Thursday, January 23, 2020

Part I, Argentina on My Mind

Whatever they think of her, always an enigma
     Actually, I never had intentions of visiting the country, too many psychic reservations.
     As a professor, before I retired, teaching writing, as well as Mexican, Chicano, and Latin American literature, I wanted to visit as many Spanish-speaking countries as possible, but truthfully, Argentina was never high on my list, even though it was the home of the great writer Jorge Luis Borges.
     I’d heard Argentina, in the 18th and 19th centuries, under generals like Julio Rocca, was one of the few countries in Latin America to completely eradicate its indigenous people, primarily the Inca, leaving hardly a trace of the once proud culture.
     This was reason enough to avoid visiting the place. Yet, how could I, an American, who knew my own country’s extermination of millions of native people, the enslavement of millions of Africans, and the theft of vast lands from weaker countries, act so patriotically self-righteous?
     On the other hand, if I wanted to visit a Spanish-speaking European country, I preferred Spain, where I spent a year as a student studying at the University of Granada, back in 1978, and have followed up with many pleasurable and edifying visits since.
     Anyway, that’s how I thought of Argentina, as the only Spanish-speaking “European” country in Latin America, followed close behind by Uruguay and Paraguay. Argentines, tongue-in-cheek, even describe themselves as a people who happen to be Italian, speaking Spanish, but thinking themselves French, with some German thrown in, or something to that effect.
     The first time Argentina even came up on my radar was in the 1978. A friend, a contractor, said a wealthy client had given him tickets to a play at the Shubert Theater in Century City, or maybe it was the Ahmanson in downtown Los Angeles. Either way, it was a big production.
     I’d never been to blockbuster play. He told me it was titled Evita, though I had no idea who she was, fiction or real. I’d heard of the play. It had been splashed all over the L.A. Times Calendar section. Why not go, free tickets, right?
     We were theater neophytes, not a Thespian bone in either of our Chicano bodies. Once in our seats, I leaned over and asked, “What’s this play about, anyway?” He smiled and said, “It’s about a woman who ‘hooked’ her way to the top.”
     I don’t even remember if the play made an impact on me. It must have. Years later, in 1996 or so, I was obsessed by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music in the movie Evita as sung by Madonna and Antonio Banderas, a bit more of a rock tinge to it.
     The next time Argentina reached my consciousness was in 1982, when the country fought the Brits over the Malvinas, or what England called the Falkland Islands. Of course, I pulled for the Argentines, whom I saw as my linguistic brothers and sisters. However, now that I know more about Argentina’s shady politics of the time, I, and many Argentinians, I’m sure, would vehemently protest any defense of the islands, especially the young Argentine soldiers whose deaths served no other purpose than to distract the world from a murderous military regime.
     Then came Operation Condor, a military massacre of savage proportions between Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina, planned and sponsored by U.S. intelligence, to exterminate (or “disappear”) hundreds to thousands of leftist students and activists trying to bring attention to right-wing corruption and brutal fascist policies, many innocent youth caught up in the sweep, and to this day, mother’s still gather to protest in front of the famed Casa Rosada looking for answers.
     Of course, much of the world thinks of Argentina as the country, under fascist dictator, Juan Peron, husband of Eva, who allowed free entry to surviving Nazi war criminals after WWII, especially the notorious Adolf Eichmann, working for Mercedes, and captured by Israeli’s Mossad in 1960 living in San Fernando, a suburb of Buenos Aires.
     Most recently, Argentina has come up in my wife’s family discussions. My brother-in-law, Ruben De Necochea or Denecochea, depending on one’s spelling preference, an avid family historian, tracked his family’s roots from Calexico, CA, across the border to Mexicali, down through Mexico, Central America, and across the Andes by way of Chile and Peru to Argentina, where he claims blood with an Argentine general, Mariano Necochea, a hero of the Argentine-Peruvian wars with Chile.
     So that, and a few raucous Argentine acquaintances, over the years, has been the extent of my relationship with the southernmost Latin American country.
     Honestly, I had no travel plans on the horizon, when a friend, an archeology professor, asked if I wanted to visit Argentina, along with a group from the college where I had worked before my retirement. A Latin-Americanist, Professor Brandon Lewis’ trips covered a lot of territory.
     In Peru, a year ago, we took planes and buses as we traveled, nearly, a quarter of the country, visiting Inca ruins and major Peruvian cities, from Lima to Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, and back to Lima.
Iguazu, just a portion of a world's wonder
     On this trip, Brandon told me, as an enticement, we’d be touring Buenos Aires before flying to Iguazu waterfalls in the northeast corner of Argentina, bus it into Brazil to see the waterfalls from a Portuguese perspective, then fly to Salta up in the northwest corner, and down to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine country, along the base of the Andes, as I said, covering a lot of territory in just sixteen days.
     The travel bug got the best of me. Just as John Steinbeck said in his classic book Travels with Charley, “Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.” That’s exactly how I feel when my car hits the open highway or I walk into any air, bus, or train terminal in the world.
     After all, it’s the American way, right. Our ancestors travelled, long distances, and often through treacherous situations, from some place else to get here. Travel is in our blood. I'd rather spend my money on a get-away than a car or house. As educators, my colleagues and I never asked each other what kind of car we drove or where we lived. The first question when we returned from summer breaks was always, "So, where did you travel?"
     With that, I packed my suitcase, not only with my personal necessities, but with my preconceived notions about Argentina, hoping that sixteen days might give me an answer or two about the place that seemed so distant, least of all, in miles.

Stay tuned for Part II, My Argentine Journey

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


By: Alma Flor Ada 
English version by: Rosalma Zubizarreta-Ada
Illustrations by: Gabhor Utomo

ISBN: 978-1-55885-899-2
Publication Date: May 31, 2020
Format: Hardcover
Trim: 8.5 x 11
Pages: 40
Imprint: Piñata Books
Ages: 5-10

A bilingual picture book introducing children to the wonders of nature and poetry.

“Still, silent water / starts to run / dancing over rocks, turning into song.” Acclaimed children’s book author Alma Flor Ada and her daughter Rosalma Zubizarreta-Ada share short poems for children about rivers and the life found along them. There are odes to cicadas, dragonflies, butterflies, fish, frogs and birds. “Dragonfly, / lovely fan of lace / wings fluttering / unceasingly, / above the river’s water.”

These poems brim with the beauty of the natural world and the joy found in the great outdoors. There are stars that bathe in the river, the sun that hides behind the mountain and a stream that wraps itself in shadows. In one verse, the authors note there’s only a short distance from the river to the freeway leading back to the crowded, noisy city, “yet those few kilometers / allow us to dwell / in a very different world.”

Reflecting time spent with family enjoying nature, these poems were conceived while Alma Flor Ada camped along the Yuba River with her daughter, Rosalma Zubizarreta-Ada, who created the English-language versions. With gorgeous illustrations by Gabhor Utomo depicting the countryside and kids playing at a river, this bilingual picture book introduces children to both the joy of poetry and spending time outside.

ALMA FLOR ADA, Professor Emerita at the University of San Francisco and an expert on multicultural and bilingual education, is an internationally acclaimed children’s book author. Her books include My Name Is María Isabel (Athenaeum, 1995), which was named to the National Council of Social Studies and Children’s Book Council’s Notable Books; The Gold Coin (Atheneum, 1991), winner of a Christopher Medal; Under the Royal Palms (Atheneum, 1998), winner of a Pura Belpré Award; and Gathering the Sun (Harper Collins, 2001), recipient of a Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance. She lives and works in San Rafael, California.

ROSALMA ZUBIZARRETA-ADA is a writer, organizational facilitator and author of From Conflict to Creative Collaboration. In the realm of children’s literature, she has co-authored The Woman Who Outshone the Sun (Children’s Book Press, 1991), created the English-language versions of the poems in Gathering the Sun (HarperCollins, 2001) and translated a number of other children’s books. She lives with her husband in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

GABHOR UTOMO was born in Indonesia, and received his degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2003. He has illustrated a number of children’s books, including Kai’s Journey to Gold Mountain (East West Discovery Press, 2004) and Lupita’s First Dance / El primer baile de Lupita (Piñata Books, 2013). Gabhor’s work has won numerous awards from local and national art organizations, and his painting of Senator Milton Marks is part of a permanent collection at the California State Building in downtown San Francisco. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Prospects for 2020: Looking Up

The buildings of Old Town Pasadena offer hard evidence of the reality of Alejandro Morales'quintessential California novel (link) The Brick People. Those characters dug up Sleepy Lagoon wash and turned the mud into millions of red and orange bricks that make up the walls of Colorado Boulevard.

For some structures, modernization adds façades by hanging a curtain wall around old buildings, others add a second floor and exterior ornamentation.

Pedestrians and motorists cruising the main drag, Colorado Boulevard, thrill at the commercial outlets there at street level. Apple, Tesla, Peloton, Gap, Zara, Sur le Table, show off wares behind plate glass storefronts. Large SALE! signs and mannequins lure eyes and feet into the store. Pedestrians gather in front of displays and collide with apologies or curses.

Look up!

Find a convenient tree or lamp post out of the way of foot traffic and enjoy more of what's out there. The activity not only edifies, it slows you down and gives moments respite from the frantic bustle.

The new year is a time for looking up, setting goals with higher limits than 2019's standards. A person's reach should exceed their grasp, or what's a higher standard for? That's not just metaphor, it's useful behavior, looking up, taking in more of the world as you find it.

Marvelous architectural details await the eyes that seek them. I went out with a zoom lens ranging from 70mm to 300mm. The sun just around noon casts excellent shadows to define the curves and forms sitting silently out of sight, worth the effort to look up. With a long lens, the photographer needs to lean against lamp posts and buildings to steady the aim, especially using f/32 on that long lens.

Whatever your 2020 goals look like, I recommend adding one more to the list, one easily attained. Look up, see what more is out there! 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Xánath Caraza

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Xánath Caraza

El Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. es honrado en enero de cada año. Este 2020 lo recordamos hoy, lunes 20 de enero.  Comparto con los lectores de La Bloga un par de libros que escribió, entre otros tantos, más dos libros para niños que lo celebran y el enlace donde nuestros lectores pueden leer más sobre su vida, su visión y su trabajo con la comunidad.  Ayer y hoy el mensaje de Martin Luther King sigue vigente. 

“At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.”

(From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951–1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972)

“In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this prophetic work, which has been unavailable for more than ten years, he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education. With a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty.” (

Friday, January 17, 2020

Más y más: Art in the City

My previous post for La Bloga featured art shows in Northern Colorado.  As a follow-up, I now present a short list of other exhibits on display in Colorado.  This is not an exhaustive list of Chicanx art in the metro area, but it gives you an idea of what can be found. If you want a show or exhibit mentioned here on La Bloga, contact me with the details.


Pertenecer: Chicanx Artists on Belonging
November 26, 2019 - June 28, 2020

Tony Ortega

[from the gallery website]
As the title suggests, Pertenecer — Spanish for “to belong” — this exhibition presents artworks by nine artists who explore the possibilities and meanings of belonging. The diverse experiences of belonging are interpreted by these artists in vastly different ways through drawing, painting, printmaking, video, sculpture, and photography. Central to this exhibition are important works from the museum’s permanent collection, a portfolio of prints about long-standing Hispanic communities in New Mexico and a mural sized painting by Denver artist Tony Ortega depicting a street scene from the city’s North end. These artworks depict the artists’ experiences of belonging to places that are shaped by Hispanic communities that have lived in the areas for centuries and decades. Other artists explore what it means to immigrate to a place; expressing both the hope that a new home presents and the courage that it takes to make the journey across borders.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
30 West Dale St.
Colorado Springs, CO, 80903


Emanuel Martinez
January 14 - February 14, 2020
Opening Reception: January 23 from 4:30-8:00 p.m.
Gallery Talk by the artist: Thursday, February 6 at 7:00 p.m.

O'Sullivan Art Gallery
Regis University
3333 Regis Boulevard
Denver, CO 80221


February 2 - 26
Opening Reception February 13, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Dayton Memorial Library
Regis University


Healing Through the Arts Exhibit
Exhibit Opening: February 7, 2020 6p.m.-9p.m. 
Day of Healing Event: February 15, 2020 12:00p.m.-5:00p.m. Exhibit Runs: February 7– February 28 , 2020

[from the gallery website]
Healing Through the Arts exhibit showcases artists who have created work for the purpose of healing the observer and themselves through the process of creation. Showcased artists are: Michael Canada, Janel Rosales, Juaquin Gonzales, Cal Duran, Joe Martinez, Arlette Lucero, Stevon Lucero, Holly Wasinger, Rebecca Rozales and more.

CHAC Gallery and Culture Center
222 Santa Fe Dr. 
Denver, CO 80223



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