Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Written by Monica Brown
Illustrated by Sara Palacios

Bilingual in English and Spanish 
32 Pages 
Ages 4 to 8 
8 ½ x 9 ¾ 
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-89239-235-3 
Available September 2011

My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.
Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.
A mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage, renowned author Monica Brown wrote this lively story to bring her own experience of being mismatched to life. Her buoyant prose is perfectly matched by Sara Palacios’ mixed media illustrations.

Monica Brown is the author of many award-winning bilingual books for children, many of which are inspired by her Peruvian American heritage. Monica is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in U.S. Latino Literature and Multicultural Literature. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Sara Palacios was born in Mexico City. She holds degrees in Graphic Design, Illustration, and Digital Graphic Techniques, and is pursuing her MFA in Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She divides her time between Mexico City and San Francisco, California.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anniversaries, natal nuptial. Guest columnist: Michael Hogan. On-Line Floricanto August’s Final Tuesday

Click here for a Route66 soundtrack.

Michael Sedano

When I turned 55 I laughed at the odd coincidence that my age matched the speed limit, and didn’t think much beyond driving my age, the “double nickle.” Today, with August 31 around the corner, I'm humming Route 66.

I also celebrate my wedding anniversary on August 31. Barbara and I were married in 1968. My 23d birthday. Two months later I get my draft notice. Four months later I’m on the bus to Ft. Ord. I spend our first anniversary on a mountaintop in central Korea. ¡Talk about high adventure for newlyweds!

Forty-three years later, like clockwork, here is another birthday, another anniversary. Something disquieting about being in a palindrome for 365 days this year, and again next year. The word literally means “there, and back again.” A cynic would say, “Been there, done that.” Neither, of course, accurately accounts for my intentions.

Happy birthday August 31 to cellist Jacqueline du Pré, qepd.

Have a thriving Tuesday, gente, today, August twenty nine twenty-eleven, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except we are here.


Guest Columnist: Michael Hogan on Virtual Book Tour

One of the least discussed and least documented wars of the United States was its invasion of Mexico in 1846. Although the U.S.  war and subsequent conquest deprived Mexico of half of its territory, enriched the U.S. by two- fifths of its current land mass, and relegated Mexico to Third World nation status, few students study it in school or can name a single major battle. It also resulted in the formation of the states of California and New Mexico, added all of lower Texas, most of Arizona, parts of Kansas, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming to the developing United States. Ulysses S. Grant called it “the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger nation against a weaker.” In my book The Irish Soldiers of Mexico, just released on Kindle, I recount this war from the perspective of the Irish soldiers who fought on the Mexican side and were called los San Patricios, the Soldiers of St. Patrick. It is the first study which relies heavily on Mexican documents including previously untranslated records from the Mexican Military Archives and Mexico City newspapers. The book is also available in Spanish, Los Soldados Irlandeses de Mexico published by a university press in Guadalajara.

            Manifest Destiny and a pervasive Anglo-based American ethnocentricism were the powerful impulses prodding mid-19th century American politics, resulting in the nation’s imperialistic designs on Mexico and precipitating the Mexican American War. Critics of the war included, among others, two future presidents, Lincoln and Grant, and author Henry David Thoreau who wrote his famous "Civil Disobedience" in reaction to the U.S. invasion of its southern neighbor. Within the U.S. there were over 9,000 deserters; a larger number than all our other wars combined. Among the latter were Irish-Americans, many of whom, for diverse reasons (including discrimination against the Irish and anti-Catholicism) joined the Mexican military, forming the St. Patrick’s Battalion. In this study I explore the motivation of these Irishmen, their valiant contributions to the Mexican cause, and the consequences when they were captured, including military courts-martial and hangings.

            An MGM film, “One Man’s Hero” starring Tom Berenger, was based loosely on my original history published in 1997, in addition to two award-winning documentaries which were shelved by U.S. distributors but viewed widely by international audiences. Last year, Ry Cooder and the Chieftains released an album called “The San Patricios” commemorating the Irish battalion which demonstrates the on-going attraction of this period of history and these Irish renegades.

            The revised edition of the Irish Soldiers of Mexico has new historical sources, over 400 notes, over 600 references, as well as maps and photographs.

            The second book on this subject won the Ojo del Lago Award for fiction in Guadalajara, Mexico. Molly Malone and the San Patricios has just been released this month in a Kindle Edition in English ($5.99). Hungry, homeless and in trouble with the law after eluding slow death in the Irish Famine, Kevin Dillon enlists in the American Army. When he discovers that the “Army of Observation” in Texas is poised for the invasion of a peaceful Catholic country, Kevin and his friends slip across the Rio Bravo at night. There they join John Riley of the St. Patrick’s (San Patricio) Battalion and fight on the Mexican side.

The last of the recruits, a golden-eyed Doberman dubbed Molly Malone, proves to be a warrior of unquestioned loyalty and courage. She follows Kevin and the Irishmen through the deadliest of battles, even to the gallows where 85 of them are hanged. Praised by critics for its characterization and by the Mexican military for the accuracy of battle descriptions, this recreation brings the history of the era alive with all its violence and nobility, contradictions and ideals.

Other books on the San Patricios, especially  The Shamrock and the Sword (1989) by Robert Ryal Miller, are often compared with my book. The Shamrock and the Sword and all the others drew solely on U.S. military sources and gave the perspective from the American side. I am a permanent resident of Mexico and bilingual so I had opportunities that these authors did not have. I was able to search the Mexican military archives at my leisure, to visit all the battlefields, to translate personal papers and documents of contemporaries of the period, and to interview descendents of the Irish soldiers. I drew largely on Mexican sources and contemporary accounts of anti-Catholicism, racial discrimination against the Irish, and solidarity of Irish and Mexicans. Both books, however, are thoroughly documented with hundred of notes and extensive bibliographies as well as with maps and photographs. Miller tells the story from the perspective of the winners (as most histories do), while I give the perspective of those who fought gallantly and lost.

One of the hopes for my book is that ignorance of the U.S. history with Mexico will be replaced by understanding. And as Mexican immigrants continue to come into the Southwestern United States, a region which a short time ago was theirs, they should be treated with something other than the animosity and contempt usually reserved for illegal aliens. U.S. history books should tell the whole story of the War with Mexico and in doing so replace prejudice, which is still rampant in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, with compassion and understanding for the next generation.

1.     Irish Soldiers of Mexico

2.     Molly Malone and the San Patricos

3.     Clip from “One Man’s Hero” starring Tom Berenger .
4.     Review of Irish Soldiers by Hans Vogel of Leiden University (Netherlands) from HNet.
5.     Homepage of author with photos of the filming of the movie, battle scenes, opening events with Berenger and excerpts from both books.

Guest columnist  Michael Hogan lives in Colonia Providencia, Guadalajara, Mexico, with his wife Lucinda Mayo, the internationally known fabric artist. Born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1943, he is the author of sixteen books, including a collection of short stories, six books of poetry, collected essays on teaching in Latin America, a novel, and a history of the Irish battalion in Mexico which formed the basis for an MGM movie starring Tom Berenger. His work has appeared in many journals such as the Paris Review, the Harvard Review, Z-Magazine, Political Affairs and the Monthly Review. 

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto August's Final Tuesday

1. "Love Poem to the Planet" by Sylvia Mzz
2. "Emigro" por Carlos Vázquez Segura
3. "Caught Between the Crosshairs" by Ethriam Brammer
4. "The Jaguar Moon Has Risen" by José Hernández Díaz
5. "Teolol X" by Azul Israel Haros

by Sylvia Mzz

If I could, I would take you in my arms
as a parent does a child
and bathe you squeaky clean
from the excrescence of civilization.
I would wrap you in a fluffy blanket
of fresh, sweet ozone
and powder your tushy with wholesome topsoil.
I would comb your beaches and seas
free of refuse and toxins;
I would tweeze away so much concrete and asphalt
from your precious skin,
planting grasses and trees instead
like a mother gently braiding her child’s hair.
If I could, I would make up for
all the Jubilee years stolen from your meadows and fields;
I would uncage the beasts driven mad, nearly to extinction,
watching them bounding free
in resurrected savannahs, pampas, ice floes;
I would walk through the midst of them
as softly as one did in a certain ancient garden,
and I would touch you as tenderly
as the very hand of God.
If I could, I would.
Maybe I still can….
August 2011

por Carlos Vázquez Segura

Emigro de aquí,
de mí, del hijo que soy
…¡y de los que tengo!.
cual ave hambrienta
del hielo intestinal
del invierno perenne
que me atrofia
Emigro al vacío;
al santo buitre
del moribundo;
al oso del salmón
para desovar la culpa
en la que he nadado
toda posible miseria.
a dónde nadie verá
en mis ojos
La arena del recinto
que derrumbo al irme.
a diluir mi nombre
en la ingrávida masa
que, con karma ilegal
se vuelve inmune a la vista.
Me voy de mí, de aquí
al patio del infierno
que ya me apunta
detrás del río.

Caught Between the Crosshairs
by Ethriam Cash Brammer

We are caught between the crosshairs
at the intersection of HB 1070 and HB 2281
down, down, down
now taking aim
at the 14th Amendment
we are caught between the crosshairs
two hemispheres colliding at the intersection of SB 1097, 1308 & 9
etched fin-dot reticles locking in
on tiny tot targets
leaving makeshift wooden crosses
blooming in the desert
sin nombre
we are caught between the crosshairs
minutemen militias marching on Miranda
rights, civil rights, human
rights, the collective memory of a people
and their ancestral land
we are caught between the crosshairs
a NAFTA via crucis
of genetically modified corn and artificially constructed homogeneity
economic refugees further and further
into the deserts
of cyclical displacement, dis
empowerment, dis
As Cheney and Palin helicopters fly overhead
buzzing with O’Reilly-Limbaugh-Beck banter and vitriol
their sights set squarely on the backs
of every red, brown, yellow and black
brother and sister
אַח and أخت
hermano y hueltiuhtli
to destroy
any hope of proletarian unity
staring down the double-barrels
of Manifest & Destiny
we would run
like frightened children
run, like wounded buffalo, run
ourselves right off of the cliff
of repatriation and fragmentation
as they turn the clocks back
on the 1960s
turn the clocks back on Affirmative Action
turn the clocks back on the Civil Rights Act
turn the clocks back on Brown vs. the School Board and Equal Protection
turn the clocks back
to Jim Crow and Mexican Schools
to separate and unequal
to blood libels and Manzanar
turn the clocks back
to a simpler time
of Black under White TV
Leav-ing it to Beaver and Andy Griffith
to whistle their way into the new American Millennium
A.K.A. the 18th Century
but we will not let them turn that dial
no, we will not let them turn the channel back
we will not run
like frightened children
we will not run like headless chickens
spineless politicians, cowering before Tea Bag demagoguery
we will not wilt
like wild flowers
under the tractor wheels of Wall Street profit-taking
and the next cycle of genocidal extermination
we will stand strong
red, brown, yellow and black
brothers and sisters
אחים and أخوات
hermanos y hueltiuhtlin
young and old
locking arms
in Tahrir protest
we will stand strong, knowing
“when one man is enslaved,
all are not free”
we will stand strong
knowing our ancestors
predicted the end of this cycle
thousands of years before
we will stand strong, knowing
that they saw this fall
they saw this winter
of human dignity and respect
for all things living
we will stand strong, knowing
that they saw a new spring
on the horizon, a new age
dawning, a new cempasúchil blossom
growing from the calaveras
of white hooded hedge-fund managers
and the blanched bones of beauty school dropout governors
we will stand strong, knowing
that they predicted that this time would come
when the sacred fire
would be passed
from mountaintop to mountaintop
from one teocalli to another
from one generation to the next
we will stand strong, knowing
that the time has come
for our young Facebook freedom fighters
to begin tweeting from the shoulders of giants
the time has come
for that Phoenix to rise
in the deserts of Arizona
from the deserts of our discontent
a phoenix will rise
from the ashes
of Martin & Malcolm
a phoenix will rise, from the ashes
of César & Bobby, a phoenix will rise
from the ashes of Rosa & Harriet, Bolívar y Martí, a phoenix will rise
from the ashes of Cuauhtémoc y Crazy Horse, Ché y Macandal, Shaka Zulu & Ghandi
a phoenix
And the time will come
for the cycle to end
for the sacred circle to close
red, white, black & yellow
then open again
in a brilliant burst
of kachina cosmic light
the flames of mestizaje, universal
justice and peace

The Jaguar Moon Has Risen
by José Hernández Díaz

The ocean echo
Of the Azteca drum
Pulsates the
Concrete streets
Of the Mission District
In the intersection
Of 24th St. and Folsom,
The slender rain
Rhythmically falls
From the turquoise lakes
Of Tenochtitlan—
They are tears
Of Quetzalcoatl;
They are tears
Of La Malinche.
The jaguar moon
Has risen;
The reflection
Illuminates the
Bare feet of the
Serpent dancers:
Allowing them to soar;
They are eagles in the wind.
The ancient incense
Slowly burns
In the middle of
The circle of
The serpent dancers.
We inhale the ancient smoke;
Mountains quake
Inside our minds;
As we exhale
It ascends and
Pierces the flesh
Of the nostalgic clouds:
We are eagles in the wind.
In the intersection of
24th St. and Folsom,
The Azteca drum
Pulsates the
Concrete streets:
The barrio
Has risen;
The jaguar moon
Has risen.
This poem was written at The Food Festival in The Mission, SF. August, 20, 2011.

"Teolol X"
by Azul Israel Haros

tengo un amor en el viento
adentro de todas estas olas
de lluvia y truenos. como las
luces hacen brillar todo el cielo.
como todo nace de alli. de la
muerte. tanta lluvia que cai ahoy
adentro. y . afuera. que lindo.
es murir con la lluvia. y relampagos.
i want to be born here. over and over.
like eagle and serpant. harvesting.
life. lightning birthing my sun.
birthing my moon. i will echo.
tonantzin. tonatiuh. luz blanca.
que manda. que bendice la tierra.
ehecatl. calmado. y lleno de ollin.
de donde nacen tantas luces. eternas.
sera de tu boca madre quetzalcoatl.
sera de tu boca donde quiero nacer.
de nuevo. sera de tu aguas. de tus
lunas de mariposas y jaguares. de tus
soles azules. de tu vientre llena de luz.
esta lluvia me lleva hasta alli. el mas alla.
buscandote. para murir. de nuevo.

1. "Love Poem to the Planet" by Sylvia Mzz
2. "Emigro" por Carlos Vázquez Segura
3. "Caught Between the Crosshairs" by Ethriam Brammer
4. "The Jaguar Moon Has Risen" by José Hernández Díaz
5. "Teolol X" by Azul Israel Haros

Sylvia Maltzman

Sylvia Maltzman is a poet who has spent most of her life in Miami, Florida among the various Flora, fauna & amazingly varied human beings who have sought out thus place for sanctuary. She is co-hosting one of the Miami events fir 100 Thousand Poets for Change in September.

Ethriam Cash Brammer
Ethriam Cash Brammer is a Chicano writer and scholar from El Centro, California.

He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and has translated a number of significant works of early Latino literature, including The Adventures of Don Chipote: When Parrots Breast Feed, by Daniel Venegas (Arte Público Press, 2000); Lucas Guevara, by Alirio Díaz Guerra (Arte Público Press, 2003); and, Under The Texas Sun, by Conrado Espinoza (Arte Público Press, 2007).

His most recent journal article, entitled “‘Keepin’ it Real’ with the Translation of El sol de Texas: The Recovery and Translation of Shared Mexican-American Literary Patrimony,” was published in Volume VII of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Anthology, edited by Gerald Poyo and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto.

He currently serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan, where, in October, he will be defending his doctoral dissertation, entitled, “La patria perdida o Imaginada: Translating Teodoro Torres in ‘el México de Afuera.’”

José Hernández Díaz 
 José Hernández Díaz is a UC Berkeley graduate with a BA in English Literature. He plans on applying to the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics’ MFA Program at Naropa, along with other creative writing schools. Jose’s favorite poets are those of the Chicano Renaissance and the poets of the Beat Generation. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, ABCTales, Indigenous Writers and Artists Collective, and has had seven poems in La Bloga, including: 'The Border Within,' 'In My Barrio (An Improvised Tune),' 'I Haver Never Left,' 'We Call It Work,' 'An Ode to Los Jornaleros,' 'Panadería Revolución (I Am Floating Gardens)' and 'The Jaguar Moon Has Risen.' Jose has had poetry readings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and at The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, Ca.


A short story by Daniel A. Olivas

They say that he lived to be nine hundred and sixty-nine years old. Which is why, of course, we have the expression, “as old as Methuselah.” Genesis tells us – I think you’ll find it in chapter five – that Methuselah was the son of Enoch as well as having the distinction of being the grandfather of Noah. What a hell of a curse, if you believe it’s true. To live so long. To watch your offspring, and your offspring’s offspring, and so forth and so on for almost a thousand years dying and you just keep on going like that pink Energizer Bunny. That poor pendejo, cursed like that.

I don’t really know much more about Methuselah because, to be honest with you, I’m pretty much an atheist so I never was much on reading the Bible. I tried when I used to travel on business and stay at the Holiday Inn. I’d go through the drawers of all the dressers the moment I checked in just in case someone left something really valuable there. Never really found anything worth anything except one time I found an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s. That was pretty nice. I got pinche borracho that night. Not that I drink all that much but I just went through a goddamn ugly divorce so I guess I was entitled to drink a little. Anyway, I sometimes would thumb through that Gideon Bible.

Those Gideons were something else. About a hundred years ago, they made it their mission to make the Bible freely accessible to all people. And they did. Those pinche Gideons! I give them credit, though. Single-minded and successful at meeting their goal. Anyway, I would thumb through that Gideon Bible and sometimes it would almost be interesting to me but usually I got bored within five or ten minutes and I’d put it back and pick up the Yellow Pages to see if there were any good escort services in town. A habit, I admit, that led to the divorce. Ten years with Veronica down the tubes because I needed different snatch every time I went on a business trip. Black, brown, Asian and white. All kinds. My dick was a veritable United Nations. And I’m nothing but a stupid asshole who let my beautiful Veronica down hard. I should have stuck with the Gideon Bible. Not as fun, but fewer repercussions.

But, no, I’m not too religious though I do have a beautiful plastic replica of the Virgin of Guadalupe standing about four feet high in my backyard by my fig tree and to the left of my enclosed Jacuzzi. No Mexican can get through life without the Virgin even if he’s an atheist, agnostic or a born again Buddhist. La Virgen. Dark like los indios of Mexico. Appearing like she did to that little Indian, Juan Diego. And proving that the mother of Jesus was there for the indigenous people and not just for the white Spaniards. But I don’t believe it. Not a word. But it’s a helluva story, you’ve gotta’ admit. A helluva story. And the Virgin stands out back by my huge fig tree with her hands stretched out looking down to where Juan Diego should be down on one knee afraid to look up. But I didn’t buy him. I just wanted her all to myself. Always a ladies’ man, I guess.

Yep. The story of the Virgin is a great little piece of fiction. Like that Methuselah story. Goddamn amazing and truly unbelievable. It would be nice if it were true, I suppose. What would I do with all of those years? ¡Dios mío! I’m thirty-five now. Imagine! Nine hundred thirty-four years to go! First, I would figure a way to make it up to Veronica. But, I really don’t know how. Giving her the clap I got from that hooker pretty much buried any chance of reconciliation. She screamed at me over the phone when she found out – we were already separated by then but there was hope – and she asked how I could be so stupid because it could have been worse like AIDS. And I cried and apologized over and over knowing that it was useless to deny what I already suspected when I found that sore on my dick the week before. I remember that I prayed to La Virgen that if it were the clap, that I didn’t give it to Veronica.

But what a thing to say to La Virgen! A prayer that will never be published in any holy collection: Oh holy Virgin. It’s me, Enrique. Enrique Fonseca Silva, your humble servant. You know, I think that one time I forgot to buy rubbers and I had sex with that whore in the Holiday Inn, the one in Bakersfield? You know, that Asian one who did those amazing things with her pierced tongue? Of course you know. You see all. Well, I got the clap and I’m real afraid that I gave it to my wife, Veronica. So, please, oh holy Virgin, please, spare Veronica the clap. Don’t do it for me. I deserve what I got. But please spare her. Thank you.

Now that was a pinche prayer.

Anyway, maybe with a long life like Methuselah, I could come up with a way to make it right with Veronica. Perhaps I could spend a lot of time devising clever ways to heal her pain. But, maybe time wouldn’t help. I’m not clever. Maybe I’d just have more time to fuck up her life further. Well, I guess it doesn’t much matter, after all. I should be thankful that it was only the clap. And I should be grateful that Veronica and I never had kids. That’s the story of my life: being grateful for lesser calamities. Nine hundred and sixty-nine years of my life would be no blessing. I thank La Virgen that I’m not Methuselah. It can always be worse, can’t it?

[From the collection, Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual Press).]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Colombiana? Not!

by tatiana de la tierra

Colombians are up in arms about Luc Besson’s new flick, Colombiana. PorColombia, a nonprofit group made up of 12 Colombian college student chapters in the U.S. and Canada launched an anti-defamation campaign against the movie with a message to Hollywood: A Colombia se le respeta! They also came up with an alternate publicity poster, changing Sony Picture’s slogan “Vengeance is Beautiful” to “Colombia is Beautiful” and replacing the gun Zoe Saldaña is cradling between her hands with a bunch of flowers.

According to the Colombian magazine Semana, the movie inspired Colombian publicist Carlos Plaza to come up with “La otra cara de la moneda,” a New York campaign that shows Colombia’s “other side” via a promotional pamphlet that features the country’s positive aspects such as music and culture. He took to the streets with a crew that passed out thousands of pamphlets at theatres in Queens, Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn, and Long Island. “The campaign is a protest against stereotypes,” he said.

Participating organizations included Colombian Cultural Center, Plataforma Colaboro, Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Afro-Colombia New York. The co-director of Afro-Colombia Nueva York, Naila Rosario, helped pass out pamphlets. “We’re not against the movie, or against Zoe Saldaña, but we want to show the other side of Colombia,” she said. “It’s not only war and drugs… There are many positive aspects.”

Colombians tend to be diplomatic. So I’ll be the one to say it. Stay away from this movie. Do not patronize it. Why? Two really good reasons. One, it’s a terrible movie. Two, it’s a slap in the face to my country. What is the purpose of rewarding Hollywood for hyping a stereotype of Colombia as a violent drug-dealing country?

The plot is simple: a nine-year old girl witnesses the murder of her parents and schemes to get revenge. The killing, which (supposedly) takes place in Bogotá, is orchestrated by a sinister drug dealer and his collaborators. The girl makes her way to Chicago, where her uncle teaches her to be an assassin. She’s 24-years old when the film shifts to her as an adult. By now she is methodically killing. A lot. She uses black lipstick to etch an orchid on the body of each of her victims. This is a sign to her parents’ killers that she’s after them (and by now, they’re in New Orleans, under protection by the CIA).

Her name is Cataleya Restrepo. Her father placed his gold chain with an orchid dangling from it around her neck. “Never forget where you come from,” he said to her, as he bolted off to his death.

Zoe Saldaña, a New York-born actress of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, is the big star. Cataleya is a cold killer who shifts into a myriad of disguises, crawls through vents, and even swims with sharks to get her victims. She also has a secret lover, an artist, on the side. But do I care? Not at all. Her character is underdeveloped. There’s not much to say about her, except that she sucks lollipops, dances by herself, and nibbles on Chinese takeout.

Some may think that “vengeance is beautiful” and consider Saldaña a sexy femme Nikita, but I don’t. She’s constrained by a script that relies heavily on splashy explosions and vivid images without taking the time to fully realize any of the characters. The movie is almost a farce, except that it’s not even good enough to be a farce. The plot is predictable and none of the characters, ranging from FBI and CIA agents to Colombian criminals, are meaty enough to bite into.

If anyone shines for a second, it’s Amandla Stenberg, who plays nine-year old Cataleya. She sits still at the kitchen table, eyes wide open, a bowl of fruit in front of her, as her parents are murdered. Then she stabs one of the killers in the hand with a hunting knife and runs for her life. There’s a brief bit of humanity and curiosity in the first few minutes of the film, but overall this is a boring and unconvincing story.

Then there’s the other weighted issue, which is that there isn’t a bit of Colombia in Colombiana. The movie was filmed in México, Chicago, New Orleans, and Paris. They didn’t even bother to Photoshop Bogotá’s mountains into the scenery. There’s not a trace of a Colombian accent anywhere. Cataleya’s name, which comes from the Cattleya orchid, Colombia’s national flower, is not a known name. Restrepo, her last name, is common (and happens to be one of my family names). The chances of Cataleya being Afro-Colombian from Bogotá are slim, as Bogotá has a relatively low population of African descendents. More believable would be if she hailed from Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena or el Chocó. And how well does Saldaña fly as a Colombian? Well, she doesn’t, because she’s not. There’s nothing Colombian about Cataleya’s character.

So why is this film entitled Colombiana while being absent of anything Colombian? Because someone thought that riding the violent-drug-dealing-Colombian-machine would help rake in the dough. There is no other reason.

“Just to use the name ‘Colombiana’ doesn’t make any justice to Latinas or Colombian women at all,” said Carlos Macias, the president of PorColombia. “We’re very disappointed that Hollywood is using the Colombian armed conflict again as cheap propaganda for its profit; it shows its total lack of creativity.” I second that.

The Wall Street Journal asked Zoe Saldaña what she thought about PorColombia’s campaign against Colombiana, and the organization’s belief that the movie portrays Latinos in a negative light. Her response? “Shame on them? I don’t know, I wish I knew how to address stupid unintelligent comments but I don’t, I’m not a stupid person… She could have been from Puerto Rico, she could have been from Goa, she could have been from China. But Luc Besson just wanted her to be from Colombia.”

And why would he want that, I wonder? What would Saldaña think if it was entitled Puertoriqueña, about a girl named Coqui from Puerto Rico? Where everyone is a dealer, mobster and murderer?

She continues. “Once you watch the movie, it has nothing to do with drugs, it has to do with violence. But violence lives in every city in every corner in every part of the world. So that said, PorColombia, are you kidding me?”

I’m not kidding. Don’t go to this movie! Watch Gun Hill Road instead. Now that’s a great Latino movie with intense characters that make you shift in your seat.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

9/11 gente and art news

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

As Teresa Puente, a journalist and blogger on the faculty at Columbia College Chicago and editor and publisher of Latina Voices, states:

"Of the 3,000 people who perished at the Twin Towers, around 20 percent were born outside the United States, according to You can read about them and other 9/11 victims in the New York Times' "Portrait of Grief" series.

"There also were dozens of 9/11 victims who were Muslim. President Obama reminded us of this fact and that we are not at war with the Muslim people who are overwhelmingly peaceful.

"There were 14 undocumented spouses and children of workers killed at the Twin Towers who sought permanent residency after the attack, according to the New York Times."

9/11 affected the world, including the Latino world, and in observation of its upcoming 10th anniversary, La Bloga received the following message from Denver reader and artist Robert Maestas:

"You are cordially invited to a “Tribute to 09/11/01” art exhibit at the Chicano Humanities & Arts Council (CHAC) Gallery, 774 Santa Fe Dr. in Denver from August 31 – October 1, 2011.

"As one of the 5,201 official entrants for the World Trade Center Memorial Competition, this exhibit has a very special meaning for me. My artistic tribute is my way of presenting an opportunity for the people of Denver and greater Colorado to recognize, reflect and continue to show their support for the 09/11 remembrance in the upcoming 10-year anniversary.

"Please inform your family, friends and colleagues and thank you for your support of the arts"

Robert Maestas, Artist

Es todo, hoy

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's Goin' On?

Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's going on - Uh
Right on baby

"What's Going On" written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye.

New books from not-so-young writers, new TV about an old master, performance art by old farts, and old agit-prop in a new bottle. It's goin' on.

Manuel Ramos

New Books

Before the End, After the Beginning
Dagoberto Gilb

Grove Press - November, 2011

[from the publisher]

Before the End, After the Beginning is an exquisite collection of ten stories by Dagoberto Gilb. The pieces come in the wake of a stroke Gilb suffered at his home in Austin, Texas, in 2009, and a majority of the stories were written over his many months of recovery. The result is a powerful and triumphant book that tackles common themes of existence and identity and describes the American experience in a raw, authentic vernacular unique to Gilb.

These ten stories take readers through the American Southwest, from Los Angeles and Albuquerque to El Paso and Austin. Gilb covers territory touched on in some of his earlier work—a mother and son’s relationship in Southern California in the story “Uncle Rock,” and a character looking to shed his mixed-up past in “The Last Time I Saw Junior”—while dealing with the themes of mortality and limitation that have arose during his own illness. The collection’s most personal story, “please, thank you,” focuses on a man who has been hospitalized with a stroke, and paints in detail the protagonist’s relationship with his children and the nurses who care for him. The final story, “Hacia Teotitlán,” looks at a man, now old, returning to Mexico and considering his life and imminent death.

Short stories are the perfect medium for Gilb, an accomplished storyteller whose debut collection, The Magic of Blood, won the prestigious PEN/ Hemingway Foundation Award for fiction in 1994. Before the End, After the Beginning proves that Gilb has lost none of his gifts, and that this may be his most extraordinary achievement to date.

[Publishers Weekly]

PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Gilb’s 10 new tales, many written as the author recovered from a 2009 stroke, take on family ties, poverty, labor, and prejudice at the country’s borders, but defy racial and geographic boundaries even when they provide the principal conflict. In “Hacia Teotitlán,” a Mexican immigrant raised in L.A. struggles to resolve his dual identity; “Uncle Rock” finds an Americanized child trying to bond with his mother’s culturally naïve boyfriend. Financial divisions abound, as in “Willows Village,” where the shiftless Guillermo visits a wealthy relation, and the wonderful “Cheap,” the prescience of whose subjects—immigration policy and underpaid laborers—is rivaled only by the explicit address of Arizona’s immigration crackdown in “To Document.” And yet the most affecting story may be “please, thank you” for its depiction of a proud man recovering from a stroke and working his way back into language, as Gilb himself was forced to do. This new collection (after The Flowers) demonstrates that the author has more power than ever in addressing the conditions and contradictions of being split across cultures, and reminds us that every American, native or immigrant, is the product of a society that must learn to share or risk losing its founding graces.

From This Wicked Patch of Dust
Sergio Troncoso
University of Arizona Press - September, 2011

[from the publisher]

In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martínez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The family’s hardscrabble

origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.

Spanning four decades, this is a story of a family’s struggle to become American and yet not be pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces. As a young adult, daughter Julieta is disenchanted with Catholicism and converts to Islam. Youngest son Ismael, always the bookworm, is accepted to Harvard but feels out of place in the Northeast where he meets and marries a Jewish woman. The other boys—Marcos and Francisco—toil in their father’s old apartment buildings, serving as the cheap labor to fuel the family’s rise to the middle class. Over time, Francisco isolates himself in El Paso while Marcos eventually leaves to become a teacher, but then returns, struggling with a deep bitterness about his work and marriage. Through it all, Pilar clings to the idea of her family and tries to hold it together as her husband’s health begins to fail.

This backdrop is then shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City. The aftermath sends shockwaves through this newly American family. Bitter conflicts erupt between siblings and the physical and cultural spaces between them threaten to tear them apart. Will their shared history and once-common dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?


One reads From This Wicked patch of Dust and can only pause for a moment to say, ‘Yes.’ Sergio Troncoso writes with inevitable grace and mounting power. Family, in all its baffling wonder, comes alive on these pages.

—Luis Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays
Sergio Troncoso
Arte Público Press - September, 2011

"On good days I feel I am a bridge. On bad days I just feel alone,” Sergio Troncoso writes in this riveting collection of sixteen personal essays in which he seeks to connect the humanity of his Mexican family to people he meets on the East Coast, including his wife’s Jewish kin. Raised in a home steps from the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas, Troncoso crossed what seemed an even more imposing border when he left home to attend Harvard College.

Initially, “outsider status” was thrust upon him; later, he adopted it willingly, writing about the Southwest and Chicanos in an effort to communicate who he was and where he came from to those unfamiliar with his childhood world. He wrote to maintain his ties to his parents and his abuelita, and to fight against the elitism he experienced at an Ivy League school. “I was torn,” he writes, “between the people I loved at home and the ideas I devoured away from home.”

Troncoso writes to preserve his connections to the past, but he puts pen to paper just as much for the future. In his three-part essay entitled “Letter to My Young Sons,” he documents the terror of his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis and the ups and downs of her surgery and treatment. Other essays convey the joys and frustrations of fatherhood, his uneasy relationship with his elderly father and the impact his wife’s Jewish heritage and religion have on his Mexican-American identity.

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays reveals a writer, father and husband who has crossed linguistic, cultural and intellectual borders to provoke debate about contemporary Mexican-American identity. Challenging assumptions about literature, the role of writers in America, fatherhood and family, these essays bridge the chasm between the poverty of the border region and the highest echelons of success in America. Troncoso writes with the deepest faith in humanity about sacrifice, commitment and honesty


"Touching and intelligent, this book shows what it's like growing up an intellectual on the border of the US and Mexico. It's often painful, often funny, but always precise in expressing how rich and challenging life can be, how sometimes moving away from home can bring you even closer to your family and heritage." --Daniel Chacon, author of And the shadows took him and Unending Rooms.

"Sergio Troncoso takes us on his journey from El Paso to New York, from child to husband, and student to father....and it is worth our while to witness this journey from native son to the bloody birth of a public intellectual." ---Kathleen Alcala, author of The Desert Remembers My Name.

New TV

The award-winning documentary Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice, about the trailblazing jurist who was the first Latino appointed to the California Supreme Court, will be broadcast on public television during 2011 Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, 2011. (For a complete listing of airdates and stations, please visit

During his extraordinary life, Cruz Reynoso has been one of those rare individuals who not only were shaped by history but made history. As the child of migrant farm workers, Reynoso understood injustice and as a lawyer, judge and teacher, he has fought to eradicate discrimination and inequality. Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice was produced and directed by award-winning director Abby Ginzberg. It is narrated by Luis Valdez; Ray Telles (The Storm that Swept Mexico) served as Consulting Producer. The one-hour film was funded by Latino Public Broadcasting and the California Council for the Humanities.

Born into a large Mexican-American farm worker family, Cruz Reynoso struggled to earn an education; he graduated from Pomona College and then received a law degree from UC Berkeley in 1958, where he was the only Latino in his class. In a career marked by a number of firsts, he was the first Latino director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), which provided legal aid to California’s rural poor during the early days of Cesar Chavez’s farm worker movement. As the film chronicles, the CRLA came under fire from then Governor Ronald Reagan, who saw the CRLA’s efforts as counter to the interests of his agribusiness supporters.

Reynoso was also one of the first Latino law professors in the country, beginning his academic career at the University of New Mexico Law School. He next became the first Latino justice on the California Supreme Court, appointed by then Governor Jerry Brown. Later, as Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he provided leadership in the only investigation of the voting rights abuses which disenfranchised thousands of Florida voters in the 2000 election. He received the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton for his lifelong devotion to public service. Today at 80, he continues to teach law at UC Davis Law School and actively participate in community organizations throughout the state of California.

About the Filmmakers

Abby Ginzberg (Producer/Director)

Abby Ginzberg has been producing and directing award-winning documentary films since 1983. Her work has focused on character-driven stories, racial and gender discrimination and social justice issues, and has been shown in film festivals and broadcast on public television networks nationally and internationally. Her previous film about another trailblazing jurist, Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey earned several awards and was featured at film festivals around the country and broadcast on public television Thelton Henderson has been the judge responsible for the reform of medical care for those incarcerated in California's maximum security prisons. Ginzberg has won numerous awards for her work including five CINE Golden Eagles, two Silver Gavels and in 2008 she was selected as a Gerbode Foundation Fellow.

Ray Telles (Consulting Producer)

Ray Telles recently produced The Storm that Swept Mexico, a two-hour documentary about the history of the Mexican Revolution, which aired nationally on PBS. Telles is a veteran producer of many award-winning programs including The Fight in the Fields, the biography of Cesar Chavez; Inside the Body Trade; Children of the Night (Frontline) and Race is the Place. He has been a producer and director for NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Turning Point and Nightline, PBS and Univision. Telles has won numerous awards including three Emmy Awards, the DuPont-Columbia Gold Baton and two PBS Programming Awards for News and Current Affairs.

New Performance Art


MacArthur Fellow and Border Brujo Guillermo Gomez Pena

La Pocha Nostra and Richard Montoya Culture Clash in a mano a mano collaboration.

A once in a lifetime opportunity to see two titans of Chicano performance face off.

Los Dopplegangers is a smart, funny, satirical and incisive commentary that delves into topics such as the rampant violence taking place in Mexico and the concurrent anti-immigration hysteria in the United States.

Expect a "dual exploration of their collective trans-border despair...humor, satire, intelligence, a jalapeño uzi and a chain saw will be weapons of choice, to name just a few".

Museo de las Americas y SU TEATRO presentan.....


Su Teatro @ The Denver Civic Theater
721 Santa Fe Dr.
Denver, Colorado 80204
7:30 p.m.
$20 gen. $17 stu/sen
COMADRES! $12/ 12 or more
Special pricing for groups of 20 or more

New Take On An Old Enemy - COINTELPRO

COINTELPRO 101 is the title of the one-hour film to be shown in conjunction with a panel discussion on Saturday, September 10, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., at the nonprofit El Centro Su Teatro located at 721 Santa Fe Drive in Denver. Panelists will be longtime Chicano activists Ricardo Romero, Priscilla Falcon and Francisco “Kiko” Martinez. The film will introduce viewers to the basics of understanding the history of COINTELPRO (acronym for Counter Intelligence Program), the formal program of the FBI and a more general war by U.S. Government agencies to target activists deemed “subversive” by the government. At one time, mainstream groups like NAACP and nonviolent activists like Martin Luther King were targets of COINTELPRO. The history is told in the film by several activists (Kathleen Cleaver and others) who experienced COINTELPRO firsthand. The film’s intended audiences are people who did not experience the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s. COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym, but its meaning is central to understanding the U.S. Government’s repression against people working for social change. COINTELPRO was – and still is – an orchestrated effort by governmental departments (local, state, federal) engaged in spying and related activities within the U.S. Compared to 1970 when the COINTELPRO budget was $6 billion, funding for COINTELPRO type programs grew to $75 billion in 2010. Admission to the September 10th public event is $7.00 per person.