Friday, June 30, 2006


by Manuel Ramos, all rights reserved

To ease the arthritic pressure
I sit slumped
in a plastic chair in
a suburban gazebo
from a kit
that sits steadfast
in the back yard
of my urban casita -
Santa Fe tile over a Denver brick box.

My fat bud, Buddha,
serenely grins
at my wife's sad
but reverent Virgen flag
flapping in the dry wind,
while I try to understand
the sad
but existentially true
stories of the Chilean novelist
who had to wait for death
to find readers.

Charanga Cakewalk entertains
from a portable music maker
and I marvel
at where La Onda Chicana has landed,
the legacy of Sunny Ozuna,
or maybe
I wonder whatever happened to ?
(Note to myself - google Mysterions.)

Last night we danced
to Al Hurricane and Al, Jr.,
me more reluctant than she,
talked about the good old days,
during Sentimiento
I compared godfathers -
Senior's patent leather hair
reminded me of James Brown's pompadour
back in those same good old days.

I sip on excellent Grechetto
from Umbria,
snack on roasted piñon
and salt-free soy nuts,
and pine
for a Tami's Large with everything
including fries.

The mexicanos next door are having
another baptism
or quinceañera
or graduation
or yard sale,
and they seem so happy about it
that I gulp the wine
and laugh.

I catch Buddha laughing, too,
and even the morose lady
from Guadalupe
cracks a smile.



Thursday, June 29, 2006

Smoking ban – a smoke screen

July 1st Denver joins cities that ban smoking in bars and restaurants. You know the reasons for and against the practice, and likely you think this is something positive. Before you celebrate too fiercely, get too drunk, and wind up wrapped around a highway pylon, let me put it in perspective for you.

For all you ex-hippie tree-huggers out there, don't think the Denver ban has anything to do with environmentalism, like Earth Day.

According to John McConnell (self-proclaimed founder of Earth Day), he conceived it as "a global holiday to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet." Internationally, UN Secretary General U Thant signed a proclamation establishing March 21st as an annual event "to deepen reverence and care for life on our planet."

Neither McConnell or Thant envisioned bars with non-smoking drinkers loading themselves up on alcohol, then climbing in their SUVs to somehow make it home, while their auto exhaust filled the air with pollutants, as somehow part of the environmental movement.

For all you health nuts, realize that smoking bans have little to do with caring for the health of Americans. Face it, you're still going to put alcoholic poison into your body (smoking or not), get as high as you think you can manage, climb in that SUV and risk both yourself and anyone who crosses your path as you drive-stagger your way home. As one Denver bar owner who's against the ban put it, "We don't serve anything good for you in here."

If American politicians cared about our health, we'd all have decent, affordable health insurance, affordable drugs and medical treatment, nationally funded family planning, etc. Politicians care about cheap laws, like banning smoking, that make us think they're taking care of our health.

For all you outdoorsy types, smoking bans have nothing to do with "clean air." Remember that after you leave your smoke-free restaurant, you're breathing the same filthy air that's responsible for most of the pollution contributing to global warming.

George Dubbya kept us out of the Kyoto Accords signed by 140 other nations. Consider yourself in an exclusive club the next time you inhale that air in your favorite bar: every other country in the world is doing something about the entire planet's atmosphere, not just worrying about 100,000 sq. feet or air in a restaurant.

You might also notice on your way home that the smoking ban doesn't apply to the power plant to your right and the packing plant to your left that still spume away effluents, right into your nostrils. Plus, there's radioactive hope on the horizon: George Dubbya's bringing back nuclear power plants, in case you forgot what those can do to your lungs.

Lastly, for those of you who don't fit the prior political labels and who just take things as they come, your take on smoking bans might simply be, "At least it's an improvement."

There's nothing really wrong with admitting you care more about the air in your bar than worry about that of your planet. There's nothing wrong with admitting you never marched in an Earth Day protest, but will immediately report all cigarette-smoking violators. And there's nothing anti-American about considering your own interests first.

Just don't fool yourself into thinking it relates to anything more than that and admit that while you hate smoke, you can accept a smoke screen.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The making of an Aztec Drum

Gina MarySol Ruiz

Ancient grandfather of times long past
Aztlan, El Gran Tenochtítlan Pyramids of the Sun and Moon
The Rabbit in the Moon Navel of Mextli, la luna Mexico,
Me-shee-co pronounced with that soft “x”
ssh… like a whisper in our flowery, melodic Nahuatl.
Oh Ancient one, ancient drum
Made of the sacred tree
Stripped of bark and
Hollowed out by fiery coals
Lovingly carved and
Fitted with just the right skin
Of a deer or other mammal
The one that calls, that
Produces just the right timbre.
While copal - another ancient one
Burns in the copalero
Sinuously gliding up to heaven
Huehuetl, old grandfather
Náhuatl name for drum
Sometimes over a year in the making
Prayed over, dreamed about, longed for
Work and time offered as sacrifice
To the old ones, los antepasados
Each chip of the wood, each shaving
A piece of our culture saved
Preserved, for times to come
Xipe Totec – la nueva vida
The new life – springtime.
A new drum, ancient father
In your likeness
In defiance of La Conquista
They conquered nothing Abuelo
Porque aquí estamos toda día
We are still here fighting
Loving, remembering, honoring
Ustedes los anicianos
With every beat of our drums
Our hearts – corazon - yollotl
Our souls – alma - elhuayotl
Our memories – recuerdo - tlalnamiquiliztli
Our dreams –sueños – cochitlehua
Huehuetl, querido anciano
Cherished drum of los Mexicanos
We are still here in spite of Genocide, torture, rape
Stripped of our language, our bright feathers
Our children, our elders
Our warriors so brave in battle
Over 500 years
A new century in this, our stolen land
And we are still here
Grandfather, abuelo, huehuetl mio
You hold my culture in your steady beat
My son releases your music, your heartbeat
At the ceremony of Tonantzin,
Virgen de Guadalupe Mother Earth
And we dance, querido abuelo
For the ancient ones
Those whose dreams were stolen
And our feathers shine brightly
In our headdresses
Quivering with joy
As we do the danza, the sacred prayers
El circulo
The never ending circle

Monday, June 26, 2006

Her Story

Immigration novel drew from writer's own journey

By Daniel A. Olivas
[This profile first appeared in the El Paso Times]

Creative-writing professors often admonish their students to "write what you know." Apparently Reyna Grande took this advice to heart with her debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria Books, $23).

Grande eloquently and with great power puts a human face on undocumented immigration with Juana, a poor Mexican girl who leaves her small town to find her father in the United States.

"I used many of my own experiences to give shape to Juana's life," Grande said.
For example, when she was just a few years old, her father and later her mother left for the United States to earn money to give their children a better life. In the novel, Juana's father leaves when she is 12.

The crushing poverty Grande's family endured in Mexico also made its way into the novel: "When my parents left, my siblings and I lived in a little shack made of bamboo sticks and tar-soaked cardboard, which is exactly like the shack where Juana lives." The nearby canal flooded their shack during the rainy season; Grande made that a pivotal plot element in Juana's story.

Grande's journey to the United States as an undocumented immigrant imbues the novel with realistic and horrifying details that could only come from experience: "I still remember the helicopter flying above us, and the dead man we found hidden under some bushes." Of course, Grande had to research aspects of her narrative when she lacked experiences to draw on, but this is the job of a novelist who wants to get it right.

Grande's next project is an as-yet-untitled novel that explores the world of folklórico. "Mexican folk dancing is a subculture in the Latino community, but it isn't written about much," she notes. In the novel, she writes about five women and their relationship to folklórico. An excerpt will be published in Latinos in Lotus Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, which will be released in 2007 by Bilingual Press.

There is no question that Grande is living the American dream. She was born in Guerrero, Mexico, in 1975, and entered the United States at age 9. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in creative writing from the University of California at Santa Cruz. With that, she became the first person in her entire family to obtain a degree. In 2003, Grande became a PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, which led to her getting a literary agent who placed Grande's novel with Atria Books.

Grande hasn't let critical acclaim go to her head: "I struggle to improve my life little by little because I have a son who looks up to me."

A child couldn't ask for a better role model.

Praise for Across a Hundred Mountains:

 Publisher's Weekly gave it a "starred review."

 The prestigious Kirkus Reviews called it "an affecting debut on Mexican poverty, illegal immigration and cosmic injustice."

 The El Paso Times praised the book in a review ("Not so alien after all") April 16.

Yvette Benavides offers a recent review in the San Antonio Express-News.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Manuel Ramos


On April 30, a fire in the basement of the Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque destroyed or damaged several periodicals and collections. According to a letter to the UNM faculty from Fran Wilkinson, Associate Dean, University Libraries, among the areas "completely destroyed were history, Latin American studies, Native American studies, Hispanic studies, and African-American studies. Other damaged areas were geography, anthropology, archaeology, religion, philosophy, and cultural studies." Sounds like a major disaster. Some of the library may open on June 26 pending the State Fire Marshall's approval. Meanwhile, Dean Wilkinson notes that there have been "many generous offers of donations from the faculty and the public" but, unfortunately, there is no place to store donations at this point.

Here are a few recommendations from trusted sources - I pass them on without, unfortunately, having read them yet:

Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño (New Directions, 2006) From Publishers Weekly - "Chilean Bolaño (1953–2003) wrote 10 novels (including Distant Star, published to acclaim last year), books of poems and two story collections before this one. These 14 bleakly luminous stories are all told in the first person by men (usually young) who yearn for something just out of their grasp (fame, talent, love) and who harbor few hopes of attaining what they desire. New Yorker readers may remember two selections: Gómez Palacio, concerning the grimly uneventful encounter of a Mexico City writer with the woman who directs the backwater writing program where he comes to teach, and the title story, set in 1975, in which a young Mexico City man and his father vacation in Acapulco—a trip their relationship is not strong enough to survive. The stories are similar, in theme and voice (though not in locale), and they are perfectly calibrated: Bolaño limns the capacity of a voice to carry despair without shading into bitterness. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved." Thank you, Jesse Tijerina, for the tip.

Raymundo Elí Rojas in Pluma Fronteriza announces that the Delgado family have republished Abelardo Lalo Delgado's classic, Chicano: 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind. $12 plus $2 shipping, payable to Dolores Delgado, 6538 Eaton, Arvada, CO 80003.

Adiós Hemingway by Leonardo Padura Fuentes (Canongate, 2005): This book has been available in English for a while now, but High Crimes Mystery Bookshop listed it in a recent newsletter, so something's going on here that deserves attention. According to Booklist,"Mario Conde is a retired Havana cop obsessed with Hemingway, so when the skeletal remains of a man killed on Papa's Cuban estate 40 years earlier are unearthed, it's only natural that the police ask Conde to work the case. A celebrated mystery writer in Cuba, Fuentes offers a fascinating mix of fact and fiction, jumping between present and past, and vividly dramatizing Hemingway's last days in Cuba. What is most fascinating about the book is the character of Conde, torn between his mixed feelings about Hemingway the man and the writer, but drawn to the case like a supplicant to the altar. Fans of Cuban noir will love the cars, the crumbling chic of old Havana, and, of course, the aftertaste of rum-soaked decadence, but best of all, finally, is the priceless anecdote about Ava Gardner's black silk knickers, a souvenir to die for."

Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett, Dog Day (Europa, 2006): Spanish author Gimenez-Bartlett was awarded the Feminino Lumen prize for the best female writer in Spain. Her Petra Delicado detective series has made her one of Spain’s most popular crime writers. From her publisher's website: In Dog Day, "detective Petra Delicado and her maladroit sidekick, Garzon, investigate the murder of a tramp whose only friend is a mongrel dog named Freaky. One murder leads to another and Delicado finds herself involved in the sordid, dangerous world of fight dogs. A crime story for dog lovers and lovers of dog mysteries."

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could tell me why Blogger won't let me upload images. This is a recent glitch that just showed up one night.

That's all I got.


Friday, June 23, 2006


Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and other Quinceañera Stories. An anthology from Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Edited by Adriana Lopez

Publication date: Summer, 2007

Deadline for Pitches: June 26, 2006. Please include a 1 page story idea, a bio note, and information on previous publications.

As hard as you may have tried to forget that nightmarish Quinceañera your parents forced you to have or perhaps you really wanted for ambitious reasons of your own---this anthology will smack you in the face with those white taffeta tainted memories. We're looking to ensemble a collection of 15 kitsch-filled, humorous first person tales about this beloved and sometimes over-the-top Latino coming-of-age ceremony. We'd like to know if yours was a disaster, if you attended aQuinceañera party that ruined your sense of reality or good taste, if you deflowered the Quinceañera in the bathroom (or were yourself at your own Quince), if your Uncle was hitting on all the Quinceañera's friends, or if any particularly laugh-out-loud Quinceañera experience(either your own or one you attended) has marked you for life. We want to capture the essence of this ceremony, in all its glory-- both good and bad, but ALWAYS funny.

Think weird--like scenes out of John Waters' Hairspray, think David Sedaris and Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy, think Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides. Think your colorful aunts, with their ten feet high hairdos, dirty dancing with your 15- year-old guy friends to Madonna's "Like a Virgin." You know, images from our past that make up who we are and which make us giggle after weve all had a few cocktails. For a sense of the voice were aiming for, please check out Bar Mitzvah Disco (Crown, 2005).
ESSAY LENGTH: 7,000 words


SUBJECT LINE: Quinceañera Pitch

PAYMENT: $1,000. Upon publication


FINAL DEADLINE: August 7, 2006

About the editor

Adriana Lopez is a writer and editor based in New York City. She was the founding Editor of Críticas magazine, Publishers Weeklys sister publication on the Spanish- language publishing world and served as the spokesperson for the Association of American Publishers (AAP) LatinoVoices for America initiative. Lopezs work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Time Out, Black Book, Latina, among other publications. Her non-fiction essays have appeared in Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass & Cultural Shifting (HarperCollins, 2004), Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Todays Feminism (Seal Press, 2002) and Hopscotch: Latin American Cultural Review (Duke University Press, 2000). Her latest short story will appear in a fiction collection of Latina writers coming in 2007 from Simon & Schuster. She is a member of PEN America.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Address to the Class of 2006

by RudyG

It's almost the end of June, and I wasn't invited to speak to any college graduating class. So it seems I've been passed up, again.

To boot, this year I was seriously ready. So these deep thoughts don't go to waste, I address this to all college and university graduates in the U.S.A. Please pass it on to anyone you wish:

I'm honored to be addressing you today. If you find bits of humor in my words, it's because I'm going to soften the blow; but I won't soften the truth of where you're headed.

Although you'll soon hold college diplomas in your hand, your public schools were underfunded, so many of you may not be able to fill out a job app or read a magazine. I'll try to make things clear by prefacing them with, "This means..."

In the early '60s, average homes sold for $12,500, 2.5 times the income of a new college graduate. Today, the median home sells for $218,000--almost 5 times the income of today's graduate. (In Boston, it's 6 times.) This means that instead of a 30-year mortgage, you might need a 60-year.

To put it another way, in 1974 it took 1 full-time wage earner to afford an average home. 20 years later, in 1994, it required 2 full-time wage earners. That was 10 years ago. What will it be in 10 more, in 2014-- 3 or 4? This means polygamy will become more than a religious fad.

Most of your grandparents eventually owned their own homes, and some of your parents do or will. But this means that to do the same, you might have to live a frugal life dictated by a 50-year mortgage.

You graduating today have an average of about $20,000 in student loans, for a B.A. $100,000 of loans is not unheard of, and we're not talking about med school.

Congratulations on graduating! You have now entered American society as an adult. This means you are fully entitled to more debt, interest, penalty and late fees than anyone else ever on the planet.

"It's not your fault." Say that a few times until you start to believe it. It's not your fault if you can't afford to buy a house (unless you hit the lotto). It's not your fault if you can't afford the payments (unless you marry a rich spouse). It's not your fault if you default and wind up moving back home (unless you come into a big inheritance). Say it, because it's true. The numbers don't work in your favor.

If you don't come to believe that, you may find your teenage years' angst was the highlight of your life. You will punish yourself. You will lose self-esteem. This means you will become an alcoholic and recall your college binge drinking as a productive apprenticeship.

So what should you do about a place to call your own?

First of all, while you still have money, you could buy a copy of "Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America" by B. Ehrenreich. This means homelessness would become part of your future and panhandling, your career.

Secondly you could spend weekends at your parents' house remodeling that attached garage into a fully equipped, separate unit. This means you will always have somewhere nice to live, hopefully with decent rent and not so nosey or noisy landlords.

Lastly, my advice to you is keep the first two ideas as back-ups. You've got a better alternative: just wait.

Wait until after the bird flu pandemic, and sellers will be paying you to live there and watch over their property. This means you may have to wait a long time until enough people get infected, but at least you won't be accruing interest while you wait.

Or: wait until this overpriced housing market hits near-bottom. Word on the street is you can thank the Republican racists for scaring undocumented mexicanos into dumping their homes cheap on an already falling market, before heading back home.

In my neighborhood where the asking price was about $175,000 last year, one home was lowered to $136k. It didn't sell. Today they're asking $112k. I guess it'll go for $108k.

But I think that's still too much. Don't bid on this one; wait until they're all falling. This means you might be cussing me out two years from now because prices went up. (Go to this site to see how bad it's getting:
On the other hand, it might mean you're mailing me a case of Maker's Mark because you didn't go into debt for a quarter of a million dollars--not uncommon today.

I could tell you more: about why you should adopt a kid instead of making your wife have one that has your eyes; why you can give up getting a car every few years; why you need to save 25% of your income and what to do with it; etc.

But I've taken a lot of your time, and I know you just can't wait to get out there and on with your life. After all, there're unpteen banks, mortgage and credit card companies also out there eagerly awaiting your checks. Plus, I've got to save some material for next year, in case Mt. Holyoke calls.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Without Walls" Wows 'Em at Taper

Michael Sedano

If there's one constant in the seats around the middle of the house at the Mark Taper Forum, it's me. I've sat these seats for the longest time and grown accustomed to seeing the same faces. The past two performances have seated new people to the left, and most recently, the seats in front filled with new heads. Maybe it's temporary, the old people will return for Culture Clash's Water and Power in July.

Without Walls offers a star turn for Laurence Fishburne. The actor stands center stage to open the three character drama, and remains in the spotlight throughout the no intermission play. Fishburne shares the stage with Matt Lanter and Amanda MacDonald.

The pair of ingenues held their own. Ms. MacDonald delivers her lines in an ear-catching cadence that is the only distinction of an otherwise thankless role. Mr. Lanter plays the confused boy as playwright Alfred Uhry wrote him. With an Oscar, a Pulitzer, and a pair of Tony's to his credit, I expected Uhry to write Lanter's Anton McCormick with more intensity. Leafing through the program, I found myself disappointed not to catch the understudy, to see what an actor named Amelia Jean Alvarez would do with Lexy Sheppard.

No matter, Fishburne's over the top personification of Morocco Hemphill would hold center stage against the strongest cast. Teacher. School. Plot. That's all you need to know. It's the performance that counts this time. I've enjoyed Fishburne's work since he busted Martin Sheen's ass on that boat heading upriver in Apocalypse Now. His Napoleon Fortlow was effective in the Walter Mosely tv epic Always Outnumbered. Still, I suspect a lot of the thunder behind the star's curtain call was offered up in homage to Fishburne's character in The Matrix movies.

As most of the audience rose to beckon the cast out for a standing ovation I remembered Morocco's warmest memory of taking three ovations during his uneventful chorusboy career. Would Fishburne get his three? Exeunt. The audience demands the cast return for a second round. The cast exits, enthusiasm wanes, the house lights come on. Exiting, I get another reminder that it's a new crowd; they don't know how to get out in a hurry, so snaking down the steep steps takes forever. When the Saturday matinee sunlight on the plaza warms my face I ask myself if missing this was worth the hours in the darkened auditorium?

Without Walls runs through July 16 in Los Angeles' Mark Taper Theatre. An afternoon or evening well spent.

Independence Day coming around the bend. What to read on a lazy holiday weekend?

te wacho.


Monday, June 19, 2006


Monday's post by Daniel Olivas...

Self Help Graphics & Art


Aleida Rodríguez, Maria Meléndez and Francisco Aragón on Sunday, June 25, 1:00 p.m. marking the occasion of the exhibit:

Artists Conversing with Verse”
June 6 – July 6, 2006

Poetas y Pintores: Artists Conversing with Verse is a collaborative project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadershp at Saint Mary's College in Indiana and the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The interdisciplinary project presents the work of both established and emerging poets as inspiration for the creation of original artwork, allowing Latino/a artists to enter into "dialogue" with the work of Latino/a poets. For more information please visit:

Self Help Graphics & Art
3802 Cesar E. Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 881-6444

Contact Info at SHG&A: Omar Ramirez

The Poets:

Aleida Rodríguez is the author of Gardens of Exile (Sarabande Books, 1999), which Marilyn Hacker selected to win the 1998 Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize. It also went on to win the PEN Center West 2000 Literary Award in Poetry for the best book of poems published the previous year, and was the only poetry book named to the “Tops of 2000” list by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council. Her work has recently appeared in Dana Gioia’s California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books, 2003). Her poems have appeared in various journals, including The Seneca Review, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Spoon River Review, whose Editor’s Prize she won in 1996. She was recently profiled in The Face of Poetry (University of California Press, 2005), a book which features the work and portraits of poets who have been part of the Lunch Poems reading series at UC Berkeley. A native of Cuba, Aleida Rodríguez resides in Los Angeles.

María Meléndez teaches creative writing and multi-ethnic literatures at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Her collection of poetry, How Long She’ll Last in This World, was published in January 2006 by the University of Arizona Press, and her chapbook, Base Pairs, appeared in 2001 with Swan Scythe Press. From 2000-2003, she worked as Writer-in-Residence at the UC Davis Arboretum, where she taught multicultural environmental poetry workshops for the public. She currently serves as Associate Editor for poetry at Momotombo Press, and her own poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in such magazines as International Quarterly, Orion Afield and Ecological Restoration.

Francisco Aragón is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press, 2005) His anthology publications include Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California (Heyday Books, 2002), and American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement (University of Iowa Press, 2001). His poems and translations have appeared in Poetry Daily (, Crab Orchard Review, Chelsea, The Journal, and the online magazines Jacket and Electronic Poetry Review. He is the founding editor of Momotombo Press, which promotes emerging Latino writers, coordinator of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, and co-curator of Palabra Pura, a reading series in collaboration with the Guild Complex in Chicago. These projects form part of Letras Latinas, the unit he directs the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

PROFILE OF REYNA GRANDE: My profile of Reyna Grande appeared in this Sunday's El Paso Times. Her debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria Books), will be published this week. Visit Reyna's webpage for her book tour calendar.

PLASCENCIA ON FUENTES: Salvador Plascencia, author of The People of Paper (McSweeney's; Harvest Books), reviews for the Los Angeles Times The Eagle's Throne (Random House), the new novel from Carlos Fuentes. He calls it "an absorbing novel that weaves in and out of the minds of a dozen characters with a virtuosic display of ventriloquism."

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

Friday, June 16, 2006

Con los pobres de la tierra

Manuel Ramos

Original music by José Fernández Díaz
Lyric adaptation by Julián Orbón, based on a poem by José Marti

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

Guajira Guantanamera

Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo

Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca

Guajira Guantanamera

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar
Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera

©1963,1965 (Renewed) Fall River Music, Inc (BMI)
All Rights Reserved.

Guantánamo is the easternmost province of Cuba. Its provincial capital, of the same name, is associated geographically with an enormous purse-shaped bay, one of whose shores is occupied by a US Navel Base, often called "an offense to Cuba's national sovereignty." There are hundreds of detainees held at the base, without having been tried or found guilty of anything, going on five years. For more information about Guantánamo Bay and the violations of international law by the US, visit the Amnesty International site.

On June 14, President Bush said that he'd "like to close Guantánamo" but added that the U.S. still needs "a plan" to deal with the detainees. He added: "No question, Guantánamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends — provides an excuse, for example, to say, ‘The United States is not upholding the values that they’re trying to encourage other countries to adhere to.'"

Ya' think?

What I find telling about the President's statement is that he does not say that the excuse for the criticism is invalid.

Two Saudis and a Yemeni hanged themselves with clothes and bed sheets at the prison on Saturday.

Bush made his comments a few days after someone in his State Department called the suicides "a great PR move."

The latest issue of Bookforum has a section on the poetry of Guantánamo Bay's detainees. This section includes poems from detainees as well as a poem from family to a detainee, and an interview with an attorney who represents some of the detainees. About a year ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story about one detainee who described how writing poetry helped keep the detainees from losing their sanity.

Thanks to Alma Luz Villanueva for the lead to Bookforum.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

La Chicanada to Scotlandia?

by RudyG

Growing up in Texas, it was a big deal if we got to go across town to the "other" amusement park --the one the Anglos went to that had more and bigger, usually working, rides than the one on our side. It reminds me of episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris" because I went to Chris's school, at least the San Anto version. Such memories were how some Chicanos grew up during the 1950s, events that made for a distinct, sometimes hard, upbringing.

Today ain't the 50s, thank Quetzalcoatl. This summer, 15 mostly Chicano/mexicano, Denver North High School students are invited to perform "Simply Maria", a dark comedy written by 17-year-old Josefina Lopez (from Los Angeles). Hell, they're not just going 'cross town; they're headed to "the world's largest arts gathering", the International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Chicanos performing for Scots? On a world-class stage? For the full story, you can go to the URL below, but come back when you're done:

I saw the Black Masque Theater perform "Zoot Suit" last year to a sold-out crowd, and I kept forgetting I was in a high school auditorium--they were that chido. Their performance rivaled others I've seen in professional settings, and I felt a certain rare pride in mi raza.

A great deal of credit must go to their teacher/director Jose Mercado, who fought the DPS administration when they wanted to cut the program. Mercado comes by way of the Chicano theater group Su Teatro, and he's one of the finest results of their community work.

If you ever get the opportunity to witness them perform, do it; they are impressive enough to even make you love theater.

Yeah, they need $60k! But imagine--they've almost got it. This is one of those village things; it takes more than just their work and Mercado's to get them to Scotland.

They could use la Chicanada's help. Our help.

If each La Bloga visitor contributed $10 (or more), they could reach their goal. Wherever you live in Aztlán, think of these unpaid, hardworking Chicano/Latino/mexicano kids as representatives of our shared Chicano culture, about to present it to the world.

If you have your own blog or website, consider doing a short post on the Black Masque Theater, and feel free to link to this post. Help spread the word, maybe only because we didn't get to go across town very often when we were young.

Whatever you decide to do, do it soon, today even. Their ride won't wait.

Tax-deductible checks can be made payable to North High School Theatre Dept. and sent to:
North High School
ATTN: Scotland
2960 N. Speer Blvd.
Denver, CO 80211

If you're visiting, emigrating to, or residing in Denver, you can also contribute by attending the fundraiser below (although I'm not certain the kids will be performing).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Review: Michele Martinez. The Finishing School.

Michael Sedano

Last August I promised myself I'd read another Romilia Chacon mystery. It's June and I haven't, so it was with a pang of guilt that I picked up a detective novel featuring Melanie Vargas, a federal prosecutor working New York city's sleazy crime scenes.

Michele Martinez' current offering is The Finishing School. Two high school girls dead from heroin overdoses. A missing girl. A hunky cop and Melanie can't connect. Single mom Melanie keeps her ex- in close proximity for child care and spontaneous sex. There's a mixed bag of bad guys. The corrupt administrator at the fancy private school. The dead girl's father. A flashy drug dealer.

Martinez likes to keep several stories going forward. Melanie and Dan lust so intently they repel one another, or collapse in outrage. The kidnaped girl and her sister. The tryst between the administrator and the dead girl's father. The drug ringleaders, the flashy guy and the mysterious voice. The investigation and its cast of characters, Ray Ray, Bridget, and Dan.

Running five threads can become a burden, leading Martinez to take plot shortcuts. But the writer also rewards the reader with some gems of expressiveness. The synaesthesia of the following may come back at you in the future when you're standing near a snack bar:

"The big metal elevator heaved and shimmied its way up to the Sky Rink. He came out into a large seating area that reeked of what he first thought was vomit and then realized was the soggy cheese on the pizzas at the concession stand." 179

But then maybe since the "he" is a bad guy, it could be a case of what you smell is what you are? These are some evil bad guys. Melanie herself is recklessly adventuresome, as when she goes into a dark tunnel with a suspect. But she's not adventuresome enough to figure out how to connect with Dan. But that's Martinez' fault. She's still working out some of the character's quirks, like the titillating elevator ride, when Dan and Melanie find the perfect moment for a grope ascending the elevator to her place. Of a single mind, they rush to Melanie's apartment only to lose their ardor when the ex-husband answers the door with two glasses of champagne.

The Finishing School is Martinez' second in the Vargas series. When I hit the shelves next week, I'll be looking for Martinez' Most Wanted, and another of Villatoros' Romilia Chacon novels.

Did you see my epiphyllum blossoms? I had the last purple magenta giant yesterday. It was Sunday, and was home and could see it all day long. Makes it hard to write and read. See you next week.


Monday, June 12, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Jose F. Aranda, Jr. is an associate professor of Chicano/a and American Literature in the English Department of Rice University. He received his Ph.D. from Brown University. Professor Aranda has written articles on early U.S. criticism, nineteenth-century Mexican American literature, the future of Chicano/a studies, and most recently undertaken an investigation of the relationship between modernism and Mexican American literature. He has also begun work on his next book, tentatively entitled Why I Dreamed of Jeannie But Became a Chicano Instead. This book is a critical exploration of television, popular culture, the Vietnam War, and the news media and the subsequent roles they played in shaping the political and cultural identities of the first generation of Mexican American children to be hailed by the Chicano Movement. Aranda is also at work on a long term project to write the cultural biography of nineteenth-century Californio writer Marma Amparo Ruiz de Burton. He teaches courses in Chicano/a literature, Asian American fiction, and nineteenth and twentieth-century U. S. literature.

Nationally, Aranda sits on the board of Recovering the U. S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project. He has been appointed by the MLA Executive Council to the Committee on the Literatures of People of Color for a three year term. He also an active member of the MLA Chicana and Chicano Literature Division. Aranda is also an associate editor for the revised edition of Prentice Hall Anthology of American Literature and Culture, general editors, Dean Rader and Jonathan Silverman, as well as a series editor for Postwestern Horizons, a new book series in U. S. western studies for University of Nebraska Press, general editor Bill Handley. In Houston, Aranda is a board member of two literary arts organizations Inprint and Nuestra Palabra. Professor Aranda is the author of several books including When We Arrive: A New Literary History of Mexican America (University of Arizona Press), and co-editor of Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage: Vol. 4 (Arte Público Press) with Silvio Torres-Saillant

THE ANNUAL TRANSCONTINENTAL POETRY AWARD: Pavement Saw Press seeks to publish at least one book of poetry and/or prose poems from manuscripts received during this competition. Selection is made anonymously through a competition that is open to anyone who has not previously published a volume of poetry or prose. The author receives $1000 and a percentage of the press run. Previous judges have included Judith Vollmer, David Bromige, Bin Ramke and Howard McCord. All poems must be original, all prose must be original, fiction or translations are not acceptable. Writers who have had volumes of poetry and/or prose under 40 pages printed or printed in limited editions of no more than 500 copies are eligible. Submissions are accepted during the months of June, July, and until August 15th. All submissions must have an August 15th, or earlier, postmark. This is an award for first books only. Visit the guidelines page for details.

NEW EPT REVIEWS: Rigoberto González says that after nearly a 15-year lapse since her last full-length publication, Lorna Dee Cervantes makes an impressive comeback with Drive (Wings Press), a five-books-in-one, 307-page poetry tome she claims is only the first quartet. Full review. Also, Ramón Renteria, book editor for the El Paso Times, reviews Meredith E. Abarca's Voices in the Kitchen (Texas A&M University Press), a string of personal narratives featuring her mother and other Mexican and Mexican-American women. Abarca conducted a series of charlas culinarias (culinary chats) with working-class women to write the book.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: María Amparo Escandón will signing Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Co. (Three Rivers Press) at Borders Books in Pico Rivera this Wednesday, June 14, 7:00 p.m., 8852 Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera, CA 90660. Phone: 562-942-9919.

Also, Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural presents Maria Finn Dominguez on Saturday, June 17 at 4:00 p.m. She will be reading from Mexico in Mind (Vintage Books), an anthology she edited. Ranging from 1843 to present, the book offers a remarkably varied sampling of English speaking writers' impressions of the land south of the border. John Reed rides with Pancho Villa in 1914; Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs are literally intoxicated by Mexico. Ann Louise Bardach meets the mysterious Sub-comandante Marcos face-to-face. Tía Chucha's is located at 12737 Glenoaks Blvd., #22; Sylmar, CA 91342. Phone: 818-362-7060; Fax: 818-362-7102. Email: If you haven't been to Tía Chucha's yet, you must. Not only can you get your favorite Latin@ books and music (not to mention great coffee and sweets), but it's also a community center that can always use a little love and support. Here is their wish list.

URREA TELLS IT LIKE IT IS IN THE NY TIMES: In Sunday's New York Times, Luis Alberto Urrea has an op-ed that, using his words, "speaks positively of a town working the immigrant thing intelligently." I tried to get a link but it appears that I have to subscribe online and pay dinero. Anyway, if I'm wrong, feel free to put a link in the comments.

MAGICAL REALISM: MARGIN, the online journal dedicated to exploring modern magical realism, has a new issue out. The editor, Tamara Kaye Sellman, notes that in this issue, "[s]ome major Latina writers (Elena Garro, Teresa Porzecanski, Marta Traba, Luisa Valenzuela, Rima de Vallbona) get overdue credit for their magical realist literary perspectives."

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

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Fresh off of appearances on CNN and MSNBC -- and the endless sessions in Los Angeles as he records the audiobook version of The Hummingbird’s Daughter -- Luis Alberto Urrea will be featured in a 45-minute program from the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago. The event was taped last weekend and is an interview by the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, talking about The Devil's Highway and immigration.

The program will air Saturday, June 10, at noon EDT on BookTV (and likely more often than that). Check your local listings.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Spain; Alma Luz; Renters' Rights

Manuel Ramos

This will be short - Blogger is giving me fits.


The V Congreso Internacional de Literatura Chicana recently concluded at the Universidad de Alcalá (May 22 -25). This conference is celebrated every other year under the auspices of the Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Estudios Norteamercianos and this year the theme was Interpreting the Nuevo Milenio. In conjunction with this conference, Paralelo Sur, a Spanish literary magazine, sponsored
I Jornadas, Los chicanos en EEUU: lengua y literatura (May 25 - 26.) Chicano Lit all over the Spanish academic scene - with numerous Chicana and Chicano academics and writers speaking, moderating, and participating on panels at both of these events. Among the participants were good friends of La Bloga such as Lucha Corpi, María Teresa Márquez, and Rolando Hinojosa, and also on the agenda were very familiar names in the world of Chicano Lit, or Chicano issues in general: María Herrera-Sobek, Francisco Lomelí, Alejandro Morales, Tino Villanueva, Norma Cantú, Estevan Flores, Elisa Facio and many, many more. This is the kind of event that deals with topics such as La figura femenina en la literatura chicana; Chicano identity in Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo; and Geopolitics, border politics, and hermeneutics in Chicano/a culture.

Rolando Hinojosa sent us this message about his take on I Jornadas:
"The literary journal, Paralelo Sur, (Number 3, Abril 2006), dedicated 90% of its work on Chic Lit; it included the usual suspects: Nicolás Kanellos (Panorama de la literatura hispana en EEUU); Juan Bruce-Novoa (La novelística de Alisa Valdés Rodríguez); María Herrera Sobek (Sobrela novela de Denise Chávez); Klaus Zilles (Experimentación y diversidad lingüística en la obra de Rolando Hinojosa), poetry by Tino Villanueva and Ana Castillo, a paper by Norma Elia Cantú, and a piece of mine, Es el agua. I also read a piece which then was followed by an introduction by Zilles that included audience participation regarding immigration, bilingualism, and other Chicano matters. Full houses both days."

The conquered have conquered the conquerors?

The author of Ultraviolet Sky has a new website loaded with information about her and her books. As she says on her website, her fiction and poetry have been anthologized widely in the the USA and abroad. She has published three novels: The Ultraviolet Sky (American Book Award, listed in 500 Great Books by Women); Naked Ladies (PEN Oakland fiction award, anthologized in Caliente, The Best Erotic Latin American Writing); and Luna's California Poppies. Weeping Woman, La Llorona and Other Stories, is a collection of short stories. She also has several collections of poetry, including Desire. César A. González-T. , recently profiled by Daniel Olivas here on La Bloga, has written extensively about the works of Villanueva. You can find his The Liminal Space of Desire in the Poetry of Alma Luz Villanueva here at this link.

González-T. sent us this note about one of his favorite authors:

"Alma Luz Villanueva has a forthcoming collection of poetry, Soft Chaos, from Bilingual Press, projected for 2007. Her extensive novel, The Infrared Earth, is currently actively in search of a publisher. Since moving from Santa Fe to San Miguel Allende, Queretaro, Mexico, her next novel could be either La Pocha Loca or Crossing into the Rainbow. As her 'next book of poems slowly gather,' she writes, 'they seem to be "border poems," all borders, but especially the USA/Mexico one - I cross it often."

This week saw the publication of my latest book - Colorado Landlord-Tenant Law From the Perspective of a Tenant Advocate, 4th Edition (Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, 2006). Yeah, it's not a novel or collection of short stories, but I'm still jazzed. And my publisher tells me that The Tattered Cover has already made an order. Cool.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A squirrel in Ed B's attic - fiction

"Of course I tried covering up the holes with sheet metal. Didn't stop the damn squirrels for long."

On this late May afternoon, Ed B and I stood out front of his century-old, Victorian-style home downing our second beer. Even though it was still spring, the mid-ninety degree weather reminded us how much global warming could change the natural course of things. Ed's trademark, extended burping reminded me how much everyone in our writers group loved the guy, and that's why I was here. Periodically I'd heard about the pests in the writer-guru's palatial brownstone. Off for the summer from my teaching job, I'd decided to help out the old guy with his problem.

"They eat the sheet metal. Brick, wood, titanium--nothing stops 'em."

In truth, most of Denver suffered from its own squirrel-pandemic, something never featured in the Chamber of Commerce ads that appeared in East and West coast mags--the Sciurus niger species of fox squirrel, with teeth stronger than a beaver's. Hosts to bubonic-plagued and rabies-infested fleas, the rodents also consumed most anything grown in glade or garden--apples, pumpkins, strawberries; hell--they'd even chewed up my hops for making beer, even though they wouldn't eat the pulp, just tasted it and coughed it up.

Titanium? Sure, Ed B. wrote lots of spec lit--fantasy, horror, sci-fi, etc.--but subtlety was his normal approach to most things, including his writing; exaggeration didn't fit him, so I assumed he was only sort of being serious.

"You wanna see where they're getting in?"

I was something of a handyman, having successfully started probably a hundred projects on my own house, some of which I'd even completed. Although Ed knew more about plotting a story, I knew I knew chingos more about nailing a board. For all he'd done for aspiring Denver writers over the years, I figured he deserved my help reaching his dream: to fix the place up and sell it to some Californicators with too much cash on their hands. Then he'd retire to Sinaloa to open his own fruit juice/tequila bar.

"Believe me when I tell you it's impossible to get to from the inside; we gotta use the ladder."

This was the last thing I wanted to hear. I'd always had a problem with heights. Jumping off two-story houses when I was a kid might have explained it, although I never broken a leg. Just drove my femur up past my sphincter a couple of times.

And Ed's ladder reminded you of something you'd see rising from the top of a fire truck. The thing easily reached beyond thirty feet and was probably illegal in half the continental U.S. The prospect of climbing the contraption threatened to put a dent in my goodwill.

"Don't get your balls all in a tangle; it's safe. I've done it a thousand times."

Now, when an eighty-year-old-looking Anglo guy tells a fifty-ish Chicano male something like that, it can only be taken in a macho-challenge way. My fear of heights drowned under a flush of adrenalized maleness. One of the reasons women live longer than men.

Ed B headed up the ladder, clutching his beer can like he was a twenty-something Spiderman. I set mine down and followed like Spiderman II until about eighteen feet up where I turned into Tommy Turtle. Ed waited at least five minutes for me to cover the last six thousand feet, which is what it felt like. I didn't think five minutes was too long, considering how difficult it was holding onto bare metal with hands sweating like my palms' pores had all sprung leaks, with eyes shut tight enough to bust their tiny veins, and with knees shaking like my knees always did when I faced the prospect of death.

"A little scared o' heights, are we?" His chuckle did nothing to help me off the ladder and onto the roof that had a pitch that would have made a roofer triple his rates. Ed set his can into a plastic holder taped onto a vent pipe.
"Here: hold onto this," he handed me a cord so thin I thought I could almost see through it, "and try not to look down too much, ha, ha," which of course I did the opposite. Luckily, most of my vomit missed the ladder.

"I can see you had eggs for breakfast, but you sure you got the huevos to do this?"

It was a little fokkin' too late to ask or answer, so I nodded just slightly so as not to lose more of my meal.

"I think this is where the suckers get in." Ed B pointed to a hole the size of a quarter, dotted all around with nail and screw holes; a thick ring of varied colored glue, caulk and that Liquid Nail stuff. It was what I'd feared most; he'd tried everything I would have. Except for one.

"No, I haven't plugged it from inside. I told you: you just can't get to it from the attic. The way this old house was constructed, you gotta crawl the last ten feet under the framework, on your belly. It's too tight of a fit, and there's no room to swing a hammer or handle much of anything."

Suddenly I saw the light of hope, the promise of salvation, something to get me off this roof. Ed was a bigger boozer than me and much of that alcohol homesteaded in his belly; mine was easily half his size. Maybe I could go where no Ed had gone before.

"Well, if you think you can and you're willing to take a stab at it."

I only sort of lied; what was true was that no matter how tight of a fit it turned out to be, I'd find a way to wield a hammer or screwdriver or forklift if I had to in whatever space God might provide me--anything to get me back off this incline.

"Hear 'em?" He meant the sounds coming from within. Something alive, scratching away.

I instantly had visions of angry, infected, biting and clawing squirrels jumping out the hole, attacking me, and shredding my skin all the time it took for my body to reach the lawn.


I was halfway onto the ladder before he finished uttering the word. Of course, it took several more minutes to force my foot to take its first step down to the next rung, but I got very encouraged when squirrel chirps were added to the scratching noises.

By the time Ed B joined me on the ground, my palms were nearly dry and my shorts, only half-soaked.

"Nothing like an invigorating drink to go with an invigorating brush with death. Care to join me?" He stepped around my vomit.

As it turned out, I managed to calm down after half a bottle of Ed's Agavero. It was supposed to be sipped, but I couldn't help swallowing most of mine.

* * *

"To tell you the truth, I don't like being in this attic so late in the day. Gives me the creeps."

Coming from a man whose fictional characters had amputated, dissected--hell, even eaten raw--all manner of dead and living tissue in his stories, it sounded cutely ironic, like hearing President Bush had tripped over a WMD. I answered with a shake of my head.

"No, really. Sometimes when I go to the head late at night and I'm standing there taking a leak, I can feel their eyes on the back of my neck, staring at me through the exhaust fan grill. Once, the bulb burned out and when I looked up, I swear I saw a pair of eyes glowing all green at me.

"Anyway, this is as far as we can duck-waddle. From here on you gotta go belly-down. You can maybe still see some light coming through their hole. Take the lamp and watch yourself."

It felt like two hundred degrees, and we sweated like Enron executives at a sentencing. Worse yet, the light showed me it was more than a tight fit. I crawled in and managed fine until the wooden frame lodged my shoulders tight, still five feet from being able to reach anything. That's when I heard the scratching again, from behind me, and could feel something like little teeth nibbling the edges of my shoe soles.

"Hey, you suckers!" It sounded like Ed and a squirrel or two were having at it. Given my delicate position, my money wasn't on the rodents.

"Sons of ..." The commotion stopped. "It's okay; I beat 'em off of you for now, but they might come back. You seen enough?"

I had, and I'd also wiggled around enough to know we'd have to train a squirrel or midget how to plug the hole. Either that or spray cement to fill in that last five feet. Anyway, the perspiration from my brow made it almost impossible for me to stand staying any longer. Plus all the booze Ed had forced on me wanted out.

As I backed off, I realized I'd successfully passed a lot of extra long nails on my way in only because they pointed the same direction I'd been moving. Now that I needed to retreat, I would be driving the nail points into my body. I was wedged in. Without a hammer. Without the space to point the lamp and see the nails, although I could feel exactly where each one was.

So Ed B composed his most redundant phrase ever: "You're not stuck, are you?"

After I'd described how stuck I was, he responded, "Shit! Now what're we gonna do?"

I was more worried about Me than any We. Ed could go for help, even call up the fire department if he had to. I'd come over to help him fix his house, and now I might wind up costing him a new chunk of roof and some major repairs. Pendejo, I felt. There had to be another way.

"You're right. Look: I'm going to get this neighbor who's a carpenter. Maybe he's got an idea; he's usually home about this time. You wait, okay?"

Like I had another choice?

"You'll be fine for a while."

Sweating and all hot like I was, that "while" felt like it turned into an hour, although it might have only been fifteen minutes. Soon my bladder would bursst. I tried several more maneuvers: twisting around, spiraling, pulling out one arm, then two, but the nails were everywhere.

Then the sounds started up again. Only more of them, and closer. Claws on wood.

I wasn't that worried since I assumed the squirrels could only get to my feet. If one came at me through the hole, I figured he wouldn't be able to stand the lamp's heat. Worse came to worst, I'd wind up needing some shots. Was there one for bubonic plague? I guessed I'd find out. To conserve its battery, I turned off the lamp, my only defense. I knew the sun was setting from the light fading through the opening.

If you've ever been in a cave without any light, you know what happens. Your eyes can't believe the absolute darkness, and after a while they make up their own light. Mine started doing that. That didn't bother me so much until my nose started making up its own smells; at least, I hadn't noticed any before.

It was the same smell that had derailed Ed B's selling the brownstone the year before. He guessed it came from a squirrel dying up there after he'd succeeded in shutting the hole up, for the umpteenth time. They must have died of starvation, and that's when the rot-smell started. If Ed had only waited a couple of weeks for total decomposition, he might have sold the place off to that unsuspecting "gentry" and been E-mailing us from Sinaloa.

At the moment, I knew even partial squirrel decomposition would chase away any buyer. Vapors from my previous puking still hung in my throat, and my stomach lurched in response to the odor of death. I did what I could to keep it down because my situation was bad enough as it was. I wasn't about to face a bunch of laughing firemen pulling me out of my own pukey mess. A man's got his limits. I heard Ed climb into the attic.

"Turns out my neighbor's not gonna show; he's working up in Aspen. You know anybody I can call? Or got any other ideas? I'm ready to accept there's no choice but to call the fire department."

I'd already gone over things in my head. Maybe one of my construction-savvy buddies could figure out a way; I just doubted it. From where I was, the only escape was forward, through the roof, by cutting a hole in it. My friends might be able to do that, but in the dark and a thousand feet up, it'd be better to let the pros handle it; at least they had a real ladder. I told Ed to make the final decision, though I guessed what it would be.

"Okay then, I'm gonna call 'em. Be back soon. Sit tight."

I could see tomorrow's headlines: Heroic Firemen Save Dumb Chicano. I'd never live it down. A great help I'd been. Serendipitously, the smell took my mind off my embarrassing future.

Actually, it wasn't really the smell; it was the smell moving. I was certain it had been on my right, and now it came to me from my left. Nearer, too. Since I wouldn't need it much longer, I was tempted to turn on the lamp, but my mind seized up at the dread of maybe not being able to handle what lay in the dark.

As I realized it crept closer, my hand remained frozen, unwilling to flick the switch. I knew I had to prepare to defend myself, blast whatever squirrel was in front of me, not let it bite my face (Dumb Disfigured Chicano Saved...), but I couldn't bring my shaking under control to press ON.

That's when I felt a tongue--all wet and sticky--lick the trembling fingers of my left hand. The wetness was warm, the tongue soft and small, like maybe I'd found an infant squirrel just learning to crawl. An infant that wallowed in its own feces, but maybe not something so hazardous to my good looks.

I thought of baby-talking to it but worried that a human voice, especially a nervous one, might agitate it enough to attack. A cooing, half-murmuring squeal convinced me it had to be a little one. The voice plucked at vestigial paternal instincts, making me want to at least pet it, but I imagined the second I did so, a flea infestation would latch onto me, and I'd be the Dumb, Disfigured and Diseased news, so I held back, just enjoying my own private communing with urban nature. My body sweat abruptly ceased. Through the roof I heard someone walking around.

"It's just me, but they're on their way. You still okay, right?" He didn't bother waiting for my response, not that I desired to break my communal. "You know, I've talked to pest companies, even experts at the Fort Collins college that know everything about squirrels. They say what I tried so far should have worked. They couldn't understand why my squirrels are always so determined to get it."

At that moment, I did understand. What licked my hands--by now I'd also offered it my right--was giving off pheromones that acted at a primordial level of Family. It reminded me of our animalness, of our shared blood and bodies, our likeness of flesh. It soothed away all civilized stupidity.

"You want more light in there?" Ed pointed his flashlight into the hole, its long beam burning a one-second snapshot into my brain of my new friend.

He wasn't really a friend; he was a bunch of them. Apparently, every time Ed B had succeeded in stopping up the hole, a squirrel or two had died and putrefied. But the decomposition had never affected the tails and paws, and somehow they'd maintained a life of their own. Another repercussion of global warming? A Cheyenne curse born of the Sand Creek Massacre? The exact origins didn't seem to matter.

That brief image burned into my mind replayed itself. The rotting baby's body was naturally covered with maggots. But, a dozen furry tails of various lengths and thicknesses, and even more paws had attached themselves all over its corpse and swayed to their own life-rhythm, propping up the putrefying corpse and moving it around as if it still lived. Where it's eyes had been, the plumpest, hugest green maggot things plunged in and out. It would have been a hilarious j-peg if it had come up googled on the Internet. Where I lay, it seemed like the most natural thing.

When it smiled at me, it broke my trance, and nothing felt natural to me now. I broke out in gallons of sweat. Nails or no nails, heroic firemen or not, I couldn't wait. I don't remember if I screamed as I grabbed the ceiling joists and shoved myself--back the way I'd come. But I do remember worrying what would happen to my pieces of flesh left hanging there.

* * *

The heroic firemen brought along an ambulance; otherwise, they say, I would have lost too much blood before getting to the emergency room. Now I'd grow old looking like Godzilla had worked me over, but I would grow old, which is supposed to be a consolation.

The month after I recovered, I quit the writers group and never returned to Ed B's. He still writes fantasy and horror and such, and I hear his beer belly's taken up more of his belt notches. I can't verify that because I haven't seen him, although he's called a few times. When I see it's him on caller I.D., I don't answer because I know he's going to ask what happened in the attic that made me panic. And I know he wouldn't be satisfied with my telling him it was just a squirrel.

As it turns out, I guess I did help Ed B, however inadvertently. Because of my close encounter he gave up and let the squirrels stay, figuring he'd bequeath them to the next lucky homeowner. Plus given his penchant for the odd and supernatural, if he knew the truth it might affect his decision to sell the place, and his Sinaloa bar would remain just a dream.

© Rudy Ch. Garcia, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006


Monday's post by Daniel Olivas...

An announcement from Laura Molina, Publisher of Chican@ Art Magazine:

The first quarterly print edition of Chican@ Art Magazine is scheduled for June 2006. The featured artist is Jaime "GERMS" Zacarias. It also features an article on "Project MASA", an annual outer space themed Chicano art exihibition in San Antonio, Texas, curated by Luis Valderas. Other articles include the art of Gloria Osuna Perez and Carlota Espinoza, Gilbert "MAGU" Lujon - Cultural Vehicles & "Keep On Crossin'." Regular features will include reviews, events, media and culture. The mission of Chican@ Art Magazine is to disseminate information about Chican@ Art , the artists, the history and the Movement itself. Chica@na Art will be--and is--the most important school of American art in the 21st century. If the artists do not make art, then the museum curators, The board members who run art organizations, the critics, the gallery owners, the academics who study and write about us, would be without jobs. My goal as publisher is to let the artists take destiny into their own hands. (Artwork shown above: "El Muerto" by Jaime "GERMS" Zacarias for Self-Help Graphics' 2005 Day of the Dead.)

You may also visit Chican@ Art Magazine's blog for more artwork and news.

CHICANO ARCHIVES BOOK RECEIVES NATIONAL AWARD: Self-Help Graphics and Art, Inc.: Art in the Heart of East Los Angeles (2005), published by the Chicano Studies Research Center of UCLA (“CSRC”), received the International Latino Book Award for Best Reference Book in English. The award was presented by Latino Literary Now, a non-profit organization supporting literacy and literary excellence within the Latino community, in conjunction with BookExpoAmerica. The author, Kristen Guzmán, is a recent PhD from UCLA and an assistant professor of history at Santa Ana College. The editor, Colin Gunckel, is a doctoral student at UCLA and a CSRC graduate research associate. The book is the first volume in the Chicano Archive series and was published in collaboration with Self-Help Graphics and the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (UC Santa Barbara) and with support from the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships and UCMEXUS.

CALIFORNIA WRITERS EXCHANGE CONTEST: Poets & Writers is pleased to announce the 2007 California Writers Exchange Contest. The winners of the contest, one poet and one fiction writer from California, will receive a $500 honorarium and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, where they will meet with agents, editors, and prominent writers, and give a public reading of their work in Spring 2007. The winners will be selected by Cristina Garcia (fiction) and Charles Harper Webb (poetry). The contest is open to poets and fiction writers who:

Have never published a book, or have published no more than one full-length book in the genre in which they are applying, and have resided in California for at least two consecutive years prior to the date they submit their manuscripts.

An application must accompany all manuscripts. For complete guidelines and an application, click here. Or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Poets & Writers, Inc.
California Writers Exchange
2035 Westwood Blvd., Suite 211
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Completed applications must be postmarked no later than August 31, 2006. If you have questions, please contact (310) 481-7195 or

YO ♥ LILA DOWNS: I just bought (and can’t stop listening to) La Cantina, the new CD by Lila Downs which is her tribute to canciones rancheras. It’s crazy and beautiful and funny and fresh. Como Lila. ¿No? Anyway, if you want to sample some of her music and take a wild virtual ride through her life, visit her official website by clicking here.

SUBMISSIONS: Scholars planning their summer writing schedule should remember that Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies welcomes submissions on any aspect of Chicano studies. Aztlán accepts research articles (which are substantive, scholarly, original contributions to the field, less than 10,000 words); dossier articles (which are journalistic pieces or personal views on timely topics, less than 5,000 words); and review articles (which are shorter pieces on books, movies, recordings, events, conferences, exhibitions, and so on). The editors would especially like to see more essays submitted from the social sciences. Articles may be in either English or Spanish. Submission guidelines are posted online, along with descriptions for junior scholars of what happens at each stage of the publication process.

BLOGGING IS LIKE EATING OREOS: I warned our friend, the writer C. M. Mayo, that blogging is like, well, eating Oreos. It’s addictive. Madam Mayo, indeed, is blogging away and just posted a piece on Luis Alberto Urrea and his views on writing. She also links to one of my Urrea interviews upon the occasion of the publication of Urrea's magnificent novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter.

SPEAKING OF BLOGGING: La Bloga welcomes Yvette Doss, managing editor of Tu Ciudad, to the world of blogging. Visit her new venture here. Lookin' good, chica!

NEW POETRY: In the latest issue of the literary journal Gulf Coast, David Hernandez has two fine and (in my opinion) funny poems: "Proof" and "Why Maggots." Hernandez is one of the sharpest poetic voices around today.

EPT REVIEW: Benjamin Alire Sáenz, whose latest book is a collection of poems entitled Dreaming the End of War published by Copper Canyon Press, gives a rave review to Riley's Fire (Algonquin Books ), a novel by Lee Merrill Byd. Byrd, of course, is co-founder of Cinco Puntos Press. I've just read Byrd's novel...beautiful and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it.

CARLOS FUENTES: Just got word...Carlos Fuentes just got added for a reading and book signing of his latest novel, The Eagle's Throne (Random House), Tuesday, June 6th, 7 p.m., Dutton’s Beverly Hills Books, 447 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Phone: (310) 281-0997. Or visit for more information.

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

Friday, June 02, 2006

Chicano Jet Set: Aspen to Hollywood to Harlingen to East Colfax

Manuel Ramos

Writing Retreat & Literary Festival June 25 to 29, 2006.
This world-renown conference celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with a diverse and highly recognizable faculty. Aspen Summer Words is a five-day celebration of words and ideas. The official announcement says: "Led by some of the nation's most gifted and engaging writers, Aspen Summer Words brings readers and writers together for author readings and talks, interviews and Q&As, writing workshops and literature appreciation classes, publishing industry panel discussions, private consulations, and social gatherings all in one writers conference." Two of the main speakers are authors who might appeal to La Bloga readers (taken from the program agenda):

"Denise Chávez - A true child of La Frontera, Denise Chávez has her roots in New Mexico, Texas and México. She is the author of the novels Loving Pedro Infante and Face of An Angel, which won the American Book Award; the short story collection, The Last of the Menu Girls; and the forthcoming memoir, A Taco Testimony. The author of over 45 plays, she considers herself a performance writer. Denise Chávez continues to explore the universal in the regional landscape and support her community through education, empowerment and transformation through the arts. She is the founder of the Cultural Center of Mesilla and the executive director of the Border Book Festival. She lives between Mesilla and Las Cruces, New Mexico."

"Luis Alberto Urrea - Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer Prize finalist and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. Born in Tijuana, Mexico, to an American mother and Mexican father, he has published extensively in all of the major genres and is the author of 11 books including The Devil’s Highway, a Lannan Literary Award winner, and Across the Wire, winner of the Christopher Award. He is also the recipient of an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, and a Colorado Book Award. He lives with his family in Naperville, Illinois, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago."

Other speakers and presenters include N. Scott Momaday, Tony Hillerman, Ted Conover, and Pam Houston.

The festival offers a wide variety of activities such as two day symposiums on Literature Appreciation. One of these sessions has as its topic Literature of the West and will be taught by Patricia Limerick, University of Colorado History Professor and Faculty Director of the Center of the American West.

The second session - on Chicana/o Literature - will be led by Luis Torres, a professor of Chicana/o Studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver where he also served as Chair. "A passionate and politically savvy professor known for leading dynamic discussions, he has taught for over 30 years, published on the subjects of Chicana/o Literature and education, and has developed Multicultural Studies curricula for K-12." His course "introduces a variety of literary texts by and about Mexican-origin people and other Latinos throughout the United States such as Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Central and South Americans. Selections, from works written in the present-day U.S. over the past 450 years, will enhance our discussions of the way these cultures collide, strengthen and reaffirm one another."

These two, Limerick and Torres, know their stuff and, in very different ways, they are engaging and enlightening teachers and speakers. You could not go wrong by attending either or both of these sessions.

For much more information including registration and ticket fees, visit the Aspen Writers' Foundation website.

Severo Perez has a nifty new website where you can learn more about this filmmaker and his many accomplishments and ongoing projects. His films include ...and the earth did not swallow him, an adaptation of Tomás Rivera's classic . . . y no se lo trago la tierra, and his most recent feature, Countdown: Reflections on a Life in Dance, the story of choreographer Rudy Perez. This latest movie will be showing on PBS stations in the fall. It screens June 3 at 5:00 P.M. during the Dance Camera West Dance Film Festival at the Roy and Edna Disney/CALARTS Theater in Los Angeles.

Perez is a writer, director and producer - a visit to his website quickly reveals the wide range and appeal of his many projects.

Speaking of movie related things, a good way to enjoy a warm spring afternoon with your favorite beverage and snack food and without using up too much brain power - maybe chillin' on the porch or under the gazeebo - is to peruse the collection of movie posters in Cine Mexicano: Poster Art from the Golden Age, 1936 - 1956, by Rogelio Agrasánchez, Jr. (Chronicle Books, 2001). This book has more than 150 full color reproductions of classic Mexican movie posters, a visual and cultural treat in any language. Agrasánchez is the director and curator of the Agrasánchez Film Archive in Harlingen, Texas. This place spans the years 1931 - 1991, and has on hand 1,400 Mexican films, 12,000 lobby cards, 60,000 photographs, and 2,000 posters. A weekend's worth of browsing, no?

One of our favorite bookstores is moving and has put out a call for help. The Tattered Cover relocates from its well known Cherry Creek store to renovated digs in East Denver. Here's part of the announcement:

"We are looking for volunteers to help us move to our new location on Colfax Avenue at the end of June. We need folks to help out on the evening of Saturday, June 24, and all (or part) of the day on Sunday, June 25. Moving our bookstore means packing and moving a lot of relatively heavy boxes of books. We will be using trucks and dollies to help us; still, it will involve people lifting, carrying, pushing, packing, and unpacking those boxes.

While it is sad to leave our longtime home in Cherry Creek, it is fun to be opening our new store in the historic Lowenstein Theater, and we want our friends and customers to share in the excitement with us.

Since we can only use so many volunteers, we will need to organize and schedule all those who help out that weekend. If you are interested in being a part of the big day, please contact Suzanne Strandberg at Please respond by Friday, June 16, and give your email address, phone number, and Saturday or Sunday preference.

Volunteers will receive a free limited edition commemorative T-shirt (the result of our T-shirt design contest). We'd love to have your help!"