster a spirit of peace and understanding in readers everywhere."

Cucuy novel good Labor Day read. Libros Cartoneros. News. Banned Book Update. Final August On-Line Floricanto

Alisa Valdes Crafts Good Labor Day Read

Review: Alisa Valdes. The Temptation. NY: Harper Teen, 2012.
ISBN 0062024205 9780062024206

Michael Sedano

With school starting now, kids have put long hours into reading their way through summer reading assignments and need to cool their fried brains over the Labor Day holiday. Adult readers, too, may welcome something totally engaging yet effortless. In both cases, Alisa Valdes’ Young Adult supernatural thriller, The Temptation, fits the bill.

With a compelling story and authorial liberties, The Temptation is sure to raise hackles among fundamentalist sectarians who see the devil’s work in novels like The Temptation’s endorsement of belief in cucuys and restless spirits.

Valdes crafts the story to the young end of YA readership, kids who think of sex as a hot kiss with all your clothes on. If The Temptation were a motion picture it would be PG, for violence and agonizingly clean sex.

Adults will develop their willing suspension of astonishment, though I wonder if even kids will be willing to let Valdes get away with Shane’s instant acceptance of impossibilities. Near death from rolling her Beemer, under attack by vicious coyotes, a teenaged cowboy saves her, vanquishes the beasts, lays hands on the terminally injured girl, and her injuries vanish. And her little dog, too.

Travis, the dreamy cowboy, is a cucuy and has to follow spirit world rules.

Once readers get past niggling details like these and allow Valdes to set up her plot, The Temptation provides tons of fun: Interdimensional manifestations; out-of-body travel; souls trapped between heaven, hell, and purgatory; psychokinetic groping; the Beast.

Readers will have fun observing Valdes take on wildly wonderful romantically purple passages and tour de force nuggets of authorial ambitiousness. Describe what it’s like to die. Describe what music feels like, the colors an orchestra infuses into one’s existence. One or two tastes of stuff like that and I want Valdes to go for it a todo dar. She doesn’t disappoint, amply displaying what she’s got.

The thriller element grows from world-shakingly  high stakes. If Travis has intimate contact with Shane, he risks being vaporized down to hell.

He hotly wants to kiss Shane. She’s putty in his magic hands, “he squeezed my hand and a delicious heat coursed through me, to places no boy had ever touched before.” He also comes into her dreams and transports her through excursions in other dimensions.

Christian fundamentalists haven’t discovered the novel yet. Valdes’ novels attract crackpots who uncharitably trash the writer’s novels in opportunistic anonymity at places like Amazon. I suspect, given other liberties, Valdes is having fun imagining the outrage as she explains Travis’ powers in new testament terms about Jesus. And Shane and He want to hook up. Then there’s the matter that, after Victor slices her throat, Travis resurrects Shane.

The story has elements expected in YA fiction. Valdes hits her stride providing teen ambience. The crummy boyfriend, the BFF, caring mother, dud of a father, a breakup and revenge, and in this case, ambiguous redemption. The physician mother worries and meddles but does all the right things, including a touching moment of little girl comfort. When the father hears about the accident his first question is about the car. Dad gets the cachetada but for his part he forks over a Land Rover. La consentida is minimally grateful.

Kids will learn a few new words from the author while she sets up the rules of a kindred novel. In daylight, revenants like La Llorona, Travis and his horse, and a shape-shifting incubus like Victor, have somatic form. But they’re still dead.

With the passing of the light, these spirits become wisps of light. Whether an homage to Octavia Butler or just the author’s series hook, I’m not clear what “a Kindred novel” means but it’s the subtitle on the cover. Valdes leaves the couple hanging in limbo, so I’m hoping The Temptation earns a second volume in the series to see what Valdes can do with the kinks worked out.

The Temptation comes with a provocatively blank set of ethnic ideas. It’s a missed opportunity. The bad guy is raza, Victor Velarde, as is the deus-ex-fortune teller. Set in New Mexico, the preponderance of characters are rich anglos with names like Logan Shane Lindsey Kelsey. The kids attend an expensive private school that gives airs of the Ivy League, ooze money, and crash Beemers.

Valdes’ lead character, Shane, is probably half Mexican. Her mother is Dr. Romero but the girl’s classroom name is Miss Clark. For these people, ethnicity has grown irrelevant; they are matter-of-fact hispanas living in anglo society. Shane’s ready acceptance of the spirit world hearkens to la cultura and could help bolster the incredulity of the kindred’s first contact.

The publisher offers a sneak peak at the opening pages of The Temptation. Take a dip then think about that long Labor Day nothingness by the pool in the lingering hours of a lazy summer’s swansong and let yourself go.

On a Personal Note...

August 31 marks a 44th and 67th anniversary for me. The date marks my birth day in 1945 and my wedding in 1968.

Sixty-seven years ago, history says, General Patton fought his way to Leipzig, Germany to end WWII. In fact, that was my dad. He operated the .30 calibre machine gun on C'est la Guerre, the first US tank to fight its way to Leipzig City Hall. So there's my dad after Germany surrenders, still in Europe, awaiting orders to ship out to the Pacific. My impending birth adds enough "points" and he gets designated for return from overseas and discharge. Dad, qepd, always said I got him out of the Army.

Used to be, being married, teaching, and in school, kept one out of the Army; the Draft. Not in 1968. I wed on my birthday so I'd never forget my anniversary. I am a 23-year old grad student, working toward an MA slated for June, TA'ing in the Speech Depto and teaching two classes for a profe on leave of absence. A few weeks after the honeymoon, Richard Nixon orders me to report for induction, in time for Thanksgiving.

Ok, Ok, the draft board says, you can finish the quarter. November and December, as you might imagine, are tense for the newlyweds. I wrap up my classes and abandon my M.A.--who knew then if I'd be coming home, sabes? In January 1969 I become a soldier and come home again--back in the world the soldiers used to say--in August 1970.

My first wife and I celebrate these dual anniveraries with extra vigor, carpe diem, sabes? We'll laugh how panicked she was when I was told to "report for orders to Vietnam." She thought sure I'd get my ass killed. I'm willing. Instead, I do an incredible summer and winter atop a remote HAWK missile site in Korea, finishing off with half a year in Hq, running the battalion Information Office as the highest ranking Spec Four in the US Army.

Fourty-four years by the calendar, including that initial nineteen months in the service, hasn't been long enough, but it'll do until another one comes around.

Banned Books Update

Wherever you go in the United States of America, if local authorities want to ban books, no one's going to stop them. Not in Arizona, where state law requires Tucson Unified School District to ban courses and pull books off classroom shelves. TUSD complies enthusiastically, holding on to its ban with self-righteousness. And the rule of law.

Less than one month until a desegregation court issues a ruling that may reintroduce ethnic studies into TUSD's curriculum. Or it may not. As reported in last week's La Bloga Banned Books Update, the court's keeping a tight lid on its Special Master report until Friday, September 21, 2012.

And then, as my grandfather used to intone after prolonged discussions, a ver.

Libros Cartoneros By Poets

Sandra C. Muñoz. Free Metal Woman and other poems

Held together by brads and featuring pasted-down work, Free Metal Woman and other poems presents a grand collection of now-classic chicana humor and elegance.

Muñoz' Free Metal Woman remains as among the most side-splitting hilarious poems in the chicana chicano canon.

And effective. It's been years since I've seen a plethora of chrome silhouettes enslaved on some jerk's mud flaps or truck bed gate.

Sandra, Free Metal Woman worked, you have the magic. Now please write about banned books, ok? If TUSD students made their own poetry books, I'm sure TUSD would ban these books, too.

Olga García Echeverría, Lovely Little Creatures
Bloguera alumna Olga Garcia's handmade corrugated cardboard cover wraps Garcia's beautifully printed poems, assembled with photographs and saddle-stiched as Lovely Little Creatures.

The handcut inside cover adds a tactile note as well as a reminder of the labor that poets expend to create fabulous books like these.

Garcia designs the printed manuscript to be part of a numbered edition of 50.

Tatiana de la Tierra, Tierra.

Tatiana de la Tierra died recently, adding poignancy to this cartonera gem she fashioned.

The collection inside the gorgeous cover is Tierra 2010 poems, songs & a little blood from Chibcha Press, Long Beach.

News From the Presses

The Mas Tequila Review (TMTR) is a small press, bi-annual, independent poetry magazine publishing quality work by well known poets and many who should be.

The editor published The Tequila Review in the 1970s. The TMTR is a continuation of the editor's desire to contribute to his art by providing a platform to share "poetry for the rest of us" and highlight what he considers to be some of the most fresh and exciting poetry being written today.

Issue #5 contributors include Zach Nelson-Lopiccolo, Stewart Warren, Matthew Conley, Cathy Arellano, Virgil Suarez, Tanaya Winder, Hakim Bellamy, Margaret Randall, Stellasue Lee, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Andrea J. Serrano, ire'ne lara silva, Jane Lin, Marge Piercy, and editor Richard Vargas.

Details on the issue, submissions, supporting TMTR, fotos of  past festivities at TMTR's website here.

Huizache Taking Care of Business

La Bloga friend Conrad Romo emails his belief in the importance of Huizache, an arts journal going into its second issue. Romo continues, "There simply aren't enough platforms to nurture the Latina Latino voice. Huizache's founder, Dagoberto Gilb, is putting out a beautiful magazine that needs your support.

A note about Dagoberto, he has been published in the New Yorker magazine more than any other Mexican American, so it is a significant thing to have him at the helm.

 The second issue is going to be great. I'm not saying that Huizache can change the world. But, I'm not saying it can't.

Your support by way of an ad would go a long way towards endorsing the importance of the Latina  Latino voice. The debut issue won critical acclaim for its original cover art from César A. Martínez and praise for the poetry and prose included within its pages.

The second issue promises to be bigger and better. Its cover features art from famed Los Angeles artist Patssi Valdez and works from both new and established voices such as Naomi Shihab Nye, Luis Rodriguez.

Inquire at Huizache's website for details on submissions, buying an ad (deadline 8/31), or subscribing.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto Final Tuesday of August 2012
Pocho Luna, José Hernández Díaz, Jim Byron, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Lidia Renteria

The graduation reception teemed with mingling anglophones. The suits and elegant dresses towered above the short woman in an oft-washed housedress who struggled to emerge from invisibility among the giants. She grasped my arm and reached out with her eyes so I leaned down placing an ear close to her voice. “Nosotros no pertenecemos aquí.”

The moment came to recall as I read today’s lead-off poem by Pocho Luna, “Armando Has a Secret.”
En todas partes pertenecemos, I told the woman. Dream kids putting themselves through school with or without the military are just as good as all these people. We belong here.

"Armando Has a Secret" by Pocho Luna
"Mirror" by José Hernández Díaz
“Go Down Ye Border Gunman" by Jim Byron
"For A Rainy Day" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Para Mi Maestra" by Lidia Renteria

Armando Has a Secret
by Pocho Luna

Armando Guadalupe Perez looks askance
At his reflection poised handsome
Ties and unties a knot about his neck
Places a black-tasseled cap and smiles
Nervously as an older man’s furrowed-brow
In the fogged bathroom mirror hides
A secret beneath a smooth brown face
Mama’s chile verde cooking since dawn
Everything in the home marinates
Furniture, humid walls, the seasoned air
Including Armando creasing his pants
Over and over spraying starch obsessive
For the second third time until stark borders
Divide left from right like a knife
An iron’s hot steam swirling
With tomatillos, chile, cebolla
Amor y cilantro's deep smell
His black gown swims in pork’s simmering scent
A hint of mama’s sugared sweat in June
On the phone he hears her calling while she stirs
In a floral moo-moo Tios, Tias, Compas, Primos, Abuela
Even his Tio Rueben who went from Vato
To Pentecostal Preacher and waits to finish
Her homemade menudo every Sunday before
Yelling at mama as he wipes red menudo juice
From his fat jowls “You’re going to hell Socorro!”
Yes, even him she calls excited
Because her Mijo is graduating
Armando breathes deep
Wipes the sweat from his face
Sprays himself the third time with Old Spice
Trying to cover up his secret
The heavy scent of Chile Verde
The unspoken fear of undocumentation

by José Hernández Díaz

It is hard to gather the words
From the floor. The desert is too

Vast and poems are pain. We know
About the countless dead: The

Crucifixes, mute and torn. The
Mirror is an unmarked grave: A

Rock, a faith, a pillow case. The
Pen can never write the sun: The

Isolated rose, the dream. Our
Words will never raise the slain;

The desert is too vast and poems,
Our pain.

Go Down Ye Border Gunman
by Jim Byron

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Go down from your stilted wall
For the ones in the light
Of your sniping sight
Are not your enemies at all
Put down your rifle
Leave your bullets in the trunk
Because you would be your own enemy
The instant that rifle goes off

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Go down from your shooting cage
Go to the trench
Of the razor fence
And unlock the iron gate
Forget the killing orders
In the crooked codes of law
Look in the whites of the refugee’s eyes
And remember the soul that you saw

Yield ye immigrant jailer
Yield, let them pass, let them be
For you know in your spirit
You know you can feel it
You live in the land of the free
You live in the land of the free

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Bury your badge in the sand
For you know in your heart
You don’t want no part
In spilling the blood on the land
Wake up your sleeping conscience
Wake up to the call of the wind
When the rust goes to dust
The bricks and steel are gonna bust
And there ain’t no border to the wind
There ain’t no border to the wind

For A Rainy Day
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

in an old Bustelo coffee can
its bright yellow and red face
faded from years of abuse
she keeps the money
she says she's saving
for a rainy day
though most all her days
have been stormy
this special day will be one
where the rain comes up
on a groundswell of vapors
copper and adobe smelling
no dark rainclouds will move in
with their arms folded
across their chest
to stand menacing
for hours from the west
the way they usually do
before cracking open
spilling out their insides
all over south Texas ground
this day the rain
will swoop in so fast
sun won't have a choice
but to stay and witness
what with no clouds
to hide behind
in this surprise
attack downpour
she will make a break for it
grab the can
with its faint traces
of coffee dust and
her rainy day money
and hightail it
to the highway
smiling brighter
than that sun
she will flag down a car and
with one arm hugging
her coffee can
and the other carrying
a small overnight bag
she will accept a ride
when the driver asks
where you headed
all she will say is
any where but here

Para Mi Maestra
por Lidia Renteria

Dedicado a mi Maestra Elena

Gracias Maestra. Se me llenaron
los ojos de agua al leer su mensaje…
asi como me sucede cuando
escucho a mi mamá decirme algo
que me llega al corazón.

No sabe cuanto
le agradesco sus palabras.
Usted a sido mi protectora,
mi maestra y mi amiga
a través del tiempo.

Fueron sus palabras quienes retaron
a un sistema, que en ese tiempo
no queria incluir a una pequeña
de 5 años que no hablaba inglés
en todas sus lecciones.

Fueron sus palabras las que convencieron
a la maestra que me sentara adelante
con los otros alumos y que me permitiera
participar en todo.

Fueron las visitas que nos hicieron usted
y su agradable familia en aquella casita vieja
entre las huertas de manzana que me permitieron
la oportunidad de desarrollar el idioma
y de aprender sobre tantas cosas.

Su comprensión, sus palabras de aliento
y su apoyo constante se imprimieron
en mi mente y en mi camino.
Por eso, y por muchas razones mas...
siempre le estaré agradecida.

"Armando Has a Secret" by Pocho Luna
"Mirror" by José Hernández Díaz
“Go Down Ye Border Gunman" by Jim Byron
"For A Rainy Day" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Para Mi Maestra" by Lidia Renteria

Pocho Luna grew up in Fresno, in a working class Chicano home. My father grew up in makeshift tent communities, picking crops up and down California in the 1950s and 1960s.

During the Mexican revolution my great grandfather, Jesus Luna, crossed the border from Chihuahua into El Paso, then on to Fresno. In 1920 Jesus built an adobe house on the outskirts of the city, it is still our family’s home and the center of our Mexican identity today. I desire to give voice to the experiences of my Chicano family who have gone before, whose spirits walk with me, who whisper in my ear and guide me.

Currently I am a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. My research involves border issues, Latin American religion, the Cult of Saints in the Hispanic World, Immigration into the Southwest, and the Criminalization of Chicano culture."

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet/activist, writer and editor, has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is one of the founding members and a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070 on Facebook. She teaches creative writing workshops nationally, currently at Casa Latina, and also co-hosts, "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets, in Berkeley, CA. For more information about workshops see her blog or contact her at Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work 510-343-3693.

Lidia Renteria is an educator who has committed her life to helping young children to succeed. Inspired by her elementary school teacher, Lidia chose a career that would change her life forever – teaching!

Lidia attended California State University Sacramento’s education program where she was able to obtain a multiple subject teaching credential with a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development Certificate and a Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education.

Her 12 years of experience as a teacher, site support provider, team leader and supervisor of teachers led her to her current role of education programs consultant. Lidia has been responsible for implementing statewide legislation, monitoring academic achievement and assisting in the design of the state’s “Response to Intervention” model to ensure that children receive a high quality education with appropriate interventions as needed.

Throughout her journey, Lidia has been an advocate for English learners, children with special needs and low-income families.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gracias a la Vida


Guest essay by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Borrowing the words of the legendary baseball player Lou Gehrig I am the luckiest man in the world. At eighty I will begin another semester at the end of the month. Again I will have the opportunity to teach working class students.

A basic lesson that I teach my students is that they have to have a reason for everything they do. Their struggle cannot be based on hating gringos or hating the system. They always have to ask why?

To use an overworked maxim, “everything happens for a reason.”

I have been motivated to struggle by injustice and stupidity that trigger a moral outrage. But I also have to have a reason for that anger. For example, the burning of the Mayan and Nahuatl codices and the destruction of Native American religions always infuriates me.

I am not be flippant when I say that Europe did not invent science and mathematics but benefitted from the Greeks who in turn acquired sources of their knowledge from the East through India, the Middle East and Africa.

Everyone knows the story of Polish astronomer Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his “discovery” that the earth revolved around the sun. His now historic book was suppressed by the Church.

How much further would we be today if Copernicus had known Archimedes’ work on the universe? (Or for that matter the Mesoamerican astronomers?) He would not have had to delay publication of his work and then be forced to recant his findings. No doubt this lack of knowledge retarded the progress of western science.

It doesn’t take a genius to draw parallels between what happened to Copernicus and the destruction of the codices and other indigenous knowledge.

Recently I got into trouble for criticizing the movie “For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada,” the so-called story of los cristeros in Mexico. Some accused me of hating Catholics and basing my arguments on my biases. However, that is just not so.

I am against the cristero movie, not because I dislike Andy García’s politics, but because the movie is based on bad history.

The fight over the separation of Church and state dates back to ancient times. It includes Copernicus. The Protestant Revolt succeeded because of secular dissatisfaction with Church’s monopoly of economic, social and political resources.

The struggle between the church and state in what later became the cristero movement has its origins in Colonial times and was partly caused by the Church’s monopoly of Indian lands and labor. It broke out during the 18th Century as the Bourbon monarch’s sought to control the religious orders. It erupted again after Mexican Independence with wars between the federalists and the centralists, i.e., liberals versus the Church Party.

Liberals won and the Mexican Constitution of 1857 was adopted. This touched off ten years of civil wars that saw the Rise of Benito Juarez and Liberal control of Mexico to the Mexican Revolution. It ended with the adoption of the Constitution of 1917 which once more reaffirmed the principle of the separation of church and state. As in previous revolts the friction was over whether the Catholic Church was to receive special rights, i.e., the maintenance of ecclesiastical courts and to remain the state religion. Finally at issue was the freedom to practice other religions.

I urge students to base their decisions on reason. That is why we study what is happening in Arizona and have made trips there. We invited Asian American students along on these trips because we want them to also take ownership.

I support the struggle to save the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American studies department based on reason. This judgment is not based on nationalism or a whim but because it is pedagogically sound. My decision is based on the same principles that guided my reasons in condemning the destruction of the codices and defending the principle of “freedom of religion.”

The Tucson struggle also has to be put into the context of our history to achieve literacy and the failure of the schools. We cannot be free; we cannot live in a democratic society, without literacy that is the cornerstone of reason.

The struggle of the 1960s and 1970s produced the Chicana/o middle class and marked advances in education. Before these events inferior schools were taken for granted as was the proposition that Mexican schools did not deserve the same quality of support as white schools. We struggled to correct this inequality and corrected many of the de facto and de jure injustices.

An important victory for Mexican Americans was the change in the mindset of students. They believed that they could and should pursue a higher education. They had the right to be taught by teachers who believed in them. Consequently a sí se puede mentality developed and many grew to expect a quality education.

I am one of the few educators who has seen these changes first hand. I have taught classes from K-12 and at the university level. The results although lagging behind the rest of society are nevertheless like day and night.

About twenty years ago I successfully sued the University of California at Santa Barbara. One of my greatest fears was that I would have to leave California State University Northridge, a working class university.

At UCSB I loved the Congreso students but the campus itself reminded me of a country club. It was overwhelmingly white and everyone appeared as if they had just finished a set of tennis or were going to a match.

In contrast, the first Chicano students we recruited at CSUN (then San Fernando State College) were really rough around the edges. Very few of them would have been candidates for a sorority or fraternity rush.

They were not prepared to make it in colleges; in the fall of 1968 only fifty were attending which changed with the student takeovers of the spring semester.

In the fall of 1969, close to 300 Chicana/o students entered SFVSC. Dr. Warren Furumoto who mentored United Mexican American Studies (UMAS) students summed it up in the documentary “Unrest” on the founding of Chicano Studies at San Fernando State. He said that the Chicano students differed from white radicals and even black students. Their parents had not attended institutions of higher education and they did not have the vocabulary to understand liberal or much less radical concepts. Attending college got them out of the barrio and in many cases they got a stipend.

I remember one student who is now a judge complaining that he had lost over fifty pounds in the first semester. We sent him to the Health Center that concluded that it was because of a change in diet. Now he only ate the proteins at the cafeteria; he had all the starches he wanted at home.

Many had not planned to stay in school but after a semester most were hooked. It was another life and words took on meaning. Once you get an education it is hard to go back; you have seen how the other half lives.

I saw this same transformation in students who I spoke to in Tucson. They wanted an education but even more they wanted to know the meaning of words, they wanted to be somebody, to be respected.

This is all changing – not only in Tucson – but throughout the country. The better prepared students, those that have parents with some college will continue to come to school. The dreamers have no choice but to succeed.

The Latino population is too large to completely ignore. So the institutions will recruit them because it looks good on paper.

However, those in the lower two thirds of barrio schools will be squeezed out. Unlike the students in 1969 they do not know that si se puede. Then tuition was $50 a semester. It is now approaching $10,000 an academic year.

Increasingly students will look acceptable enough to be recruited into Greek societies. They will no longer say East LAy. They will know the meaning of the words, but democracy will have suffered as everyone will look like they just played a set of tennis.

[Rodolfo Francisco Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, which approaches the history of the Southwestern United States that includes Mexican Americans. It has been reprinted six times since its 1972 debut (the seventh edition was published in January 2010). He has written for many publications including the Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Herald-Express, La Opinión, and numerous other newspapers. His work emphasizes the struggle of the Mexican American people. Acuña is also an activist and he has supported the numerous causes of the Chicano Movement.]