Saturday, October 21, 2017

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez - Pintor, Poesia, y Cultura

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez is both a visual artist and performance artist; born and raised in East Los Angeles, and graduated from Roosevelt High School with a 1.59 G.P.A. He is a graduate of Laney and Vista Community College with an Associate in Arts degree in English Literature. 

He survived UC Berkeley with a degree in English and Xikan@ Studies and received an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. His work is an attempt to search for personal truths and personal histories inside of American cosmology.

 He draws upon North and South American cosmology, a cosmology existing before Columbus. His writing and his painting and mark historical points in the Americas and the world. His work attempts to speak to the undeniable presence of a native America that will continue to flourish for generations to come.

Lopez' work is rooted in the importance of honoring and remembering ancestral ways of living; as a means of maintaining healthy relations with all humans - the winged, all those that crawl on this Earth, all Life, the Water, the Sacred Fire, Tonanztin, Tonatiuh,the Sacred Cardinal Points, everything in between, above and below, and at the center of self and all things in the universe.

Currently, the visual motifs are drawn from a pre-Columbian America with far, far, less physical, mental or spiritual borders. He also draws inspiration from the contemporary styles of inner city youth who use public space as their method of artistic expression. 

Israel also draws much of his inspiration from his peers and contemporaries who constantly show him innovative ways to approach cultural and political dilemmas. The written words cannot be without the painted image.

The painted image cannot be without words. Neither the written work or visual work can exist without sound, without vibration, as all things on this earth carry a vibration. As such, Lopez' written and oral work is constantly shifting as it is performed or recorded The same poem, story, monologue or abstract diatribe shifts within the space it is performed taking into consideration audience and the theatrics and vibration of the moment.


Luna Codex is a contemporary Chicano codex reflecting on the ancestral relationship with the moon. The imagery is designed to inspire both children and adults to create their own ancestral glyphs through coloring and re-membering. This codex is part of a series of 1,000 images designed to awaken and re-connect the viewer to their roots to the moon, the sun, the earth and all the natural elements.

The Thirteenth Stone Codex is  a black and white contemporary Maya/Aztec Chicano codex. Predominantly circular images designed to help the viewer re-member and re-construct their own ancestral truths. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Chicano Studies in Norway: Interview with Lene Johannessen

Guest Post by Lucrecia Guerrero

Lene M. Johannessen

Lene M. Johannessen is a Professor of American Literature and Culture in the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Bergen, Norway. She is the author of Threshold Time: Passage of Crisis in Chicano Literature (Rodopi, Amsterdam-New York, 2008) and Horizons of Enchantment (U Press of New England, 2011). She has edited and co-edited numerous books on American studies. Emerging Aesthetics Imaginaries, co-edited, is forthcoming from Lexington Press.

Lucrecia Guerrero

LG: Please share with our readers how you were first introduced to Chicano literature and which authors you read?

LMJ: Normally one chooses one’s Master program according to the specialization in the BA degree, but for various reasons I had two majors in addition to English: Spanish and Russian.  On the advice of one of my Russian professors I decided to go with English. However, I thought it would be a shame to just ignore my two other “languages,” and my supervisor at the time suggested I look into Mexican American literature as a way of at least making some use of Spanish. After reading around a little, it would be Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory that got my attention. This was both because of the controversy which at the time surrounded the book, but also because I saw a really interesting way I could bring my third major, Russian, into the mix. This went via Mikhail Bakhtin’s work, which I had read a little in the original.
Of course, doing research for a MA thesis on Hunger of Memory inevitably included doing research in the burgeoning field of Chicano/a studies. Among the authors I read back then were mostly the canonical writers, Gonzales, Rivera, Paredes, Anzaldúa, Anaya, Castillo, and all provided wonderful encounters with what was for me a new tradition.

LG:  Did you continue to read Chicano/a authors on your own or did you follow a directed program?  Which authors most appealed to you initially, and why?

LMJ: It was really only during the work on the MA thesis that I became acquainted with Chicano/a lit; on our readings lists in both undergraduate and graduate courses in the English program this literature was not included. I think that one reason why Rodriguez appealed back then was the universality of its appeal, across temporal, geographical, racial, gender boundaries, which I think still holds. The other writer specifically I was attracted to was Tomás Rivera, himself one of Rodriguez’ critics of course, but it was a similar aspect of his And the Earth that stood out, a poetics of community and singularity that can stand on its own no matter what political, social and cultural parameters you come to it from.

LG:  As a scholar you read with an objective and analytical mindset; also, as a Norwegian, Chicano/a literature is “foreign” to your cultural and political experience. Both of the aforementioned factors, it seems to me, distance you from the narrative and increase your reading experience as an “outsider.” As such, I wonder if you have ever found yourself pulled into a story by universal themes and identifying with the narrative on a personal level? How would you say your experience reading Chicano literature differs—if indeed it does—from reading “mainstream” U.S. literature?

LMJ: The question about outside-ness is actually one I have thought about a lot. It is a question that goes into the foundations also of how we think about aesthetics. When I got the PhD position here in Bergen (in Norway PhD grants are advertised as four years positions, integrated into daily department life, and they are and were few and far between!) it was to do a project in Chicano/a literature. In the course of the PhD years I never found my position as an “outsider” to be much of a problem. In some ways, quite the contrary. In the 1990s, Chicano/a studies, as many other so-called “ethnic studies” programs could be quite politicized, in the sense that ideological frameworks also tended to work their sometimes domineering way into questions of aesthetics and aesthetic function. This was something I didn’t really have to take into account in my own readings, and this is mostly because, don’t forget, from where I stand, Chicano/a lit is American literature. What I mean is that all American literature is equally “foreign” or familiar to me as a Norwegian.
            Chicano/a lit is, to me, one of a number of components, expressions, if you will, that circulate within the field of Am lit as different manifestations of regionalist perspectives within the larger region. Chicano culture and aesthetics find its place among the multiple components that make up American (and the Americas’) literatures and cultures – a composite that in its turn already comes tangled in drawn-out networks. So, from a non-American perspective, from “afar,” Chicano/a presents itself not essentially unlike how Chinese-American, African-American, Southern, Midwestern cultures and aesthetics do –the products so-far of historical vectors in what Doreen Massey calls a “space of loose ends and missing links.”  In a sense, looking at American literature this way is to see horizontally, to see the various articulations of irreducible historic-cultural beings constituting differently formed threads in a large and complicated fabric within the geographical body we know as the United States.
I guess this also answers your question about whether reading Chicano literature differs from reading “mainstream” U.S. literature? I would say it does not, because that assumes we know the mainstream, and, honestly, I don’t know that I do, unless we have in mind writers like Faulkner (who is a Southern writer first and foremost).  

LG:  As a professor of English, I believe you have included Chicano/a literature, as well of that of other minorities, in a U.S. literature survey course.  On the syllabus I reviewed, the Chicano/a selection is Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena María Viramontes. First, what factors led to your selecting this particular work? Second, what special preparation, if any, do you give your students in order to help them with the reading? And last, have you noticed your Bergen students reacting differently to Chicano/a literature than to the more traditionally taught U.S. literature?

LJM: One thing students must have is a general sense of the historical and cultural routes that lead into first Mexican American and then Chicano literature/culture. But again, from their standpoint, this is not essentially different from how the same applies to all American literature. I mentioned Faulkner: without a sense of the mesh of routes he writes in and from, the depth and drama of Sutpen’s “design” in Absalom, Absalom! is not graspable.  So, too, with e.g. Rivera’s And the Earth Did not Devour Him: without an understanding of the history of migrant workers in the US Southwest, the book’s true power goes unnoticed.
When I include Chicano/a authors I consequently make sure the students also read history. I chose Viramontes’ Under the Feet of Jesus for several reasons, but most importantly because it is essentially a coming of age story. The novel is an excellent example of the universality of literature, because it is through genre and poetics that the story lures the students into a landscape packed with tropes in American culture generally, and in California society specifically. It is also painfully timely, what with the “beautiful wall” and talk about immigration and deportation that have intensified again lately. In its portrayal of the anxieties of immigration I think also it I transposes well to other places, for instance Norway.  

LG:  In Threshold Time: Crisis in Chicano Literature you discuss how a literary canon—in this case, that of the U.S.--reflects how the dominant cultural chooses to see itself.  Minority literatures continue to be ignored to a “significant extent,” you state, because these literatures “do not fit [that] desired projection of self.”   
            For geographical and historical reasons, the roots of Mexican and Chicano/a cultures grow deep and inextricably intertwined with those of the greater U.S. culture, yet those roots that bind also twist into knots that have yet to be worked out.  In your opinion, do these conflicts, and likely contradictions in perception of the past, make it more or less likely that Chicano/a literature will be welcomed into the literary canon?   

LMJ: I honestly don’t know, although my own instinct is that there eventually isn’t much of a choice. The problem with talking about a literary canon in the first place is that we are talking about a cultural canon, which means talking about cultural heritage and legacy. And right there, and especially now in the US, I don’t see how there can be any agreement on much of anything. The polarization we have seen intensifying is all about definitions and heritage, which brings back the question of region again: maybe it makes more sense to think in terms of regional canons, although even then any kind of consensus would be hypothetical. If the canon aims at helping us understand our present by anchoring itself in e.g. literary works from the past, then the question pops up again: whose past, and when? This is explicitly or implicitly part of Chicano/a literature now as well as then, if only because the Borderland figures prominently in so many works, including your own, like for instance in the story “Even in Heaven,” wouldn’t you say? A similar concern was a thread in Rodriguez’ Brown: The Last Discovery of America, and is one that has to be addressed. Ultimately any discussion of a canon is a discussion of identity, and, well, I’m not terribly optimistic that that discussion goes well. We are thrown back to the Preamble, right? “In order to create a more perfect Union … “ It’s a work in progress.   

LG:  You’re currently working on a new project which goes into detail on “aesthetic imaginaries.” I believe you are particularly interested in the connection and development of the latter within Chicano/a “borderland” literature. In layman’s terms, please explain the term and its relationship to this literature. Is there more you would like to share about this upcoming project or another?

LMJ: I like thinking about aesthetic imaginaries because it has the potential of making out the contours of that tricky bridge between how we imagine our ways of fitting together - our claims to place, sense of origin etc., how these imaginations are given shape in various aesthetics, and how ultimately these both constitute and are constituted by something more real, which is the imaginary. In this project I don’t think I will be focusing on Chicano/a lit specifically, but it is still very early in the process. I hope by next year to be closer to getting funding to a thoroughly interdisciplinary project where questions of diaspora, tradition, and nostalgia are being posed from perspectives of film, curating, anthropology, digital culture, and a wide range of literary studies, all in relation to the challenges that trail aesthetic imaginaries. What Eliot calls the “present moment of the past” seems to me to provide a path that more generally applies to comparative studies, and a kind of “threshold” thinking. I am however working on another book that “reads” various locations in California as performative, among them Chavez Ravine (Dodgers Stadium), Fort Ross, and Chinese Camp, and what I find so fascinating in this project are the incredibly “messy” routes that crisscross the state from so early on, and, again, how their traces all speak to that present moment of the past.   
  • Johannessen, Lene M. 2011. Horizons of Enchantment : Essays in the American Imaginary. University Press of New England. 166 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58465-999-0.
  • Johannessen, Lene M; Sillars, Stuart; Dipio, Dominica, editors. 2009. Performing Change: Identity, Ownership and Tradition in Ugandan Oral Culture. Novus Forlag. 230 pages. ISBN: 978-82-7099-552-3.
  • Johannessen, Lene M. 2008. Threshold Time: Passage of Crisis in Chicano Literature. Rodopi. 204 pages. ISBN: 978-90-420-2332-1.
  • Johannessen, Lene M; Sillars, Stuart John; Dipio, Dominica, editors. 2008. Performing Community. Novus Forlag. 275 pages. ISBN: 9788270994991.
  • Johannessen, Lene M; Cahill, Kevin M. editors. 2007. Considering Class: Essays on the Discourse of the American Dream. LIT Verlag. 224 pages. ISBN: 978-3-8258-0259-2.
  • Rønning, Anne Holden; Johannessen, Lene M., editors 2007. Readings of the Particular: The Postcolonial in the Postnational. Rodopi. 262 pages. ISBN: 978-90-420-2163-1.
  • Grønstad, Asbjørn; Johannessen, Lene M., editors 2005. To Become the Self One Is: A Critical Companion to Drude Krog Janson's A Saloonkeeper's Daughter. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 210 pages. ISBN: 82-7099-405-7.

Essays (relevant to Chicano/a studies:
"Regional Singularity and Decolonial Chicana/o Studies," Routledge Handbook of Chicana/o Studies," eds. Denise Segura, Francisco Lomeli, Elyette Benjamin-Labarthe, Routledge. Forthcoming 2017.
"Poetics of Peril," CounterText, special edition Thinking Literature across Continents, Edinburg University Press. Forthcoming.

“Russia's Californio Romance: The Other Shores of Whitman's Pacific," in The Imaginary and Its Worlds: American Studies after the Transnational Turn, eds Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar, Johannes Volz,University Press of New England, 2013.

"Postcolonial Palimpsest: Hybridity and Writing,"  Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literatures. CUP 2012

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Where Indigenous Rites Prevail

Where Indigenous Rites Prevail

Daniel Cano                                                              



    The van moves north, along the highway R. Larrainzar. It rises gently up a green mountain, just outside San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. Below, I see ranches and settlements in the valleys, a peaceful sight, but my mind is a torrent of questions.

    Silvia, a woman I met on a tour to Palenque told me, “I didn’t feel safe there at all. And I’m from Mexico” Her traveling companion, Esteban, a college student from Valencia, Spain said, “It is a strange town, really strange.” Their friend, Paco, a hotel manager from Granada, Spain, said, “I felt the people didn’t like us. But it is enchanting. You must go.”

    The driver pulls into a dirt parking space at the edge of town. I am the last one out. I’ve heard about children selling bracelets and trinkets harassing visitors upon entering town. The children don’t bother with this van. I chose to take a local from the mercado. I am the only mestizo on board. The rest are Mayans.

    San Juan Chamula isn’t much at first sight, mostly air, space, and a view of the mountains, dotted with homes and the blue sky beyond. I see few people on the streets. Municipal buildings surround the large, square concrete plaza. There are few trees. At the far end, vendors set up booths. At the other end, where I stand, three large crosses rise on a raised stage. Chamula is the only town in Mexico governed by indigenous Maya, mostly Tzotzil.
    I see a young woman holding a child, standing before a souvenir stand. I buy Zapatista dolls from her. I ask if I can take a picture of her. She is nervous, but she agrees. She wears a skirt made of sheep's wool.


    I hear drums and trumpets. It isn’t a song but a repetition of five or six dissonant notes, and the same drumbeat. A procession of men, more than fifty, all wearing white and black sheep’s wool tunics and cowboy hats, comes toward three crosses, the musicians among them. One man carries a cross.

    A handful of tourists stands to watch. A blonde woman takes out her camera. As she raises it, a voice from the middle of procession hollers, angrily, “No fotos!” The woman nearly drops her camera as she shoves it into her bag. Without anyone noticing, I snap a picture from my camera hanging at my side. I can’t see what I’m photographing, maybe just the ground or sky. Another tourist, a young man, slowly raises his camera. Voices from the procession threaten him if he doesn’t lower the camera. He does, quickly. A voice calls, “Touristas, cabrones.” Another voice hollers, “Matenlos todos.” Laughter erupts from the middle of the procession as the men pass.

    I read that Chamulans expelled all evangelical Christians from the city for criticizing the way Chamulans practiced Christianity.  For years, traditionalist Catholics in San Cristobal have abhorred the Chamulan rites and have tried to excommunicate them from the Church. But progressive priests, going back to Bartolome de las Casas and more recently Bishop Samuel Ruiz, saw Chamulan rites as a beautiful thing, the blend of religious and social cultures.

    Chamulans believe their religious practice is a life and death struggle, something they’ve lived with since the Spanish invasion of 1519. To escape enemy eyes and ears, the Chamulan churches serve as religious, businesses, and social centers.

    Today, politicians in Mexico City know that Chamulans influence elections throughout Chiapas. During election time, politicians utter, “So goes San Juan Chamula, so goes Chiapas.” Chamulans control much of the trucking, including exporting and importing goods, especially soft drinks, which is like gold to the Maya. Sadly, Mexico's political parties are dividing Chamulans and causing violence not seen in years.

    When the procession reaches the temple of San Juan, sacred throughout Mexico, the marchers have doubled in size, including tourist at the rear. I join them and pay twenty pesos to enter the ancient temple, a small but charming structure, white with a blue trim.


    As I walk through the doors, the thick, pungent smoke blinds me. It’s difficult breathing. The ominous melody from the trumpets, drums, and now an accordion, echo, as if we’re in a cave. As my eyes clear, I see thousands of candles lighting the interior walls. Life-size statues lean against the walls, Catholic saints, I assume, mirrors on their chests. Some say Chamulans believe the reflection wards off evil spirits.

    Behind a rope, a sign reads, in Spanish, German, and English, “No visitors beyond this point.” As I look for a place to sit, I am disoriented. Then I realize there are no benches or pews, only a thick coating of pine needles covering the church floor. I turn to a Mayan man standing behind me and ask him why? He doesn’t answer my question. Mayan women and children, talking quietly, sit on the pine needles. It’s said that women conduct much of the community's business.

    The procession and musicians move forward slowly along one wall until they have surrounded the altar. Leaders, wearing high peaked hats with flowing blue and red ribbons, stand on the altar and give directions. My eyes rise to see the crucified Christ above the altar. But there is no cross and no Christ. Instead, in a glass case, stands John the Baptist. Not sure of what I’ve seen, I close my eyes. My heart pounds. I open my eyes. Through the lingering incense, I see it is John the Baptist, no doubt. The people at his feel look like specters moving about in a trance.

    Tourists press against me, closing in. I search for a way forward, to get a better view, or, maybe, to purge the evil spirits that lurk inside me. I slide, as if floating, through a separation in the rope. I stand there, hoping nobody notices me. Near the altar, a “no trespassing” sign, larger than the first, is posted on a gate. I’m not sure how much time has passed, ten minutes, an hour? Time doesn’t matter here. It doesn't exist. I move towards the gate, careful not to raise unwanted attention.

    More women join those already sitting on the floor. At the altar, men carry trays full of glasses, each with a silvery liquid--posh, I’ve come to learn, a strong fermented drink, a root from a plant used in Mayan religious ceremonies. Drunkenness, they say, is a sign of spiritual connection with “other” world. The mirrors on the saints’ chests also help a released spirit find his way back.

    I am close to the altar. Something inside me stirs. It's hard to explain. The men pass the drinks among themselves until empty glasses fill the tray. I stoop low. The music is a meditation. A few minutes later, men appear carrying more trays with glasses, this time a dark liquid inside. A man carrying plastic bottles of Coca Cola follows him. The coca plant was once a main ingredient in Coca-Cola. The soda makes them burp, and the Chamulan Maya believe burping exhales evil spirits. I have no idea the connection between the drink and Christianity, except maybe John the Baptist lived on plant roots.

    At the foot of the altar, the musicians continue their haunting melody. No one notices me, or if they do, they say nothing. More tourists have moved forward. I keep my eyes lowered. I find a place on the pine needles and sit, the smells rising to my head. I am in a state of contemplation. Nothing appears real. A sense of freedom fills me. Later, in my journal, I will write, ""It's difficult to explain what I experienced in the church of San Juan this afternoon."

    Time passes. Even without the drink, the ritual is intoxicating. The air is thick. Reverentially, the men continue passing the drinks. Some stand with arms crossed. Some teeter. Eventually, I am overwhelmed, my senses inundated. The service continues as I exit through a side entrance.

    Outside, I breathe in the clear mountain air. I’m in a large courtyard surrounded by white walls. A Mayan, drunk, hardly able to walk, approaches me. He babbles something I can’t understand. He looks angry. His flails his arms. Another man comes, apologizes for his friend, and takes him away.

    When I return to the parking lot, the vans are gone. A man tells me the van service stops at 7:00 P.M. He points to the taxi stand where two taxis wait. It’s dusk; the sun barely lights the mountaintops.

     One of the drivers, an older man, raises his hand. Next to him is a old model Toyota. It has seen, as they say, its better days. I ask him about the vans, as if I need a second opinion. He confirms the only way back to San Cristobal is by taxi or walking. He gives me a price. I accept.

     The driver, Geronimo, is Tzotsil Maya, and as he drives, he explains everything I’m seeing, who owns the ranches and who lives in the lone settlements, the process to cure sheep’s wool and turn it into clothing, and the different languages and beliefs of the various Maya clan throughout Chiapas.

    I ask Geronimo if Chamulans believe St. John the Baptist is mightier than Jesus. He hesitates, as if I’ve asked him to divulge a secret. “Some say so,” is all he answers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Los Gatos Black on Halloween

Written by Marisa Montes
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250079454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250079459

Follow los monstruos and los esqueletos to the Halloween party in this bilingual poem written by Marisa Montes, with illustrations by award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales

Under October's luna, full and bright, the monsters are throwing a ball in the Haunted Hall. Las brujas come on their broomsticks. Los muertos rise from their coffins to join in the fun. Los esqueletos rattle their bones as they dance through the door. And the scariest creatures of all aren't even there yet!

This lively bilingual Halloween poem introduces young readers to a spooky array of Spanish words that will open their ojos to the chilling delights of the season.

Los Gatos Black on Halloween is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration and a Pura Belpré Honor Book for Narrative.

Marisa Montes practiced family law and worked in legal publishing before she began writing full-time. Marissa has written several picture books, novels, and chapter books for children. She was born in Puerto Rico.

Award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales is the author of Caldecott Honor and Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Medal-winning Viva Frida, Pura Belpré (Illustration) Medal and Pura Belpré (Narrative) Honor book Los Gatos Black on Halloween, stunning bilingual bedtime story Little Night/Nochecita, Rudas: Niño's Horrendous Hermanitas, and other picture books for young readers. She also illustrated Thunder Boy Jr., written by Sherman Alexie.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Through a Lens Brightly, Or Not At All. Teatro Festivals.

Michael Sedano

I chalked it up to rasquachi art enterprises and let it go. I got a copy of the publication in the mail and a private apology from the publisher who’d stolen a photograph I’d shared on social media. "I couldn't find you," he said. Now I watermark anything I post.  But it wasn’t rasquachi when a Madrileño website splashed another photograph, then groused at my fee when I invoiced them. The editor vowed never to do business with me again.

So there’s a truism in business: It’s intellectual property theft only when you get caught. Photographers', and people's rights to memories, get caught up in some institutions’ presumptions that someone in their public will make public use of images without approval nor compensation. Maybe it’s the business dictum “you don’t give away what you sell” operating in those “no photography” galleries, who have a gift shop to support. But that’s a rare attitude among first-rate places like Los Angeles’ Autry museum. That's why the prohibition on photography in one show there is so perplexing.

Most major institutions permit photography. The Louvre. The British Library. Museo del Prado. You can’t photograph Guernica in Reina Sofia. El Castillo de Chapultepec used to allow cameras, more recently I was informed a guard would take my camera if I raised it. El Museo de la Antrolopología has no qualms about lenses. In LA, LACMA, the Norton Simon, the Huntington all allow photographs, save an occasional show.
In pre-prohibition years, the foto captures the scale of Gozalez-Camarena's
magnificent evocation of 500 años cultural fusion.
There’s a special irony in prohibiting photos at a photo show, the long-sequestered negatives of La Raza newspaper. Blacking out photography is like the images came up for air, saw the light of day for a few weeks, then sank back into memory with nary an artifact to mark their place.. A third rueful irony comes in the p.r. copy for the exhibition.

archive of nearly 25,000 images created by these photographers, now housed at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA, provides the foundation for an exhibition exploring photography’s role in articulating the social and political concerns of the Chicano Movement during a pivotal time in the art and history of the United States.

If photography still plays a role in “articulating etc.” there’s a big lacuna where this historic exhibit came and went with only a few “official” frames. No one is welcome to join excited gente at the exhibition, sharing reflections on important images and memories of coming-of-age events. Maybe someone sees themselves and wants a before and after portrait.

Nope. Nel. Chale. No one can grab La Raza memories off an Autry wall.

Someone—the Autry, the curator, UCLA, La Raza photographers—doesn’t want those personal images to exist. No cameras. No photography. What you remember is all you will ever have. Eventually, the exhibit will be a smear of good feeling on memory's windshield

No photography. It’s a challenging mentality. I find it mindless. In businesses other than art museums, flexibility is the best policy. Zero tolerance answers any suggestion to alter the policy. I’ve heard the arguments from curators and random Facebook flamers. No photos protects intellectual property. Punto. An absolute.

At dinner one evening I enjoyed a table conversation with various NHCC gente including the curator of the centro’s stunning El Torreón. Frederico Vigil covered the interior of the 45 foot tall cone with a raza history epic in fresco. No photos, the museum wants to control how their images are used in public. And the minimal likelihood of copyright violation by a private user? The museum has no control over who takes a photo, there might be a pro in the tower. Any private user could splash an image on their personal website without attribution, just a cool image. To assuage hurt feelings, NHCC offers a spectacular media experience on the internet. If you don’t have a screen, you’re out of luck. No personal fotos allowed.

I was happy to see the directors relent. Of course, I can take fotos of the people taking Vigil’s tour, just no direct frames of only wall.

That’s a really excellent compromise the Autry would do well to emulate. Those snapshots add to the fun of attending art shows. Fun becomes a compelling reason to return. Jackbooted absolutism gives one pause, what else will they control? Can I trust the snack bar?

The most unfortunate harm of all in the complexities of the decision to prohibit photographs falls on individuals.

What the museum or owner fears--the photograph—is a prosthesis for memory. For gente with short or damaged memories, especially, but for anyone, a foto is an aide-memoire providing substance not otherwise obtainable. So here is an ultimate irony. One’s most personal intellectual property--knowledge and experience—suffers abuse in an effort to prevent abusing intellectual property.

Magu and Beto de la Rocha pose in front of Oscar Castillo's © foto of  them with Los 4, taken 40 years earlier. Obviously,
not prohibiting fotos allowed this now rare image to exist at all. QEPD Magu.
One internet flamer huffed that I don’t know anything about curation and intellectual property if I think the Autry’s prohibition on memory mindless. Gratuitously the flamer told me not to attend if I felt that way! What dire offense from foto denial springs. Of course I’m going to attend and not take fotos. I’m a member and entry is free. Wouldn't it be ironic if I get there and discover the rumor about no fotos is chisme?

Photographer’s note; the Autry’s dim lighting makes grabbing a foto not really worth the effort. But ni modo. No fotos. Punto.

Encuentro De Las Américas Coming to LATC

Three weeks, fourteen productions, from the Américas, in English, in Spanish. Los Angeles' most local theatre west of the river.

Click here for details and tickets.

Chicago's Latino Museum in Teatro Fest

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interview of DaMaris B. Hill

Interview of DaMaris B. Hill by Xánath Caraza

DaMaris B. Hill, Ph.D.

Xánath Caraza (XC): Who is DaMaris B. Hill?

DaMaris B. Hill (DBH): The short answer is that I’m sugar&spice, scribbler&scholar, feminist in flow & digital by design. An accurate answer is more like I’m figuring it out everyday. I know who I am. I know what is important to me, but who I am as a writer changes.  I don’t rule of the work.  The work, the subjects, the characters, they tell me who they are.  They tell me what to write, sometimes they tell what I cannot say.  They correct me when I write them wrong. I define myself as a poet and prose writer. One that knows the rules of writing, but enjoys negotiating and breaking them – primarily because I don’t know of rule or a law that was designed to aid black women in my lifetime – so the time I take to analyze, negotiate and evade constraints may stem from that civic centered embodied knowledge –

XC: As a child, who first introduced you to reading?  Who guided you through your first readings? 

DBH: My parents were probably the first to introduce me to writing.  Books were everywhere in my childhood.  My parents didn’t play much music in the house.  I heard music at church or in the cars. Many people in my family, including my parents, are clergy people.  My baby food was flavored with religious metaphor.

XC: How did you first become a poet/writer? 

DBH: I became a writer, because I loved language. I think I also became a poet because it was an art form that could be jotted down on single pieces of paper and easily hidden. I didn’t tell anyone that I was a writer for a long time. My family found out when I won the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers in 2003. That is when I finally told them. My first poems were written on church bulletins and programs – all in the margins. I also wrote them in school notebooks like most people do when they don’t have a formal journal. I never did trust diaries. I had a few, but I felt they garnered attention. Surely, someone would read a pretty ornamental diary that belongs to a curious young girl.

I think I first published my poems in a college literary journal at Morgan State University. My friend, a poet and photographer, named Anna Stone-I think she was the first to publish my work. I’m not sure what impact those publications had on me. I still get nervous when I see my work in print. I was most likely very anxious when I saw my work in print.

XC: Do you have any favorite poems by other authors?  Or stanzas?  Could you share some verses along with your reflection of what drew you toward that poem/these stanzas?

DBH: I have a few favorite poets. My love for Lucille Clifton’s work is at the top of the list. The Book of Light is the poetry book that love most. “Climbing” comes to mind as one of my favorite poems. My favorite line in the poem “her dangling braids the color of rain”. That image continues to dance in my mind.
I rise toward it, struggling,
hand over hungry hand.
I love how the image of the hair resonates with symbolism of hair in a spiritual context and a long poetic legacy.

XC: What is a day of creative writing like for you?

DBH: The best writing days begin in bed. I like it when I can write four pages on a yellow legal pad with a black extra fine point pen, before getting out. I like to sit for a minimum of four hours and write.  I never write more than two weeks in the same place; it slows my productivity. I write in several spaces.  I write at home in my study, at various coffee houses, at my office in the library at the University of Kentucky, sometimes in the car – I record my thoughts using a recorder on the phone… I try to write everyday, but I cannot write well on days I teach.  I am too distracted by time and appointments to concentrate like I like to. If I don’t write every few days, I can become a bit of a grouch.

XC: Could you describe your activities as poet?

DBH: Observing. Listening. Respecting.

XC: Could you comment on your life as a cultural activist? 

DBH: I am not good at commenting on my life as a cultural activist. I have a list of causes that are important to me. I have a list of things that I have done. Keeping these records are necessary to for my position at the University of Kentucky.  What I value is love, love as an action, love that asserted in a world that has been gorging on hate.

XC: What projects are you working on at the moment?

DBH: Currently, I am revising a manuscript for publication, A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing.   The book was recently acquired and is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Publishing.  I am very excited about this book.  The poems in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, honor African American women that have had experiences with incarceration, some of whom have organized resistance movements over the last two centuries.  The poems question what are the ripple effects and losses of the immediate inequalities and killings associated with this time in our collective history. I have really enjoyed creating remixes to some of the poems in this manuscript. A sample creative writing in digital spaces project that was born out of this manuscript can be found here, “Shut Up In My Bones”.  Others will follow.

XC: What advice do you have for other poets?

DBH: Read everything.  Know your tribe.  Apply to and attend writers retreats, like The Watering Hole or residencies like The MacDowell Colony, in order to get more specific training and advice – also to be in community with other poets/writers.  Try to get a bit of new art (of any medium and genre) in everyday.

XC: What else would you like to share?

DBH: Be kind to one another.