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.



Unknown said...

He's one of my favorite writers and Queen of the South is an especially favorite book of mine. I think I even reviewed it on AmoxCalli once upon a time. I'm writing this from an Internet Cafe in La Mesa, Tijuana before we head out to Rosarito. I'm addicted to my email.

Manuel Ramos said...

Have a great time down in Rosarito - a place I have heard about but never visited. Hope you have some good books with you - if you haven't already, you should check out the Captain Alatriste series. Perez-Reverte has a great ability to change his writer's voice to match the story, so Captain Alatriste and Purity of Blood have a different tone from the Queen of the South.

C.M. Mayo said...

I am really sorry to hear about the news with the Guadalupe Book Festival. That was the very first book festival I ever attended-- it must have been 1997, I think-- I remember hearing Mexican writers Juan Villoro and Jose Agustin read. Later, the Guadalupe Book Festival was the first book fair where I displayed my literary journal, Tameme. I had a table next to Mustard Seed Press. Naomi Shihab Nye came by, and Brian Clements, and the editors of a very cool Tamaulipas literary journal. May it be revived, and soon.