Showing posts with label Chicanos in Denver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicanos in Denver. Show all posts

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Raza in the (good/bad) news

La Bloga's Dan Olivas' NYTimes op-ed piece!

I had a nephew who committed suicide the year after the San Antonio Catholic Archdiocese settled with him for $50,000 for years of priest-abuse. This is part of our cultural heritage not often spoken about, despite the trauma raza has suffered from "worship" of an instititution that provides ample room for sexual predation.

This week our mayordomo Dan Olivas has an article entitled The Priest That Preyed making its national appearance. It concerns his story, Assumption, a fictionalized piece based on an abusive Califas priest. Go here to read Olivas' solid account.

Unfortunately, you can also go here to read LatinoPOV Jimmy Franco Sr.'s  non-fiction piece, The Catholic Church: A Trail of Shattered Young Lives, about 500 victims who filed suit over priest molestation in Califas.

Landau, 2011, RJ Sangosti, Denver Post foto
Denver cops beating Chicanos not a problem, again

Like in other cities, here's another case of them getting away with it. Three Denver cops who gave Alex Landau "a beating that left him scarred and suffering persisting neurological damage" will not be charged by the Justice Dept. for violating his civil rights. The "$795,000 settlement, one of the largest payouts in city history to resolve a police-brutality case" that he was awarded, notwithstanding. Also, all the cops are still on the payroll. And the streets. Go here to read full story. Foto is of Landau w/o Denver police make-over.

"Hunting illegals" sticker not for sale, anymore

Supposedly, you can no longer purchase one of these stickers. That's good. What's bad is that, unlike in Europe, it's not a crime to print, sell, profit and get publicity out of doing so. Read the story, here.

Targeted killing of U.S. citizens okay

At least Obama didn't single out Raza in his recent White Paper on targeted killings of U.S. citizens--we'll possibly be treated equally in such assassinations. Possibly.

From what I understand, Obama isn't saying it's legal or constitutional to do this to us: he's saying the decision is outside of the constitution. So it's ironically a form of marginalization applicable to all citizens. If you've been out of the loop on this, it would be good to check these or other articles so you won't be surprised if a Predator B takes you out one day.

[Anyone upset about this cartoon, consider this: Murder (defin.): to kill another human unlawfully. There is NO LAW empowering a President to do this; only a White Paper.]

San Anto Gallista Gallery 2nd Sat. Show

Today, Sat. Feb. 9, from 6-9:00pm, Gallista Gallery presents "Acrimony and Cheese," featuring work by RAW San Antonio Visual Artist Of The Year, 2012, Moe Profane. With special spoken-word performances hosted by 2011 & 2012 Grand Slam Poetry Champion Amanda Flores. San Antonio, Tex., 1913 S. Flores, 210-212-8606. Free and parking behind Gallery.

Reyna Grande - another achievement

Her autobiography, The Distance Between Us, is one of thirty finalists for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle award. Go here to read Rigoberto González's coverage and review.

Denver Valentine's Dance

Maybe one of your last chances to tirar some chancla at what will be remembered as one of Denver's last great Tejano-Norteño dance spots. That had great hosts and NO cover charge.

Carlos Santana & tequila

La Bloga ordinarily avoids promoting business interests, but this falls under the category of totalísimo self-interest--I like Santana and drinking. If you try the recipe, let me know.

Carlos w/wife Cindy
"First time Grammy Award winning singer Carlos Santana tasted the new “El Beso de Luz” Margarita with Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, and likened the experience to the first time one falls in love. He insisted it could have no other name than the Kiss of Light, a tribute to his wife Cindy.

This Valentine’s Day, what could be a more appropriate tribute to love than cuddling up with two glasses of this romantic drink?

El Beso de Luz Margarita - The Kiss of Light, as named by Santana
2 oz Casa Noble Crystal
½ oz Licor 43
1 oz lime juice
¼ orange squeeze & drop

Music icon Carlos Santana sits on the Board of Casa Noble Tequila and is part owner of the brand. Contact Amy Benson, The Baddish Group, for more info."

Es todo, hoy

Saturday, May 28, 2011

3rd-grade latinos critique My Shoes & I

René Colato Laínez's latest book My Shoes & I was just published by Boyds Mills Press. La Bloga has reviewed quién-sabe-cuántos libros in our seven years as a Chicano lit site. But we've never/nunca done a review like this.

This spring, 26 native-Spanish-speaking third-graders from inner-city Denver assisted me in analyzing and critiquing René's book. These students are not just
English Language Learners, or ELLs, as many school systems narrowly define them. I prefer the term EBEs, or Emerging Biliterate Entities,* to describe them.

Yes, they are learning English, but they're also learning more Spanish, along with science, math, history
y muchísimo más. And, they are learning the countless aspects of America's multicultural society to function each day and succeed in the future. The critique you read below is one example of the contributions EBEs make to the literary discourse each day for their adopted country.

First, here's the publisher's description of the book:
"A timely and inspiring story. Mario is leaving his home in El Salvador. With his father by his side, he is going north to join his mother, who lives in the United States. She has sent Mario a new pair of shoes. He will need good shoes because the journey north will be long and hard.

"He and his father will cross the borders of three countries. They will walk for miles, ride buses, climb mountains, and cross a river. Mario has faith in his shoes. He believes they will take him anywhere. On this day, they will take him to the United States, where his family will be reunited.

As the teacher of these lessons and author of this post, I edited some of what follows. The ideas, insights, opinions y todo lo de más are of the students' making.

The Students' Critique:

It's not possible to share all the ideas of all the kids because there's more than 26 pages' worth. The comments below were often posed by several of them, and other questions were sent to René Colato Laínez (RCL) that he will answer on his or the Los Bloguitos website in June. You can also go there to see great critiques of the book by adult and latino reviewers. Below you will exclusively find what children think of it.

Analysis of My Shoes & I.

Like most of the class, third-grader Edgar and Alan comment on what they learned about literary personification from the book: RCL wrote a good book because he explained it really well and wrote some wonderful details. Like when he personifies his shoes and says "uno, dos, tres and that they are ready to keep going and cross the finish line."

Sarahy had a personification question: Did this happen to you, that you treated a thing like a person?

BryanG said: The illustrations help the story because there are some tricky words and sometimes the illustrations have the meaning of the word.

BrianC wonders how an adult could know so much about latino kids' experiences: I enjoyed the themes and personifications like a personal connection I made to when he personified his shoes, saying "sana, sana, colita de rana." That's what I say to my favorite toy dinosaur. Also I wanted to know if someone helped him write the book.

Did students feel My Shoes & I was a believable story?

Unlike children's books written by many non-latinos and translated into Spanish that may not connect to the world of bilingual students, René's did pass the kids' standardized test of authenticity. BrianC's last sentence above was often repeated by others, and I was uncertain whether they were questioning RCL's authorship or the fact that his publicity photo makes him look like their older brother. I finally answered this, at least for myself: the kids couldn't get over how real the story was for them, how much they connected with it, how much of their short lives was featured in the story.

RubenM: I think Rene did write a WOW! believable story because he wrote spicy words instead of dead words. And I like the pictures.

Xitlaly: René wrote a good story because it has personifications.

NancyR: I believe that RCL did a believable story because it teaches people many things, like not giving up or that you have to believe in yourself.

Brisa: Yes I do think this is a good and believable story because it is a little funny and sad.

Jaider: Yes I think this is a good book because it made me sad and happy and it had new words.

To some students, like BryanG, the question about believability was simpler: I think he wrote a believable story because he says that a boy and father moved from El Salvador to Guatemala to Mexico and the U.S. and people move like that to other places.

Jaclyn: I think yes, because Mario had to cross from El Salvador to Guatemala, Mexico and to the U.S.

One student summarized well everyone's amazement over seeing parcels of their lives in print, as if René might have followed them around with a video camera. Adal: Where did you get the information?

How students identify or personally connect with the story.

Because a book is written in or translated into Spanish doesn't make it culturally relevant. It requires something more true to life, like what it's like to have to wear worn-out shoes or what it's like walking a path most Americans never had to experience. Xitlaly: The book made me think of when I went to Utah. I walked all the way until we found some houses and got in a taxi. This book also made me remember when my dad crossed from Mexico to the U.S.

Lesley wanted to know: Did René really need to cross the border when he was younger?

Marianay: How did you come up with the story? Did you have to walk all the way from where you were born to come here?

Rafael: I made a connection to the story. When I like something I take care of it and play with it.

RubenM: A personal connection I made is when I was in Mexico and everyone's shoes had holes in the bottom of the soles.

JaclynI: I made a personal connection that when I went to Nebraska my shoes got dirty.

Nancy: The personal connection that I made is that when I want something I never give up because I really like it. I also believe that I can do it, like when I did CSAP (Colo.'s standardized test) I believed in myself.

Jaider: My connection to this story is that when the dogs were chasing Mario he was scared and when dogs chase me I'm scared.

Christopher: It reminded me when I had my new shoes and I got them dirty and my shoes got a hole in the sole. My personal connection is when he was talking to his shoes and says "sana, sana, colita de rana," saying everything would be all right. Mario kept going and he never gave up.

BryanG: A connection I made is when my mom and my dad went to the U.S. from El Salvador to L.A.

Daniela: A personal connection I made was when I bought new shoes I really loved they became dirty and didn't fit me anymore.

NancyR: What inspired you to do this book and how did you think of so many good ideas?

Leslie: I did a connection with My Shoes because I had some shoes I liked a lot and one day I saw them ripped because my puppy bit them. Rene, how did you do this wonderful book? Have you gone through these things in your life?

Kids gauge if the book is correctly aimed at 5-8 year olds.

AlexN: Yes it is kind of hard but I think they can.

LesleyE: I do agree that this book should be intended for kids 5-8 because it is not so easy and it's not so hard. I think this book would be good for my neighbor who is five years old.

Adal: I agree because they can read it if they practice.

Marianay: I agree this is for 5-8 year olds because the words are too easy for 9-16.

Edwin: I think yes because everybody can read the book and 5-8 year olds can read.

Brisa: I agree this book is for 5-8 because it could be funny to someone or sad to someone. For me, it was sad.

But not everyone agreed on this, like Jaider: I disagree because there are hard words for 5-8 years olds like package. [Which he can now read.]

Christopher: I think this book is for 3rd grade because it is a little bit hard to read and the letters are too little.

It was a lot simpler for Leslie: I agree because it is not our decision; it's RCL's decision.

And then there's Daniela: I disagree the book is for kids 5-8 because it is a very wonderful book that everyone would like to read. Even adults should read it.

The kids decide whether they'd recommend the book.

Daniela: It is a very fabulous book and almost everyone would like it.

Lizbeth called it: a cool book. My comment to RCL is I love your book, because we could take it along on a trip.

Rogelio: I think RCL did a really good job of writing the book.

But for various reasons not everyone agreed, like Alan: I think I disagree because the 5-year-old wouldn't read it. I think it needs to be 7-9.

Edgar: I disagree because this book is too easy to read and I think it is higher level.

RubenM: I say no because it is a good story and I think it should be for 4 to 10 year olds.

NancyR: I disagree. The story is so wonderful I think everybody should hear it because it teaches us a lesson and talks about how they don't give up.

Last points.

Marianay asked René: How does it feel being an author? This and other kids' questions made me realize that many identified with him in a way that would not have happened by reading a Junie B. Jones book. Some now have an inkling that they could possibly become writers like him. He's Spanish-surnamed, so are they. He wrote about the unique, immigrant experience, like theirs. His book encompassed the sadness, fears and hopes of crossing into a new country--theirs.

I also thought that the kids' frequent usage of the author's first name, René, significant. How many times have you heard a kid refer to Junie, instead of Junie B. Jones? I think it represents an internalized personal connection that he is a human being-turned-friend because they feel he is so much like them. At least, that's my take.

What I've tried to present for teachers, parents, kids, or anyone who wants a culturally relevant gift for a latino child is a summary of the effect that My Shoes & I had on 26 Denver biliterate students of Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran heritage. They were engaged in reading, discussing, analyzing and writing about the book for so many hours, I continually worried they'd become bored or tired of it. That didn't happen. Much of that was due to the rigor imparted from their regular teacher Estherrose, as well as to the students' own yearning for knowledge and love of lit.

Or maybe the reason lies in Adal's answer to if and why he thought My Shoes was a good book:

"Yes, because we are learning about worlds."

Maestro Rudy Garcia

* EBEs = Emerging Bicultural
/Bicultivados Entidades* [entities] This is a take-off on the thinking of bilingual researchers and educators N. Commins and K. Escamilla concerning how native Spanish-speakers have been labeled.

The old term of ELLs, or English language-learners, dehumanized children by delimiting the focus of their learning to English, as if that were the most important, or even only, description of them and their learning.
Learning English is not the key to academic success; it is just one important, cultural aspect of a much wider spectrum of knowledge they could and should acquire.

Yes, they are special, special entities, I term them. Entity: for me the word conjures visions of sci-fi or fantasy, beings with special powers and abilities, sometimes from far-off worlds. The EBEs' world is
indeed far off from what most Anglo American children experience. As Laínez's book describes, it's a world that can begin in places that others can read about, but only imagine.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Five Reasons It's Great to be a Chicano in Denver

This post is motivated by similar articles I've read lately about why it's great to be a Latino in the U.S. or particular cities, etc. Lacking any brilliant inspiration for today's edition of La Bloga, I decided to steal the idea and give you my own list. No particular order, just how the pieces came to me. I have more than five reasons but I ran out of time. Maybe I'll continue with my list in future posts. If you have your own suggestions, send them in. Click on the comments link below.

1. Canción Mexicana - this radio program has been on the air for 24 years, an amazing run, and it's still as strong as ever. The show is broadcast on Denver's public radio jazz station, KUVO, 89.3 FM and on the Internet at The show is hosted by Florencia Hernández-Ramos and Debra Gallegos every Sunday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (Mountain).

Here's what the KUVO website says about this very popular show that has become a cultural icon in the Rocky Mountain West: New Mexico, Colorado and Tejano music with information excerpts from Latino USA and News From Our Community. Canción Mexicana has dominated jazz89 KUVO's Sunday line-up in both audience and business support. The best of the best in Tex-Mex music, Canción Mexicana has been frequently recognized in Denver's major newspapers. The program consistently ranks in the top five slots on Sunday mornings in the Denver metro area and has enjoyed the number one spot. It's cumbia, it's rancheras, and a little bit of mariachi - it's all that and more; it's Canción Mexicana with the best New Mexico, Tejano and Colorado music. There's music on Canción Mexicana as well as reports from Latino USA with a glimpse into what's happening in the community. Get ready to dance!

2. La Raza Rocks - this show follows Canción Mexicana at 1:00 pm, Sundays, on KUVO. Pocho Joe and Gabe are the incredibly knowledgeable hosts of an hour of the best of Latino rock - new and old - Sunny & the Sunliners, Santana, Los Lobos, the Iguanas, Los Lonely Boys, and Dr. Loco and his Rockin' Jalapeno Band. Interviews and information are part of the show's presentation. Pocho Joe and Gabe dig deep into Chicano rock, coming up with groups like Thee Midniters, Tierra, Little Julian Herrera, El Chicano,War, the Blendells, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and the Premiers, but they also present the latest groups and singers. Over the years, this show has introduced Denver to Ozomatli, Quetzal, Alejandro Escovedo, the Blazers, and many more. As Pocho Joe likes to say, the show covers the "roots and branches" of Chicano soul music. It'll tear you up.

3. Su Teatro - this theater group sprung from the Movement more than thirty-five years ago (1971) as traveling agit-prop, consisting mostly of long-haired students. Today it is a well-established production company that every year amazes Denver audiences with the diversity and brilliance of Latino and Chicano theater. Under the direction of the long-haired Anthony Garcia, El Centro Su Teatro is about to enter a new phase with a multi-million dollar facility that promises to continue to enrich the Denver cultural scene with outstanding plays and events. In recent years, Su Teatro has presented remarkable theater such as Rudy Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima; Ollin; El Sol Que Tú Eres (Daniel Valdez and Tony Garcia collaborated on this Chicano version of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus); Las Chicas de 3.5” Floppy; Death and the Maiden; and Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett. Annual events include the Neruda Poetry Festival (10 years), The XicanIndie Film Festival (11 years), and the Chicano Music Festival (12 years).

4. A bevy of writers and a strong literary tradition. Denver became the home for beloved poet Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado, author of one of the most famous Chicano poems ever published, Stupid America. Lalo probably is the best known Denver Chicano writer, but the city and the state have a long history of writers who have proudly preserved the story of Colorado's Chicanos and made a little of their own while they were at it. Names that immediately come to mind include Margie Domingo, Flor Lovato, Ramon Del Castillo, Anthony Vigil, Joe Navarro, and Corky Gonzales for I Am Joaquin, a classic bit of Chicano lit. (The Denver Public Library has arranged for a Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Exhibit at the Central Library, June 2 through September 20, 2009. A special reception to honor the exhibit is set for June 18 from 7 - 9 pm at the Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway.)

The tradition continues and there are young poets reading and writing all over the city, with readings and slams happening at places like the Taza de Café where Café Cultura did a regular thing, Cafe Nuba, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, the Neruda Poetry Festival, Art From Ashes, etc. We got fiction writers, too - Mario Acevedo, Aaron A. Abeyta, Rudy Garcia, Emma Perez, Angel Vigil, Reneé Fajardo, and yours truly, to name a few. Denver is a city that loves to read; it has great independent bookstores and many author events. Now if we could just get a permanent book fair.

5. The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC) and the Museo de las Américas. These two institutions sit on Santa Fe Drive in Denver's West Side. They provide art, artifacts, history, and venues for performance artists, poets, film-makers, and sculptors. CHAC has been around for thirty-one years, created by a group of artists who saw the need for their own space, devoted to their understanding of art and the creative process. That spirit still lives on at CHAC with ever-changing exhibits with themes such as Vida Artistica, the Poetry y Mas series of readings, and, returning this year, the Chile Harvest Festival (August 29 & 30).

The Museo has consistently presented world-class exhibits of Latino, Chicano and Latin American art, and has developed a national reputation for its adherence to its mission. As the website says, the Museo educates our community about the diversity of Latino Americano art and culture from ancient to contemporary through innovative exhibitions and programs. With the Latino population growing exponentially in the Denver and wider communities, the Museo plays an important role in building pride in the Latino community's heritage and promoting understanding among cultures. Other history and art museums in Denver cannot focus on one segment of the community in a sustained or comprehensive manner. The Museo was organized to fill this important niche in the cultural milieu. Under the leadership of newly-appointed director Maruca Salazar, a celebrated artist in her own right, the Museo should make an even bigger impression on the art-loving Denver residents.

The cool thing about this list is that you don't have to be a Chicana or a Chicano to enjoy the music, art, writing or history. We like to share.

Okay, send in your own suggestions for this list - is it really great to be a Chicano or Chicana, wherever you live? If so, why?