Saturday, May 31, 2008

International Icons and New Voices Highlighted at Queens Theatre in the Park’s Chase Latino Cultural Festival Annual Beacon of Latino Diversity Crosse

International icons. New Voices. Wry twists on tradition. Bold new statements. The 12th Chase Latino Cultural Festival (July 23-August 3) at the indoor Queens Theatre in the Park showcases the veteran performers who started it all side by side with performers striking out in new directions. It brings together the “Lawless Goat” of old-school Dominican bachata and the “Good Rooster” of Nuyorican experimental rock. It presents well-loved New York institutions, international icons, and eye-opening newcomers, including world premieres by contemporary dance companies from abroad, thanks to its annual tradition of a commissioned dance piece. Queens Theatre continues as a beacon of diverse Latino performing arts with this annual festival.

“More people are gaining access and exposure to different art and music, old and new, through technology,” muses Festival Artistic Director Claudia Norman. “But we think it’s important to bring artists to the U.S. from abroad and expose people to the classics and innovators through live performance. We want to communicate that the mainstream Latino culture you get from the media is only part of the story.”

The Festival, in what’s become a tradition, tells the other side of the story by inviting ground-breaking veteran artists from unexpected corners of the Americas and Spain, the cherished icons and forgotten pioneers who made Latin music great. The Festival opens with the playful energy of Grupo Afroperuano Caracumbe (International premiere) and the unique sounds and dynamic movements of Peru’s African heritage. The Bachata Roja Legend (New York premiere) will give audiences a taste of the gritty, racy acoustic sounds that laid the groundwork for today’s radio favorites, uniting half a dozen respected elders—including a musician known only as “The Lawless Goat”—and a few new faces from the Dominican Republic. Rubén Rada, in a rare concert outside of the Uruguayan community, takes the Afro-Uruguayan candombe many Latin Americans remember fondly from carnivals back home to a new, rocking level, in a rare opportunity to hear Uruguay’s best-loved export. Timbales maestro and New York native Jaime “Jimmy” Sabater, credited with coining the term salsa in an early ’60s hit, demonstrates how everyone’s favorite dance music can be elevated to high art. Finally, the multi-generational tradition behind Colombia’s Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, performing in the U.S. for the first time since the release of their Grammy-winning CD, reveals a whole other side of the Afro-Colombian musical landscape and the traditional roots of modern cumbia, emphasizing the distinct quill-and-cactus resonance of the gaita flute. On a lighter note, Colombian stand-up comedians Tola y Maruja explore an icon of traditional humor in their latest routine, the hilarious history of a notorious Colombian joke starring a raunchy rube, once banned by the Catholic Church.

While honoring the roots and the greats, the Festival also highlights emerging and surprising voices from the Latino community who have taken up the traditional torch and run with it. Zemog el Gallo Bueno (Queens premiere) takes Puerto Rican musical traditions pioneered by musicians like Sabater and stands them on their head, thanks to an infusion of innovative rock and clever lyrics exploring the puzzle of cultural identity. Continuing the long-standing love affair Festival audiences have had with Afro-Peruvian idols like Eva Ayllón and Peru Negro, Corina Bartra’s soaring voice effortlessly combines refined jazz reflections and a deep understanding of her Peruvian heritage. Similarly refined yet presenting a musical world rarely explored on New York’s stages, Venezuelan guitarist and award-winning arranger and composer Aquiles Báez takes Latin rhythms and sounds and reframes them via sophisticated, striking harmonies. The young Argentine Inca Rose Duo celebrates the many other traditions overshadowed by tango in a family-friendly program featuring the songs of the Argentine cowboys, the gauchos riding Argentina’s broad countryside. Also for children of all ages is a screening of a full-length animated, subtitled feature from Peru, Dragones: Destino de Fuego (Dragons: Destiny of Fire), a coming-of-age story about a young dragon raised by the condors of Lake Titicaca. An open mic night, hosted by veteran poetry slammer Rich Villar (Queens premier), will round out the Festival program, giving young poets and writers a chance to add their new voices to the mix.
Yet another tradition, an original work of dance by a Latin American choreographer has been specially commissioned to debut at this year’s Festival. This year’s creator, Magdalena Brezzo, will present a new work (world premiere) with the dancers of the Mexican contemporary dance company Camerino 4, appearing in the U.S. for the first time. Trained as a sculptor, Brezzo envisions movement in terms of space, perspective, and light, which makes for striking dance. In elegant counterpoint, New York darlings Noche Flamenca will return to the Festival with their raw grace and absorbing approach to flamenco music and dance that never fails to feel fiery and fresh.

Over the years, the Festival has evolved a distinct identity as a showcase for global stars and saucy newcomers, often presenting different facets of the same artistic tradition from year to year. Experimenters and explorers compare and contrast with the mainstays and icons of festivals past. “If you look at artists like Bartra, it’s fascinating to compare her work with Eva Ayllón. Or if you listen to Zemog and then to Sabater, or even think back to performers like Candido, you get a whole other perspective on what tradition is and what you can do with it,” Norman points out. Moreover, the Festival makes its mission to encourage this innovation by continually presenting new works and new names. As its national impact grows, so too does its ability to gain recognition for new Latino artists’ high artistic standards and quality performances.

It has also come up with a unique and compelling approach to serving the communities surrounding the Theatre. It pushes for more than interethnic understanding and cultural awareness; it encourages intergenerational dialogue in immigrant families. “When you come to establish yourself in a new environment, a new culture, the best way to let others understand where you are coming from is to share the experience of music or dance,” Norman explains. “Many first-generation folks in the audience have kids starting to play music. They’re the parents of the new generation of artists taking root in NYC. And the Festival aims to reunite these generations.”

Performances bridge the gap between the younger generation who only hear salsa, cumbia, and bachata on the airwaves, and their parents who love its roots. It brings together recent immigrants who never got a chance to attend a theater back home, with seasoned Festival buffs jumping at the chance to dance the night away, read their latest rhymes, or expand their horizons. It spreads the word about the great diversity and creativity thriving in Queens and around Latin America nationwide.

For information and tickets, contact the Queens Theatre in the Park box office at 718-760-0064 or go to

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hipsters to Flying Pigs; Heartland Poetry to Spanglish Quixote

Two very different author events coming up in June at the Tattered Cover. They each sound intriguing but I admit I'm drawn to 6 Sick Hipsters. Here are the book store announcements.

Time: Saturday, June 21, 2008 7:00 p.m.
Location: Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue, Denver
As part of Booked, a new series of interactive events for young readers, three local authors will discuss and sign their new books for teens. Denise Vega will present her book Fact of Life #31 (Random House), and Lynda Sandoval and Terri Clark will discuss their new book Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Houghton Mifflin). This will not be your ordinary panel discussion. It will be three of our favorite authors with their guards down, taking questions, reading, offering a playlist for one of the books, and more!

Request a signed copy:

Time: Friday, June 27, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Location: Tattered Cover Historic LoDo

Denver author Rayo Casablanca is a film and music critic who has contributed short fiction and pop culture criticism to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Geek Monthly, Splendid and Juked among others. In the late '90s Rayo self-published Sinema Brut, a critically acclaimed 'zine devoted to European Trash Cinema. Casablanca will read from and sign his debut novel 6 Sick Hipsters (Kensington), a hilarious, frenetic, adrenalin-charged murder mystery, that does for modern day Williamsburg, Brooklyn, what Bret Easton Ellis's Less than Zero did for '80s L.A. - but with a knowing grin and a far cooler soundtrack.

Request a signed copy:

The Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City announced the publication of Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland, described as the first of its kind to feature Latino writers of the Midwest. Francisco Aragón, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Letras Latinas and Institute for Latino Studies, writes, “Primera Página is more than a book, more than an anthology. It’s a community—one borne of community-building in the best sense of the term.” Poet Virgil Suarez writes, “This first anthology ... by the Latino Writers Collective, is a breath of fresh air. The voices here have verve and power.” This anthology includes poems by such established poets as Gloria Vando, editor of Helicon Nine Editions and winner of the Latino Literary Hal of Fame for her poetry collection Shadows & Supposes (Arte Publíco Press). Also included are former Taco Shop Poets member Tomás Riley of California, who was featured at the collective’s reading series in Kansas City last year, and Andrés Rodríguez, author of Night Song (Tía Chucha Press). Newer voices include Chato Villalobos, a Kansas City, Mo., police officer; Marcelo Xavier Trillo, a former gang leader and past intern to poet Jimmy Santiago Baca; Gabriela N. Lemmons, who has work forthcoming in Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta (Girlchild Press), and Angela Cervantes, a recent runner-up in The Missouri Review’s Audio Competition. Other contributors include José Faus, editor of the Kansas City Hispanic News, and Linda Rodriguez, author of the forthcoming I Don’t Know How to Cook Mexican (Adams Media).

The Latino Writers Collective, based in the Kansas City metropolitan area, organizes and coordinates projects for the larger community, especially to showcase national and local Latino writers and provide role models and instruction to Latino youth. The collective sponsors an annual reading series in Kansas City and plans release of a performance CD later this year. Primera Página is $16.95 in trade paperback, 173 pp. For more information or to request a media review copy, contact Ben Furnish at (816) 824-6814 or This book is available to bookstores and libraries through Baker & Taylor.

Scapegoat Press, P.O. Box 410962, Kansas City, Missouri 64141


One night only! Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 7:30pm in the Ricketson Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex downtown. Tickets are $22 general, $18 students/seniors/NPAC participants, with a special $16 comadre group rate. Ca ll El Centro Su Teatro at (303) 296-0219 to purchase your tickets today! Seating for this performance IS ASSIGNED. The first buyers get the best seats! Celebrate summertime with this hilarious barrio fairytale. Call now!

The Stanford Daily carried a piece about Ilan Stavans, prolific writer, professor, editor, etc., who recently visited the Stanford campus. The article reported that Stavans's lecture touched on a variety of subjects including the "cultural phenomenon" of Spanglish; why he thinks it's important to translate Don Quixote into Spanglish; and how Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are in some ways the Jews of today, arguing that “no other groups would accept such [verbal abuse]” like the abuse immigrants receive. The article is worth a look.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Luis Omar Salinas: Casting a Giant Shadow

in the greenrooom with Alurista is Luis Omar Salinas

I received an email this morning from Juan Felipe Herrera: "Yesterday, in Sanger, Califas, we lost another great carnal, hermano and singer of the heart. He was ill for some time....."

The body of the living word is now diminished by the passing of Luis Omar Salinas...

Going North
(for my grandfather)

Those streets in my youth
hilarious and angry,
cobblestoned by Mestizos,
fresh fruit
and dancing beggars.
Gone are the soldiers
and the nuns.
My Portuguese friends
have gone North.
The school girls
have ripened
I hum Spanish tunes
waiting for the bus
in Fresno.
These avenues
I watch
young, open collared
like my grandfather
who died in a dream
going North.

Gracias, Luis....

A postscript....This ran in today's Fresno Bee

Demetria Martínez: Walking the Walk


La Bloga readers were encouraged to buy and be moved by Demetria's phenomenal book, Confessions of A Berlitz Tape Chicana. The reasons why are here. Social activist, journalist, esayist and port, we were lucky to catch up with her recently, and this is our conversation.....

Your life is very much bound up in social action. How would you describe to role of the writer,
of the poet as it relates to the body politic?

Poets are citizens first, lucky enough to be literate, and therefore part of a global elite. That brings with it a special responsibility, and that is to help bring forth voices that are silenced. Our gift--the imagination-- allows us, if we choose, to write out of a place of empathy for those who are suffer--often as a result of our nation's own policies (NAFTA for example) and those of massive corporations.

We are also compelled to imagine a world that is healed, made whole. What would that look like? I think the poet Martin Espada is a good model of poet as prophet--denouncing evil, and proclaiming a new vision. Personally, I draw great energy from my work on behalf of women immigrants, great energy from activists who carry on despite it all. And so they appear in my work--I'm writing a collection of short stories about three women activists living in Albuquerque. We need to draw close to such visionaries--the activists, the community organizers--or our work can grow stale.

Obviously what happened to me 20 years ago solidified my commitment to immigrant issues: I was charged with conspiracy to transport Salvadoran refugees into the U.S.--and faced a possible 25 years in prison. In fact, I was accompanying church workers who were transporting refugees as part of the Sanctuary Movement---I did this as a reporter. I was acquitted on First Amendment grounds. The whole affair gave me the opportunity to speak around the country--not only about reporters' rights, but about the U.S. subsidizing of El Salvador's death squads. So a blessing emerged from the pain and fear.

Speaking of body...Your work also seems to return to female presence. Who are sources of inspiration for you? How do you feel being a woman informs your work.

Grace Paley, the great short story writer who passed away last year, is my role model. She wrote about the every day lives of women. And she was an activist. Some writers teach one how to write. But, if you're lucky, you will encounter that person who teaches you not only how to write but how to live. Grace was one of those people.

In 'Confessions' you're very opposed to the 'romance' people people associate with mental illness, especially your own bipolar issue. Can you talk about that external projection of others, about your own response to it.

It's important to tell the brutal truth about bipolar disorder. Manic states very quickly turn into irritability, anger, paranoia and worse. The great American novel that you started to write on a napkin at a coffee house is illegible; when you regain your wits, you're lucky if you can remember what the great idea was all about. Harmony and balance make production possible--and for the long haul. The only side effect I've had from my medicine is mental health. It feels great to be alive, to write, to be involved in the world.

How do you feel your own spirituality today is reconciled with the Catholicism of your youth?

I center myself every day,, sometimes several times a day, with prayer, something as simple as a Hail Mary. And I recently attending a novena, a praying of the rosary, that my parish held for peace and disarmament. It's important as a writer and an activist to learn to cultivate silence. Catholicism gives me the tools for that. Obviously I disagree with many of the church doctrines (women priests, gay rights, etc). But that will change.

What 's been on your plate recently in terms of your writing?

I've finished my first children's book, co-authored with a friend, Rosalee Montoya-Read. What a joy it was to collaborate! Writing is so solitary. And I continue work on a collection of short stories, the working title of which is What Saves Us.

Where would you like to see yourself ten years from now?

I'd like to become a terrific gardener (I've just started my first one recently). I'd like to learn more about traditional remedios. And soup, I love making soup but there is much room for improvement. Somewhere in there I'd like to write a novella, and a book of poetry in Spanish.

Tell us something not in the official bio.

I missed my calling as a doctor. My poor friends are always getting diagnosed (even if they feel fine) and offered unsolicited advice on how to improve their health. Chile cures colds and flu. In Boston once, I couldn't get any chile and I felt a cold coming on. So I ordered a bowl of clam chowder, a large side of Jalapenos and tabasco sauce. I mixed it all together and I was well in twelve hours.

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

UCLA Book Launch

UCLA Undocumented Immigrant
Students Speak out

Featuring Stories by:

Mario Escobar – A former child soldier from El Salvador who recently attained asylum in this country

Tam Tran – A UCLA graduate who testified before the U.S. Congress on the status of undocumented students

Grace – A Korean student who gave up her student visa to qualify for AB 540 so she could attend UCLA

Antonio – A Mexican immigrant who arrived in this country at the age of four and who struggled to finance and complete his college education

UNDERGROUND UNDERGRADS highlights the growing student movement around access to higher education for undocumented students. This student publication includes the moving stories of eight UCLA undocumented undergrads who write about their emotional pain, financial hardships, and ultimate triumphs upon graduation. It also serves as an educational and research tool by providing a summary of the history of legislation impacting undocumented students in higher education as well as a resource guide of organizations that support student rights.

Wednesday, May 28, 4:00-6:00 pm

UCLA Chicano Studies
Research Center Library
Haines Hall 144

Co-sponsored by the CSRC, UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, and IDEAS at UCLA

Directions to UC
LA available at: Campus parking can be purchased for $8 at the Westholme Dr./Hilgard Ave. or Wyton Ave./Hilgard Ave. kiosks. The closest available Lots are #2 and #3.

For more information: (310) 206-9185


A Writing Tip from Highlights Coordinating Editor Kim Griswell

Setting cannot be a casual afterthought—it's too important to what can and will happen, to who your character is and what he or she can become. Think about it—what would Harry Potter be like if he lived in Lubbock, Texas? Paris, France? Harare, Zimbabwe? Just as the places you've lived have helped shape who you are, the setting of your story shapes your characters.

How do you experience the world around you? Creating a sense of place allows your reader to fully share your characters' experiences. Good writers use all five of their senses when they write. Most writers remember to use the sense of sight. But they may forget the other four senses—sound, smell, taste, and touch. Think about your favorite place. It might be a park, your room, a tree house, or the library. Any place you really love. Close your eyes and go there. List the things that make the place special to you. Use colors, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and objects that you remember. Use this same technique to call forth sensory details about your setting. And don't forget your research here! Can your character really smell magnolia blossoms outside her window? Do magnolias grow in this setting? When do they bloom? How do they smell? Include all five senses, but make sure your sensory details are as accurate as possible.

Kim T. Griswell is the coordinating editor of Highlights and Highlights High Five. Her service has spanned the worlds of publishing and teaching, leading her to positions as senior editor, book development manager, a university instructor, and a teacher with the Institute of Children's Literature. She holds master's degrees in teaching writing and in literature. A prolific writer and committed editor, Kim has published more than two hundred short stories, articles, and columns. Her children's book, Carnivorous Plants, was published by Kidhaven Press in 2002.


A Writing Tip from Philomel Editor Patricia Lee Gauch

I love the butterfly as a symbol, and I am going to guess you do, too. I don't know if you ever thought of the butterfly as a hero. But it has something to say to the littlest person, doesn't it: it says—look at me, I just looked like a plain little caterpillar, but by making my way, munching my way through life in the right way, I turn into a butterfly.

And it says to the littlest child: Little as you are, so can you.

All children are different, no question: some are gifted, some deprived, most a mix. But while each child is born different, every single one has the gift of a journey. That's what I think about. That's the neat thing. A child is not born finished. Every person is born a caterpillar, who with half a break can become a butterfly. Or, as per mythologist Joseph Campbell, everyone can become a kind of hero along the way. Of the big sort or the everyday sort.

Patricia Lee Gauch is vice president and editor at large of Philomel Books as well as a respected author in her own right. She holds a doctorate in English literature, and has taught children's literature on the college level and reviewed for The New York Times. Patti has edited three Caldecott books, including Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr, and So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George and David Small. She has worked with many well-known authors, including Jane Yolen, Andrew Clements, and Brian Jacques.


These tips come from general sessions given at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. Find out more at

The Highlights Foundation
814 Court Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: (570) 253-1192

saludos René Colato Laínez

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Internet Resources for Writers Panel at the National Latino Writers Conference

Michael Sedano

As promised to the panel and audience, here are the fleshed out remarks and internet links relating to my presentation. Lydia Gil kindly provides links to her internet resources. Be sure to visit to view Dr. Richard Griego’s elegant site.

On behalf of my La Bloga colleagues, it’s an honor to be here with you this week. The National Hispanic Cultural Center takes my breath away with its superb facility and potential. Similarly, the National Latino Writers Conference is one of those knock-your-socks-off experiences.

Thanking our hosts is an impossible task without being able to name everyone who plays a role in making it possible. I must acknowledge Carlos Vasquez, Greta Pullen, and Katie Trujillo, and am saddened that I cannot thank individually all the unnamed gente, from the food service staff to the administrative staff, whose work--when it’s done well--goes unnoticed and that’s as it should be. I’m sure all of us appreciate their well-earned invisibilility.

The central motive for attending the National Latino Writers Conference is finding ways to improve one’s own work by working with a team of outstanding authors. The outcome lies in your future, based on what you make of what you take home with you. More immediately, we experience the second most important outcome of the conference in the pleasant discussions, intense conversations, and comradeship that infuses our lunches, van rides, and after hours teamwork.

Clearly, what is happening here is effective. We hear a consistency among the presentations. Don Rudolfo Anaya opened the conference, keynoting trusting your characters, exercising discipline, and appreciating the privilege of writing. Helen Viramontes echoes these ideas in her workshop, adding her own insight, as does Kathleen Azevedo in her workshop. We hear these ideas again in Rolando Hinojosa-Smith’s seminar. Such consistency suggests the National Latino Writers Conference is doing something right, especially their emphasis that what we do is fun.

La Bloga is happy to share in that set of messages and hopefully stand as a kind of model. Thank you for your words of appreciation for La Bloga’s work; I am overwhelmed at your warmth here in Alburquerque, and the reception we receive on the internet. We get between 400 and 500 hits per day, thousands of visitors each week.

Rudy Garcia, Manuel Ramos and I are the original three members of La Bloga. I am the titular “blogmeister” but we all share access to the content. Rudy, Manuel and I met on the CHICLE listserve, originated by Teresa Marquez, who is quite ill, thus not attending today. I would love to have been able to thank her personally, and wish her the best of health.

Actually, most of us La Bloga blogueras blogueros have never met. I’ve not yet met Rudy, and met Manuel once at a reading of his highly recommended novel, Moony’s Road to Hell. Rudy posts intermittently, usually sharing wonderful experiences with his elementary school English-learners.

We’re always happy to invite guest columnists, especially as guests have a way of sticking with it. After CHICLE, the rest of La Bloga comes from guest columnist spots. Dan Olivas, whose anthology, Latinos in Lotusland, is capturing lots of attention, started as a guest after RudyG reviewed Dan’s collection of eerie tales, Devil Talk. Then Lisa Alvarado came aboard after a number of guest episodes. I’d reviewed Lisa’s Sister Chicas long before Lisa’s first guest shot. René Colato came aboard as a guest and now takes the Wednesday column with children’s literature and picture books. Ann Cardinal posts on Sundays. She’s one of Lisa’s co-author of Sister Chicas, and did three guest posts before joining us as a regular.

La Bloga welcomes you as our guest. We would love to expand the roster of regulars. Normally, guests take the Saturday slot, but it would be wonderful to have enough blogueras and blogueros to be able to go every other week. As Dr. Griego notes, there are hundreds of thousands of former bloggers; likely owing to the relentless stress of daily one-person blogging. Leave a comment or send an email when you’re ready to seek an invitation to a guest column.

One of the features that gente report enjoying is La Bloga’s hyperlink list of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers. It was created and is maintained by Manuel Ramos. This is a list of published writers. The “Otras” list features literary/cultural arts-related sites. For example, my Read! Raza site, which is an example of one way the internet functions as a writer’s resource, as a means of expression and community-building.

La Bloga represents New Media as contrasted to Old Media. The Gutenberg Revolution of movable type made printed work widely available and invented an instant cliché, “power of the press belongs to the woman who owns one.” This reflects an inherent and severe restriction of old media that the internet renders moot. Anyone who can type and burns with a need to express themselves—and that’s every writer—can become their own press.

This new media doesn’t supplant the old media as much as it democratizes it. The new media of the internet reduces the power of ownership in old media, remaking the key issues accessibility and competence. It’s a critical time to take on this new / old media perspective. The imperative goes beyond the writer’s need to express and share. Our nation has entered what Fritz Machlup and other futurists termed the “post-industrial age,” or “the information society.” Years ago, the United States economy made almost everything we used. Ball point pens, typewriters, washing machines, television sets. Today, these items all bear a legend like “Made in China.” The U.S. manufactures customized products but almost nothing else. So where are all the jobs? Industry and commerce work by moving information, words.

You remember the arguments that in order to be a fully literate or competent Chicana Chicano one should read a canonical list of books and poetry. I suggest there’s a canonical list of technologies Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers need to develop to remain competitive in the information society. I call it “vertical integration” of new media technologies. A competent writer starts at the most basic level and advances her his skills to become fully capable of managing and controlling messages from creation to internet publishing, the edge of the new media and the passageway to publishing, still the sine qua non of old media.

Typing, keyboarding is number one. Beyond this, professional writers need to operate at the highest levels of literacy. Thus, one should develop Operating System control—don’t be controlled by your tools, learn instead to control the tools to enhance your productivity. Another reason is ergonomics; your PC, your mouse, will injure you.

Learning keyboard shortcuts helps limit repetitive motion injury while enhancing productivity. Think how many times you do repetitive motions using mousestrokes. When printing, instead of navigating to file, dragging down to Print, and then clicking, press Control P Enter, or Open Apple P Enter on your Mac. To shut down your windows PC, instead of navigating to file, dragging down then left clicking on Quit, ALT F4 Enter. Watch the menus when you mouse around. Keyboard shortcuts appear to the right of the mouse command. Google “keyboard shortcuts” for numerous pages of OS and program-specific shortcuts.

On my Read! Raza website I’ve posted a document I call PC Basics for Writers. It covers keyboard shortcuts and some fundamental computing concepts that I’ve always found useful when training knowledge workers in private industry, something I did for the past 24 years.

Photography, image control, is the next technology to integrate into your repertoire of competencies. While there are numerous photography and shutterbug sites you can Google, the best resource is the software itself. When you acquired your digital camera, the manufacturer packaged it with imaging software, maybe Photoshop Lite. Read the manual. In fact the best way to learn any technology is reading the manuals. An effective method is reading a manual all the way through once without stopping or being whelmed. Then read it again--this is a version of learning the unknown in terms of the known, i.e., that first all-the-way-through reading—this time asking questions and trying a few techniques. The best way to acquire suitable skill is now jump in and do a project. Learn to edit, size, print photos. (By the way, to print images I recommend saving as TIF at 300 dpi to extract the full quality of the file and the printer).

HTML is the next level of competency. This need not be a big hassle. Use Microsoft Word and Save As Web Page. In Word, learn to use Tables to layout text and images. Tables are a wonder tool whose power extends beyond the internet, producing orderly layout of any text. Don’t use spaces and tabs to align text in columns, use tables and make your work editable. Learn to set paper color and place images, save as web page, and you can populate your own website with the results, and not have written a single line of HTML code.

Once your competency grows beyond the level of Lite and Word tricks, evaluate the full-power suites. Adobe’s website encourages you to download full-featured software and use it for a month. You’ll find professional-level tools mouth-watering. Photoshop and Fireworks for images; Dreamweaver for HTML; Flash for video, animation and fancy bells and whistles on your webpages. Mac users have iTunes to create mp3 files to lend aural thrills to webpages.

Writers should maintain a personal website. As Lydia Gil observes, writers need exposure and to partner in publicizing their work. If you absolutely lack the resources to create your own web presence, Read! Raza offers free webspace to any writer or artist. For free webspace, consider Geocities. For blogging, refer to Dr. Richard Griego’s recommendations (see his handout distributed at the NLWC). La Bloga runs on It’s an excellent free tool that allows you to mount several blogs. Maintain one as your public site, create a practice site to try out new pages and ideas. Blogging, like writing, relies upon rough drafts and editing to get it presentable.

Dr. Lydia Gil’s presentation emphasized the research resources available to writers on the internet. Lydia has emailed her links to me, which I’ve appended below. Consider the enormous research resources of the internet, and that “research” refers to three activities, Observation/Conversation/Reading.

For Observation, visit other writer’s sites, for example, the hyperlinked list at La Bloga. Observe not only what they write but how they present themselves. You’ll benefit from observing the publishing industry as well. There’s a useful gossip site, Galleycat, that delves into New York’s trade but also sweeping across the continent through Chicago to El Lay.

For Conversation, remember Anaya’s comment that writers should concern themselves less with finding a publisher than with finding an editor. Investigate This is a website for any writer, whether poet, playwrite, novelist, essayist or short storicist. The site imposes a rule: before you can post an original work of your own you first must critique four other contributions. This 4:1 ratio will keep you engaged in one of the most important elements of developing your own expression, critiquing and being critiqued. The Marcela Landrés site that Dr. Gil recommends is indeed useful. La Bloga’s Lisa Alvarado notes that Sister Chicas originated as a Latinidad-aided project.

For Reading-centered resources, see Dr. Gil’s list. I second her suggestion to get a library card at a research library to access the full text resources ordinarily unavailable. I would personally love to have a subscription to’s full text collection of Chicana Chicano literature. A free full-text resource is the Gutenberg Project. It’s highly useful, despite its focus on classical texts. A free reference site I’ve found incredibly entertaining and useful comes out of BYU, a comprehensive listing of rhetorical schemes and tropes called Silva Rhetoricae. It’s a wonderful resource that I plan one day to replicate but using models from Chicano and Latino literature, so when a kid wants to explore the nature of, say, metaphor, they’ll have a definition and set of illustrations drawn from a Latina Latino writer. Dictionaries I recommend are the RAE, the dictionary of the Spanish academy, in other words, “the official word” on Spanish language definitions. Then there are Merriam Webster's free and fee-based services, and other dictionaries.

My final consideration in recommending vertical integration of a writer’s technological skills points to the world of work. Few writers will be able fully to earn a living from their publishing. Fortuitously, the ability to use the tools of new media is part and parcel of employment in the post-industrial, information society that rages around us. Google some of those sites on resumé and cover letters. Use their advice and your literary skill to put your best foot forward. Effective writers are rare and you will be well rewarded for bringing in your skills to any organization where you can get your foot in.

I’ve long believed that writers develop three competencies that industry absolutely needs: literacy, numeracy, and oracy. Literacy is writing and reading. Numeracy is crunching numbers but also controlling computers. Oracy is listening and speaking. For a writer, this also means giving serious thought to how you conduct your readings. Make them entertaining. The worst experience for an audience is to sit through a dull and boring presentation. Get away from behind that lectern! Put your entire body before the audience. Hide that water bottle and display your book in its place. This way when you’re standing next to the lectern, photos will include the cover, and the book stands there as your “silent salesperson” throughout the reading. (Plus it's so painful for a photog to shoot only chin-up reading fotos, peor if the reader is short and the lectern tall!)

As great and entertaining as Martín Espada and Jovie Fast read for us this week, their level of performance is entirely within everyone’s capacity. You’ve already written an excellent piece, so think about how the words mean, then practice, practice, practice making the reading match your meaning. If I have to sit through five poorly performed minutes, when I’m on my deathbed I’d give anything to have back those five wasted minutes. Don’t do that to your audience.

Internet Resources for Writers From Lydia Gil. Please note, Dr. Gil encourages NLWC writers to notify her of current-year publications. She will consider reviewing these for her EFE column, EFE-Libros. - full-text resource - (directory of academic databases, links to periodicals from
Latin America, searchable by keyword, country)
*Ask your library (public or university) about access to such full-text
databases as & Project Muse -
*Latinidad: (subscribe to Latinidad through her site)
Intro to podcasting:

Observation Resources. - fee-based full-text collection of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers. Get that research library access. - scroll down the left side to access our ongoing enlarged list of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino published writers. Scroll below that for related arts and culture sites like Read! Raza. Please notify Manuel Ramos when you’ve published your first novel or collection and he'll add your site to the list. To recommend an arts & culture site for the "Otras" listing, notify the blogmeister at - Free access to great poetry by known and less-known poets.

Conversation Resources. - a collegial writing site for observation and critiquing. - variety of writer and artist online communities, such as - graphic artists, painters, sculptors

Reading Resources. - Full text resource books, other material. - Publishing industry chisme: Galleycat, news, snarks, freelance. - Publishing industry, recommended by Anne Hawkins. - Learn high-end software: Buy, free downloads, free technical help. - Silva Rhetoricae, comprehensive list of schemes and tropes in Greek and Latin. - Keyboard shortcuts, ergonomics. - RAE , Real Academia (de la lengua) Española. Horse’s mouth Spanish Dictionary. - Webster’s fee-based quasi-official English language dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, French, Spanish lexicon. Worthwhile considering an expenditure. - free Webster’s dictionary, word games. - Oxford dictionary, free version, word games. - Books in Print is a fee-based service. The University of California Library’s MELVYL system is an excellent alternative to identify ISBN, author, other vital reference information. - A word about copyrighted material.

Free webspace for writers, artists. - DIY, ground up webpages, templates. - Webspace with fancy tools and features, bells & whistles. - Limited space to post your original writing, see “Community Pages” link. - Start your own Blog here. Templates.

Sell your stuff in the writer’s market:

Individual career development: - Resumes, calling for the interview. - Knowledge workers.

Personal health & do-gooder miscellany - Help buy free mammograms for poor women. (Men also get breast cancer). - Help give free books to kids. - Vocabulary game earns 6 grains of rice per word.

Every speech or public performance is actually three presentations. There's the speech you intended to give. There's the speech you actually presented. Then there are all those great things you thought of after you sat down. The above is my "third speech", and then some. Next week, I'll have more photos and my overall impressions of the 6th Annual National Latino Writers Conference. If you'd like a tif copy of a foto where you see yourself, email me the foto's url (see the PC Basics article at Read! Raza for instructions on that).

Until then, hay les wachamos.


La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and any column. Please add sites you've found useful in your writing or research. Click on the Comments count below this column. Also, La Bloga welcomes guests who have a review of an interesting book, story, or arts event, or an idea to share. Email a La Bloga bloguera bloguero, or click here to inquire about your invitation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Keynote Remarks by Michael Nava

As readers of La Bloga know, Michael Nava has excelled as both a writer and lawyer. A Phi Beta Kappa from Colorado College, Nava went on to earn his law degree from Stanford University in 1981. From there, he worked with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, a prestigious private appellate law firm, and then as a research attorney first with the California Court of Appeal and now with the California Supreme Court as a judicial staff attorney for Associate Justice Carlos Moreno. Nava also happens to be the author of nine books.

While studying for the California Bar right out of law school, Nava started writing his first book which began his seven-volume mystery series featuring his openly gay protagonist, Henry Rios. His novels were published to great critical acclaim and include The Little Death, Goldenboy, How Town, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, The Burning Plain and Rag and Bone. The novels are discussed in a number of critical and scholarly works including Contemporary Gay Novelists, Emmanuel Nelson, ed. (Greenwood Press, 1993), and Brown Gumshoes: Detective Fiction and the Search for Chicano/a Identity, Ralph Rodriguez, ed. (University of Texas Press, 2005).

Nava recently shared with me the keynote remarks he gave at the Golden Gate University Multicultural Graduation Celebration on May 16, 2008. (Nava is pictured above with Candace Chen, one of the graduating students and one of the organizers of the ceremony.) I was very moved by his speech and he graciously granted my request to reprint it here. His speech is entitled “THE STONE THAT WAS REJECTED.” Enjoy.

Graduates, ladies and gentleman:

I was honored to be asked to be here on this special day to speak to you. I have never spoken at a graduation celebration before — unless you count my high school graduation, which took place before most of our graduates were born — but I understand the traditional role of such speeches is to send the graduates out into the world with assurances of the success that awaits them if they work hard.

I have no doubt that every woman and man in this graduating class has an incredible work ethic — the kind of work ethic that people develop when they know that nothing will be handed to them. It is the work ethic of the farm workers in the fields and the women in the garment district sweat shops. We work hard for what we have because all we have is what we have gained by our physical and intellectual sweat. We work hard because for us there is no safety net. We work hard because there is no other option. I say “we” because I am one of you.

I was raised in a poor, immigrant Mexican family and I learned early on that life is labor for women and men. As a young child I lived with my grandparents and I still remember that my grandfather woke at dawn to get ready for his long shift at the cannery. But, as early as he woke, my grandmother was already up, to cook his breakfast and begin her own long day of household work.

Watching my grandparents, I learned, not the value, but the absolute necessity of hard work. Can I say, then, that my personal successes came because I worked diligently and ceaselessly to get an education? Is my message to you today that hard work will always pay off; that if you strive to improve your life, America will reward your striving with a better life?

I wish that was always true, but we know it isn’t. The farm worker who breaks his back in the fields, the woman sewing herself blind in the sweatshop — will America reward them with a better life in gratitude for their labor? I think we all know the answer to that question. We know, because we have experienced in our own lives and observed in the lives of other, that opportunity in America is not distributed equally and fairly. In America, a person can work hard and lead a life of integrity and a still fall back instead of advancing forward while others are rewarded, not for their work ethic or the content of their character, but because they were born into privilege.

There are millions of Americans who will never achieve the success and security to which their hard work would seem to entitle them because somewhere along the lines they will hit the wall of racism, or homophobia, or sexism, or institutionalized poverty. Moreover, it is likely that their children will also struggle. They will be victims of inferior schools, low expectations, drugs, gang violence and a criminal system that seems to target kids of color. For us, this is not just a sociological observation but a grim reality we have observed, among those we grew up with and sometimes even in our own families.

I say these things to you not to discourage you, but because they highlight your achievement today. Each one of you is the exception to the rule of low expectations. Against difficult odds, you have arrived at this day. And for that, you are heroes!

Your heroism is more than just personal heroism. You represent the finest qualities in the American story. Because, think of it. What is America’s story? What is the story that America tells the world as its moral justification? The story America tells the world is that all people are created equal and that each person possesses the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And who best represents that story? Is it the person born into privilege who passes seamlessly through life enjoying the fruits of his position and prestige? No. The people who best represent the American story are the people who came from nothing and, against the odds, make something of themselves. The story that best expresses America as the land of opportunity is not the story of a George W. Bush, the son of a rich and powerful man; it’s the story of the farm worker who finds a way to get out of the fields and start a small construction business and it’s the story of his daughter, who becomes the first member of her family to graduate from college and from law school. And isn’t that your story?

The story of America is the story of the stone that was rejected. Do you know this saying? It comes from the Christian tradition, in the gospel of Mark where Jesus tells his disciples. “Have you never read the Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ ” What this translates to in terms of the American story is that the moral greatness of America is that those of us who begin life with every disadvantage, and of whom nothing is expected, can nonetheless become the foundations of American society.

In some way, all of us here are the stones the builders rejected. I know that is true of me. My family was poor, but, because we were not materialistic, our poverty did not feel like deprivation. My family’s values were the values of family and community; of sticking together and staying in the same place. My family valued humility, forbearance and kindness. They were quiet people. They were generous as only the poor can be generous — sharing what little they have because they know first hand what it means to have nothing.

These are beautiful values, but they are not the values of the dominant culture in America. The dominant culture values assertive individualism and personal achievement even if that means stepping over people to get what you want. The dominant culture is aggressive and materialistic, loud and vulgar. Of what use to such a culture is a poor, Mexican-American child from a self-effacing, humble family? The answer is, not much. And yet, here I am, and here you are. The stones that the builders rejected, who have become the cornerstones.

As such, we have a particular moral responsibility in this culture.

First, it is our responsibility to assert that we are fully and completely Americans. Remember that you are not only Americans, you exemplify America’s story. You must uphold the alternative vision of America that welcomes and embraces diversity, instead of fearing and repressing it. Everyone in this country, except for the indigenous people, has been, at one point or another, an outsider, an immigrant. From the point of view of American history, there is no difference between the American child of Vietnamese “boat people” and the descendant of the English “boat people” who arrived on the Mayflower.

Second, even though you know the bitter truth that discrimination is alive and well in America, do not succumb to bitterness. Our task is not simply to identify and denounce inequality, but to create a more equal society. I urge you, in the face of the challenges you are bound to encounter, maintain a positive attitude. If one door of opportunity slams in your face, don’t stand there angrily pounding on it — try another door. I promise you, the right one will open for you.

Third, retain your humanity in the pursuit of your professional or material goals. As I said earlier, the dominant culture in this country is characterized by an aggressive individualism that gives people permission to treat others badly as they try to achieve their goals. In this country, the idea of success is too often expressed by that bumper sticker I used to see in the 1980’s that said, the one with the most toys when he dies wins. We must have a broader, more human notion of success.

My own idea of success is fulfilling work, loving relationships and a connection to the God of my understanding that sustains me in my day-to-day life. My idea of success is not about my job title, the amount of money I make, the size of my house, or how often my name comes up when on Google. That kind of success is an illusion because there will always be a better title, more money, a bigger house, greater fame — if you start that path, you will never be able to call yourself a success. As you devise your own standard of success, I urge you to think deeply about what is the ultimate source of human happiness. I believe that you will find, as I did, that it is not about what you have but what kind of person you are.

Finally, you are also trailblazers and what that means is that you have created a path that others may follow. Help them. Turn back and extend your hands to those who are coming behind you. Give them the benefit of your strength, your hope and your experience. You will find that, as you help others in their struggle, you will have a deeper understanding of your own struggle, a deeper appreciation of your accomplishments and a deeper gratitude toward those who helped you on your way. By helping other people become heroes in their lives, you will come see the heroism of your own.

I send you out with a blessing that comes from St. Therese who reminds us: “The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends on how we occupy that place.”

Thank you.

◙ LATINOS IN LOTUSLAND FIESTA: This Saturday, May 31, 5:00 - 8:00 pm, we will have a reception and group event for Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press) at Patricia Correia Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., E-2, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Phone: 310-264-1760. About a third of the 34 anthology contributors will be there to discuss their stories and sign books. There will be food and drink and friends and literature and art…what more could you ask for? No need to RSVP but feel free to drop me an e-mail to give me a heads up if you and your posse intend to come.

Also, if you happen to have a pass to BookExpo America, I will be at the Bilingual Press booth all day that Saturday along with the author of Corazón descalzo, Elva Treviño Hart. We’ll be at Booth 2712. BookExpo is a yearly, multi-day industry celebration of publishing but not open to the public unless you have a pass. This year, it will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90015. For more information on BookExpo America, visit here.

◙ PEN USA is seeking applicants for a Community Access Scholarship sponsored by UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. One winner will be chosen based on writing talent and need and will receive three free full courses at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program during the 2008/09 academic year. To apply, please fill out the APPLICATION and submit it with a writing sample (either poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, or screenplay) of no more than 15 typed pages. All application materials need to be received in PEN’s office by the end of business on June 30, 2008. Please see contact information at the end of this application for questions and submission instructions. For more information, go here.

◙ BOOK EVENT: Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race by UCLA Sociology Professors Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz.

The much-anticipated book Generations of Exclusion is the most comprehensive scholarly analysis yet on the economic, educational, linguistic, social, and political status of Mexican Americans. This groundbreaking study surveys four generations of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles and San Antonio.
WHEN: Thursday, May 29, 3:00 - 5:00 pm

WHERE: UCLA Faculty Center, 480 Charles Young Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90095.

PARKING: Parking is available for $8.00 in Lot 2, located just south of the Faculty Center. Visitors should enter the campus at Hilgard Ave. and Westholme Blvd. and proceed to the parking kiosk. Map and Directions to the UCLA Faculty Center.

MORE INFORMATION: (310) 206-9185 or visit the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center’s website.

◙ The May – June 2008 issue of Southern Cross Review has just been delivered to your cyber mailbox and can be read here. As usual, there are wonderful literary and political pieces including bilingual fiction with Luisa Valenzuela’s “Tango” and Frank Smith’s “Daddies” (“Papás”). Check it out.

◙ BOOK READING: Las Niñas: A Collection of Childhood Memories (Floricanto Press) by Sarah Rafael García.

Las Niñas is a collection of autobiographical childhood memories of three Mexican-American sisters. It shares the struggles they faced while being raised as the first generation of their family born in America.

WHERE: Liberia Martinez, 1110 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92701, (714) 973-7900.

WHEN: Sunday, June 1, 2008, 2:00 - 6:00 pm.

National Book Critics Circle presents Good Reads!

Texas Writers and Critics featuring Sandra Cisneros, Steven G. Kellman, Elaine Wolff, Rod Davis, Norma Alarcón and Gregg Barrios.

WHERE: Gemini Ink, 513 S. Presa, San Antonio, TX 78205; 210-734-9673; Toll free: 877-734-9673.

WHEN: Friday, May 30 at 7:00 pm.

COST: Free! But limited seating.

OTRO: Drawing of new books and refreshments!

◙ Historian and El Paso native Mario T. García has edited a moving and important book, Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action (Sheed & Ward). I reviewed it in yesterday’s El Paso Times. I noted that García “collects quotations from the late labor leader to help elucidate the undeniable connection between Chávez's religious beliefs and his political activism.” García earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from the University of Texas at El Paso, and then a doctorate from the University of California at San Diego. He is a professor of history and Chicano studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he has taught since 1975. He is the author of several books, including two on El Paso history. This is an essential addition for any César Chávez collection.

◙ All done! Let us remember those who have served our country so bravely including my father, Miguel "Mike" Olivas, who was a Marine and fought in the Korean War (he and my mom are nicely retired in Ventura). So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres. ¡Lea un libro!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stir, Chop, Cha-Cha-Cha

Since losing my mother thirteen years ago I find myself drawn to things that remind me of her and her rich, warm Puerto Rican cultura. The images of palm trees that seem to adorn every towel and shower curtain in home decorating departments. The energetic strains of the salsa and merengue music that float out of my car windows into the lush Vermont woods I drive through every morning and evening. And the smells of traditional Latino food that I have begun to prepare, all speak to me at a genetic level. However the cuisine brings back the strongest memories of my Puerto Rican mother and makes me long for her languid island home.

I grew up in 1960's New Jersey as the youngest of five children with a mother who was of the Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Cookbook generation. Any dinner that could be made in one pot and in massive quantities was her kind of meal. Though with seven mouths to feed I could hardly blame her, it made for some hideous casseroles that forced us to sit at the table until we finished eating. But every once in awhile, Mom would prepare a Puerto Rican dish. A traditional Dávila family recipe. Normally she would drag me to the supermarket with an air of "grab those instant potatoes off the shelf and get me the hell out of here." But on those occasions when she make Chili Con Carne, or Arroz Con Pollo, or, on really special occasions, Paella, she would spend hours in the produce aisle choosing just the right tomato or making a special trip to the butcher for fresh chicken. Then there would be an entire afternoon in the kitchen, crushing fresh spices with un pilón, and simmering, always something simmering on the stove, filling the entire house with the intoxicating smells of my abuela's kitchen in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.

I would quietly sit on the little footstool in the corner of the kitchen, afraid to disturb my mother's culinary dance by my presence. I couldn't rectify this “chef mother” with the rushed and harried “short order cook Mom” I was accustomed to. She would normally be bustling around at the last minute, short-tempered and wanting to get it over with, barking orders at me to set the table, or call my brothers down, or wash my hands. No, this mother would sing softly in her beautiful alto voice, melodic songs of the Caribbean, her skirt swaying back and forth as she moved between the stove and the sink, the sink and the cutting board. Intoxicated by the smells, I would eventually creep from my corner and convince my mother into feeding me spoonfuls of her creations, feeling privileged that I was getting a preview before my siblings.

Last month I made my mother's chili con carne for my family for the first time. I rarely make Puerto Rican food as I don't like to cook and all the dishes I know how to make are entirely too labor intensive. But one day, as I stared at the Goya dark red kidney beans on the shelf at the local supermarket, I decided I would conjure Mom. Though my mother's well worn pilón remained on the shelf, I used the bottled version of the traditional Sofrito, and slowly began to prepare our meal. I found myself humming as I browned the ground beef and onions, and added the tomatoes. I pictured my Grandmother's kitchen, with its black & white tiles, counters covered with technicolor vegetables and ripe tropical fruits. I heard the slow laughter of the women as they floated around the kitchen in a slow sensual dance of preparation. I smiled to myself as I found my hips swaying like those women of long ago as I moved across the kitchen.

After awhile my son Carlos came into the room, his nose in the air leading him to the stove. He peered into the pot and asked, "What's that?" with a look and tone of sheer delight. He was very surprised. Usually Dad did the cooking. I replied, "I made your grandma's Chili." "Can I taste it?" I held a spoon up to his mouth and his eyes lit up as he begged, "Can I have some more?" I was surprised at the intense satisfaction I felt in his enjoyment. I felt as though I was channeling Mom as I fed the spoonful to my son’s waiting mouth, much like she had fed me so many years ago.

That night, in the re-creation of my mother's cooking, as my mind filled with images of slow and deliberate family meals in steamy Bayamón dining rooms, I realized why she was so different when she cooked the food of her island. My siblings and I were bi-cultural by blood. Mom had become by necessity and choice, a mixture of two worlds. She married an extreme gringo, and needed to adapt to life in suburban New Jersey, but still felt the salt of the Caribbean Sea on her skin. The song of the coqui, the Puerto Rican tree frog, still echoed in her ears. And the rich tastes of a well cooked Puerto Rican meal still lingered on her tastebuds. In the daily bustle of running the household, she had taken on the pace of a harried North American 1960’s housewife, but on those special occasions when she prepared a taste of home, she reverted to the deliberate care and languid pace of her Puerto Rican island. After my Mom’s death, I was surprised to discover that I too heard the coqui in my thoughts, and yearned for the tightness of a salted skin after an afternoon swim. But most surprising, was that in recreating her culinary rituals, I could feel the same sensual pleasure I now understood my mother felt when she cooked her native food.

Elena’s Chili Con Carne

1 lb. ground beef
1 can red kidney beans
1 medium Onion
½ a fresh green pepper
1 small can tomato sauce
olive oil
fresh garlic
dried red pepper
1 tsp oregano

Chop onion and green pepper, and sauté in olive oil. When soft, add tomato sauce, and garlic, red pepper and salt to taste, and 1 tsp oregano. Set aside browned veggies (sofrito).

In fat in pan, brown 1 lb. ground beef. When brown, add sofrito (browned veggies), and drained red kidney beans (save liquid). Simmer on low fire until it thickens. Add leftover liquid from beans if it gets dry. Serve over white rice.

¡Buen Provecho!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dispatch from NLWC, Alburquerque Friday.

7:30 a.m. is the perfect time to get started on Friday’s activities at the 6th Annual Latino Writers Conference in the National Hispanic Cultural Center. By the wey: Click images for a larger view.

My first meeting takes me to Anne Hawkins’ Agent Workshop. She covers the details of the book deal in a comprehensive and fully entertaining morning. Note the agent's commitment to new media--in the center panel she displays her electronic book device from Sony. No more paper when considering author output. She receives files instead of cardboard boxes and easily carries a handful of for-consideration manuscripts on the airplane, in her portfolio.

Saturday, several people will be meeting individually with Ms. Hawkins for a serious interview regarding that writer’s path toward representation and publication. Some writers enjoyed the opportunity after Anne's talk to plan the next day's conversation.

Lunchtime amenities surpass yesterday’s consideration. We haven’t seen anything yet, as we learn at the banquet!

The first afternoon session includes the Internet Resources Panel, La Bloga’s raison d’etre at the Conference.

Scheduling allowed ample time for the attenders to relax and continue lunchtime conversations and more of the comradeship that is the NLWC second-most vital contribution to these writers’ experience.

The Internet Resources Panel started with an Richard J. Griego, who manages the New Mexico Viewpoint website, followed by University of Denver Profe, and EFE correspondent, Lydia Gil, Professor at U Denver and the regional correspondent to EFE, the Spanish news agency, Lydia writes regular bookreviews for the organization and has agreed to an occasional contribution to La Bloga reporting on American and USAmerican Spanish-language literature.

Friday was a day for practical sessions, such as the Publishers and Agents Panel that followed the Internet Resources Panel. Presenters represented Arte Publico Press, Chusma House, University of New Mexico, the New Mexico Art Museum, as well as two literary agents.

The banquet celebrated two important awards. To Verónica Gonzalez, El Premio Aztlán, for her novel Twin Time, or How Death Befell Me. The NHCC Literary Award received by Martín Espada proved the highlight of the evening, with the poet’s reading of several poems. Reflecting the cultural richness of the NHCC, Espada remarked that the beautiful display of Puerto Rican posters evoked the night’s list of readings.

Earlier in the week, Jovie Last, Espada's Brooklyn Homegirl, showed Espada a drawing of the poet done by Ms. Last’s father, whose poster collection comprised the poet-inspiring hangings.

Entertainment followed the poet's thoroughly engaging reading, Roberto Mondragón and two primos cantando Las Mañanitas, New Mexico style, and several other musical treats.

I'll post Saturday's photos at my earliest access to a WI-FI connection. Saturday's a travel day back to California, to escape the cold and wet of the surprise New Mexico weather.

La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. If you'd enjoy sharing a review, a writer's essay, or something you believe appropriate to La Bloga's readers,
click here or leave a comment when you have the work ready to go up.