Monday, October 31, 2011

Later Days

A short story by Daniel A. Olivas

Xavier smiled to himself and chuckled. “Hmmm,” he said softly. “I even surprise myself sometimes.”

He slipped the still-warm revolver back into his coat pocket. A content man of forty-one, Xavier took stock of himself as he stepped over the body and reached for the telephone. “I’ve got to lose some weight,” he grumbled in a low, husky tone. True, he carried around an extra five or ten pounds on an otherwise well-proportioned frame, but Xavier was still an attractive man. The secretaries at his office often commented on how he looked so much like Marcello Mastroianni. Xavier dialed.

“Hello, police?” he said. “Yes, I’ve just killed a person. A woman. Yes sir. I’ll stay right here.”

Xavier gave the desk sergeant his address and then slowly, deliberately returned the receiver to its cradle with a small clack. The morning edition sat unopened on the coffee table. “Haven’t read Alley Oop yet,” he said. He sat down in a black leather reclining chair and leaned back until it opened to its fullest. He thumbed through the paper until he got to the comics.

Last year had been a good one. Denver was finally feeling like home and a wise decision especially with his big promotion. And the rest of the world seemed right, too. Don Schollander won four gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics. Ranger 7 had sent back to earth the first close-up photos of the moon. The great Cassius Clay defeated the legendary Sonny Liston. The nation was slowly healing from its loss of J.F.K. But last year Harpo Marx had died. That was a tough one. “He was better than Groucho,” Xavier always said.

He lay the paper flat on his lap. This year promised to be even better than last. And if one could judge from the office’s New Year bash, 1965 could be a great year. Xavier still nursed a slight hangover even though it was well past the lunch hour.

“That Lourdes,” he said wistfully, glancing at the woman on the floor. With a little grunt, Xavier pushed his legs down to bring the recliner to an upright position. He stood, took two steps, kneeled, and gently kissed Lourdes on her forehead. “Best damned secretary I ever had,” he said. The room suddenly shook with a sharp rap on the door.

“Yes,” said Xavier as he got back into his chair and pulled out the revolver.


“Come in, it’s unlocked,” Xavier said before putting the revolver’s barrel into his mouth. His lips caressed the warm metal and he savored the grainy gunpowder against his tongue. Xavier closed his limpid, brown eyes.

The turn-out was remarkable. All of Xavier’s friends, family and coworkers filled St. Anne’s Church which had never been so packed. Xavier rested in a gleaming, open casket, resplendent in his favorite gray suit that he had bought in Italy last summer. His features were fine, dark, handsome even though he had blown off the back of his head. Father Knight, ignoring the unpleasant recent incident, said lovely things about him. Women wept. Xavier smiled to himself and chuckled softly. This was going to be a great year.

[“Later Days” is featured in Anywhere But L.A.: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2009). Above photograph by Benjamin Formaker-Olivas.]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spending Dia De Los Muertos con “Occupy Lincoln, Nebraska”

(and a short note on Halloween dulces)

By Amelia M.L. Montes

Reporting from Lincoln, Nebraska, “borderlands en medio de Norteamerica,” where yes—Latinos live here—y tambien si, we are involved with “occupying” as are many states in the U.S. y fuera del pais tambien. “Occupy Lincoln” has its own website (replete with video footage) and a Facebook page. Unlike other cities where officials and police are beginning to forcibly move people and tents out, Lincoln’s occupation at the capitol mall continues without harassment.

Occupy Lincoln

The “Occupy Wall Street” discussions on La Bloga (thank you Rudy Ch. Garcia, etc.) and on various other sites, newspapers, media outlets in the U.S., Mexico, España, etc. are invigorating. In last week’s Guardian (October 26), the Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist, Slavoj Zizek wrote: “The true test of their [the protesters’] worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. The protesters should fall in love with hard and patient work—they are the beginning, not the end. Their basic message is: the taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world; we are allowed, obliged even, to think about alternatives.”

For Zizek to say “the taboo is broken,” he ignores the fact that working gente from the moment of Spanish colonization (and other) occupations throughout latinoamerica and the U.S., have continually proclaimed that the world placed on them by powerful agents of government creates less than liveable worlds. Chicana/Chicanos and Latinas/Latinos have changed “daily life,” have loudly protested, marched, and offered alternatives in a world which resists encouraging imaginative possibilities for inclusiveness, for equity, for a sane and ethical world. “Occupy Wall Street” is another manifestation and hopefully, as Zizek states, this renewed proclamation regarding a less than best possible world will indeed bring about imaginative alternatives.

Resistance by Barry Lopez

I keep thinking of Barry Lopez’s collection of short stories entitled Resistance. These stories are fictional testimonios of women and men who have fought (in various ways) against mainstream society. In “Flight from Berlin,” one character recalls: “For me, the terrifying part was the ease with which you could lose your imagination—just abandon it, like a gadget. Everything was supplied, even if you had to pay for it all. We were told things would run more smoothly—less crime, less disease, less unhappiness, less trouble—if everyone stuck to the same plan, pursued identical goals. What made me want to run was the ease with which people gave in.

In every quarter of life, it seemed then, we were retreating into fundamentalism. The yes/no of belief, the in/out of fashion, the down/up of pharmaceuticals, the on/off of music, the hot/cold of commitment, the dead/live of electricity, the forward/backward of machinery, the give/take of a deal. Anyone not polarized became an inconvenience for management and its legions of loyal employees. People endorsed the identification of enemies and their eradication, just to be rid of some of the inevitable blurring.

We didn’t hear enough then about making the enemy irrelevant. No one said, loud enough to be heard over the din of pacification, Let’s make something beautiful, so the enemy will have one less place to stand” (149).

This passage left me shaken regarding what each of us are charged with—our ethical responsibility to speak and protect each other or we can so easily lose our imagination. Last night at Indigo Bridge Books in Lincoln, Nebraska, Wendy Call (writer, translator, and a member of Chicana author Sandra Cisneros’ writing community, Macondo) gave a reading from her book No Word For Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy. In 1997, Call had gone to visit the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a small area of land that connects the Yucatan peninsula with Mexico. At first, she was simply the visitor. Then she became more involved when she discovered small communities in a battle with large corporations threatening to industrialize the way they had been farming, fishing, working in the forests for generations. Call saw oil spills, farmlands being paved over, the burning of forests. She also witnessed the innovative ways these communities came together to fight these corporations. “It’s a story happening everywhere,” Sandra Cisneros writes, “including our own backyard.” Call’s book tells me that communities that have a strong historical and/or cultural bond make it easier to remain unified during fights against industrialization. Individuals who cross the border y se van al norte, end up in communities where it is more difficult to easily unify due to language barriers, housing configurations, diverse cultures, leading toward isolation and fear.

One such “backyard” (as Cisneros described) is Nebraska. In the book, from Columbus to ConAgra: The Globalization of Agriculture and Food, Dr. Lourdes Gouveia (University of Nebraska-Omaha) uses her research of Nebraska meat-packing plants to describe the struggles that happen when communities are threatened by corporations. “Community fragmentation can indirectly contribute to corporate strategies for demobilizing labor and ultimately reducing production costs. Today, a growing number of meatpacking community members [in Nebraska] do not share a common language, history, or cultural connections for survival. They also misdirect their anger and blame each other for their misfortunes, rather than demand a higher degree of social responsibility from the corporate sector.” These are all overwhelming obstacles that frustrate equity in a working environment and keep the wealthy corporations strong. “States like Nebraska, or for that matter countries like Mexico, transfer funds to globalizing firms in the hope of resolving their own fiscal crises. But in today’s global economy, local and central polities are poorly equipped to secure a return on their investments” (143).

At the end of Call’s book, she summarizes the victories of the istmeños’ (in the Isthmus de Tehuantepec) organizing. Their demands were not all fulfilled, but they succeeded in the following ways: Instead of a six-lane superhighway, they were able to reduce it to four lanes. The steel mill was successfully denied and was not built. They also succeeded in preventing plans for a eucalyptus plantation that would seriously impact the environment. However, along with the four-way highway, there is a Wal-Mart. “Village resistance maintains situations that must be considered better, simply because they are no worse. And yet those unseen victories are crucial: evidence of the success of grassroots organizing, of the village economy’s ability to persist in spite of globalization” (293).

As I write this just a few blocks from where “Occupy Lincoln” residents are preparing their next strategy and inviting me and you to their next protest (check out the website here), I think about what we can learn from the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, and from community organizing groups outside the U.S. such as those in Tehuantepec, Mexico.

So much to think about as well as to act on. We cannot just think and talk. Being active contributors (in imaginative ways) is crucial!

And speaking of imaginative ways—I have one more subject to discuss with you, Querida Reader---

Calaveras para Dia de los Muertos

Halloween y Dia de los Muertos--- y los dulces!!

For me, I have been having a difficult time thinking about what I am going to do when my doorbell rings and lovely ghosts, angels, zombies, and ballerinas come to my door asking for candy. How can I, an individual with type 2 Diabetes, hand out candy to a young population facing a health crisis of epidemic proportions: child-onset diabetes.

Halloween Candy

In 2008, U.S. News and World Report published, “10 Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.” The first five “things” on the list are:

(1) Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids

(2) The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products

(3) Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations

(4) More processing means more profits, but typically make the food less healthy

(5) Less processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts

How can you counter the onslaught of the food industry cajoling you to give them money so you can place their product in your child’s hands, which in turn will make your child very sick? I asked a number of friends and colleagues for imaginative alternatives and the best answers I received were suggestions to go to the dollar store or craft store where I could either buy or put together a little gift bag of erasers, pens/pencils, small pads of paper, etc.

Gift Bag Ideas

Now here is where we could all come up with amazing and imaginative alternatives than feeding these children sugar which will keep them sleepless, grumpy, colic, even depressed. This does not mean giving up cultural traditions such as having sugar skulls on Dia de Los Muertos Altares—just don’t eat the skulls. Take pictures with them instead!

If you’re not camping out at “Occupy (name your city)” or have a difficult time getting out to protest—thinking of alternative “safe” and easy items to give trick or treaters is a good activist alternative. You are refusing to fund the corporate food giant in this country.

Sending you all safe and healthy energies para esta semana!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Debra la tardita–among others–still here

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

Everything's connected, whether or not we recognize it. Some connections are obvious, some subtly disguised through our filtered interpretations of what's around us. Sometimes we need others to help remove the filters.

In response to my post last week about Debra la tardita, two of my fellow La Bloga contributors Michael Sedano and Melinda Palacio disagreed with my notion of removing myself from voter registration.

Sedano's post: "not voting though you can is letting that half of the rest of them win." My take on this is that voting for "change" in fact helped "that half of the rest of them win." Bank & mortgage co. bailouts, our new spreading wars, Guantanamo's continuation, massive legally-sanctioned arrests and deportations by that President show that "they" won. Our votes insured that, rather than our "winning." So, recent history tends not to support Sedano.

Melinda's post: "This story is important, as is your vote. We have to keep believing." I will keep believing. And I would register again when I felt there was something to vote for. Something hugely different. Not just "change" as in another President, though of a different skin color, apparently as dark on the inside as his lighter skinned predecessor. I think Debra la tardita would agree with me.

I did hear that during a non-writing time this week during her school day, she requested permission to write a letter to her dad. I don't know the letter's contents. However, the act itself--a request outside of the normal curriculum schedule--and the risky confidence of a child wanting to put her thoughts down with paper and pencil, neither of which she has mastery of, is something to believe in, draw some inspiration from.

To my same post last week, where I included my statement about Occupy my country, Esteban Chavez wrote: "Does Occupy Aztlan ring any bells? History is moving against the 1%." I do agree with Chavez's second point; his first point appears to have been bypassed by gente and people going beyond it, spreading the Occupy to more than the Southwest and Mexico. As it should be.

I watched the news this week about China moving to cover bonds for the Greek debt-crisis that the Greek people have already Occupied Greece over for some months. Apparently the international 1% seem to be willing to take write-off loses to salvage their European/Western/worldwide economic system. People in the U.S. who didn't believe the 60s and 70s anti-war protests didn't do any good to ending our invasion of Vietnam might be some of the same people who today might not think the Occupy actions have had anything to do with the 1% acting to save the existing economic system in Greece.

I'd suggest we all think again. I can't explain the Occupy movement better than anyone else, but Occupy does stand out in one obvious way: there's no list of demands. Occupy goes beyond getting rid of any current despot/tyrant/ruler/democratically elected President. It goes beyond 99% of the Greeks refusing to pay for their country's economic crisis. Beyond ending corruption or profiling of latino-looking people or just lowering a country's college-debt load before young people have gotten their first job.

By not having a list of demands, Occupy just says: ya basta. If that sounds familiar, it might be because it's been used before. Think Zapata or the Chicano Movement or thousands of other times in history. Voting wasn't usually a major strategy.

Debra la tardita's father will assumedly receive her letter sometime in Nov. Whatever she wrote probably won't include advice to her father about making sure he registers to vote. Nor would it include anything about her being ready to Occupy, though I wouldn't doubt she has the heart for it. At least, she might not be including it her letters, just yet.

Below I reprint a piece from Frontera NorteSur about Occupy Tijuana. It's followed by an appeal from Frontera so they can continue providing alternative news about what's really going on in the Southwest and Mexico. Frontera probably won't cover the return of Debra la tardita's dad, should he lose in deportation hearings.

But consider supporting Frontera, since your local newspaper and broadcasting doesn't usually cover enough of what goes on in our country. You'll want to be one of the first to know how the Occupy Tijuana/Aztlán/my country movement goes. Or comes and goes. Or maybe one day just stays. And lets working people like Debra la tardita's dad stay.

Occupy Tijuana tests rights

October 22, 2011 – Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, a protest in Tijuana is shaping up to be a test between the right of citizens to assemble peacefully and the desire of authorities to maintain public order.

In the wee hours of the morning of Tuesday, October 18, dozens of state, municipal and possibly federal police officers raided Occupy Tijuana’s encampment in the border city’s Plaza Rio zone and arrested 27 people, mostly young professionals and students, for violating city ordinances like urinating in public and allegedly possessing drugs. Some of the detained individuals were then paraded in front of a judge and either slapped with fines amounting to be about $80.00 each or ordered to perform community service.

Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante Anchondo later defended the police action, arguing that if protesters wanted to demonstrate they should have picked a safe place and not be in a position to physically expose themselves in public. Bustamante contended that the site of the protest encampment, a median across from Plaza Rio, was a congested, public thoroughfare. “The criticism is that (protesters) could cause an accident or worse,” Bustamante said.

The Tijuana mayor rejected contentions that excessive force was used in removing the demonstrators, adding that some of the young people camped out were consuming alcohol. However, Bustamante confirmed that he was not present at the scene of the eviction.

“We are students, lawyers, anthropologists, sociologists, artists, workers; we are the 99 percent,” the protesters said shortly after last week’s break-up of their encampment. “We are not paid killers, delinquents, bums or ninis (Mexican slang for young people who do not work or study).” Stories and video clips covering the eviction and the Occupy Tijuana movement have been posted on You Tube.

In a press statement, the non-governmental Northwest Citizen Human Rights Commission protested that Occupy Tijuana’s rights to peaceful assembly, redress of grievances and due process of law were violated by the police raid. While carrying out the eviction, some officers were hooded and did not display official identification, the Mexican human rights advocates charged. In addition to trampling on constitutional guarantees, the October 18 police raid violated international treaties, the statement asserted.

“It’s worrisome that the civil authority reacts in this way to citizen protests, inflicting an injury that is added to the climate of violence and insecurity which the country is going through,” the citizen commission said. “We don’t know the motive which prompted the authorities to repress the rights of assembly and association, but it is noteworthy that there was a convergence of the three levels of government to carry out the eviction of the demonstrators.”

The Northwest Citizen Human Rights Commission demanded a legal investigation of eviction, and called on the official human rights commissions of Mexico and Baja California to likewise probe the matter. The group also urged Baja California Governor Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan to uphold the constitutional rights of the citizenry and punish those responsible for human rights violations. Copies of the press statement were addressed to other state and local officials, as well as to Javier Hernandez Valencia, Mexico representative for the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. Heriberto Garcia, Baja California human rights ombudsman, has initiated an investigation of the October 18 incident.

Occupy Tijuana was expected to resume its protest against global economic policies and war on the weekend of October 22.

Additional sources: El Sol de Tijuana, October 22, 2011., October 21, 2011. La Jornada, October 19, 2011. Article by Antonio Heras., October 18, 2011. Article by Sandra Dibble.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM

For a free electronic subscription email:

Please support Frontera NorteSur

October 25, 2011 – You may know what an important role Frontera NorteSur (FNS) plays in filling the information gap during these critical times along the US-Mexico border. Whether FNS delivers stories about the drug war, immigration, Mexican politics, or the effect of the border wall on the natural environment, here you read the stories you won’t find elsewhere. FNS news service provides a unique blend of press summaries, original reporting and seasoned analysis to help you make sense of the realities of the border region during these turbulent times. Never has an independent news service been more necessary, and FNS is proud to be here.

But we can only continue this vital work with your help. Readers' tax-deductible donations have helped us overcome budgetary challenges in the past and expand the news services we offer. But now more than ever we need supporters to step up to the plate and support FNS. We know times are tough for everyone, but by donating today you can truly make a difference. With the situation along the US-Mexico border continually evolving, you cannot afford not to be informed. Donations of $75, $100, $150 or more are especially needed and appreciated. We urge you to pass this information on to anyone who might be interested in supporting the FNS project. We also welcome any serious referrals to foundations or individual donors. Every little bit will help FNS keep providing the news you need.

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& Kent Paterson, Editor, Frontera NorteSur
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New Mexico State University

Donating to Frontera Norte Sur on-line has never been easier. Simply go the NMSU Foundation website at: There you will be prompted to “Find a Giving Area/Fund” Click the button and type in Center for Latin American and Border Studies. You will then be prompted “Tell us How You Want Your Gift Applied.” Just type in: Frontera Norte Sur. You can also add a personal comment if you wish.

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es todo, hoy,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Literary Community. Ruben Quesada Comes to New Orleans.

by Melinda Palacio

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of reading at the Maple Leaf bar in New Orleans, home of the longest running poetry reading in the South. I guess you can say I’m a regular at the Maple Leaf Bar’s poetry series, at least when I’m in New Orleans on a Sunday. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing the featured reader, Ruben Quesada. Ruben is from Bell and grew up in the town next door to mine in South Central Los Angeles (I’m from Huntington Park). He worked as a teacher’s assistant at the same school my mother taught at for 14 years, Heliotrope Elementary in Maywood. It took a circuitous poetry path for me to finally meet Ruben Quesada, now an up and coming poet and PhD candidate at Texas Tech University. As with many of my literary friends, I met Ruben on Facebook when he put out a call asking for help with his book tour for his first book of poetry, Next Extinct Mammal. Ruben explains how he approached poetry as offering a slice of life and how he thought up the idea for the title of his poetry book, published in 2011 by Greenhouse Review Press with exquisite endorsements by Rigoberto González, D. A. Powell, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Francisco Aragón:

“The reader is allowed to step into the life of the poet and live his or her world in that moment. What could be more intimate than to embody someone else’s thoughts? The figures in my collection, Next Extinct Mammal, are people which existed in my life and like them, you and I will one day be extinct. I think this idea places an enormous value on the singular characteristics of a human being.”

Even before meeting Ruben, I was impressed by his fearless poetry and his technical skills (check out the QR code on his website and see what’s in store for his poem, “Store” at Ruben Quesada's website.

Ruben is a young man, 35, who has embraced technology. I used my phone to scan his poem in form of a QR code (the new cool thing to have on your flyers and website). I’m lucky if I have time to update my website, write a column for La Bloga, and tweet about all that I am doing, and respond to the requests to LinkedIn or become friends on Facebook. I haven’t arrived at the code business.

In Next Extinct Mammal, the poet progresses from narrative poems to more philosophical work that goes beyond family, identity, and sexuality. Ruben says while his new work veers away from a strictly narrative form, he still desires to keep his poetry accessible.

“Going to school for so long has affected my poems. Some might say they are more academic. I try to balance that philosophical view of the world with one that’s tangible and lyrical. I present things that I see in the world around me. I try not to name so much and use the ‘I’.”

Ruben Quesada is very conscious of his role as a poet. Perhaps we can thank social media for making us all project ourselves onto the world’s stage, especially poets. Ruben wants to leave a handbook of how he sees the world, of the poet’s attention to detail, and of his legacy as a poet.

“There’s so much in the world that people take for granted. It’s those little things that tell me I’m alive. I want to be a good writer. I don’t want to let my readers down. I want to feel that I’m doing the right thing.”

His biggest fan is his mother. At the Maple Leaf Bar, Ruben did a brave thing by saying he was a “momma’s boy” and reading some of the poems (“The Getty” “Memories are made like this”) that describe his more tender side. Hearing his mother tell him how proud she is means more to him than winning a literary prize.

Ruben Quesada is currently at work on a second book of poetry, his dissertation tentatively titled, The Personality of the Planet, and he is also applying for university teaching jobs in poetry. Ruben will be appearing in the Los Angeles area during the Thanksgiving holiday. He will be at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Cañada (11/20), University of California, Riverside (11/21), and Viento y Agua Coffeehouse in Long Beach (11/23). His new book can be found in bookstores and Amazon.

PALABRA 7 Release Party at REDCAT Lounge, Tomorrow!

Join us this Saturday - sábado - 29 October from 2 - 4 pm at The Lounge at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex).

Jerry Garcia, Rubén R. Mendoza and Luivette Resto will read and knock your poetry socks off.

(This promises to be an incredible afternoon. I’m honored to have a poem in this issue. If I weren’t going to the Louisiana Book Fair in Baton Rouge, I would certainly attend this favorite venue. I hope to see my New Orleans friends at the Louisiana Book Fair. I will be reading in the Glass Room at the Welcome Center at 1:15 pm.)

A Great Deal for Writers. Hone Your Craft with Reyna Grande

What: Creative Writing Workshops with award-winning author, Reyna Grande.
When: 4 Tuesdays, Nov. 1 to Nov. 22 @6:30pm
Where: Private residence, East Whittier (Los Angeles County)
Who: Anyone who is looking for a supportive environment, guidance, and encouragement.
How much: $100.00 for four sessions

Contact Reyna Grande at for more information about the classes. If you are working on a fiction or creative non-fiction project and are looking for feedback on your work, and/or would like to learn more about the craft of writing, then this class is for you! Space is limited!

About the Author:
Reyna Grande is the author of Across a Hundred Mountains, which received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, and a Latino Books Into Movies Award. Her second novel was the recepient of a Latino Book Award. She is a sought-after speaker, educator, and event organizer. Visit her website at

News for Next Week:

November 3, Melinda Palacio will be signing copies of Ocotillo Dreams at the Book Den, Santa Barbara for First Thursday from 5pm to 8pm. See the article in today's Casa Magazine Santa Barbara.

Reyna Grande and Melinda Palacio
Saturday, NOVEMBER 5.
Reyna Grande and Melinda Palacio will be signing their books at theVentura County Book & Author Fair in Camarillo, 1605 Burnley Street, Camarillo, CA. Check out booth 31 next week on Saturday, November 5.

The Ocotillo Dreams Tour continues North on November 10 at Chabot Hills College in Hayward at noon and Green Apple Books in San Francisco at 7pm.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicanonautica: Daze of Another Día de los Muertos

by Ernest Hogan

We’re blasting through October. This summer has been long, hot, and unwilling to die without a fight. My corner of Aztlán still feels like what the rest of the world would call high summer, but I find myself breaking out my "winter" clothes. This weekend will be Día de los Muertos/Halloween.

It hasn’t quite fully mutated into the recombocultural Dead Daze that I wrote about in Smoking Mirror Blues, but the spirits are walking around, not respecting borders, especially the one between their world and ours.

An interesting artifact of this phenomenon is Día de Los Muertos: A Day of the Dead Anthology edited by Angela Charmain Craig. This collection has an incredibly wide range: horror and ghost stories, magic realism, whateverthehell you call “mainstream” these days. We get the veiwpoints of Anglos as well as Latinos. La Llorona, Santa Muerte, La Catrina, and mucho más folcolóismos. We also get that all important remembering of dead loved ones that gets forgotten in Halloween in its commercialized, corporate incarnation. It's a great party that will make you want to add more glowing colors to the weekend’s celebration.

The Day of the Dead: A Pictorial Archive of Día de los Muertos selected and edited by Jean Moss is a valuable resource. And even if you just want to look at all this classic calavera art -- including lots of José Guadalupe Posada -- it’s worth having. But better yet, it’s part of the Dover Pictorial Archive Series, so: “You may use the designs and illustrations for graphics and crafts applications, free and without special permission, provided you include no more than ten in the same publication or project.” And it comes with all the images on CD-ROM!

I took the famous anonymous calavera of General Huerta, “Tarantula of the North” (often attributed to Posada) and used GIMP to colorize and enhance it. It has something extra now -- like scorpions glowing in ultraviolet light. This opens the door to some astounding possiblities.

Let’s turn these images -- and spirits -- loose into cyberspace!

Ernest Hogan’s story “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song” will be available in the anthology Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern on November 1st. His novel Cortez on Jupiter will soon be available as an ebook. This is only the beginning.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Art Transforms Communities- Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural's documentary/book project

From Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore,

In the neglected Northeast San Fernando Valley, many can only see chaos.

However, in this area of Los Angeles, home to many with little material means, there is an abundance of innate imagination and talent. Art. Song. Music. Poetry. Dance. Stories. Ideas.

The arts have consistently proven to be 
the most effective means to lift the most desolate areas, bring together fractured communities, and transform lives, especially those in the grips of violence.

Knowing that the first move from chaos isn't order, but creativity, Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural has, since 2001, served as the cultural cornerstone of the Northeast San Fernando Valley, offering a diverse array of free and low-cost arts and cultural workshops and events. We are also the only full-service bookstore in the area, offering an eclectic selection of mind-nourishing books, including poetry from our own nationally-recognized Tia Chucha Press.

When we provide places for people to imagine, to express, to share, and to create, we uplift the spirit needed to also help remove the real constraints of current economic and social realities. We have survived and succeeded because we have always responded to obstacles by becoming more imaginative and encompassing. We have refused to give up on the arts. We have refused to give up on artists and, as we are all artists, we have refused to give up on our community.

In celebration of our first decade of building community through arts and culture in the Northeast Valley, we're creating a documentary film and book, to be released in 2012, called "Art Transforms Communities" in collaboration with Denise Sandoval, Chican@ Studies Professor at California State University Northridge, and filmmaker John Cantú. The project will feature interviews and essays from Northeast Valley artists who have intersected with Tia Chucha's over the years. 

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission has generously provided a matching grant of $10,000 for this project, but we won't receive the funding unless we raise the first $10,000. We need YOUR help to ensure this vitally important project will see the light of day.

Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to this project today!  Also, please help us to spread the word. Strength in numbers!  With your support, we can do this!

In Solidarity,

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& Tia Chucha's Board & Staff

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Gluten-Free Chicano. Diga Me! On-Line Floricanto at Month End.

Birongas for The Gluten-Free Chicano
The Gluten-Free Chicano returns to La Bloga the final Tuesday of every month. This month, el gluten-free chicas patas assesses gluten-free beer. 

Michael Sedano

Beer makers roast grains like barley, wheat, or rye, to produce malt. Malt, blended with hop flowers in water, is what gives each beer its distinctive flavor and character. These grains, however, make that sparkling glass of beer an ugly taunt to the thirsty gluten intolerant beer lover.

One’s body can withstand a couple of ordinary beers, but all things considered, champagne has long served as the better choice for this Gluten-Free Chicano. But beer times are a'changin'.

Gluten-free beer is out there. An expensive, hard-to-find specialty, but gluten-free birongas are out there. Brewing behemoth Anheuser-Busch led the hunt for the gluten-free dollar in my neck of the woods. Budweiser clone Redbridge gluten-free beer was earliest on my local shelves a few years back, shortly followed by New Grist then UK import, Green’s.

Recently a miracle of marketing savvy has brought a small wave of gluten-free beers to market. Only an armful of labels so far. Après estas, le deluge. Ojalá.

Here in Pasadena and perhaps in other places, most markets do not sell gluten-free beer, despite now selling a smattering of gluten-free bread-like products and pastas. Trader Joe’s, that boasts its gluten-free products and global beer offerings, fails to see a market in gluten-free brews. They have eyes, but...

Only BevMo and Whole Foods sell gluten-free beer in my area. Frustratingly, both are unreliable. This Gluten-Free Chicano prefers stores not sell at all than be undependable.

BevMo dependably stocks US brands Redbridge and New Grist, and some Green’s. BevMo irregularly stocks Bard’s, although clerks reliably promise “next week.” A fundamental principle of excellent customer service is training clerks to tell the truth. Say “I have no idea, I’ll check” rather than allow facile lies. Lies produce dissatisfied customers who tell everyone they know about that crummy store.

Whole Foods, aka Food4More, stocks Redbridge, New Grist, and Green's. Lately one Pasadena location added England’s St. Peter’s Sorghum. The other Pasadena Whole  Foods store not only reliably stocks Minnesota’s Bard’s Beer, they sell cold six-packs.

Sadly, Bard’s is reliably out of stock at my preferred Food4More location. However, reflecting keen market awareness, the location recently added Colorado’s delicious New Planet gluten-free craft beers to the shelves.

In all, The Gluten-Free Chicano has identified nine labels on sale in three Pasadena grocery stores. BevMo  has a few, but mostly, good gf beer comes from one or another Whole Foods. In order of discovery: Redbridge, New Grist, Green’s Discovery (now dubbed “Dubble Dark Ale”), Green’s Endeavor (now “Amber Ale”), Green’s Quest (now “Triple Blonde Ale”), St. Peter’s Sorghum, Bard’s, New Planet Tread Lightly Ale, New Planet Off Grid Ale.

But does it taste good?

Analog products for gluten-free wretches are abominations. Gluten-free bread and bagels are purely disappointing. Cookies and brownies suck. The graininess of bean and corn flours, absence of stretchy tender gluten, and use of xanthan gum, lend fake food a heavy texture and off taste that gives the lie to the word “bread.” The rare exception is far too rare.

Gluten-free beer stands tall. There are several drinkable gluten-free brews out there that even expert beer drinkers find acceptable.

To explore that hypothesis, La Bloga’s Gluten-Free Chicano invited two beer experts, Alfredo "Frito"  Lascano and Mario Trillo, to a real-world La Bloga gf beer tasting. Frito generally prefers Pacifico, Mario Bohemia, so today's choices offer something for both the lighter beer aficionado and one who enjoys a more robust ale.

Mario Trillo, Michael Sedano, Alfredo Lascano

Whole Foods in eastern Pasadena had stock of six of the nine labels currently on sale in the region and those six form the line-up for the tasting.

Cigars, tostadas de ceviche de pescado, tacos de chicharrón de carne, frijolitos fritos, a pair of tequilas, conversation y más, filled the spaces between brews. Eat, drink, laugh, repeat as needed for a good time. That, after all, is how even non-gf gente drink beer, hence this defines La Bloga’s methodology. (Leave a Comment below if you want to be included in a future gluten-free beer tasting.)

As a scientific control and because it was available, the tasting started with a home brew, John McDonald’s Russian Imperial Stout. Nothing--absochingaolutely nothing--outshines the taste of home brewed beer. John's stout lives up to its name.

After this tribute to “real” beer, the tasting of gluten-free beer wound its course. The final rankings come with controversy. Second and fourth switch places on Frito’s and Mario’s rankings. The unanimous middle choice held on to Third best and Green's Amber got demoted owing to Green's sweetness and Off Grid's genuine beer-like character.

There’s unanimity that St. Peter’s Sorghum in the distinctive green flask bottle, is best. Mario declared that St. Peter’s tastes as good as Bohemia used to taste.

Unanimity, too, comes on the last place finisher. Although there were only six in the running, Mario declared Redbridge "number ten." Frito declared Redbridge “do not serve.” The Gluten-Free Chicano agrees, but notes the absence of New Grist, a likely challenger for next-to-last place.

Here is the final rank with selected comments and The Gluten-Free Chicano’s own rankings. The absence of Bard’s skews the results. Bard’s would have finished first, if Whole Foods in east Pasas were a dependable supplier:
St. Peter’s Sorghum (2) (could drink it regularly)
Green’s Dubbel Dark (3) (almost like beer)
New Planet Off Grid Ale (1) (a reputable beeriness)
Green’s Amber (sweet like Michelob) (4)
Green’s Triple blond (way too sweet) (5)
Redbridge (tasteless, no character) (10)

Gluten-free beers cost about a dollar higher than premium beers. Así es.

La Bloga encourages gluten-free chicanas chicanos to ask their grocery store to carry quality gluten-free beer. Here are websites to help the store improve its customer service:

Redbridge from Anheuser Busch

New Grist from Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee

Green’s, UK

St Peter’s, UK

Bard’s, Minneapolis

New Planet, Boulder 

Click here to print the above list to hand to your grocery store manager.

Digame! One Time Only

In one of the biggest, busiest weekends of 2011, the holidays kick off with Hallowe'en fests and  numerous Dia de los Muertos events. These come on top of the current extravaganza of art exhibits featuring chicana chicano artists. As reported in last Tuesday's La Bloga, Saturday 29 October also brings the fabulous spoken word event, Diga Me! featuring raza writers who read at the first floricanto at USC in 1973, and again at the reunion floricanto at USC in 2010.

Short fiction by Ron Arias, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlain, and Alejandro Murguía will be read by actors Matt Ferrucci (Wilde Salome), Marina Gonzalez Palmier (Desperate Housewives), Holger Moncada (Prison Break).

After the readings, La Bloga's Michael Sedano joins the authors for a colloquy on writing, el movimiento, and speculations on a Chicano Renaissance.

Presented in cooperation with the Fowler Museum at UCLA's Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement.

Traffic Alert
Gente motoring to the Fowler from the north via the 405 Freeway will encounter heavy construction along the route, particularly at the Sunset exit for UCLA. Ni modo. Arrive muy early to allow you time to enjoy a pair of fabled exhibits, Icons of the Invisible and LA Xikano.

Late-Breaking News

On-Line Floricanto at October's End

This week, Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding To SB 1070 welcomes José Hernández Díaz as a new Moderator of group. José joins Francisco X. Alarcon, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Hedy Trevino, Carmen Calatayud, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Meg Withers, Abel Salas. This week, the moderators recommend five poets' work, Iris de Anda, Jesus Cortez, José Hernández Díaz, Victor Avila, Raul Sanchez.

"Sí Se Puede" by Iris de Anda
"My Soul-less Journey" by Jesus Cortez
"El llano y sus flores" by José Hernández Díaz
"Rise Up!!! (Occupy America)" by Victor Avila
"Apple Pie" by Raul Sanchez

Sí Se Puede

by Iris De Anda

you sir took the words from Mi Gente to win your campaign of “HOPE”
YES WE CAN means SÍ SE PUEDE & if my memory serves me correctly
it was never up for sale...we were never up for sale
you promised immigration reform
you pretended to be of the people for the people
but at night when the lights are out
you strip of ancestral memories
where once we were all the same
no borders, no money, no blame
you promised to bring our soldiers back
you pretended to care for the boys & girls who risk their lives for the red, white, & blue
but at noon when the sun is hot
you abandon the route to change
where once we were to be free
no war machine, no blood for oil, no greed
you promised things that were not yours to promise
you pretended in all the right places
but at dawn when the light comes up
you will remember a place
where once we were bearers of our own destiny
no wishes, no promises, no “HOPE”
you can keep your change, your “hope”, your yes we can
because mi gente is born of struggle, born of cosmic ancestry, born of the maize
SÍ SE PUEDE is ours to shout, to claim, to keep
SÍ SE PUEDE without your corrupt system
SÍ SE PUEDE without wall street
SÍ SE PUEDE without your pyramid of lies
SÍ SE PUEDE is respect to la madre tierra
SÍ SE PUEDE with the truth
SÍ SE PUEDE with peace
SÍ SE PUEDE with love
you sir took the words from Mi Gente to sell your campaign of “HOPE”
YES WE CAN means SI SE PUEDE & if my memory serves me correctly
it was never up for sale...we were never up for sale

My Soul-less Journey

by Jesus Cortez

My soul remained,
in the land where
my umbilical chord
was buried as my body
took a one way trip North,
anxious, sick, confused,
as my eyes saw monuments to a
land that was my "home"
but I met passing by, the mountains,
the hills, the cities, the soldiers
who searched us for "drugs"
they said, lined up as criminals,
with my 1 year old nephew
and my skinny 16 year old sister,
looking with anguish as they
looked upon us, and older ladies
with faces tired as the dreams of
a better tomorrow, in a land we
had to leave, because our bodies were
tired of malnourishment, even
if our souls desired to stay.

El llano y sus flores

By José Hernández Díaz
dedicado a Jan Brewer
y Micky Hammon...

the eagle warrior

darts across the
orange sky

and guides our
step along the
desert plain

we will not
be intimidated
by xenophobic

we are the
of truth
and dreams

our veins know
the lineage of
ancient streams

we embrace who
we are as
a native people

we are not
the fabricated
that you think
we are

we are a
down to earth
and blossoming

our roots know
the lineage of
sacred omens

our eyes have
seen smoke
on the hill
of the serpent

our hands have
built pyramids
to the sun
and the moon:

we will not fall;
we are not you.

Rise Up!!!(Occupy America)

by Victor Avila
for Matt Sedillo

From every corner of America
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

From every barrio, 'hood, and Main Street
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

For now is the moment.
Our voices will be heard.
Vampiric banker and corporate zombie
I demand you keep your word.

For there is a social contract
which you will not betray.
And you will be held accountable
for today is Judgement Day.

So from every school and union hall
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

And from every factory and prison
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

The 99% are no longer scared
of your tear gas and batons.
Why defend the privileged few
who laught at the puppets you've become?

So join us, don't beat us-
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

Them belly full, but we hungry
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

I see the ghost of Nat Turner urging us
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

One more push and the house of cards falls
Rise up, rise up, rise up...!!!

The vipers are driven into the street.
Economic justice is not a dream.
And the snakes that infest the pit scream
but there's no one left to drive the limousine.

Rise up,
Rise up,
RISE UP...!!!

Apple Pie (acrostic)

by Raul Sanchez

American Immigration law sucks
Previous generations didn't have this
Problem generated by xenophobic
Laws segregating humble workers
Endangering their family ties

Pushing them to take extreme measures
Instigating a massive
Exodus, so pick your own apples now!

Owing to an early deadline, this week La Bloga On-Line Floricanto presents a single bio.
"Sí Se Puede" by Iris de Anda
"My Soul-less Journey" by Jesus Cortez
"El llano y sus flores" by José Hernández Díaz
"Rise Up!!! (Occupy America)" by Victor Avila
"Apple Pie" by Raul Sanchez

José Hernández Díaz is from Los Angeles, Ca, and his parents are from Guanajuato, México. He is a UC Berkeley graduate with a BA in English Literature. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, Indigenous Writers and Artists Collective, Hinchas de Poesia, among others. José has ten poems published in La Bloga. José has had poetry readings in Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, at The Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, and at The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, Ca. Next month, he will be a speaker/reader at the IX Festival de Literatura del Noroeste en Tijuana, México. José is an active moderator of the group, 'Poets Responding to SB 1070.'

Monday, October 24, 2011

Barbarians at the of Gates of Rome

Guest essay by Rodolfo F. Acuña

I have always enjoy listening in on the conversations of others whether at restaurants or on the streets. Listening to different accents and intonations reminds me that there is life beyond my bubble. I especially like listening to my office mate, Gabriel Gutiérrez, talk with his students.

The other day Gabriel was telling a student about how the teaching mathematics often stifles non-western European students. According to Gabriel, the assumption is that mathematics is neutral and a product of Western Civilization. Gabriel called to her attention to the growing body of literature on Non-Western Mathematics and how the core of our mathematical knowledge actually developed outside the United States and Europe, i.e., in Islam, China, India, Mesoamerica, Egypt, and Africa, among other places.

This reality is far removed from the belief of most westerners that the barbarians are at the gates of Rome. The truth is that much of our knowledge was transmitted from East to West. Even Greece, the citadel of Western European civilization was the recipient of mathematics, literature and art from India, Mesopotamia and points east.

Today scholars are examining mathematical systems and their relevancy to the non-western cultures and the impact on the learning of children. This knowledge is being integrated into the pedagogy and used to motivate non-Western students.

Educators are not free of biases and they typecast particular races as having or not having an aptitude for mathematics or learning. They don’t consider that these students’ ancestors contributed to the development of mathematics. They cannot get beyond the image of the barbarians at the gates of Rome.

The Olmecas and then the Mayas developed the zero in 200 BC when most of Europe was in the Stone Age in terms of mathematics; the vaunted Greeks and Roman did not yet use the zero. The number zero reached European civilization through the Arabs after eighth century due to the conquest of Spain by the Moors. The knowledge of the “barbarians” did not reach England until the middle of the twelfth century.

Advanced mathematics allowed the Olmeca and the Maya to develop sophisticated calendars and a highly advanced knowledge of the cosmos. They calculated the “Galactic Alignment,” a planetary alignment between the December solstice sun with the equator of our galaxy, the Milky Way in 2012.

Tragically, the Los Angeles Unified School District with a student population of about 700,000 students, three-quarters of whom are Latinos, ignores the Mayan counting system.

The truth be told, the hieroglyphic systems of China, Japan and Mesoamerica also had aspects that were superior to our present day phonetic alphabet, which is based on the Arabic alphabet.

Mayan hieroglyphic writing is one of the most visibly striking writing systems of the world. Its destruction stopped its evolution and we can only speculate on how it would have shaped and enriched our base of knowledge.

In the Americas most of this knowledge was destroyed because the western Christians considered the Indians barbarians, heathens, burning and pulverizing tens of thousands of books in the name of civilization. Western Europeans destroyed hundreds and thousands of literary pieces because the missionaries could not understand nor decipher their meanings. Lost was a rich body of literature. The lesson is that just because we don’t know about it or because we cannot read it, it does not mean that it did not exist.

Western European scholars have a difficult time accepting Spanish literature – first it is not in English and second many consider Spain more a part of Africa than Europe. But when the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, Spanish mathematics and literature flourished because of the Arabic and Moslem conquests, 711–1492.

Spain’s centers of knowledge far exceeded those of the rest of Europe. Córdoba had libraries and educational institutions that rivaled Baghdad's and cultures such as that of the Jews in Spain flourished. Non-Western Europe was the cradle of philosophy and secular thought on the continent.

This changed when Spain expelled the Jews and then the Moslems, starting in 1492. Its Western European leaders set up the Holy Office of the Inquisition, much like what is happening in Arizona, and Spain despite the huge wealth stolen from the Americas began its descent into the Dark Ages.

Just because you don’t know something, it does not mean that it does not exist.

Sadly, as we have seen American education resists knowledge that is non-Western. It is a reductive system that filters out the unknown. American exceptionalism is based on Eurocentricism. It is pathetic, dangerous and leads to political and cultural decline much the same as Europe during the Dark Ages.

American exceptionalism is today under fire. According to a recent Gallup Poll, “[b]y 52% to 32%, Americans are more likely to name China than the United States as the leading economic power in the world today….” It is important to note that we are only at the start of the decline.

To understand “the barbarians at the gates of Rome” mentality we have to look at our educational system and the purpose of American education. When I began teaching junior high social studies for the Los Angeles Public Schools, I was handed a teachers’ guide titled “Point of View.”

U.S. history was taught in the fifth, eighth and 1lth grades. The “Point of View” was the equivalent of what are today called standards. From memory, it began with a statement that the purpose of teaching U.S. history was solely to develop good citizens. My supervisors made it clear that we were there to teach Americanism.
When the California Council for the Social Studies in the late sixties tried to expand these guidelines to include critical thinking, Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty labeled the movement subversive – it was not the purpose of education to think but to memorize fairy tales.

Teaching is not about following a script. It is about motivating students. Arizona Superintendents of Public Instruction Tom Horn and John Huppenthal like Rafferty before them (and the Inquisition before that) have attempted to impose thought control and destroy the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program.

Learning can be motivational, it can inspire. It is not follow the scenario of James Taylor’s children song “Rose are red, violets are blue.” We should be beyond the stage where children are taught that George Washington cut down the cherry tree.

In teaching Chicana/o History, my white students often struggle with remembering the names of central characters and places. I have to remember to breakdown the words, familiarize them with what is going on around them and encourage them to attend functions such as El Día de los Muertos. Once they stop fighting the words, they do just fine with many enrolling in other Chicana/o studies classes such as Nahuatl.

When learning is made interesting it motivates. That is why learning about non-Western cultures Mathematics is catching on. Students are also fascinated with the exercise of decoding hieroglyphics.

I am concerned about the decline of the U.S. into a modern Dark Ages. I have grandchildren and I know that their children will in all probability live in this country. I have no intention of moving to China where the future seems to lie. I am concerned about the decline in our prominence in science and learning.

I lived in California when its public school system and colleges were among the top three in the nation. Today California ranks toward the bottom and quick descending.

Every time I go to Arizona I ask myself, would I want my grandchildren’s future in the hands of Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, Tom Horn, John Huppenthal and their supporters who speak English in monosyllabic grunts and who believe that the United States and Western Europe invented knowledge?

We have to fight for the truth. The barbarians at the gates are we. We must open our minds and take back Arizona from the thugs.

[Rodolfo Francisco Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, which approaches the history of the Southwestern United States that includes Mexican Americans. It has been reprinted five times since its 1972 debut (the sixth edition was published in December 2006). He has written for many publications including the Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Herald-Express, La Opinión, and numerous other newspapers. His work emphasizes the struggle of the Mexican American people. Acuña is also an activist and he has supported the numerous causes of the Chicano Movement.]