Sunday, May 29, 2005


Manuel Ramos

Santiago Pérez
National Latino Writers Conference

Santiago Pérez
In a recent post I talked about a train trip to Albuquerque. While spending a few days in a town that my wife and I appreciate more each time we visit, we came across an artist I immediately liked: Santiago Pérez. I saw his work in an exhibit at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and I was duly impressed. Pérez works in different genres and styles. Here's a detail from one of his gothic fantasies or his "magical paintings" as he calls them.

The stories that the paintings portray are weird, wacky and wonderful, and apparently were written by the artist. If you are unfamiliar with the artist, as I was, you can see some of his work on his website here and also on this site. Two of my favorite pieces are Aztec Pilots Search for Quetzalcoatl and First Aztec on the Moon.

National Latino Writers Conference
Speaking of the National Hispanic Cultural Center - it was the site for the third National Latino Writers Conference, a conference I confess I didn't know anything about but that this year featured Rudolfo Anaya, Lucha Corpi and John Nichols, and other poets, screenwriters, and fiction writers. Information on the NHCC site says that "nationally recognized authors, agents and editors will conduct workshops and participate in panel discussions on fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting and memoir. All those who attend will have the opportunity to have three individual appointments with agents, authors and editors." The conference was held May 19 -21.

In New Mexico my wife picked up Chiva by Chellis Glendinning (New Society Publishers). This book is about the heroin epidemic in Chimayó, N.M., and the community's struggle to clean up. I haven't read the book so can't comment on it but the facts behind the book's topic are disturbing. The legend of the holy dirt at the Chimayó mission is well known here in Colorado and New Mexico and the area was famous for its healing and spiritual nature long before the church was built.

Here's a bit of the town's history from the Chimayó website -
"Believed to be built on sacred earth with miraculous healing powers, the legendary shrine El Santuario de Chimayó is probably the most visited church in New Mexico. The crucifix which began the original shrine still resides on the chapel alter, but for some reason its curative powers have been overshadowed by El Posito, the 'sacred sand pit' from which it sprang. Each year during Holy Week thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Chimayó to visit the Santuario and take away a bit of the sacred dirt. Pilgrims walk a few yards or a hundred miles. Many claim to have been cured there of diseases, infirmities and unhappiness. The walls of the sacristy are hung with discarded crutches and before-and-after photographs as evidence of the healing."

More recently, Chimayó has had the highest per capita rate for deaths from overdoses in a state that leads the country in this category.

Glendinning is a Chimayó resident who has written four previous books including Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Empire and the Global Economy, which won a National Federation of Press Women 2000 Book Award. Her 1977 Honda Civic won 3rd place in Chimayó's Santiago/Santa Ana Fiesta low-rider car show in 2001.


daniel olivas said...

great post! i gotta learn how to do pictures.

Contributing Bloguistas: said...

I learned how to, but this dude knows more than that.

Definitely some good stuff here. I say we see if he'll let us use a couple on our banner in exchange for whatever. Then we can fight about which ones.

bloodmother said...

I was at the conference. The Perez exhibit sent chills up and down my back --- so exciting to see new interpretations of old works. And what a sense of humor! My favorites: Los Capuchines and Huitzilopochtli's Ride. Oh, and the Rematch of George and the Dragon (the dragon did her homework and read the book).

bloodmother said...

Attending the National Latino Writer's Conference in Albuquerque helps ease my way back into New Mexico, and specifically Santa Fe, where I grew up and where my mother, brother, and sister still live.

A few days just for me surrounded by writers and discussing writerly subjects and then home where I'm simultaneously embraced and shunned (by my mother)as the "one who left home."

The conference is small and it's still possible to get a lot of personal attention. Some of the presenters focus a bit too much on promoting their own work, rather than helping all the hungry, aspiring writers sitting in front of them, but that is rare.

One of the best workshops I ever attended --- at a conference or at UCLA --- was taught by Denise Chavez last year. She threw out ideas and got us writing immediately.

Tom Miller did that this year. I didn't attend Anaya's intensive workshop (you had to sign up early), but those who did said it was enriching and will fuel their writing for some time to come.

Susan Racho (from L.A.) aired her documentary on Latinos in Film, "The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in Hollywood," to be aired on HBO. Excellent. Susan is personable and savvy and it was a delight to meet her.

The conference has drawn attendees from Puerto Rico, Miami, Boston, and New York, but the majority are from NM. I'd like to see more Los Angelenos attend and will forward this blog to the director, Carlos Vasquez, for advance notice of next year's conference.

Manuel Ramos said...

Thank you S. Ramos O'Briant for the news about the conference - exactly what I was hoping for in terms of a response since I didn't know anything about the conference. And, yes, if you pass on La Bloga to the conference organizers, we will announce it and even do a piece on the conference. More events/conferences/parties to celebrate literature and la cultura can't be a bad thing, no? As for the Racho documentary, I picked up a copy at the Cultural Center and gave it to my parents - one day soon I will watch it with them.