Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A month after May Day

I have this hollow feeling in me. I participated in a demonstration eclipsing those of the 60s and 70s (at least for Denver), yet as a Chicano, my connection to the mexicanos who risked a lot to take to the streets is much that of supporter, rather than brother-in-arms.

May Day left me perplexed about many things:

1. Where will these wonderful millions of Spanish speakers next go? Will I be ready to go with them?

2. How will we Chicano ex-militants connect with them, since so many of us are less than literate in Spanish?

3. Will religious leaders of "Mexican" churches (of which there are many) turn out to be the only ones ready to lead, and where will they take it?

4. While it's true there were so many marchers that an ex-Secretary of Transportation needed to be called in, what is Federico Peña's role here and is that what is needed?

5. What would happen to the anti-Iraq war movement if the immigration forces were to take it up as a cause?

6. What might happen to any U.S. organized efforts if the mexicanos were to join them?

7. Coming from a people who traditionally participate in general strikes, how will their future actions change the political character of this country?

Answers to my questions can wait. The immigration movement may not. As evidence of its potential, below is a spectrum of reports from Frontera NorteSur (FNS), which I'd recommend you subscribe to if you want to get better information than U.S. media gives us and to get a broader sense of this future. (Subscription info at the end.)

Rudy Ch. Garcia

May Day 2006: Initial Assessments

Nobody really knows how many people participated in the May Day pro-immigrant legalization protest that shook North America and beyond. Very conservative media estimates speak about 1 million people just in the United States, while other media stories and pro-immigrant organizers estimate many millions more.

May Day was a spike in a new movement that remarkably, in only a couple months, turned the immigration reform debate in the US on its head, galvanized a new generation of youth activists, spread across borders, and even pumped new life into corporate anti-globalization movements that declined in the wake of September 11, 2001. For the first time in decades, the idea of a general strike was popularized in the United States.

Perhaps the best gauge of how deeply the protest cut into the political fabric is not measured by the mega-marches in Los Angeles or Chicago that each drew 500,000 people or more, but by the actions in almost anonymous settings throughout the United States, places usually not known for their political fervor.

In small towns like Tooele, Utah, and Rockdale, Texas, immigrant workers and students demonstrated for legalization. In the self-proclaimed chile (hot pepper) capital of the world of Hatch, New Mexico, a dozen students walked out of the village's small high school- much to the chagrin of a local Baptist minister.

Originally billed as a mass strike and consumer boycott against HR 4437, the Sensenbrenner immigration bill passed by the US House of Representatives last December, and in support of the legalization of undocumented workers, May Day 2006 unfolded in a variety of forms, assuming different characteristics depending on the locale, degree of organization and practical possibilities.

Some people went to work or school and attended rallies and marches later in the day. Others stayed home. Some shunned the shopping malls and gas stations. Organized at first by US activists, support for the action quickly spread to Mexico and Central America.

U.S. Actions

Initial assessments of May Day's impact in the US are mixed, ranging from critics who dismissed the action as a misguided adventure that will backfire to movement organizers who characterized the day a great, historic success. Some pro-immigrant forces, most notably the Roman Catholic Church and long-time, Washington, D.C.-based Latino civil rights groups urged people to go to work and school and then participate in mass rallies But by May Day, the call for a strike and boycott had acquired a life of its own, surpassing the ability of traditional organizations to control it.

Word of the protest spread from person-to-person, computer-to-computer and neighborhood-to-neighborhood. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, big companies like Malone's Cost Plus in Dallas announced they were allowing workers to take the day off and participate in the protest.

Shut-downs, whether with employer consent or not, affected strategic sectors of the US economy including California agriculture, Pacific Coast shipping and Florida construction. According to an economist with the Los Angeles Development Corporation, an estimated $200 million dollars in revenue could have been lost on May 1 in Los Angeles County alone. Rumors of mass immigration law enforcement raids that did not materialize also may have contributed to workplace shutdowns. Probably numbering in the thousands, an undetermined number of businesses nationwide closed their doors for the day in solidarity with the movement. In Albuquerque, NM, popular businesses like Taco Tote and El Mezquite market displayed signs announcing their closure.

A post-May Day poll quoted on Univision found that 65 percent of Latino participants did not work on Mayday, while 95 percent reported not buying anything on the boycott day. Most visibly, the huge US rallies and marches, drawing from several thousand to the hundreds of thousands of people, displayed the potential might of what many call "the sleeping giant" of Latino political power. At a large Albuquerque rally that drew several thousand people, signs included: "We are Indigenous People of the Southwest, Not Immigrants," "Mr. Bush: Respect our 1848 Treaty Mexico USA," "Build Schools, Not Borders," "We Pick, We Cook, Serve Your Food," "Justice for Immigrants," and
simply "Viva La Raza."

A long-time US resident from Ecuador who worked for 10 years in Alaskan mines, David Rodriguez said May Day had been a long time coming. “I’ve lived in the US for 30 years and you never used to see these kinds of demonstrations 30 years ago,” Rodriguez said. “There weren’t demonstrations of this kind, or organization. Certainly, this is a power that still needs to be organized more….we still got a little ways to go.”

May Day wasn't exclusively a Latino issue, though. In Chicago, large numbers of Chinese, Polish, Irish and other immigrants joined the protest, while in Denver, members of the American Indian Movement took part in a mass rally that drew perhaps 75,000 people. The indigenous activists aimed their criticisms at politicians like Colorado Rep. Tam Tancredo, protesting what they charged was a Washington power monopoly on deciding the destinies of millions of people. "This is a rally about the future of the Americas," said Colorado AIM leader Glen Morris.

Controversy erupted over the boycott, once again underscoring class differences and conflicting economic interests in the pro-legalization movement. Credited for boosting turn-outs at earlier events in March and April, Spanish-language commercial media, which is obviously dependent on advertising revenues, emerged as the leading voice against boycotts. The Spanish-language television monopoly Univision even followed up May Day with a news story that featured a spokesperson from Los Angeles' Carecen immigrant rights advocacy organization who criticized the boycott tactic as ineffective.

No counter point of view was presented in the report, even though boycotts, a curious omission, since in the case of the United Farm Workers Union's grape and lettuce boycotts of past decades or the Florida farmworkers’ boycott of Taco Bell more recently, tangible results have been yielded.

Mexico's Day of Solidarity

Spreading on the Internet, the message for solidarity with US immigrants on May Day produced mass marches and rallies, international bridge shut-downs and scattered boycotts of US businesses and franchises in Mexico. As in the United States, the actions were not coordinated by a single organization south of the border, and involved unions, students, former braceros, indigenous groups, and others. A few days before May Day, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution backing the US immigrant protest.

May Day solidarity actions were strongest in the northern border region. In Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, 200 protestors got a head start on others when they closed a Wal-Mart store for 10 minutes on April 30. The next day, in bridge blockades ranging from 15 minutes to several hours, different groups closed international crossings in Tijuana-San Diego, Tecate, Mexicali-Calexico, Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, Nuevo Laredo-Laredo, Reynosa-Hidalgo, and Matamoros-Brownsville. Downtown El Paso, which is largely dependent on shoppers from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, was reported largely deserted with 75 percent of its stores closed. Students, ex-braceros, merchants and others participated in the actions. In Mexicali, former braceros marched to the city's "La Pagoda" building to symbolize Mexican-Chinese unity.

In the interior, May Day had a more scattered impact. Despite the boycott call, brisk business was reported at Wal-Mart and other US-brand establishments in Mexico City. Some shoppers said they couldn't afford to lose a shopping day on traditional work holiday, while others claimed they did not know about the boycott.

Messages of solidarity were voiced at several mass May Day rallies and traditional parades in the capital city, including one protest outside the US Embassy led by Zapatista Subcomandante Marco. Linking the migrant struggle with other causes, Marcos declared the real struggle was for a new society in which people would not have to live their homes in search of work.

In Toluca near Mexico City, meanwhile, Mazahua indigenous women marched into a McDonald’s restaurant and offered free tortillas and traditional Mexican food to customers. In one of Mexico's newer migrant expelling regions, the Yucatan Peninsula, an estimated 200,000 indigenous Mayans reportedly supported the boycott. Masses in honor of migrants were held in some Yucatan municipalities, and a group of protestors burned cartons of US products outside the US Consulate in Merida. Over on the Pacific Coast, residents of San Marcos, Guerrero, dressed up in white and staged a march in support of their 25,000 relatives neighbors who work in El Norte.

May Day also was an occasion for the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico and the Mexican franchise holders to stake out their positions. While generally agreeing with the need for immigration reform, the business groups argued, not surprisingly, against the consumer boycott tactic. The NAFTA-linked business sector leaders emphasized how US businesses and franchises employed Mexicans and used Mexican ingredients in their products.

Central America Joins in Too

Even more dependent on migrant money from the US than Mexicans, Central Americans massively supported the May Day actions. Marchers raised the migrant banner in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Like others, Salvadoran Benito Martinez said that “almost everybody” from his family is now living and working in the US.

The pro-migrant movement generated support across the political spectrum from left to right, showing how mass emigration has transformed and influenced the post-Cold War Central American political scene. Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos and Sandinista Front leader Daniel Ortega both spoke out in support of the US immigrant movement, while Rene Figueroa, an interior ministry official from the conservative National Republican Alliance government in El Salvador, gave his verbal support. El Salvador's largest
leftist party, the former guerrilla Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, dedicated its 2006 May Day march to US migrants.

Like their Mexican counterparts, business associations in Central America slammed the boycott. Jose Raul Gonzalez, the vice-president of Central America's Pepsi bottler, said, "Consumers do not know that this 'gringo' product is as Guatemalan as they are; the only thing gringo is the brand." Gonzalez and other business spokespersons did not disclose how much money Pepsi and other multinational companies earn for the rights of using their name and
business structure.

In both Mexico and Central America, many of the pro-immigrant May Day protests also brought up the NAFTA and CAFTA trade agreements, low salaries, high energy costs, and other economic grievances. "CAFTA, as well as the neo-liberal measures imposed by the US and the International Monetary Fund are directly responsible for the unemployment and migrations," declared Honduran opposition leader Carlos Reyes. "Therefore, the US has the obligation not to deport (migrants) but to welcome them, and not to criminalize their migratory status."

May Day's Possible Impacts

US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist dismissed the May Day protests as not carrying any potential weight in the immigration reform legislation debate, but others are confident the echoes of May Day will be heard when the US Senate takes up the stalled legislation this month. Anti-legalization forces are wagering that a backlash to seeing Mexican flags waving in the streets will help forestall any reforms smacking of amnesty.

A CNN poll released this week reported that sympathy for immigrants had dropped from 70 percent of respondents in April to 57 percent in May. Pro-legalization organizations, on the other hand, are betting their newly-displayed strength will produce positive results. How the negotiations between a Senate bill and the Sensenbrenner HR 4437 House legislation pan out in the days ahead is the big question. Still in doubt is whether any legislation at will be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bush in an election year.

Eligibility for green cards, guestworkers and border security provisions will be among the key sticking points. Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a former US Border Patrol chief, said it’s almost certain that the massive border wall and undocumented immigrant criminalization aspects of the Sensenbrenner bill are dead. If Reyes is correct, the new pro-immigrant movement can claim a great, first victory.

Analysts will be carefully watching the electoral repercussions of the pro-immigrant movement in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Many of today’s protestors are US citizens-and current or potential voters- who turned out to support their relatives and friends. A common slogan in protests across the nation was: "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote." And with a new generation politicized, May Day's winds of change could well expand beyond the arena of electoral politics.

Jorge Mujica, a leader of Chicago's March 10 Coalition, assessed the mass movement as the beginning of a new international worker movement not just limited to legalization, but one advocating for “better working conditions” as well. On an international scale, May Day 2006 showcased "the first big revolutionary movement of the 21st Century,” Mujica contended.

Arguably, May Day was the third big wave of cross-border movements in recent years. The anti-World Trade Organization protests of the late 1990s and the anti-Iraq war demonstrations of early 2003 could be considered precursors to today's movement because of the way they rapidly leaped across borders in support of the same cause. In another important sense, May Day 2006 is the latest example of the reemergence of civil society as a vital actor on national political stages, a development also witnessed in the French student strikes, the Nepalese pro-democracy movement and the large demonstrations in Puerto Rico that could culminate in a general strike in the coming days in protest of a government fiscal melt-down.

Reprinted with permission of Kent Paterson, editor, Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news; Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Review: Malin Alegria, Estrella's Quinceañeara

NY: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, April 2006
ISBN-10: 0-689-87809-5

Michael Sedano

I've never been a fourteen-year old girl but my daughter was, and she didn't want a quinceañera, and that was that. Based on a recent NY Times article on over the top 15añeras ("I got a Lexus" one 15 year old exults), Sister Chicas (that I reviewed two weeks ago, in La Bloga), and Estrella's Quinceañerea, I'm relieved not to have been through all this.

But Estrella Alvarez' mother and aunt immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico during their adolescent years and as a result they never could afford a fancy fifteenth birthday. Thus, as the two sisters sit at a neigbor girl's fancy dress extravanga, all they can talk about is how wonderful Estrella's quince will be.

Estrella, on the other hand, not only does not want a quinceañera of her own, she wants little to do with her old neighborhood and its culture. Estrella is the neighborhood's academic superstar. She rides the bus from her Alum Rock neighborhood across San Jose to the fancy academy where Estrella is the only Mexican in class. Estrella's two new best friends have rich parents who give credit cards and carte blanche to spend to their hearts' content.

Not only is Estrella estranged from her neighborhood and enthralled by the abundance found in the Anglo school, the fourteen year old has dumped her two constant friends from the neighborhood.

Enter a hunky looking cholo, Speedy. A pest in fourth grade, Speedy turns Estrella's heart to thoughts of her first kiss. Until her Anglo friends get a look at Speedy and decide he's not good enough for their friend Estrella.

Things go from bad to worse, with identity crises, puppy love, and cultural gaps. But Malin Alegria keeps matters well under control, carefully driving her novel in the right direction. Eventually, Estrella will make things work out. The friends will reconcile. The hugely expensive quinceañera will be put aside for a traditional up-from-the-bootstraps event that gives fresh meaning to the concept of homegirls, friends, cultura, and teenage angst.

This is a good book to give a little girl, say a twelve year old whom you want to get ready for the big family pachanga when she turns fourteen. She'll see it isn't so bad, making a mother happy while learning to make one's own decisions. She'll see events of the moment that seem so ponderous, can be fit into perspective even a 14-year old will understand.

It's a worthwhile point for kids to learn. And if the parents would read the book there would be several dinner table discussions to bridge the gaps families don't realize have begun to loom large.

There's a certain optimism to children's books that I love. Young readers will enjoy Estrella's Quinceañera. It's a straightforward telling from a child's point of view. Alegria doesn't try to pack her story with slapstick or local color for its own sake. The author wants her reader to focus on the growing up part, and that's probably the best thing an author can do for a young reader.

What a great week it's been, gente. We'll turn the corner into June with a monton of books to read. Until next week, read! raza.


Monday, May 29, 2006


Vietnam Veteranos: Chicanos Recall the War (University of Texas Press, 2004) by Lea Ybarra.

“Within the pages of this book, we truly get a candid look at war, patriotism, fear, and love. . . . My culture will benefit immensely from these strong and compelling stories, but my hope is that all cultures of this incredible society we call America will read the oral histories of Chicano Vietnam veterans and their families and learn.” --Edward James Olmos

From the publisher: "One of the most decorated groups that served in the Vietnam War, Chicanos fought and died in numbers well out of proportion to their percentage of the United States' population. Yet despite this, their wartime experiences have never received much attention in either popular media or scholarly studies. To spotlight and preserve some of their stories, this book presents substantial interviews with Chicano Vietnam veterans and their families that explore the men's experiences in combat, the war's effects on the Chicano community, and the veterans' postwar lives. Lea Ybarra groups the interviews topically to bring out different aspects of the Chicano vets' experiences. In addition to discussing their involvement in and views on the Vietnam War, the veterans also reflect on their place in American society, American foreign policy, and the value of war. Veterans from several states and different socioeconomic classes give the book a broad-based perspective, which Ybarra frames with sociological material on the war and its impact on Chicanos."


Friday, May 26, 2006

Nuevo y Viejo

Manuel Ramos

UNM Press Fall Releases
Words & Music Literary Conference
Carlos Fuentes
Los Jornaleros Del Norte

Yeah, I know, Summer hasn't even started yet - although you might get an argument in Denver about that; talk about a hot May - but we here at La Bloga are already getting some Autumn literary news:

UNM Fall Releases
UNM Press is one of our favorite presses - that small group of university folks just keeps on providing the Chicano Lit product. The Fall lineup includes (quotes from UNM Press website):

Hecho En Tejas: An Anthology of Texas-Mexican Literature, edited by Dagoberto Gilb: "Hecho en Tejas is a historic anthology that establishes the canon of Mexican American literature in Texas. With close to one hundred selections chosen, the book reaches back to the sixteenth-century exploration narrative of Texas's first Spanish-speaking writer, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. It features prose by Américo Paredes and Jovita Gonzalez, Rolando Hinojosa and Tomás Rivera, Estela Trambley Portillo, and Sandra Cisneros. Among the poets included in the anthology are Ricardo Sánchez, Carmen Tafolla, Angela de Hoyos, and Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado. Hecho en Tejas also includes corridos from the turn of the century and verses sung by music legends such as Lydia Mendoza and Santiago Jimenez, Sr., Freddy Fender, and Selena. In addition to these established names, already known across the United States, Hecho en Tejas introduces such younger writers as Christine Granados, Erasmo Guerra, and Tonantzin Canestaro-Garcia, the famous Tejano authors of tomorrow." Now that sounds good, doesn't it? One of those younger writers is related to La Bloga's own RudyG, but in case she's not ready to admit that yet, let's just say that she is a kick-ass Chicana poet everyone knows as Tonzi.

Big Dreams and Dark Secrets in Chimayó, G. Benito Córdova: "Big Dreams and Dark Secrets in Chimayó is a mythological saga about Flaco Salvador Cascabel Natividad, a native of Chimayó, New Mexico, and an alcoholic. Benito Córdova follows Salvador through situations and encounters that expose his vulnerabilities in light of his community's expectations and standards of masculinity. At various times Salvador is an employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a patient at the Embudo Rehabilitation Center, and a contracted worker for Abiquiu artist Georgia O'Keeffe. ... At a significant moment in the story, Salvador is hauling wood in a snowstorm from the nearby mountains when he is pinned by a falling tree. Night is approaching, it is getting colder, and, as Salvador lies trapped under the tree, he begins to envision his own death, funeral, and burial in terms of how he has lived his life. He sees the failure of his marriage, which ended shortly after it began in an alcohol haze, and he is tortured by his personal demons concerning his identity as a Génizaro, a Hispanicized Indian. Salvador's story is a blend of humor and tragedy that exemplifies today's rural New Mexico."

Curse of the ChupaCabra, Rudolfo Anaya: "When Professor Rosa Medina began to research the folklore of the ChupaCabra, she never expected to tangle face-to-face with the monster. Rosa journeys to Mexico to examine a ChupaCabra incident. The creature has killed a campesino in the jungle. And the drug traffickers who have captured the ChupaCabra also control a large drug shipment destined for Los Angeles. The monster is set loose on the streets; so is the meth that is destroying the brains of the young and vulnerable. This fast-paced story moves from Mexico to Los Angeles to New Mexico. Danger lurks at every corner as Rosa fights to protect her students from the forces of evil. Written for young adults, the story has a universal message. Only Rudolfo Anaya can combine the excitement of a thriller and the wisdom of traditional healings to create a page-turner that has lessons to teach us all."

Mary Helen Lagasse, author of The Fifth Sun (winner of the Premio Aztlán), sends a message that the Words & Music Literary Conference is set for November in New Orleans. This conference was a victim of Hurricane Katrina last year but it returns in 2006 and, the best part, Mary Helen says that "the theme is LATINO - Hispanic authors, works, lecturers, etc." She promises to send us more details as they are finalized. I can see myself at this New Orleans shindig - a combination of two of my favorites, Latino Literature and muffalettas. Híjole.

Noted Mexican author Carlos Fuentes was one of four international personalities recently honored in the Netherlands as recipients of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms medal. The award pays tribute to those who have promoted the freedoms of speech and worship and freedoms from fear and want. In accepting the award, Fuentes said, "A free society cannot confront, much less defeat, its enemies if it renounces the values of freedom, mistakenly believing that by imitating the enemy's ruthlessness we will win." Fuentes's most recent novel translated into English, The Eagle's Throne, got a rave review from Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times. Rafferty called the novel "smashing," "the most wickedly entertaining novel of Fuentes's career," and a "brilliant political novel." The review also quotes Fuentes - "Politics can be dogmatic. The novel can only be enigmatic." So simply stated, so difficult to achieve. Fuentes also is a headliner at the Guardian Hay Festival in Wales, May 26 - June 6, which this year features several Spanish-speaking authors including Carmen Posadas, Rafael Reig and Jorge Franco.

Los Jornaleros del Norte, an L.A. band of day laborers (as all their publicity mentions), sing about immigrant life in the good ole U.S.A., "where to stand on a street corner is to be invisible." Los Jornaleros are the Teatro Campesino of the new movement, and they bring their brand of "protest music" (and good dancing music, too) to Denver to help El Centro Humanitario Para Los Trabajadores celebrate it's fourth anniversary as the only humanitation day labor center in Denver, as well as the American Friends Service Center's Public Gathering. Share in the short awards program and then the dancing at the Walnut Factory, 3002 Walnut, Denver (303-623-3464 x. 1) on June 9th at 6:30 P.M.

The cacti in the photos sit along the side of my house. Here in Colorado I can enjoy the blooming succulents in my yard or stare off to the west at the snow-covered mountains, while dark, massive rain clouds roll in from the east. Now I'm off to look for CDs of Los Jornaleros and the Dixie Chicks.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tu Ciudad's "Best Blog"?

I'm foregoing my planned post to get more input from readers about this Tu Ciudad award (see Dan's post immediately below). Us Chicanos seem to tend to get the good times over with too quickly; I think it's a reaction to 1836 and the Battle of the Alamo, its repercussions not being very long lasting.

You've heard from us. So, what do you normally comment-shy readers think? Was this undeserved? Is there a better blog that went unrewarded? Should us Bloguistas keep our day job, or perhaps consider taking on a night job, as well?

R.Ch.Garcia (a.k.a. snark)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


We have learned that Tu Ciudad has named La Bloga “best blog” for Latino Los Angeles in the soon-to-be-released June-July issue (hitting your newsstands May 25)! Tu Ciudad states that the “writers at La Bloga plumb the increasing depths of Chicano-Latino contributions in the publishing world through book reviews, literary contest announcements, and media news.” Tu Ciudad adds: “The tone is friendly with a wee bit of snark, the content is updated regularly, and the perspective is decidedly Angeleno, as are most of the writers….” (See p. 74 of the magazine for the full write up.) La Bloga thanks Tu Ciudad for the honor.

La Bloga is, indeed, 3/5 Angeleno but we note that 2/5 is Denver-based. This fact is a perfect opening to give a little history behind La Bloga. Here is Manuel Ramos’s version of the "facts":

Back before there was La Bloga, Rudy G. and I would talk, actually we would drink and occasionally mutter something, and during those times, Rudy periodically would send an e-mail missive to various people about various topics—Rudy likes to do that kind of stuff.

One day, a couple of years ago, at a bar with the serendipitous name of Aztec Sol, I mentioned the blog craze that was sweeping the nation and whether that might not be a good spot for his broadsides—get them out of my mailbox and on something universal, if you know what I mean. Eventually our thinking and drinking focused on a Chicano Literature blog with the twist of several people contributing so it would not be just one person's blog.

We have a friend who hung out with us and grew tired of the talk—we have listened to him talk for years, quite patiently, I think, but when the shoe's on the other foot, and all that—and he says now that he motivated us to take the next step—not quite how I remember it, but the acoustics in Aztec Sol aren't all that good, so it could have happened—and Rudy set up the blog on Blogger.

We knew right away to ask Michael Sedano to join us. Rudy and I first met Michael, Internet-wise, on CHICLE, the Chicano Lit listserv that we remember fondly and that achieved something of a mythical status while it functioned. Michael and Rudy were notorious on that listserv, in a good way, and we communicated among ourselves long after CHICLE was unplugged. On one of my book trips to L.A., I spent some time with Michael and his wife, and I think Michael and Rudy have a Texas connection, or something, but I don't think they have ever met in person. (You guys weren't in jail together, were you?)

We started off quietly but almost immediately the Chicano Lit focus got a bit unfocused and we took on all things about la cultura, and politics, of course. When Daniel Olivas started commenting and submitting guest reviews and basically sticking his foot in our door, we knew we had another contributor—a very smart move on our part, I think.

Daniel and Michael were instrumental in signing up Gina, which added a different and unique perspective—we are in need of many more perspectives, by the way. I hope our fifteen seconds on Tu Ciudad brings in new contributors, as well as new readers.

So, that’s our excellent news. Go out and buy the new issue of Tu Ciudad! And if you’re interested in writing guest essays, reviews, or whatever, let us know. We love new sangre.

Finally, in celebration its “best of” issue, Tu Ciudad will be sponsoring these delicious “freebies” on Friday, May 26:

Porto's Bakery (Glendale and Burbank locations) - BEST CUBAN BAKERY/DELI
8am-10am -- When bringing a Tu Ciudad Best of issue, customers will receive the choice of a cortadito OR espresso and a guava & cheese strudel OR cheese roll.
315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, 818-956-5996
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-767-8672
**enter on Orange St. as there is construction on Brand Blvd.

Loteria Grill (Farmer's Market) - BEST MEXICAN in LA
11am-2pm -- When bringing a Tu Ciudad Best of issue, customers will receive an agua fresca and a taco of their choice.
Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St. (at Fairfax), 323-930-2211

Ciudad Restaurant (Downtown) - BEST HAPPY HOUR
3pm-7pm -- When bringing a Tu Ciudad Best of issue, customers will receive one order of carnitas tacos slow roasted with carmelized orange topped with guacamole and arbol salsa.
445 S. Figueroa St., L.A., 213-486-5171

Monday, May 22, 2006


Monday’s post by Daniel Olivas

Marcela Landres is an Editorial Consultant who works one-on-one with writers providing developmental editing for manuscripts, critiques for book proposals, and strategic advice on how to launch and maintain a successful writing career. She works with writers of all backgrounds in fiction and non-fiction, and specializes in helping Latino writers get published. She is also the Publisher of Latinidad, a free career advice newsletter for Latino writers.

She was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster for seven years, where she acquired and edited the bestselling authors Karen Rauch Carter and Dora Levy Mossanen, as well as oversaw the award-winning Spanish language imprint Libros en Español. She speaks frequently for organizations such as The Learning Annex, Columbia University, and The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. A graduate of Barnard College, she is on the Literature Panel for the New York State Council on the Arts, and is a judge for the Beyond Margins Award for PEN, the Latino Book Awards, and The Scholastic Art & Writing Award. In addition, she is a member of the Women's Media Group, New York Women in Communications, and Las Comadres. The media, including The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, often quotes her as a publishing expert.

Raised in the projects of Long Island City, Queens as the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, Marcela is one of the few Latina editors in book publishing. She can be reached by visiting Contact.

CHICANO/LATINO LITERARY PRIZE: The 32nd Chicano/Latino Literary Prize is now accepting manuscripts in the genre of drama. Manuscript must be an unpublished full-length play (90 typed pages minimum). Due date is June 1, 2006. Please visit the prize’s website for rules.

SAL CASTRO CONFERENCE: The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center will host this one day symposium on the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference (CYLC), Sal Castro, and the impact of the youth leadership conference series on Chicanos in California and their education. This symposium brings together CYLC participants, CYLC volunteers, and scholars to discuss the historical and educational impact of the series of high school leadership conferences. At UCLA Faculty Center, Friday, May 26, 2006, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information regarding registration, agenda, parking, etc., visit the CSRC’s announcement.

IN PAPERBACK: Daniel Alarcón’s well-received collection, War by Candelight: Stories (Harper Perennial), is now out in paperback. “…Alarcón, gifted and perceptive, joins a new wave of incisive literary border-crossers that includes David Bezmozgis, Courtney Angela Brkic, Judy Budnitz, and Rattawut Lapcharoensap.” (Booklist.)

ARTE: On Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m., come and join our friends at Tía Chucha’s Café Cultural for this juried art exhibition Cinco De Mayo Cultural Experience, which seeks to represent the broad range of artistic expression throughout the region. Artists from Southern California draw on multiple sources and mirror the diversity apparent in this vast region. 12737 Glenoaks Blvd., #22; Sylmar, CA 91342; (818) 362-7060; Fax: (818) 362-7102;

MAÑANA: Tomorrow La Bloga will be making a very exciting announcement. Do not miss it!

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pedazos y Pedacitos

Manuel Ramos

Sometimes the news is not all good. From San Antonio comes the disturbing announcement that the Guadalupe Book Festival and the Latina Letters Conference have been shelved, at least for this year. The book fair had returned in 2004 after a two-year hiatus with a new name (it was formerly the Inter-American Bookfair) and a narrower scope. The annual Latina Letters Conference, co-sponsored with St. Mary's University, is being "re-visioned" and will not return until 2007. In an article from the Express-News, posted at, Elda Silva details the recent tortured history of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, home of the Latina Letters Conference and the book festival. There are several reasons for the decline of what once was one of the premier Chicano cultural centers in the U.S. - read Silva's article for all of that. What a sad loss, whatever the reasons. U.S. literary events that focus on raza writers and books are rare, and to lose these two with their impressive histories is a serious blow to Chicano Lit; even more sad when it appears that much of the blame can be laid at the feet of gente - no outside meddling necessary.

Meanwhile, the Denver-based Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, which has had its share of struggles through twenty-five years, continues its exciting calendar of events designed to "preserve and promote Chicano/Latino culture in the State of Colorado." Here is CHAC's notice about its current exhibit: "[A] collaboration of creative minds and hearts. Such is the case with the spring mix of eight; James Martinez, painter; Judy Miranda mixed media; Dan Muniz, watercolorist; Benita Olivas, painter; Jeanette Montoya, silversmith; Jose Harold Sanchez, jeweler and metal works; Judy Sanchez, photographer and mixed media and Jennifer Snare, silversmith. What you'll see are precious stones, fused into silver and titanium, unique hand-tooled jewelry that will surely stop you in your tracks, and stunning paintings of Northern New Mexican back road scenes, the likes of Benita Olivas and Dan Muniz landscape watercolors. Make sure to catch a glimpse of the mixed media and fine art photography of both Judy's and enjoy the wonderful works of James. Come join us for Opening Night at Chac Gallery and celebrate Spring, May 19th from 6-10pm! Show runs from May 17th to June 3rd 2006!"

In June, CHAC's line up features artists Roberto Fernandez, Stevon Lucero and Robert Maestas. Also, Traveling from the Tointon Gallery in Greeley, Colorado is the Peace of Mine show which celebrates Chicano/ Latino culture in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Show starts Wednesday May 31, 2006 and runs through July 1, 2006. Opening Reception First Friday June 2, 2006.

I have read three books by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and am working on my fourth. Hey, this Spaniard can write. I started with Club Dumas and found it intriguing - the search for lost manuscripts with hidden messages from "the other side" all mixed in with the Dumas legend certainly filled the bill as a thriller. A bit later I read Queen of the South and was blown away - how could I not be with such a fast-moving, exciting plot that included drug kingpins, double-crosses, violence across the Mexican-U.S. border and the unforgettable character of the Queen, the widow of a murdered smuggler who turns out to be the heroine of her own narcocorrido. Critics called this book a "literary thriller" and a "literary page-turner". Then I found Captain Alatriste, billed as the first in a series of historical adventure novels set in seventeenth century Spain and featuring a soldier and swordsman whose motto could be "have sword, will travel." This book kicks - if you like swashbuckling heroes who are mercenary, tough, cold, efficient, and partial to a sympathetic story or a friend who needs a favor. The details are explicit and believable - this is Spain at the time of the Inquisition, on the decline as a world power but still a major player, where a retired soldier had little choice but to parlay his killing skills into a valuable trade. Alatriste is a thoughtful, intelligent man and his story matches his character. I am now into the second book in this series, Purity of Blood. This time, Alatriste agrees to help rescue a daughter of a friend of a friend from virtual imprisonment in a scandalous convent, at the risk of associating himself with a family that carries the scourge of "impure blood." So far, so good.

That's all I got this week - been a busy one at work. Come back next week, we've got a special announcement we can hardly wait to spring on our readers.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Review: Sister Chicas by Alvarado, Cardinal, Coralin.

Review: Sister Chicas
Lisa Alvarado, Ann Hagman Cardinal, Jane Alberdeston Coralin
NY: New American Library. 2006.
ISBN: 0451217705

Michael Sedano

Some readers avoid coming of age novels, perhaps out of reluctance to raise smarmy emotions, perhaps out of fear of wakening childhood demons, maybe a bad experience with an earlier title. If you, like me, enjoy coming of age stories, you're in for a triple treat when you read Sister Chicas. The three-woman writing team of Lisa Alvarado, Ann Hagman Cardinal, Jane Alberdeston Coralin, have crafted with honest sentimentality an interesting story--and the three-character plot’s the thing wherein to capture the interest of a reader.

What a plot in urban Chicago. Fourteen-year old biracial Taina’s colorful mother insists her daughter fete her fifteenth birthday with a traditional Puerto Rico style Quincerañera. Punked out Leni, a couple years ahead, struggles with all the cultural contradictions swirling around spiked hair, fitting into her worlds while struggling with Puerto Ricanness. College freshman Grachi, is blossoming out of her teens, finding her new expectations clashing with expectations everyone else holds for her.

The authors lull the reader into thinking they have a bubblegum sitcom in Taina’s mother and some breathless events like a virgin’s first passionate kiss. Then halfway into the story, the light and entertaining story of a little girl's 15añera predicament turns profoundly serious, reverberating in everyone’s lives, magnifying all the complications attendant upon falling in love, falling in puppylove, jealousy, rivalry, familia, and coming of age.

In alternating from one woman’s voice to the next, each with her own personal but nearly identical problems, the writers suggest to a young reader that bad as matters may seem, they stay bad. The good news is the girl grows into the woman who can handle every next crisis.

Grachi lives a committed Chicana’s life, working in a bookstore, volunteer tutoring at el centro. A talented writer, her story gives the writers freedom to muse about the writer’s career and writing. There is some good writing going on in Sister Chicas. For example, Leni’s rhapsodic voyage through her neighborhood is a small gem of local color that also captures some of Leni’s estrangement from her Latina culture:

I found myself listening to the bustle around me, the musical sounds of Spanish, playing a game to see how many words I could catch, what I could understand. I walked along the wide streets, and for the first time really looked at the faces of the guys on the stoops, their rides parked in front of the buildings, radios blaring salsa, talking rapid-fire with cigarettes dangling from their mouths. Occasionally their raspy voices would erupt in rowdy laughter. Father down the steps the old men slid dominoes into place on the edge of the concrete stairs, concentrating despite all the noise of the city around them and the cold autumn wind biting through their worn jackets.” (152)

Grachi and Taina are poor, while Leni’s a pampered biracial child with an absent father’s credit cards. Two biracial characters-- Leni is half Irish half PR, Taina’s half black half PR—add further interest to the cultural content of this worthwhile novel. Three voices allow the three writers to weave provocative issues into the novel, making it perfect for young readers to enjoy, share with friends, and talk about in class or with an adult.

Give a copy of Sister Chicas to the boys in your family to treat them to an intimate glimpse into female coming of age sexuality and emotions. Give a copy to the girls in your family for their take on the same thing. I suspect many a girl will see something of herself in the mother-dominated child, the outcast push-it-to-the-limit punk, the do-gooder who will not find time for herself. Such readers will take satisfaction from witnessing how these young women make sense of their lives and move on as best they can. And there's nothing really wrong with punk.

The work is new out of New American Library, and the authors are marketing the title at their own website,

Can you believe it's almost June? time to finish off the current reading stack to make room for some of the titles you've read about and will read here at La Bloga and elsewhere. And remember, La Bloga invites guest columnists! Leave a comment or email me with your column. Until next week,
read! gente.


Monday, May 15, 2006


Monday’s post by Daniel Olivas

César A. González-T. tells me that his parents, José A. González and Camerina Trujillo de González, came into this country by Japanese boat at San Pedro, CA, in 1928-29. González was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. His parents’ labor and sacrifices put him through Loyola High School. González eventually went on to his studies at the University of Santa Clara, Gonzaga, and later UCLA, doing work in the areas of humanities, philosophy, Spanish literature, and sociology. Through the years, González has worked as a dish washer, grape picker, and grave digger.

Along the line, González was an undocumented worker in Mexico for six years, teaching three years in Chihuahua; and, years later, working at a community development project in México, D.F. The walkouts of 1968 brought him back to L.A. to work with the Chicano educational reform movement, including working as a supervisor at a complex of East L.A. Head Starts.

González married Bette Beattie in 1969 (Bette is pictured above), and made their home in San Diego. His first job in their new home was as an employment counselor with Operation SER. In 1970, González began another adventure of a lifetime as founding chair of the Chicano Studies Department at San Diego Mesa College.

In the course of the years, Chicano literature became González’s other great love. Among the many authors whom he’s enjoyed and have come to know especially well, include Rudy A. Anaya, Luis Alberto Urrea, Alma Luz Villanueva, and Tino Villanueva. Recently González enjoyed the work of Ohio writer Lucrecia Guerrero. González’s model and mentor in academe continues to be Dr. Luis Leal.

González has published some poetry, short fiction, and literary criticism including Unwinding the Silence (1987); Rudolfo A. Anaya: Focus on Criticism (1990); and A Sense of Place: Rudolfo A. Anaya, an Annotated Bio-Bibliography (2000), co-authored with Phyllis S. Morgan. Some of his poetry is anthologized and some has also appeared in the Bilingual Review, RiverSedge, Prairie Schooner, Nebraska Humanities, Blue Mesa Review, Saguaro, and others.

Here is a poem by González:

Popule Meus: Improperia / Reproaches*
for CA Prop 187, 1994 / HR 4437, 2005

Patriotism is love for one's country, with the desire to make it better.
-- San Diego Mesa College students, English 205.

"Popule meus,
quid feci tibi,
aut in quo contristavi te?
Responde mihi."
"Oh, my people,
what have I done to you,
or in what have I offended you?
Answer me."

I sought work,
and you exploited my hunger.
I agreed to work for a pittance,
and you called the migra on pay day.
I picked your fruits and your vegetables,
you poisoned me with pesticides,

I tended your gardens, your fields of flowers,
and you flogged me with thistles of sound bytes.
I made your food, served you in your restaurants,
and you have heaped my plate with bile.
I sewed your clothes in your storefront sweat shops,
you threw me out naked into the night.
I watched over your children and loved them,
and you would terrorize even my unborn babies.
I cared for your incontinent and troubled old folks,
you turned my agéd ones out to perish.
I cleaned your warm homes and filled them with love,
and you sent me into the pitiless night.
I have come whenever it suited you,
you have thrown me out when you were through with me;
you use my country as one would a whore house:
Take--without consequence or responsibility.

And now let me tell you what will happen to you:
God will curse you and divide you and you will be confounded.
You will attack others as you sing of "your country,"
and the world will condemn you.
The land that we would make great
will become the Divided States of North America;
you will be nobody's country
until you are everybody's country.

And so we pray:
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas,
Pray for us.
Frances Cabrini, North American saint and patroness of immigrants,
Pray for us.

And finally, with the prayer of the United Nations, we ask for
unity among nations:
"Strike from our hearts
the national self-righteousness that causes hatred and division
between persons and countries,"
we beseech thee, O Lord.
So be it.


* On Good Friday, commemorating the death of Jesus, after the crucifix is unveiled, it is venerated by the ministers and the people while the choir sings the Improperia or Reproaches of the Savior: "Oh, my people . . . in what have I offended you." The following are samples of these reproaches, each followed by the refrain "Oh , my people": "I opened the sea before you, and you have opened my side with a lance. . . . I gave you the water of salvation to drink from the rock, and you have given Me gall and vinegar to drink. . . . With great power I lifted you up, and you have hung Me upon the gibbet of the cross."

[This poem was orignially published in the San Diego Weekly Reader 13 April 1995: 62; distributed free every Thursday in San Diego County. Published Holy Thursday 1995. Also in Phati’tude Premiere Issue 1.1 (1996): 44-45.]

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Ada Limón's prize-winning debut, Lucky Wreck (Autumn House Press). Of this book of poems, González says: “She works hard to create her own vocabulary of ambivalence, quandary and ambiguity -- the everyday contradictions and dilemmas that cause either momentary pause, or unshakable heartache.”

OSU TRIP: I had a wonderful time last week visiting Ohio State University to help celebrate the release of Frederick Luis Aldama’s Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia (University of Texas Press). More on this later.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Man Who Could Fly

Manuel Ramos


At less than two hundred pages, Rudolfo Anaya’s The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) might appear to be less important than it really is. But make no mistake, this slim volume represents a lifetime of quality writing and much appreciated storytelling. It is an essential compilation of Anaya’s cherished abilities to illustrate truthfully the intersection of human foibles and triumphs and to expose the mysteries of the natural and secret world often taken for granted by its human inhabitants.

The short story form challenges any writer. Here are eighteen examples of how to meet that challenge.

The stories cover thirty years of writing, from 1976's The Place of the Swallows, a strange tale of wild boys and their adolescent tribe that develops into a metaphor about leadership, power, mob psychology and the importance of myth, to the first publication of The Man Who Could Fly, a parable that reads like a Mexican dicho full of homespun wisdom that ends with a folkloric moral.

Some of the stories are sensual and earthy - Iliana of the Pleasure Dreams or Absalom - and the characters are people often crippled with emptiness, desire and passion. Others deal with death - sometimes stark and sudden, sometimes a lengthy journey, but always as part of the experience that connects us all, at least in Anaya’s universe. Jeronimo’s Journey evokes sentiments that remind me, favorably, of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo. In Search of Epifano is an old woman’s lament about her lost history and family, but it also reveals how it is never too late, even at the point of death, to recognize what is important about life. Other selections dredge up ancient legends (Message from the Inca and The Village That the Gods Painted Yellow), or are as current as this morning’s newspaper headlines (Devil Deer and Dead End), yet they all have some instruction, some guidance, for any time.

Two stories stand out for me because they give a glimpse into the life of a writer from the perspective of a man who has committed himself to the writing life. The set-up in A Story is that of a writer in search of a story. The author attends a New Year’s day family party - menudo, relatives with hangovers, and, of course, the threat of violence. The author struggles for the story until he realizes that the story is all around him, in fact, the story could kill him. The ending tells me that whatever the risks, the writer must take them for the sake of the story. He must have control. The second writing story is B. Traven is Alive and Well in Cuernavaca, a story that draws on an imaginative narrative about a writer suffering from writer’s block in Mexico at the same time that he is feted by fans and sycophants. The ghostly image of the mysterious B. Traven hovers in the background, almost taunting the writer. As the story progresses, we see how the writer must weave threads of fantasy, dreams, and outright lies into a reality that is more true than actual experience, until at last, the story is "overflowing" and the writer must write it.

Finally, The Silence of the Llano - a gem. Anaya obviously understands the struggles of the people of the lonely and forlorn llano, the place where he was born and raised. He is at his best when he portrays the simple and hard lives of these people. He imbues the story with rough texture and subtle sentimentality. He includes the spiritual and the natural as well as the day-to-day agony of loneliness and despair. This is a sad story crying out for release. It is a testament to the storyteller’s charm that when the ending surprises us we accept it. We believe it. That’s about as good as it can get with a story.


I'm flying myself because my short story, No Hablo Inglés, is up at the Hardluck Stories site. Here are the opening lines:

The lone ray of sunshine streaming through a crease in the dirt-stained window caught the corner of my eye and my head throbbed. A splinter of pain lodged itself in my eyeball. I sucked on a Tecate and a slice of lime whose rind had brown spots. I couldn’t remember the name of the joint in Juárez that had produced the hangover.

“So, what’s the deal, Manolo? Can you do any kind of lawyerin’, or is it like, you know, over for good?”

Nick knew I didn’t talk about my disbarment, but he asked crap all the time.

“Nick,” I answered, looking him straight in his blood-shot eyes, “can you still say Mass? Give communion with the watered-down tequila you serve?”

Read the rest of this and several other very good stories in the Borderland Noir issue of Hardluck Stories.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Review: José Latour. Comrades in Miami

Michael Sedano

José Latour. Comrades in Miami. A Novel. NY: Grove Press, 2005. ISBN 0802118100

There's a nice irony in the title of José Latour's 2005 Cuban espionage thriller, Comrades in Miami. Cubans in deep cover in Miami remain true to the revolution, follow orders, carry out missions unquestioningly (except those who don't), while in Havana, Cuban intelligence bureaucrats occupy themselves protecting their elite privileges, cynically mouthing platitudes as they observe the deterioration of the Chief and the nation, and most people spend at least part of their lives thinking about ways to get out.

Elliot Steil is an everyday mid-career expatriate trading company executive. Steil is the Spanish-speaking lynchpin, third in command to a pair of long time business partners. When Scheindlin dies, his trophy wife takes a sudden interest into the company's illegal deals with Cuba.

Steil has become a millionaire and has settled into normalcy. The solid executive has come far from the morning he floats onto US shores in an innertube in Latour’s first novel, Outcast. Steil has been supporting relatives and friends back in Cuba. When he decides to take a sentimental journey, his path collides with a network of long-time sleeper agents buried in the heart of Miami.

Victoria Valiente earns her way to the top of Cuban intelligence on puro merit. Promoted by the Chief himself and dubbed his genius for her infallible hunches about defectors and traitors, Valiente launches a scheme to get out of Cuba and get her hands on the million dollars her husband has stolen from the Cuban government in his role as a computer nerd.

Victoria's infallibility crumbles when she discovers she is unprepared for US culture and her plan founders on the shores of Bal Harbor. Or Bel Harbor. Despite having local street maps memorized as part of her spykeeping, Victoria gets lost in the cultural geography, forcing her to capacity with evermore difficult obstacles to a bag of money and a passport. Steil, alerted by the FBI, plays the unwilling host to kidnapers, con artists, spies of various nations. He's blackmailed, tied to his bed, played for a fool. Obviously, he's the one who wins. That's not giving away anything.

Latour, according to the dustjacket, lives in Toronto. The expatriate writes with a warmness for Cuban people and a razor for the throats of its leadership. When Steil visits his old school, he meets three gamins and buys each a set of clothes. Steil loves his suegros, the sick ex-wife, the sugarcane workers in his rural hometown:

"That evening, as he watched his wide-eyed aunts, his uncle, and other family members opening boxes and gasping in surprise, shaking their heads in dismay, and deploring that Elito had spent so much money, Elliot reflected that the innocence, candor, generosity, and honesty displayed by people born and raised in rural Cuba had to be perplexing for those who live where scheming, distrust, and suspicion are essential to survival and success. If in his childhood part of their kindness had rubbed off on him, only traces remained." 138

Readers will enjoy the story Steil trades with Sobeida about Cuban science that has the Chief proclaim "Starting tomorrow, we will be able to feed ourselves with stones." But just as it's not polite to reveal details of an exciting thriller like Comrades in Miami, it's not kosher to spill the beans about the punch line of that joke, either.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Cristina Henríquez’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and AGNI. She was featured in Virginia Quarterly Review as one of "Fiction's New Luminaries," and is a recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award, a grant for emerging Texas Writers started by Sandra Cisneros in honor of her father. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Henríquez’s first book is Come Together, Fall Apart (Penguin), a collection of stories and a novella.

Cristina Garcia says of this collection: “This is no ordinary debut. In story after lyrical story, Cristina Henríquez challenges us to revisit the familiar terrain of love, family, and separation—and discover something new about ourselves. She writes with a rare delicacy and compassion. Her tales will lodge themselves deep in your heart.” The San Francisco Chronicle recently reviewed Garcia’s collection calling it “luminous.” Henríquez lives with her husband in Dallas.

BECAUSE WE DON’T LIVE ON BOOKS ALONE: Tu Ciudad magazine tells us that Babita Mexicuisine is “a cozy San Gabriel restaurant, [that has] a mix of classic Mexican fare and what chef/owner Roberto Berrelleza calls ‘creational cuisine.’” The magazine recommends the Panuchos Yucatecos appetizer (a Yucatecan-style tostada), fiery Shrimp Topolobampo, and fall-off-the-bone-tender barbacoa (braised beef cheeks). 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, 626-288-7265. Tues.-Thurs. 11-2:30 & 5:30-9; Fri. 11-2:30 & 5:30-10; Sat 5:30-10; Sun. 5:30-9. Elba Berrelleza, waitress, recommends the Chicken and Shrimp Elba.

NEWS FROM THE UCLA CHICANO STUDIES RESEARCH CENTER (CSRC): The spring issue of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies has been sent to subscribers. If you are not a subscriber, subscribe now so that you can read about two films, Star Maps (1997) and El Norte (1983), that are “part of a wide range of fantasies and ideas about U.S. national identity”; about the history of the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, which helped exonerate seventeen Chicano youths who were convicted of murder in Los Angeles in 1942; about the material benefits that result from educational pursuits made by Mexican-American women; and about the pioneering Mexican rock band Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del 5 Patio. The dossier section—Loss Angeles—brings together prose, personal memoir, and poetry composed by three Los Angeles–based Chicana/o writers who reflect on the recent loss of a family member. To read the introduction or see the table of contents, click here. If you are not a subscriber and want to be one, e-mail your postal address to the CSRC Press to receive a subscription package.

FILM AT TÍA CHUCHA’S: On Wednesday, May 10, at 7 p.m., Tía Chucha’s Café Cultural will be showing Trudell. Trudell is a captivating, moving film that weaves archival footage and contemporary interviews together with John Trudell’s own words and music in a mystic way. The film artistically portrays the passionate, painful and multi-dimensional life of this Dakota man who went from being a spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1968 to Chairman of the American Indian Movement in the turbulent 1970’s to an internationally recognized poet, recording artist and actor in the 1980’s and 90’s. John Trudell will be present for Questions. Address: 12737 Glenoaks Blvd., #22, Sylmar, CA 91342. Phone: (818) 362-7060; Fax: (818) 362-7102. Write to for more information

RIGOBERTO GONZÁLEZ: As readers of La Bloga know, poet, novelist, children’s book author and essayist Rigoberto González reviews books almost every Sunday over at the El Paso Times which I often link here. Unfortunately, after a week, those links disappear and the reviews go into archives…and due to scheduling problems on my part, I’ve failed to mention the last couple of reviews. So, I recommend that you check out the Living section of the El Paso Times each Sunday to see what books are being reviewed by Rigoberto and other gente. Ramón Renteria, the book editor at EPT, produces a beautiful page of book coverage; it’s worth checking out.

OHIO HERE I COME: I will be the guest of Ohio State University’s English Department today to celebrate the publication of Frederick Luis Aldama’s newest book, Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Writers and Artists (University of Texas Press). Here’s a nice little announcement from ¿Qué Pasa, OSU? During the day, I’ll meet with students to discuss their writing and then the evening will include a joint reading and signing at the Faculty Club. I will also be signing my collection, Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press).

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

Manuel Ramos


From "The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some recognition in other parts of the Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population. It is not, as many people think, Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually September 16." There is plenty of information about this holiday and the Battle of Puebla on the Net. For example, go here for a good summary - same site that has the above graphic of Benito Juárez.

Floricanto Press announced the recent publication of several books, including:

Jalapeño Blues, Trinidad Sánchez, Jr., a poetry collection described as "full of heart, humor and joyful song; they are a history of Chicanos and working class struggle. They give life to forgotten souls and pay tribute to those 'unrecorded in history.'"

La Picardía Chicana: Latino Folk Humor - Folklore Latino Jocoso, José R. Reyna, "the result of thirty years of work, contains five hundred twenty-six jokes which are reproduced here verbatim from tape recordings collected in the field. ...This book represents the best of Mexican American joke tradition."

Bruno Estañol: The Collected Fiction, translation from the Spanish and preface by Eduardo Jiménez: "The narratives collected in this volume are mainly set in the State of Tabasco, during the turbulent time period running from the Mexican Revolution to the late 1950’s. ... Estañol’s skeptical, ironical and slightly philosophical brand of humor resonates with the work of such fellow Latin American writers as Juan José Arreola, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ernesto Sábato."

Go to the Floricanto site for more about new books and the backlist.

Francisco Aragón, founding editor of Momotombo Press, will lead a panel discussion on small press publication of poetry and fiction at 4 p.m., Friday May 12th, in the Alumni Room, Old Main, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. The other panelists are María Meléndez, an associate editor at Momotombo Press, and Steven Cordova, a Momotombo chapbook author.
All three will also give a poetry reading at 8 p.m., Friday, May at Cherry Street Restaurant, 57 S. Cherry, Galesburg. The events are free and open to the public. More info here.


The Spring, 2006 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection has as its theme Hispanic Detective Fiction. Rolando Hinojosa graces the cover of this issue and one of the major articles in the issue is Crime and Community in the Rafe Buenrostro Mysteries by Mary Sanders Pollock. This article is introduced this way: "Rolando Hinojosa’s Partners in Crime (1985) and Ask a Policeman (1998) belong to a multivolume, multigeneric exploration of the Texas-Mexico border, the Klail City Death Trip series. Although Hinojosa’s novels defy reader expectations of detective fiction, they contribute to a broader canvas of Rio Grande Valley life, a zone of heightened danger, deep friendship, complicated history, and multiethnic community."

Other articles in this issue include Neoliberal Noir: Contemporary Central American Crime Fiction as Social Criticism by Misha Kokotovic; Crimes Present, Motives Past: A Function of National History in the Contemporary Spanish Detective Novel by Shelley Godsland and Stewart King; and Forging National Identities: The Classic Detective Story in Argentina by Gianna M. Martella.

Stories on Stage is a Colorado non-profit performing arts organization that showcases local and national actors in dramatic readings of short fiction. Stories on Stage presents literary stories by writers of diverse cultural groups, read by professional actors of varying backgrounds to an audience that reflects Denver's unique community. On May 19 - 20, Stories on Stage presents the play Beyond the Border, which uses the words of Tom Tancredo, Ken Salazar, Rosa Brooks, Waldo Benavidez, Tina Griego and others to explore the complex issue of immigration and Latino identity. Denver's José Mercado (North High School's Zoot Suit Riots and One Love) brings this production to life as the director. Hollywood actors Tony Plana and Ada Maris will join local performers Adriana Gaviria, Gabriela Cavallero, and Manuel Roybal. Tickets are $25, which you can order here.

The Association of American Publishers Publishing Latino Voices for America (PLVA) Task Force has declared May to once again be Latino Books Month. According to the PLVA announcement, "throughout the month of May, booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry are encouraged to promote reading among Latinos in their communities, and to raise awareness of the rich variety of books authored by Latinos that are available in both English and Spanish." Has this changed your reading life?


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize

I apologize for posting out of turn but I just learned of the following news...

Each year, Bear Star Press awards the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize ($1,000 and publication) to a writer living west of the central time zone. The contest also serves as the press's best pool for finding new voices. I just got word that Manuel Paul López of El Centro, California is this year's winner for his collection, The Death of a Mexican & Other Poems. I remember reading his poetry a few years ago in ZYZZYVA and being quite moved by his talent. Bear Star Press will publish the winning collection this year. More news later.

--Daniel Olivas

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Guest Essayist: Reyna Grande


By Reyna Grande

As the debate on illegal immigration continues, I’ve been thinking more and more about my own journey from Mexico to the United States 21 years ago. My parents left me in Mexico for five years while they worked in the U.S. The experience of being left behind scarred me for life. This is why, in 1998, I began to write about it, for as I was growing up in the U.S. I never read any books that dealt with the experiences of children who were left behind, even though it is not uncommon for parents to leave their children when they come to America.

This June my first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, will be released by Atria Books. It is the story of a young girl in Mexico whose father leaves for the U.S. and is never heard from again. This story is fictional, but it is based on some of my experiences. The young girl’s fear of never seeing her father again is real. Her fear of being forgotten is real. Her struggle to maintain her hope alive is real. I lived it.

In 1979, my father became one of the many illegal immigrants entering the United States. He left his family behind in Guerrero, Mexico in order to give them a better life. We lived in a little shack made of bamboo sticks and cardboard. Our bellies were full of parasites; our hair was infested with lice. We went around barefooted and had no money for school. We had no running water. We bathed in a canal littered with trash and with horse dung floating by. We went around gathering cow dung to burn in order to keep warm and scare the mosquitoes away. My father left because he had two choices: 1) stay in Mexico and see his children suffer, with no possibility of a better future or 2) leave for the United States and give them a chance to succeed in life. By choosing to leave my father gave me the greatest gift a parent can give a child—the possibility to succeed.

My father brought me and my siblings to the United States five years after his arrival, when I was almost ten. Crossing the border was a trial. On our first attempt I became sick and suffered from fever most of the way. My father had to carry me on his back, up until we were caught. In one of our three attempts we discovered the body of a man who had been killed by a blow to the head. His body was partly hidden under some bushes. My father said the smuggler must have killed him. On our third and final attempt we ran across the border under the cover of darkness, trying to hide from the helicopter flying above our heads. Life in the United States was not easy. I was enrolled in the fifth grade, although in Mexico I was just finishing third grade. I was put in a little corner to be taught by the teacher’s assistant. My teacher didn’t speak Spanish, so for the rest of the year I was not able to communicate with her. My father taught us to value education. He drilled into our heads that we were lucky to be living in America. He often threatened to send us back to Mexico if we didn’t get good grades and learn English. He talked about the importance of having a stable job, a retirement account, owning a house.

Now I am thirty, living the American dream. By leaving Mexico and taking his chances in the United States my father changed the course of my life completely. Because I live in the United States, I am a college graduate, I am a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District, I have my own house, I have a car, and best of all, I am an author who is being published by Simon & Schuster. Only in America can a person go from being an illegal immigrant to a published author.

I teach English as a Second Language to adults, most of which are illegal immigrants. I see my parents in them, for some of them have children in other countries, and they, like my parents before them, struggle daily to find a way to be reunited with their sons and daughters. In my classroom I see hardworking people who came to this country to flee the miserable poverty they had to endure in their countries. I don’t see criminals. I see human beings who want what’s best for themselves and their children.

People in the United States are divided about what to do with illegal immigration. Even I find myself confused as well. There are many sides to the issue, but the one thing I am certain of is that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are not addressing the root of the immigration problem—poverty. The fact is that as long as there’s a choice between making $5 a day or $5 an hour, people are going to keep coming to the U.S. Increasing foreign aid should be a crucial component of the immigration debate, yet it has sadly been neglected. The debate between the Senate and the House of Representatives makes no mention of how the U.S. can assist other countries to better their economies.

People who are opposed to immigration keep saying that illegal immigrants should go back where they came from. Go back to what? Extreme poverty? Under education? Environmental degradation? Over-population? Disease? Civil Disorder?

Up to now, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars on the war in Iraq. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the Pentagon spends $6 billion a month on the war. That money could have gone to improve education, health services, and social security here in the U.S., and it could have also gone to assist impoverished countries to help improve their economic opportunities, health care, and education as well.

The response of the House of Representatives to the plight of the people of disadvantaged countries has been to simply erect a wall and keep those people out. In short, what they are proposing is for the United States to turn a blind eye to all the poverty that exists south of the border-- as if by building a wall Americans can ignore the plight of those who have nothing.

Immigration is a complicated issue, but this is what it boils down to—when faced with watching their children suffer or giving them a chance at a better future, people will do whatever it takes to come to the United States. If my father hadn’t come to the U.S., I don’t know what my life would have been like, and honestly, I don’t even want to think about it.

Reyna Grande is the author of the forthcoming novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria Books), coming June 2006. Readers can visit her at