Friday, December 14, 2018

Meeting the Real Maurice Ruffin

Melinda Palacio

Maurice Carlos Ruffin's Amazing Debut Novel
We Cast a Shadow
Meeting the Real Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Melinda Palacio

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a name you may soon never forget. He has written a novel that sheds light on all the twisted and ugly notions about racism and bigotry in this country. His satirical novel is set in a Southern town where an affluent person of color can pay big bucks to undergo treatment that will make them more white, from thinner lips to a full experimental demelanization process. The story is a haunting view of one black father who has drunk so much of the assimilation Kool-Aid that he believes whitening his biracial son’s skin will offer the child an easier life and better prospects as an adult. This book succeeds on so many levels, not just its satirical and shocking plot, but Ruffin is a master storyteller with a poet’s attention to detail and a craftsman’s attention to the elements of story. 

From his early days six years ago, sharing scenes from his novel-in-progress, Ruffin knew he was on to something big and important. One listener told he he was going to be very famous and the writing on the wall is just the beginning from Poets & Writers Magazine, Goodreads, Publishers Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and the New York Times. The first chapter of the novel won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for Novel-in-Progress. 

When I asked Maurice about what it was like getting past the first chapters of his manuscript, he mentioned that he was able to find his footing with the book once he heard the voice of his main character speaking. “It was like talking to spirits,” he said, “I asked the character to tell me the highlights of the story.” By day, Maurice is a social security lawyer. His main character also happens to be a lawyer, but it is certainly not him. Maurice is very comfortable in his own skin: “I’m fortunate my parents gave me self-confidence in my appearance.” However, like his character, simply by being black, Ruffin has experienced what it’s like to be a minority in white spaces: “people in law firms have been shocked that I’m intelligent, that I have more honors than my bosses.” The other day, at a buffet, a lady assumed he was one of the workers. 

In his imaginative contribution to the literary canon, Maurice paints a cautionary tale about what goes wrong when we don’t live up to our expectations: “I thought about what would happen if my life went completely wrong.” Maurice enjoys speaking to students and kids. His message is the same one he’s learned from authors such as Toni Morrison and Nikki Giovanni, ‘Pay attention, be honest about what’s happening’.

 I asked Maurice if there was anything else we had not touched upon in our interview. He wanted readers to know that while he does not write everyday, he finds the act of writing enjoyable and a lot of fun. Second, he is very happy about the cover of his book.

 I was also fortunate to grab some time with the author before Oprah and the world get a hold of him. The book is We Cast a Shadow, available for pre-order and on sale January 29, 2019, Penguin Random House. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Just Another Sunday

      Daniel Cano                                                                            
Surveying Tiburcio's hiding place, Vasquez Rocks
     I try picking up the little cockroaches (my grandchildren, so dubbed by “Zeta”) some Sundays for different outings in and around LA. Most of the time, we end up at neighborhood parks, where the older cockroaches shoot baskets or throw passes and the younger ones play on the slides and swings.
      Other times, we drive into the SM mountains to Topanga or Chautauqua and let them explore dry riverbeds, dirt trails, and caves, like when I’d take their parents as kids.
     Once, at an old Boy Scout camp, Camp Slauson, we found fossils embedded in rock. At the time, the little cockroaches were into prehistoric stuff, probably because the Disney movie Dinosaurs. The kids couldn’t believe they’d found something older than their grandpa cockroach, by a few million years.
     I remember one time my grandson, Roman, picking at the loose skin on my knuckles, asked how I got so old. I was in my late 60s, pretty good shape, in my mind. I started to answer and realized I had no answer. Freud, Socrates, and Sartre failed me. Not even Dr. Phil came to my rescue.
     Then there was the time I took them to the San Pedro Harbor. They “oohed” and “aahed” at the massive ships coming and going from around the world. It may have been a bit much for them to take in, the vastness of it all, so we headed down to the beach, under the lighthouse to the tidepools, filled with all sorts of creepy, crawly ocean bugs.
     I pointed to teachers and students surveying ocean life, and began explaining the importance of oceanography, biology, and archeology, subjects way beyond me, in school. They couldn’t wait for me to clam up (excuse the pun), so they could begin their search.                                                                            
Roman, Eli, Nico and the octopus
     A few minutes later, the two oldest cockroaches, Eli and Roman, started calling that they’d found an octopus. When a couple of hundred eyes landed on them, I pretended I didn’t know the two lost urchins. Of course, I was dubious, at best. A minute later, a group of people crowded around them.
     “Grandpa Danny, you have a pencil?” Eli asked, as I approached.
     I handed him the black Bic I had in my pocket. He put it into the water, and magically, it vanished.
     “Put your finger in there, Eli,” Roman dared him. “See how it feels.”
     “Should I, Grandpa Danny?”
     I was as curious as the next guy,but I wasn’t about to put my finger in there, so I said, “Go ahead.”
     Eli reached down and dipped his index finger into the clear pool. From under a rock, out came a short tentacle, suction cups and all, wrapping itself around his finger. He quickly retreated, laughed and said, "It was pulling on me."
     Like Doc, in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, I’d been to the tidepools many times, taking my own cockroach children there back in the early 70s and never encountered anything larger than spongy-like, hairy creatures. Don’t ask me to identify or name the myriad of things clinging to those rocks.
     Eli basked in his minor celebrity as everyone asked how it felt.
     An added benefit to our Sunday forays into the unknown is that by the time we make it home, they are sleepy and ready for bed. Which brings me to this past Sunday, around 2:30 PM, kind of late to do anything meaningful, but the neighborhood parks sounded so boring.
     They jumped into my Prius, tearing themselves away from their video games, which might be an out-of-date term now. I don’t know. The only game I ever played was called “Pong.”
     “Where we going?” Eli asked.
     I got a brainstorm. I told them, “We are going to see a bandit’s hideout.”                                                                                        
"From here, you can see anyone coming"
     Eli, eleven, didn’t seem too impressed, but the younger cucarachas, Nico, five, and Noemi, three, were all ears. They knew me well enough to know a story was coming. So, I started. “His name was Tiburcio Vasquez. He was born in California when this was still Mexico.” Then it dawned on me. Did they even know the concept of a state, or a nation, of Anglo American, European, or Mexican?
     On their father’s side, they call their grandmother, who speaks little English and mostly Spanish, "Abuelita" and their grandfather "Abuelito".
     “Hey, Grandpa Danny,” said, Nico, “how come we don’t call you abuelito?”
     “Because everybody calls me Grandpa Danny.”
     Noemi said, in her babyish diction, “Abuelita is abuelita. Granpa is Grandpa.”
     Nico said, “No, Noemi, Abuelita means grandma.”
     Noemi insisted. “No! It not! Her just abuelita. That her name.”
     Nico, getting frustrated, responded, “Noemi. That’s what abuelita means. It means grandma,” at which point, Noemi broke out into sobs.
     I realized they both had a point. One was arguing translation and the use of a capital letter versus a lowercase letter. Noemi was arguing “Abuelita.” Nico was arguing “abuelita.”
     From the front seat, Eli shouted, “Would you both just keep quiet.”
     We were leaving West LA and heading to Vasquez Rocks, in between Santa Clarita and Lancaster, a 45-minute drive without traffic. With traffic, it was anyone’s guess. I knew I was pushing it, especially as darkness falls by 5:15 PM, followed by cold air.
     Sunday traffic was heavy on the 405 North. I veered into the faster lanes to avoid all the cars exiting the offramps between LA and the Valley. The traffic cleared once I passed the 101 North and South, where, luckily, all the cars were headed towards Ventura or Los Angeles.
     Then came the questions every parent (or abuelito) driving kids hates to hear. “We there yet?” “How much longer?” “Where did you say this place is?” Which made me question my bright idea.
     Eli had his phone and was listening to—something. The kids in their carseats wanted to know the story about this bandit Tiburcio Vasquez. So, to pass the time, I complied, remembering what my father had told me about Vasquez when I was a child, and we passed through Vasquez Rocks on our way to a couple of swimming holes out by Soledad Canyon.
     Of course, as an English teacher (three years retired),  with an interest in California literature, I had read much about the so-called “gentleman bandit,” ladies' man, charmer, robber, and cattle thief. But before I started the narrative, the doubts crowded in.
     Did I really want to portray Vasquez as a bandit to these little cockroaches, a thief and common criminal, a murder and rapist, which many of his adversaries say he was? After all, baby cucarachas are impressionable. What I say could stay with them a lifetime.
     After their idyllic childhoods pass, reality will confront them. Someone, perhaps an innocent friend, an ignorant teacher, or an outright bully will ask why their skin is a little less white, their accents slightly a kilter, or their last name, Jimenez, un-American sounding.
     It might not happen until they are adults when they find themselves losing a job, or a promotion, to someone less qualified and less hardworking, but with whom the boss is more comfortable. Social justice and criminal behavior are complex issues for adults, let alone young cockroaches.
Baby cucarachas in a cave
     Maybe I should tell the story of Vasquez as a freedom fighter, which some say he was, a Mexican Robin Hood, like Spider Man or Captain America, a Mexican suffering injustice from those who would steal his people's land. In his book, Eternity Street, a study of early Anglo Los Angeles’ lawlessness, John Mack Faragher writes of the elusive Vasquez’s eventual capture. “Crowds flocked to the jail, not to lynch Vasquez but to gawk at him. In interviews with reporters Vasquez portrayed himself as a persecuted Californio who had acted to defend the honor of his countrymen. He sat for a photographic portrait that sold like hotcakes.”
     A number of his jailers even brought whiskey to the jail to share a drink with Vasquez.
     No doubt, the historical Vasquez, who spoke both English and Spanish, is a complex character, notorious yet popular, criminal and rebel, a media sensation, for sure, the John Gotti of the old West. Women swooned over him. Husbands hated him. The downtrodden protected him.
     How could I explain that Vasquez's capture came but three years after vigilantes lynched 18 Chinese Angelenos for a questionable crime. Even in 1870s, thirty years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Angelenos, both American and Californios, feared men like Vasquez, not just for criminal activity, but for fear of him forming a resistance movement to retake Californio lands, a Califonio reconquista, of sorts.
     I finally reach the 14, the turnoff to Lancaster, nearly there.
     I switch from history to geography and point to the mountains and canyons, something more concrete, tangible, objective, as the poet William Carlos Williams stated, "No ideas but in things."
     “Look, can you imagine riding all that way from Los Angeles on a horse, with a posse chasing you, and sometimes, there wasn’t even a trail. Mexicans were the first cowboys. Nobody could ride better.”
     I wanted to give them some pride.
     They responded, “We there, yet?”
     I wanted to explain  how even in early California, the conservative Californios, those from the north, "Nortenos," mostly, wanted to keep the mission system in place and strict adherence to the Church. Why change things? Those early leaders, like Micheltorena, felt they might even work with the Americans who were beginning to invade the region in larger numbers, even if those early civilized Californios saw the Americans as dirty, uncouth, drunkards.
     Then on the other side, the progressive Surenos, like Juan Baptista Alvarado and Jose Antonio Castro, liberals, who wanted to break the power of the Church and mission system, free the Indians, and open mission lands to privately own ranches and haciendas. They believed in a partnership with the liberal Americans who had begun settling Los Angeles, dressing like rancheros, marrying Mexican women, and raising Mexican-American children.
     All the while, the American government in Washington was collaborating with American militias, trying to lure Californios into a fracas, any excuse to send in the regular military. As the Californios began losing control, lynching and vigilantism became the law of the land, and it was mostly “unruly” or “disobedient” Mexicans, Indians, and outlaw Americans dangling from the ends of the ropes. It was in this setting that Joaquin Murrieta, Juan Flores, and Tiburcio Vasquez were born.
     As I turn off onto the Vasquez Rocks exit, we begin to see the jagged rocks in the distance. From the parking lot, the kids are mesmerized at the jagged peaks rising from the sand, rock formations, the work of a mad artist.                                                                                    
Noemi, Nico, Eli, a peek at history
     Then come the questions. Where did Vasquez hide? How many men rode with him? Where did he get his food? How could the hide so many horses? Can we climb the rocks? And out they scampered, up the side of the cliffs, with me, of course, close behind.
     The sun is falling, and the cold swoops in. Noemi and Nico put up their hoodies. Eli climbs to the highest point. He says, “Now I see why they came here. From here, you can watch anybody coming.  You can see everywhere.”
     So, he was listening.
     I ask if they can hear the ghosts in the wind. They want to climb all the rocks. They realize the rocks go way back into the farthest mountains. “He was smart, right,” I say to them. They agree. I mean, nobody knows the entire story, right? And even among those who think they know the story, there are a lot of gray areas. Can anyone really know another’s story, especially a character steeped in history, fiction, and myth?

Daniel Cano is an award winning writer. His latest novel of 1920's Los Angeles, "Death and the American Dream" (Bilingual Press) is available on Amazon or directly from the publisher. His first two novels "Pepe Rios" and "Shifting Loyalties" (Arte Publico Press) are also available on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Two Cinco Puntos Press Titles in New Editions

Olor a perfume de viejita

By Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Translated by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite
Edited by Sylvia Zeleny

The classic Latinx growing up story, The Smell of Old Lady Perfume, now by popular demand in SPANISH!

Claudia Martinez’ novel for middle-grade readers is a bittersweet story about family, death and the resilient emotional strength of the human heart. Chela Gonzalez, the book’s narrator, is a nerd and a soccer player who can barely contain her excitement about starting the sixth grade. To Chela, her family is like a solar system, with her father the sun, and her mother, brothers and sister like planets rotating all around him. It’s the only world she fits in. But that universe is threatened when her strong father has a stroke. Chela’s grandmother moves in to help the family. The smell of her old lady perfume invades the house. That smell is worse than Sundays. Sundays were sad, but death is a whole other thing. In her grief and worry, Chela begins to discover herself and find her own strength.

Watch Out for Clever Women  
¡Cuidado con las mujeres astutas!

By legendary storyteller Joe Hayes
Illustrations by Vickie Trego Hill

A Bilingual Classic—Texas Bluebonnet Master List and Winner of the Southwest Book Award—with FIVE NEW STORIES. The book includes Joe’s signature story The Day It Snowed Tortillas.

According to an old saying, Una mujer piensa más en un solo minuto que un hombre en un mes entero—A woman thinks more in a minute than a man does in a whole month. For me, the saying refers to the rich inner life many women developed in Western cultures when so much of the external, active life was denied them. This collection of eleven Hispanic stories celebrates the strength of women that comes from this thinking.

My hope is that readers will find these stories spicy enough that they’ll begin to tell them themselves. And if they do, I invite them to add something from their own imaginations to make the stories even richer. —Joe Hayes

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On-Line Floricanto. Floricanto on the theme of Tonantzín

On-Line Floricanto. Floricanto on the theme of Tonantzín

Editor's Note: Michael Sedano tore up his dominant shoulder and is out of commission for a time. Today, La Bloga-Tuesday, brings back a 2012 column celebrating Guadalupe Day. There is a fond remembrance, Francisco's presence among us. Here is a link to the entire column.

Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Francisco Alarcón, and other moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070, put together this mid-winter celebration of poetry honoring Tonantzín.

I've long been convinced that Juan Diego found not roses on that hill, but epiphyllum cactus blossoms that bloomed that year in Spring, then again mid-Winter. Califas' ferocious storms consumed many of my epiphyllums, 50+ year-old wonders. I found one penca on the ground with a promising bud that opened on Guadalupe's day, December 12, 2011 and inspired my own version of Guadalupe / Tonantzín's origins.

Following that, find the BIOS of today's poets, Raúl Sánchez, Andrea Hernández Holm, Hedy Treviño, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Francisco X. Alarcón:

“Tonantzin Cemicac Ichpochtzintl” by Raúl Sánchez
“Confessions of a Goddess" by Andrea Hernández Holm
“She Walks alone across the Sky” by Hedy Treviño
"Una Oración / A Prayer" By Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
"Whispers in the Wind / Susurros al viento" by Francisco X. Alarcón

Tonantzin Cemicac Ichpochtzintli   Our Revered Mother, Holiest Virgin 
by Raúl Sánchez

I see her with folded hands
behind glass and neon lights
above the Mexican flag,
tattooed on men’s back

her image colored by children’s hands
messages on papel de estraza
on window stickers, retablos,
on top of cars and trucks

her Image dangling from rear view mirrors
adorned with colorful lights
to whom immigrants pray
to get them safe to the other side

on old ladies hands rosaries
praying waiting for her blessing
I see her on the back of bullfighters capes
embroidered with golden thread

Moros and Cristianos, Aztec dancers
drum-beat-rhythmic teponztle
conch-shell sounds the Concheros play
copal lingers to the shrine

pilgrims holding pennants visit from
all over the valley of Anáhuac
pilgrimage to the holy shrine
covered under rebozos, sombreros

beyond Zacapoaxtla
bearing her image on their heads
twelve candles bought along the way
to the hill El Cerrito to pay La Manda

red roses fragrant roses at her feet,
her blessing shines on the faithful
who visit her house pinning Milagritos
on the Hill of Tepeyac

“Ca oncan niquincaquiliz in inchoquiz,
in intlaocol, inic nicyectiliz nicpatiz in ixquich
nepapan innetoliniliz,
intonehuiz, inchichinaquiliz”

“There I will listen to their lament,
their sorrow, to remedy, to alleviate,
all their needs, their miseries, their pain”
(from the Nican Mopohua)

Confessions of a Goddess
by Andrea Hernandez Holm

      We decided that we would hide,
return to the 13 levels of heaven and wait.
After all, some things are inevitable,
some stories are already written
and even we can’t change them.
Our hearts broke as children died
and temples crumbled.
I saw many of us weeping for our people.

      There were those, of course,
who said the people deserved what they were getting.
They’d become selfish and lazy.
My holy children said,
      “We’ve seen this before,
      endured this before,
      We can begin again.
      Xolotl can revive them,
      retrieve their bones,
      make them greater
      in the next world.
      We will know what faults
      to sweep from their human flesh.”

      “Imagine!” they cried.
      “We will mold humans so loyal and strong
      gentle and humble,
      they will be almost divine.
      We can wait.
      The dawning of the next world
      will be the best one yet.”

      And so we slept,
curled into the clouds,
and under the stars
and in dark caves Coatlicue still kept.
But oceans of blood
and pock-marked children invaded my dreams
and the cries of noblemen pierced my heart.
I could feel their anguish
and I yearned to walk among them again.

      And then I heard him call my name,
      sing it to the rhythm of a rosary,
      whisper “Tonantzin”
      and I knew that I would return to them.

      I waited for him,
held vigil on the swell of earth
that had been mine for so long.
I tempted him
with the scent of roses
and the sweet sounds of the eastern world
until he could resist me no more,
came to my side
      Loving me
      Needing me
      Calling me beloved.

He brought me
back to my people
and together we endure.
We are created anew.
Even without our temples
and so many of our ways,
we thrive.

I walk among them,
walk with them in their prayers and songs.
I thrive on the flames of candles burnt for me
and am nourished by the tears we share.

      I survive
      with the smallest of my children
      even as the others sleep.

Andrea Hernandez Holm 2000

She Walks Alone Across The Sky
by hedy garcia treviño

She walks alone across the sky
from east to west in amber gowns

The fearless queen of light

From east to west she danced she pranced
upon the freshly fallen snow.

Prepared to shed her amber gowns
and light the sky in shades of scarlet hues

Upon her head a crown of purple rubies glow
behold the fearless queen of light

Who walks alone across the sky

Una Oración
by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

Virgencita bendita
Siempre estás conmigo
En mis bellas artes
En mis escrituras
En mis esculpturas
Me bendigas

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

A Prayer
by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

Blessed Virgin
You’re always with me
In my art
In my writing
In my sculpture
You bless me

Whispers in the Wind
by Francisco X. Alarcón

alone in the crowd
far away from your sacred home
festing on your day

I whisper your name
and a soft wind blows over
tree tops, heads and hearts—

may the peaceful bring
peace everywhere; may the dreamers
have their dream in life

December 12, 2011
© Francisco X. Alarcón

Susurros al viento
por Francisco X. Alarcón

solo entre el gentío
lejos de tu santuario
en tu romerío

susurro tu nombre
y un viento suave mueve
árboles, cabezas, corazones—

que los mansos traigan
paz dondequiera y los soñadores
hagan sus sueños realidad

12 de diciembre de 2011
© Francisco X. Alarcón

The Miracle at Tepeyac
Michael Sedano
Foto taken on December 12, 2011
The man lies at the edge of a deep pool, his arms motionless in the water despite the icy chill. He stares intently at his day's meal floating tantalizingly out of reach. Just as the large axolotl drifts into his grasp, the indio sees the reflection of the priest lean over him. The axolotl struggles weakly as Amoxcallín squeezes its life out.

“Mi’jo, what is your name?” The indio uses his baptismal name. “Juan Diego, did you thank God for delivering that meat into your hands, mi’jo?”

The Indian’s head shivers involuntarily, which the priest accepts as denial. “Mi’jo, God’s gifts are many. To be blessed with such a fat bounty and not thank our Almighty Father is a sin." The monk reaches a hand as if to slap the indian but stops short. "I will take this meat as your penance.” With a sharp uña, the priest guts the water dog and throws the offal at the hungry indio. Amoxcallín sighs. Today’s meal will be tripas.

“¡Amoxcallín! Tonantzín’s cactus are covered with buds, how beautiful they'll be.”
“Ay, Amaranta. If I could eat the blossoms I'd find the true beauty of them.”
“You know, with the land so barren now, I’m sure the Archbishop would pay us for these flowers to decorate his chapel." The young husband fails to notice the urgency of her voice when she adds, "We could go to the mercado and bring home some fresh meat.”
“Pay! That fat priest seized the axolotl I caught, saying it was a penance for my sins.” The skinny boy spit on the ground. “If I take that gachupín these blossoms he will pay nothing. He will invent another sin to forgive me, taking the flowers as my penance.”
“Mi amor, the Archbishop is our only hope. Please. I need to eat meat, to build strength for two.”

“Yes, two. La curandera tells me I am pregnant. Our little one-- if it survives--will come when Tonanzín’s flowers bloom again next Spring.”

Pregnant, Juan Diego thinks. Why does Tonantzín give me such joy and such beauty—my Amaranta, our  child, these annual winter blossoms—yet trouble me so? Our Mother's flowers will burst forth in three days, and after three or four days, they will wither and die. If I cannot feed my wife every day, our baby will be dead before she--or he--sees light. These people tell us their God works in mysterious ways and we must abandon our gods and pay for our sins in order to be saved. Who will save us from them?

Gently, the boy man strokes the girl woman’s cheek. He lifts her downturned face by her brown chin and looks into her hopeful glistening eyes. “I wish I knew why we must we pay these church men when it is God’s mercy we seek. Tonantzín has no church, yet she blesses us every year with these beautiful flowers. And now our child. Tomorrow, I will go see the Archbishop.”
The empty hope in his wife’s voice echoes in his ears, “if it survives.” No. Not ‘it’, he thinks, our child, our future. A spark ignites in his eyes. If Tonantzín had a church, she would protect us against that other church. She would.

He places a stone on the earth to mark each step of the plan. The Archbishop believes in mysteries. He converts pulque into the blood of Jesús, and tortilla into His flesh. Tonantzín's blossoms--with the right mystery--will be converted into roasted axolotl and dried rabbit. Perhaps even fresh horsemeat.

Amoxcallín runs steadily through the pedregal. His path twists around clusters of spiked agave and vast stretches of the vicious leaping cholla. He leaps over stands of the inedible purple nopal whose tiny espinas reward a touch with a lifetime of irritation. He stops. He realizes he has forgotten his mother’s name for those plants. So much he had forgotten. Such was the price of being Saved. He runs steadily. The Archbishop’s chapel emerges from the morning fog into view.

The indio feigns breathlessness as he kneels at the Archbishop's feet. The first step of his plan begins with a story of mystery. An apparition had appeared. Jesus’ mother la Virgen Mary herself told him to run without stopping to tell the Archbishop to build a chapel in a miraculous place!

The Archbishop slaps the Indian for his impudence. How dare this swine claim to have spoken to Our Lady! He slaps the indio again. “You lie! You blaspheme” Slap. “You bring The Church no offering, instead bringing me lies.” That felt good, so he slaps the impudent boy again with a gusto that knocks the indio backward. “Go! Never return to this place empty-handed again.” The Archbishop has the burly Sexton drag the indio to the street. “Beat him for his penance!”

Juan Diego laughed at the pain of salvation. The first part of his plan has worked as he’d predicted. The Archbishop’s jealousy fueled the priest’s anger, leaving him more red-faced than usual. Juan Diego had taken the slaps and his beating quietly, mostly, other than a muffled grunt when the Sexton's boot found a rib.

Two days later, the sun has not yet risen over the eastern rim of the valley when Juan Diego rattles the Archbishop’s gate. The Sexton angrily pulls it open. When the red-faced Sexton sees it is the same filthy Indian he’d savagely beaten two days before, the monk discovers empathy and tells the indio to go away. Juan Diego had expected not kindness but another kick in the ribs. He is surprised when the monk quietly ushers him through the door of the chapel and rings the Archbishop’s bell.

The Archbishop screams for his whip as he strides darkly across the center aisle of his chapel, discerning that indio again. He raises his fist to punch the indio’s smiling face when the Archbishop notices the man holds up his tilma between his penitent’s hands, some unseen bulk bulging behind the woven hilo de maguey.

“So, Juan Diego. Have you learned to respect The Holy Mother Church? Have you returned this early hour with some bounty from the land for our breakfast?”
“Forgive me, my lord and master,” Diego begins his speech. “The Mother of God has appeared again to me,” Diego speaks clearly but quickly to get out the words before the Archbishop slaps him into silence. “She commands me to bring this miracle to you to show my sincerity.” And with the word “sin-“ he releases the tilma and dozens of spectacular colors spill onto the stone floor, glistening in the dim fitful light of burning tallow.

“Rosas! Rosas? Where did you find these? In December? How? What? Rosas! A miracle, a miracle!” The Archbishop falls to his knees. He shakes off the arms of his Sexton, instead prostrating himself, rubbing his face into the blossoms.  For minutes the old priest lay there, trembling, squeezing the blossoms, staining his face and the tilma with their juice.

“Help me up, mugrosos.” Archbishop fixes the indio with reddened eyes. “Explain!” he commands the indio he calls Juan Diego.
Amoxcallín and Amaranta had practiced the revelation story. He began as they’d rehearsed. “Our Lady commands me to bring these blossoms to your Lordship, so you will know I do not lie. ‘Build my church at this place, the place of roses,’ she commanded, padre.” Amoxcallín holds out his hands in supplication, points his face to the ceiling, wonder filling his rising volume.

“Her light grew brighter than the sun, yet all about me was darkness, señor. I was blinded by the light, and despite the biting cold, I was warm as a summer’s day.” Here Juan Diego squeezes his eyes tightly and continues speaking in dramatic intonation that echoes through the rafters and walls of the empty chapel.

“And as the brilliance of her light began to fade away, oh my father…” Amoxcallín particularly hated this part of the speech, the words fill his mouth with bile. This evil man is not Tepeyac, Amoxcallín’s father, but as Amaranta had coached, the indio called Juan Diego speaks the words with sweet sincerity. “…my father.” Amoxcallín swallowed and his stomach grumbles loudly.

“I looked where she had stood. And there" he points toward the flower-covered tilma, "where her gentle feet have touched our barren earth,” another of Amaranta’s suggestions, “these..." Amoxcallín Juan Diego pauses, forgetting if Tonantzín's flowers were supposed to be 'celestial roses' or 'miracles.' "...Where these divine gifts remained as a sign of Our Lady's commands and her love for you!”
Then the Archbishop surprises Juan Diego. He orders breakfast. As they sit in front of a blazing fire eating, the Archbishop faints. With light he sees the tilma.

The Archbishop’s party of priests and soldiers follow Juan Diego up the path leading to the miraculous place the community knows as Tepeyac. That same day, the Archbishop orders all the indios in the region to come work at Tepeyac to build the shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe has commanded.

The days were long, the work hard, but that was nothing new. The labor crews broke rock into gravel, leveled the land, laid out and dug foundations. They built walls using stones hauled from the city’s ancient temples and lumber from el monte. The Church paid the laborers by feeding them and allowing them a day's rest on Sunday, after three Masses. The iron tools the soldiers supply especially please the indios, given the contrast with iron spurs, swords and pikes that had been their sole contact with iron. The Church’s engineers taught blacksmithing to some, surveying and geometry to others. Selected children learn to copy and write, to read and recite prayers to la Virgen. Over the years as the Tepeyac shrine grew, the community prospered like never before.

Amaranta and Amoxcallín had three daughters and two sons. These were their flowers now, and for the rest of their happy lives, those epiphyllum cacti kept blooming in the dead of winter. But the community kept this annual miracle private from the succession of administrators who did the new Archbishop’s bidding.

Amaranta, she of the skillful hand, taught her children to weave canvas from hilo de maguey, fashion paint brushes, find and mix colors, and to paint images of Tonantzín de Tepeyac, riding a black moon, surrounded by flames.
© michael v. sedano, 2011

“Tonantzin” by Raúl Sánchez
“Confessions of a Goddess" by Andrea Hernández Holm
“She Walks alone across the Sky” by Hedy Trevino
"Una Oración / A Prayer" By Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
"Whispers in the Wind / Susurros al viento" by Francisco X. Alarcón

Raúl Sánchez is a Seattle Bio-Tech technician, prosody enthusiast, translator, and DJ at KBCS 91.3 FM community radio station, who conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead in Tieton WA. He was featured in the 2011 Burning Word Poetry Festival in Leavenworth WA. His work has appeared on-line in The Sylvan Echo, Flurry, Gazoobitales, Pirene’s Fountain and many times on La Bloga, as well as other journals, local magazines and newspapers. His most recent work is the Spanish translation of the continuation of John Burgess’ "Punk Poems" which appear in his new book "Graffito" by Ravenna Press. His work appeared in the second Anthology by The Miracle Theatre Viva la Word!, Latino Cultural Magazine, on bookmarks by the Seattle Public Library 2007 Poetic Art Project, and in the Anthology Speaking Desde las Heridas (Publisher: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Currently he is one of the moderators for the Poets Responding to SB 1070 Facebook page. His debut Chapbook will be published Spring 2012

Elena Díaz Björkquist, a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. She is nearing completion of another collection of Morenci stories entitled Albóndiga Soup. Elena has been on the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Speakers Bureau for ten years performing as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation, and doing presentations about Morenci, Arizona and also the 1880’s Schoolhouse in Tubac. AHC recently selected her to do a presentation on El Día de los Muertos.

Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos, an anthology written by her writers group. The project was funded by AHC. She co-edited a new anthology entitled Our Spirit, Our Reality; our life experiences in stories and poems that will be out in late October of 2011.

A SIROW Scholar at the University of Arizona, Elena conducted an oral history project funded by AHC; “In the Shadow of the Smokestack.” A website she created contains the oral history interviews and photographs of Chicano elders living in Morenci during the Depression and World War II. Another project funded by AHC and the Stocker Foundation is “Tubac 1880’s Schoolhouse Living History Program.” Her website is

Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070.

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992)  His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions.  He teaches at the University of California, Davis.  He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 that you can visit at:

Michael Sedano is co-founder, with Rudy Garcia and Manuel Ramos, of La Bloga. Visit Read! Raza for fotos and background and GF recipes.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Comentario al libro ‘Mujer, nación y progreso en el discurso del exilio de Clorinda Matto de Turner y Juana Manuela Gorriti’ por Álvaro M. Torres

Comentario al libro ‘Mujer, nación y progreso en el discurso del exilio de Clorinda Matto de Turner y Juana Manuela Gorriti’ por Álvaro M. Torres 
 Xanath Caraza

Álvaro M. Torres nació en Lima-Perú. En 1998 obtuvo su título en Derecho y Ciencias Políticas en la Universidad de Lima, Perú. En la Universidad de Memphis, Tennessee se graduó con una maestría en Lenguas Romances con concentración en español. En el 2006 se doctoró en Literatura latinoamericana de los siglos XIX y XX en Florida State University. Actualmente es Profesor Asociado del Departamento de Español de University of North Georgia.

El presente libro está enfocado en la relectura de la prosa de Juana Manuela Gorriti y Clorinda Matto de Turner, cuyas vidas cubren buena parte del siglo XIX y comienzos del XX, y de cómo expresan su identidad como mujeres y como parte de una sociedad en proceso de transformación y dominada secularmente por el sistema patriarcal. Sus vidas están conectadas por circunstancias similares personales y profesionales. Al escribir expresan la forma de pensar de la época, las ideologías en boga, los momentos de transición que las hacen sujetos en transformación y por tanto se encuentran en constantes fronteras que se intensificarán en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX. Queremos acercarnos no sólo a sus textos de ficción sino también a documentos más personales como el epistolario de Juana Manuela Gorriti con Ricardo Palma.
Gracias a la labor intensa de Graciela Batticuore, quien lo organizó y publicó, podemos analizar la correspondencia entre ambos autores y complementar datos respecto al pensamiento de la escritora argentina decimonónica. Igual podemos decir lo mismo de Clorinda Matto de Turner que aunque no contamos con un epistolario, tenemos sus editoriales del periódico El Perú Ilustrado así como sus discursos durante el exilio en Argentina que dan una visión más integral de su mensaje en cuanto a la participación de la mujer en la sociedad a efectos de beneficiar y desarrollar la nación. En la escritura de Matto, la nación traspasa fronteras geográficas y se construye como una supranación americana unida. Ambas escritoras interesan al presente estudio por la idea de la transnacionalidad cultural e intelectual como paso previo a la integración jurídica de naciones que se desarrolló en el siglo XX y que aún se mantiene en proceso.
Asimismo se proyecta con estas escritoras una forma de feminismo que no se manifiesta con protestas contra la opresión del patriarcado, ni huelgas, ni discursos agresivos en los escaños del congreso por la erradicación y la imposición de nuevas reglas que mejoren la condición de la mujer. Estas mujeres cambian efectivamente la sociedad patriarcal a través de estrategias diferentes que implican una subversión del mensaje de la hegemonía patriarcal en un proceso intelectual constante. A través de ficciones como Misceláneas, Oasis en la vida y Lo íntimo podemos ver que Juana Manuela Gorriti hace participar a la mujer por diferentes voces además de la suya propia, refleja una sociedad entre lo colonial y lo post colonial, impulsa el desarrollo de la nación a través de la intelectualidad, pero siempre conciente de que los medios con los que cuenta son delicados puesto que han sido por siglos privilegio de los hombres: la educación y la pluma. De una manera más directa tenemos a Matto de Turner que además de hablar de la situación del indígena en el Perú en muchas de sus novelas, también refleja la situación de la mujer denunciando a las instituciones de la sociedad peruana. Ambas escriben dando voz a los marginados porque necesitan elevar de manera inteligente y sutil su reclamo ante la hegemonía para reestructurar la nación y su consecuente desarrollo basado en un progreso más justo para las partes.
Juana Manuela Gorriti se constituye como uno de los pilares de la literatura en Hispanoamérica y especialmente estas décadas en que se hace una relectura de sus textos, así como descubrimiento de otros documentos de la autora. En ese sentido queremos participar de esta relectura para despojar a la escritora argentina de mitos y olvidos que se han ido creando a lo largo de su vida y luego de su muerte. Presentamos pues a una mujer que vive intensamente cada momento y viaja en una constante transformación, en un constante exilio de encuentros y desencuentros que nos muestra una persona compleja como todo ser humano moderno. Escribe entre ficción y experiencia personal, entre romanticismos, positivismos y modernismos, y mientras menos la podamos categorizar mejor la podremos conocer y ella es consciente de ello cuando en Lo íntimo incluye fragmentos de las cartas que escribió a Ricardo Palma, haciendo de su vida una ficción y a la vez materializándola. Para el análisis de todos estos documentos contamos con material de notables estudiosas como Francine Masiello, Graciela Batticuore, Cristina Iglesia, Lea Fletcher, Susana Zanetti, Mary Berg, entre otras que nos dan un enfoque sociológico e histórico de nuestras escritoras, especialmente en la Argentina. En el caso de Matto de Turner, no se han estudiado en detalle los textos que pertenecen a la época del exilio de la escritora cuzqueña. Por eso consideramos que Boreales, miniaturas y porcelanas, así como las Conferencias de América del Sur, sus editoriales en El Perú Ilustrado, y otros textos posteriores a 1895 son de notable valía para perfilar más efectivamente el pensamiento de Matto, y así continuar con la labor que por ejemplo Francesca Denegri hizo en El abanico y la cigarrera, además de la colaboración de las otras criticas mencionadas, que abrieron un camino más dinámico y fluido que aquel lleno de prejuicios liderados por críticos varones de fines del siglo XIX y principios del XX.
Nuestra visión es el estudio de la identidad de género en contextos mutables propios de la experiencia personal de las escritoras y de los  personajes de sus textos de ficción y cómo la mujer se construye a sí misma al escribir en oposición con la idealización hegemónica de la mujer: ángel del hogar, madre, esposa abnegada, condenada a un espacio del que posteriormente sacará provecho a través de la educación lo que permitirá su paso al espacio público que amenaza a la sociedad machista. La idea de la construcción de la nación comienza en la casa como diría Gorriti entre seriedad y broma, pero para nosotros con mucha razón como veremos en el desarrollo de este proyecto.
El proceso de constantes cambios a lo largo de las vidas de estas mujeres las hace pisar el terreno de las fronteras en los diferentes espacios que recorren. Es de gran importancia cómo a través de la historia la transformación de las naciones se ha producido y como se producen zonas de encuentros y desencuentros en diferentes sectores. Walter Mignolo en Local Histories/ Global Designs refleja en un mapa escrito estos cambios y así podemos situarnos en los diferentes contextos que al mismo tiempo se dan en Norteamérica,
Centroamérica, Sudamérica, Europa y África, para lo que nos concierne en este estudio. La transformación es a nivel geográfico, cultural, político, social, económico e histórico, y nuestras intelectuales participan en cada uno.
Otro tema que es importante para este proceso de colonialidad y post colonialidad es el tema del poder y cómo se asocia con la sexualidad produciendo una transformación de los diferentes mensajes de los grupos que forman una sociedad. Los trabajos de Picon Garfield, Brígida Pastor, Luce Irigaray son importantes, sin embargo creemos que estas autoras se centran más en el aspecto individual de la mujer misma y como se redefinen en la sociedad. En este trabajo, además del aspecto individual lo asociamos con la redefinición de la nación americana (Norte, Centro y Sur) en vías de progreso. Para complementar esta perspectiva hacemos uso de algunas metodologías como la del imaginario social de Iris Zavala y la construcción de la nación de Homi Bhabha en cuanto a términos generales.
También utilizamos el análisis de los textos de las autoras bajo estudio, análisis de tropos literarios e imágenes así como la técnica narrativa empleada. Nuestro estudio esta estructurado en hacer en el primer capítulo una aproximación general de los marcos teóricos e indicar con las biografías de las intelectuales sudamericanas los espacios sociopolíticos, geográficos e históricos por los que viajan, con especial énfasis en el periodo de su exilio, por eso el análisis de los textos propuestos anteriormente. El capítulo segundo se centra en Juana Manuela Gorriti y el desarrollo de la fronterización, complejidad, transnacionalidad y concepto de progreso de la escritora argentina. El capítulo tercero está dedicado a Clorinda Matto de Turner y el imaginario moderno de fines de siglo XIX de la mujer en contraste y complemento con el imaginario de intelectuales varones de la época, con especial énfasis en José Martí, quien propone una idea híbrida para el futuro de la mujer latinoamericana. El capítulo cuarto compara a las autoras sudamericanas con la perspectiva individual feminista de Gertrudis Gómez de Avellanada, que si bien el denominador común es el poder, sexualidad y rebeldía en estas mujeres, encontramos algunas diferencias que se dan por las diferentes realidades coloniales y post coloniales en las que se encuentran.
Finalmente presentamos nuestras conclusiones, concientes que el embarque en este proyecto es de por sí enriquecedor ya que nuestras escritoras llegan a escribir conocedoras de la crítica negativa de la sociedad de su tiempo y posterior a ellas, por la cual necesitan usar el intelecto de manera constante como obreras y dar su voz a conocer en una situación restringida y prejuiciosa.
Así mismo, aunque parezca que las escritoras no hablan directamente, a la postre lo hacen cuando manipulan el discurso hegemónico y codifican su contradiscurso, valiéndose de ciertas posiciones de poder, y por tanto el mensaje propio. Y es así que las escritoras en estudio se encuentran en constante exilio, desencuentro y encuentro con la sociedad y consigo mismas, e incluso excomulgadas, y atormentadas psicológica y verbalmente.