Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: Hanigan's Tumba. Birthday Floricanto.


Review: Tom Miller. La Tumba de Hanigan. Translated by Federico Patán, Sandra Engoron-March, and Christina Guerrero Harmon. Madrid: eCícero, 2013.
ISBN 978-84-941700-3-4

“Hanigan’s Grave” is collected in Miller’s On the border : portraits of America's southwestern frontier, NY: Harper & Row, 1981. ISBN 9780060130398


Michael Sedano

A trio of young men find themselves held at gunpoint somewhere on el otro lado.
The estadunidense holding the gun speaks their language, but in English with his two henchmen. The gringos strip the three Mexicanos naked, burn their clothes, torture their flesh, and send them scurrying into the desert while the laughing kidnapers cap off rounds at their fleeing backs.

The assault is how Tom Miller begins La Tumba de Hanigan, his report on the aftermath of those events near Douglas, Arizona, chronicled in Miller’s 1981 “Hanigan’s Grave”. Newly-translated by a team led by Federico Patán, Sandra Engoron-March, and Christina Guerrero Harmon, Miller’s account appears in ebook format from Spain’s eCícero. 

The release of this gem of southwestern nonfiction comes as the world learns of the Jacksonville FL jury who refuses to endorse charges of murder against the man who murdered 17-year old Jordan Davis over music. La Tumba de Hanigan shows how that kind of justice is a regular occurrence in some US courts.

The grave in the title belongs to paterfamilas George Hanigan, who, with his two sons, are set to stand trial for the torture and assault on the three Mexicans. Some say the pressure got to him, the charges evidence of his ilk's deteriorating stature. Ni modo why, it was his time so Dad dies before he goes to trial, and doesn't get to see the boys set free by a local Jury. He would have celebrated a second time when, after the Feds file obscure charges, one walks. It's Arizona.

The way Miller tells the facts, all three Hanigans deserved extreme unction but La Tumba de Hanigan isn’t fiction, it’s journalism. They get off for all the reasons "it's Arizona" is a self-fulfilling prophecy guaranteeing perverted democracy.

Local sentiment justifies killing a few Mexicans because all Mexicans who sneak across the border are here to rob and steal. Hunting them down and doing just-us passes as reasonable doubt in 1980s Arizona. Jimmy Carter was president when the Hanigan case hit the headlines. In Obama's presidency, migrants crossing into Arizona traverse Hanigan’s grave, so what sense did anything make?

Miller’s account covers less than a hundred pages, filling the narrative with facts and views derived from observation, conversation, and reading. Miller’s shoe leather research helps add details providing historical context, local color, and illuminating character. George Hanigan, for example, was known as “Mr. Republican of Cochise County,” back when Barry Goldwater was running for president.

The Hanigans were among the first anglo immigrants to the region, setting claim on lands at the turn of the 20th century. George grows up thinking Mexicans are thieves when as a boy he witnesses gente scavenging scrap from Phelps Dodge foundry. Reading between Miller's lines, this finite heritage on the land explains the Hanigan infinite sense of entitlement that motivates their violence.

The Mexicans have names and histories, but this isn't their story. Manuel, Eleazar y Bernabé's lives converge, intersect, diverge from the rape in the desert, three lives turned desmadres told in part--there are lots. It's Arizona.

The Spanish translation reads smoothly with a succinct and sharp-eyed style that sounds like Miller when he writes in English. That’s a good thing. Miller’s distinct voice comes with a keen ear and an attitude that suggests a good phrase is as good as a sharp stick in the eye. Recounting what locals used to think about George Hanigan, Miller’s narrator observes:
–Si Adolfo Hitler viviera todavía –dijo el
decano de los estudiantes en Douglas High
School, amigo de los Hanigan durante 20
años–, George sería su sombra.
Another good thing is students of ambos idiomas can pick up a copy of Tumba for Apple or Amazon devices for €2.99 or $4.10 via the book's publisher web site. US libraries across the continent shelve Miller’s On the Border anthology, and Worldcat lists an ePub.

I hope Spanish teachers and students zero in on this golden opportunity to read a simultaneously translated work, especially one with such cultural impact. An added benefit of a bilingual reading is the rest of Miller's On the Border anthology, like "Rosa's Cantina," his visit to the site of the Marty Robbins song, "El Paso."

Some diplomats might wonder if releasing this story right now in Europe, or anywhere gente read Spanish, is a good thing? Is it good to illustrate how wildly US justice miscarries for los de abajo, because, according to local custom, those Mexicans had it coming? Then again, it’s Arizona. And it's Florida, and Florida again. It's we, the people whose communities work out of a mindset like los Hanigan's apologists, finding acts unsavory but understandable. Así es.

Miller doesn’t say that. Miller’s narrator keeps a professional distance from the emotions that inhere in the experiences. The writer seems to know readers will come to the sickening realization that the communities who freed the Hanigans haven't changed much.

La Tumba de Hanigan would be banned in Arizona. That the facts are inflammatory is a function of the events. You can look up the Hanigan torture case on the internet and get the Joe Friday effect. La Tumba de Hanigan is a lot more fun than a million and a half Google hits, and the best hour you’ve spent in a long time.


La Bloga On-line Floricanto
Dual Happy Birthday For Francisco X. Alarcon
2011 National Latino Writers Conference friends include Tim Z. Hernandez,
Francisco X. Alarcón, Michael Sedano. iPhone foto Monica Brown.

La Bloga friend Francisco X. Alarcón and his mother share a birthdate this month. Son celebrates his 60th birthday and mother counts her 90th birthday. 

This year Francisco's mother welcomes Francisco and friends to her Long Beach home where friends and familia, and friends of friends and familia, and assorted random poets and friends of random poets, feast on delectables and enjoy a taste of poetry.

La Bloga's On-line Floricanto is pleased to share Francisco's poem on his mother's 90th birthday, which the poet posts on his Facebook page

Francisco X. Alarcón and Michael Sedano originated the idea of an On-line Floricanto during the months leading to the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto • Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow held at USC commemorating and reuniting poets and writers from the original 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto. 

Francisco founded the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070, Poetry of Resistance, whose moderators nominate a handful of poems for a monthly on-line celebration of current poetry of resistance.

It's a pleasure wishing il miglior fabbro and his wonderful mother the happiest felices dias yesterday, today, tomorrow.


90 AÑOS DE MAMÁ
por Francisco X. Alarcón

mi madre cumple
noventa años alerta
e igual de sabia
junto a su gran familia
este mes de febrero

mi madre y yo
nacimos unos pocos
días aparte —
compartimos no solo
el mismo signo zodiáco

querida mamá
nada nos pudo hundir
tú fuiste ejemplo —
anduviste sobre aguas
turbias del mar de la vida

desembocado
como caballo galopo
para renacer
sesenta años después
este nuevo año lunar

© Francisco X. Alarcón
February 6, 2014

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

90 YEARS OF MAMÁ
by Francisco X. Alarcón

Mamá celebrates
her ninetieth birthday
witty and wise as ever
together with her big family
on this February month

Mamá and I were
born few days apart
on the same month
and we share more
than a zodiacal sign

oh dearest Mamá
nothing could get us down
you’re a role model —
you walked over turbid waters
on the stormy sea of life

wild and free
as a horse, I gallop
to be born again
sixty years later
on this new lunar year

©Francisco X. Alarcón
February6, 2014



*********** UPDATE ***********

Dear Em, Thank you for posting this wonderful photo and the poem. I gad a great time at my mom's 90th birthday celebration in Long Beach and also at the Luis Rodriguez Poetry Locomotive earlier in the day in Los Angeles. I felt so blessed that I wrote a poem:

BLESSED DAY
by Francisco X. Alarcón

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

first joining a train
ride with fellow poets
activists, dreamers

with children, youth
adults and elders reading
poems, sharing dreams

putting into action
poetics and politics
at their best

boarding a poetry
locomotive whose real
final destination

is to change our state
our nation, the world
for the better

yes, the New Era is
upon us, the Flower Sun
is blooming in our hearts

“monarch butterflies
would vote for El Poeta
as the people’s governor”

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

listening to poets,
inspired by them and
by the poet candidate

at Quetzal Boutique
in East Los Angeles —
moved by Quetzalcoatl

invoking the ancient
call “Tahui” to the four
winds, the four directions

calling the ancestors
and all present to bless
our brother poet candidate

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

being part of another
special occasion, my mom’s
90th birthday celebration

now in Long Beach
in company of brothers,
sisters, relatives, friends

and being able to recite
a poem dedicated to her
as a big ceiba mother tree

and also being able to call
the four directions
the four winds

feeing blessed by all present
blessed by the ancestors
blessed by mi madre

o what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles!

© Francisco X. Alarcón
February 16, 2014

This was written after participating in the LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ POETRY LOCOMOTIVE organized by poets Abel Salas and Iris de Anda in Los Angeles on February 16. Other poets who participated: Gloria Enedina Álvarez, Leon Arellano, Jessica Ceballos, Bus Stop Prophet Francisco Escamilla, Janet González, Peter J. Harris, John Martinez. Luivette Resto, David Romero, Matt Sedillo, Mario Angel Escobar’s daughters, award-winning high school poetry students and the poet candidate for Governor of California Luis J. Rodríguez,

4 comments:

Francisco Alarcon said...

Dear Em, Thank you for posting the wonderful photo and the poem. We had a great time at my mom's 90th birthday celebration in Long Beach. I felt so blessed that I wrote a poem to commemorate the day:

BLESSED DAY

by Francisco X. Alarcón

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

first joining a train
ride with fellow poets
activists, dreamers

with children, youth
adults and elders reading
poems, sharing dreams

putting into action
poetics and politics
at their best

boarding a poetry
locomotive whose real
final destination

is to change our state
our nation, the world
for the better

yes, the New Era is
upon us, the Flower Sun
is blooming in our hearts

“monarch butterflies
would vote for El Poeta
as the people’s governor”

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

listening to poets,
inspired by them and
by the poet candidate

at Quetzal Boutique
in East Los Angeles —
moved by Quetzalcoatl

invoking the ancient
call “Tahui” to the four
winds, the four directions

calling the ancestors
and all present to bless
our brother poet candidate

what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles

being part of another
special occasion, my mom’s
90th birthday celebration

now in Long Beach
in company of brothers,
sisters, relatives, friends

and being able to recite
a poem dedicated to her
as a big ceiba mother tree

and also being able to call
the four directions
the four winds

feeing blessed by all present
blessed by the ancestors
blessed by mi madre

o what a luminous
special and blessed day
in Los Angeles!

© Francisco X. Alarcón
February 16, 2014

This was written after participating in the LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ POETRY LOCOMOTIVE organized by poets Abel Salas and Iris de Anda in Los Angeles on February 16. Other poets who participated: Gloria Enedina Álvarez, Leon Arellano, Jessica Ceballos, Bus Stop Prophet Francisco Escamilla, Janet González, Peter J. Harris, John Martinez. Luivette Resto, David Romero, Matt Sedillo, Mario Angel Escobar’s daughters, award-winning high school poetry students and the poet candidate for Governor of California Luis J. Rodríguez,

Monica Brown said...

Happy Birthday Francisco! And I do believe I took the photo of these gorgeous men in Albuquerque at the National Latino Writer's Conference a few years ago!
Abrazos,
Monica

Lydia Gil said...

I thought I took that photo ;-) In any case, we were there as witnesses to a delightful night of friendship, music and literature!
Hugs to y'all!
Lydia

msedano said...

i'm digging the controversy over la foto. lydia, find your foto and let's compare them. monica sent me this one. and there's a companion foto of las mujeres with las rosas, but i never got that one. 2011 NLWC.