Thursday, April 09, 2020

Chicanonautica: Monsters Here and Now

by Ernest Hogan

Monsters. Monstrosities. You can't get away from them in this season of the Coronavirus. One step outside and you're in the middle of the latest dystopia, leaning toward an apocalypse.

I'm reminded of the intro to KTTV's Chiller back in my Space Age childhood: “Come with us now to a land where unspeakable monsters roam and terror is the order of the day. You have sixty seconds to prepare yourself . . .” Then they'd cut to commercial before showing something like Caltiki, the Immortal Monster or The Hypnotic Eye.

Performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña has suggested,“Pretend we are all performing in a sci-fi movie.”

Not a bad strategy. It got me through all kinds of monstrousness since the Sixties.

Another thing is to throw myself into work, but then, my work is about monsters.

I've already Chicanonauticized about American Monsters Part 2, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, part of the Fox Spirit Book of Monsters series, illustrated coffee table books of stories about monsters from different part of the world, by writers from the same places as the monsters.

Support your local monsters.

American Monsters Part 1 was about South America. Part 2 cover North America. I did a story about the monsters of Aztlán.

To show that it isn't all about me, let me tell you about the other stories.

The book should be of interest to the La Bloga audience because most of them fall into Aztlán/Latinx territory, as do a lot of their authors. It's a good survey of this continent's monsters.

Starting at the top of the map as Western Civilization draws it, Matthew Scaletta's story is about Sasquatch in Alaska. Of course, the 'Squatch is native. Kind of Latinoid.

There are also monsters from Quebec. Annie Michaud's look like ordinary people, and Krista Walsh gives us a Loup Garou--do I have explain that it's a werewolf? Also, since the term Latin America was coined by the French when they were dreaming of an American Empire with a French elite, they're kind of “Latin.”

Crossing the U.S. Border, Cory Doctorow monsterizes a kind of Disneyland, and Lewis Shiner finds reptilian descendants of the survivors of Atlantis under Los Angeles. Ah, SoCal and Hollywood, are they or Washington D.C. America's number one monster factory?

Sometimes monsters are immigrants. Carmelo Rafala brings an England/New England “rawhead” to the Midwest.

And there are more native monsters. Catherine Lundoff writes of a wendigo in Minnesota. And Charles Payseur presents the hodag of Wisconsin.

Entering Aztlán, Darcie Little Badger shows colonialism as a monster in Texas. Kelly Sandoval reveals some strange things about crows in Nevada. And remembering that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.A., Pedro Cabiya shows the Chupacabras in its place of origin.

Approaching that other border (monsters and
Latinoids have no respect for borders), Pepe Rojo's story is about vampires and abortion on the place where some people want to build a wall.

Crossing the border, Federico Schaffler involves an Aztec water spirit in Mexico's past and future, and causes trouble for the country's first female president.

There are also stories of Caribbean monsters that blend Latino with African. R.S.A. Garcia's tale is about a douen—a kind of forest spirit. Tobais S. Buckell's zombies are of the Caribbean tradition, and Tonya Liburd's vampiric creatures are not the usual Hollywood breed.

It's a good book to help get you through the social distancing, and may have you keeping your distance even after the crisis is over.

Ernest Hogan is “on-call at home” from his library job, working on his monstrous novel.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Fourth Week: Activities to do at home with our children

Sitios en español

Los Bloguitos en el mes de abril

Los Bloguitos es ahora un sitio de búsqueda  para niños y niñas que hablan y leen español. Encontrarás cuentos, poesías, adivinanzas, dibujos y mucho más.

En el mes de abril encontrarás aportes sobre el Día del Planeta Tierra, lavarse las manos, higiene, Nezahualcóyotl, el Día del libro y el Día del niño.

También puedes  ver videos educacionales y el trabajo de la escritora y editora Christianne Meneses Jacobs.

Tenemos la sección sobre niños y niñas que escriben. Los niños y niñas pueden colaborar con cuentos, dibujos y poemas. Con mucho gusto los pondremos en Los Bloguitos.  Pueden mandar sus colaboraciones a

En el espacio de búsqueda puedes escribir sobre lo que andas buscando para descubrir lo que tenemos en Los Bloguitos.

Supersaber es un servicio educativo dirigido a niños de entre 4 y 12 años, desarrollado con el fin de servir de ayuda a los estudiantes de educación infantil y primaria en sus estudios y actividades escolares. También cuenta a su favor con un cuidado y atractivo diseño.

Mundo Primaria surge como una fuente de juegos y otros recursos didacticos gratuitos de gran calidad para niños de entre tres y doce años.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Nopales redux in Plague-time

Michael Sedano
Dateline: CasaSedano In Isolation
Who isn't? In isolation, that is. Essential tipas tipos, that's who. The rest of us stay home and cook. Those who shop, shop and buy what's left after the hoarders emptied the shelves. For some, there's foraging. Nopales, for example, are coming into season. 

Sadly, the wilderness trails around me are closed to hikers. That means foragers can't pick the young pencas from native nopales, and that's an important element of nopal cooking. Making a small lumbre in el monte and roasting some pencas and tunas on the coals, maybe some weenies, should be part of everyone's growing up.

Ni modo. Neighborhood landscapers have discovered the beauteous opuntia in xeriscape plantings. Few of your anglo neighbors will be hep to eating that cactus, by golly, but they've heard of it. Here are some ideas to get them eating like a Mexican.

Today's La Bloga-Tuesday recycles three columns The Gluten-free Chicano has contributed to La Bloga-Tuesday in the past. A born nopal-eater and having one en la frente, el G-F Chicas Patas welcomes your recipes for nopalitos.

The Gluten-free Chicano 2014
Peeling Nopales the No-Espina Way

Sadly, the title misleads a bit. Any time a cook prepares fresh nopalito pencas, an espina or two is sure to find a finger or palm. Así es, the romance of el nopal.

A sharp paring knife and careful finger placement between the espina carbuncles are two secrets to preparing nopales.

Use a washable cutting board or work on newspaper. Draw the knife around the spiny perimeter of the cactus paddle, cutting away the outer ¼ inch of spininess.

Hold the penca flat and draw the knife across the face of the penca nearly horizonally. Most espina nubs cut right off. Dip the blade in a glass of water to wash away espinitas.

Steel the blade frequently to keep the edge slicing effortlessly.

Wash the pencas. There's a white espina in the top middle of the foto below.

Slice the pencas into ¼" strips. Draw the blade at a diagonal through the strips.

The nopalitos are ready to use in a salad, a stew, with scrambled eggs. Below, nopales simmer with carne de puerco. Later, the cook will add una torta de camarón.

See below for The Gluten-free Chicano recipes for nopales con tortas de camarón and a really fancy yet economical pumpkin hominy and nopales guisado.

The Gluten-free Chicano
Nopales con carne de puerco y tortas de camarón
Michael Sedano

Grown from single penca planted in 1960. ©2013msedano
You know it’s Springtime when opuntia cactus of the right varieties form plentiful buds and you keep an eye on them over the next few weeks until the pencas are large and still tender, deep green and ready to be picked, peeled, diced and cooked up.

But early February is not Springtime. The nopales stand bereft of buds. Still weeks to go before we can return to the old nopal and harvest some of its tender offerings. When he bought this land in 1960, my father kicked his heel into the hillside here, to soften the dirt. He dropped a penca where he worked and stepped on it, pressing it into the earth.

When there was still open land and groves in Redlands, people who didn’t grow their own knew the best places to pick nopales. Just as gente knew the groves where the best verdolagas grew, a favored field where the kelites were almost weed-free, they knew where the best tunas--hence the best nopales--grew. Nopales were a feature of the local landscape; in the wash, in alleyways, in a corner of an empty lot.

Unusually thin penca.

Some nopales are more delectable than others. The ones with fuzzy micro-espinas are inedible just because they're so much hassle, no one I know has ever eaten one.

Pencas need to be new growth, healthily green-colored, free of complicated espinas, and a scant half inch thick, so diced chunks have skin on two sides.

Always ask permission before cutting someone's nopales. Most gente will exchange recipes and urge you take a few more. I've heard some tipas request a few dollars to allow a forager to pick nopales.

Today, the local Mexican markets sell diced nopalitos in plastic bags, as well as whole pencas if you want them for grilling, or to cut your own.

The nopal forms the heart of comida de cuaresma. With scrambled eggs for breakfast, in a pickled salad for lunch, and Nopales con tortas de camarón for dinner, those observant of the Lenten stricture against eating meat find hearty eating in nopales.

I, like my people, always preferred the dish with pork, hence today’s The Gluten-free Chicano recipe features pork as well as shrimp and eggs with nopales. The dish is completely gluten-free.

Nopales con carne de puerco y tortas de camarón is down-home cooking, but also company food.

Medium onion
4 teeth garlic
three or four branches of cilantro
Two pencas or 1 pound diced fresh nopales.
1/8 lb chicharrón broken into 2" squares.
1 lb pork, 1/2 cubes".
Serrano or jalapeño chiles, sliced thin.
salt, red chile, comino powder, black pepper.
Eggs – 2 people per egg
2 oz ground dried shrimp powder (I large package)
Baking soda
limón or lemon
Tomato sauce
Water or broth, maybe milk

Nopales exude a viscous gum during cutting and cooking. This is a natural thickener to the sauce but can be unnerving to the first-time user.

In a smoking hot pan...
Mince onion and garlic and wilt with the sliced chiles in good olive oil.
Add cubed pork, brown.

Add sprigs of fresh cilantro.
Toss in the nopalitos and fry until they turn a deep green.

Lower the heat.
Add one or two cans of tomato sauce and the water from rinsing the cans.

Stir in pieces of chicharrón and let simmer twenty minutes or however long it takes to make a batch of tortas de camarón.

Tortas de Camarón
This torta is an omelette thickened with powdered shrimp.

Separate eggs. Add a pinch baking soda to egg whites.
Beat egg whites to light peaks.
Blend in egg yolks.
Stir in 1/4 cup of water or milk, salt, black pepper.
Stir in half the package of powdered shrimp.
Assess your needs. Add water and the rest of the shrimp if you'll need to make more tortas. The mix should be thick enough to form dollops, not pour.

Squeeze a lime or lemon half into the egg-shrimp mix.

In a hot pan...

Drop generous tablespoons of egg mixture into hot olive oil and spread the pancake with a spatula. Turn and cook until center is done. The tortas will brown very nicely.

Float the tortas atop the nopales and serve to table.

Place a torta or two on each plate, cover with a scoop of nopales and carne de puerco. Eat with your hands and tortilla de maíz.

Refritos, green salad, cold gluten-free beer, hot conversation at your option.

The Gluten-free Chicano cooks
Chile Verde Con Granitos Y Calabaza
Michael Sedano

pork meat, peeled hatch chile, cubed pumpkin 
Company was coming and the Gluten-free Chicano was busy as an agent provocateur at a peace rally. The Gluten-free Chicano wanted something easy but not ordinary. He had the perfect ingredients on the calendar—the day before, Frito Lascano held his annual La Pelada and the Gluten-free Chicano had 30 pounds of roasted Hatch chile in the refrigerator.

The fastest use of freshly-roasted chiles is soup. Remove stems and seeds, chop lightly then whiz in a blender. Add water or broth to keep the blades moving. Make a cup of chile paste. In a saucepan, heat the chile, stirring in broth, milk, half-and-half, or yoghurt, or cream, to produce the thickness you want. Serve in a fancy bowl with a chile ring garnish. Prep time: 10 minutes.

Serving soup is for a less engaged day. I decided to make a variation of Frito’s "pumpkin soup". 

This distinctive stew gets chewiness from granitos plus texture from lots of meat. The bit of sweetly aromatic squash adds interest to the mélange of richly spiced vegetables. The chiles determine the chilosoness, so be prepared with habanero or other hot sauce if your chiles are not.

The preparation illustrated here at La Bloga and at Read! Raza came out famously. Gente took home plates, and I wanted to freeze some to make tamales.

Most Mexican food is normally gluten-free and this pork stew is normal. A non-meat alternative adds cubed papas in place of pork, and reduces cooking time to around half an hour.

Ingredients to serve 20 or freeze for later
3 lb boneless pork
1 bag diced nopales or 2 pencas
2-3 lb roasted green chiles
2 cups white hominy with liquid
2 cups diced orange winter squash; butternut, pumpkin
Fresh cilantro
4 green onions
Onion, garlic, comino, salt

Sharp knives.
Cut everything to the same proportions.
Cube meat and squash to ½” or 1” cubes.
Dice/chop onion and nopales to size of grains of hominy.
Chop the chiles after removing stems and seeds.
Thinly slice 3-6 dientes of garlic.
Slice green onion into 2" pieces, chop greens.

Deep, wide sartén, or large saucepan. Medium flame.
Lightly brown the aromatics and squash.
Add pork and brown.
Add chile and its juice, mix together.
Add granitos and some juice, mix together.
Add green onion
Chop a big pinch of cilantro stems and leaves, sprinkle on top.

Reduce heat to lowest simmer.
Cover and cook two hours, stirring regularly.
If you added too much liquid, slightly uncover lid and it boils off.

When this chile verde is done, the pork is fork-tender, the base viscous and saturated with flavorful liquid.

Serve over steamed rice (for excess carbs) or just ladle some into bowls and the guests can come and go, walk around the room and talk of Michangelo.

Monday, April 06, 2020

To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Must Learn from Mexicans

“Untitled,” by Salomón Huerta (1990)

By Dr. Álvaro Huerta

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the U.S. (and beyond), it behooves Americans to learn from individuals of Mexican origin in el norte about the art of survival in a time of crisis. (For this short essay, I’ll refer to individuals of Mexican origin in the U.S.—citizens, residents, immigrants, etc.—as “Mexicans in el norte.”)

Generally speaking, Mexicans on both sides of la frontera (too preoccupied to translate) have experienced a constant state of crisis caused by the American state and a significant segment of its white citizenry since the early 1800s. More specifically, since the Yankees stole Texas (1836) and current Southwestern states (1848) from Mexico, mi gente have been surviving under tumultuous, precarious and uncertain conditions. Regarding Mexicans in el sur, there’s a famous saying in Mexico which reinforces my claim: “Pobre México. Tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.”

Being family-oriented (familismo)—with the exception of the coconuts (brown on the outside, white in the inside)—Mexicans in el norte commonly rely (socially, economically, spiritually, etc.) on their family members (immediate and extended) on a regular basis. This includes what anthropologists refer to as fictive family members, like compadres, comadres, padrinos, madrinas, etc. Through these interpersonal ties or strong ties (see Mark Granovetter), we support each other with housing, food, baby-sitting, job referrals, money-lending, rotating credit associations (tandas or cundinas), etc. (This includes toilet paper! I prefer Scott 1000, 1-ply.)

During my youth, when I visited my grandparents in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, or cousins in La Puente and El Monte, Alta California, U.S., I always (to the present) felt at home. Apart from being served delicious Mexican food, whether hungry or not, I could always get more tortillas and open the refrigerator without permission. (In Mexican households, there are no labeled items in the refrigerator, like “Brad’s almond milk” or “Tiffany’s kale”!) I could also stay over for extended periods of time, if in need.

In terms of food, I’ve noticed that Americans have been pillaging Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, etc., like there’s no tomorrow. During the global depression of the 1930s, living in a small rancho (Zajo Grande) in the beautiful Mexican state of Michoacán, my parents and family members survived on basic Mexican staples, like maíz and frijoles. Making/consuming tortillas hechas a mano de maíz was/is common in the rancho. (I’m sure there was much more variety in their daily diet, like queso, chile, avocados, nopales, etc., which I need to investigate further with my older relatives from Zajo.) They didn’t consume meat and poultry regularly until they migrated to el norte. (I think too much red meat contributed to my father’s death of cancer. He was only 67 years old. It didn’t help that the American government sprayed him with DDT during the Bracero Program, as noted below.)

Despite the powerful forces of assimilation and acculturation in this country, if the coronavirus crisis continues beyond the projected months, Mexicans in el norte (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th generations, etc.) will simply resort to the healthy culinary ways of their/our ancestors.

In terms of employment insecurity, this is all too common for Mexicans in el norte. We have always been expected by the dominant culture/class to play the role of the obedient servant. According to Thorstein Veblen (1899), “The first requisite of a good servant is that he should conspicuously know his place.” This is not to imply that all individuals of Mexican origin in this country engage in low-wage, dead-end jobs. Thanks to the Chicana/o civil rights leaders of the 1960s/1970s, including hardworking Mexican immigrant parents/guardians, etc., countless individuals of Mexican origin have had the opportunity to pursue higher education in order to secure employment opportunities unavailable to their/our Mexican ancestors.

In terms of education, there’s a common saying that Mexican immigrants, like my late parents, share with their Mexican American children/grandchildren to get ahead: “Quireo que estudies para que no trabajes duro como yo.”

Sometimes, however, even holding a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, like myself, doesn’t protect you/us from the racist gaze of a significant segment of white America! (For the record, I’m not a racist towards white people since my best friends are white.)

Regarding my late parents, they are prime examples of how millions of Mexicans immigrants work hard, sacrifice and suffer without economic security so their children have better opportunities. For example, my father, Salomón, first arrived in this country during the 1950s as a guest worker (or bracero) during the Bracero Program—a bi-national, agriculture guest worker program between the U.S. and Mexico—where millions of Mexicans toiled in America’s agriculture fields. They also helped construct railroads. As a bracero, like his paisanos, my father was sprayed with DDT by the American government and exploited by American agricultural employers. Exposure to DDT has been scientifically linked to cancer. Later, he worked as a day laborer and janitor at a wheel factory, earning $3.25 per hour for over a decade before the capitalist system broke him. (Following the example of corporate America, we relied on welfare for over a decade.)

As for my mother, Carmen, she toiled as domestic worker (or doméstica) for over 40 years. She started cleaning homes (and caring for kids) of privileged Americans during the 1960s, while living in Tijuana. (My older sisters, Catalina and Soledad, also worked as teens during this period to support our growing family.) My other older sister, Ofelia, would care for the younger siblings, including myself. Hence, I didn’t get to bond with my mother for the first four years of my life. Fortunately, I had my immediate/extended family to rely on, which is the Mexican way.

Speaking of family separation(s), Trump and his racist administration must release all brown babies/kids and adults from American cages with or without the coronavirus crisis!

In terms of how the nation is feeling threatened/endangered over the coronavirus, this is how millions of Mexicans in el norte (especially the male youth) feel in America’s barrios. I should know because I was one of them.

Growing up in East Los Angeles’ notorious Ramona Gardens housing project or Big Hazard Projects, I constantly felt  threatened/endangered in the projects. While it was not something we talked about, violence or the threat of violence was omnipresent for all of the residents. By the time I was in either 5th or 6th grade at Murchison Street Elementary School, I didn’t think that I would reach my 18th birthday, especially given the high levels of death in the projects. Compared to national averages, this also included disproportion levels of incarceration, drug addiction, police abuse, etc.. Ever since a cop pointed his gun at me at 16 years old for making a rolling stop, I automatically get flashbacks when a cop car is behind me while driving, like recently (03.19.20) when one followed me for no apparent reason on my way to the market! And they wonder why those of us who grew up in the barrio don’t cooperate or trust them.

Hence, while I’m concerned about the disastrous economic, emotional and health impacts of the coronavirus on my family, friends and the public, in terms of myself, I’m neither worried nor panicked given all of what I’ve experienced, witnessed and studied over the years. This includes abject poverty, violence and hopelessness. This doesn’t imply that I’m trivializing/minimizing how people are feeling during this horrific health/economic crisis.

That said, while condemning moronic “leaders” with hunches, I am being cautious and following the advice of health experts, such as washing my hands regularly, keeping safe distances from others and staying at home, among other safety measures.

In short, I want Americans to appreciate and learn from the struggles of the Mexican people in el norte—past and present—during this coronavirus crisis. Once we overcome this health/economic crisis—which we will!—let’s unite and create a society without the haves and have-nots.


Dr. Álvaro Huerta is a faculty member in Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Among his many publications, he’s the author of Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. in Urban Planning and a B.A. in History from UCLA.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Jasminne Mendez - Dominicana Poderosa

Photo by Michael Leonard

Her Story

Born from immigrant parents of the Dominican Republic, Jasminne Mendez was blessed to learn both English and Spanish at a very early age. She has used these skills to her advantage throughout her life by performing, reading and writing poetry, short stories and plays in both languages.

She attended the University of Houston from 2002 -2007 where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. While at the University of Houston she played leading roles in various plays including A Raisin in the Sun, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, and Yerma. She also spent many of those early years writing and performing poetry in local venues around the Houston area.

In 2007 her work was transferred from the stage to the printed page when her creative non-fiction piece, The China Cabinet was published in the anthology, Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives by Arte Publico Press. Since then, she has been published by or has forthcoming publications with, Crab Creek Review, The Acentos Review, Label Me Latino/a, Gulf Coast Magazine, The Texas Review, La Galeria Magazine, The Best of CutThroat: A Journal of the Arts, Telling Our Stories Press, University of Chester, Whispering Angel Books, Floricanto Press and others.

As a performance poet, she has performed for the Mexican American Studies department at both the University of Houston central campus and the University of Houston Clearlake Campus. She has performed at other prestigious venues around Houston including Talento Bilingue de Houston, MECA, Houston Community College(HCC), the Holocaust Museum, the Alley Theatre and the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH).

In 2009 she had the privilege of opening for award-winning author Sandra Cisneros at Rice University for over 500 audience members.  In the past, she has also had the privilege of sharing the stage with notable artists and writers, Amalia Ortiz, Taylor Mali, and Dagoberto Gilb. Recently she was awarded Best Houston Performer of the Year by RAW: Houston and her first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams received first place for Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards. In spring 2016, her essay El Corte  was awarded Honorable Mention for the Barry Lopez Creative Non-Fiction Prize through CutThroat: A Journal of The Arts, and in the fall of 2016 her collection of essays Interruptions & Detours was a semi-finalist for the Rose Metal Press Essay Chapbook Prize.
She is a Canto Mundo Fellow, a VONA Alumni, a Macondo Fellow and a current MFA creative writing candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her second book, Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays & Poems was published by Arte Public Press in April 2018.

An interview and discussion of the book 
with Daniel Chacón  - here

Un tintero es la fuente del escritor.

 Jasminne is a major collaborator in this endeavor.

The word tintero is Spanish for inkwell, a old school container once used to house the ink for a pen.  The image was selected as a way to show that this project, this movement is about providing resources for the writer. .

Founded by poet Lupe Méndez, Tintero Projects / Proyectos Tintero aims to promote writing & reading opportunities for emerging Latinx poets and writers in the Houston – Galveston/Gulf Coast Region.  Originally founded as just “Tintero Readings”, Méndez hopes to reestablish a nurturing aspect to the every growing Latino writing community, with Houston as its main hub.

Tintero Projects is the emerging writer’s arm of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, focusing on creating workshop, performance and community opportunities in Spanish, English, Spanglish, Indigenous Languages and Portuguese. Tintero Projects is dedicated to helping create a platform for Latinx writers and Writers of Color.

Work and write with Jasminne

You can  craft creative nonfiction with Jasminne at the helm at this upcoming. workshop - register via this link.


Course #2020-102
THURSDAYSStarting April 166:30 pm–8:30 pmrunning 6 weeks
Cost: $240