Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Memoria Snapshots

Holiday Memoria Snapshots

By Amelia M.L. Montes y "La Bloga" Familia----

Felíz Navidad! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!

Today’s post showcases our “La Bloga” writers. I asked them to send in their holiday December memorias from the past. “Send me a snapshot of what you remember of this time of year,” was my request. And "La Bloga" writers obliged. Below we have poetry, story, memories.

I wish all of you, Queridas y Queridos “La Bloga” readers, a lovely holiday. Enjoy these:

Michael Sedano: Xmas 1969—

Christmas in Tokyo means little to the locals. The Ginza's façades are all lighted up in glowing neon, but that is normal every night here. What is not part of the normal landscape are the two US tourists jostling shoulder-to-shoulder among the thousands of souls summoned here by John and Yoko to demand peace and the US get out of Vietnam. Squadrons of youth chanting cadence snake through the crowds. Wearing shiny black piss-pot helmets they dance off the curb into the street then back to the sidewalk, weaving through the crowd. Their kendo sticks--thick menacing dowels of hard wood that crush faces and shatter limbs--like banners mark their progress through the night. My wife holds my arm tightly and I lead our way through the protestors. A passing snake dance leader spots us. He calls a command and in a moment we are forced to stop, surrounded by shiny helmets and glinting black eyes that regard us grimly. I look at the kendo sticks waving lazily yet on guard. Though I was pugil stick champion in basic training, I know I cannot defend her. “Get out of Vietnam!” the leader growls. He knows me--I have the look--obviously a G.I. That I’m out with my best gal on a festive evening means nothing. I am a United States soldier, tonight’s target. Barbara nudges in closer. The encircling shiny helmets sparkle as their dancing catches the reflections off the signs and overhead street lights. The crowds look away and move along. We are alone. I lift my free hand, two fingers spread in a “V” and declare, “Peace. Get out of Vietnam!” “Hah!” The leader shouts. He barks a command and the snake dancers unwind our encirclement to dance away into the shadows.

Lydia Gil: Here is a snapshot, from 1986, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico:

My holiday memories are full of music, food and drink... In one word: parrandas!

I remember a particular one, senior year of high school...

A friend escaping through a window in the middle of the night so he could join the parranda, then group effort to push the car down the driveway, engine off so as not wake up the family... only to realize the keys were locked inside. Wow! That was 1986. Maybe the coquito will take me back... ¡Felices fiestas!

Ernestoid Hoidaze snapshot:

Sometimes it snows in Phoenix this time of year.

Sometimes flakes boil into puffs of steam when you catch them in your hand. Sometimes snow caps cactus like a Christmas card from Aztlán.

Buñuelos by Melinda Palacio

When they are done

Christmas crunches in your mouth.

Think of a sweet tortilla, deep

fried with cinnamon and sugar

left over from last week’s ojarascas,

those lard cookies linger

in the belly during a week

of festive cooking, chocolates, and ham.

After the tamales, before midnight of the New Year,

it’s time to stretch buñuelos on your knee.

Everyone’s gone to champagne parties.

My grandmother hands me the masa disks.

I paper every surface of the house, run

back to the kitchen with urgency.

She rolls them out at a steady, swift pace.

Buñuelos need to dry before they are fried.

An eerie sight for the night.

Melted Dali clocks on chairs,

on the dining room table,

on dish towels over the sofa,

some buñuelos stretched too thin

like old torn sheets. December ends.

A New Year begins with last year’s green

Tupperware filled with crisp buñuelos.

René Colato Lainez’s first Christmas memory:

This was my first navidad memory in the United States. I was in school and the teacher, Mrs. Allen, told the class to do a Christmas card. I drew some poinsettias and a candle in my card. Now I was ready to write. I tried to write “felices fiestas” but my friends in the classroom said that “happy parties” did not sound right. Then I remember that in El Salvador, we said “felices pascuas” at Christmas night. So I wrote “happy poinsettias”. My friends laughed at me. The teacher looked at my card and I told her that in El Salvador, “felices pascuas” was our greeting to say “feliz navidad.”

When the school bell rang, Mrs. Allen told me, “Don’t go yet. Do you know who José Feliciano is?”

I nodded. “He is a singer, un cantante.”

“Yes, he is! Have you heard his Christmas song?”

I shook my head.

She smiled and opened a drawer. “Let’s listen to this song.”

Mrs. Allen played the song, and José Feliciano’s voice filled the classroom.

I started singing with Mrs. Allen:

“Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,

Prospero Año y Felicidad.

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas,

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas

from the bottom of my heart."

“I got it! Merry Christmas,” I said to Mrs. Allen.

“Merry Christmas, René,” she said. “You can take the tape home and learn the song. Tomorrow you can teach it to all the students. We will sing it for the Christmas show.”

“Yes, Teacher,” I told her, and ran to catch the school bus. I had extra homework to do, to teach the song to Mamá and Papá and also to my brothers in El Salvador. I would call them and say, “I know a song in English. Listen.” They would be very proud of me!

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Here's my Xmas card for this year, dealing with requests [not for gifts} and deserving {not of gifts] and gifts possessed.

111 4 12 25 11

I've asked many things of Spanish-English-speaking children:

I asked them to grasp their pencils correctly, no matter their thin fingers shivered from aching empty stomachs.

I asked them to ponder their readings, no matter they only fell sleep at midnight, their eyes mesmerized by video game explosions.

I asked them to mentally compute their addition, no matter monsters filled their heads, crawling out of bleaker pits of poverty.

However, I've never asked

whether they mattered.

Because, out of their billions of wonderings,

they never asked me why they didn't deserve a full stomach, or their own room or bed, or


They just knew.

In two tongues,

and one distinct mind.

tatiana de la tierra: four snapshots—

--My father hides in back bedroom during the party and only comes out to grab food & run back in. He won't socialize. In the morning, we (us kids) bring him his presents to bed and make him open them. (He had Christmas childhood trauma so could never participate....)

--We were really poor growing up and Christmas was a time to make up for the lack of the whole year. A lot of the presents were necessities. Then, when there was money to be had, we had more presents than anyone I knew, and real ones this time. My mother was (is) very generous with many, not just the immediate family. Presents piled around the Christmas tree, tons of them.

--We had a policy, that you had to wait until midnight to open the presents. I guess cuz that's when baby Jesus was supposedly born? This was the rule for most of my life, until it was broken a few years ago, which really pissed me off. Anyway, at midnight, the passing out of the presents was orchestrated, and everyone had their own pile. The piles were big and there was huge frenzy of everyone ripping and yelling at once. Like a happy chaos. In the morning, the house was trashed with presents & food etc. Like the house had a Christmas hangover.

--My mom used to make these huge & intricate pesebres. She used textiles, rocks, glitter, lights, wadded up paper, miniature houses and people, trees, etc (made of clay, brought from Colombia) to create mountains , rivers, streets, neighborhoods, and the Jesus-in-a-manger scene. They were really elaborate, a work of folk art.

Manuel Ramos

Christmas always meant making the rounds to the two grandma houses on Christmas Eve. Antonia was the great cook and so we enjoyed homemade tamales, several pies and cakes, and sometimes a dinner of ham, fideo, and beans. Her celebration was subdued, calm, almost spiritual. Filomena was the authority over a massive brood of people - so many cousins, aunts, and others whose connections to the family I never learned. More food (homemade tamales again, green chile, menudo) and waiting until midnight to open the presents. By that time, the kids were wiped out or high on cookies, candy canes, and Christmas frenzy.

Filomena's house turned into a wild and noisy party. But the chaos was instantly silenced by Filomena when she placed the Christ child in the manger of her extensive nacimiento.

We all prayed for a minute or two (the kids eyeing the huge pile of presents under the big tree). The party started again with the rush to the presents. Paper, ribbons, and bows flew through the air; kids screamed; parents beamed. And then we all slept late the next day.

Amelia M.L. Montes: los tamales snapshot

The tamale factory line in the kitchen began in the early morning the day before Navidad. We were instructed by mi abuela, mama, and tias to sit and place the filling (whether it was pollo, cerdo, raisin sweet filling) in the middle, then fold the cornhusks just right and tie them on the ends.

It was never tiring because of all the chisme y cuentos that also went around the table. You wanted to stay and help make the tamales because then you’d find out all sorts of stuff you didn’t know—like the time tia Chala talked about the cemetery where tio Chucho was buried and how during a flood, all the coffins began floating down the street like a parade. She said they found tio Chucho’s coffin, but he wasn’t in it. All of us stopped folding the tamales when she said, “pero he wasn’t in it.” “Pues que paso,” we asked. Chala never missed a beat in folding her tamal: “They had put the body in another box,” she said. “He was in the box with la fulana Cristina!” We gasped. “Yes, Cristina,” Chala said, tying the tamal in her hands. “Finally united in death because they were married to other people in life.” Who knows if this was true or not, but it kept us making those tamales!

Check out Manuel Ramos’ post on December 30th. Our “La Bloga” familia will reunite again for a “Best Books” listing! Saludos y Felices Pascuas, Hanukkah, y Kwanzaa!


msedano said...

felices fiestas, profligate pascuas, and lots of laughs. merry christmas! mvs

Michael Collins said...

msedano,That's quite a story about Tokyo. You came up with the right gesture. Of course, the protest leader just presumed you were stationed in Vietnam, rather than the nation Japan ravaged just a few years earlier. He didn't know your anti war stance either. All's well that ends well, especially when you are with your best gal (only gal at that point;)

Great collection of stories and images.

Merry Christmas!