Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cuca and Eva Aguirre; Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow Update; Floricanto Adelanto; On-Line Floricanto. David Dolby ¡Presente!

Summer Road Notes, El Paso, Texas
Cuca Aguirre and Eva Aguirre & the Juarez Border Arts Renaissance of the 30’s

Juan Felipe Herrera

In my brother-in-laws’ X-Terra I head toward El Bronco, an El Paso flea market.

I am in search of “Arriba Juarez,” a tiny clothes booth where Cuca Aguirre, now Cuca Aguirre García, at ninety-two years of age, sells clothes and waits for me, perhaps the one of the last pioneers of the Juarez Border Arts Renaissance of the 30’s that laid down the groundwork for the aesthetic revolution we are still living. José Montoya comes to mind, poeta, muralista and an RCAF general whom I met in the early seventies, back in Logan Heights, San Diego. Then I think of Alma Lopez, Lila Downs and Yolanda Muñoz, a digital artist, a singer and a sculptor – going strong.

My initial interest was to get more info on my own familia – los Quintana – who arrived in Juarez from Mexico City a few years after the Mexican revolution of 1910. And it happened that my uncle Roberto was a leading figure of Juarez’s “El Barco de La Ilusión” radio-theatre cast of XEJ and who worked with Germán Valdez (Tin-Tan), the comedic actor, originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco. After Tin Tan left Juarez to Mexico City in the early 40’s, he became a major movie star of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. An intimate portrait of Tin-Tan lured me too. After meeting Cuca and listening to her stories, songs and poems and returning a month later, things changed.

The more Cuca described her leap, as a teenager, into song, theatre, comedy and dance in the Juarez border Jazz and Ranchera scene from 1932 to 1942, the more I began to realize that she was a seminal part of an explosive site of cultural production.

With her sister, Eva Aguirre, now Eva Aguirre Amezcua, and Elvira Macías, Cuca formed part of “Las Tres Chatitas” singing and dancing and on occasion reading out loud, “declamando,” poetry touring Texas with Tin-Tan, and other artists. Returning to Juarez, she and her sister would delve back into a thriving cadre of radio and teatro artists, including “El Charro” Pancho Avitia, Pepe Gamboa, Meño García, Alfredo Corral and Roberto Quintana. The performance schedule was an intense project of experimental theatre based on improvisation and multiple characters all elaborated through various radio stations and radio shows such as “La Familia Feliz,” “Pablo el Ranchero” and “Pablo Barranquillo y Su Comadre Chencha.” There was no set script other than a last-minute given theme.

Cuca laughs recalling a one-act called, “El Millón,” that La Familia Feliz presented on XEJ. “They told us we had won a “million.” So, we jumped up and cried out our dreams – a palace, a world tour, a mink stole! Then the announcer gave us the leash to a tiny dog called ‘El Millón. We were so disappointed!”

The Juarez arts collective was tireless in production and in mentoring each other. Local singer Miguel Aceves Mejía, who later became a national sensation, stopped Cuca and pointed out various options in singing in harmony. “Once Miguel showed me how to do it, I never changed my style.” Cuca tells me proudly. Soon enough the Juarez scene began to attract national and international stars such as Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete and Arturo de Córdova. Córdova at a loss with one of his co-stars pleaded with the manager of XEJ to find a replacement “of equal talent.” “¡Cuca!” the manager said. “Are you sure? She is so young!” Arturo motioned in disbelief. “If I say so, it is because it is so.” The manager responded and the deal was done. Cuca and Arturo de Córdova performed to standing-room-only at El Colón, one of the major El Paso venues of the time. Later, in a letter, Arturo pleaded with Cuca, “Please do come to Mexico City. I will make sure you get a scholarship at the Bellas Artes Acting School. Then, I can almost guarantee, you’ll get a movie contract.” Tin Tan also sent Cuca similar requests from the Mexican capitol.

On my last visit, at her daughter Ceci Ortiz’ house, Cuca pulled out a loose-leaf plastic sheet album of photos, posters and news article from Radio-Canta, the local arts news column of her early singing days.

Glossing over the fotos, I discovered “Charlas Callejeras,” a poem, by my uncle Roberto, as “Pablo el Ranchero” and a photo of teen-age Cuca “declamando” and ad-libbing a poem during her Texas tour in San Antonio, shots of her and Tin-Tan dressed in a thick wooly suit and one of Cuca and her sister Eva getting off of a Pullman with boxy luggage; all in smiles, posing, hugging each other, sitting on a shore, then standing up, vampy, brilliant and dramatic. Cuca and Eva were at their prime.

I wanted to be there with both of them, to be part of this movimiento, this Renaissance. Jazz and Rancheras and Tangos. Acting, singing, dancing, poetry – radio, theatre, comedy. I wanted to hang with these artistas, just like I had with the poets and muralists of the Chicana and Chicano movimiento during the late sixties through the early eighties. Yet, Cuca and Eva’s story was just beginning.

Cuca and her sister Eva were two of the few female artists of the Juarez Border Arts Renaissance that peaked in the thirties; one that had catapulted – through Mexico City’s studios - Tin Tan, El Charro Avitia and Miguel Aceves Mejía into the national and international spotlight. This alone was highly worthy, I thought. After reading Gerardo Licón’s Ph.D. thesis, “Pachucas, Pachucos, and Their Culture: Mexican American Youth Culture of the Southwest, 1910-1955,” where he argues that the “tírilis,” that is, those at the margin seen as “pot smokers,’ the pachucos and pachucas, were indeed originally from Juarez and not Los Angeles as many claimed. It also occurred to me that Cuca and Eva were not only two of the stars of the Juarez Renaissance, they also, by default, set the stage with the other renaissance pioneers for a radical new aesthetic relating to “el tirili,” the social outcast we have come to know as “la pachuca and el pachuco.”

Tin Tan would later perfect the first “Tírili” or pachuco version on the Mexican silver screen in the 40’s – with “outsider” Juarez border lingo, flappy pants, joking dude antics, tilted hats and daring, romantic moods. The hardened wise-guy zoot suit “vato” image-work would later rise up from the West Coast.

I headed back to the Holiday Inn and soon after left to California. Cuca had given me many treasures. Back home, I called Cuca’s sister, Eva Aguirre Amezcua, now a young ninety-four years old. “When we left home on tours,” she recalled the Juarez years, “ we didn’t think of the dangers. Maybe we wouldn’t come back. But, once we were out there, we witnessed the impossible.”

At the USC Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow, we will honor both Cuca Aguirre García and her sister, Eva Aguirre Amezcua, two “ Las Tres Chatitas” with the 2010 UCR Tomás Rivera Flor y Canto Lifetime Achievement Pioneer Award these two women who were at the roaring center of the Juarez Border Arts Renaissance of the thirties.

Photo Credits:
Cuca Aguirre©Cuca Aguirre García Archives
Cuca Aguirre (left) and her sister Eva ©Cuca Aguirre García Archives
Cuca reminisces © JFH
Tin-Tan on left, Cuca Aguirre, cast of La Familia Feliz XEJ Show. ©Cuca Aguirre García Archives
Tin Tan and Cuca Aguirre on tour in Texas ©Cuca Aguirre García Archives

Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow Update

Excitement builds in El Lay and environs anticipating Wednesday, September 15, 2010, first day of the landmark literary festival. Next week, La Bloga provides answers to frequently asked questions like, "Where do I park?"; "How do I find Doheny Memorial Library, and Friends Lecture Hall?"; "I'm disabled, is there accommodation?"; "What if I'm late?"; "Can I get a t-shirt with Magu's floricanto artwork?"

To plan your attendance, click here for the festival schedule.

Floricanto Adelanto at Corazón del Pueblo

Here's a delightful and grand development from Abel Salas and Corazón del Pueblo: On Sept. 14th, Corazón del Pueblo, LA Eastside art space convenient to public transportation and freeways, hosts Floricanto Adelanto to welcome poets & writers in LA for the official Festival de Flor y Canto: Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow. Click the poster below for a large scale view.

Writers and arts consumers who have not yet had an opportunity to check this community art space in Boyle Heights will discover a site run on an all-volunteer basis by the Corazón del Pueblo: Arts, Education & Action Collective.

The reading will be styled after the recent Floricanto held at the Mission Cultural Center which doubled as the 40th Anniversary Celebration of El Tecolote newspaper, the Bay Area's community arts and literature publication.

Poets & writers will be introduced briefly and given 4 - 5 minutes to share. There will be no features or headliners. Poets will be assigned slots on an alphabetical basis.

Corazón del Pueblo is located at 2003 East 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90033.

Salas says he wants the evening "to create an opportunity for younger writers and spoken word slingers from communities across LA to become familiar with and be mentored by more established writers from across the state and the nation while stimulating the creation and development of an annual Eastside Festival de Libros y Letras."

Libros Schmibros, a community lending library and used bookstore located directly across the street from Corazón del Pueblo at 2000 East 1st, has generously offered to provide space for book tables and signing opportunities for those writers who have books to sell or promote. Authors will be allowed to sell their own books at Libros Schmibros free of charge. Consignment sales opportunities for publishers will also be provided at the traditional rates. Writers and book vendors will be responsible for bringing their own tables.

Since space and time are limited, both the poetry/spoken word showcase slots and the book vending opportunities are being made available on a first-come, first-served basis. For local poets, priority will be given to those who have previously performed at Corazón del Pueblo.

The cut off date to sign up for the reading is Tuesday, September 7. 41 poets have signed to read.

Corazon del Pueblo: Arts, Education & Action Collective's email is corazondelpueblo@live.com

To sign up for a reading time, 213.321.7115

To reserve book vending and signing space, 310.924.9821

On-Line Floricanto September 7, 2010

La Bloga derives immense pleasure welcoming guest columnists like today's from Juan Felipe Herrera. Likewise, La Bloga revels in the popularity of the weekly feature, On-Line Floricanto that presents work submitted by the moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070. To have your work considered for On-Line Floricanto, read this from Francisco Alarcón at Facebook.

1. “Telling My Story” by Leticia Díaz-Pérez
2. "Come With Me Into Where We Should Be" by Diana Lucas-Joe
3. "Produce 1089" by Lorna Dee Cervantes
4. “Rainmaking” by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
5. "The Art Lesson" by Virginia Barrett
6. "American Dreams and Curses" by D.A. Robles
7. “Four Cuahtli” by Geiselda Iztacoatzin
8. “On Learning Central America” by Karina Oliva

1. “Telling My Story” by Leticia Díaz-Pérez

Telling My Story

by Leticia Diaz-Perez

Always having to
speak better
dress neater
act politer
lest I be told,
"...go back to where you came from
you no good Mexi-kun
or whatever the ----- you are..."

...telling my story...

Always waiting
to pack up again
get on a train
because I'm no longer wanted here
even though I was born here
and have no place else to go.

...telling my story...

Not wanting any part of the
ASS imilation process
cause' I knew from the
get go that something was
wrong with that whole process.
I knew the day
the teacher sent a note home to my mother,
"...please stop speaking Spanish with you daughter-
it's interfering with her school work..."
I blurted out words in class-
didn't want to,
they just slipped.
So the teacher said
"...Letishaaa! Letishaaa,
(and that's not even the way you pronounce my name)
you have to control you mouth..."
She had me wash my mouth out with
in front of all the other kids
to set me straight.

...telling my story...

My mother explained things to me,
"...los gringos son unos tramposos,
se robaron la mitad de Mexico y ahora
se quieren robar nuestra cultura,
but from now on
you have to play by their rules or
they'll kick you out of the game..."

...telling my story...

I learned to play by their rules
speak their language
pass all of their tests
but I clutched onto
my culture
like a mother
sensing danger,
clutches onto her newborn.
I knew the only way not to be
was to tell my story.
So I started telling it-
except I told it all wrong.

...telling my story...

I was supposed to paint
pretty pictures
big immigrant family
making it in America,
land of abundant opportunity.
Instead, I wrote how noboby opened any doors for my parents-
how they had to pry and kick doors open
that were padlocked shut
because we were
south of the border immigrants
not Eastern European immigrants
running from communism,
in fact my parents had nothing against communism
and boy did that piss the gringos off,
"...then go to Russsia..." they said.
No, I'm not going to Russisa
because this is my country,
and so I stayed...

And stayed
and stayed-
told my story
the way I wanted to tell it,
not the way they wanted me to tell it-
and I watched those doors slam shut
one by one
like dominoes falling one on top of the other.
They say
bar soap is a luxury item in communist countries.
In the "free" world
freedom of speech
is a luxury item
reserved for those
who tell the official story.

Well, let the journalists tell the
official story!
Let them
sell out,
they're good at that,
always were-
not me,
not here
not now
not ever.
I'm not wanting any part of the vendida thing,
no thank you.
I'm too hungry for that-
hungry for the truth-
hungry to tell it like it is:
that we are Latinos
and Latinos are from Latin America
and Latin America is supposed to be a colony of the United States
so Latinos are supposed to be like little colonies
to be used for cheap labor
used for votes to win elections
used for immigrant- bashing purposes
used for statistics
used for percentages-
percentages of Latinos in prison
percentages of Latinos on drugs
percentages of Latinos with HIV
percentages of Latinos in the U.S. " illegally"
well, I am NOT a statistic
and I am not here for their entertainment either.
I will not sing or dance for the gringos
"...por la plata baila el monito..."
and I'm NOBODY"S monito.

...telling my story...

But hey, here I am...
still living
still writing
still telling my story-
because if I don't tell it
somebody else will-
most likely a gringo
or some sell out (same thing)
who proclaims himself an expert on Latino culture.
He'll write a best-seller about Latinos
and tell it the way the gringos want to hear it.
So before that happens,
I'm planning on telling it-
my story,
my way.

...telling my story..

2. "Come With Me Into Where We Should Be" by Diana Joe

Come With Me Into Where We Should Be
4 Poets Responding To SB-1070

by Diana Joe

Come with me into where we should be
a place

a destination
a revelation
come with me into where we should be
the heart of a mountain
the bottom of the river
the middle of the desert
come with me
it is only destiny
nothing to worry you for
never mind what you got in the bag
el moralito del viejito
del indito
del curandero
del primero que llego
al otro lado
the one that left the way
left his tracks
left tracks
to the left to the left
come with me
into where we should be
sacredly understanding
the communication of holy
things, beings,thoughts,dreams
come with me
into the depth of the unseen
where there are no political strings
entanglements,encampments of many tears
no fear come with me
bring all of yourself
leave all those rules and regulations
stop signs, red lights, dark times
come with me to the new horizon
where antelope and deer and bear
sit in council
sit and counsel
take this chanupa
take it invisible protector of souls
smoke up and forward
smoke behind and beneath
you don't have to wake up
it's good
it's away from the wall
away from been small too long
away from the piles of trash and paper
paper trash
come with me to a long time ago
when the head dress was all that was
all that was asked for to know
who you were and where you were from
where your blood came from
where it mattered only
how the Tonatiuh greeted you
and you him on the daily
come with me to where we should be.
~Diana Lucas-joe

Sitting with permission in Tsaile, Az. praying- with revisitation of the female rains.

3. "Produce 1089" by Lorna Dee Cervantes

Produce 1089

for the woman I didn't talk to

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

What does she know from
fruits and vegetables?
"Someone has died. It's bad."

She's on the phone, still
she answers her door. I don't
remember now: the lizard knocker?

The recorded church bells? I am
at her door ready to remark
on the busting bougainvillea vines

reminding me of my beloved Gran'ma
or my other grandmother's bromeliads like
the many varieties of true love growing fat under

water — how I never really knew her
and missed out. Maybe it was all that
tending, my intention to open up to her life,

whatever she brings me, to listen,
to take an order for organic fruits
and vegetables "Farm Fresh To You!"

I want to bring health to her
door, to this silver sliver of a stranger
opening her home to an opposite.

We are very much aligned, stripped
to the soul-sucked knowledge. Someone
has died. It's bad. I am her

kin, her mute poet at the door
selling my wares under Gypsy hair,
the dark hooked nose, the Arab eyes.

She answers her door mid-conversation,
wearing the same stunned look I once
saw on a cat — elongating itself

into the middle of danger, same confused
bemused wide-eyed gaze, reduced
to a cartoon standing guard over a mother,

a mate, a housemate, child, now a mashed
pillow of fur drying on the asphalt
after truck; awaiting resurrection, a re-

constitution. So many things I didn't say.
I didn't offer my card with the code
for $10 off her first box or say how sweet

the fresh fruit salads are or the fragile
melons "to die for...." My week training
fails me: Even the broken heart

must be fed. Thrust into her elegant
element, gape-mouthed as a snagged fish
holding my list of fruits and vegetables aloft,

"you should always buy organic...
for the pesticides and the cancer...",
maybe open up about my father's death,

the real reason I'm here, a dark farm-
worker in the roasting post-Mexican glow — and close
the deal. I turn, as the animal

soul meets eye-to-eye, the silence
of that. She looks down upon the colorful
rainbow of earth's gifts to the still-living.

What does she care about vegetables
or apples? Or does she dream of peaches
still in the struck shadows, remembering?

Lorna Dee Cervantes

(Help a poor poet make more than minimum wage: http://www.FarmFreshToYou.com/ and enter PROMO CODE #1089 and get ten dollars off your first box delivered to you or anyone in CA. Tell 'em Lorna sent you and then tell me.)

4. “Rainmaking” by Odilia Galván Rodríguez


by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

they prayed
rain would not come.
he piled hardwood high and sat
when flame tongues rose licking his feet
rains came

when full
moon wears an aura
children sing frog songs
calling along with offerings
clouds burst

"thinking man's" God
masters mother nature
seeding clouds with silver dry ice

warm clouds
supercooled fooled
formations circling
hitting a cold spoon in skyspace

bodies smoke signals
ancestors sending winds
embrace rain shadows sipping

to implore the rain venerate Chac
to implore the rain venerate Tlaloc
to implore the rain


5. "The Art Lesson" by Virginia Barrett

in response to SB 1070

by Virginia Barett

A visiting artist without benefits, I am teaching third grade students
at Cleveland Elementary School in the Excelsior district
of San Francisco, how to fashion animalitos in clay.
I show them samples of the fanciful figurines that I bought
from boys with small baskets in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

“It’s like making pupusas!” One girl exclaims,
patting the clay between her palms.

I explain to these eight-year old children in the bilingual class
that the little boys from the highlands of Chiapas do not
always get to go to school. They must work instead, selling
animalitos to help their mothers, who bring them forth from the local,
gray clay then embellish them with designs in siena, negro, blanco.

“El horno,” one boy told me, “once it blew up near our faces . . .
que fuego!”

After the clay, the students make drawings of their animalitos—
bold horns, curved tails, legs made for running.
The fantasy characters amble about on paper, sin fronteras,
freely crossing deserts of make-believe.
I see the young boys again of Chiapas
swinging their baskets full of their mothers’ spirited expressions;
playing pranks on each other, lively in the streets . . .
laughing despite the familial duties they have.

I want to share with them these animalitos that their primos
have made, the children of their tías y tíos, happily creating
in this weekly hour of art, here on the other side—
el otro lado que en realidad no existe.

Obama is spending 600 million to tighten border patrols while funding
for education, for the arts, for social reform is left to languish here in el Norte,
the supposed promised land.
Arizona— who exactly is under siege?

Art is life without boundaries cradled by our communal consciousness:
the lesson is not about drawing straight lines.
All children are artists before discrimination tries to trap the animalitos
romping brilliantly in their minds.

© Virginia Barrett

6. "American Dreams and Curses" by Danny A. Robles

American Dreams and Curses

by D.A. Robles
UC Davis '10

I escaped the persecution
from the left,
the brutal repression
from the right.
A silent witness of
brother killing brother,
at the behest of
a whispering Uncle.
The great sacrifice of
Salvadoran blood,
in the name of partisan
politics, in the name
of spheres of influence
in the name of control.
I was one of those
forgotten ones who
didn't matter, who ran
from the random spray
of machine gun fire
from either side...

My dream
of cuidando mi pollos
y sembrando mi tierra
y vendiendo en la calle
large vats of sopita de
res con chayote, yuca
y maiz, gone.
We ran for the border
ran from the guns,
ran from the thing that
blew a hole in my abuelita's
apron, with her still in it.
Fresh spilt Pipil
and Lenca blood wailing,
reverberating through the ground
mixing with blood from 50 yrs ago...

We ran for the border,
one, two, three–
the treacherous journey
para el norte only to be
met by exploitation in each
and a virulent rejection
on arrival at our destination.

Those left behind,
the ones that survived
like me– loved the mountain
greens too much.
They stayed, despite the
flowing blood in the streets.
They hoped for a better day.
And the blood dried up
and the self destructive killing
stopped. For a moment
there was peace,
only for a moment.

How I longed to return, to
revisit my dream,
to smell the air heavy with
fresh tortillas and banana,
and of a finca with elotes
chayotes and jocotes;
of old ladies making soup
and pupusitas on the grill
and the little cipotes corriendo
pidiendo for caramelos.

But that dream is soaked in
blood, rich in the curse of
internal division and war;
blood and mirrors, Reaganomics,
80's political killing replaced
with swarming gang violence
seething with self hate.
Bush era deportations
Brother killing brother
and sister and grandma
and uncle and neighbor.

Because the ones who stayed–
those that overcame the civil
war, hiding in their houses
until the tourniquet of "peace"
cut off the flowing blood. But
they now run again,
to the border:

One, two, three...
the treacherous journey
para el norte only to be
met by exploitation in each
and a virulent rejection
on arrival at our destination

This time by Minute Men and SB-1070

* written in memory of Professor June Jordan and of the Salvadoran people.

7. “Four Cuahtli” by Geiselda Iztacoatzin

Four Cuahtli

by Griselda Iztacoatzin

To the women in the box,
in the cage
to the women who are locked
in societal chains;
My whisper sounds strange
the truth takes new shape
as I claim-
it's time to escape!

It's time to escape I proclaim!
Not just that
I would never suggest freedom into obscurity
my revolutionary theory

is based on
debasing patriarchy and
monogamies, exposing capitalistic
entities that poison and exterminate
entire communities,
children and leukemia
due to toxic entities
and Asarco burning
The Juarez hills are dying
multicolored makeshift houses
break under angry bridges-
bloodstained concrete
There is no
And that's just the surface of the hell
that some eat and live in
and if that's not your problem
then accept that your heart
has a sickness
and fix it.

Tú eres mi otro yo
the mayan theory of in lak ech
is sala malaikum
I recognize the divinity in you and therefore see it in me,

and that in Christian speak
means I will do unto others as I would have others do unto me
but don't forget were
zapatas daughters we would rather fight on our feet
than live on our knees and were americanas de a verdad
so in early colonial speak, as the founding fathers would say, ese,
Don't tread on me.

it's time it's time
for the caged women of the world
to break free, to fly free.

Four cuahtli
Cuatro águilas de fuego
Cuatro fire eagles
from societal cages

The sisters with the bandaged feet
who have been overrun
with industrailistic technologies, rice paper skin feeding
sexual fantasies, China's one child rule, and North korea Zombies
Middle Eastern women shrouded in desperation,
suffocating under an antiquated religious system
genital mutilation
The Taliban rapes them
society rapes them
We say,
In solidarity.

To the western daughters
capitalistic martyrs
desserts made of dollars
You will wake up from this slavery
So we'll say,
In solidarity.

North Cuahtli
The Northern sisters who fight apathy
unrest in European countries
racism, hunger
and sexual disease
child trafficking
We shout, in Solidarity

South cuahtli
African Eagles
Mexican, South American sisters
The heart of the earth
youre the healers
the world is starving
and your native ways
will feed us,
In Solidarity.

Four eagles
The women warriors of the four corners
we're erasing borders, changing dogmas
releasing ourselves and freeing our daughters
we're taking the streets
in terrifying quantities
not one more
ni una más

ni una más slaughtered.

Like I said, we're zapatas rebel daughters.

In Solidarity.

8. “On Learning Central America” by Karina Oliva

On Learning Central America

by Karina Oliva

I pause
to look away from the documentary De Nadie on Youtube
of Undocumented
of "No Ones"
between small countries in the center of America North and América South

I pause
to look away from the movies telling the now familiar stories
of assassinated Archbishops and children with machine guns
shoved in their arms or else, to their heads

I pause
to look away from the numbers of underestimated rapes and murders
by raped and murdered gang members and authorities with the right to kill

I stop
to shove away the sensationalism piling the table
when people become a hyped sound bite
and "illegal" or not, our humanity is nibbled away

It is just another quarter and semester
another classroom of bright eyed students with a flame in their heart
to live in a just society
with crisp articulate voices of a future called hope for some and power for others
searching for stories murmured in the air
not yet solidified by the weight of ink on newspapers and encyclopedias

There are moments when my throat still knots and I must clear away
the tears and the boulder of this historical knowledge
when I wipe my eyes with one clean swoop of my fingers
so I may not distract
and instead discuss the topic at hand
that we still have
to raise in the air
unlike the dismembered lives
of the people we read about
in real and fictional testimonies
their voices braiding into our thoughts
changing us hopefully
from our rooms full of internet links, soft tissues and snacks offered in glass candy plates

In this class students say such things as
"How can truth be spoken when language is already the outcome of power"
"Men were not the only ones who raped"
"Women were not the only ones who were raped"
"But if they think of their lives as fate, where is their agency?"
"It's like living in the shadows"
"My great-aunt had never talked about the holocaust but now that she is dying,
the ghosts are speaking through her"
"The author, courts, and lawyers are speaking for her"
"So when I go back to El Salvador, I don't pretend to be rich.
I tell them the truth about how hard it is to live here"

Classes on Central Americans and Central America should have some sort of warning
due to the graphic nature, due to an enduring history of poverty, class and
racial hierarchies, internal colonialism, and geopolitical schemes, you might
find yourself
in disbelief
upheaved by a hurricane
wanting good deeds of change
or yearning instead to read poems by numbers
maybe Edgar Allen Poe, or Blake
If this is a class on literature, then why not focus on the metaphor and forget
the referent
still there is laughter
their brilliance
I wish to somehow link each person to the other like a global Xbox game without the Xbox
or game
always the handful of students who inspire
the work-filled hours of my single filed days.

1. “Telling My Story” by Leticia Díaz-Pérez
Leticia Diaz-Perez was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan.She attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated with a BA/English and American Literature and an MA/Spanish and Latin American Literature. While at the University of Michigan she co-hosted "Radio Caliente" at WCBN FM , one of the first Latino radio shows in the Ann Arbor area. It was at WCBN that she interviewed Latino writers Pedro Pietri, Tato Laviera, Trinidad Sanchez,Sandra Cisneros and Piri Thomas-inspiring her to start writing and telling her story.Leticia has taught Spanish at the University of Michigan and in the Michigan public school system. She also taught in the New York City public school system, (4th grade bilingual teacher) where she had the opportunity to work with a group of beautiful children who had recently arrived from the Dominican Republic.Leticia is currently working on her first book of poems, "Sugar from the Sky".

2. "Come With Me Into Where We Should Be" by Diana Lucas-Joe
I am Diana Lucas-Joe I was born and raised in the southernmost region of the Rio Grande Valley in a little town called Brownsville, Texas on April 5th,1960. I am an active activist for over forty years in the areas of social and human justice and I like to identify myself as a lover of our Mother Earth.I am born for the Yaqui indigenous people of the original Yaqui pueblos of Sonora, Mexico and for the P’urepecha Indigenous people of Michoacan, Mexico and for an immigrant German family that settled in Kentucky .

I attended mostly Brownsville schools from first grade on in to high school and several others through the United States.

I graduated with a Texas Educational Association General Equivalency Diploma in 1980.
I attended The University Of Texas At Brownsville briefly, in 1994 and in 2004 reentered into Navajo Community College on the Navajo Reservation.

I am born into a generational farm worker family (1940-1972) as all farm workers we traversed the United States following the seasonal crops into what is called El Norte.

I was already destined to be a farm worker as my mother carried me in her womb while she toiled the endless fields. I began actual labor in the fields at the tender age of five years.
I didn’t stay in any one school too long as we were taken out early and reentered tardy all the time from my first year of school on up to junior high.

I also like to tell people that I retired at age twelve, since it was 1972 that my family actually ceased the long journey into the northern states in terms of participating in physical farm labor.

I have been writing and painting since the age of eight. I got in trouble in school quite often as I would go off focus to scribble and sketch as opposed to staying on task.

I feel that I wrote exclusively to sort of escape the hardships of the labor demands for my family. It was a time that children just worked and asked no questions. We understood at our early age that we all worked to survive. I wrote about my surroundings. I wrote about the difference in fruit trees that gave me work and the trees that gave me rest, and about seemingly immense and never ending fields and about the way birds talked to me as they sat on nearby fences. I wrote all the time about everything we went through as farm worker children our tragedy and about our hope.

My father insisted that we should all be book smart. There weren’t many books around but I began to read at about age six, I read the newspapers and several popular magazines like Reader‘s Digest and national Geographic and the T.V. Guide.

Magazines fascinated me when I went to the bigger stores and they were positioned there by the checkouts, I stared at the print and pictures always in awe of that writing.

I unconsciously began social justice and community empowerments in various aspects of and for literacy projects at about ten. I was frequently called and seen the useful one in my community and actually in the labor camps because I was able to read and write and to fluently speak in English and in Spanish and because the majority of our community was Spanish speaking only.

I became an activist for social and human justice primarily because I loved helping empower my Chicano people and our neighborhoods everywhere I went. I loved the earth from the very beginning of my young life perhaps because of the stories that my grandmother and grandfather and later my mother and father would share about her beauty. I believe it is because I was a farm worker that my connection was a profound and ongoing life long one. I have always loved helping them (our Mexican- American people) I liked seeing how I could help them feel good about themselves. It gave me great pleasure to just be of any kind of service to them especially the elders. I normally served as an interpreter in person and for written situations as all legal papers were English only.

My writing has been the solid base for my stay in the course of activism. I consider myself a grassroots activist, I like to say I am home grown, for the homegrown.

I am the voice of and for the one silenced by injustice in the area of economic advantage and class or gender discrimination and or separations.

I carry the voice of the Chicano-Native American that have in fact been forced historically in their past and at the present times be without his or her spiritual connection to an original -traditional homeland and the opportunity that can come from it’s conceptualization. I inform people along all of the US. Border of the “hidden” from view Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty.
Basically I take charge to inform people of Mexican decent that we as Chicanos/as also have a treaty with the US. I carry all messages of and for hope for those humans along all of the border towns in and around California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that neighbor with Mexico and that are in fact grossly exploited through cheap labor, and or race. I do it out of my own passion for true and comprehensive justice from the Mexican-American perspective per se.
I implement grass root ideas and dialogue through folk tale of the elders that I grew up with and whom were greatly influential and super beneficial to my life as these elders were self taught and did not have formal educations.

Because of my people and my community and my elders I feel have developed my own grassroots presentation motivational modules based upon age old grass root story telling, song, Aztec dance, and indigenous Chicano-cultural life ways. presently I work with various tribal schools in the United States and Mexico as an independent grass roots cultural exchange presenter/facilitator and consultant.

Today I strongly carry the same spirit for and with the grassroots stewardship to that same group of people the Chicano Nations and all other nations are inclusive as well. My grass roots service work has super ceded and super collided into other human justice venues that require me to produce and to introduce bigger more impacting and powerful writing and presentation as I have began dealing with many influential government bodies in the pursuit and for the defense of the people and the Earth. It is my belief is that over the years I seem to have humbly developed spiritually because of the hardships I know to still exist in and amongst the Mexican-American community and that these hardships are a challenge to the people economically and socially. I see that these have strengthened my writing and presentations through the stories of the people I served and continue to serve from my heart. I’d like to be known as a passionate and spiritual writer, lover of the Earth a poet who loves to give back to humanity without conditions because that is the interpretation in my definition of service.
Thank-you, Diana Lucas-Joe
Earth Lover - Human Rights Activist
Lukachukai, Arizona
September 2010

3. "Produce 1089" by Lorna Dee Cervantes

4. “Rainmaking” by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Poet/Writer/Social Justice Activist

Poet and writer, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is of Chicano-Apache ancestry born in Galveston, Texas and raised on the south side of Chicago. She has done extensive work as a labor/community organizer, with the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO, and as a cultural worker and social justice activist. Most recently she worked as the English edition editor for Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She is the author of three books of poetry, of which Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems is her latest. Odilia offers Empowering People Through Creative Writing Workshops internationally.

5. "The Art Lesson" by Virginia Barrett
Born in New York City, raised in Vermont, Virginia Barrett is a poet, writer, and visual artist. Her travel memoir Mbira Maker Blues—a healing journey to Zimbabwe, was released in 2010 (www.studiosaraswati.com/jambu.htm). Her most recent book of poems is Infinite Love—poems from a course in meditation and she is the translator of At 24th & Mission—poesía local con esencia global by Miguel Robles. Virginia teaches poetry, creative writing, and visual art to both children and adults. She has lived and traveled in Mexico, South America, Zimbabwe, Europe, Thailand, and other parts of the world. She now lives in San Francisco. www.virginiabarrett.com

6. "American Dreams and Curses" by Danny A. Robles
Danny Robles is a 4th year English major at the University of California Davis where he minors in Chicano Studies and African/African American Studies. Born and raised in San Francisco, Danny is the son of immigrant working class parents from El Salvador and the Philippines. Prior to attending the university Danny was a flight attendant for a major airline based on the East Coast.

In the Spring of 2009, Danny studied abroad in Havana, Cuba with the departments of Chicano Studies and African/African American Studies. Under the guidance of Professor Beatriz Pesquera and Professor Bettina Ng’weno, he conducted research at the Casa de Las Americas. There he studied Cuban literature, poetry and film, Spanish, Afro-Cuban religion, Women in the Cuban Revolution, the African diaspora, transnational migration and constructions of Afro-Cuban race, sexuality and queer identity.

Danny’s literary interests include post-colonial literature, African American slave narratives, Native American narratives, Latino/a and Chicano/a Social Protest literature, multi-ethnic and children’s literature. On campus he has worked on various social justice research projects surrounding environmental justice in the Central Valley, Guantánamo Testimonials Project and The Chicano Movement in Sacramento.

On his spare time, Danny assists in caregiving for his Papá who is suffering from Lou Gherig’s disease. He also loves photography, film and writing poetry. Recently, he won first place in the UC Davis Hemispheric Institute On The America’s photography contest.

After leaving Davis, he will attend graduate school and hopes to write more about the Salvadoran American experience and explore interweaving that experience in poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

7. “Four Cuahtli” by Geiselda Iztacoatzin
Griselda "La Rana" Munoz is a chicana from El Paso who writes poetry, plays and does performance art. Her work is based heavily on her experience living in la frontera, the post-modern warzone. Her work has been published in Mujeres de Maiz, Mezcla, and the upcoming
anthology Turtle Island to Abya Yala. She has also performed all over the Southwest. Upcoming performances include the great honor of speaking for Dolores Huerta in October of 2010 at the Metro College in Denver and at El Mundo Zurdo, An International Conference on the life and work of Gloria Anzaldua in Nov. 2010. The poem "Four Cuahtli" is dedicated ay Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

8. “On Learning Central America” by Karina Oliva
Karina Oliva was born in El Salvador and raised in the dynamic hub of immigrant cultures that is Pico-Union situated in the city of Los Angeles. She is a professor of U.S. Central American literature, and has also taught classes on Latina/os in the U.S., and Chicana/o and Latina/o literature at Cal State University Los Angeles, and Scripps College, among other institutions. Also a poet, she published a book of poems, Transverse: Altar de Tierra, Altar de Sol through izotepress.com in 2009. You may contact her at k_oliva_alvarado@hotmail.com She will gladly answer your questions and make your acquaintance.

David Charles Dolby?


Francisco Juarez sends this advisory he received via an information network of veterans. This is adapted from an email composed by a retired sailor.

On Friday, August 6, David C. Dolby passed away suddenly in Spirit Lake, Idaho at the age of 64. Childless, Mr. Dolby had lived in virtual seclusion in the town of Barto, PA since the passing of his wife in 1997. He was attending a veterans event in Idaho when he died. Mr. Dolby’s passing went so unnoticed that even his hometown paper didn’t acknowledge it. He apparently hadn’t done anything in his life to merit a note to his neighbors and townsfolk.

Three days later, on Monday, August 9, person who up until that day had pretty much gone as unnoticed as David Dolby, threw a temper tantrum on a Jet Blue airplane at John F. Kennedy airport. He has been featured on every major news network in the country, his face is on the front page of numerous national publications, Facebook pages have been established to “honor” him, and the flight attendant has been called a “hero” by people we are supposed to believe know what that term means. He will be interviewed by Today, the Early Show, Good Morning America. He’ll appear on Leno, Conan, Letterman. He’ll become what we in America these days view as “somebody”. He’ll be praised as one who has done something that merits special attention.

In the meantime, later this week a funeral service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery. The press is unlikely to attend, only a handful of mourners who had the privilege to know David Dolby. There will probably be a few guys there who are fellow members of the organization that announced his passing: the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Medal of Honor citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, when his platoon, while advancing tactically, suddenly came under intense fire from the enemy located on a ridge immediately to the front. Six members of the platoon were killed instantly and a number were wounded, including the platoon leader. Sgt. Dolby's every move brought fire from the enemy. However, aware that the platoon leader was critically wounded, and that the platoon was in a precarious situation, Sgt. Dolby moved the wounded men to safety and deployed the remainder of the platoon to engage the enemy. Subsequently, his dying platoon leader ordered Sgt. Dolby to withdraw the forward elements to rejoin the platoon. Despite the continuing intense enemy fire and with utter disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Dolby positioned able-bodied men to cover the withdrawal of the forward elements, assisted the wounded to the new position, and he, alone, attacked enemy positions until his ammunition was expended. Replenishing his ammunition, he returned to the area of most intense action, single-handedly killed 3 enemy machine gunners and neutralized the enemy fire, thus enabling friendly elements on the flank to advance on the enemy redoubt. He defied the enemy fire to personally carry a seriously wounded soldier to safety where he could be treated and, returning to the forward area, he crawled through withering fire to within 50 meters of the enemy bunkers and threw smoke grenades to mark them for air strikes. Although repeatedly under fire at close range from enemy snipers and automatic weapons, Sgt. Dolby directed artillery fire on the enemy and succeeded in silencing several enemy weapons. He remained in his exposed location until his comrades had displaced to more secure positions. His actions of unsurpassed valor during 4 hours of intense combat were a source of inspiration to his entire company, contributed significantly to the success of the overall assault on the enemy position, and were directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Dolby's heroism was in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army

No comments: