Monday, January 31, 2011


Con Tinta, a Chicano & Latino Writers’ Collective, is hosting its 6th annual celebration at the upcoming AWP conference in Washington, D.C., scheduled for February 2-5, 2011. Con Tinta’s event will feature an award presentation and a free buffet/cash bar. Alero Restaurant & Lounge (1301 U St. NW suite 113 Washington, D.C. 20009) will host our event on Thursday, February 3, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. For directions, visit here. The public is invited.

We are excited to announce that the recipient of this year’s Con Tinta Achievement Award is Helena María Viramontes. Con Tinta is recognizing Helena for her years of service to the Chicano/Latino literary community, her excellence in teaching, and her history of publication. On and off the page, she has left her mark on our community and beyond. Without a doubt, she reflects our mission of affirming a pro-active presence in American literature.

PAST RECIPIENTS: Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, raúlrsalinas, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Sandra María Esteves, Tato Laviera, Carlos Cortez, Patti Hartmann, Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado, and Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba.

At this time, Con Tinta is soliciting donations from organizations and individuals to help offset costs ($1000.00) for this event. In return, we will be sure to publicly thank all donors and supporters during the course of the evening’s events and also in the event’s program.

Those wishing to support the 2011 Con Tinta gathering and awards ceremony can do so by check or via Paypal (which accepts credit cards). Pilgrimage Press, Inc., a nonprofit literary press, will receive these donations, provide tax documentation for donors, and ensure that all funds received support Con Tinta.

To contribute by check: Mail contribution to "Pilgrimage," with "Con Tinta" on the memo line, to: Pilgrimage, PO Box 9110, Pueblo, CO 81008.

To contribute via Paypal: From, use the "send money" feature to send your contribution to:

Please send questions about donating to: Maria Melendez, Editor/Publisher, Pilgrimage,

Please consider yourself and your guest(s) invited to our Con Tinta Celebration. If you have any questions about the celebration, please contact or at 915-831-2630.

◙ Speaking of AWP...

I will be moderating a panel on Friday, February 4:

Metafiction Latino: Beyond Magical Realism
10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m.
Thurgood Marshall West Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Panel Description: (Daniel Olivas, Kathleen Alcalá, Xánath Caraza, Susana Chávez-Silverman, Salvador Plascencia) The novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, is the seminal work of magical realism that has cast a long—and sometimes constraining—shadow over Latino writers. Yet metafiction (which acknowledges the reader’s role in literature and often breaks the wall between fiction and memoir) has emerged from this shadow to stand on its own. The panelists will share their own works of metafiction and discuss its role in contemporary Latino literature.

After the panel, at 12:30 to 1:00, I will be at the University of Arizona Press booth (Booth #207) where you may pre-order my new novel, The Book of Want...I will be signing bookplates for all who pre-order. And then at 3:00, I will be on another panel for the Norton Anthology, Hint Fiction, edited by Robert Swartwood, also followed by a book signing.

I hope you can make it to my panels as well as all of the other wonderful panels during AWP. For a complete list of events, visit here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Oaxaca to LA: Booming Banda Philharmonic

Olga García Echeverría

Banda music in the seven regions of Oaxaca rules. Whether at weddings, funerals, baptisms, first communions, quinceañeras, or annual Guelaguetzas, banda music is the beating heart of every town and every town festivity. It’s music that’s super-winded and oh, so alegre. Te jala de la mano. Te sacude lo gringo. Te cura de celulares y computadores. Sones y jarabes. It’s music that waltzes, and then de repente brinca, salta, da vueltas, zapatea. Cada pieza se va acabando, se va acabando, and just when you think que se acabo, vuelve a surgir de nuevo. It’s music full of swirling faldas, swinging trenzas, dancing piñas, men, women and children whirling colorful handkerchiefs above their heads as if saluting the sky. It’s music that’s traveled down from mountainous pueblos, from the edge of the Oaxacan coast, from the deep inlands. It has traversed centuries of conquest and resistance, crossed rivers, cities, state lines, and now even high-security border zones. Undetained, the music va cruzando, va volando, va llegando.

Ya llego.

Meet La Banda Juvenil de Santiago Comaltepec, made up of Oaxaca's next generation of músicos (this side of the border). Last week, I got a chance to talk with Estanislao Maqueos Lorenzo, founder and musical director of the band. Estanislao shared that when he migrated to the U.S. ten years ago, he brought his love of traditional Oaxacan music with him. At the time, he was happy to see there were many Oaxacan bandas in Los Angeles, but they all consisted of adults. Maqueos, who began playing his first instrument at the age of 8, wanted to do something different--form a band where Oaxacan children and young adults could develop a stronger sense of self by learning to appreciate, play, and pass on traditional music from Oaxaca.

In 2002 he formed his first musical group, Banda Juvenil Solaga USA-Oaxaca, and then in 2005 he formed La Banda Juvenil de Santiago Comaltepec. Two years later he also founded the Maqueos Music Academy, a modest, yet charming school located in mid-city Los Angeles on Washington Blvd. Despite harsh economic times, Maqueos says he thrives on the mission of his work. “La música es el alma de un pueblo. Estos estudiantes estan aprendiendo más sobre sus raices y más sobre las costumbres de sus padres y abuelos. Queremos que conozcan su cultura y que se sientan seguros y orgullosos.”

When I visited Maqueos Music recently, I couldn't help but notice the numerous egg cartons tacked onto the upper part of the walls. Affordable insulation, Maqueos explained. As I sat down in one of the many folding chairs, taking note of the cool, geometric designs formed by the egg cartons, a few students trickled in, each setting up a music stand and commencing individual practice. It was a low-key session at Maqueos Music that day, but don’t let that or the egg cartons fool you. In the past ten years, Maqueos’ bandas have accompanied such musical greats as Lila Downs, Susana Harp, and Lorenzo Negrete. This past December, the band also completed two volumes of traditional music, Banda Filarmónica Guelaguetza Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Not all of Maqueos' students are on the CD or in the philharmonic band, of course. Maqueos explained that his curriculum consists of 6 lesson books. When a student has completed and mastered the first two, the student can then join the band. This serves as a constant motivator for new or developing students. The school, Maqueos clarified, is also not just for children or Oaxaqueños. "Cualquier persona que quiera aprender a leer y practicar música es bienvenida."

Here are a couple of students I briefly chatted with during my visit at Maqueos Music Academy.

Kate López, 8 years old, plays the clarinet and she’s been taking music lessons for the past two years. “I take classes because it looks fun and you get to go places and show the world what you like to do. It makes me feel good because every time I pass a lesson I feel excited.” When I asked Kate why she thinks learning traditional music from Oaxaca is important, she said, “When I invite my grandparents to see me play, I can see they enjoy it very much. I can see it in their faces. It makes me proud.” She also extended a warm invitation to all our Bloga readers, "If you would like to start music, you can just come here with us and start music."

Miguel, on the right, has been playing in the band for the past four months. I wish I would've taken a picture of his cool purple shoes. He was warm, but a little shy as I asked several questions. “I like that my friends are here,” he said to sum up what he enjoys most about attending Maqueos Music Academy. Then he gave me that leave-me-alone-lady look, so I did.
Max Juarez, on the left, has been with the band for two years. “Being in the band keeps me occupied. I’d rather be doing this than anything else. It’s a good experience to practice music. It’s something everyone should do.”

17-year-old Liliana Velasco, who is on the CD, shared that music is everything to her. Aside from playing the clarinet at Maqueos Music, she plays the violin and sax at her school. "If I don’t have music, I’m nothing. I love music. It’s my life." About her roots and the type of music she is playing, she said, "I’m Oaxaqueña and that’s my religion. I’m proud of that. In the future, I may go back to my pueblo. I'm not sure. Maybe have a school so I can teach people and kids who want learn. No matter what I still want to continue with music."

13-years-old Yulissa Maqueos is another passionate musician. She’s been studying music for the past 7 years, and the clarinet for the past 3. I also got to see her in action as she conducted one of the band's practices. I think Gustavo Dudamel would be impressed. “Since my dad’s the teacher, I feel very happy,” she shares. “As banda members we get to visit different places, meet new friends and enjoy the music we play. I feel like it’s us making our pueblo a little more well-known. It shows where we are from and the different taste we have in music.” About her future goals, Yulissa states, “As a musician, I want to be a professional. I’m planning on going to college and getting my Masters degree in music.”

We chatted a bit about the power of music and how it crosses borders. “Those who play this music want to make our pueblo proud. Even if you don’t have papers, you can work hard and be proud.” When asked what her thoughts on current anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation, Yulissa had these words, “I think it’s unfair. Mostly what the US is made up of is immigrants and they do a lot of the hard work. It’s unfair that they don’t have the same rights as citizens.”

And this is Erre and Edward, the cutest (I mean cuuuuuutest) Oaxacan duo ever! Erre, who is 3 years old, just laughed at any question I tried to ask. When I asked Edward how he felt about being in the music school, he cracked me up with his candidness when he said, “Boooooooring! I wanna go home and play basketball outside with my friends, but sometimes I have to practice.” Still, he ran and got his horn and started playing for me when I took out my camera. His younger brother Erre quickly rushed to get his flute and jumped into the picture. Later, I saw Edward jamming on the drums with his fellow band members. It was boom! Clap! Clank! Crash! Vibration galore. Oh Gustavo (Dudamel that is), you gotta see this.

You can support these young musicians and Maqueos Music school by purchasing their CDs (see info below) or book them for an event or a party. Or if you or anyone you know wants to learn to play an instrument, visit the school and take some lessons.

Maqueos Music Academy
2142 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 944-4947

Monday- Thursday: 9-11 AM & 4-9 PM.
Fridays: Band Practice
Saturday & Sunday: 8-10 AM & 10-12PM.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

La Bloga's a Good Mexican, for a week

The plethora of world events and information this weeks makes at least my head spin--Tunisia going into chaotic freedom, of some sort; the Egyptian gov't going the way of the pharoahs; Obama going the way of the Republicans [they may not have to run their own candidate next time); my British pounds ETFs going the way of Tunisia; economists' predictions going the way of Mary Poppins or that kid who cried wolf.

En una manera, it's fortunate La Bloga doesn't deal with predicting which way the world will go. Centering on Chicano lit gives us enough to cover.

While today isn't a great example of that mission, sometimes we get noticed. Like Gustavo Arellano, of "Ask A Mexican" fame did recently. La Bloga was the "Good Mexican of the week!" Click here to see what he said.


From vampiristo Mario Acevedo comes the following:

A favor, please. Author Mark Henry is visiting Denver to promote the mass-market release of Road Trip of the Living Dead and is having a signing 7pm, Friday Feb. 11 at the Broadway Book Mall, 200 S. Broadway, Denver. Mark writes the hilarious Amanda Feral glamor-zombie novels. Could you give us a shout-out? And of course, you're all invited.

Mark used to be therapist and social worker for the state of Washington and has lots of interesting stories about that work. While his stories are ultimately for scandalous entertainment, you can get him to rant how zombies are an allegory for the dispossessed and discarded. Maybe you can interview him for La Bloga.

His website:

Mario's probably MC-ing the thing, and he makes such events into happenings, so stop by if you can. He also noted that Henry sees the "dispossessed and discarded" in government workers, of all things. Perhaps he had some anti-immigrant Ariz. demons, elected or otherwise, in mind. An interview, Mario? We'll see.

es todo, hoy

Friday, January 28, 2011

Outside the Box: PALABRA
by Melinda Palacio

elena minor, photo courtesy of PALABRA

The editor and publisher of PALABRA, a Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, keeps a fairly low profile. However, she was adventurous enough to meet with La Bloga. I’m lucky in that I have an insider’s view.

When I first heard about PALABRA in 2006, I sent many poems and short stories to the magazine, which were rejected. As someone who relishes rejection, I kept sending work to the magazine until I finally had a breakthrough with two poems in 2009 issue 5.

One important memo I’ll divulge has to do with the magazine’s visual aesthetics, a bit of information that might help potential contributors to the literary magazine. PALABRA is always spelled with capital letters and the publisher’s name is always spelled with lower case letters, as in “elena minor.” If you get this visual quality correct, she won’t frown at your submission or be in a bad mood when she reads your promising manuscript.

Remember, persistence. I don’t take anything for granted. PALABRA is an annual publication that rejected my work for three straight years, published my work in 2009, and rejected everything I sent in 2010. I’m happy to report that PALABRA has accepted my poetry for the forthcoming 2011 issue.

The Bay Area native started PALABRA in 2006 because she wasn’t finding any Latino literary magazines that published the kind of work she wanted to see. “I wanted writing that wasn’t geared to an Anglo audience, whose interest didn’t lie in trying to explain us (Chicanos and Latinos),” she said. “I wasn’t interested in footnoted Spanish. I wanted work that was different and unapologetically Latino.”

Over the past five years, PALABRA has taken on a life of its own. Also, she gets the word out by attending AWP, the Association of Writers and Writers Programs conference; this is her fourth year at the roving conference. In addition, she started the PALABRA readings at the REDCAT Lounge in the Disney Center in Downtown Los Angeles three years ago. She also gives authors who’ve been published in PALABRA the opportunity to read and feature their books at REDCAT. Working for CalArts at REDCAT helped secure the lounge’s excellent reading space. PALABRA Press will soon publish single-authored books of short, unconventional fiction.

Being the publisher, marketer, and editor of PALABRA takes its toll on minor’s writing time. She hopes to retire someday from all her jobs and devote more time to her writing. She’s an award-winning dramatist who also writes fiction, poetry, and hybrid works. She is currently polishing a poetry manuscript and working on an episodic novel. The MFA grad from Antioch puts her name out there and also rides the acceptance and rejection roller coaster. “I want to make sure they know Latino writers exist,” she said. “There are still a lot of editors of lit mags who have no clue about Latino literature.”

Eventually, the publisher would like to hand off the editorial decisions to someone else. For now, she thrives on finding exciting work that’s different. “I’m not a big fan of trying to repeat a formula,” she said. “I’m looking for writing that’s working from some well spring of originality.” She’s such a fan of originality, she tries to give that element of surprise in every issue and page of PALABRA: “I try to surprise people. Surprise is a reflection of the many different ways we write.” She’s also happy to discover new writers: “I enjoy the response of writers who’ve been published for the first time in PALABRA.”

This weekend I will attend the Fiction Bootcamp Intensive in Oxnard. You can join the next one March 11, 12, 13. Contact Toni Lopopolo or Shelly Lowenkopf. Shelly Lowenkopf is an editor and fiction instructor from Boyle Heights. He’s lived in New York and Mexico City and may surprise you by correcting your prose and Spanish. Toni Lopopolo is an East Coast agent, former executive editor at Macmillan and St. Martin’s press in New York City. The literary agent since 1991 is seeing novels written by Latinas. Try your luck with this NY agent, now based in Santa Barbara. The March intensive is for advanced novelist. So you think you’re advanced? Send some pages to to find out before signing up for the 3-day intensive. The fee, including reception, is $350 for the March workshop that’s limited to 15 people.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Pura Belpré Award Winners

Gracias to for this post about the Pura Belpré Award.

The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

2011 Author Award Winner
The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated  by Perter Sís, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

The Dreamer masterfully imagines the magic-filled youth of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.  Through her skillful use of language inspired by Neruda’s work, Muñoz Ryan weaves this stunning tale of a young boy’s discovery of self and the development of his ideologies and artistic voice.

“The committee felt Muñoz Ryan’s combining of lyrical, minimalistic text with poems in Neruda’s style to reconstruct his life, made for an emotional, joyous, inspiring book,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.

2011 Illustrator Award Winner

Grandma's Gift, illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez, published by Walker Publishing Company, Inc., a division of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.

Grandma’s Gift is a personal tale based on Velasquez’s special relationship with his abuela who influenced his dream of becoming an artist. Velasquez’s penchant for details and use of oil on watercolor papers complements his amazing use of color and light to reflect the mood of the characters.

“The committee felt strongly about Velasquez’s accurate, realistic portrayal of the times, the intimate relationship between child and grandmother, and life in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) as seen through his illustrations,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.

2011 Author Honor Books

¡Ole! Flamenco, written by George Ancona, illustrated by George Ancona, published by Lee and Low Books Inc.

¡Olé! Flamenco offers a well-written, non-fiction introductory book on the Spanish art of flamenco, including its history as an expressive art form. Ancona describes flamenco in easy and understandable language for those not familiar with the art form.

 The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba, written by Margarita Engle, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba introduces Fredrika Bremer. This audacious Swedish woman visited Cuba in 1851 and met Cecilia, an African-born slave.  Engle blends fact and fiction, creating Elena, a plantation owner’s daughter, who conspires with Bremer to secure Cecilia’s freedom.

90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing

90 Miles to Havana is based on the author’s experience as one of 14,000 children in Operation Pedro Pan. Moving from Cuba to the refugee camp in Miami, Flores-Galbis’ writing is engaging, fast paced, and colorful with well-developed characters drawn from his personal experiences.

2011 Illustrator Honor Books

Fiesta Babies, illustrated Amy Cordova, written by Carmen Tafolla, published by Tricycle Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

Fiesta Babies, told in a simple rhyme scheme, is embellished with illustrations done in bold colors and brushstrokes. Pictured is a parade of multicultural babies and toddlers in vibrantly colored costumes singing, dancing and celebrating at a local fiesta.

Me, Frida, illustrated by David Diaz, written by Amy Novesky, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams

Me, Frida tells the story of newly married Frida Kahlo and her husband, Mexican painter Diego Rivera, and their time spent in San Francisco in 1930. Diaz’s paintings resemble Kahlo’s folkloric style. The charcoal and acrylic paintings created in warm vibrant colors picture detailed cityscapes, landscapes, and building interiors as well as Frida and other figures.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin, illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams

Dear Primo:  A Letter to My Cousin depicts the lives of two cousins who live in the U.S. and Mexico. Tonatiuh’s mixed-media illustrations, influenced by ancient Mixtec art, show the universality of childhood experiences across borders.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On-line Floricanto January 25

Francisco Alarcón and his moderator colleagues at the popular Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 submit six poems for your consideration this week.

Important: Please click the Comments counter at the bottom of the floricanto and leave your comments or observations on any of the work you read this week.

Special Announcement
La Bloga-Tuesday (Michael Sedano) appreciates issue poetry and battle protreptics as much as the next person, but St. Valentine's Day approaches so Sedano asked Francisco to put together a Call for Submissions for a Love Poetry floricanto. Here's Francisco's announcement:

Poets Responding to SB 1070 is selecting Love poems for a special Valentine's Day edition of La Bloga, to be published Tuesday, Feb. 8. In this time of darkness and pain for so many, show us that love does conquer all by submitting your love poem.

For details on submissions click here.

On-Line Floricanto

1. "I Will Be Silent No More" by S. M. T. Hedger

2. "A Poem Dedicated To Little Christina Green" by Hedy Treviño

3. "This Is Not My Empire", Devreaux Baker

4. "That Indian Man You See on the Hospital Bed" by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

5.” Distress Signal" by Valente Valenzuela

6. "Indian Song / Canción Indígena" by Jorge Tetl Argueta

I will be silent no more
by S. M. T. Hedger

I heard the lies growing up,

The ones that are whispered in white folks’ homes.

The jokes that aren’t funny

But program you with a smile on your face.

The jokes about shooting “cans.”

The jokes about them, the others, the not us.

The illegals, the wetbacks, the aliens.

All those over there,

In front of the Home Depot

(When they were still allowed to stand there

And beg for honest work, for labor).

And they would run up to the sides of white trucks

Driven by white men.

And I would wonder with my child mind,

Why do they run?

As a farmer’s daughter we ran our horses

When we wanted to sell them

To white men in white trucks,

In order to show off their value.

Now, as an adult, I see the two displays as the same.

As I have grown so has our hate toward them—

The others, those over there, the not us.

When I enrolled in college I was so happy.

Happy to be a woman,

Happy to be the first in my family,

Happy to be in higher education.

2 years in, Proposition 300 was passed.

Many people have forgotten it now.

It was the first step of control,

Of open racism, of open hate,

Of closed thinking.

And it passed in my birth land.

It was so that they, the others, the not us,

Could not get, and would not get, a foot up.

It was a ban on educating them.

If you could not prove your citizenship

Then you—a not us—must pay out of state tuition

For the entire duration.

This inflated tuition was 3 times my fare.

And in that moment, it happened.

I found I have a ball in my throat,

A round and heavy sphere.

If I swallow it, it shall consume me.

So I keep it there, lodged.

It is the blackness that shuts out truths,

And it will silence you.

And so it went on,

With the minute men,

And with the people who tipped over

And destroyed water stations,

Pouring water, Arizona’s blood

Onto the dusty desert floor.

Knowing that they caused certain doom

For them, those others, the not us.

And then, SB 1070 so we could once and for all

Be done with them—the alien, the illegal, the wetback.

They are not even worth reading about

Or teaching about.

She said we have to keep it from our children

As if it is something catchy.

HB 2281

Don’t speak of them, those others, the not us.

And when Tucson schools refused,

And funding was threatened, they swallowed hard

The sphere of lies and silence.

Now it rests in their belly and they fight no more.

Justice forever gone, scattered in the Sonoran wind,

And still it was not enough.

Now they—the others, the not us, those over there—

Must carry papers,

Just as the Jews were forced to in Nazi Germany.

And all of this has defined us

More than it has them.

We who whisper behind closed doors

And in voting booths.

We who sit on the sidelines and cheer for no one.

We who let them—the dictators—tell us what to believe.

We who evict the indigenous.

And as I write this,

I feel the ball in my throat contract and tighten.

Perhaps you can feel it too?

It is awkward and discomforting,

And as it tries to silence me I cry out.

I will not let this hate define me

Nor my generation

Nor my people.

And I will yell

And I will tell all who will listen.

I will be silent no more.

A Poem Dedicated to Christina Green

by Hedy Garcia Treviño


When the scent of the Lotus Flower floats on the surface
and dances in celebration upon the waters of hope
I will think of little Christina Green

Like the Lotus Flower you sank below the swamp of humanity in the darkness

And like the Lotus Flower your death will raise the consciousness of a nation at dawn

Amidst the noise the rhetoric and the clamor the Lotus Flower took shelter

Torn from the swamp
before your beauty
could fully emerge
to welcome the sun

Before you could blossom and celebrate
the coming of the rains

Lotus Flower When the sun calls forward the glory of Springtime
hummingbirds will know your name
and butterflies will rejoice

Gentle winds will release your scent Lotus Flower
great trees will offer you shade
and the rain will dance in your honor

Lotus Flowers will fill the swamps and rise out of the mud to greet the light
and the scent of Christina the Lotus Flower now freed by the wind

will sing in the sun.

This Is Not My Empire

For Gabrielle Giffords

by Devreaux Baker

This is the night
that only ends when one person says Enough
and passes on the words that sing solidarity
from heart to hand to mouth
so an unbreakable bond is formed
a chain is forged
an empire is dismantled
so a new land grows up
out of the shadow world into the light
where even the voices of those whose language
we do not speak is understood
is cradled between our hands
like a new beginning
is offered up to wood, water, air and fire
like a prayer
This morning I walk through a dream
of desperate men and gaunt women
lining up to knock on my doors
or calling out to me from
their beds of slippery dark
I woke up to the words this is not
my empire…I did not release the orders to kill
children in countries I will never see
I did not permit people to use the crosshairs
of guns to hunt down innocent men, women and
children. I was born in a time of war
to an empire that I never claimed as mine.
I move through the morning
like a sleep walker
in a dream of terrible consequence.
This is not my empire


by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

That Indian man you see on the hospital bed
he is 87 years old
He affectionately is known as Miracle Man
That Indian man
on the hospital bed
has lived 25 years beyond the time
he was administered his last rites.
That brown man
has but a third grade education.
I have a PhD
Yet he knows much more than me…
And all that I know,
he taught me.
That man is my father.
Some say he rambles on incoherently
but they seem not to know his memories.
He speaks of migrations
ancient migrations
from north to south.
“From somewhere here from
the United States.”
And ones to El Norte,
from south to north.
He speaks of his own migrations
From Tenochtitlan
from Mexico City
to Aguascalientes to Chicago
to Los Angeles, California.
And our migrations
from Aguascalientes to Tijuana
to Los Angeles.

Chicago is where he would have settled
Where we would have been raised,
If not for his compadre
who took a train to Los Angeles.
His mind, he goes back to the days
before his migrations.
When he worked at the railroad,
with his brother
in Aguascalientes
Whose elders told him that when
he decided to move to El Norte,
to show them that
“Mexicans know how to work.”
He goes further back,
revealing the source of his learning
from his father
who taught him
the way he taught me.
That man on the hospital bed
is a carpenter,
a master carpenter.
He is a worker
Worked all his life.
Never less than two jobs
at a time,
often three.

Worked all his life with his hands
and his keen mathematical mind.
See that man on the hospital bed?
He also was a dancer…
“floors cleared when he danced,”
my mom always said.
And true enough…
even on their 60th anniversary,
the floor cleared when he danced,
when they danced
as if it were the ‘40s.
That man on the hospital bed,
He can barely move now,
He can barely breathe.
Yet I can still see him dance.
My mind drifts to a time before my time.
I can see him in his Tacuche
In his Zoot Suit, along with his brother.
And I can see the floors clear as he danced
Boogie woogie and swing.
This from a photo in his sister’s house
in Aguascalientes
Never seen in Los Angeles.
That man in the hospital bed
He still recognizes me
He looks dazed,
But he still recognizes those he has known all his life
When I look at him
Its as if I’m looking at a mirror
But a mirror not of reality,
but of time
When I see my own reflection on windows
I see that Indian man
The same one on that hospital bed.

He is me
Or I am he
The same dna.
When I sit next to him
I hold his hand
I reassure him that I love him
That we all love him.
He understands me,
He is conscious.
He looks at me.
His eyes tell me,
he comprehends
the significance of this moment.
This has never happened before
in my 56 years.
I tell him that we all owe him,
that we all owe everything to him,
to him and my mother,
who both raised us, first in Aguascalientes,
then in Tijuana,
where I still remember his visits from Los Angeles,
then East L.A., then later Whittier, California,
where he finally bought a 3-bedroom home
with avocados,
this after 13 years of eight of us,
then nine of us,
living in a two-room shack,
in an alley in East LA.
That man on the hospital bed
is having trouble breathing.
having trouble swallowing his food.
He chokes,
can barely breathe.
But he lives,
he survives
His will to live is unfathomable
It is deep and profound.
He fights like he has fought his whole life.
He has instructed us not to pull the plug,
he wants to be resuscitated.
At night, he sleeps
He slips in and out of consciousness
His body twitches
He looks at me
I hold his hand
“I love you,”
I tell mi papa
I can say this now.
Could not say this 25 years ago.
I could never say this before,

Two days ago
He was once again administered his last rites.
Drove all night to see him once again.
Drove all night
From Tucson to Brownfield Texas,
where the letters KKK
are chiseled into the building
next to City Hall.
Drove all night, to see him once again,
Slept on the side of the road,
three times
pitch black sky.
Had to get there safely.
Should be driving to LA,
to Whittier,
but they’re no longer there.
Drove all night in the opposite direction
Had to face my mortality.
Was I driving to see him,
or to see myself?
To face myself?
For him,
or for myself?
To show him my love
my appreciation,
or to clear my conscience?
Things cannot be undone.
I still have memories of a brutal childhood
Yet now,
my memories of a guiding father,
of a story-telling father
are stronger,
are more important.
That Indian on the hospital bed
transmitted knowledge and
passed on to me his memories.

Long ago
and minutes ago.
Passed on the stories of those ancient migrations
when I was a child,
and when I was doing my PhD.
I created a diploma
for my father and for my mother
and for all the elders that contributed
their knowledge for my PhD.
He passed on to me his memories
The memories that go back
thousands of years
It is what I came to call
Ceremonial Discourse.
From parent to child.
He learned from his father
As he learned from his.
He taught me
He passed down his memories
His knowledge
From father to son,
Ancestral knowledge
and reminded me that I did not grow up
knowing the maiz or the frijol…
the precise topic of my dissertation.
That was part of the story of the migrations
So that we not know the backbreaking work
of the campo,
of the fields,
the backbreaking work in our memory.
And yet, it is he who relayed the stories
relayed the memories,
of being of this land.
Not from across the oceans
“We didn’t swim across the ocean to get to El Norte,”
he instructed me as a child.
He also taught me
instructed me never to stop eating chile,
lest I lose my tongue.
There’s something about the chile
Maíz without the chile is like…
Life is unimaginable without it.
That man on the hospitable bed,
he has lived with Alzheimer’s and dementia
for 25 years. More severe, the past several years.
But he is not incoherent
More than ever,
he makes total sense
More than ever, he is completely coherent.
His life has meaning.
Its all around him
His children
Those close to him
His grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He is not alone
nor abandoned
His life has meaning
It is said he was an orphan
But how could that be so
if his life has meaning?
That Indian man
who taught me to defend myself (my culture)
who taught me who I am
will live forever.

I drove all night
So I could tell him once again
To tell him
To hold his hand for the first time,
To tell him, and let him know that I love him
That I follow his footsteps
That I continue the migrations
That I honor
That I carry within me
His memories
His fathers memories
The ancient memories
My memories
His spirit
my spirit
Somos Uno
San Ce Tojuan
We are One
In Lak Ech
Tú eres mi otro yo
soy túRicardo and Juanita Rodriguez

Ricardo Rodriguez
April 3, 1923-January 10, 2011
Mexico City-Whittier

Distress Signal

by Valente Valenzuela

Houston: We have a problem do you copy?

This is Houston, read you loud and clear Homeland.

What is the problem?

Houston, our gyroscope is malfunctioning,

We lost our heading, and we're picking up the wrong aliens.

Copy that, Homeland. Close all doors, escape hatches,

push the release button on all commodes,

and press the self-destruct button,

because we are tired of all your shit coming

from your direction.

It's creating an eclipse here on Earth, do you copy?


This is Homeland. Roger?

In commemoration of the massacre of more than 30,000 indigenous people of El Salvador on January 22, 1932, I proudly present my grandmother María Luisa Pérez, from Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Sonsonate, El Salvador. Mamita "Wicha" Naja ne mitz negui ne nunan!


by Jorge Tetl Argueta

My name is Jorge
But you can call me Tetl
My grandmother
María Luisa Pérez
Pipil Nahua healer
Gave me that name
Perhaps the old lady
Knew what was coming to me
That’s why she named me Rock
In our language Nahuatl

I came to the United States
In 1981
I was lost in the desert
I was persecuted
I was jailed
I was humiliated
I returned
In all four directions
And I am home here now

I’ve been all over the Unites States
Including Arizona
Where I had met
Navajo Indians
Who look like me
Mexican Indians
Who look like me
Apache Indians
Who look like me

Everywhere I go
In this country I’ve met
North Americans
And African Americans
And Chinese
And people from other cultures
Who don’t look at all like me

I am a Native American Indian
From El Salvador

My name is Tetl
I am not like you
I don’t look like you
But I am your brother
Your uncle
Your father
And your grandfather

I am like you
With amazing feet
And legs
Long hair
And brown skin

I look like you
But I am not like you

In Texas I read
A sign that says
“Don’t fuck with Texas”
And a man told me
“We skin your kind around here”

In Arizona a young man killed
A girl as beautiful as the sunrise
Injured others
Is jailed
And the people of the United States cry and mourn
And remain still
As the first day of snow or rain

In the midst of all this pain
Anger and confusion
I say let’s honor our Mother Earth
And her wonderful belly
Let’ s pour water
For the spirits before us
Let’s pour water
For all the stolen dreams
For the dreamers
And for all our dreams
Let’s pour water
So we can all heal
And keep on dreaming
Long live those
Resisting to give up
Their dream

I say let us not forget our history
Let’s us never forget who we are
And where we come from
Let us move on healing our wounds
From anger
And selfishness
Let us be brothers and sisters
I say let us pour water
And as warriors hear
The gentle beat
Of our mother earth
Calling us to make peace

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
En memoria de los mas de 30,000 masacrados en El Salvador, enero 22, 1932. Con mucho orgullo les presento a mi abuela Maria Luisa Perez, de Santo Domingo de Guzman, Sonsonate, El Salvador. Mamita Wicha. Naja ne mitz negui ne nunan.


por Jorge Tetl Argueta

Mi nombre es Jorge Argueta
Pero me pueden llamar Tetl
Es el nombre que me dio mi abuela
María Luisa Pérez
Curandera Pipil Nahua
Quizás la viejita
Sabía lo que me esperaba
Por eso me nombro Piedra
En nuestra lengua Náhuatl

Vine a los Estados Unidos en 1981
Estuve perdido en el desierto
Me persiguió la migra
Me metieron preso
Me humillaron
Me deportaron
Regresé como los Indios
En cuatro direcciones
A esta tierra que siempre fue mi casa

He viajado por todos los Estados Unidos
En Arizona
Conocí Indios Navajos
Que se parecen a mí
Indios mexicanos
Que se parecen a mí
Indios Apaches
Que se parecen a mí

Por todas partes
De este país
He conocido Norte Americanos
Afro Americanos
Y de otras razas
Que no se parecen a mí

Yo soy Indio Americano
De El Salvador

Me llamo Tetl
Es cierto
No me parezco a ti
No soy como tú
Pero soy tu hermano
Tu tío
Tu papá
Tu abuelo

Somos iguales
Pero no me parezco a ti

En Texas
Un letrero
Dice “no jodas con Texas”
Y un hombre me dijo
“A los tuyos aquí los despellejamos”

En Arizona un joven mata
A una niña hermosa como el amanecer
Hiere a otros
Lo encarcelan
Y todos en los Estados Unidos
Se llenan de luto y se quedan quietos
Como el primer día de lluvia
Como la primer nevada

En medio de tanta confusión
De cólera y dolor
Honremos a Nuestra Madre Tierra
Pongamos agua
En su dulce entraña
Pongamos agua
Para los viejos espíritus
Pongamos agua
Por todos los sueños robados
Por todos los soñadores
Y por todos nuestros sueños
Pongamos agua
Para que todos podamos sanar
Y podamos seguir soñando
Que vivan todos los que se niegan
A dejarse robar sus sueños

No olvidemos nunca la historia
No olvidemos quiénes somos
Ni de dónde venimos
Sigamos sanando las heridas
Que nos ha causado
El dolor
El Racismo
Y el egoísmo
Seamos hermanos y hermanas
Pongamos agua
Y como los guerreros
Escuchemos el tambor
De nuestra Madre Tierra
Que nos llama a vivir en pazLes presento a mi mamita "Wicha"


1. "I Will Be Silent No More" by S. M. T. Hedger
2. "A Poem Dedicated To Little Christina Green" by Hedy Treviño
3. "This Is Not My Empire", Devreaux Baker
4. "That Indian Man You See on the Hospital Bed" by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
5.” Distress Signal" by Valente Valenzuela
6. "Indian Song / Canción Indígena" by Jorge Tetl Argueta

S. M. T. Hedger Sara was born and raised in the Arizona desert among the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. It was a beautiful childhood full of vibrant sunsets and cactus bones. She became aware of social issues and inequalities at a very young age, and has always used poetry to mend. She was first published in a school newspaper in 2nd grade with a poem questioning Desert Storm. Since then she has written thousands of poems and is working on her first book. Now she writes from Syracuse, NY as a student, wife and mother.

Hedy TreviñoHedy M. Garcia Treviño. Has written poetry since the age of eight. Her first poem came as a result of being punished for speaking Spanish in school. Her poetry has been published in numerous journal's and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing.

Devreaux BakerDevreaux Baker's new book of poetry is Red Willow People, Wild Ocean Press, San Francisco.
Her work has been published in many journals and anthologies. She was an editor of Wood, Water, Air and Fire: The Anthology of Mendocino Women Poets and produced The Voyagers Radio Program:Original Student Writing for Public Radio. She is the Director of the Mendocino Coast Poets Reading Series. New work is in ZYZZYVA, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, New Millenium, The Delinquent, Rufous City Review and forthcoming in The Albatross.

Roberto Dr. Cintli RodriguezRodriguez, raised in Eadt Los Angeles, he is a life-long journalist/columnist and now teaches at the University of Arizona. He can be reached at: His work can be read at:

Valente Valenzuela

Jorge Tetl ArguetaJorge Tetl Argueta, is a native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian who spent much of his childhood in rural El Salvador. His bilingual children's books have received numerous awards. His poetry and short stories have appeared in acclaimed literary text books. Jorge Tetl's latest book for children's, Arroz con Leche/Un Poema Para Cocinar, Rice Pudding/A Cooking Poem, was selected one of 2010' s Best Children's Book by Kirkus Review. Jorge Tetl is currently the director of Talleres de Poesia, a literary organization that promotes children's literature in the United States and El Salvador.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spotlight on Lucrecia Guerrero and her forthcoming novel, “Tree of Sighs” (Bilingual Press)

Lucrecia Guerrero grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona. She is the daughter of an Anglo American mother and Mexican father, and her writing often reflects her bilingual and bicultural upbringing. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University, and her work has appeared in such journals as The Antioch Review and The Louisville Review. Chasing Shadows, a collection of linked short stories, was published by Chronicle Books, and she received a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award based on a portion of her forthcoming novel, Tree of Sighs (Bilingual Pres).

From the publisher concerning Tree of Sighs: After the sudden and tragic death of her parents, Altagracia faces an uncertain future with a bitter and secretive grandmother. After the two sink into poverty, the young girl ends up with a cruel woman who takes her to the United States, changes her name to Grace, and puts her to work as a full-time domestic servant. Tree of Sighs is the story of Grace's journey to uncover her past as she straddles two cultures in the search for her own identity. After escaping servitude and imprisonment, Grace endures life on the streets and a succession of jobs, and she eventually lands in a comfortable marriage. But a phone call from a person in her past sets her on a journey to the border, where she meets a man who holds the key to her past, learns the truth about her grandmother, and ultimately finds herself.

"I have been following Lucrecia Guerrero's writing for several years with great pleasure and fascination. Tree of Sighs takes her art to a whole new level. Full, alive, and stately. This novel really delivers." —Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chicanonautica: A Specter is Haunting Arizona

I may not make much sense here. This is a raw feed from the crisis zone. The dust has not settled, and we have a lot of dust here in Arizona.

The night before the shootings in Tucson, at the place where I work, someone had written the ever-popular “F.U.” all over the men’s room. I wasn’t surprised. I had been sensing a lot of undifferentiated hostility among the customers. I had also seen it on the streets of Phoenix.

Something was in the air. Not a recognized scientific phenomenon.

I was shocked when I heard about the shootings, but not surprised. Ever since Spring of last year, with the news about SB 1070, things have been building up in Arizona. Somebody was going to get shot sooner or later.

Jared Lee Loughner had no racial/ethnic agenda. His is a paranoid/schizophrenic fixation on grammar. “What is the government if words have no meaning?” Not quite up there with William Burroughs’ “Language is a virus from outer space.” We lucked out, we got a Latino hero saving Gabrielle Gifford’s life instead of a backlash.

But just because Loughner listened more to the voices in his head than to those coming in on radio, television, and the Internet, doesn’t let all the screaming pundits off the hook. Here in Arizona, it gets hard to tell the schizoid homeless from the concerned citizens if you look at the wild words and ideas flying around. The governor hallucinates about human heads being found in the desert, then passes laws to protect against such things. And of course, guns are everywhere.

Combine this with the sad fact that Arizona follows the American tradition of treating mental illness with denial and neglect, and it’s only a matter of time before the craziness in troubled brains bubbles into random, violent action. It doesn’t matter if the first spark of the firestorm was about the border issue; that issue -- all issues -- and everyone involved will be dragged into the bloody mess.

I hoped that people would calm down over the last week. But the night after the shooting I heard gunshots in my own neighborhood -- back to business as usual in Arizona.

Over the last few months I’ve been rereading the works of Oscar Zeta Acosta and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Strange how Acosta’s writings from the Seventies, and Gómez-Peña’s from the Nineties, echo the situation in Twenty-First Century Arizona. My own sketchbook cartoons from years ago illustrate current situations perfectly when I post them online. It’s like nothing has changed.

Except that these days there are more Hispanics/Latinos/Chicanos than ever. The label “minority group” is becoming obsolete.

It’s enough to drive some folks crazy. Especially if they see brown skin and “foreign” languages as a serious problem and think that the key to law and order is keeping the “Mexicans” out.

Meanwhile, there are others who worry about the government making deals with the flying saucer people from the center of the Earth.

They’re all alive and well here in Arizona.

Ernest Hogan is also alive and well and living in Arizona.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Little More from What Books Press
by Melinda Palacio

Chuck Rosenthal, Gail Wrongsky, Gronk, and Alicia Partnoy

Over a glass table and several glasses of wine, the collective at What Books Press was born. They are cultural workers, made up of professors, poets, filmmakers, and, as bloguero Daniel Olivas mentioned, a haunting and famous L.A. artist, Gronk.

Poet and professor at LMU, Alicia Partnoy said the Glass Table Collective were fed up with non-responding publishers and ego-filled editors when they decided to form their own publishing company, What Books Press.

The non-writers in the group, Partnoy’s husband Antonio and artist Gronk add dimension and perspective. Alicia says, “Gronk and Antonio keep us sane because they are not writers.” Their logo is a piece by Gronk, a book stranded on an island. Partnoy says What Books aims to save those stranded books.

The story of how the group came to be and the friendships they’ve formed is at the heart of What Books Press, a labor of love in itself. Colleagues at What Books Press and LMU, professors Gail Wrongsky and Alicia Partnoy, have grown their friendship over the past ten years, so much so that both poets have translated each others work.

When Alicia decided to translate Gail Wrongsky’s So Quick Bright Things, poems about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alicia learned more about Shakespeare from Gail as she bemoaned the awful Argentine translation she had studied. She sat in Gail’s Shakespeare class at LMU in order to soak up the surrealist poems in conversation with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The result is a whimsical bilingual text, worth reading even if, heaven forbid, you’ve never read the Bard. The bilingual book features Gronk’s Neue Sachlichkeit, mixed media on paper on the cover. The cover depicts a blue cake, red candles and a devil figure behind the cake. Gail knew immediately when she saw Gronk’s images that she wanted that as the cover for So Quick Bright Things.

Gronk has told the collective they have full use of his images for the covers of What Books Press. When the East L.A. born artist was creating his first book, he chose not to do a splashy coffee table book, but rather have his book look like a book of poems or fiction. The enigmatic artist may have an intimidating scowl, but he laughs a lot and lights up when he talks about his work. He describes his book, The Giant Claw, as his uncensored visual diary. Each drawing says something and Gronk challenges the reader to find the humor in his work.

What Books publishes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and the visual as represented by Gronk. For now their books are print on demand and there is no submission process; instead they invite selected authors. The future of What Books Press looks very bright with more anthologies and the publication of books by contest winners. The current goal is to make the books in hand more accessible to readers.

More Readings and Information Panels from What Books Press at Beyond Baroque, February 18 and at the ALOUD series at the Los Angeles Public Library, panel moderated by Susan Salter Reynolds March 22.

Excerpt from Gail Wrongsky's So Quick Bright Things, What Books Press 2010.

A Cultural Thing

We Latinas want

sharp profiles and visible


says the queen. The moon's

asbestos and so on. Blood

spattered on the windowpane.

Theseus peering

through the cracks in his

Eagle warrior mask for

a glimpse of something infinite---

Una Cosa Cultural (translation by Alicia Partnoy)

Nosotras Latinas deseamos

perfiles definidos y un misterio


dice la reina. El asbesto

de la luna y todo eso. Sangre

que salpica el cristal de la ventana.

Teseo espía a través

de las ranuras de su máscara

de guerra un Aguila en

busca del destello de algo infinito---


There are also some exciting poetry readings and panels this weekend, including the prison poetry panel featuring

Robert Juarez, Rolando Ortiz, Hugo Machuca, Melinda Palacio, and Luis J. Rodriguez at La Palabra reading series, Avuenue 50 Studio, 313 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park, 323, 258-1435.

On Saturday, January 22 enjoy a full day of poetry and short stories. Afternoon Poetry Reading at the Pasadena Public Library, 999 E. Washington Blvd from 3pm to 5pm features Michael Cluff, Frank Mundo, Sojourner Rolle and more.

Thelma Reyna reads at the Jose Vera Fine Arts & Antiques, Saturday, January 22 at 7pm, 2012 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, 90041.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Latina Moms Have It Together...

Yale professor and self-proclaimed Chinese super-mom Amy Chua set off a firestorm two Saturdays ago when the Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Under the catchy headline—reportedly chosen by the editors—of “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” she sings the virtues of Chinese-style parenting and the fruits of excellence it bears.

Chinese moms, she writes, don't allow their children to have playdates or go to sleepovers, engage in team sports or theater, or bring home anything less than straight As. If her children dared to rebel, Chua is prepared with more than a few proven tricks under her qipao: taking away their beloved possessions, making them aware of their worthlessness by calling them “trash,” and being brutally honest about what constitutes subpar work or a mediocre performance...

It takes, of course, a great deal of commitment and perseverance to pull this off, but as she sees her children become accomplished musicians and unrivaled pupils in every discipline, she assures us that it’s all well worth it.

Other children will never rise to such levels of excellence. And, of course, it’s all their mother’s fault.

You see, according to Chua, Western moms are undisciplined wimps, more concerned about their children’s feelings and self-esteem than with giving them the skills and dedication they'd need in order to succeed.

As expected, the article proved highly controversial, generating a record 4,000 comments on and over 10,000 on Facebook. And a hell of a lot of sales for Chua's newly published book.

Last Saturday, the WSJ followed up with an essay by Jewish mom Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace, generating yet another flood of comments and, yes, more book sales. (Who would've guessed that the Wall Street Journal would become the next Oprah Book Club?)

On this latest installment, the “Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western” mom advocates a conveniently relaxed approach to parenting, one that provides ample space for children to excel (or fail?) on their own, that is, owing to their individual passion (or lack thereof?) and not in response to fear or shame.

The deluge continued. Readers of all ethnicities chimed in on the importance of finding a balance between these two extremes; a happy medium between overzealousness and ambivalence. A most difficult task, some argued. Definitely an art.

I don't think it's as rare as they suppose... You see, Latina moms figured this out a long time ago.

My mom, for one, didn’t have to threaten to burn my beloved peluches or take away the dollhouse piece by piece if I didn’t make good grades... First of all, there was no dollhouse to give away and, secondly, rather than burning those stuffed animals still in perfectly good shape, she would’ve repurposed them as fancy potholders or toilet seat covers...

She would’ve known that to call any of her children “basura” would’ve meant calling one of her own creations trash. And her work was always excellent.

The simple truth is that she didn’t have to scream or call me names to voice her disappointment. All she had to do was to give me “the Look.” Such thrift, even with words!

But not so with those who tried to mess with me. Oh the rainfall of adjectives that followed... ¡Sinvergüenza, endemoniao, renacuajo inmundo, qué te has creído...!

As a wise Latina mom, she taught me when to speak up and when to let silence speak.

She knew not to obsess as much over grades as over integrity.

She encouraged me to learn other languages, not for the sake of helping me make good connections when I grew up, but so that I’d grow up feeling well connected to those around me.

She taught me that if I ever felt like cooking, I might as well try it in a big pot, because donde comen dos, comen tres. And four and five too.

She told me that I didn’t have to become a mother to be fulfilled, but that if I ever met a child who needed a mother, I’d find it the most fulfilling work I’d ever do.

So as I read about the extreme parenting style of Tiger moms, I wonder... What if I’d grown up under stricter rules, would I have become concert pianist or a renowned physicist? Would it have saved me from money woes and romantic disillusionment? Would I be happier, healthier, wealthier? Would I be grateful? And just as I start to get deeper into the forest of this fantasy, I remember “The Look” and, suddenly, I know the answer.