Friday, March 22, 2019

Spring Brings Green

Melinda Palacio

Spring brings good news for California and weather-beaten Santa Barbara County, where we've battled fires and a drought that's lasted 7 years. In Santa Barbara, or paradise as locals like to call the town, signs of its verdant past have returned, and most important, rain. The rain brings much needed water to Lake Cachuma, the county's reservoir, now at nearly forty percent capacity. A year ago the lake resembled a few puddle splashes. Friends that have lived here for several decades speak of a time when Lake Cachuma spilled over into the Santa Ynez River.

However, experts warn not to do too much celebrating over the resent rush of rains. I'm sure it's hard for restaurants not to fall into old habits of offering water at the table. Only a few months ago, a person had to be parched enough to beg for a glass of water. Now, waiters carry ice filled jugs of cold water and are eager to fill a glass. I realize this is standard practice for most restaurants, but after so many years of drought in Santa Barbara, I'm still surprised when I don't have to ask for water. Water has been such a luxury and I've grown to appreciate water more than ever.

Everywhere the hills remind me of Ireland. I feel lucky and grateful to see green hills and green lawns. For so many years, I've kept my lawn brown and have turned off my sprinkler due to the drought, but thanks to all the glorious rain we've received all the neighboring lawns are green again. As I mentioned earlier, it's too early to celebrate the end of the drought and I hope the best practices and water saving solutions continue to be part of everyone's routine. I know I won't go back to turning on the sprinkler for my lawn or freely flushing the toilet if merely yellow or taking long showers (something I've actually never done, but now my showers are quicker than ever before).

One of my favorite things about the rain is curling up with a good book. Currently, I'm reading Claudia D. Hernandez's Knitting the Fog (interview coming soon). Until then, enjoy the rain and enjoy a good book.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Rock Schoolhouse in the Clouds

Cuzco, the jumping off point to the Andes or Machu Picchu
   At first, we thought it was a nice gesture, to buy school supplies and deliver them to poor kids living high in the Andes. Then came the question, school supplies, for kids with barely enough to eat and who probably need clothing and medicines?
     We’d been in Peru all of three days, two in metropolitan Lima and one in Cuzco, a trendy colonial city up around 11,000 feet altitude, where even the hotels came outfitted with oxygen tanks. For me, when traveling abroad, it takes a few days to acculturate, which means, fusing with my new environment and leaving my “gringo—Chicano-ness” behind, transcending nationality and nationhood. I clearly understand the phrase, “The world is my oyster,” or, to turn a phrase, “I am just another oyster in the world.”
     It remind me of Vietnam, the war, and the assault on my senses, and how the smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings transformed me into my new environment. I was no longer invading Southeast Asia. I was Southeast Asia. This enigmatic transition could be scary to the guys who fought it. They told themselves they hated everything about Vietnam, especially the people, friend or foe, but really, I think, there was a bit of self-loathing, not completely understanding why we were bombing the shit out of these villagers for a larger abstract cause--to preserve our freedom, whatever that meant.
Lake Titicaca's next generation
     And we, of course, saw ourselves as superior to the foreigners; though, deep down, as time passed, we knew it was their world, and they were superior to us. It was like the 1930s King Kong movie, when the beast was shackled with chains in a New York theater, the speaker announced to the audience, dressed in tuxedos and evening dresses, “In his world, he was king.”
     That’s why I understood the guys in reconnaissance, operating in small units, alone, in the jungle for weeks, at a time. They began to smell and look like the bush around them, to take on the spirit of the Viet Cong they pursued, just as T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), had begun to inhabit not just the dress and culture but the spirit of the Arab world.
     Back in Cuzco, the coordinator of our trip recommended we each purchase $10.00 worth of school supplies, whatever we chose. As an anthropologist, he had visited Peru many times and felt the “duende” of the place.
     At a local libreria, I picked up a supply of stuff, heavy writing tablets, along with boxes of pens, markers, and pencils. I ended up splurging, spending over $20, thinking, man, am I overspending, not to mention that now I’d have to lug not only my suitcase and bags but a heavy plastic bag of school supplies; hopefully, it wouldn’t be an albatross around my neck.
     We hauled our school supplies around with us on buses, vans, and trains for the next week and a half, from Machu Picchu to Puno, the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the town of Ollantaytuabo in the Sacred Valley, and through the beautiful Colca Valley, where volcanoes, some spewing dark billows of smoke, surrounded us on many sides.
Any means necessary to survive at 16,000 feet

     It was then, I began hearing grumbling. “Man, these bags are getting heavy,” or “I can’t carry these bags and my own luggage much longer,” and “when are we going to deliver this stuff.” Ironically, nobody complained about the sacks of souvenirs they'd accumulated, new bags filled of knitted alpaca and llama scarves, sweaters, caps, ceramics, etc. et.
     The school supplies become a burden. Passing one large school, children playing outside, someone in our group said, “Hey, let’s just dump the stuff off with these kids.”
     One morning, our bus pulled out onto the highway, leaving the mountain village of Sicuani behind us. We headed through the clouds, at about 16,000 feet. The temperature dropped down to the 40s. It was a sunny day, the wind blowing hard. All I could see around me were mountains, rock, and llamas dotting the landscape. Brandon, our group leader, called to the bus driver, “Pull over here.”
Boy in red sweatshirt, responding to bus driver's call
On the same level
     We all looked out wondering why we were stopping. The bus driver honked his horn, reached out of the window, and motioned to the rocks, for that’s all I could see. First, a little boy in a red sweater peeked out from a mound of rocks, which I realized was a shanty. In seconds, he came running down to the highway. In no time, other children followed, then mothers with children in their arms, as if emerging from the ground. “Okay,” I heard, “bring out your supplies and give them to the kids.”
A special union
     The kids stood along the shoulder of the road, happily taking pens, paper, tablets, pencils, and rulers, whatever we had. Their faces brightened as if we were giving them pieces of gold. One young mother asked if she could take some supplies for her son who was out working in the fields.
     With our supply depleted, the children hugged us. The older ones shook our hands. Beaming, they looked down at the gifts in their hands, in near disbelief. Every once in a while, a car passed, doing about 65, honking at us to stay off the road.
From me to you
     For this short interlude, I didn’t feel like a tourist or a visitor but like a fellow human being sharing in a bit of delight these kids were experiencing. Back home, children complain if they don’t get the newest cell phone, laptop, Mac Tablet, or video contraption on the market. They don't engage with anyone but their electronic devices. Have we lost them? Is there appreciation misplaced? Is there no appreciation? Are we all in the States now so jaded, even adults, that we take too much for granted, desiring the finest car or house?
Back to the mountains
     Slowly, we board the bus, the kids and their parents waving at us. We don’t want to leave. We want to savor the glory of appreciation, theirs and ours. They have touched us more than we have touched them. They have given us more than we have given them. Brandon, our coordinator, points to a low-ceilinged rock structure, stark and cold. "That's their school house," he says.
     The children continue to wave as we drive away. We are no longer travelers or tourists, and they are no longer poor mountain people. For a small instant, we are not rich or poor, black or white, Americans or Peruvians, we are just people.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

René Colato Laínez at CABE: California Association of Bilingual Education


I am so excited to receive a Campoy-Ada Honor Award for my book Telegrams to Heaven: The Childhood of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero/ Telegramas al cielo: La infancia de monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero in the Biographies for Children category. 

The Premio Campoy-Ada Awards Ceremony 

Date: Friday, March 22, 2019 
Time: 10:30 am 

Location: Long Beach Convention Center, Ballroom A

A reception will follow from noon to 2:00pm. 

Book Signings 

Thursday, March 21 
10:30 a.m. 
Lectorum Publications, Inc.
Booth(s): 213, 312

I will be signing copies of my latest bilingual book My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders/ Mis zapatos y yo: Cruzando tres fronteras.

Thursday, March 21 
12:00 p.m. 
Arte Público Press
Booth(s): 516

Mamá the Alien / Mamá la extraterrestre

Join author René Colato Laínez and illustrator Laura Lacámara who will be signing copies of their award-winning picture book about immigration, Mamá the Alien/ Mamá la extraterrestre, published by Lee & Low Books. 

When Mamá’s purse falls on the floor, Sofia gets a peek at Mamá’s old Resident Alien card and comes to the conclusion that Mamá might be an alien from outer space. Sofia heads to the library to learn more about aliens. Some are small and some are tall. Some have four fingers on each hand and some have large, round eyes. Their skin can be gray or blue or green. But Mamá looks like a human mother! Could she really be an alien?

Filled with imagination and humor, this book is a sweet and timely celebration of family, no matter where that family comes from.

Friday, March 22 
9:30 – 10:15 a.m. 
Exhibit Hall Booth #219    


Workshop Title: De niño inmigrante a escritor
Time: 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM
Location/Room: Hyatt Regency Long Beach - Regency D

Workshop Title: La biblioteca de los sueños
Date: 3/22/2019
Time: 3:15 PM - 4:30 PM
Location/Room: Hyatt Regency Long Beach - Regency D

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gluten-free Cuaresma Dinner Sinfully Fancy

Michael Sedano

Last week, the Gluten-free Chicano shared his peppercorn steak with rum sauce as a fancy dining option, something to serve when company comes, or an easy-fancy meal for a big date. Then Lent happens and even regular people are practicing the religious ritual of meatlessness.

As if anyone needs an excuse to eat Cheese Souffle, here's a lots-of-work Lenten dish that's spectacular fancy dining that busy people can make ahead and bake before serving. 

Made with gluten-free baking mix, it's one of the more satisfying analogs to wheat-based food, The Gluten-free Chicano's Cheese Souffle.

McDonald's Urban Farm in Altadena, CA brings farm-to-fork convenience of home delivery en estas partes. Twice a week, the farmer delivers to your door the freshest of blanquillos.  McDonald's Urban Farm is The Gluten-free Chicano's daughter's place, and La Chickenada's new digs. The current eggs are the first production of a new flock.

You can make this dish in advance, refrigerate it, pop it into a hot oven later that day. Get up an hour early and start with a reliable oven-proof straight-sided deep vessel. If you own a Souffle Pan, all the better.

Butter or spray the entire baking dish then pour in parmesan cheese. Roll the cheese around until the dish is completely coated with cheese. You can pour the cheese back into the jar or leave it.

Now separate eight McDonald's Urban Farm farm-fresh eggs, or whatever you can get. Wash your hands really well. Break the egg and pour it into your hand, fingers closed. Let the white slide into a mixer bowl and put the yolk into a small microwave safe jar.

Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt until they are fluffy and make stiff peaks. Feel free to add chile powder or paprika to the whites. You're pouring a cup of hot cheese sauce into these egg whites, so have the right size.

You can make this gluten-free cheese souffle from egg whites alone. For sure, save some yolks for Hollandaise sauce. Dot lemony goodness across left-over souffle for tomorrow's breakfast, or for the full-fancy treatment, make gluten-free Eggs Benedict.

Make a gluten-free roux (link) from a stick of butter and a skimpy ¼ cup of gluten-free baking mix. Add a pinch of cayenne and black pepper to the roux. Stir a cup of milk into the butter-flour roux and cook over medium flame until the white sauce is thick and coats your spoon.

Stir the grated cheese into the white sauce and cook until the cheese is mostly or completely melted into the white sauce. Quickly whip in the yolks if you choose.

Fill the baking dish with the cheese sauce. It's ready for the oven, or stretch plastic film across it, refrigerate, and bake it after work.

Place the filled souffle pan on a cookie sheet to catch spill-overs. The foto illustrates the pan ⅔ filled and the finished souffle doubled its size. It is risen!

Use a sharp blade to cut the souffle into serving slices. Lift out the slices and arrange on the plate.

A Cesar Salad and champagne make this a wondrous dinner for four, six, or two. The wine adds a few carbs, anchovies are zero.

The Gluten-free Chicano's Gluten-free Cheese Souffle Ingredients. Carb counts link.
1 cup grated cheddar cheese = 2grams carbohydrates
8 eggs = 3g
1 stick butter = .07g
Simple Truth gluten-free baking mix ¼ cup = 32g
whole milk 1 cup = 11g

El Gluten-free Chicano used three different aged U.S. and Ireland cheddars. Experiment with a variety of cheese.

Use any brand of gluten-free baking mix. The Gluten-free Chicano is currently buying Ralph's private label mix. King Arthur is an excellent product, despite the monarchial pretension.

The Process
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks
Make cheese sauce
Stir sauce into whites
Fill baking vessel
Bake 400º 45 minutes / insert a butter knife blade diagonally into the center. A clean blade is a done souffle

Monday, March 18, 2019

Interview of Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros by Xánath Caraza

Interview of Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros by Xánath Caraza

Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros

Who is Carolina?

I am a Tejana poeta, Chicana, and Mujerista. I hope that my work gives light as it wrestles between the tension and hope of our time.

As a child, who guided you through your first readings? 

My grandfather. He would go to the bathroom for hours and it would drive my grandmother crazy, but she’s the one who made a small shelf in there for him. The shelf always had the Holy Bible in Spanish and religious pamphlets or thin books. It was not something overtly introduced to me, yet I found such joy in knowing that my grandfather would retreat to read and it was something he enjoyed very much. My grandmother created a space for him to read and enjoy that. While she did that for him, I think she simultaneously did that for me. It made me want to be a reader.

How did you first become a poet?

This is a blurry answer for me. I have so many memories of poetry and I don’t know which one was the first. I don’t know if I was in Mrs. Kazekwa’s first grade class describing clowns who rode unicycles or if I was at my grandmother’s kitchen table, elbows plastered to the plastic as I wrote out lines on a birthday card especially for her. I wrote those lines in light blue ink with one of those pens that had four colors: green, red, blue, and black. Those were my grandmother’s favorite pens. I don’t know if I was in Mrs. Davis’s class in high school writing about the macabre or if I was in our trailor off 281 South dealing with the horror of teenage life. Maybe it was in our trailor off Addison Road or in our home off East Bates or the Bellaire Apartments off South Flores. It was somewhere there that I became a poet and all those places contributed to that moment.

What projects are you working on at the moment that you would like to share?

I am currently working on a book of fiction that I started to write in Professor Nan Cuba’s class in my current graduate program at Our Lady of the Lake University. She unearthed stories that I didn’t know I had inside of me. It was a real pleasure to work on fiction with her. I find that when I write fiction there is a recurring theme of journey that seems to pierce through. I want to acknowledge it. I want to honor it.

I am also researching Chicanx theopoetics. I’ll leave that there for the moment. I believe in speaking things out into the universe.

What advice do you have for other poets?

Take risks. Have a poet’s prayer. Give thanks to your ancestors. There is no one in competition with you. We are all in this together. Never be afraid to learn from someone else. Learning is an opportunity to re-remember what we know in our bones to be the truth.

What else would you like to share?

The work of poetry is the work of faith. Sometimes we sit down to do the work and don’t know what is going to will itself to the forefront. It is an act of great faith to sit down and do the work. Keep the faith.

Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros is a Tejana poeta, Chicana, Mujerista from San Antonio, Texas. She is a current MA/MFA student at Our Lady of the Lake University. Her work has appeared in On Being, Sojourners, The Acentos Review, Rock & Sling, and more. She is the 2019 recipient of the Alves Award in Theopoetics. Her chapbook, Becoming Coztototl was recently published by Flowersong Books.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival

First -- writing advice from the back of a pencil.


The following is a press release from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Chicana/Chicano Studies (with some edits and additions from me.)

Metropolitan State University of Denver, Chicana/o Studies Department invites the community to the 12th Annual Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival -- Thursday April 4, 2019 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. at the St. Cajetans Center, on the Auraria Campus, Denver. 

This year’s theme: Raices Y Alas: Looking Back and Moving Forward ~ Roots and Wings: Looking Back and Moving Forward will center on social action through poetry.

Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado

Lalo Delgado is remembered as Colorado’s social justice poet and considered the National Grandfather of Chicano Poetry.  Among many other awards and recognition, Delgado received a Civil Rights Award from Rosa Parks, Scholar/Elder of the Civil Rights Movement who worked with Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to support thousands of migrant farm workers in the Unites States.  Lalo was originally from El Paso Texas, but he eventually made Denver his family's home.  His numerous publications include the seminal poem Stupid America, regarded as a masterpiece of Chicano thought and a powerful example of resistance poetry.

Ariana Brown
The 2019 Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival will feature nationally recognized poet: Ariana Brown.  Brown is a poet from San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies and Mexican American Studies. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes and a 2014 collegiate national poetry slam champion. Ariana, who has been dubbed a “part-time curandera,” is primarily interested in using poetry to validate Black girl rage, in all its miraculous forms. Follow her work online at or on Twitter & Instagram @arianathepoet.  

Eden Nicole
Lalo’s Poetry Festival also welcomes Denver’s own Eden Nicole.  Eden merges her inspirations from her three sons with her indigenous roots and environmental activism to create her spoken word. Eden has various works published through Café Cultura, Red Rising Magazine in Canada and she has been showcased in the Cuatro: A Series of Artist Interactions with the Denver Art Museum (2017), amongst many other events throughout the Denver Metro area. Through Groupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca, Medicine Heart Dancers, and the Indigenous Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ communities, she is teaching her sons the traditions of their people; while also pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering and Hydrology. 

Ana Duran, Lalo’s eldest daughter, welcomes the poetry recited by Lalo’s great grandchildren.  

The festival opening at 9 a.m. begins with a blessing ceremony by Aztec Troupe Huitzilopochtli, followed by a free continental breakfast and lunch.  The event is free and open to the public. Sponsors include MSU Presidents Office of Institutional Diversity: Chicana/o Studies, GITA, Student Activities and CU Denver Latinx Services.

For more information, please contact Christina M. Sigala at 


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.)