Thursday, September 30, 2010


Joy of joys to read alurista's Tunaluna, his tenth collection and the first volume from Aztlán Libre Press...

Read my recent review aquí; then click here to order your copy; and while you wait for it to arrive, disfruta:

below belly
pasiones swooping
down deep
gathering storms
rainergías pacíficas
marítimas, montañescas
abotona tu vientre, maja
easles b ready
to capture flight
entre tus aguas claras
allow flow
clama la milpa
eye your center
cherish thigh
hug torso
b one
with duende within
sun risa raza roja

(TUNALUNA. alurista. Aztlán Libre Press, 76 pages)



Please forward or post this link and petition to as many people and places as you can!

The management company that runs the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is taking away Taller Boricua's lease for our multicultural community space. After founding the Julia de Burgos 14 years ago and being ideal tenants ever since (paying rent, insurance and upkeep), we are being forced out. Should EDC be successful, it will potentially cripple all of Taller Boricua's community arts and cultural programming, including our exhibitions.

EDC intends on issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on September 30, 2010. This RFEI allows EDC the power to select any group to take over our lease without approval or intervention from the Julia de Burgos Board, Taller Boricua, Community Board 11 or the El Barrio community. This is not the first time EDC has done this: La Marqueta had a similar RFEI sent.

EDC's reason for the RFEI is they have now decided that the Julia de Burgos theater has to be rented together with our multicultural space. The motive they give for this is the lack of soundproofing between spaces.

Instead of coming to Taller Boricua and discussing their solution for the two spaces, EDC informed us on September 17th that the RFEI would be issued on September 30th. They disregarded our requests to put a halt to the RFEI and find alternative solutions to soundproofing the theater--solutions that do not require taking away Taller Boricua's lease on the space.

As of the date of this petition, we still have not been supplied any details of the time frame or logistics of the RFEI (e.g., stipulations, instructions for submitting, deadlines, end of lease) by EDC. Community Board 11 has already written EDC on Taller Boricua's behalf, asking EDC to put a halt to the RFEI and to agree to discuss alternative solutions with both Taller Boricua and the Community Board. To date, EDC has not yet responded.

TALLER BORICUA'S LEGACY OF COMMITMENT TO EL BARRIO, SPANISH HARLEM Taller Boricua's mission has always been for positive change and growth for Spanish Harlem.

We see the "issue" with soundproofing of the theater as an opportunity for jobs for workers in Spanish Harlem and a revival of the theater's use.

Starting in the 60's, a time when Spanish Harlem was basically ignored and ostricized socially, economically and politically, Taller Boricua fought for our community, dedicating the organization to the improvement of living conditions and providing arts and culture programming to El Barrio.

The founders and current directors of Taller Boricua, Fernando Salicrup and Marcos Dimas, have always been involved with bringing basic public services as well as the arts to the neighborhood such as: working with Operation Fightback to create and keep affordable housing; being part of the original founding board of El Museo del Barrio and assisting Boys Harbor's move to Spanish Harlem. They also helped more recent not-for-profits art groups such as Art for Change and Media Noche start-up in the community. Taller Boricua's goal was and still is to build a "cultural corridor" from Museum Mile into Spanish Harlem.

14 years ago the founders of Taller Boricua fought for and won the ability to found and create the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center along with Taller Boricua multicultural space and galleries within. We have been utilizing it for artistic, cultural and community activities in El Barrio ever since.

Apart from Taller Boricua's own programming (Salsa Wednesdays, open poetry nights, film screenings, lectures and panels,) the multicultural space is used by the community to celebrate milestones in their lives (memorials, weddings, baptisms and birthdays) as well as by other not-for-profits in Spanish Harlem to further their programming. To name a few: New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence, Danisarte, Community Works, Los Pleneros de la 21, Harlem Community Justice Center, 100 Hispanic Women, Hope Community, Pathways to Housing, Art for Change, Friends of Claridad, Cemi-Underground, Community Planning Board, Absolutely on 2/Latin Dance with Carmen Marrero, Little Sisters of Assumption, Community Voices, The Field, The Renaissance School, Artist in the Schools, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, ArtCrawl Harlem. Zon de Barrio, Yerba Buena

The Economic Development Corporation's insistence on releasing an RFEI just one more step towards the gentrification of Spanish Harlem and the continual dismantling of all the efforts won by the Latino community. We have lost many important groups in the past few years such as Chica Luna and the Association for Hispanic Arts (AHA). It seems as if there is a concerted effort to erase our culture in El Barrio.

Please sign our petition below and help put pressure on EDC to stop the RFEI and
discuss other options for the Julia de Burgos Theater that do not include taking away Taller Boricua's lease on our multicultural space. Thank you for your support.

For the past 40 years the Taller Boricua has strived to support the community of El Barrio and create a vibrant arts culture in Spanish Harlem.

We the undersigned appeal to the Economic Development Corporation to put a halt to their RFEI and not to destroy the long-term achievement and the social and cultural benefits that Taller Boricua brings El Barrio, Spanish Harlem.

Taller Boricua / The Puerto Rican Workshop is a 40-year old artist-run nonprofit art gallery
and multidisciplinary cultural space in El Barrio. Our mission is to be a proactive institution for
the community in East Harlem by offering programs that stimulate its social, cultural and
economic development through the promotion of the arts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

From North to South/ Del Norte al Sur- Book Trailer and Virtual Book Tour

From the publisher- Children's Book Press:

FROM NORTH TO SOUTH Virtual Book Tour Now Underway

Author René Colato Laínez has organized a two-week virtual book tour for his book, From North to South / Del Norte al Sur. The book tour was launched on Monday with the premier of a video book trailer. Yesterday an interview with Executive Editor, Dana Goldberg was featured. We have lots of other exciting things planned, including a FREE give-away of the book to three lucky winners to be announced at the end of the book tour on Oct. 11th. Just leave your comments on the blogs everyday and you'll be entered to win. Where exactly is this blog tour happening, you ask? Read on to find out!

Monday, Sept. 27
Tales from the Rushmore Kid
by Tina Nichols Coury

Tuesday, Sept. 28
On Beyond Words & Pictures
by Megan Frances

Wednesday, Sept. 29
Write On
by Jeannine Montgomery

Thursday, Sept. 30
Sandra’s Book Club
by Sandra Lopez

Friday, Oct. 1
by Adriana Dominguez

Monday, Oct. 4
Mamá Latina Tips
by Sylvia Martínez
Tuesday, Oct. 5
Out of the Paintbox
by Diane Browning

Wednesday, Oct. 6
Christina Rodriguez

Thursday, Oct. 7

Friday, Oct. 8
by Mayra Calvini

Monday, Oct. 11-
Many Voices, One World
by Children’s Book Press

New York

Meet  Meg Mateo Ilasco  and Joy Deangdeelert Cho authors of CREATIVE INC 

Thursday, October 7th, 7-10pm
Michele Varian
35  Crosby Street
New York, NY 10013
RSVP to:


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Columnist: Jean Gillis & the Supersenior. On-Line Floricanto

Editor's note: La Bloga celebrates literature, belles lettres, the sublime. La Bloga-Tuesday brings the weekly On-Line Floricanto, poetry rising above the dross that is Arizona politics. In other words, as a matter of course, we focus upon the higher and highest achievements people produce. Today's guest column by Jean Gillis celebrates an even higher achievement, a kid's turn-around from going nowhere to going somewhere. ¡Adelante, Ventana! Get that diploma.
michael sedano
Guest Columnist: Jean Gillis

The Questions

"Miss, don't you ever get mad?"
"Miss, does a crime record hurt you for college?"
"Miss, you're wearing different shoes! Does that mean you got a place to live?"

Every day students ask me the unexpected. Every day I answer as honestly as I can.

We're in our fourth week of school. The familiarity of routine is established. We're a lucky school in that we don't have fights; the staff is always vigilant for any signs of tension or dispute between students so that we can glide in and intervene before something gets hot. Because of this vigilance, we all cultivate techniques for keeping kids engaged. We give them the space to ask and express what may be bottled up inside, even if it's "off-topic" or seemingly disconnected from classwork. Usually our adult responses involve mild banter. Effective teachers have learned not to use sarcasm or threats. Students don't take to either, and in fact they will drift out of our orbit of influence if we are not mindful.

Bringing a student closer to graduation is much harder than you would think. Right now I am very excited about the turnaround of one young man who used to bedevil me no end. Last year I could not convince him to sit all period; he hovered by the window "Looking out, Miss," so regularly that I nicknamed him VENTANA. He scowled at me for that, but gradually he began to smile a little. He's the one who called our word game "Scramble" despite my puny insistence that it be Scrabble. His pacing, the intractability, the attempts to slip out of class that colored last year have all vanished this fall. What happened? Because even our summer school time remained a struggle of wills. I wanted this student to work through an English text and he was hellbent on tracking the World Cup. I know we met in the middle and he wrote me an armload of soccer essays while I tried to step back from hovering and micromanaging.

In our school lexicon we have a small category called "Superseniors." These are kids who are in the fifth year of high school, so the stakes are high. It is expensive to keep Superseniors in the system until they can graduate, but it's even costlier to cut over-18s loose without doing everything possible to help them earn diplomas. Superseniors can be tough to work with--some drag it out and some just have had such a tortured school history that it's a slog to the final credit. The happy news is that some Superseniors rekindle the spark they may have felt in kindergarten. This is what happened with my soccer fan. It was not my doing. It lay hidden within him, and in some inexplicable way, we've gotten to witness the change. This boy is my right-hand man right now. One of my coworkers got him to organize, photograph, and issue the school ID cards. We entrusted him with necessary school tasks and gave him the freedom to move about campus to accomplish them. We got the blessing of the school principal to put him to work in an unorthodox way. We listened to his concerns and we accepted his suggestions. During these past four weeks I've checked with his other teachers to see how he's doing. Each teacher has marveled over his ability to knuckle down. One teacher remarked, "He told me he just wants to graduate."

Just-wants-to-graduate is a very ambitious concept for students who have skittered along the margins before we meet them in continuation school. The process of coaxing students into scholastic life is freighted with open-ended questions. I never feel I know the answers until I've seen them graduate. But I know I am going to bawl on the day this particular young man finishes, and the principal escorts him to the classrooms as the P.A. system blasts "Pomp and Circumstance," and she throws confetti to mark his passage.

Jean Gillis teaches in a continuation high school in Southern California. Reposted with permission from Jean's blog, "Dating Yourself in Pasadena."

On-Line Floricanto

Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of the Facebook group "Poets Responding to SB1070" select six protreptic gems for your enjoyment and thoughtful consideration:

1. "Memografía / Memography" by Sonia Gutiérrez

2. “Blood song #1” by Jeanette Iskat de Aldana

3. “Overlapping Worlds” by Tom Sheldon

4. “Grave Song for Immigrant Soldier” by Aurora Levins Morales

5.“The Borders Crossed Us” by David Romero

6. “Ghost Braids 0.0” by Israel Francisco Haros

"Memografía / Memography" by Sonia Gutiérrez


Te conozco tan bien
que cuando te veo pensando
y extendiendo tus alas anaranjadas coronadas de negro
sé que te llama Michinhuacan.

Que es allá donde quieres estar—
con los tuyos. Allá donde
recuerdas el olor del Oyamel. Allá
donde tus alas despiertan con la sonrisa
del sol sobre tu cien. Allá
con todas las mariposas
que pasaron al otro lado
en el bosque de los sueños.

Que es allá donde quieres tomar
de los lagos con la trucha
esperando tu regreso. Allá
donde ves tu cara reflejada, vistiendo
de colores el alrededor de tus días,
y tu presencia alegra, haciendo reír
a los árboles hasta la raíz
con el cosquilleo
de tus pies.

Déjate volar, y busca aquél lugar
donde regocijas en los vientos—
húmedos y frescos, donde me espera
mi lugar con el mago
de los sueños, donde el cielo
se llena de aleteos que los científicos
aún tratan de explicar.


I know you so well
that when I see you thinking
and extending your orange wings crowned with black.
I know Michinhuacan is calling.

That it is there where you want to be—
with your own. Over there
where you remember the smell of Sacred Fir. Over there,
where your wings awaken to the sun’s smile
on your temple. Over there
with all the butterflies
that moved to the other side
to the forest of dreams.

That it is there where you want to drink
from lakes with trout
awaiting your return. Over there,
where you see your face reflected, dressing
the surrounding days with color,
and your presence cheers, making the trees
laugh at the root
with the tickling
of your feet.

Let yourself flutter, and look for that place
where you rejoice in the winds—
humid and fresh, where my place
awaits with the magician
of dreams, where the sky
fills with fluttering wings that scientists
still try to explain.

“Blood song #1” by Jeanette Iskat de Aldana

I'm listening

to all

them deaths




Your Town here

death deals made

behind closed doors

death dealt out

in fields




even people


by people


are much worse than they should be

or ever really anyone ever

has to be.

Past those blood deaths

I'm hearing the echo

the death of systems

within myself

blood echoes again.

The blood

moves us

in us

with us


walking oceans

dancing seas


waking up the blood

stirring 3 a.m.

asking me

did I feel that

that tsunami crashing in my veins?

Blood tidings

as I stand

bleary eyed

in front of my



the altar

formed of me

sacred self


in front of an altar

anyone can see


altars of

smaller physical chunks

down past molecules


single celled altars.

I blink

my eyes open


I breathe

my water moves


I listen

my blood again


this is not indoctrination

this is not empty ritual

this is not rote.

This time of gods

this time of nations

this time of humans

this time of creatures

this time of earth

this time of water

this time of blood.

However I choose to define time

will define my time

when am I?

Start braiding the vines.

Plait the rafts.

Husk the sails.


walk red roads

into your children

seven songs


seven songs.


look to your actions

all your actions

seven generations forward

seven generations past.

Do you feel this

carrion cleanse as

your truth splits

open your bones?

Flense yourself with love, flaying down to your purest heart.

Do your dream waters

pound the waking shores


Bathe yourself in love, spiralling down in bluest waters.

Do your dream teeth

grind their lies

into powder

birthing warriors

in each grinning bite?

Taste it all on a loving tongue, spitting out what doesn't nourish you.

As even the unaware

feel it

so that they chatter more loudly

even in their dreams

so that they hide more

even in their dreams

so that they feed themselves

even in their dreams

more lies

shake youreself

fully awake

drain the sleeping sickness

out of your veins.

It hurts

to cut

to bleed

to heal

from these half healed

scars covering

long ignored wounds

hearts full of venom and bile

your poor, bruised tender heart

hurts, hurts, hurts

but know

that it is better

to have this end with pain

than to continue to

have unending pain.

Besser eine ende mit schreck dan schreck ohne ende.

“Overlapping Worlds” by Tom Sheldon

Come to the shrine where the veils drop. Where brothers take the hands of brothers, and sisters without malice. A place with language known only to the old Fire Keepers, where I learned--once and for all--of my half-human state... of why we wear masks in the dance...why we forget our true face. Surrender once again to the Silent Road with that part of us that does not know words , and see with the eyes of a newborn ; to see that we are the offspring of different overlapping worlds; to see that we have reached a time when we won't feel completely at home in any one of them.

This is what it means to be a human. This is what it means to be part of the Giving People, who must maneuver in and through the World of the Takers. Some day we will arise, step out of the dream that holds us. Some day we will tumble back to earth from the stars.

We take a breath, a deep draught of water, and realize through them our cells are pockets of memory... our bones are the songs of the ancestors,the drum beat is our heart,the wind our breath. Through the rooted and sprouting tree, we see the connection of every living thing to every living thing. As we pray, touching the earth,shifting from our human forms to our animal ones, we remember we prayed long, long ago, before the birthing of the sun, never to forget that.

© Copyright Tom Sheldon

“Grave Song for Immigrant Soldier” by Aurora Levins Morales

José Gutierrez, José Garibay, Diego Rincón and Jesus Alberto Suarez were "green card soldiers" who died in Iraq and were given posthumous citizenship. Ezequiel Hernandez was shot in the back while herding his family's goats near his home in Texas, by Marines taking part in border maneuvers.

Part I

I am sitting right here in California this
occupied land ripped with borders,
borders running like red scars
under the city limits and county lines
stitched into our hearts with crimson threads
a thick embroidery of grief
welts of damage criss-crossing
the everyday landscape of ignorance.

The wealth of the world may enter
but its people may not.
Industrial strength needles rise and fall
setting barbed wire stitches,
doing the meaty business of empire,
upon the hacked and reassembled body of the planet
drawing a bloody string through lives
that people living inside the gates
are instructed to forget

I am sitting here thinking Flor,
German, Lola, Manuel, Claudio,
Mercedita, Ricardo, Cristina, Ramon,
the stained gauze of foreignness
binding their fluid caribe tongues.
I think, how many Chinese women
were sent back yesterday morning
wrong papers start over
go back to sewing American flags
for six noodles a day
in mainland sweatshops
waiting for something new to happen.
I think Haitian bodies
dark driftwood on Florida beaches.
I think how many miles
from San Miguel to Tombstone
if you go on foot.

They are playing taps
for José, Diego, Jesus Alberto and José
sworn in with their mouths taped shut,
obscenely wrapped in the prize
they could only win by
going in front, falling first, dying fast.
They have been given their citizenship
in the cemetery of the star spangled dead,
and their officers do not expect any trouble.
I tell them I cannot mourn you
in the small space they have set aside
in the margins of their blood road.
I must carry you with me.

I am thinking about Basra and the Alamo
about mayflowers and leaky boats capsizing
downstream from Port Au Prince, not pilgrims.
about Arizona vigilantes with assault rifles
patrolling an invisible line at the edge of their fear
that runs right through our living rooms,
terrified that Michoacan will conquer Colorado
that bloodbath and bankruptcy will come home to roost
trying to hold their own history at bay with equipment.
I am trying to see the faces of the
ten thousand unnamed bodies
fallen into the gullies and canyons
of the crossing, the ones that are never found
and the two bodies a day they do find
strange fruit of the Mexican desert.

My great-grandmothers made lace,
twisting white cotton strands around pins
until the web could catch the sun, catch
a fall of jasmine down a wall,
delicate and tough, one thread bound into another,
spreading out across their beds and tables.
My great grandmothers wound pain
around pins and fingers.
They made lace out of suffering
and I am unraveling bandages,
pulling weft from the fabric of lies.
I am trying to twist this savage thread
around the pins of what I know,
fastening this to that,
fraying the edges of nations
to make a blanket.

I am making a shroud for immigrant soldiers,
knotting and tying a thousand
journeys to locked gates,
going under and around,
doubling back, knowing that someone
traveled by night,
wore a disguise,
carried false papers
swam the Ohio, the Mississippi, el Río Grande,
jumped a train,
crept through the sewers.
I am untwisting the sharp teeth of borders,
knitting rivers and veins in a fabric
as rough and fertile as earth,
the only cloth I can use
to bury you.

Part II

Someday the river
will be no more than a river
nothing but water
carving its way through earth.
Not a line drawn through our hearts,
not a place of execution, not
a floodground of smothered cries.
And those bones, those
ten thousand chunks of rough ivory tumbling restlessly along the course of history,
will settle into the riverbed.
They will become the fossils
of an age that has ended. No one will remember
where the fences were
in what strange place the scorched
landing strips of an ancient ruthless war
were brought back
from the deserts of Kuwait
to make a deadly wall against which
people broke trying to reach bread.
School children will pause,
somber, trying to imagine what difference
there could ever have been
between one rough mountainside
full of snakes and coyotes,
and another, between your hunger and mine.

Listen José, someday jaguar will move like living flame
from Quetzaltenango to Yellowstone without hiding
in freight trains, without dodging guns, someday
America will stretch from Inuit dreams of
whales arched and gleaming under northern lights
and the crack of shifting ice, uninterrupted plains
where blue shadows chase each other across the wheat fields,
through red stone and grey-green brush smelling of sage
between volcanoes like a string of coral ember beads spanning the night
to where water spills down mountains, air thick and moist
with the smell of leaves opening, and the crimson slash of parrots' wings
copal rising, rain falling, river after river, grasslands again
to the last cracked rocks and icy seas of tierra del fuego
and there will not be one strand of wire, not one
hole filled with massacres, torn shirts bullets burned faces shoes
nowhere on the earth the boot marks of soldiers trained to make orphans,
no one alive who remembers what it was to eat garbage
in the streets of Guatemala City.

Listen, Ezequiel, herding
the ghosts of goats before the crossed hairs
of men devoured by their own weapons
until they see nothing but target,
bleeding slowly to death not
three hundred yards from your door, cooling
under the infrared eyes
of twenty-first century marksmanship;

Listen Diego, wrapped in an imperial advertising banner
halfway around the world from Colombia,
lying in your box between streets as shattered as
the world your family escaped,
where it is easier to buy bullets than beans,
and the most corrupt people in the world
the same ones setting up regimes
and toppling them with your broken youth
give lessons in assassination
and money laundering
to anyone who will deal in white powder,
for the wholesalers of desperation
pumping crack into the gaps
between be all you can be
and twenty years to life
making plastic chairs for twenty five
cents an hour in California prisons.
Liberation or a war on drugs,
its all the same, because
in your country, the dead
are the only ones who can object
without being gunned down.

listen citizens of the countries of breath
all of us illegal alien foreign uncivilized
savage beyond control
someday it will be enough to have been born.

But today,
while the world is still
a maze of borders and fences,
I will not mourn them with this blue
quarter acre of gated stars, this
harrowing of red and white
scratchmarks on the face of our continent. No,

in order to drape the graves
of four immigrant soldiers
shoveled in through the service door
while their starving relatives
stand outside the gates calling for food,

I must imagine an infinite river
of brown smiling children
who do not need documents
and a flag
of six billion stars.

©2003 Aurora Levins Morales

“The Borders Crossed Us” by David Romero

My whole LIFE I’ve been afraid
To say the things that in my HEART I know I must.
Things like
Mexicans didn’t cross the border
The border crossed us.

They say that Mexicans make “bad deals…”
Yeah, our people make bad deals like the U.S., Mexico, and the Gadsden Purchase!
But a gun to your head can make you feel awful nervous!
With a purpose, we’ve been coerced, forced, and hanged.
Shoot, we've been straight up wronged!
Where's anything that constitutes your definition of GOOD
In what's been going on?
I heard my history on tapes, CDs,
Before that, I read it in American history books.
I would sit in class and whisper to some of my classmates,
“Read between the lines, our death you’ll find!”
Lessons of the Mexican-American War and the Mexican Session.
And I would get those looks.
From 1847 through 1849
(California was known as Alta California back then)
California was stolen by President’s Polk’s design.
I ain't lyin'.
He scripted a fake war.
Sounds kind of familiar.
Because the US is always looking FOR MORE
Real estate taken with no room for debate.
31st State, that’s you California,
Let’s make like Henry David Thoreau
Civil Disobedience and a modern-day rallying cry,
"Stop THIS war
(because I guarantee you there will be a next and a next and a next…)

When I talk about Mexican History
With my mother or others
Many are inclined to say,
“I hear you… The US and before them, the Spaniards
May have taken our land...
They may have killed more than a few Mestizos to do it…
But didn’t they give us JESUS?
You think that's some excuse for all that’s happened?
It was, "Love one another"
I report, then retort
The history of Western society, and with it, Western Christianity
Is characterized by: Genocide, rape, slavery, theft, and prostitution.
Where’s the Love in that?
(I’d like to think Jesus would be down with us Mexicans, Latinos, and Indians)
You see, it's clearly confusion.
Because that society looks more like the FINAL SOLUTION.
So I abandon any MANIFEST DESTINY-type conclusions.
I laugh at the footnotes
Because a bunch of racist @ssh*l*s make for some bad quotes.

So, very awkwardly, I yell out!
Viva Mexico!
People in cocktail parties get shocked,
They ask me questions like,
Wait, so do you or don’t you approve of the policies of Vicente Fox?"
Rolls up with Killer Cola
To bring the, 'wonderful MONDERNIZATION'
To f*ck the population!
Those ‘quotes’ indicated sarcasm to let you know that I was just playing.
But then some of you don't even know what I'm saying…
Mexico is plagued by sweatshop factories,
They pollute the rivers with dyes,
The skies with smoke
The North American Free Trade Agreement
That finishes the choke.
I hope we can kick the macquiladoras out.
So I yell,
"Si se puede!"
To let you know what I'm all about:
Zapata, Zapatistas the fields of Chiapas.
We could write a constitution!
We could start a Revolution!
There sure are A LOT OF US …

This isn’t just about Mexicans.
This isn’t the reconquista.
This isn’t just about Latinos.
This is for ALL conquered peoples.
Africans. Asians. Europeans.
None are free until ALL are free.
No imperialist power can give you or anyone that freedom.
No imperialist power can remain if we are to have that freedom.

Regardless of who you are, you have a history.
And if you’re down with me, it’s a history of RESISTANCE.
Know your history.
Mexicans didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.

“Ghost Braids 0.0” by Israel Francisco Haros

"black water (love) wars"

Derelict hues of red and black
Expectations in the black water
Morphing concrete jungles
Black butterflies pouring you into the sun

Expectations in the black water
Obsidian hands pushing jade
Black butterflies pouring you into the sun
Mirrors in womb of tonantzin

Obsidian hands pushing jade
Into the skin of laughing serpents
Mirrors in the womb of tonanztin
Kissing the blue of water light

Into the skin of laughing serpents
Winged hands caressing watered lips
Kissing the blue of water light
Ocean dreams in the middle of breakfast

Winged hands caressing watered lips
Before the sound of coyoxauhqui
Ocean dreams in the middle of breakfast
The line between the sun and moon smiling

Before the sound of coyoxauhqui
Butterflies and jaguars embracing
The line between the sun and moon smiling
A sunset swallowed by hummingbird

Butterflies and jaguars embracing
The taste of water after four days without
A sunset swallowed by hummingbird
It’s a decision not to take it personal

The taste of water after four days without
Ghost braids dancing on the skin
It’s a decision not to take it personal
And watch the water form wings in your mouth

Ghost braids dancing on the skin
I like to touch all the lines your body makes
And watch the water form wings in your mouth
You give me mirrors to breathe

I like to touch all the lines your body makes
Expectations in the black water
You give me mirrors to breathe
Black butterflies pouring you into the sun


1. "Memografía / Memography" by Sonia Gutiérrez
Foto: Esveida Lopez

Sonia Gutiérrez’s poetry and fiction have appeared in City Works Journal, La Revista Literaria de El Tecoloto, Fringe Magazine, Mujeres de Maíz, among others and forthcoming in Turtle Island to Abya Yala. She teaches English at Palomar College and is currently working on her manuscript, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, a bilingual poetry collection. To see more of Sonia’s work, visit her bloguita, Chicana in the Midst: Poetry, Prose, and Fotografía by Sonia Gutiérrez, Guest Poetas y Fotographers.

2. “Blood song #1” by Jeanette Iskat de Aldana
Jeanette Valerie Iskat de Aldana a.k.a. J-VIDA, grew up in the United States, Europe and Asia. The daughter and great grand daughter of immigrants, I am very aware of how America both calls to and pushes away the very people that form it, especially the indigenous peoples who have the longest standing claim to it. Actively painting, writing and creating art that deals with all of my individual experiences allows me to process the joy and pain I feel.

I live in Los Angeles with my husband, singer and artist Jesus Aldana. We can often be found in Boyle Heights at Corazon del Pueblo, engaged in the fight for the right for us all to be fully, and simply, human.

3. “Overlapping Worlds” by Tom SheldonI’m Tom Sheldon, I was born in New Mexico on 9 Dec 1958, and come from a large Hispanic family. As far as my own personal history in Art goes, it is brief. I have always appreciated the gift of creating since I was young. I like all mediums and love (Southwestern) nature and organic based topics. While I have had little in the way of formal training and education, I've enjoyed a modicum of success, mostly in drawing/drafting. I teach students on occasion, and have also illustrated for (HWI) Hawk Watch International.
My work has shown in local galleries, as well as the Museum of Natural History here. I have won art competitions at the State Fair level. I also love to write poetry.

4. “Poets Respond to SB 1070: Grave Song for Immigrant Soldier” by Aurora Levins MoralesAurora Levins Morales was born in Puerto Rico. Her ancestors include people from the Caribbean and South America, North and West Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. She is a feminist poet, essayist and fiction writer whose work is widely taught and has been translated into seven languages. Her books include Medicine Stories, Remedios: Stories of Earth & Iron from the History of Puertorriqueñas,and Getting Home Alive, with her mother, Rosario Morales. Following 9/11 she became Poet On Assignment for Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints, broadcasting regular poetry commentaries on the news. "Grave Song for Immigrant Soldiers" was part of that project.

5.“The Borders Crossed Us” by David RomeroDavid A. Romero is an artist, activist and male model. According to one of his best friends Matt Sedillo, he is always talking about his “his father, his cheese enchiladas, the girls he never got with, and those ‘glory days’ of activism in college.” David will not fail to mention to you that he is a graduate of the University of Southern California, having double-majored in the fields of Cinematic Arts and Philosophy.

People will often ask David what he hopes to accomplish with his poetry, and, depending on his mood, he will answer with either “world peace,” or “world domination.” As a poet he is inspired by both the grand and simple things in life. David encourages you to reflect upon our human capacity for empathy (feeling the joy and suffering of others). He wants you to join in the fight for social justice. David is an artist affiliate of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC).

David A. Romero was the host of the short-lived Diamond Bars Open Mic in, you guessed it, Diamond Bar, CA.

6. “Ghost Braids 0.0” by Israel Francisco Harosxxx

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Curious Case of Latino Republicans

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

In light of the GOP’s nasty attacks against Latino immigrants, how can any rational Latino vote Republican during the upcoming November 2nd elections? Worse yet, how can any Latino be a member of a political party whose national platform centers on blaming brown immigrants for most of the country’s social and economic ills?

While previous White House administrations defined their respective political agendas with catchy domestic programs, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” of the mid-1960s and President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” of the early 1970s, today’s GOP’s slogan can be easily coined as the “War on Immigrants.”

Instead of focusing on resolving the nation’s international wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republican leaders have orchestrated a domestic war of words and laws against the country’s most vulnerable individuals: Latino immigrants. Simply put, this represents a GOP ploy to galvanize the white vote, take over key state-level positions, recapture Congress and divert the public’s attention away from the shattered economy.

Despite the bleak economic outlook for most Americans, double-digit unemployment rates and lack of credit for small businesses, Republicans maintain their vicious attacks against recent immigrants as part of their primary mission for this election cycle and overall governance strategy.

For instance, while Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer erroneously argues that immigrants are responsible for high crime rates in the desert state, including her lies about decapitated bodies near the U.S.–Mexico border, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pejoratively refer to the children of immigrants as “anchor babies.”

In a recent television interview, Graham foolishly claims that immigrants come here for the sole purpose to “drop a baby” and leave. Whatever happened to Southern hospitality, Mr. Graham?

Isn’t the “family values” mantra one of the cornerstone principles of the GOP? If so, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for targeting immigrant mothers and their children. Even for conservatives, this is a new low to target Latino newborns.

Where’s former Florida Governor Jed Bush, who married a Mexican-born woman, when we need him? Under McConnell and Graham’s logic, does this mean that Jed Bush and his wife Columba Bush (born Columba Garnica Gallo) have three grown “anchor babies”? Where’s former Massachusetts Governor and potential GOP 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who can trace his family lineage to Mexico dating back to the 1800s, to condemn the hate-speech in his own party?

Straying from the official GOP agenda, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came out of his hiding-hole and recently wrote an op-ed in support of immigrants. As a key figure in the George W. Bush Administration and grandson of Mexican immigrants, Gonzales correctly states that immigrants represent hard working people. He also argues against the Republicans’ plan to change the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution where individuals born in this country, regardless of the legal status of the parents, automatically become citizens.

Gonzales’ logic goes astray, however, when he blames Democrats for the GOP’s xenophobia since apparently liberals “purposefully” maintain the immigration debate alive, prompting Republicans to spew their anti-immigrant rhetoric. This is like saying that school-yard bullies should not be held accountable for their actions, since their victims continue to show up to school, essentially “daring” the bullies to unleash their terror on them.

This is not to say that Democrats symbolize the champions of Latino immigrants. Despite the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) supports amnesty for undocumented college students under the DREAM Act, as a strategic attempt to court the Latino vote, the Obama Administration has deported more immigrants than George W. Bush during the same time frame. Furthermore, Democrats, similar to Republicans, favor the same old enforcement-only based approaches to the complex immigration problem without considering human rights issues, such as deporting parents of U.S.-born children.

In this season of immigrant bashing, it’s baffling to see how any Latino would support a Republican candidate in the nation’s highly contested elections. Don’t Latino Republicans understand that anti-immigrant laws, such as Arizona’s SB 1070, also applies to them due to the color of their skin or Spanish-surname? What about their friends, acquaintances, neighbors, workplace associates, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who may lack legal status in this country?

It’s time to stop the racism and name-calling against Latino immigrants. From Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor in California to Marco Rubio’s candidacy for the U.S. senate in Florida, Latinos will play a key role in determining the outcome of tight elections and should differentiate between friends and foes in the voting booth.

[Álvaro Huerta is a visiting scholar at UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center. This essay first appeared in CounterPunch.]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Cachaperismos

After coming out as a lesbian in 1984, I began a life-long search for Latina Lesbian writers. One of my “finds” back then was Luz María Umpierre’s The Margarita Poems. I’m happy to know that Luzma’s writings continue to flow. Poet, writer and human rights advocate from Santurce, Puerto Rico, Luzma Umpierre has published poetry books, chapbooks, literary criticism and numerous articles. She is author of Una puertorriqueña en Penna, En el país de las maravillas, For Christine: Poems and One Letter, Pour Toi/ For Moira, Our Only Island—For Nemir, Nuevas aproximaciones críticas a la literatura puertoriqueña contemporánea, and Ideología y novela en Puerto Rico. An academic with a Ph.D. in Spanish, she taught in several institutions and undertook legal battles and pioneering work for the inclusion of issues of sexual orientation, gender, race, class, and ethnicity in the curriculum of universities. She’s an activist of many causes, including bilingual education, Lesbian visibility, equality for persons with AIDS and human rights. She lives in Orlando, Florida. And for today, she’s una guest columnist for La Bloga. –tatiana de la tierra

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New story, new SW art & new Mexican revolution?

La Bloga's Dan Olivas has a new story in the online litmag, Pinstripe Fedora, entitled, Things We Do Not Talk About. The issue is in PDF format with a nice design. Check it out here.

Museo de las Americas presents...

From the Earth
October 14, 2010 6:00 p.m.

at the Museo, 861 Santa Fe Dr., Denver

Free admission

The Museo de las Americas presents From the Earth, an exhibit featuring the work of ten artists from the Southwest whose materials, processes and disciplines come directly from the land where they live. Every day of their respective lives, they honor ancient American connectedness to the Earth.

They carry the understanding that all the Earth is a gift, nothing is truly owned and all is to be honored. Artists include, Eppie Archuleta and her daughter, Norma Medina, Lorena Banyacya, Lorraine Herder, Sharlyn Sanchez, Gloria Lopez Cordova, Manuel Chavarria Denet, Juan Quezada, Lawrence Namoki, Vern Nieto, and Walking Thunder. Curators Rogelio Briones and Maruca Salazar.

To keep up with weekly events, join our mailing list here.

The revolution might not be televised, but it might start in . . .

Excerpted from Frontera NorteSur:

An attempted kidnapping Sept. 21 in the northern Mexican state of
Chihuahua touched off a burst of mass outrage that left two suspected young kidnappers dead and a small town in open rebellion. While details are sketchy, the events began with the abduction of a 17-year-old female worker of a seafood restaurant in the town of Ascension by a group of young men. Located south of the New Mexico border, Ascension is a rural area has suffered numerous kidnappings and killings the last two years.

Alerted to the kidnapping, townspeople and soldiers mobilized, freed the victim and detained five alleged kidnappers. Hundreds of angry residents beat two of the detainees and blocked police from rescuing the suspects, who were later pronounced dead.

In a stand-off that lasted throughout the day, residents prevented two federal police helicopters from landing and blockaded roads to prevent military reinforcements from arriving. Armed with picks, shovels and machetes, enraged residents shouted at “corrupt” soldiers and police to leave. Some locals accused government security forces of colluding with delinquent bands.

“La Chona Lights the Fuse,” headlined Ciudad Juarez’s Lapolaka newsite, whose director was just granted political asylum in the United States. The news organization couched the report in historical and contemporary terms:
The new Mexican Revolution
could have begun this Tuesday in Ascencion…

While mass lynchings are not uncommon in certain parts of Mexico, such lynchings have been rare in Chihuahua.
Since the July elections, the murders of several relatives of Governor-elect Cesar Duarte and other politicians, frequent public displays of narco-banners warning of new attacks and round-the-clock executions have added constant doses of mass anxiety to an already-tense political and social environment characterized by the ongoing confrontation between heavily armed organized crime groups.

“Thousands of executions, murders of women, robberies, extortions, taxes on businesses for turf rights, deaths of human rights defenders and journalists, hundreds of thousands of displaced people, complaints of human rights violations that are not investigated or sanctioned, and tears and blood that run through the desert in total impunity.”

Nationally, anticipation and angst hangs in the air as Mexico commemorates the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence and 100th anniversary of the 1910 Revolution.

Additionally, September 23 marks the 45th anniversary of the attack on the Madera army barracks not far from Ascension. Led by school teacher Arturo Gamiz and Dr. Pablo Gomez, the guerrilla assault inspired a generation of revolutionaries whose ideological descendants are resurfacing in other parts of the country today.

Last week, as Mexico celebrated its bicentennial, yet another

self-proclaimed rebel band issued a declaration in the southern state of Guerrero. In a communiqué delivered to the Guerrero daily El Sur, the Armed People’s Army called for a popular boycott of the upcoming gubernatorial election, an end to the political parties and unity of all the various revolutionary forces. Containing 11 political points, the message was accompanied by a video that portrayed a guerrilla column in the mountains

"Quoted in the Mexican press, residents of Ascension vowed to arm

themselves and protect their town from its enemies."

September 22, 2010
© Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM

To tead the entire article, go here.

Es todo, hoy


Friday, September 24, 2010

Looking Back at Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow

Flor y Canto 2010: Tyson Gaskill (USC Libraries), Dorinda Moreno, Marco A. Domínguez, Sr., Mary Ann Pacheco (Rio Hondo College - 1973 MC), Alurista, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Tony Marez, Ron Arias, Verónica Cunningham, Barbara Robinson (USC Libraries), Michael Sedano

The 2010 Flor y Canto floats through our collective subconscious, already a legendary event. As the old vato says, "You should'a been there, compa." The great news is that there is a real chance that the event will be repeated, perhaps even become an annual affair. Now, wouldn't that be special?

Today on La Bloga I'm proud to feature two guests, both of whom participated in the festival, each offering a different perspective. First up is Ron Arias, noted writer and journalist, and one of the presenters at the 1973 Flor y Canto. Then Melinda Palacio gives us her thoughts about her participation in the event, and on a few other things as well. Two different voices speaking from two different vantage points, a veteran and a relative newcomer, but each with the same conclusion -- we need to preserve the flor y canto tradition, nurture it, and let it grow.


Thanks to La Bloga's Michael Sedano and the USC Flor y Canto organizers for bringing back the festival. As a participant of the 1973 event, I loved hearing and seeing that the creative fires among the younger writers still burn as strong as they did decades ago when we were exploding with ethnic self-awareness.

We had all kinds of voices then, as many styles as there were readers--from loud and militant to subtle and lyrical, from funny-rascuachi to pretty and polished, in language from the proper to the invented, nourished by a linguistic bola that's been rolling for thousands of years. That hasn't changed, not at the 2010 readings. It's good to know, for example, that the tongue of the Nahuas still struts its stuff on our stage, to a hip-hop beat no less. ¡Órale, vato!

We are so much more than words. But whether spoken, on the page or digitized, in whatever language we use, words are how we express ourselves best, how we try to paint beauty, sing love, shout rage, cry pain. It's how we think and feel out loud, how we try to hit our target--that is, our reader, our listener, the sleepy, maybe disinterested person in the back row whose attention we are determine to lasso.

Whatever we call ourselves, we writers and poets with shared, hispano-American roots, whatever our concerns, whatever our love or rage, whatever our degree of assimilation into U.S. ways, whatever our personal history, what we all want to do is simply illuminate and define our world. Yes, we entertain, inform, incite and move people emotionally. That's a given. But the entire body of our work, past and present--the poems, the novels, the stories, the plays--they are the creation of our world, to be sure a mini-world of a certain people within the world of all humanity.

I sat next to Alurista during the third day's afternoon readings. We were two gray heads in the first row enjoying the show of young readers. But more than enjoying, I think -- even though neither of us said so -- we were proud to see that the creative spirit and drive among these readers was not only alive but, we felt, if good enough in the minds of their audience, would outlive us all. "We'll die but our words won't ," Alurista said. "Our legacy is words."

So thanks, Michael and USC, for keeping the light on, the legacy going.

-Ron Arias

Known best for his novelita The Road to Tamazunchale, L.A.-born Ron Arias was a teacher and journalist for four decades. Now 68, he lives in Hermosa Beach, CA, with his wife Joan and is working on a novel about a Los Angeles man hunting for the treasure of his past in today's Mexico and in the land of Nueva España more than 400 years ago. (NOTE - You can read my review of The Road to Tamazunchale at this link, here. Without any exaggeration, I can say that this book is one of the classics; The Road set the bar high for Chicano/a writers; and it's a great read even after 35 years.)


El Negocio De Poesia or The Po Biz
Soy Poeta. I am a poet. BordersSenses published my first poem, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, four years ago in 2006. The Maple Leaf Rag also published it and so did Edible Ojai. The poem is about my abuelita, Maria Victoria, and it is the title piece to my first full-length collection. The book-length manuscript has yet to find a publishing home, but over two thirds of the poems have been published.

Last year, my poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place prize and publication (February of 2010.) I wrote the short collection of 22 poems after visiting my father in Folsom prison. When people ask me what I do, I enjoy saying, I am a poet. “No, what do you really do?” they ask. At last week’s wonderful Flor y Canto at USC, the question came up with almost everyone I met. I’d point to the colorful program, at my name for Thursday at 1:45, my fifteen minute spotlight, and say, see, I am a poet. But, no, what do you really do, the question, again. I sing and dance, do Windows and Macs was a better answer for some. I work on websites and help writers get the most out of their computers. I also co-edit an online magazine for writers, Ink Byte. In our digital days of multitasking, it’s not enough to say, I am a poet. People expect a more complicated answer. I salute my writer friends who truly do it all, raise kids, organize literary events, write news articles, cook and clean for their elderly parents or grandparents or both, give dance and guitar lessons, and write best sellers. I write and promote my writing.

At USC’s Flor y Canto, several people missed my fifteen minutes of fame. They had many excuses. The number one excuse was that they had too much fun the evening before and were late in getting to the festival. I was the third person on the second day, after Michael Sedano had set several ground rules, which the first couple of readers followed. We shortened our reading time and adhered to Sedano’s schedule. Naturally, several people missed my early reading. When people apologized, I was quick with a self-promoting answer. “No problema,” I said. “Don’t worry. You can buy my book.” I am proud to admit it was a pretty good strategy. Our cameraman, Jesus Treviño found me during the break and bought my book, others who missed me, Juan Felipe Herrera, also bought a book. I love it when a famous person buys my book, a poetry pleasure. Juan Felipe also enjoyed a photograph I took of him. Click here for my website to see all the photos. Some of the veterano poets were mas amable. Marco Antonio Dominguez gave away copies of his book. He said, “me gusta regalar.”

When I’m not writing poetry, I’m writing fiction. Someday soon, in a few months, next Spring, Bilingual Review Press will publish my first novel,
Ocotillo Dreams. I’m also working on a second novel and I’m always writing new poems. These days I’m lucky my poems are getting published more regularly than four years ago, when I only had one publishing credit to my name. After the one poem, I had one short story published in Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature. I must’ve sent half a dozen stories to the editor, Daniel Olivas. I was determined to be included in the anthology. My determination has paid off. I now have several short stories and poems published. Maria Melendez, editor of Pilgrimage Magazine heard my brand new poem, disconcerted crow, the one I dedicated to my favorite birders, Barbara and Michael Sedano, and asked to publish the poem in the literary magazine’s December issue. After numerous rejections, having an editor ask me for work they’ve just heard means I’m official. I am a poet. Soy poeta.

How Fire Is A Story, Waiting
My grandmother caught the flame in her thick hands.
Curled fingers made nimble by kaleidoscope embers.

Fire burns hot and cold if you know where to touch it, she said.

I watched the red glow spit and wiggle as it
snaked down the thin timber, a striptease,
born out of the festive sound of a half-filled matchbox.

Through orange windows framed by obsidian eyes, I saw the child she once was.
A little girl who raised herself because her mother had a coughing disease.
Blood on her mother’s handkerchief didn’t stop her from dreaming.
Maria Victoria was going to be a singer with her deep, cinnamon stick voice.

She watched novelas in the kitchen while waiting for dough to rise.
Her body, heavy with worry for two families and three lifetimes. She tucked
Mariachi dreams under her girdle. Lullabies escaped on mornings
warmed by her song falling into gas burners turned on high.

The flame on a stove was never the same. It had a bad hangover,
didn’t remember the many matches lit when its starter broke down.

My grandmother rolled paper into a funnel,
stole fire from the pilot to light the stubborn burner on the right.
Crimson burned blue on the white paper, its folded edges
curled black like a lace ruffle on a skirt.

The finicky flame can’t comment on its magic.
The thousands of tortillas and pancakes cooked over the years.
How I burned myself roasting a hot dog campfire style.
How a melted pencil smudged under my sister’s eyelid makes her beautiful.

My grandmother noticed the time, almost noon.
She needed to make three dozen tortillas to feed her family of thirteen.
The show over, she blew the match into a swirl of gray squiggles,
snuffed before it had a chance to burn hot on her finger.

Funny, how fire is a story, waiting.

Melinda Palacio is from South-Central Los Angeles and now lives in Santa Barbara. Her poetry chapbook won Kulupi Press' Sense of Place 2009 competition. Her first novel, Ocotillo Dreams, will be published by Bilingual Review Press.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Puro Prado: Interview Con La Santa Perversa

Olga García Echeverría

Santa Perversa
dános hoy tus dones de mujer
libéranos de malos amores
pero déjanos noches
de insaciables
--Reina Prado, excerpt from Santa Perversa
*all photo credits are included at the end of this blog.
She’s an artist with many voices and many names. Reina. Prado. Alejandra. Ibarra. Santa. Perversa. And most recently she’s birthed Virginia Buenaventura, a humorous, 40-something-year-old “good girl” on the verge of sexual fruition. When I asked Reina about her multiple names, she laughed and said “I don’t want to be found.” But that’s a joke. A poet, art curator, profesora and performer, Reina Prado’s all about being found and bringing into public spaces that which many times has been deemed private or taboo.

For the past 15 years, Reina’s art has been about muchas cosas—cultura, gender, language, race--but mainly it’s been about digging into the personal, the sensual, unveiling and naming deseos en ambos Inglés and Español. She’s taken poetic entities off the page and onto the stage as well, like La Santa Perversa, a persona that originated in one of her poems as a prayer and then bloomed into a full-fledged creature, walking down the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and La Habana, asking strangers to write down their love prayers and pin them on her long, red flowing dress. Over the years, Santa Perversa has gotten hundreds of tiny love petitions. Sometimes the people she’s approached are thrown off-guard. “Huh? What kind of love? Santa Perverted who?” They’ve heard of saints, Santa Teresita, San Miguel, San Martin, but Santa Perversa is new and peculiar. She’s an oxymoron that mingles with the traditional/cultural/religious while simultaneously poking fun and challenging.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Reina at Metro Balderas in Highland Park. We munched on quesadillas and pambazos and guiri-guiriamos about life and art. Here are a few things Reina shared about the evolution of her work from poetry to street performance to her latest one-woman show, Whipped!

When did you first start doing your art?
It really started in Tuscon when I was in graduate school finishing up a degree in Art History. I was connected to a community of artists out there, most of them visual artists. We’d hang out, write, and just be creative. It was during that time that I finally paid attention to my writing voice. Graduate school can be very oppressive sometimes, so I needed an outlet.

When did you develop the character of Santa Perversa?

When I came to Los Angeles in 1997, the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) offered me a space to finish my graduate thesis. It was there that I met Alma Lόpez, who was part of a group that didn’t really have a name at that time, but that later became L.A. Coyotas, an inter-generational, multi-genre Chicana art collective. I started attending and supporting their events because I just loved all their work. At some point, they invited me to participate, so it was with L.A. Coyotas that I got a chance to develop my poetry. At that time, I was just reading from the text and I considered myself "just a poet." I didn’t do spoken word or performance poetry. There were so many amazing and supportive female artists in the L.A. Coyotas, like Gloria Alvarez, for example. The actual poem of Santa Perversa came into existence during that time. I had been writing erotic poetry already, but it was through this collective that I finally created this entity.

When did Santa Perversa go from the page to the stage and why?
In 2005, I participated in a late-night, erotica show at Highways that was organized by LeVan Hawkins for National Poetry month. At that time, it had been close to ten years since I had written my collection of poems Santa Perversa (Published by Calaca Press) and I was thinking of different ways to introduce my poetry to people. I still had something to say about those pieces, but I had to make it fresh for myself, so I decided to take Santa Perversa and make her 3D. I played with that idea and developed a piece entitled Take a Piece of My Heart. It was an interactive piece where people wrote their love petitions and pinned them on me like you pin milagros on saints in catholic churches.

What were people’s reactions when you approached them as Santa Perversa?
It varied. In Cuba, I had a very positive response. People were very open and no-one tripped when I asked them to pin their love petitions on me. In Los Angeles, people were a bit stumped.

How did you actually do the street performance? I got dressed up in my long, red dress and flowers and veil and I took Santa Perversa downtown. I basically just started to walk around, approaching people and asking them if they wanted to pin a love petition on me. I videotaped the whole thing and it took around 3 to 4 hours. I rode the metro and showed up at Union Station. There was a wedding there, so in the background Etta James is playing At Last. It was very fitting.

What was it like to take Santa Perversa into the streets?
When it became a street performance that’s when the magic came to life for me and that’s when most of the prayers were pinned on me. I still have all of the love petitions pinned on the dress. I don't remove them and I only read the ones that are open. The closed ones I respect and leave alone because they were placed on the dress a certain way intentionally. I've had wonderful experiences doing the street performance. I had a beautiful moment with a recent widow here in Los Angeles. “I can’t write a petition” she said sadly because her husband had passed. I said, “I understand, but you can be thankful for the love you two shared.” Her son was the one who ended up pinning a love wish on me that day. When they were about to leave, this woman just embraced me. I shared this moment with her, a stranger, where she felt the comfort to reach out and hold me. That’s what the performance is about –an opportunity to engage with people I may not have otherwise met or spoken to or shared a moment with.

Is Santa Perversa representative of you?
A good friend has asked me that several times. When Santa Perversa became three dimensional, she was unveiling herself, but really it was me unveiling myself. I wrote my first collection of poetry Santa Perversa under a pen name, Alejandra Ibarra. It was a collection of erotic poems and I was so shy at the time. I didn’t know how to embrace that energy. I was curious about eroticism and I wanted to be comfortable in my own sexuality, but I was still working through all of that. This is actually how the idea of Virginia Buenaventura, my latest character, evolved. Virginia’s a woman who’s trying to work through all of that, only she’s older and she’s never had sex.

Are Santa Perversa and Virginia Buenaventura destined to come together?
Even though they’re two separate entities they’re both reflective of my process. At some point I want them to meet in the performance. I want Virginia to either have an apparition or learn about Santa Perversa from her cousin, who’s a lot looser than she is and who takes the role of schooling Virginia in sexual stuff. I like the tension between the two characters, Santa Perversa and Virginia—one gives us permission to request and to desire and to claim that desire and the other one doesn’t know how to do that because…well, no one talks about it at the house. They’re two extremes and I want to use these two extremes to engage not just Latinas/Chicanas, but other women of color who’ve had that experience where we don’t talk about sexuality and desire.

I got to see the first excerpt of your piece on Virginia, but I hear you've developed other pieces. Where’s your piece on Virginia Buenaventura currently at and is it part of a larger production?
I’m still not done with the performance and yes it's part of a larger production. The whole piece is called Whipped! The title’s purposefully a bit ambiguous and not easily identifiable in regards to race and gender because I want to play with that. I’ve been creating it in segments. In 2009, I did two excerpts of it at Highways. The first performance was at the 4X4 Festival, where Virginia gets off on a vibrating vacuum cleaner.

I did another excerpt at the New Works Festival at Highways, which was an all-Latina performance night that I curated and produced. In that piece, Virginia’s finger-banging a papaya and there’s this whole discussion of fruta bomba and a hand blender. It’s really about the discovery of el clítoris. Viriginia's exploration of ¿Qué es el clítoris?And the tension of wanting to know her body, but struggling with the ay no, eso no se hace.

How is Virginia Buenaventura different from other pieces you’ve done?
It’s the first solo-show I’ve ever done. I’ve done performance in the past, but always in collaboration with other artists. It’s also been much more physical. I’ve really had to get into my body and figure out how she moves, how she walks, etc. It's good because it gets me out of my head. Since I'm also an academic, I spend a lot of time in my head. With Virginia, I’m forced to just play.

Where will you be performing the next part of Whipped! and when can we expect to see the piece as a whole?
Next year, I would like to tour the piece as a whole. In December, I’ll be performing another segment at La Peña Cultural Center at Berkeley( ). That same month, I’ll also be reading some of my work at Pinta tu Propio Mundo, an annual, all-female literary event organized by poet/singer Leticia Hernandez in San Francisco.
But if you’re local, we’re having an event this coming Saturday, September 25th. It's a great fundraiser for the Studio for Southern California History that I've spearheaded with my writing collective Words With a Purpose. We've taken turns choosing different organizations that we'd like to raise funds for. I chose The Studio for Southern California History because it activates the history and memories of people living in Los Angeles through the public programs, website, and exhibitions. After five years, it's still an invaluable resource to the various communities that make L.A. home.
Thank you Reina for sharing a bit about your art and your creative process with La Bloga. Below is the information for this weekend's event.
Words With a Purpose Event
Saturday, September 25, 2010
7:30 - 10:00 PM

At The Studio for Southern California History
977 N. Hill Street, 90012
Los Angeles, CA

So here's my chance to plug a great event for a great cause! Yes, I'm totally biased because I am part of Words with a Purpose, a writing collective that was founded by poet Liz Gonzalez in 2009. Liz shares that in 2009, she "invited women writers whose work I love and longed to hear more to create a collective with me that would give readings and performances as fundraisers for community organizations in need. We would invite artists, writers, and musicians whose work we love to join us. The fundraisers would bring awareness of the organization as well as much needed funds." In previous events, we've raised funds for the Arroyo Seco Public Library in Highland Park, Imix Bookstore, and KIWA's ESL classes. This is WWP's third fundraiser.

For the occasion writers will share their musings about livin’ and lovin’ L.A.

Words with a Purpose Writer’s Collective include liz gonzalez, reina alejandra prado, and Frankie Salinas and me, Olga Garcia. For the occasion, we have also invited guest artist Ruben Martinez to share his work and music.

Please show your support by donating to the Studio for Southern California History. Suggested Donation $7.00.

Artists' Bios:

Guest Artist: Rubén Martinez. Author and performer Rubén Martínez is Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature & Writing at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, among other titles, and as a musician has performed with the likes of Concrete Blonde, Los Illegals and The Roches. Rubén's musical partner Joe "City" Garcia has long brought his unique blend of R&B/Folk Rock/Southwestern/sacred roots influences to his projects in the L.A. music scene.

liz gonzález’s work has appeared in numerous journals, periodicals, and anthologies and will be in the forthcoming anthology Blame the Ugly Mug: Ten Years of Two Idiots Peddling Poetry. She facilitates creative writing workshops at community centers and teaches writing at Long Beach City College and creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

reina alejandra prado just completed a Hothouse Residency through UCLA’s World Arts & Culture Program to continue work on her solo performance Whipped! Her performances and poetry challenge taboos imposed on Latinas by delving into the realm of the erotic.

Frankie Salinas has performed her poetry and memoirs and taught workshops all over the country. She is currently working on an anthology entitled Most Likely to Fail-Extraordinary Success of Ordinary People. Words with a Purpose Writer’s Collective is a L.A. County based group of writers dedicated to making a difference in communities.

For more information check out: or email us or visit our Facebook event page!/event.php?eid=157429200935852

Hope you can join us and hasta next time, Peace & Poetry!
*Reina Prado Photo Credits:
First two photos by Rigo Maldonado
Cuba photo by Leslie GtzySaiz
Virigina Buenaventura touching "El Botoncito" by Jean Dean