Sunday, September 30, 2007

La Bloga milestone: 10k hits

In Sept. '06, La Bloga received 4,468 hits. Today as you read this post, La Bloga has reached our first month of 10,000 visits.

In the expanse of a planet-wide WWW, 333 and a third hits per day is not earthshaking, so to speak. Nor I do know how this compares to other Chicano or Chicano lit sites, but for us it's more than comforting to know there's that much interest in the "news, views and reviews" that the Bloguistas produce on this site.

Each contributor volunteers their time and posts the fruits of hours and hours of work necessary to keep La Bloga fresh. While being the lightest contributor to the site, I have watched and read as mis compadres have created something great where before there was only null pixels.

I take this opportunity to ask the other Bloguistas to take a well-deserved bow:
Manuel Ramos - who created and set the standards that guide the quality of La Bloga postings.
Michael Sedano - who's become resident tech guru and was there at the launching.
Daniel Olivas - whose scholarship and literary contributions boosted our Internet presence.
Lisa Alvarado - who's added the Midwest perspective and made us more than a bunch of good ole Chicano boys.
René Colato Laínez - whose major contributions in children's literature give La Bloga added perspectives.
Gina Ruiz - who, though no longer with us, gave much time and countless reviews (also no longer with us).

Please take a moment to send them your own congratulatory messages. They've done a considerable body of scholarship that next year should well belie today's 10k hits.


Friday, September 28, 2007


Manuel Ramos

Crookneck from the neighborhood Valdez Honor Garden, thank you, Molly; Romas from Mary, gracias; and the Little Green Devils from my back yard; photo by Flo

Acevedo's Nymphos of Rocky Flats (Rayo 2006) has been nominated for a Colorado Book Award in the category of Popular Fiction.

The 16th Annual Colorado Book Awards ceremony happens on October 17 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 1050 13th Street, Denver, CO; Donald R. Seawell Grand Ballroom; 6:00 PM Reception/Silent Auction; 7:00 PM Dinner & Awards Program. Proceeds from the event benefit Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book literacy programs for adults and K-12 students including Motheread/Fatheread, Authors in the Classroom, Letters About Literature and River of Words.

Click here for more information.

Mario's third book in his Felix Gomez vampire/detective series, The Undead Kama Sutra, is scheduled for a 2008 release, and he's spreading the news that the series has been extended by Rayo for at least two more books.

Aleida March de la Torre, widow of Ernesto Che Guevara, has announced that her book of memories, Evocaciones, will be published in March 2008. Guevara's fellow guerrilla fighter and collaborator during the liberation campaign in Las Villas (1958), said that she hopes that the book will provide "answers to all questions one may ask her on such an intimate topic. " Che Guevara married March de la Torre in 1959, after his "electrifying campaign in the central provinces that gave Fulgencio Batista´s tyranny the coup de gráce."

The Second Annual Great Southwest Book Fair is happening on Saturday, September 29 from 9 AM to 6 PM at the El Paso (Texas) Public Library and the El Paso History Museum at Cleveland Square. Writers, publishers, historians and other literature enthusiasts from across the Southwest will convene to provide an international marketplace for books and Southwestern literature. There will also be presentations by some of the areas most respected authors including Denise Chávez, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Georgina Baeza, Christine Granados, Javier O. Huerta, Elizabeth Margo, and Donna Snyder. Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information call 915-543-5466.

The Wandering Ghost
Soho Crime, November

One of La Bloga's favorite authors, Martin Limón, returns with another crime fiction novel featuring military policemen George Sueño and Ernie Bascom. Here's what Publishers Weekly said about this upcoming book:

"The turbulent Korean peninsula provides the backdrop to this fine military mystery, the fifth (after 2005's The Door to Bitterness) to feature U.S. Army criminal investigation agents George Sueño and Ernie Bascom. A crack combat unit stationed near the strife-torn demilitarized zone proves strangely uncooperative when a military policewoman disappears. The missing soldier had made herself unpopular with her chain of command when she attempted to testify against two GIs who accidentally killed a Korean schoolgirl while speeding. As Sueño and Bascom dig past the obfuscation, they uncover an unsavory mix of black marketeering, sexual harassment, corruption, rape and murder, risking disgrace in their quest to find their fellow cop before it's too late. Limón, a veteran who spent 10 years stationed in the Republic of Korea, captures precisely the experience and atmosphere of the tension that exists between the American military and South Korean society, two vastly different worlds bound together only by realpolitik. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

The Poisoned Pen bookstore gave this book a great review that finished with: "This crazy case introduces a female MP, ... Jill, and asks a question central then and now: what will result when you drop a group of young, raw recruits into a traditional, foreign culture?" Good question.

Edited by Achy Obejas
Akashic Books, October

Brand new stories by: Leonardo Padura, Pablo Medina, Alex Abella, Arturo Arango, Lea Aschkenas, Moises Asis, Arnaldo Correa, Mabel Cuesta, Paquito D'Rivera, Yohamna Depestre, Michel Encinosa Fu, Mylene Fernandez Pintado, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Miguel Mejides, Achy Obejas, Oscar Ortiz, Ena Lucia Portela, Mariela Varona Roque, and Yoss.

Here's what Akashic says about its latest collection in its acclaimed and award-winning "noir" series:

"To most outsiders, Havana is a tropical sin city: a Roman ruin of sex and noise, a parallel universe familiar but exotic, and embargoed enough to serve as a release valve for whatever desire or pulse has been repressed or denied. Habaneros know that this is neither new -- long before Havana collapsed during the Revolution's Special Period, all the way back to colonial times, it had already been the destination of choice for foreigners who wanted to indulge in what was otherwise forbidden to them -- nor particularly true.

"In the real Havana -- the lawless Havana that never appears in the postcards or tourist guides -- the concept of sin has been banished by the urgency of need. And need -- aching and hungry -- inevitably turns the human heart darker, feral, and criminal. In this Havana, crime, though officially vanquished by revolutionary decree, is both wistfully quotidian and personally vicious.

"In the stories of Havana Noir current and former residents of the city -- some international sensations such as Leonardo Padura, others exciting new voices like Yohamna Despestre -- uncover crimes of violence and loveless sex, of mental cruelty and greed, of self-preservation and collective hysteria.

"Achy Obejas is the award-winning author of Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, and We Came all the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared in dozens of anthologies. A long-time contributor to the Chicago Tribune, she was part of the 2001 investigative team that earned a Pulitzer Prize for the series, "Gateway to Gridlock." Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer-in-Residence at DePaul University in Chicago. She was born in Havana."

Forge, November

R.J. Pineiro, author of more than a dozen novels, has a new one hitting the shelves in November.

The publisher says: "Mac Savage, a former CIA officer; Marie Kovacs, a former nanotechnology scientist turned missionary; and Kate Chavez, a Texas Ranger investigating a murder, join forces to unravel a global conspiracy that starts with the diamond industry and ends with a plan to eliminate the human race." How can you not want to read this book after that intro?

Pineiro, who resides in Austin, was born in Havana in 1961. He has quite a bio, that you can read here.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reel Women, Real Women and the Violence Taboo

Reel Knockouts celebrates and examines what the authors call "mean women." It is the first book-length treatment of violent women in the movies. Martha McCauley is a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Technical and Neel King is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Belmont College in Nashville. Both have written and lectured extensively on the themes of gender, violence and popular culture.

This book doesn't pander to a traditional feminist critique which is essentially anti-violence, which rejects any portrayal of women as perpetrators of violence as merely parroting the oppression of the patriarchy. McCaughey and King take the position that the traditional feminist movement offers an equally restrictive construct for women. A universe for women that is hemmed in by giving birth, forming community, and nurturing alone is just as distorted as exclusive warrior culture restricting the lives of men.

The authors argue that is not the business of analysts, artists and theorists to decide which images suit sexist reaction and which feminist revolution, which express dominance and which resistance. Rebellion never exists without oppression, and McCaughey and King reject the standard argument that any images of women in the movies are defined solely by sexist, heterocentrist, white supremacist origins. This volume studies violent women in the movies not merely as patriarchal pawns or broken promises, but also as possible tools in the liberation of women from racial, class, gender and other political constraints.

The chapters analyze a variety of the most well-known of these new women. Starting with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the Alien series. The impact of these strong, vengeful, sometimes "amoral" women are placed in a post-feminist context.

They are not bound by conventional ideas of womanhood, love, romance or family. They are quintessential outsiders, sometimes outlaws, having more in common with the wave of male antiheroes made popular in the spaghetti Westerns of the late sixties and indie films of the seventies. But they live on their own terms, sometimes liberating themselves and others, but always resisting external control.

The whole issue of how to portray violence enacted by women is a thorny and complex one. I appreciated the author's willingness to allow all schools to contend. What emerges in this collection allows feminists and the public-at-large to questions assumptions about gender, violence, pleasure, dominance, fantasy.

I agree with the assertion in Reel Knockouts that images of powerful women, capable of violence, capable of revenge are important ones to consider. I'm not afraid that these portrayals show women as too deranged, too sexy, or that women will imitate the violence. I'm also interested in examining my own ambivalent feelings about violence, and as a writer, mold, deconstruct and exploit them. I hoping Reel Women will be fodder for work with layers of meaning, that cuts through complacency, one that portrays complicated and complex ideas of a female self.

ISBN-13: 978-0292752511

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


René Colato Laínez

Sandra Cisneros and Francisco Jiménez wrote a collection of short stories in their books The House on Mango Street and The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child. Years later, some of these short stories became wonderful picture books. What made these short stories so appealing for picture book editors? What does a short story need to have to work as a picture book manuscript?

A published short story needs to have children as the main characters or characters
that can appeal to children’s curiosity for the story to work as a picture book. A short story also needs to have something unique that children can appreciate, laugh about or learn from. It needs to have poetic playful child language or the characteristics of any good piece of literature- setting, characters, plot, problem and resolution. But most important of all, a short story needs to be very popular or needs to have a market on demand.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez have things in common. Both authors have Hispanic roots. Sandra Cisneros is a child of Mexican immigrants. Francisco Jiménez is an immigrant child who came from Mexico. Their short stories have minority children as main characters. Both collections of short stories were published by small publishers. The House on Mango Street was published in 1984 by Arte Público Press and The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1997. Later major publishing houses republished both books. Vintage Books an imprint of Random House republished Sandra Cisneros’ work. Francisco Jimenez’ work was republished by Houghton Mifflin. Both works have received major awards.

The House on Mango Street
tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, a girl coming of age in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Sandra Cisneros uses poems and stories to express thoughts and emotions about her character’s oppressive environment. Esperanza's childhood life in a Spanish-speaking area of Chicago is described in a series of spare, poignant, and powerful short stories. Each story centers on a detail of her childhood: a greasy cold rice sandwich, a pregnant friend, a mean boy, etc.

“Hairs” is a short vignette in the book. The story describes the different kind of hairs in the same family. “Hairs” became the very acclaimed bilingual picture book Hairs/ Pelitos. The picture book is exactly like the short story. It does not have any changes.

“Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papá’s hair is like a broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands.” (n.p).

This short story makes a good picture book because it breaks the stereotype that members of the same culture are exactly alike. Sandra Cisneros shows, through simple, intimate language, the diversity among us. The author uses child like poetic language and the five senses to describe each family member. Her father's hair looks “like a broom”, her mother's hair smells like “baked bread”, and her brother's hair feels like “soft fur.” This book offers children the experience of diversity within one's own family and how they can accept this differences within their family.

Cisneros’s poetic language can be appreciated in the description of the mother’s hair.

“But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles, all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pin curls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, Mamá’s hair that smells like bread.” (n.p).

The book, The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, begins in Mexico when the author, Francisco Jiménez, is very young and his parents inform him that they are going on a very long trip to "El Norte/ The north." The book is written in a series of stories of the family's unending migration from one farm to another as they search for the next harvesting job. Each story is told from the point of view of the author as a young child. From this collection of stories comes not one but two beautiful picture books La Mariposa and The Christmas Gift/ El regalo de navidad.

In the short story “Inside Out” Francisco Jiménez tells the story of his first year in school. He does not speak English and he has trouble when he begins first grade, but his fascination with the caterpillar in the classroom helps him begin to fit in. This story became the picture book La Mariposa. There are two editions of this book, one in English and one in Spanish but both books have the same Spanish title. The English version is not titled "The Butterfly". Perhaps, they kept the Spanish title to symbolize that Francisco could not speak English at that time. He could say mariposa but not butterfly.

The short stories in The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child are written in first person.

“Roberto who had attended the school the year before, accompanied me to the main office where we met the principal, Mr. Sims, a tall redheaded man with bushy eyebrows and hairy hands. He patiently listened to Roberto who, using the little English he knew, managed to enroll me in the first grade.” (16)

La Mariposa is written in third person. The writer uses more simple language and more dialogue in the picture book version.

“When they got to school, Roberto walked Francisco to the principal’s office. Mr. Sims, the principal, was a tall red-headed man who listened patiently to Roberto. “My little brother,” Roberto said, using the little English he knew, “is en primer grado.” (n.p).

This short story makes a good picture book because of the message of hope that it gives to immigrant children. Francisco is mute and slow at school like the caterpillar in the jar but then he changes. Like the caterpillar, he grows wings and flies. Things will be better in school for Francisco in the future. The author weaves Spanish, without translation, through the text. Not only does this more truly represent Francisco's character; it gives English-speaking readers a better understanding of the protagonist's trials.

In the short story “Christmas Gift”, Panchito, Francisco Jiménez, dreams of getting a red ball for Christmas but there's no work and no money for presents, and the family must move again. He is disappointed when he receives his one gift, a bag of candy, on Christmas morning. At the end Francisco learns that the best gifts come from the heart and not from a toy store. This short story became the bilingual picture book The Christmas Gift/ El regalo de navidad.

Like in “Inside Out” Francisco Jiménez wrote “Christmas Gift” in first person.

“When I heard Papá say, “We’re broke too,” I panicked. My hope for getting a ball of my own that Christmas faded- but only for a second. “It can’t be like last year,” I told myself.” (52-53)

The picture book is written in third person. It has more child language and dialog. Francisco Jimenez also adds an additional scene to show how much Panchito wants his red ball. Children can relate to this scene.

“When Panchito heard his papá say this, he panicked. “Broke? But not like last year,” he thought. “No, this time Papá and Mamá will have enough money to get me a ball for Christmas.” Ever since he was six, Panchito had wanted a red ball- a ball to toss in the air, to catch, to twirl, then drop and watch as it bounced up and down. At school he would pretend one of the balls belonged to him, but the black number on it always reminded him that it belonged to his classroom.” (n.p).

This short story is also a good picture book manuscript because there are many Christmas books that talk about wonderful gifts and fantasy that is often too commercial. This wonderful story helps children find the true meaning behind Christmas, and see that everybody does not experience Christmas in the same manner, or get every thing they want. This story is unique. It celebrates the true spirit of Christmas, and illuminates how children do indeed draw strength from the bonds in their families.

It was a learning experience to read both collections of stories and their respective picture books. My goal as a writer is to write good multicultural children’s literature. Stories where minorities children are represented in a good positive way. Stories where they can see themselves as heroes. Stories where children can dream and have hopes for the future. These three short stories are good example of this kind of literature. I am glad that they became picture books that I can share with my students in my kindergarten classroom.

Would these short stories have the chance to become picture books if they had not been published first as a collection of stories and had been well received by the public? Probably not, because when Sandra and Francisco wrote their stories, they were not thinking about writing picture book manuscripts. Their goal at that time was to write short stories.

In conclusion, for a short story to work as a picture book manuscript it must be unique and it needs to appeal to children. These short stories need to use child language. The main characters need to be children. These stories have to be very popular. They need to have a setting, a good plot, problem and resolution like any other good piece of literature or they need to use poetic language. If the short story is good and the writer finds the right house for it, he or she can convert it into a picture book. But no matter what, a good story is a good story in any genre.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Propaedeutic to a Chicana Chicano Canon

Michael Sedano

I confess I’ve wanted to use “propaedeutic” in a title for a long time just never got around to it. I’m glad that’s out of my system. The word, not the question. I had lunch with a professor of C/S recently and forgot to quiz her on what literature goes into today’s majors and minors across the field. I’ve looked at syllabi on the internet and see as many “essentials” as there are profes angling for enrollment, so one’s choices for cultural literacy become luck of the draw rather than some compelling sense of a literature in common, or a clear recommendation to the high school 9-12 sequence.

The notion of a canonical literature for chicanas chicanos goes back to the beginnings of “Chicano” literature, and of La Bloga. Especially with the holidays around the corner, there’s value in asking again a pair of questions: what chicanarte titles should populate the shelves of readers of United States Literature, and readers of Chicana Chicano Literature?

In 1969, Quinto Sol publishers in Berkeley, California, published a beautiful anthology titled El Espejo: The Mirror. Selected Mexican-American Literature. Editor Octavio Romano had included exciting new chicano voices—there were few but men published-- but also pieces with strong allegiances for the anglo-european mainstream that justified the hyphenated subtitle. Then, 1972, in the fifth printing, with Herminio Rios on board, El Espejo: The Mirror became “ Selected CHICANO Literature”. The assimilationist, “just as good as” writers, had disappeared to the benefit of readers who now discovered Alurista, Abelardo, Tino Villanueva, rrsalinas. Poets.

Shortly after the emergence of the movimiento-infused literature of El Espejo and its supporting journal El Grito, a competing journal showed another set of voices. An east coast journal, Revista Chicano-Riqueña, arrived, with equal power to that out of Berkeley and the Southwest. The journal went through several transformations, existing for a quarter century, and was celebrated in 1988 with an award-winning anthology Floating Borderlands Twenty-five Years of U.S. Hispanic [sic] Literature”.

The 1980s saw an explosion of literary anthologies. The editors wrote about a “Chicano Renaissance” visible in the collections, which would replay variations of the tables of contents of El Espejo, El Grito, and la revista., even as scholars debated the “canonical” approach of El Espejo versus the “non-canonical” approach out of the east.

All that was the literature of my youth. The point being, it’s been 40 years, gente, since that first El Espejo collection. By now raza have amassed a corpus of work that suggests value in renewing a search for the ten foot shelf of essential titles that every family must own, that every kid can’t graduate high school or college without having read, that fills your gift list for the next ten years of a kid’s upbringing.

Any collection of essential work must include new work. The classics might be published tomorrow, but you’ll go broke buying every tempting title showcased at La Bloga or otherwise recommended by friends. Ojalá your public library has a new books budget and buys widely.

Owing to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of chicana and chicano writers, thankfully, anthologies continue to hit the market. It’s useful to come across a couple of newish anthologies, Cristina García’s 2006, Bordering fires: the vintage book of contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a literature (New York : Vintage Books, 2006) and the more recent Hecho en Tejas: an anthology of Texas-Mexican literature, edited by Dagoberto Gilb. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press published in cooperation with the Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University, 2006).

From here, it’s time to prioritize the novels I want to read again, and start from the top. Where would you begin?


Monday, September 24, 2007


Please join us at the upcoming West Hollywood Book Fair which will be held on Sunday, September 30th.

Cost - Free!
Location - West Hollywood Park @ 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. (between Santa Monica Blvd. & Melrose Ave.)
Map - Click here.
Parking - Parking is available across the street at the Pacific Design Center—Enter from San Vicente across from the park. FREE shuttle service is also available from Plummer Park (7377 Santa Monica Blvd.) the day of the Fair.

I will be moderating a panel on writers who blog and representing La Bloga, of course. This is the official listing for my panel:

Adrienne Crew, Margo Candela, Kevin Roderick, Mark Sarvas
Moderator: Daniel Olivas
Book Signing at Skylight Books booth

There are also many friends of La Bloga who will be appearing on panels. Here’s a sample:

Alex Espinoza, Jeff Hobbs, Karen Mack, Jennifer Kaufman, Andrea Portes
Moderator: Eduardo Santiago
Signing @ Book Soup booth

Emory Holmes II, Jim Pascoe, Gary Phillips
Moderator: Sam Quinones
Signing @ Book Events & Authors Unlimited booth

Signing @ IMIX Bookstore booth

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Myriam Gurba, Ali Liebegott, Fiona Zedde
Moderator: Lisa Freeman
Signing @ A Different Light booth

For a complete list of panels, click here. For a list of all authors, click here.

See you there!

Rigoberto González, in yesterday’s El Paso Times, reviewed Annecy Báez's collection of closely linked stories, My Daughter's Eyes (Curbstone Press), which he calls “a candid look at the private world of young women coming of age as they navigate their bicultural upbringing in the Bronx and the Dominican Republic.” This collection was chosen by University of Texas at El Paso professor Benjamin Alire Sáenz as this year's recipient of the Miguel Mármol Prize. González concludes: “With My Daughter's Eyes, a promising and heart-wrenching debut, Curbstone Press adds yet another powerful title to its impressive list of Mármol Prize recipients.” Read the complete review here.

◙ Writing for the Los Angeles Times yesterday, Helena María Viramontes reviewed How I Learned English: 55 Accomplished Latinos Recall Lessons in Language and Life (National Geographic) edited by Tom Miller. Viramontes notes, in part:

Some of the essays in the collection are thoughtful, extended pieces of writing; by contrast, many are vignettes or anecdotes, sometimes too short to even begin to express the full complexity of this linguistic/cultural experience. And frequently the sentiments overlap. Still, Miller's contributors recall their struggle to learn English with both humor and pathos, providing instruction and inspiration for those who find themselves divided -- losing ground, perhaps, but not themselves.

Read the whole review here.

◙ Agustin Gurza tells us of a new exhibit called "Marisela Norte: Sociedad Anónima" which runs through October 13 at Tropico de Nopal Gallery-Art Space, 1665 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (213) 481-8112. There will be a conversation with the artist and curator at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday. Film screening and martini night, 8 p.m. on September 29. Gurza begins his review of the exhibit with these observations:

Marisela Norte is a poet and performance artist who sees the city of automobiles with the eye of someone who doesn't drive or carpool. Which is to say, she sees it up close, like a lifelong pedestrian who traverses the sidewalks and stops at street corners to wait for the bus.

It was on a downtown street in front of the Bonaventure Hotel that Norte spotted the lady with the watermelon socks. They were girlish socks, with a pink frill at the top just above the ankle and a slice of watermelon embroidered on the side. Her feet were tucked into sequined slippers that conjured fairy tales of "Arabian Nights."

"If someone would have done this combination in a fashion magazine, people would have said, 'Wow, this is the next thing,' " said Norte, who finds inspiration and friendships on her daily bus ride between downtown and her home in East L.A. "But this is something that goes by completely invisible."

Not anymore.

You can read the whole piece here. As one who grew up near these downtown streets and now works in an office building in the same area, I certainly want to get myself out to Norte's exhibit. I note that Gurza covers Latino music, arts and culture for the Los Angeles Times. E-mail him at with comments, events and ideas for this weekly feature.

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

Friday, September 21, 2007

Magic, Laughs, and the Heartland

Manuel Ramos


Business of Art Center
Hagnauer Gallery,
515 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO
719 - 685-1861
September 21-November 3, 2007 Opening Reception:
Sept. 21, 2007, 5-8pm
Exhibition Dates: Sept. 21 - Nov. 3, 2007

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Business of Art Center (BAC) in Manitou Springs, Colorado, in partnership with Museo de las Américas Executive Director Patty Ortiz, is hosting an exhibition of contemporary Chicano artwork. Ms. Ortiz also served as a guest curator of this spectacular exhibition of Denver area and New Mexico artists.

Chicano Magic explores how contemporary Chicano art has held close its surrealist roots. From the influence of the fanciful imagery of the Mexican muralists to Carlos Castaneda's Mesoamerican shaman study, artists have found it easy to describe the Chicano experience through magical realism and surrealist imagery. With an added fine layer of social activism, the artists presented in this exhibition build a story mixed with tradition, struggle, creativity, and magic.

ARTISTS: Jerry De la Cruz, Meggan Deanza, Carlos Fresquez, Quintin Gonzalez, Ismael "Izzy" Lozano, Stevon Lucero, Sylvia Montero, Tony Ortega, Daniel Salazar, Maruca Salazar, Santiago Perez, Jerry Vigil, and Frank Zamora.

New Madrid, the literary journal associated with Murray State University's low-residency M.F.A. program, announces its intention to dedicate its Winter 2008 issue to the theme of Mexico in the Heartland. The purpose of the issue is to acknowledge, investigate and celebrate the degree to which Mexico influences those living in the central United States , especially those in Kentucky and bordering states. Submissions may include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, translations from Spanish, etc.

The main criterion for acceptance, aside from literary excellence, is how well the submission addresses the theme of the issue. Submissions read between August 15, 2007 and November 15, 2007 .

All submissions must be sent via Submissions Manager. Submissions should be in MS Word format with a 12-point font, such as Times-Roman or Ariel. The attachment should end with ".doc" in the file name. The author's name and contact information should appear on the first page of the submission. Please include a brief bio of the author in the "comments" section of Submissions Manager. Prose submissions should be double spaced and paginated (20-pages maximum). Poetry submissions should be single spaced (6 poems maximum). Simultaneous submissions acceptable.

Luis Alberto Urrea and Ana Castillo will be among several critically acclaimed writers appearing at the Wisconsin Book Festival on October 10-14. Urrea's and Castillo's event is entitled Border Crossings, and will take place on October 14 from noon until 1:45 PM in the Promenade Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St. Madison, WI. There are numerous events at this Festival, and many that readers of La Bloga should appreciate. Check out the list of presenters, the schedule, logistics, and much more at the Festival website.

The 2007 class of the Circle of Latina Leadership presents: Laughiesta, a Latin Comedy Night, October 11. 5:30 PM Reception; 7:00 PM Show at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th Street, Denver. $25. 303-595-3637. Laughiesta benefits the Circle of Latina Leadership, a program of the Denver Hispanic Chamber Education Foundation.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

News From Teatro Luna

OYE-LISTEN! A Bi-monthly Performance Series

About the performance and presenting artists -
Sharmili Majmudar & Amisha Patel, Dawn Herrera/Terry

Teatro Luna and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum join forces to showcase new works by emerging, Chicago-based performing artists. This collaboration aims to provide women artists of color a space to share personal stories and reflect on contemporary social issues facing their community. By remaining true to the lives and experiences of women of color, this series creates bridges among Chicago ethnic communities.

OYE-LISTEN! MONDAY, September 24, 7-9pm

Our Living by Sharmili Majmudar & Amisha Patel
Our Living a collaborative spoken word piece with musical background written and performed by two Gujarati Indian American women that interweaves our experiences and explores identity, sexism, racism, colonization, and re-emergence through reclaiming our true selves. In this piece, we remind ourselves of how our living depends on each other, despite and in the face of the oppression we experience. Through poetry, we reclaim truth and each other.

PORTALES: Mitologia Subjetiva (Matrilineal) by Dawn Herrera/Terry
Something between monologue and performance, PORTALES is a gently surreal portrait of a personal history, offering one possible account of the how borders may be internalized and inhabited. A work in progress, PORTALES will eventually weave together more strands of family narrative to further explore physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual legacies.

For more information about the artists, please visit:

7pm - 8:40pm Performance
8:45pm - 9:00pm Post-show discussion
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Residents' Dining Hall
800 S. Halsted St, Chicago, IL

This is the third event in the series; the first two were standing room only:
make your reservation soon!

This event is FREE. Light refreshments will be served.

Reservations are recommended,
call 312.413.5353
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Santeria Garments and Altars: Ache is All

Santeria Garments and Altars is a literate, accessible, beautifully photographed book by a man who is a member/initiate in a house of Oshun. Its subtitle is, ‘Speaking Without A Voice.’ How appropriate! The emphasis is the striking photographs of the variety of altars to the different deities, members of a variety of houses preparing for, or engaged in aspects of worship.

By way of background information -- A ‘house’ is a group of devotees of a particular god or goddess under the leadership of a ‘babalawo’, or priest/priestess. Oshun is another one of the Seven African Powers who represents the archetypical female principle and the power of eros. Interestingly enough, abstinence or asexuality, and a virginal principle of female sexuality has no icon, nor any particular social importance.

Another interesting feature is that the author is a male practitioner, much in the tradition that the gods choose individuals to serve them regardless of gender. My own Catholic upbringing was full of gender separation, nuns as brides of Christ, servants of the male hierarchy, etc. While there are some tasks separated by sex, it does not appear to be as rigid, as attenuated as in a Christian/Catholic context.

One off the major tenets of this religious practice is the construction of altars, which every believer is required to do. There’s a synthesis between aesthetic and spiritual significance. It is considered one’s duty to create, as service to the deity to whom one has pledged oneself. A further illustration of the nexus between creativity and belief is the Santeria/Yoruba belief in ‘ache’, the universal life force present in all things. Each devotee is assumed to have within them the power to create a beautiful altar, one infused with ‘ache.’

In my performance pieces, there are ‘anchor ‘ points--static elements that have life infused into them. (In REM/Memory, there is a central, supine figure, hidden in a mass of blankets, who comes alive as the piece starts, and the nightmare begins. In Resurgam, a chaos of white fabric is stripped away to reveal a captive figure who finds release as the piece begins.) I see a similarity between a finished altar containing ‘ache,’ and a performance’s ‘anchor’ pieces being the place where it all comes alive, more specifically, where it reflects at least the possibility of sacred ritual.

There are several points of connection for me here. When the author created an altar to Oshun, it was clear that it could also be seen as a ‘site-specific installation.’ Size of the space, mood of the space, prominent observation points are all taken into consideration. These are the same consideration I make with each piece, the same considerations any installation artist might make.

In the design of an altar dedicated to Oshun, ‘found’ elements are brought into the piece that symbolize her attributes. Since Oshun represents eros, obvious choices illustrate sensuality. Honey, honeycombs, silks and laces are standard items in such an altar. I constantly bring found items from daily life into performances, hoping to create common imagery for myself and the audience as it unfolds . In Resurgam, during the 'communion’ section, I offer a papaya sliced in half to the audience, sharing its womb shape with them as the symbol of The Living Body--juicy, ripe, the source of all things, ever replenishing.

Lastly, I want to comment on the Santeria idea of ‘coolness.’ Essentially, it is the principle of balance, harmony, a reflection of the connectedness of all things. An altar, no matter how ornate, is not considered ‘cool’ if it does not have these attributes.

Even though my approach is spare, I try to layer things enough to suggest complicated ideas and experiences. It's work with a consistent point of view and root motifs that I try to communicate in the deepest possible way. Hopefully, what emerges is interconnectedness between myself, the audience, and a unifying force that exists in the moment of performance, a force that I believe is Spirit.


About the author:

Dr. Flores-Peña was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Studies: University of Puerto Rico, B.A, Catholic University of Puerto Rico, MA. Ed. UCLA M.A and Ph.D. Publications and lectures on Afro-Caribbean Ritual Art and Afro-Cuban religious cultures and Latino Folklore. Lecturer at WAC, Center for Afro-American Studies, and Adjunct Professor at Otis College of Art and Design.

ISBN-10: 087805703X
ISBN-13: 978-0878057030


News from our New York friends:

Tuesday, September 25th @7pm
ACENTOS Bronx Poetry Showcase
The Uptown's Best Open Mic and Featured Poets
Tomás Riley & Leticia
Hosted by John Rodriguez

Y que gente??? We are still doing it strong in the Bronx and we have no intentions of stopping. Well, maybe when we are dead but until then, aqui estamos. Come out next Tuesday to hear the wonderful poetry of two visiting poets. So you know we have to give them a warm welcome.

Tomás Riley is a poet, writer, educator and a veteran of the Chicano spoken word collective The Taco Shop Poets (TSP). A finalist for the 2004 California Voices Award from Poets & Writers Magazine, his first book Mahcic debuted on Calaca Press in December 2005.

Leticia Hernández has presented her work throughout the country and in El Salvador at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Highways, and the Guild Complex . Her first chapbook of poetry, Razor Edges of my Tongue, is available from Calaca Press. A Ph.D. candidate in Literature, she has taught Women Studies and Latino Literature classes at UPENN and San Francisco State University. She has worked with youth and community based organizations for over fifteen years and is currently the Executive
Director of GirlSource, a community-based organization that supports young women in San Francisco.

The Bruckner Bar and Grill
1 Bruckner Boulevard (Corner of 3rd Ave)
6 Train to 138th Street Station
FREE! ($5 Suggested Donation)

Coming from MANHATTAN:
At the 138th Street Station, exit the train to your left, by the last car on the 6. Go up the stairs, to your right, to exit at LINCOLN AVENUE. Walk down Lincoln to Bruckner Blvd, turn right on Bruckner. Walk past the bike shop. The Bruckner Bar and Grill is at the corner: One Bruckner Blvd., right next to the Third Avenue Bridge.

Coming from THE BRONX:
By Train:

At the 138th Street Station, exit to your RIGHT, by the FIRST car on the 6. Go up the stairs, to your right, to exit at LINCOLN AVENUE. Walk down Lincoln to Bruckner Blvd, turn right on Bruckner. Walk alongside the bridge, past the bike shop. The Bruckner Bar and Grill
is at the corner: One Bruckner Blvd., right next to the Third Avenue Bridge.

By Bus:
Bx15 to Lincoln Ave. and Bruckner Blvd. Walk one block west, past the bike shop, to the Bruckner Bar and Grill. Bx1, Bx21, Bx32 to 138th and 3rd Ave. Walk five blocks south along
the left side of 3rd Avenue to the end (Bruckner and 3rd). The Bruckner Bar and Grill will be on the corner.

For more information, please call Fish Vargas 917-209-4211.

For the Acentos Crew
Fish Vargas

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Interview With Children's Book Author Monica Brown

René Colato Lainez

I love My Name is Celia and My Name is Gabriela. You are doing an incredible contribution to children’s literature with your Latino biographies picture books. What is your research process for writing these biographies?

I try to be a meticulous researcher and honor the historical record, if there is one and it is accurate. As Latino/as, we are sometimes absent from this record and that is partly why I write. Since I was a scholar before I was a children’s writer, research comes naturally, but this is only the beginning of the process. I try to let my subject inspire my writing. Though I wrote a picture-book biography of Celia Cruz, her music--its rhythm, its joyful energy, the lyricism—is present on every page. In my forthcoming biography Pelé, King of Soccer (HarperCollins RAYO, 2009), I tried to capture the physical genius, the grace, and the spirit of his gift, on the page. My collaborator, illustrator Rudy Gutierrez, has done an amazing job!

How do you select your Latino heroes for the book biographies? Who is the next one?

Well, my new biography is on the incredible Gabriel García Márquez (Luna Rising, 2007), a fellow South American. I chose him because he was one of my earliest literary inspirations and because I wanted to introduce children to the concept of magical realism (though I expect they “get it” more easily than most adults!). My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez, is not only a biography, but a book about imagination, observation, and unending possibilities of our own creativity.

Let’s talk about your new published bilingual picture book Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas en la calle Carmen. What is this book about?

Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposa en la Calle Carmen (Piñata Books, 2007) is my first fictional picture-book for children. In Juliana, I created a confident Mexican American protagonist who lives in a community where all sorts of migrations are part of life’s realities, and where complex identities and multiple communities are celebrated, not denigrated. Juliana is a lively grade schooler who lives is a bustling neighborhood on Carmen Street, where her parents own La Esquina market, a place which sells everything from mango-chile lollipops and pan dulce to Spanish videos. For Juliana, life on Carmen Street is nurturing: her parents and grandfather love her, their store sells what everyone wants and needs, she has a great teacher, and a lively best friend, Isabel. Carmen Street is her community and she knows her place in it. She’s inquisitive and excited about a class butterfly project in which her teacher, Ms. Rodriguez, is going to give every student in the class their own monarch caterpillar. Juliana’s abuelo inspires her further by telling her stories about Agangueo in Michoacán, Mexico, the place of his birth and the monarch capital of the world. Through her grandfather’s story, Juliana learns from Ms. Rodriguez and her grandfather that migration is a natural cycle; the butterflies migrate to survive.

What was your inspiration to write this book?

Frankly, I was disturbed by the anti-immigration rhetoric in my home state of Arizona. As the daughter of a South American mother and a North American father, I suppose I think a little differently about borders. I was raised to consider myself a citizen of the world and I believe that my own daughters, though U.S. citizens, are children of the Americas. The monarch’s migration, with its cyclical pattern between Mexico, Canada, and the United States inspired me to tell a story about migration in a new way.

Have you raised caterpillars?

No, but my children have!

How do you pick up the names for your characters?

For Butterflies on Carmen Street, it was easy—I named the main character, Juliana, after my daughter! Her best friend is Isabel is named after my other daughter. Sometimes, however, I just choose a name because I like the sound and feel of the words on my tongue.

What was the process from manuscript to publish book for this story?

Well, ever since I read Denise Chavez’s Last of the Menu Girls in college, I’ve been interested in Arté Publico Press. When I started writing for children, one of my dreams was to be published by their Piñata children’s imprint. So, when my agent Stefanie Von Borstel brought me the offer for Butterflies on Carmen Street, I jumped at the chance to work with Gabriela Ventura and the folks at Arté Publico!

Are there any secrets during the book making of this book that you would like to share with us?

No secrets, but there was a delightful surprise. While making the final edits to this manuscript, I was invited to do a school visit in Tuscon, Arizona. The librarian and students surprised me with Painted Lady butterflies they had raised from caterpillars. They wanted me to do the honor of setting them free, so I had the pleasure of standing in a garden and watching a butterfly take is first flight from my finger!

What is your next book about?

I several books forthcoming, some fiction and some biography. I am especially excited about my forthcoming book Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, (HarperCollins Rayo, 2010), to be illustrated by Joe Cepeda, which explores a friendship that changed our nation.

Visit Monica at

Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of award-winning bilingual books for children, including My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me llamo Celia: La vida de Celia Cruz (Luna Rising), which was awarded the Américas Award for Children's Literature and a Pura Belpré Honor. Her second picture book, My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/Me llamo Gabriela: La vida de Gabriela Mistral (Luna Rising) shares the story of the first Latina to win a Nobel Prize. Her other books include the newly released Butterflies on Carmen Street (Arté Publico Press) and My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: La vida de Gabriel García Márquez, a Junior Library Guild Premier Selection. Chavela and the Magic Rainforest Chicle (Luna Rising), Pelé, King of Soccer (HarperCollins Rayo), and Side By Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (HarperCollins Rayo) are forthcoming. Monica's books are inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and passion to share Latino/a stories with children.

Monica Brown
is an Associate Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in U.S. Latino Literature and Multicultural Literature. She also writes and publishes scholarly work with a Latino focus, including Gang Nation: Delinquent Citizenship in Puerto Rican and Chicano and Chicana Literature; and numerous scholarly articles/chapters on Latino/a literature and cultural studies. She regularly speaks at conferences and book festivals across the country including the Northern Arizona Book Festival, The Texas Book Festival, The Miami Book Festival and the National and California Associations of Bilingual Educators.

She is a recipient of the prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacies from the Center for Chicano Studies at the University of California. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The writer, poet and essayist Juvenal Acosta grew up in Mexico City—or, to be precise, on its northern fringe, in the 50s suburban experiment called Satellite City, a massive collection of cul de sacs, strip malls, and single family homes. As a teenage poet, he used to drive late night laps to the heart of the big D.F., where he was invited to join a cultish group of writers who called themselves the “infrarealists” and included Roberto Bolaño, among others. Instead, a few years later, he immigrated to the U.S., finding his way to San Francisco where his first work was in construction.

Today, two decades after he first arrived in the United States, he is the author of three novels including The Tattoo Hunter and The Violence of Velvet; Chair of the Writing and Literature department at California College of the Arts; and editor of contemporary Mexican poetry anthologies published by City Lights Books. He has also published journalism, book reviews, and three books in collaboration with artists, entitled Paper of Live Flesh, Tango of the Scar, and Tauromaquia, a mixed-media essay on bullfighting.

ERIC B. MARTIN: You have a unique position, in many ways, as a Mexican living the U.S., with a PhD in Literature, a coveted academic job, novels in print in both English and Spanish. Where do you see yourself in the 21st century spectrum?

JUVENAL ACOSTA: I’m in a position of privilege at this point in my life. I’m a member of the American middle class, I have a teaching job that I like, an academic background. At the same time, in the eyes of this society, I am a Mexican, and that gives me a point of view that I can’t put aside very easily. I wouldn’t trade it. But I need to figure out what I’m going to do with it. People will always think of me as a Mexican writer.

MARTIN: Are you?

ACOSTA: After I wrote three novels in the U.S that somehow deal with my life here, it became evident to me that even though I was writing in Spanish I was not writing quote “Mexican” novels. That I was doing something else. Yes, I’m still a Mexican writer, but these are American novels as well, that happen to be written in a language that is not English.

What I know is that I’m not writing what people are writing in Mexico. And I’m not writing what people are writing in the U.S. So I think this is a unique opportunity to do something that’s original and fresh. And I don’t know if it’s always good, but it doesn’t look like anything else that I’ve seen.

MARTIN: How could you describe that progression in your work? You started out as a poet.

ACOSTA: I am still injecting poetry into my fiction books, but I have no interest in publishing poetry anymore. I immerse myself in a particular form and explore it. In that way, I have moved from the philosophical novel, to the sort of thriller-like novel in my second, to a satirical novel in my third, now I would like to do something different.

MARTIN: What led you to the novel as a form?

ACOSTA: The novel is a very good vehicle for exploring ideas. Unfortunately, there are a lot of writers who believe that the fact they are addressing ideas can be interpreted as a sort of betrayal of storytelling. And I don’t think that there needs to be a conflict of interest. I love the detective novel, and I have noticed that many crime writers are dealing with philosophical issues as well, but they are just not telling you what they are doing.

My first novel deals a lot with the anguish of sex, death, the tension of desire. You have a lot of that in a good mystery novel. Take James Cain, in the Postman Always Rings Twice. That is a great influence on my writing, because he is dealing with the relationship between good and evil, loyalty, faithfulness, betrayal and so on, only he does it without the pretension of ideas.

MARTIN: In terms of the noir tradition as an influence on your work, does that also apply to film?

ACOSTA: The influence of film in my work is very big. When I sit down to write a story, I am almost seeing it the way I see one of my favorite filmmakers’ work. I would love to be able to write a novel that reads and provides the reader the same kind of experience he gets when he sees a film by Kieslowski, or to give the reader an experience equivalent to watching a film by Emilio Fernandez or Louis Malle.

One of the things about film noir, in particular, is the really intimate relationship between place and character. Film noir is all about the look, it’s not about the story. Light and darkness. How the spectator reacts to that particular environment. Film teaches you economy of language. You cannot spend too much time on something that is not relevant.

MARTIN: Mexican filmmakers seem to have a vision that people are responding to right now. And yet, unlike writers, no one seems to expect them to tell only “Mexican” stories. Why do you think?

ACOSTA: I think Hollywood is more sophisticated than the publishing world, which really wants an author to be “Mexican” or “Latin American”. I had that experience when my novel was rejected by a U.S. press because they didn’t think it was Mexican enough.

MARTIN: What did that mean?

ACOSTA: You know, they probably wanted me to explore the barrio. Everyone puts down Hollywood but they in a way are giving us a great lesson in dealing with these filmmakers as filmmakers and not Mexicans. What does it mean to be a Mexican writer, a Guatemalan, or a South African writer?

The era of identity driven writing is hopefully coming to an end. Women needed to address some issues, Blacks needed to address other issues, Latin Americans needed to deal with their own set of images. Yet, it’s never been like that, historically—if you look at great writers from other cultures, they just dealt with life, with the issues that are pertinent to life itself, and not some particular national or ethnic identity. I mean, you don’t read Tolstoy because he’s Russian. He just happens to be Russian.

Yet we write books that are profoundly Russian or profoundly Mexican. Rulfo is Rulfo because he is Mexican. Borges is Borges because he is Argentinian. But that need not be the criteria for reading a short story or a novel.

MARTIN: What is the criteria? Why would anyone read another novel rather than a memoir, non-fiction, or watch a movie, or go online, etc.?

ACOSTA: We complain a lot about people not reading, but I don’t think this has ever been a world where readers are the majority. I actually feel quite optimistic about the connection we have with books in general. I think that people read a lot. Even if we complain that people don’t read the right books or they are very interested only in genre fiction, well, the fact is that Oprah Winfrey chose Cormac McCarthy as her book of the month, and now thousands of housewives in the suburbs are reading Cormac McCarthy for the first time. So I’m hopeful. The whole Harry Potter phenomenon is great. I haven’t read any of the books but maybe I should. Hopefully I can learn something from J.K. Rowling. That wouldn’t hurt.

[La Bloga thanks Eric B. Martin for this interview with Juvenal Acosta. Martin’s most recent book is The Virgin's Guide to Mexico: A Novel (McAdam Cage).]

Monday, September 17, 2007


Aaron A. Abeyta is the author of three books, Colcha (University Press of Colorado), As Orion Falls (Ghost Road Press), and most recently the novel, Rise, Do Not Be Afraid (Ghost Road Press).

Abeyta received his MFA from Colorado State University and currently teaches at Adams State College. Abeyta is the recipient of the 2001 Colorado Book Award and the 2002 American Book Award. Other awards include a fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts and a Grand Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Abeyta has work published in An Introduction to Poetry (10th ed.), Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, & Drama (8th ed.), The High Country News, The Dry Creek Review, S.O.M.O.S., Mountain Gazette, Chokecherries, Colorado Central Magazine, and various other journals. He lives in Antonito, Colorado, where he can be close to his roots and family.

Abeyta’s newest book, Rise, Do Not Be Afraid (Ghost Road Press), is a poetically haunting examination of one small town, Santa Rita, as it suffers through the ravages of time and change. Abeyta says that the book “is about the struggle of a community and its people and their attempt to find redemption and meaning while constantly being surrounded by loss. Despite this loss, the characters of the book seek salvation in the only place they know, the interstices of love, faith and nature.”

Abeyta kindly agreed to answer a few questions for La Bloga.

DANIEL OLIVAS: Your previous two books were poetry collections. What prompted you to write a novel?

AARON ABEYTA: I didn’t set out to write a novel. In truth, since most of my poetry has a very narrative thread anyway, I initially sat down to write a poem. My process for poetry, at least at the draft stage, is very let it all out, left to right, full margins and then go back and cut and cut. In this instance, however, I liked the feel of what I had written and it became a chapter in the book. As for making it into a novel and not just a chapter, I had heard about writers that sit down and write every day (that’s definitely not me) but I thought, what the heck so I sat down the next day and wrote another chapter. Eventually I wrote Monday – Thursday with a goal of one chapter per day with revisions and rewrites every night. It was some sort of mad push, but it turned out okay because I was happy with the results.

OLIVAS: The novel's structure is not traditional but, rather, it moves freely back and forth in time as it also moves from character to character. Why did you structure your novel in such a way?

ABEYTA: The easy answer here is also, fortunately, the truth. I wanted the novel to reflect my influences and those influences are very deeply rooted in the oral tradition. Specifically, the ability to hear one story from several different people on several different occasions with the details eventually filling themselves in. In short, I wanted the novel to read as though you were getting the story from multiple perspectives, i.e., from voices past and present.

OLIVAS: Is Santa Rita a real place or is it representative of small towns in southern Colorado or elsewhere?

ABEYTA: Santa Rita is very real, a village in northern New Mexico about 1 mile from the Colorado Border. My dad used to take me there when I was a kid. Even as a boy I thought the place was beautiful and somehow mythical. You asked earlier what prompted me to write a novel, it was a return trip to Santa Rita, as an adult now, and finding that the road into Santa Rita had been blocked and padlocked, no trespassing signs everywhere. The fact that the place had been bought up by outsiders and that original inhabitants could no longer go there without a key was, honestly, a big wake-up call for me. In the fate of Santa Rita I began to see parallels with other small towns in New Mexico and southern Colorado. So, to answer your question, Santa Rita is real and representative of small towns.

OLIVAS: There are supernatural and biblical elements in your novel. Do you consider it to be in the tradition of "magical realism" or do you reject such categories?

ABEYTA: I don’t reject such categories, but I do believe that there is no such thing as myth if the storyteller is good. As for the tradition of magical realism, I could think of much worse traditions to be associated with. When someone mentions the novel in the same breath as 100 Years of Solitude, it is a great honor for me and I truly appreciate such connections.

OLIVAS: The Bible's influence on your novel is readily apparent especially in your chapter titles. Why did you decide to use the Bible as your touchstone?

ABEYTA: The Bible, yes, huge influence, but most of the influence came from the Gospel of Luke. I chose Luke for several reasons, but the most evident was that my abuelita used to tell me that Luke’s was a gospel of mercy. I didn’t know what that meant, but as an adult I began to understand. If you look at corresponding passages from the other gospels you’ll see that the translator uses the word “perfect” whereas Luke uses “merciful.” Case in point, Dismas the good thief, who died with Christ. Luke is the only one who mentions him in a positive light. In fact, Luke saw to it that Dismas entered into heaven. With Dismas and Luke playing in the back of my mind I chose chapter titles/gospel passages where mercy was evident (at least to me) and used them as the base from which the chapters emerged. I wanted the characters and Santa Rita to be treated mercifully, despite their failings. I guess you could say that all the characters have a bit of Dismas in them, but are redeemed by some form of mercy, rather than perfection. I hope all that made sense. It made sense to me, but sometimes that doesn’t count for much.

OLIVAS: What was your process in writing this novel? Did you have anyone read early drafts?

ABEYTA: I think I already answered the first part of this question, but as to the second wife, Michele and my mom were about 24 hours behind me, i.e., I would write something on a Monday and they would read it on Tuesday. Their input was invaluable because it allowed me to verify that I was on the right track with people who knew Santa Rita and some of the people that I based characters on. Once I had their stamp of approval I knew I could continue with the next chapter. I know that having your wife and mom as readers would seem to register about a 0.0 on the objectivity scale, but they were very honest and helped me a lot.

Later, once the entire manuscript was done, I asked a few other people to help. Most of them were very positive, but I did get a few comments about the names of the characters being too difficult. Another reader told me the plot structure was not good. With no offense intended toward those readers, I knew I had done what I set out to do when I received those comments. I didn’t want a plot structure that was predictable and I wanted people to see the beauty in the names of the characters. No offense to the Jennifers of the world but I liked names like Nonnatusia.

OLIVAS: Who are your literary influences?

ABEYTA: Loaded’s a very short list in no particular order: Pablo Neruda, Yehuda Amichai, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Cesar Vallejo, Ernest Hemingway, and Tim O’Brien. There are so many other authors I really look up to that I feel bad not having a list 100 names long, but the ones I did mention all write stuff I identify with on a human and spiritual level and that’s what I wanted for this book.

OLIVAS: What do you teach? Does teaching help you as a writer?

I teach at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado. My two specialty areas are creative writing and Chicano Literature, but I also teach Ethnic & Minority Literature. As for the second part of your question, I think it’s the other way around. I think writing helps me as a teacher, mainly because I put a lot of emphasis on being a reader and the connection between reading and writing. Anyway, as writer I feel like I can get a bead on what other writer’s are trying to do and therefore convey those things to my students more readily.

ABEYTA: What do your friends and family think of your writing?

I don’t have any friends. Just kidding. My family and friends are very supportive and both are a great source of material. On one occasion my mom had given me some material which then turned into a poem for my first book. A while after it was published my aunt came up to me and very seriously asked me “where are you getting your information?” I thought that was funny, but it reinforces my earlier point about the same story from different perspectives.

OLIVAS: Thank you for spending time with La Bloga.

◙ On Friday, September 14th, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially kicked off theCity’s Latino Heritage Month celebration. Latino Heritage Month will include a creative writing contest and a poster competition. For more information about Latino Heritage Month 2007 and upcoming events, please visit Of particular note (for La Bloga readers) is the fine children’s bibliography compiled for Latino Heritage Month which you can see here. The list includes many of La Bloga’s friends such as Luis Rodriguez, Max Benavidez, Gary Soto, Ofelia Dumas Lachtman, and others. Also, for an events calendar which includes book readings, go here.

◙ ONE BROWN BOOK, ONE NATION READING PROGRAM: In commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month, has launched a “One Brown Book, One Nation” reading program to highlight Latino literature across the United States. After extensive review, the inaugural selection is The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea. The Devil’s Highway is the true story of a group of 26 Mexicans who attempted to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border on foot into the desert of southern Arizona and only 12 survived the journey. Published in 2004, The Devil's Highway was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction the following year.

“The ‘One Brown Book’ project arises out of the need to highlight literature by the largest minority group in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jose B. Gonzalez, Professor of English, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and co-founder of “The idea for the project came to me out of a need to make readers of the U.S. aware of the power and beauty of Latino literature.”

The nationwide committee which selected Urrea’s book was composed of Vincent Bosquez, president of the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio; Marcela Landres, editorial consultant and publisher of Latinidad (NYC); and elena minor, editor of PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art (LA). You may contact Dr. Jose B. Gonzalez at 860.444.8612;

◙ The new issue of Tu Ciudad is now available on your newsstands. For its September “Passport L.A." issue, readers will find a guide with local shops, restaurants and entertainment for a Latin-themed adventure in Southern California. With recommendations for Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, readers can explore all that the Southland has to offer for an international excursion. Pick it up. Better yet, fill out this handy-dandy, secure form and subscribe!

◙ The El Paso Community College Salute to the Arts, Literary Ripples Committee and PaPaGaYo Literary Center will sponsor an evening and a day with Kathleen Alcalá, author of Treasures in Heaven and The Desert Remembers My Name. The public is invited to meet the author at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the college's Administrative Services Center, 9050 Viscount, for a reception and book-signing session. The event is free. Alcalá, an award-winning author now teaching creative writing in the Pacific Northwest, will also read and sign books at a scholarship fund-raising luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 28, also in the Administrative Services Center. The luncheon costs $10. Information: Richard Yáñez, 831-2630, or Jeanne Foskett, 831-2411.

◙ Gus Chavez of Defend the Honor Campaign is asking for a boycott of Ken Burns’ book and DVD on World War II. For more information on the boycott, contact Chavez at You can also read this article from Forbes concerning the boycott. Here is the text of Chavez’s September 11th boycott announcement:


Earlier today, September 11, I bought the book THE WAR: An Intimate History 1941-1945 by Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward, a 451 page publication with hundreds of photos, illustrations and extensive bibliography
. The coverage given to White Americans, Japanese Americans and African Americans throughout the book is extensive and well done.

After reviewing the book cover to cover I have come to the conclusion that the book, like the film documentary, is totally devoid of the WWII Latino and Latina experience.


Introduction - No Latinos or Latinas (Photo of Ken Burns’ father - Robert)

Written text - No Latinos or Latinas

Photos - No Latinos or Latinas

Illustration Credits - No Latinos or Latinas

Acknowledgments - No Latinos or Latinas

Extensive bibliography - No Latinos or Latinas

Index - No Latinos or Latinas

Film Credits - No Latinos or Latinas

There is only one reference to Mexicans when describing the population of Sacramento. It states: "The city had been the gateway to the Gold Rush and the Western anchor of the transcontinental railroad, and it was home to some 106,000 diverse people -- including Mexicans, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans." Other than this one reference to "Mexican," Latinos are excluded in THE WAR. It is incumbent for us, the Latino and Latina community, to send a strong economic message to the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Ken Burns, Geoffrey Ward and PBS that we will not spend our hard earned money on publications or films that excludes us from our nation's historical memory.

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