Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Deadline Approaching for Writing Contests

A note from Lee & Low Books

The deadlines to submit to our New Voices and New Visions Awards are quickly approaching!

Our annual awards encourage writers of color and Native nations to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. As the number of diverse books increases, Lee & Low Books is dedicated to increasing the number of authors of color and Native nations as well.

Keep reading for submissions guidelines and feel free to post, share, or print PDFs to help us spread the word about these great contests!

The Lee & Low Team

The New Voices Award is given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a new writer of color or Native/Indigenous writer.

Past New Voices Award submissions we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Honor.


1. The contest is open to writers of color and Native nations who are residents of the United States, 18 years or older at the time of entry, and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published.

2. Writers who have published work in other venues and genres, including children’s magazines, young adult, and adult fiction or nonfiction, are eligible. Only unagented submissions will be accepted.

3. Work that has been published in any format, including online and self published, is not eligible.

4. Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to Lee & Low Books will not be considered.

Prize: The Award winner receives a cash prize of $2,000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

Deadline: August 31, 2018

For full eligibility and submission guidelines, visit our website.

The New Visions Award is given for a middle grade or young adult novel by a new writer of color or Native/Indigenous writer.

Winning submissions include Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, the recipient of an honor award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association; Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, which received three starred reviews and was a Junior Library Guild selection; and Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar, which received two starred reviews and was listed as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.


1. The contest is open to writers of color and Native nations who are residents of the United States, 18 years of age or older at the time of entry, and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published.

2. Writers who have published work in other venues such as children’s magazines or picture books, or adult fiction or nonfiction, are eligible. Only unagented manuscripts will be accepted.

3. Work that has been published in its entirety in any format (including online and self publishing as well as other countries) is not eligible.

4. Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to Tu Books will not be considered.

Prize: The Award winner receives a cash prize of $2,000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

Deadline: August 31, 2018

For full eligibility and submission guidelines, visit our website

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Power Shifters in Raza Futures

Book Signing in LA Council Chambers Honors Raza Trailblazers
Michael Sedano

Review: David R Ayón; George L Pla. Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America. Berkeley: Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2018. Isbn 9780877724568.

What if an author gave a book talk and no one showed up? That nightmare may have stolen sleep from George L. Pla and David R. Ayón until Friday afternoon, when guests filed into the marble-columned chambers of Los Angeles City Council, buzzing with excitement.

Mayor Eric Garcetti waits as he's introduced
Pla and Ayón, veteran participant-observers in SoCal’s political landscape who know everyone who is everyone, hosted by Councilman Gil Cedillo, an everyone, had come to the seat of power in North America’s third-largest city, to autograph the authors’ vitally useful history, Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America.

The event was a living QED. The Mayor, a Chicano, spoke. Cedillo, otro Chicano, can write his own ticket in local politics. The Emcee was a teevee luminary from Univision, Gabriela Teissier.

Garcetti and Cedillo stood up there like they own the place.

They do.

That’s owing to the ten elders whose narratives comprise the heart of Power Shift: Alatorre, Cedillo, Contreras, Durazo, Molina, Polanco, Roybal, A.Torres, E.Torres, Villaraigosa.

Esteban Torres, Richard Polanco, Gloria Molina
Each of the Elders who could attend, Esteban Torres, Gloria Molina, Richard Alatorre, Richard Polanco, Maria Elena Durazo, Gilbert Cedillo, answered a probe from Teissier, who took off her emcee chaqueta to don an investigative journalist’s fedora.

She asked hard questions that focused each person on an issue, as opposed to a “how does it feel now that you’re old?” softball lob. The Elders were caught by surprise and answered with the substance inherent in their achievements, if not necessarily Teissier's question.

Garcetti gives an eloquent talk, an impressive, finished speech. If that’s a stump speech, he’s got some good stuff, the speech has substance and duration, not something I expected in a ritualizing setting like a book release and signing. Clearly the man respects the event by putting significant effort into the message. It made up for his being late, delaying the event and reminding gente that even high-class raza run on CPT.

A montón of staffers take a breather. Someone from Cedillo's office hands out bottles of water. A couple
of the suits here work up a sweat schlepping folding chairs to later arrivers. 
The mayor—he calls himself el alcalde--may be extemporizing off an outline. If so, I’m doubly impressed with that speech. The delivery is so natural I can’t tell if he's reading, memorizing, reciting boilerplate, or making it up from the heart. There's a concept in persuasion called "ethos," defined as the character of the speaker, real or assumed. El alcalde comes off as a hero.

He takes a portfolio with him when he steps away from the lectern. I’d like a copy of that. I reckon future rhetoric and public address theses and dissertations will follow Garcetti's oratory and incidental remarks. They'll find the manuscript in his Library.

Most notably, given the raza audience, the Mayor smoothly code-switches out of Standard American English when time comes to pronounce Spanish words. Then the words roll off his tongue like a native speaker. Órale, Eric. Ethos.

I don’t pay him much attention and maybe all Garcetti’s speeches have a lot of code-switching in them. It’s an effective rhetorical identification. One thing for sure, the Mayor's attendance and speech shows his debt to the power shift feeding the Mayor’s political ambitions. Whatever, nothing is beyond grasp. There's been a power shift.

Rep. Maxine Waters greets David Ayón, Loyola Marymouth Profe and co-author

Maxine Waters attended. Imagine a Tulsi Gabbard and Maxine Waters ticket. Maxine and Garcetti. Imagine the possible. The six Elders attending, Esteban Torres, Gloria Molina, Richard Alatorre, Richard Polanco, Maria Elena Durazo, Gilbert Cedillo, illustrated a key characteristic in common. Big time accomplishments out of regular gente.

The lines to have the six Elders, along with the authors, sign their complimentary copy of Power Shift, moved “like taking Communion,” the Emcee announced en Cristiano. The cultural in-crowd got it. On the internet, Power Shift has a hefty $117 price tag at Abe books.

I happened to chat with Gloria Molina the next day. I told her I’d enjoyed the book. “Did you read it in one day?” the trailblazing person asked, surprised I think. Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America, is an easy read. Once a reader gets into the rhythm of the straightforward style, third person past tense, the eyes zip across the paragraphs. A paragraph from the focus on Gloria Molina illustrates the colloquial narrative style that engages informed readers:

Gloria, who decades later became the first Latina to win one major elected office after another in California, was from a family that started out in a decaying, southern part of unincorporated East LA, later annexed by the towns of Montebello and Commerce. Her neighborhood was known by the name of Simons, short for Simons Brick Yard No. 3, a giant family owned business that had built the town for its Mexican workers and was said in the 1920s to be the biggest Producer of bricks in the world.9

The book, lightly footnoted with a good bibliography, is an historian’s endeavor. Footnote 9 in the Molina narrative above, refers to an LA Times article, a book, and primary source interviews with the retired public servant. Here, the historians would have enriched the readers with a literary reference, too. The most notable story about Simons comes to readers of Alejandro Morales’ The Brick People, a novel of those Mexicans, and the brick yard masters. The novel isn’t mentioned in the bibliography.

A final observation on a highly readable history: When gente today talk about the movimiento in terms of the rallies and mass protests, personal stories get lost. For example, Esteban Torres is the person who applied for the permits that allowed gente to mass for the Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970. Without doing things the right way, getting the permits and stuff, the cops might have gone on a riot.

CPT. Press mills at the front exposing footage while the organizers wait the Mayor's entrance.

World’s Best Yerno

The things a photographer does for a good foto. The poetry circle encouraged me to sit in the center and pivot from reader to reader. At the end of the reading, I clumsily pushed myself up from the floor using only my right arm and shoulder. The shoulder failed. Pop pop pop. A week later, the massive rotator tear went under the knife. Six months later, yesterday, the surgeon declared failure.
Foto with normal lens across the poetry circle

When you get a massive tear, he explains, surgery has two outcomes. One, alleviate pain. Two, return the arm to function. The surgeon hemmed and hawed a bit and said the word “fail.”

The shoulder doesn’t hurt any more. I can’t lift my right arm above my waist. I can’t play piano except sloppily. Don’t Wittgenstein me with the one-handed concerto. I’m not that good. It’s relaxing to sit and whip out some old-timey tunes. I do a mean Ojos de Sancha improv but only for a few seconds before the right arm gives out. So it goes.

My son-in-law had his shoulder repaired, too. It didn’t come back entirely, either. But that didn’t stop him from taking over my pond refurbishment project that got interrupted by my February surgery. He stored my water plants and fish, dried and scrubbed the empty cement walls, put two coats of a high-tech epoxy on the walls, and installed a deluxe pump and aeration system.

My water garden has returned thanks to his skill and effort. Birds, insects, marauders are returning and baby zancudos don’t stand a chance against the voracious gold carp. Now all I need is some turtles and frogs and I’m a happy water gardener again, bum arm and all.

When my daughter was a little girl she’d profess eternal love for her mom and dad. “Of course,” I tell the little girl, “but one day you will bring home the man of your dreams and you’ll say, ‘Dad, I want you to meet Lester.’ And my daughter would go ‘oh, Da-aad!” Well, Lester turned out pretty good.

I am digitizing all my vinyl from the sixties. My yerno gave me a Nashville Skyline several years ago. I wasn’t listening to vinyl then, but he said I could frame the cover. I added it to the records boxes. Yesterday, I used el yerno’s gift in the digitizing project, and that surface is clean and noiseless, I can hear every plunk and note, not a wow or flutter scratch or pop in the bunch. ¿Ves? The perfect son-in-law.

Monday, August 13, 2018


A short story by Daniel A. Olivas

Wilfredo likes to dress to get Papá all riled up.  You know, Willie wears those short-shorts that you see on the ladies who walk up and down that bad street near the Shell Station that Mamá says no self-respecting good Catholic would wander by unless your car died and you needed to get some help from Manny who works there.  Mamá says those putas have no right to mess up our nice neighborhood.  But the neighborhood don’t look so nice and I figure some pretty ladies walking up and down a street can only make things look nice, right?

So, Willie likes to put on these short-shorts that are so tiny that his nalgas are hanging out and then he pops in these blue contacts so that his eyes look like he’s out of some scary space movie where only one person knows that the aliens are taking over people’s bodies and no one, not even your father, believes you when you say they’re going to take us over, too.  I hate those movies.  They make my stomach hurt.

Anyway, today Willie comes down the stairs looking so pretty with his long legs showing and his eyes not looking scary this time for some reason but shining a blue that looks like Uncle Chucho’s restored Mustang instead of a space alien’s eyes.  And I think to myself that Willie’s cheeks even look special, kind of red like a flower, like the blush Mamá finally let me buy from Sav-On even though I’m only twelve but she says, mija, you’re a good girl so it’s okay.  I think Willie likes to take a little of my blush every so often because I see big fingerprints in it that are bigger than mine but that’s okay because I think he looks prettier than me anyway so he should use it.  So, this morning here comes Willie looking really extra pretty and Papá is reading La Opinión at the breakfast table, drinking his hot, black coffee after finishing a nice, big bowl of menudo which is his special treat on Sunday mornings.

            Willie sits down at the table without saying nothing.  Mamá is busy at the stove, cleaning something up, I don’t know what.  I’m on the floor watching the Power Puff Girls video on the small TV that sits on the kitchen counter near all the Coke cans for recycling.  I look up and smile at Willie.  Willie reaches across the table and grabs a piece of pan dulce and these little gold chains that hang from his wrist just jingle-jangle and they remind me of Christmas which is a mile away.  Willie gives me a wink and I smile and look at Papá who is now looking up at Willie but Papá isn’t smiling and so my smile falls from my face like a dirty sock.  I don’t like Papá’s eyes right now.  They’re all squinted-up and his big, black eyebrows come down in a mean “V” and he puts his coffee cup down on the green place mat and some of it spills over the sides of the cup but Papá doesn’t seem to care.
            Finally, Papá says, ¿Qué es esto?
            What’s what? Willie says through a mouthful of pan dulce.
            I turn to look at my video again but not for long.  Mamá screams and my head swivels like a chair and I see Papá holding Willie against the wall and something doesn’t look right because Willie is looking down at Papá even though Willie is shorter by about six inches and then I see that Willie’s feet aren’t touching the floor no more, they’re just dangling there like a doll’s feet and I notice for the first time that he’s wearing these pretty, clear-plastic chanclas.  And I don’t know what to do so I just sit there with tears coming down my face like someone just turned on the backyard hose and Mamá isn’t moving, too, but now she isn’t screaming, just standing in the kitchen, hands pulling at the dishrag, mouth open like an empty can of tuna and eyes owl-wide.
            And Papá starts to yell something in Spanish so fast I don’t know what he’s saying.  And then I see Willie’s pretty, fake blue eyes flicker towards me.  And he smiles.  Not a big smile.  Just enough so that I know he’s smiling at me.  And suddenly my tears turn off.  Just like that.  And the house seems so quiet now, like we’re suddenly under water, but I see Papá’s lips moving fast like a cat.  And Willie just hangs there against the wall, smiling at me.  Looking pretty.
[“Willie” is featured in the short-story collection, Devil Talk (Bilingual Press)].

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Musings on Living on Planet Earth, Part I: Decisive Historical Moments, Consciousness and Reincarnation by Antonio SolisGomez

Tohono O'Odham Rain Ceremony Painted by Michael Chiago

My recent article on the role a group of Tucson educators played in developing bilingual education elicited a comment from a friend asking why it was that those educators came together at that particular time and why them and not others. Additionally he said that he was trying to wrap his mind around “decisive moments in history”, a term applied to a seemingly insignificant act that turns out to have enormous impact on human affairs such as Napoleon’s final defeat, the result of a fatal hesitation by Marshal Grouchy, who sticks to his orders to pursue the Prussian III Corps instead of riding to Waterloo when loud cannon fire heralds the battle’s decisive moment. “For one second Grouchy considers it, and this one second determines his own fate, that of Napoleon and that of the world.” Stefan Zweig’s Decisive Moments in History. 

 One can wonder and speculate why Marshall Grouchy hesitated and be left with the inevitable conclusion that it’s impossible to know. I would contend that it is impossible to know because there is no one act that has such enormous power over human affairs but rather every event is comprised of a series of acts and events that come together leading to something that can be viewed as an eventual outcome. And it’s an outcome that is moving forward, it’s not static or frozen in time. It too usher in more events.

Closer to home we can look at Trump and Robert Mueller and ask why Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russian Investigation. Will that recusal by Sessions one day be seen as a decisive moment if Trump is irreparably damaged? Perhaps, but we who are privy to the multi-facetted action that is ongoing in the Mueller investigation, seeing the behavior of the various players who are involved, the various acts by the President himself, can we isolate that one act by Sessions and think it decisive. I think it would be a stretch.

Because the world is based on free will we can not attribute divine intervention to human events, this even in light of the fact that prayer works to heal loved ones, that rain dances by Native Americans bring forth thunder showers and that natural calamities can be mitigated. How does one reconcile the two? Quite simply, by understanding that human consciousness can affect the world we live in. It’s very similar to the extraordinary phenomena of a person lifting a very heavy object, such as a car, off of a loved one in a moment of panic or of a martial arts practitioner being able to withstand the push and pull of ten men. The consciousness of such individuals is able to call forth the energy that surrounds us. In other words human consciousness can alter events of the natural world as well as an individual’s performance.

However we are still left with the part of my friend’s question as to why those particular individuals came together and to answer this, one has to expand the concept of what it means to live on this planet of three dimensions with a strong scientific tradition affirming an existentialist philosophy i.e. my body and I are one and I live on Earth and no where else: Humans give meaning to life, no meaning exists outside of what humanity provides. Even within Christianity one cannot answer such a question without discounting that we have free will and thus interjecting the notion that God intervenes in our affairs.

However prevalent the above mentioned theological and philosophical underpinnings are in the West, they are not of much interest in India and in Asia where billions of individuals believe in reincarnation that posits that an eternal soul incarnates in a temporal body countless of times and that at the time of “death” it is only the body that dies, the soul keeps living and soon takes on another different body. There, the belief is “I am not my body”.

 I want to stress that belief in reincarnation is not a fringe belief, that it may well be that not believing in reincarnation is in actuality in the minority. There was a time that even within Christianity there was a acceptance of reincarnation as revealed with the discovery of a cache of early Christian writing, some that predate the writings found in todays New Testament.

In December, 1945, early Christian writings containing many secrets of the early Christian religion were found in upper Egypt, a location where many Christians fled during the Roman invasion of Jerusalem. Undisturbed since their concealment almost two thousand years ago, these manuscripts of Christian mysticism rank in importance with the Dead Sea Scrolls. These writings affirmed the existence of the doctrine of reincarnation being taught among the early Jews and Christians. These Christian mystics, referred to as Christian Gnostics, were ultimately destroyed by the orthodox Church for being heretics. Their sacred writings were destroyed and hidden with the belief that they would be revealed at an appropriate time in the future. The discovery in 1945 yielded writings that included some long lost gospels, some of which were written earlier than the known gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. ( 

I bring up reincarnation because without that understanding it is impossible to answer my friend’s questions and within that understanding is the acknowledgement that a person incarnates over and over with many of the same “souls” but of course in different roles, maybe in different gender and in different “races”. The group is like a class in the school of life, helping that soul realize their oneness with God, the one true purpose of life.

Thus people that have seemingly come together randomly in actuality have prior incarnations together be it as family, as friends or as foes and opponents. And a person comes into the world with certain potentials based on past life experiences, potentials that can aggregate with others that manifest as human behavior and events. This is the Law of Karma, defined in the following manner.

While our bodies may die, the soul is eternal and it continues its journey through many lifetimes. The soul creates a system of actions and reactions (Karma), throughout these lives, forming a cycle of rebirth. And the totality of our actions and their reactions in this and previous lives, determine our future. Thus — a man is born to the world he has made’. 

Historical figures and their opponents are of special interest to this discussion as they provide a different perspective to that of “decisive historical moments”. Napoleon had his Wellington, Hitler had his Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt, and Trump, will his nemesis be Mueller? Every incarnated soul has created both friends and enemies in their sojourn through life that brings forth lessons helping to teach the need to learn to love unconditionally. Our opponents incarnate with us until we resolve our conflict with them and or learn through them the lesson of love.

Musings on Planet Earth Part II continues next week with The Mayan Prophesy of the Fifth World and Quantumness

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bird Forgiveness Book Tour: Sights, Sounds, and Video

Melinda Palacio

I love it when people wear their bird print clothing.
Monica Fitzgerald, Melinda Palacio, Sandra Sarr, Nicole LeBlanc-Savoie.

An invitation to read in the heart of cajun country should be at the top of the list for any poet or artist looking for a friendly venue with a superb set up. Breaux Bridge and the Teche Center for Arts wins the prize, at least in Steve's opinion. I have fun reading poems and telling anecdotes about the making of the poems wherever I go. Since I often travel with my own roadie, I try not to bore him with the same set. And there was something extra special about reading in the crawfish capital of the world.

Melinda and Steve

This month it's been very easy choosing which poems to read. For the New Orleans launch at Octavia Books, I hit a few of the favorites, the title poem and the ekphrastic poem based on the cover of the book, the visual helps sell books. For the reading at Trinity's labyrinth, I chose my more devotional and sacred set. I've had people tell me that my readings feel like a prayer. With poems, such as the Praying Tree  (listen to this poem at the Academy of American Poets) and Beneath the Devotion of Doves, there's a sacramental and sacred element to Bird Forgiveness that I didn't connect with before being asked to read in a church in between organ pipe music, a favorite event for me. For the reading in Breaux Bridge, I performed a longer set, about 40 minutes. I made sure to read from each section of the book. Poet Laureate Emeritus of Louisiana, Darrell Bourque introduced me and his kind words about my work made me want to cry, but I held it together, professional poet that I am. I was impressed by the variety of people who attended, one of whom had never been to a poetry reading. I'm so honored to be the first to bring poetry into her life. I'm still basking in all the nice things people said about the reading. Director of the center, Sandra Sarr wrote a lovely post on social media:

"Sometimes magic happens. Melinda Palacio and her poetry had the audience spellbound as she read from her new book, Bird Forgiveness at TCA last night. Our special guest, Louisiana Poet Laureate Emeritus Darrell Bourque introduced our featured poet and we are so grateful to him for his always insightful words. Artist Kelly Guidry provided his beautiful bird sculptures, hummingbirds of wood and metal, as the perfect backdrop for Melinda’s Bird Forgiveness reading. The room was filled with brilliant poets and poetry lovers and the magic lingers."

Here's a clip from the reading for you to hear samples of the poems for yourself. If you want to read more of Bird Forgiveness, order the book online at 3: A Taos Press or from your favorite bookstore. 

                                                 Bird Forgiveness, video of the last bit of the reading.

Darrell Bourque

Signing books at the Teche Center for the Arts in Breaux Bridge
Melinda Palacio and Margaret Simmons

Earlier in the month, I was interviewed by non-other than Steve for the Figure of Speech show on WRBH's radio for the blind. Steve has many hats, techie, roadie, and now radio personality. Hear our interview on Soundcloud. It helped that Steve sat in on my interview with Susan Larson on NPR's WWNO, a wonderful radio experience. Listen to Susan Larson interview me, along with Louis Maistros. 

Next Stop, I join a fabulous line-up at Avenue 50 Studio, Sunday August 26 from 2-4pm, 131 North Avenue 50, Highland Park, CA 90042.


Upcoming readings: September 6 at EP Foster Library in Ventura and back in New Orleans October 6 for the Poetry Buffet at the Latter Library and October 14 at the Maple Leaf Bar at 3pm

Thursday, August 09, 2018

A Restaurant Named "La Manana"

Daniel Cano

Sawtelle blvd., across the street from La Manana restaurant

    Back in 2001, I stopped by my uncle Mike's home to interview  him as part of my project learning about the early years of the WWII generation Chicanos and Chicanas. He was sitting in a near-crouch on his plush chair, peering through the screen door, waiting for the clock to strike 3:00 P.M..
     Right on the hour, he sprang, okay, more like an enthusiastic hobble, outside to his truck, a large camper on the back, jumped in, started it, and pulled into the empty parking spot in front of his house.
     Factories and car repair shops had crowded the once vacant stretch of land across the street from his house, so each week he fought employees who took the parking in front of his house. At 84, Mike’s knees were weak from years of maintaining a successful gardening business in Westwood and Beverly Hills.
     In his 60s, he was still riding motorcycles across the Mojave Desert, hunting ducks at the Salton Sea, and fishing in the High Sierras or along the Malibu coast.
     "Bastards try to take all the parking," he said, and laughed. "But I get 'em."
     Mike, Narciso, Escarcega, though no one knew him as Narciso, had light skin, white hair, and hazel eyes. He had no hint of a Spanish accent when he spoke English (more of an Okie accent), so it was jolting when he switched to Spanish, mostly to humorously curse an idiotic past event. Like many men of the WWII generation, he possessed a strong sense of self, and was easily annoyed with people who lacked common sense.
     He refused to wear a hearing aid, so he spoke haltingly, pausing, thinking, and sometimes answering in half-phrases. He was not one to mince words. When a thought crossed his mind, it immediately passed through his lips. "Yeah, my mom came from New Mexico," he said, pronouncing it Metzico. "My family was from Chihuahua. Recently, I heard someone from our family in Chihuahua was living here, in Culver City. He was working as a butcher. I told my nephew Johnny Sanchez I'd like to meet him, but Johnny told me the guy already moved back to Chihuahua. But, ah well, I don't know much about it."
     Mike's mother Josefina and his father were the first in the family to arrive in the U.S. Josefina's two sisters, Santos, my grandmother, and Saturnina, my aunt, followed. All three eventually made their homes on L.A.'s westside, an area he called--Sawtelle. He said, "I was born near Gallup, New Metzico. My brother Peanuts [Rufino Escarcega Sr.] knew more than I did. I think the place was called Howard or Hobart, something like that…in 1920. Before he passed away, Peanuts traveled all over, going back to New Metzico, to the town to learn how my dad was killed.
     "Peanuts brought me back my birth certificate. He and Betty found the town, a mining town where my dad died. I asked Peanuts how come he wanted to go back there? He said, ‘I wanted to know how he died.' I think he said one of those little trains in the mines hit him, or something like that, and after my dad died there was just us kids Peanuts, Roy, me, Vera, Elia, and my mom. Vera was the oldest.”
     I interrupted, thinking of the hardship of raising one or two children. “So, your mom came by herself and raised all of you, alone?”
     "Yeah. It must 'a been hard for my mom, traveling with all of us kids. We came from New Metzico following some people to San Bernardino where we picked tomatoes, walnuts and all that. I remember being little, riding with a guy I didn't even know in one of those old-time wagons, sitting in the back, him driving the horses. I remember that. He would go pick up the watermelons and walnuts in the field.”
     “Do you remember where you were living at the time?”
     "Yeah, my mother moved to Fontana, a little village. It was a community of Chicanos, like a tract of little wood homes, you know, a house…just one room, a hallway and a kitchen," he laughed. "Yeah, we came first. Then your grandmother, Santos, came. My mom sent for her.”
     “I never knew that,” I said. “I mean, I know your mom came first, but I didn’t know when or why my grandmother had come. Do you remember when you first arrived in Los Angeles?”
     "Yeah," he answered, as if the memory was still fresh. "My mom worked at Olvera Street, maybe 1925. I remember playing around all the trains. She worked there selling food. She went there because she knew some people from New Metzico there. We used to go to the Rose Parade in Pasadena when we were young. The people from New Metzico lived there, in Pasadena, near Colorado Avenue, and we would go visit them.”
     “I never heard you lived in downtown Los Angeles.”
     "Oh, yeah. We lived in L.A. in Olvera Street then moved to a building up there on Bunker Hill. I used to go upstairs and look down over everything. Next thing I knew, umm, my mom asked us, 'You guys like it here?' And well, we all said…NO!!!! 'Okay,' she said, 'then let's go.'”
     “And you came west?”
     "Yeah, we ended up in a house right near the school on Sawtelle Avenue, in a white house, close to the VA. Oh, hell, I don't think it's there anymore.”
     “What kind of work did your mom do?”
     "She got a restaurant. She was the owner, over there in Sherman, you know, what’s West Hollywood today. She'd take the bus every day from West L.A. Then the next thing I knew she had a restaurant right here in Sawtelle, where the veterans were, by the Vets' Bar, a couple of blocks down the street from the Soldiers’ Home, just off Santa Monica Boulevard. I think the building is still there. Sometimes I would drive by there just to look at it.”
     There was a high rate of alcoholism among my father and his friends who were raised in WLA, near the VA. Bars scattered along the neighborhood streets catered to the vets' needs for booze. Sometimes I wonder if the close proximity to all these bars, had something to do with my father's generation and alcoholism, or if it was undiagnosed PTSD, since most of them saw combat in WWII.
     “It’s gone,” I said. “My dad and I drove by there. It was at the corner of Mississippi and Sawtelle. It’s an office building now, right across from the UCLA Thrift store.”
     “Oh, anyway, it was right there where Sammy Goldfish lived,” Mike laughed at the memory.
     “You knew a kid name Sammy Goldfish?”
     "No, we just called him Sammy Goldfish. Yeah, he used to live in the hotel with his mother. It's still there on Sawtelle Boulevard. Your uncle, Nick, gave him the name; you know, making fun of him because every day his mom used to yell, in a New York Jewish accent, you know. 'Bring in the goldfish, Sammy!'” He laughed, “Oh, Christ, I can still hear her, 'bring in the goldfish, Sammy.'
     "Every day she would put the goldfish outside, and Sammy would have to bring it in every night. Nick and the rest of us used to laugh like hell when she called, "Bring in the goldfish, Sammy.'”
     “Did you work in your mom’s restaurant?”
     "No," he laughed. "We were too young. Me and Peanuts didn't do nothing…." He said, "Vera was the oldest. She worked there, but not Elia. She was too little, but your dad's half-sisters Grace and Jenny worked there. Then Raymond, your dad, told me my mom sold the restaurant to your grandmother, Santos. I don't know. I'm not so sure. I don't think she did. She had the one in Sherman and another up on…oh, let's see. Oh, yeah, on San Vicente, up there by the Western Front., by the Veterans Administration.”
     The Western Front, named for the WWI vets who crowded the bars and stores up along San Vicente boulevard, north of Wilshire, before it became one of the wealthiest sections of town. At the time, the Western Front was like an old set from a Hollywood western, wood store fronts and sidewalks.
     Mike sat back in his lounge chair. "Yeah, that was all a long time ago."  
     I said, “You know, my dad once told me my grandfather suggested my grandma Santos, and my aunt, Josefina, should re-name the restaurant, La Manana."
     My uncle looked at me and said, smiling, "I didn't know that. Why?"
     "Because it was the beginning of the Depression. Nobody had much money. When it came time to pay for the meals, everybody paid on credit, and they would say, 'Manana.'”

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


Paseo Artístico Presents:

A free arts event to raise awareness for children separated at the border, and the children in The Mission community.

At participating venues on Calle 24 Latino Cultural District
Saturday, August 11, 2018
All events and activities are FREE for all ages.

This month’s Paseo Artistico aims to raise awareness about children and their families separated at the US-Mexico border, as well as highlight the value of children in our local community. Live music and dance from Latino, indigenous, Hip-Hop, and tropical artists, poetry and literary arts from Central American authors and writers, as well as indigenous food demonstration, interactive arts and crafts workshops for all ages will be presented for free to the entire community.

August 11 Paseo Artistico
Listed below is full programming schedule with confirmed venues:

Precita Eyes - 2981 24th St.
11:00AM Bilingual Mural tour (sign up or show up at Precita Eyes)
12:30PM-3PM Children’s Pop Up Mural (show up at Precita Eyes and paint!)

Alley Cat Books - 3036 24th St.
1:00PM-3:00PM: Central American poets, writers and musicians: Norman Zelaya, Maya Chapina, Linda Giron, Liliana Herrera and Camilo Landau

Accion Latina/Juan Fuentes Gallery —2958 24th St.
HORIZONS Youth/DJ Project rap artists
Mireya “Deya” singer
Youth Speaks poets Eileen Torrez and Jed "Gato" Rodriguez

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts — 2868 Mission St. (@25th)
Dance Showcase Presentation:
3:00PM-4:00PM Live Music and Art Classes for Children in the Gallery on second floor (show up to Gallery upstairs and join classes by 3PM)

Dance Mission Theater — 3316 24th St.
4:00PM-5:00PM live music and Dance
4PM La Mezcla “Pachuquismo” by Vanessa Sanchez
4:15PM Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco

Adobe Books — 3130 24th St.
1:00PM-3:00PM Luna’s Press presents René Colato Lainez Children Book Author from El Salvador
2:00PM-4:00PM Kids Craft with Luna Press and Holly Ayala
4:00PM-5:00PM Jaquey Katz California Day School Play gun violence “Our Voices Loaded (With Peace)”

Galeria de La Raza — 2857 24th St.
6:00PM “Comida Es Medicina” Exhibit Opening and Live Food Demonstration by Suzy González and Luz Calvo, DJ and performers

For more info contact,

Brought to you by Acción Latina

Poster design by Tochtli Xochitl