Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Clybourne Park. On-Line Floricanto

Review: Clybourne Park at the Mark Taper Forum
Thru Feb26, 2012

Michael Sedano

Change is inevitable, as is comparison between status quo ante and status quo. In Los Angeles’ premiere theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, Gordon Davidson retired and Michael Ritchie moved in from the hinterlands.

Although Davidson sponsored some stinkers, he brought some memorable works from out of town—Siobhan McKenna’s Irish women (Yeats, Joyce, Shaw) paired with Jack McGowran doing Beckett; Zoot Suit; Burn This; For Colored Girls.

Ritchie’s been more miss than hit and some seaons his programming has been hit by last-minute cancellations and replacements. In Ritchie’s best programming decision, he’s made Culture Clash casi a regular on the main stage whereas Gordy kept a gem like “Black Butterfly, Jaguar Girl, Piñata Woman & Other Super Hero Girls, Like Me” off the main season stage.

The most serious rap on Ritchie is his abandonment of Davidson’s commitment to local writing and acting talent. Ritchie prefers rolling the dice on imports, like the headed for Broadway satire, Clybourne Park, at the Taper now through February 26, 2012. In this case, it’s a programming gem.

Unfortunately, Center Theatre Group markets Bruce Norris’ 2011 Pulitzer Prize drama as a companion piece to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. While Norris’ piece gains depth from the association, not knowing the linkage is irrelevant to the drama unfolding on stage.

Not knowing the allusions to Hansberry’s play doesn’t diminish enjoying what happens on stage. In two acts, Clybourne Park looks at what happens before and after Raisin in the Sun. Act one, the spectre of white flight racism on the eve of negroes moving into a white neighborhood. Act two, fifty years after, a white couple chooses to move into the house, a transitioning ghetto neighborhood.

In act one, racism feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy. With the mindlessness of white flight, property values decline and a white neighborhood becomes affordable to people of color.

During one character’s screed on spiraling property values and abandoned neighborhoods, a sotto voce from a row behind me affirms, “that’s the way it happened.” The remark mirrors perfectly the putatively obsolescent emotional space the play evokes in the moment. They are still with us.

In act two, race and class clash in a confrontation over the same physical space, the Clybourne Park property. Set in the present day, racial bifurcation of the first act has given way to vastly different emotional spaces. Upper middle-class black professionals from the all-black, decayed neighborhood negotiate as equals with a white couple who want to mansionize the place.

Norris enjoys tossing monkey wrenches into the agon then playing them to the hilt. Is the issue truly structural incompatibility with the “feel” of the place, or does the world-traveling black woman resent the symbolism of a white-owned property looming above the old neighborhood, a signal of a self-fulfilling prophecy where low proptery values lure whites waving dollars at the residents.

There’s a ton of fun from having the actors play disparate roles. In act one, the black characters are the help and keep their place, the whites are odd. In act two, they travel in the same circles with the rich buyers. The disaffected home seller from act one becomes the blue collar construction clown. The clueless housewife becomes the cynical attorney. Juggling the actors against the roles has the audience in my area tittering with delight with the best kind of cognitive dissonance.

Director Pam MacKinnon injects kinetic humor in the form of oddly exaggerated gestures in act one. One character stands center stage spouting an obnoxiously euphemistic rant. His choppy arm waving becomes a hilarious nonverbal reductio ad absurdum.

There’s a keen moment of insight as act one closes. The housewife, up to now verging on a Lucy Ricardo type, expresses a moment’s bitterness. She’s about to move to the suburbs where her husband’s commute to the office will be 7 minutes. She sighs. What about me, what will I do? Norris picks up the thread with the second act where the actor embodies a woman attorney. She talks about going to law school, studying and working long hours. Unlike that housewife, she has done. Still, she has found no more satisfaction than that housewife bleakly facing empty solitude while husband enjoys an active career.

The set needs work, though maybe in those huge New York houses, the frantic pounding and heavy thuds reaching entr’acte auditorium-sitters, won’t matter. In the intimate confines of the Taper, I hear several remarks on what they must be doing? Not much. Act Two starts in the same split-level space. The furniture and props carried off, replaced by garbage and spray cans. The walls are covered with ghetto graffiti.

Clybourne Park heads to Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre in April. If you’re in the vicinity of Bunker Hill until the end of February, you can catch Clybourne Park’s last out-of-town tryout before it hits the Big White Way. Per the publicity, it’ll be the same cast, same director, probably same set.


On-Line Floricanto

Alma Luz Villanueva, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Pueblo American Government,  Javier Pacheco, Betty Sánchez

"I Want" by Alma Luz Villanueva
"Poem 6 ~ Being A Border" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"We Are Poem" by Pueblo American Government
“2012: Los Cambios Inevitables / 2012: The Inevitable Changes” by Javier Pacheco
"Genocidio Cultural" by Betty Sánchez

by Alma Luz Villanueva 

"I want to do to you
what spring does to
the cherry trees."  Pablo Neruda

I want to do
to the book banners
in Arizona what spring
does to the cherry

trees, yes, I really
want to want to want
to- they've lost their 
Eros, the burst of

ripe ripe ripe cherries
filling their mouths with
sexy joy, they've lost
that wild impulse to

climb cherry trees, dizzy
with sex sex sexy
white snow sunlit
sun-fed spring-fed

carressing eyelids, cheeks,
open mouth, lips, delicate
scent, nose, filling lungs,
filling heart and brain-

they might remember what
the God of Spring does to
the Goddess Cherry Tree,
feel lost quivers, trembles,

rushes of desire, pick up
our alive and sexy poets,
writers, read taboo
words of beauty, passion,

truth of sunlight, spring,
cherry blossoms, ancient
corn and weep weep weep
weep, be born in

spring with shame and
joy, return our books
to our children's hands.
Or lose their spring.

*The banning of Latina/o and Native American
books in Arizona, which can not ever be banned
from the heart, memory.

Alma Luz Villanueva
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
January 2012... SPRING is here, 
full bloom, Sixth Sun.

Poem 6 ~ Being A Border

I've been here all of my life

on the edge of this or that

a bridge between my people

crossing people

come to me 

to enter more worlds 

than I can even fathom

I am is a border 

something of a fence sitter 

except in my case I am not neutral

I take both sides, I am from and for

both sides, yes

I live the in-betwixt and in-between

I am the center and the balance

I see good and bad

at every turn

at every crossroads

and every crossing is a ritual 

what do you offer to enter?

seven shiny dimes to the mother 

of all mothers, of the salty waters

or nine pennies to the wind whisperer

the keeper of the last door we enter...

I've been here all of my life and 

all I want to do is cross that line

myself, want to pass the torch

having been now totally scorched

by this playing at blind justice

is there really such a thing?

I think not.

someone always has to win

and someone loses

even if I know the secret

that losing you win

still, that's because I'm

a different kind of thinker

having the luxury or curse

of being from the middle

living on that fine line 

between this or that

here or there

it's a fact 

being a border is no fun

you have to let some in

and keep some out

and then all those

convoluted routes

people take to get there --

even when they know in their heart

it's not for them, and

they should've stayed put

they figure that out later

sometimes when it's too damn late

but wait, why'd I let them in

if it wasn't for them?

oh yes, because it was a lesson...

lofty this job of mediator 

border deity 

job seems too big

too pretentious

somehow playing god 

when all I am is an idea

I am a border
a door
a hoarder of hopes
of injustices
tucked inside promises
of new lives, 
lives really not new or better
simply different
I am a border
a line
a big lie.

©Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2011

We Are Poem
By Pueblo American Government

Formally Known as Social Justice Education Program

We are overlooked and disappointed
We wonder if things can change for the better
We hear voices being spoken but going unheard
We see the hopelessness in people’s eyes
We want our opinion to matter
We pretend everything is okay when it is not
We are overlooked and disappointed
We feel bemused and unheard
We touch the worried souls of our culture
We worry that it will be the end
We cry when our beliefs are judged
We understand life is full of disappointment and we shouldn’t give up
We are overlooked and disappointed
We say the truth others try to avoid
We dream that one day equality will be used in our vocabulary
We try to persuade those who discriminate
We hope our voice can change perspectives
We need support from our people
We are overlooked and disappointed

2012: Los Cambios Inevitables
Por Javier B. Pacheco

El tiempo, las estaciones, y los ciclos:
estoy bañado y recargado
en las nuevas energías cósmicas
llevándome a un nivel más alto de vibración;
costura de energías vivas
elemento de éter
energía espiritual
el tiempo y la conciencia se aceleran.

En cada luna llena lo sientes,
esa fuerza creciente del Sol.
En cada estación se manifiesta
ésta intensidad solar.
¿Será que por fin me he dado cuenta?
En verdad, ¿he medido los días?
¿Será que ya soy capáz de apreciar toda la vida?

Ya es tiempo de conocer a mis vecinos
es tiempo de salir del caparazón
así como nos sincronizamos
formando una solidaridad espiritual
de nuestras vibraciones mutuas
Tú ya no eres mi invención
sinó una parte de mí, y yo de tí:
tú llenas mi copa
como yo lleno la tuya

ante los escombros de un mundo viejo
estamos en la aurora
de crear un nuevo comienzo:
estamos en el momento sagrado
en la resonancia del corazón/mente
conocimiento multidimensional

mientras que se va desminuiéndo
la fundación energética del
separatísmo, avarícia, dominación, control
desequilibrio, fuerza y conflicto,
disolviendo en su propio abismo
se nos atraviesa la fuente de la juventud
mientras giramos nuevas tapicerías
y el polvo del pasado
se desvanece.

Las musas ancestrales
resuenan adentro
y nos hemos reconectado
con las otras dimensiones
hemos pasado a través de los umbrales
avanzando juntos
entonados a frequencias más finas
en una convergencia de energías
de seres reactivados
para traer la curación al Planeta,
jalados con el flujo
atados a todos los cíclos
aprendiendo de la geometría sagrada
los diseños inteligentes
generados por el calor de la luz,
de una química más alta de la vida,
de aprender el nuevo baile celestial.

2012: The Inevitable Changes
By Javier B. Pacheco

Time, seasons, and the cycles:
I’m bathed and recharged
in the new cosmic energies
leading me to a higher level of vibration;
weaving, living energies
ether element
spiritual energy
time and consciousness accelerate.

In every full moon you feel it,
that growing force of the Sun.
In every season this solar intensity
is manifest.
Is it that I’ve finally started to notice?
Have I truly measured the days?
Is it that now I’m capable of appreciating all life?

Its time to know my neighbors
its time to come out of one’s shell
as we synchronize
forming a spiritual solidarity
from our mutual vibrations
You are no longer my invention
but a part of me, and I a part of you:
you fill my cup
as I fill yours

faced with the debris of an old world
we’re in the dawn
of creating a new beginning:
we’re in the holy moment
in the resonance of the heart/mind
multidimensional awareness

while the energetic foundation
diminishes for
separatism, greed, domination, control,
imbalance, force, and conflict,
dissolving into its own abyss
we stumble upon the fountain of youth
while spinning new tapestries
and the dust of the past
is swiftly washed away.

Ancestral muses
resonate within
and we’ve reconnected
with the other dimensions
we’ve gone through the doorways
advancing together
tuned to higher frequencies
in a convergence of energies
of reactivated beings
bringing healing to the Planet,
going with the flow
tied into all the cycles
learning from the sacred geometry
the intelligent designs
generated from the warmth of the light,
from a higher chemistry of life,
from learning the new celestial dance.

por Betty Sánchez

HB 2281
Una ley que fomenta
el genocidio cultural
que reprime
la libertad de expresión
y viola los derechos
humanos fundamentales.

Señora Jan Brewer,
su soberbia no sorprende
su ignorancia es lastimera
su puesto le concede autoridad
de redactar proyectos de ley
arbitrarios e inmorales
pero jamás le otorgará el poder
de borrar nuestra historia
que no se limita a la página escrita
y la tradición oral
la llevamos impresa
en nuestra sangre indígena
y en nuestra piel de bronce
ésta no es una afrenta personal
es una guerra abierta
contra la dignidad
de todos los pueblos
y le aseguro que la victoria
no le pertenece.

Señor John Huppenthal,
quince millones de dólares
fue el precio de su integridad
erradicar las palabras
raza, solidaridad étnica
y opresión del currículo educativo
es una medida inútil
pues los conceptos mismos
son nuestro pan de cada día
remover libros de los estantes
y hasta de las manos de los estudiantes
constituyen un abuso de autoridad
elaborar una lista de textos prohibidos
desmantelar el programa MAS
y castigar con lavar inodoros
a los que expresan inconformidad
no eliminarán la esencia de un pueblo
que se enorgullece
de su identidad
y seguirá proclamando
en su hogar
en las aulas del
Distrito Unificado Escolar
de Tucson
en las calles de Arizona
y en el mundo entero
su lengua y patrimonio cultural.

© Betty Sánchez
22 de enero del 2012

"I Want" by Alma Luz Villanueva
"Poem 6 ~ Being A Border" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"We Are Poem" by Pueblo American Government
“2012: Los Cambios Inevitables / 2012: The Inevitable Changes” by Javier Pacheco
"Genocidio Cultural" by Betty Sánchez

Alma Luz Villanueva was raised in the Mission District, San Francisco, by her Yaqui grandmother, Jesus Villanueva- she was a curandera/healer from Sonora, Mexico. Without Jesus no poetry, no stories, no memory...

Author of eight books of poetry, most recently, 'Soft Chaos' (2009). A few poetry anthologies: 'The Best American Poetry, 1996,' 'Unsettling America,' 'A Century of Women's Poetry,' 'Prayers For A Thousand Years, Inspiration from Leaders & Visionaries Around The World.' Three novels: 'The Ultraviolet Sky,' 'Naked Ladies,' 'Luna's California Poppies,' and the short story collection, 'Weeping Woman, La Llorona and Other Stories.' Some fiction anthologies: '500 Great Books by Women, From The Thirteenth Century,' 'Caliente, The Best Erotic Writing From Latin America,' 'Coming of Age in The 21st Century,' 'Sudden Fiction Latino.' The poetry and fiction has been published in textbooks from grammar to university, and is used in the US and abroad as textbooks. Has taught in the MFA in creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, for the past thirteen years. And is the mother of four, wonderful, grown human beings.

Alma Luz Villanueva now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for the past seven years, traveling the ancient trade routes to return to teach, and visit family and friends, QUE VIVA!! And taking trips throughout Mexico, working on a novel in progress, always the poetry, memory.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is a poet/activist and healer.  She has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades.  Odilia teaches creative writing workshops nationally, and is a moderator and one of the founding members of Poets Responding to SB 1070.  She also co-hosts "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets in Berkeley, CA.

Pueblo American Government, formerly Social Justice Education Program bio updated to include group portrait and complete list of authors. Thank you, poets, for sending your image and author names. 
Pueblo American Government, formerly Social Justice Education Program
Members:  Jasmine Bravo, Itzel Baca,Stephanie Cardenas, Ariana Echeverria, Diana Estrada, Arianna Eubank, Ramon Flores, Sofia Gallegos, Dalia Garia, Savannah Lubinsky, Jesus Martinez-Rodriguies, Guadalupe Moreno, Marcos Moreno, Cynthia Ohlmaier, Gabriela Othon, Adrianna Peru, Angel Ramirez,  Chris Rios Hernandez, Karen Rodriguez, Monica Velderrain, Daicy Villalva

Pueblo American Government is comprised of students from Pueblo Magnet High School in the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. The Raza Studies program was recently dismantled in the district following the ruling of the state that found the program to be in violation of HB 2281, which prohibits the promotion of ethnic solidarity in public classrooms. Since the decision, hundreds of middle school and high school students have protested the loss of these classes in walk-outs, sit-ins, presentations and poetry. This poem was also published in the Tucson Citizen website. http://tucsoncitizen.com/three-sonorans/2012/01/20/we-are-poem-from-pueblo-high-mas-students/

Javier B. Pacheco is a S.F. Bay Area performance poet, pianist, composer, arranger, and ethnomusicologist.  He performs Salsa with his group Orquesta Pacheco, and Jazz with the Pacheco Trio.

Betty Sanchez. Madre orgullosa de siete hijos y cinco hermosos nietos. En la actualidad resido en el condado de Sutter en el cual trabajo como Supervisora de Educación para el programa Regional y Migrante de Head Start.

Soy miembro activo del grupo literario, Escritores del Nuevo Sol desde  Marzo del 2004.  Contribuí en la antología poética Voces del Nuevo Sol y participe en el Festival Flor y Canto. Ser finalista en el primer concurso de poesía en español organizado por el Colectivo Verso Activo, me dio la oportunidad de dar a conocer más ampliamente mi pasión por la poesía y por extensión ser invitada a colaborar en eventos como Noche de Voces Xicanas, Honrando a Facundo Cabral, y Poesía Revuelta. Es un privilegio contribuir en la página Poetas Respondiendo al SB 1070 y por supuesto en La Bloga.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Con Tinta Annual Pachanga at AWP Conference: This Year, Honoring Pat Mora

Con Tinta Annual Pachanga
2012 AWP Conference in Chicago, IL
On Thursday, March 1, 2012 from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Honoring Pat Mora
Zapatista Restaurant
Address: South Loop, Chicago
1307 Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL 60605
Phone: (312)435-1307
Restaurant Website: click here
(Click on poster, above, to enlarge it)

Cocktail & Cash Bar Celebration
Public is invited

Dear Con Tinta Supporters,

At this time, the Advisory Circle of Con Tinta, a collective of Chican@/Latin@ Activist Writers, is soliciting donations from organizations and individuals to help offset cost for our annual pachanga. We are pleased to be honoring Pat Mora in an hors d’oeuvres and booksigning event at Zapatista Restaurant in the South Loop (5 minute walk from AWP). In return, we will be sure to publicly thank all donors and supporters during the course of the evening’s event and also in the event’s program.

Those wishing to support the 2012 Con Tinta gathering and awards ceremony can do so by check or via Paypal. Pilgrimage Press, Inc., a nonprofit literary press, will receive these donations, provide tax documentation for donors, and ensure that all funds received support Con Tinta.

To contribute by check: Mail contribution to “Pilgrimage,” with “Con Tinta” on the memo line, to: Pilgrimage, PO Box 9110, CO 81008. Via paypal: send payment to paypal@pilgrimagepress.org.

Please send questions about donating to: Maria Melendez, Editor/Publisher, Pilgrimage, editor@pilgrimagepress.org.

Please consider yourself and your guest(s) invited to our Con Tinta Celebration. Share this La Bloga page with any/all allies, and we look forward to seeing you in Chicago! If you have any questions about Con Tinta’s Celebration, please contact creativexc@gmail.com.

Con Tinta has many to thank for this upcoming celebration including Proyecto Latina (with a special thanks to Irasema Gonzalez and Diana Pando).

Peace and Creativity,

Xánath Caraza
Member, Advisory Circle of Con Tinta
A collective of Chican@/Latin@
Activist and Writers

* * *

Con Tinta believes in affirming a pro-active presence in American literature. We come together in the spirit of intellectual/artistic dialogue and of recognizing our literary/social histories. C/T's mission is to create awareness through cultivating emerging talent, through promoting creative expression, and through establishing alliances with other cultural/political organizations.

Current Advisory Circle: Xánath Caraza (Kansas City, MO), Rigoberto González (New York City, NY), Maria Melendez (Pueblo, CO), Juan J. Morales (Pueblo, CO), Daniel A. Olivas (Los Angeles, CA), Michelle Otero (Albuquerque, NM), & Richard Yañez (El Paso, TX)

Ex-Oficio Circle Members: Kathleen Alcalá, Lisa Alvarado, Brenda Cárdenas, Lisa D. Chávez, Blas Falconer, & Lorraine López

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Con Tinta Annual Pachanga: Honoring Pat Mora

Guest Columnist: Sonia Gutiérrez

José Inés García “The Modern Troubadour”: Derailed—the PoliticKs of American Literature 

Sonia Gutiérrez

“As we looked at other anthologies of poetry, covering this period in American  poetry, we found ourselves, both as poets and readers, dissatisfied with much of what we saw.”      
                                 —Twentieth-century American Poetry

“Why do we not read translated texts,” I asked as I remembered the books listed on the syllabus—all novels and one memoir—all written in English. Passages from Tomás Rivera’s novel, . . .y no se lo tragó la tierra/. . .And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, wisped through my mind rapidly.  “American Literature must be written in English” was the quick response that pushed my tongue back—an answer that has haunted me for years. I now revert back to my infamous childhood question “¿por qué?” to understand a metaphorical derailment but not an accidental derailment of literature instead the type that is caused by an American literary tradition.

His contemporaries, Carl Sandburg, Amy Lowell, and Wallace Stevens, appear in the Twentieth-century American Poetry but not José Inés García. The 2011 first edition of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature does not include the work of José Inés García either; nevertheless, the anthology does include the poetry of Williams Carlos Williams (Sedano). If you do an Internet search of poet José Inés García, you will not find him, prior to September 18, 2011, that is. Who was this poet who called himself “The Modern Troubadour,” and why did I not learn about García in my American literature classes?

Professor and author Dr. Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez introduced the work of this poet unbeknownst to many readers—José Inés García—on his University of California Merced’s literary webpage Alternative Publications last year.

Native of Chasimal, New Mexico, José Inés García  was born in the nineteenth-century on January 21, 1871. By 1894, at the age of 23, he was an editor for La Cronica in Mora, New Mexico. In Trinity, Colorado, he also worked as an editor for El Progreso and Casimiro Barela’s press. In 1914, José Inés García and J.T. Maestas founded El Faro, and shortly after in 1915, José Inés García became the official owner of El Faro, which served both as a press and bookstore. Astonishingly, according to his biographer, Erminio Jesús Martínez, José Inés García was also a matter-of-factly blind.

Even with José Inés García’s distinct literary career and poetic voice, the American literary canon derailed a poet whose poems show dexterity and a penchant for the vernacular. In the United States, English Only politics haunt writers whose work is written in Spanish even though languages know no borders. Defining American as a literature that “must [exclusively] be written in English” excludes non-English literature and languages that are “American” by birth. And I do wonder what lettered gems have gone unnoticed to the derailment of belles lettres?

Unfortunately, an English Only Americanism has excluded José Inés García and other writers and poets from riding on elitist literary tracks. Decades later, similarly to García, Tomás Rivera, American by birth, was a poet, educator, novelist, essayist, chancellor, who wrote both in English and Spanish. Rivera’s American novel, y no se lo tragó la tierra, was written in Spanish but often does not make into American literature classes because his novel was written in Spanish. For this reason, Rivera’s novel can be found tucked in Spanish or Chican@ literature classes, away from mainstream literature.

Although José Inés García’s books are difficult to locate due to unaccounted historicity, Dr. Martín-Rodríguez provided readers with José Inés García’s poems written in Spanish including “Un lenguaje extraño” (“A Strange Language”), “Me casé sin reflejar” (“I Got Married without Thinking”), “Para mi amigo Panadero” (“For My Friend the Baker”), “Un indito en su jacal” (A Little Indian in His Hut), and “Canción de Cuca” (“Song of Cuca”) to name a few. What follow are José Inés García’s “Canción de Cuca” and “Song of Cuca,” respectively.

Canción de Cuca

                               Obsequio para la Srita. Lydia Mendoza

Salí de Cuba para Pachuca
En una barca que yo compré,
Y a una gacela de nombre Cuca
En las riberas me la encontré
Y Buenos Días le dije luego
Y Buenos Días me respondió,
¿De quién la barca color de cielo?
Es mía, mía, repuse yo.

Qué hermosa barca, qué hermosa barca,
Me dijo ella y suspiró,
Si usted se embarca, si usted se embarca,
En ella misma me embarco yo.
Yo bien quisiera y no quisiera,
Porque sus padres y qué dirán,
Que vino un joven de Tierra Fuera
Y se la llevó como el gavilán.

No tengo padres, no tengo hermanos
Y ni parientes que me echen menos,
Con esos brazos, con estas manos
Manejaremos muy bien los remos.
Si este es el caso, querida Cuca,
Ven a la barca y subiremos
Y ante viaje para Pachuca
De nuestra dicha platicaremos.

Song of Cuca

A Gift for Miss Lydia Mendoza

I left Cuba for Pachuca
On a boat that I bought
And a gazelle the name of Cuca
On the shores I found
And Good Morning I then said
And Good Morning she responded
Whose boat the color of sky?
It’s mine, mine, replied I

What beautiful boat, what beautiful boat,
She told me and sighed
If you embark, if you embark,
On its very self I will board too
I would like that and not
Because of your parents and what people will say
That a young lad came from Foreign Land
And took her like a hawk

I don’t have parents, I don’t have brothers
Nor relatives that will miss me
With those arms, with these hands
We will manage the oars very well
If this is the case, dear Cuca
Come to the boat, and we’ll board
And on voyage to Pachuca
Of our good fortune we will talk.

(Translation By Sonia Gutiérrez)

José Inés García’s “Canción de Cuca” captures the romantic innocence emblematic of popular culture, specifically the ethos of classic Mexican love songs, such as “A la orilla de un palmar” (“Near a Palm Grove”) and “Soy un pobre venadito” (I’m a Poor Little Deer”)—songs that I inherited and learned to love and cherish in the USA.

Clearly deserving a place in canonized literature, José Inés García should be included in future editions of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. And the canonizers must revisit Americanisms that skew American readers’ perceptions of the world. The Spanish language is historically, among many native languages including Zuni, Lakota, Shoshoni and hundreds more, an inextricable part of the United States of America’s history and literature, both geographically and linguistically.

Translators with no doubt in my mind will translate the poems of José Inés García poems for readers to feast. That is in fact how we have inherited the literature of the world: David’s fearless slingshot, Medusa’s waving head, Rainer Maria Rilke’s encaged panther—if only by translation. And when train freights, heavy with time and the same repackaged merchandise, make it to their final destinations, starving readers will look elsewhere with a longing to see themselves reflected similar to how Tomás Rivera ends his novel. In the precise diction of Rivera’s translator, Evangelina Vigil-Piñón, Rivera captures an act of love and acceptance: "[S]he even raised one arm and waved it back and forth so that the other could see that [s]he knew he was there."

¡José Inés García bienvenido!

Sonia Gutiérrez is a poet and Professor of English at Palomar College in San Marcos Califas. For notes and references contact Ms. Gutiérrez via the Comments below or this email.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Ask(ed) a Mexican y respondió

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

Since every Tomás, dick and harried--mexicanos, gabachos, racistas, pochos, and quién-sabe-qué--are always asking Gustavo Arellano questions that he answers in his distinguished column Ask a Mexican, I decided to try one. And, qué milagro!--he answered mine this past Thursday.

Pero había un problema--something I didn't anticipate. Seems that written words can be a fickle thing. Or maybe it's that writers are fickle things. Or maybe it was just that my question-writing was somewhat vague. In any event, The Mexican Arellano addressed his response to me with a, "Dear Gabacho." Last time I looked--right after I showered--I was nowhere near being gabacho, but that's how he addressed me.

So, to determine how sorry the text of my question actually was, I also sent it to a few Chicanos I know to see how their answers compared to Arellano's. I told them it was a challenge, and three took the bait. First below is my question and then Gustavo's answer. That's followed by three others who answered the challenge. Hopefully Arellano won't turn a deaf ear to my next one after he reads this, something I'm already thinking about.

This appeared in the OC Weekly on Thursday and is reprinted with Arellano's permission:
DEAR MEXICAN, Cada día, my perro Manchas and I go for an afternoon walk in this North Denver parque. We often pass the gringo gentry who are temporarily "improving" the neighborhood, as an investment. You know how the gentry are—they move into the barrio, but send their precious güeritos to the charter schools so they won't get piojos from our kids or wind up pregnant with half-brown babies.

Anyway, I swear, every time Manchas and I pass one of these purebred, hyper-trained gentry dogs, the owners pull their pinches perros away from mine so they can't sniff cola or . . . you know.
I guess my question is: How can the gentry know that Manchas is Spanish-surnamed, bilingual and mestizo, since they've never even talked to us? And is there anything I can do so Manchas doesn't grow up with a pocho complex and think he's inferior to a gringo's dog?
Yankee Hipsters Go home! [not my original closing--swear!]

Gotta pay our respect to our veteranos—they can ramble as awesomely as any gabacho at a retirement home! I think what you're complaining about is the gentrification of historically Mexican neighborhoods by hipsters, a phenomenon happening everywhere from Denver to Los Angeles, SanTana to Chicago and beyond. It's important to fight the encroachment of pendejos with no ties to the area who start demanding changes—get rid of quinceañera shops, crowing roosters, cars parked on lawns, or corn grown in the back yard and nopales in the front.

At the mismo time, though, raza really angry with gentrification should practice gente-fication, the process of young locals getting over their pocho complex and opening their own businesses to pump enough money back into the area so city bureaucrats don't have any excuse to use the ruse of redevelopment on raza. Think of that strategy as our economic Mexican-American War—and if there are hipsters who are respectful of the old guard, such as the San Patricios that joined our side against the invading Yankees so long ago, then I say embrace their ranks, pound a PBR with them and teach them the secrets of scaring insufferable hipsters away from the barrio by blasting Banda El Recodo at all hours of the noche.
The Mexican

Okay, so Arellano thought I was not so bronze and a rambling old fart; I can live with that. He might have guessed that from my La Bloga pic, a self-portrait, one of those attempts at art attempting to mimic life, and maybe I don't mimic so well. 'Tá bien.

Next, Michael Sedano, La Bloga's Tuesday contributor answered my same question. "Ask a Chicano" contestó:
"Orale, carnal. First off you have to drop the language of the oppressor. "Gentry"? Híjole, as if your worldview buys into their class systems. "Gentry," so what are your gente, chopped liver? Another thing, oh my droog--why do you want them to talk to you? If it's their women who ignore you, la cultura has the ways and the means: work on your piropos.
"As for the question of your dog, it's not the amount of pocho in the dog but the dog in the pocho.
michael sedano

Then comes Ernest Hogan, Wednesday's La Bloga contributor and sci-fi author:
"Okay, here's for the AskAMexican Challenge:
We used to have a lot of poodles and such in my neighborhood. They seem to be moving out, along with their “traditional” Arizona owners. Their grandmothers are afraid to walk the streets after dark, which is muy raro, because it's one of the quietest places I've ever lived.
Yeah, there's this vato who wears a Santo T-shirt when he walks his pit bull. Man and beast strut with pride. I recommend that. Maybe sing or whistle an old ranchera, but no narcocorridos. I would stop short of a program of intimidation. I'm careful where I wear my ¡VIVA MÉXICO, CABRÓNES! shirt.

"Besides the canine mestizos--we adopted one who was abandoned by someone who felt they had to move out fast--it's mostly either pit bulls or Chihuahuas around here. And the Chihuahuas are taking over. The City of Glendale is even offering a deal on the license fees for the perrititos. This Chihuahua encouragement makes me nervous. I sense a diabolical ethnic-cleansing plot. But, then maybe I've lived in Arizona too long.
Ay, ay, ay,
'N [aka Ernesto Hogan]

Last comes an answer from a Houston Chicano, entitled, Gentle with the Gentry:
"Well, it didn't help things that you gave your perro a Spanish name, Manchas. That's a dead giveaway. The Gentry are always suspicious and full of trickery--they wrote the book. Your history tells you that it started with Columbus, the other immigrants, and has never stopped. They came, made new rules and took the land. Urban gentry is just a smaller scale of it.

"Had you named you're dog Fido or Pluto or Snoopy or some other distinctly white dog name, perhaps you would have been received with half-open arms in your own barrio. The whole idea with being white is money related. Move into a poor neighborhood, fix up the old house, declare it historic and increase its value to sell it for a profit. But the Gentry have more elaborate tricks like hold on to the house, live there for two years and move on, getting a great tax break and thus more profit.

"Anyway, back to Manchas. Dogs don't know more than what you teach them, but they do have instinct. A dog is already bilingual. They speak "dog" and then they speak the basic language the owner teaches them. This all goes way back before civil rights and equality stuff. And the dogs don't care. When a dog is chasing a burglar, the burglar does care what language the dog speaks or understands. And dogs have a more effective way of communicating, thus the saying, "His bite is much more worse than his bark." So, a gentry person can sit there and talk to your dog but no matter if they speak in English or Spanish, the dog only obeys you and the words that come from your mouth.

"When the gentry sees a Chicano with a pure-bred, they are in cultural shock, wondering, "Why don't this vato have a Chihuahua?" Now you are imitating them, meaning you're keeping up with or outdoing the Jones. You've assimilated too well in their eyes. Besides, their dogs don't even like them. A dog is nothing but an extension of their insecurity. It's a status symbol, meaning they care, but then there's the dog side. Imagine being left at home indoors alone all day, not being able to go do your dog do-do, not having children around, having to bathe and smell like a human That's a lot of dog stress.

"So dogs will snarl, and bark and chase each other. That's natural among all species. And they either will or will not get along. But they don't plot and connive like Gringos or Gentry. The exception to this is if the owner specifically teaches the dog to hate and attack. But this is a whole 'nother area of dog psychiatry and therapy.

I did like Arellano's answer, as far as he elaborated on Gente-fication, the only problem being that our combined Gente financial base gets drowned under the development money that builds Gentry bars, eateries and mota shops.

Anyway, after these four different takes on my question, I doubt there's any great lessons to be learned, other than maybe I shouldn't ask strange questions in my strange way. However, I will be more careful on how I phrase whatever future questions I do have. And, I know I won't get a Chihuahua, except maybe to vary my dog's diet. But if any readers out there have better takes on what transpired above, please leave comments.