Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Friday End of January

In his comment on my blogging about a Chicano canon, Manuel Ramos recommends several writers whose work deserves inclusion on any readers "must read" list. I hope they will be as productive as New Mexico's Rudolfo Anaya, and one day folks will dispute which of Anaya's non-crime books is his best.

Serafina's Stories. Rudolfo Anaya. Albuquerque, NM:UNM Press, 2004. isbn 0-8263-3569-1

Chicano crime novelist Rudolfo Anaya has produced a delightful collection of bedtime stories kids and adults will enjoy equally. Adults will get a kick out of reading aloud these stories Anaya says he's collected and translated from the New Mexico’s oral tradition and that represent the Hispanic community's folkways, and values. Picaro and trickster tales have universal appeal, and when well-crafted, make the reading fun. These are fun.

The twelve stories would be fun to read aloud, to the right kids. Anaya weaves Serafina’s stories into a plot centered around events at the eve of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. New Mexico’s Governor will conduct trials of twelve indians captured plotting revolution. One turns out to be sixteen year old Serafina, her Castillo--Spaniard--name. The teenager has been raised in the Church, speaks Bilingual eloquently, knows the Iberian cuentos, and works a deal. She'll tell the Governor a story every night. If the Governor likes the story, he'll free a prisoner.

Serafina adds a local spin to classic tales of amputated ears, eyes put out, daughters forced to marry strangers and other exercises of wildly simple human values. Catholic rites and absolute monarchy might want explaining now and again–and if not, Serafina raises the issue to make sure kids hear it. Kids who have been raised listening to fairy tales will find some cuentos familiar, plus such kids probably have high tolerance for magic. Experience-- or a capable reader-- will help the kids recognize the same foundation myths, allegorical desperation, and contorted plotting that makes their other bedtime stories fun.

The stories build a moral landscape in the Governor’s heart. The Governor "falls" for the girl as if a daughter, but her stories offer a constant reminder of the cultural gap between man and child, between his pueblo’s imported customs and the indians’ colonized culture and religion. Through marriage and propinquity, the Spanish and Indian cultures fuse, yet foreign pressures seek to pull the cultures inexorably apart. The local padre recognizes the practicality of allowing the indians their religion, but the big shots from the Inquisition sour the land of enchanting stories. Serafina must be a witch, argues a powerful Churchman, how else explain the insanity of freeing the revolutionaries one by one? The zealot priest intends to drag Serafina in chains to Mexico City, then to be sold into slavery in the mines of Durango. Only the Governor stands between that fate and some alternative.

In an afterword comes the most curious element of the book. I wonder if Anaya wants to exacerbate or settle the ongoing "battle of the name" that preoccupies a significant portion of Anaya’s Chicano audience. Anaya applies "Hispanic" to the culture and stories, twice. He eschews "Chicano"," Latino", "Mexican". Yet, the dustjacket describes Anaya as the country's "premier Chicano author". I wonder if, just as Serafina’s indian name cannot be spoken–or translated–the New Mexico term "Hispano" ought not to be anglicized into the solecism, "Hispanic."

My advice is to skip the afterword and allow the work to stand on its own merits. Find a kid or two. Read them Serafina’s Stories and that will be its own reward.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Friday Mid January [views]

Is there a Chicana Chicano literary canon?
by mvs

Back in 1969 Herminio Rios and Octavio Romano from Berkeley's Quinto Sol Press published the world's first anthology of chicano literature, El Espejo. An outstanding collection that included such poets as Abelardo and Alurista. A few years later, Nicolas Kanellos in Texas, I think it was, started Revista Chicana-Riqueña, publishing work that mirrored Quinto Sol's writers, but Revista expanded its recruitment to include Boricua and other ascendencia hispanoparlante writers. An academic tipo jumped on the literary convergences he saw, and published a paper on Canonical and Non-Canonical Work. The critic found shortcomings in the puro chicano strategy Rios and Romano adopted.

My critical opinion of the brouhaha is "whatever." My preference has always been to let the writing stand on its own merits. No biography, no historical context, no appositional translation. Let the work stand on its own merit. Still, it was grist for the academic mill and I sometimes wonder if the pedo over what constitutes "canonical" hasn't slowed the acceptance of chicana chicano writing by a broader audience, and in particular, into the pages of high school anthologies. The anthology's the thing to capture the conscience of future readers.

Sadly, without some push from somewhere, chicana chicano literature keeps getting left out of the high school curriculum. Have a look at US Literature textbooks. I haven't done a comprehensive survey, but I'd bet Sandra Cisneros and Gary Soto get anthologized a lot more than any other writer.

No, I'm not donning armor to joust with textbook companies or state deptos of education. But I would like to see kids--especially chicanesque kids-- read the best US literature, which must include chicana chicano lit. So here's my question. Considering whom you're targeting, if you could give a library of essential chicana chicano writing--prose, poetry, essay, criticism--would you have a long list, or a short one? What would you recommend to a high school kid; a high school English teacher; a working class reader?

Here on the jale I run a couple of reading programs. One, a general reading program for customer service reps--knowledge workers-- who need constantly to improve their oral communication and reading skills because they talk on the phone and read stuff out of a catalog. For them, I buy a bunch of paperbacks and populate a shelf in their lunchroom. I choose good stuff that a popular audience might enjoy; if there's a film or TV tie-in, all the better. Another group is gente in the warehouse who want to move into an office job, or people I notice who seem to have a lot on the ball. Most of the latter group are Mexican or Salvadoran immigrants, the majority Spanish-speakers who don't read a lot of English. Sadly, there's no hope to become a knowledge worker until they can listen, speak, and read English.

Here's the stuff I've been handing out. It's not a canon, perhaps more indicative of what my local indie bookseller shelves, and stuff I like that I want people to enjoy:
Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies.
Rodolfo Anaya. Shaman Winter.
Rudolfo Anaya, Zia Summer.
Rudolfo Anaya, Alburquerque.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Gods of Mars.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes.
Orson Scott Card. Pastwatch. The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.
Sandra Cisneros, House on Mango Street.
Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek.
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
Dashiell Hammet, The Maltese Falcon.
Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers.
Joseph Heller, Catch-22.
Tony Hillerman, The Ghostway.
Walter Mosley. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.
Walter Mosley, Black Betty.
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress.
Robert Parker, God Save the Child.
Manuel Ramos. The Last Client of Luis Montez.
Manuel Ramos. Blues for the Buffalo.
Manuel Ramos. The Ballad of Gato Guerrero.
Manuel Ramos. The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz.
Michele Serros, Chicana Falsa and other stories.
Sara Paretsky, Blood Shot.
Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only.
Helena Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus.

How about your list? If you could offer a high school a library of chicana chicano literature, what's on the list? How about their teacher?

Michael V. Sedano

Saturday, January 15, 2005

This and That [news, reviews]

Comics - Graphic Novels

Speaking of literature (someone was, right?) Any opinion about the illustrated mags? I like the hard-boiled and noir stuff such as 100 Bullets and American Century and just about anything my pal Gary Phillips is involved with - Angel Town, Shot Callerz and Midnight Mover, for examples. But, to keep the topic on point (or the point on topic) how about Los Bros Hernandez and their wide variety of work? LA City Beat had a recent article about Jaime Hernandez and the splendid Love and Rockets. Here's the opening paragraph:

"Cartoonist Jaime Hernandez taps barrio culture, magic realism, and punk-rock values to explore the inner lives of the feisty, goofy, maddening, stoic, impulsive girls in the acclaimed ‘Love and Rockets'".
Maggie, Ray and Hopey have aged a bit since they first appeared in 1981 in the original self-published Love and Rockets. But their ongoing changes continue to reflect the changing lifestyle of the artist and the SoCal landscape where the Locas now raise families, try to hold jobs, and, ya' know, just hang.

There was a time when I didn't write books but I sold them, through the mail. It was all Latino Lit. That was a fun gig, for a very short while until I decided I needed to spend more time creating my own books instead of selling someone else's. Anyway, my catalogs included trade paperback collections of Love and Rockets. Can you imagine that some people questioned why such things would be for sale right next to Bless Me, Ultima, The House On Mango Street, and Rain of Gold? That was several years ago - we are past that now, no?

Anyone out there with other comics, graphic novels, whatever you call them, that fit in with the overall Chicana/o theme of this blog? What is it about this art form that holds our attention long after the adolescent fantasy aspect is over? I confess to a guilty secret: I have always wanted to write one of these but never got to it. Any artist out there want to illustrate a Chicano noir tale (no superheroes and probably no redemption)?

Chicano Art Movement

Co-blogger Michael sent out a flash that the LA Times recently ran an article about the ever-changing Chicano art scene. The article is The New Chicano Movement and you should be able to get to it online. The author, Josh Kun, provides a good overview of the SoCal Chicana/o artist environment and the ongoing, classic dialectic between old and new, traditional and revolutionary.

Los Bravos
A reader asked about Los Bravos and the song Black is Black (1966). I think the implication of the question was that, maybe, Los Bravos was a Chicano band. I didn't really know, although I've always liked the song and it's pure, simple and catchy lyric: Black is black, I want my baby back, It's gray, it's gray, Since she went away, whoa-whoa. And then something about being blue, too. So, I did some checking. Found out:

The group was led by former Mike & the Runaways singer Michael Volker Kogel (born in Berlin, Germany, in 1944). The other four original members -- bassist Miguel Vicens Danus (born in Corunna, Spain, 1943), guitarist Tony Martinez (born in Madrid, Spain, 1944), organist Manuel Fernandez (Sevilla, Spain, 1942), and drummer Pablo Sanllehi (Barcelona, Spain, 1943) -- had all been working together previously in the Spanish group Los Sonors.
You can find out more about Los Bravos at Artist Direct.
Not a Chicano band - more like a German/Spanish band trying to crack the English Invasion.
Manuel Ramos

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Call for Submissions - Pluma Fronteriza

Pluma Fronteriza is a nationally distributed publication that covers news on Chicana(o) and Latin(o)a writers from the El Paso, TX/Las Cruces, NM/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mex. tri-state region.

Main Submissions

We are currently accepting submissions of open letters, essays, poetry, and short memories in honor of Abelardo B. Delgado and Ricardo Aguilar, both passed away this year.

Guidelines for writers

Poetry: No more than two 8 ½ x 11 pages on a Microsoft Word or WordPerfect format.

Essays should be no longer than 400-500 words on MS Word or WordPerfect format.

Short memories (remembranzas) should be no longer than 100 words on the formats listed above.

Visual art or photographs. Must be in JPEG format.

We are hoping to dedicate two issues to these great fronterizo writers. Submission deadline for the spring issue is March 15, 2005. Submissions for the winter issue should be postmarked Jan. 3, 2005.

Non-writers on Abelardo Delgado

We will accept letters and 200-word memories from non-writers. By non-writers, we mean individuals who do not write creatively, academically, or journalistically but were somehow influenced by Abelardo Delgado as students, farmworkers, or members of the many organizations he founded and ran.

Special call for current high school students and Denver-area colleges

We are accepting submissions of letters, essays, poetry, or short memories honoring Abelardo Delgado as an educator. If you had Delgado as an instructor in Upward Bound or a Chicano Studies class, we invite you to submit. Note, in this category, submitters must be either current high school or college students. We will accept submissions from high school graduates who have not started college. We ask you write something on how Abelardo Delgado influenced your life or education. Please include the name of your college, university, or high school as well as your age.

Submissions selected will be featured in our winter and spring issues.

Send submissions to:
Pluma Fronteriza
1510-J Greenway Dr.
Eudora, Kansas 66025

E-mail submissions are accepted as attachments to or

If sent by postal mail, please include a copy on a 3”-diskette or CD; however, we do not require submissions be on a computer disk.

All submissions should include your postal address, phone number, and e-mail address.

"Music of the Mill" got pushed back. It was set for Fall 2004, but the date they have now is May 2005.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Bits and Pieces [news]

A Chicano Band That Wasn't Into Chicano

This appeared on Latino LA, a good source of news, opinions, and so forth. The article provides an interesting look at the Los Angeles Mexican-American music scene in the early to mid-1960s, which has become an era fondly remembered and idealized by Chicano music aficionados.

Here are the opening lines of the article.

In the Midnite Hour
Thee Midniters never cared for ethnicity——others did
By Gustavo Arellano

Believe it or not ... there was once a time when the children of Mexican immigrants actually wanted to lose their ethnicity and be plain ol' Americans, when Jorge and Consuelo called themselves George and Connie and weren't ashamed of it. This was the early to mid-1960s, wherever there were segregated brown kids itching to shimmy. And the music?

Chicano-written tracks, long ago assimilated into the American rock & roll songbook: Cannibal & the Headhunters' "Land of 1,000 Dances"; Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs' pre-adulterated "Wooly Bully"; the organ tarantella (and greatest song ever) that is "96 Tears," written by a bunch of Mexican kids from Saginaw, Wisconsin, known as ? and the Mysterians.

But towering over all these Mexican-American rockers was the original band from East Los Angeles: Thee Midniters, an untouchable eight-man, suit-wearing, mop-topped powerhouse. Spearheaded by the soulful growl of Willie García, Thee Midniters was mid-1960s rock at its pinnacle - a touch of soul, a lightning bolt of guitars and drums that could pitch over a skyscraper.

Read the rest of the article here:

Also from Latino LA: Seventy-two percent of US Hispanic children, who are 3rd generation or later, speak English exclusively. Source: Study based on 2000 Census by the State University of New York at Albany

Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado has been selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Awards Committee (Colorado). The award will be presented during a program scheduled for January 11, 2005, followed by a free concert performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in honor of Dr. King and the Award recipients. Lalo posthumously was designated as the Poet Laureate of Denver by Mayor John Hickenlooper.

That's all I need to say.

A couple of books to watch for in 2005

Jemez Spring, Rudolfo Anaya, University of New Mexico Press, March, 2005 – Anaya's spiritual private eye, Sonny Baca, returns in a case that starts with the murder of New Mexico's governor.

Music of the Mill, Luis Rodriguez, Rayo/Harper Collins, May 2005 - This book was originally scheduled for 2004 and I've seen it advertised for sale but have not seen the actual book. A publicity blurb says "From the author of Always Running: La Vida Loca comes an epic novel about three generations of an American family who have built their lives around the decaying steel industry of the late 20th Century."

Pluma Fronteriza is a gem of a newsletter put together by Raymundo Eli Rojas, a young cat I've heard described as a renaissance man. Pluma Fronteriza is published and distributed with the help of Chicano Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. The latest issue (Winter 2005 Special Extra) presents a comprehensive list of books about Chicanos and Latinos and Labor. It is an amazing 11 page list that pulls together all kinds of books that help tell the story of raza and work.

Among the more recent entries are:

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (U of CA Press, 2004), David Bacon, . Bacon "offers a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth examination of border workers published to date."

Dreaming on Sunday on the Alameda and Other Plays (U of OK Press, 2004), Carlos Monton, This collection contains Esperanza, the libretto for an opera based on the main female character in the blacklisted 1953 movie Salt of the Earth. Striking miners in a New Mexican mining town need the help of their wives, who ask for something in return. The movie was based on the true story of the strike by Local 890 of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union against the New Jersey Zinc Company in Bayard, New Mexico.

Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton U Press, 2004), Zaragosa Vargas. The springboard event is the infamous Republic Steel Mill Strike of 1937, when Mexican workers were among the strikers and supporters beaten, arrested and murdered by Chicago policemen. Vargas "embarks on the first full-scale history of the Chicano labor movement in 20th-century United States."

You can contact Raymundo and find out how to become a subscriber at

Manuel Ramos

Thursday, January 06, 2005

2005 First Friday [views]


Friday Christmas Eve, I sit at a tamalada with two little girls who share their book of children's poetry with me. One is a twelve-year-old 6th grader, the other is just seven. I have known their mother since she was six months old, so I have a special love for these little girls, sabes?

These little girls can read! I tell you. And not just the words. Especially the older one. Veronica, she can read, explain, listen, interpret. What joy to listen as these kids use poetry.

A peanut. A railroad track. A train comes. Toot toot. Peanut butter. Veronica reads the words assiduously. She laughs when she springs the surprise ending, with a big warm smile and sparkly eyes. We chat about the peanut just ambling along the railroad tracks on a sunny day. Do a gesture with your fingers. Then make the horn sound like a horn, "toot! toot!" Veronica now does an oral interpretation of the poem. She pantomimes the ambling gait of a carefree peanut, two parallel fingers suggest the railroad track, does a great toot! toot!, and laughs the surpise, almost rising from her seat, enjoying the drama she's pulled off the page.

She reads another one, a nagging mommy poem. She gets the voices just right, the warnings, the scolds, the silliness that adults threaten kids with, "That's the last time I tell you," goes the poem, goes the mom, goes the dad, and of course, it won't be the last time they have to tell her. Veronica shudders and smiles at the same time, the poem keeping it all in perspective.

Veronica's little sister takes the book. More stolidly but just as eloquently, Ari reads. And does the interp, too. She loves the poems, she loves the language. These girls love reading. They have a sense of audience, an ear for language. Dang, it doesn't get much better than this, I think, then it does.

Veronica comes back from wherever she's wandered off to, and we read a Frost poem together. "And I, I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference." Veronica reads the stanza with its difficult words, and the famous line. I look at her and tell her, "Veronica, one day this will make sense to you, the choices you made, the paths you will choose to follow." Little Veronica puts on a serious mien and nods assent.

Thank you, Veronica and Arianna, for making that Friday the best one of the year. Always a bit of a cynic when I wish gente a happy new year, this year I know for sure it is, in fact, a happy new year.

Michael V. Sedano