Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Bless Me, Ultima Week. Guest Columnist: Teresa Marquez. Reading Bless Me, Ultima Aloud. On-Line Floricanto

Michael Sedano

La Bloga Guest Columnist: Teresa Marquez

Readers of Rudolfo Anaya’s arresting detective novels might remember scenes in two of the novels when Sonny goes on a research quest and consults a university librarian named Teresa Marquez. The character is a real librarian at University of New Mexico's Zimmerman Library.

A La Bloga friend, Teresa Marquez sends me regular updates on emerging work. Today, La Bloga shares Teresa’s organizer’s view of the historic event from Monday, April 23, 2012, a public reading in one day of Bless Me, Ultima. I couldn’t be there but I did a two-page reading as a proxy. Marquez, working with the library and the English Department, organized the reading.

As noted earlier here at La Bloga, a Bless Me, Ultima read-a-thon makes a grand fundraising idea for libraries and organizations across America, or just the United States, for that matter.

The Bless Me, Ultima Public Reading at UNM
By Teresa Marquez

During the last hour of the marathon the hall was overflowing with students, staff, faculty, administrators and community members.

Rudy looked quite striking in a dark blue guayabera. As soon as he started reading the whole audience went silent.

Administrators, who usually do not participate in or attend English Department functions, read. Senator Udall sent a video reading his pages. At the end Rudy received two standing ovations.

At noon 6 high school students (all Hispanic/Chicano) read in Spanish. The reading by them was filmed by one of the local TV stations. For the students this was a moment they will never forget.

At the end of the marathon, Rudy sat and signed books. He was not feeling well, but stayed on for three and a half hours.

One of the library's security officers, a woman who arrived in Albuquerque from Kosovo three weeks ago, also stood in line to have Rudy sign her copy of BMU that I gave her. She did not have any money to buy the book because she had not received any pay yet from her new job. Rudy talked with her for a few minutes as he signed her book. Next day the other security officer stopped me in the lobby of the library and asked me where he could get a copy of BMU.

Among the readers is 2012 New Mexico Centennial Poet Levi Romero

One of the persons who stood in line was a young woman who had her copy that her father had given her 20 years ago; Rudy had signed that copy. She was so happy she called her father to let him know Rudy had again signed that copy of BMU.

The administrators stayed around and talked to people; they did not leave right away as usually happens. Cameras were popping everywhere.

One funny thing happened. I ordered a large sheet cake to serve 100 people from a local bakery known for their cakes and cookies. The bakery has a very good reputation for their unique baked goods. I took a copy of BMU, the one published by Warner Bros. which has a colorful cover.

The cake turned out to be an art piece. However, at the top part of the cake the baker who included the quote from the New York Times on the cover, Probably the best-known and most-respected contemporary Chicano fiction, misread Chicano for Chicago.

Everybody who saw the typo laughed and said "This is New Mexico". The typo, of course, was caught by a retired English professor. Someone smudged the "g" into a "c". Everybody had a wonderful time.

Rudy does not go out much anymore, as you know. People were happy to see him. It was quite evident that Rudy is much loved and respected in Albuquerque.  

I posted a TV clip from one of the TV stations on my Facebook and have been receiving comments.

Rudy was given an album with letters written by former colleagues in the English Department and friends and scholars from Spain, Italy and Russia.

We, Sharon and I, organized the marathon reading as a fundraiser for the Rudolfo Anaya Fellowship Fund. This Fellowship is awarded, when there is sufficient money in the fund, to an aspiring Chicana/o writer, at the annual Taos Writers Conference.

Organizers Sharon Warner and Teresa Marquez
Sharon Warner is a professor in the English Depart. and hosted a matanza several years ago to start the Fellowship. She also is the founder of the Taos Conference.

Carlos Vasquez read during the last hour; he lent us a large photo of Rudy that we placed near the podium so everybody could see the picture. I gave the picture to Carlos for his library in the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

We also had drawings throughout the day of books, certificates and posters donated by various persons supporting the marathon. One of the young students received a certificate for a hair cut by my hairdresser; she was so happy.  The students who read received nice library bags.  

Overall, the marathon was a huge success. It will be a long time before Rudy attends an event like the reading. As you know, he prefers to have company for lunch in the house Ultima built.
All photography courtesy Teddy Warner. ©2012 Teddy Warner. Used with permission.

Here are three links to newsmedia coverage of the reading:

Rudolfo Anaya and the Beginnings of Chicana Chicano Literature: Kai ho logos ein Don Rudy

Michael Sedano

While it’s not entirely accurate to describe Rudolfo Anaya as el padrino of chicana chicano literature, it’s also not entirely fair. Unlike the best man at a wedding who never gets a chance to prove it, Anaya’s il miglior fabbro. He’s proved it. 

Without Bless Me, Ultima there is no chicano literary movement in the early 1970s. Punto. The novel does not come sui generis and ya stuvo, in 1972. Chicano literature has been written as long as there have been writing chicanas chicanos. But “Chicano Literature” itself was born in 1969, out of the milieu of those days, and the publishing strategy of a small California press.

El Espejo: The Mirror, Selected Chicano Literature refused to allow cultural appropriation and eurocentricity. TQS declared the publisher’s commitment to find writing that reflects landscapes and lives of campos, colonias, barrios, all the places where readers and writers of la literatura chicana exist.

When TQS published Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima in 1972, cash registers dinged in Manhattan skyscrapers. Seeing small regional houses making bread opened publishing possibilities for writers while creating a good better best writer's market that inevitably improves literary quality and movimiento growth.

For the first time ever there's a unified marketplace for chicana chicano belles lettres. Stupendous writing that once restricted itself to here and there local literary uprisings found itself easing into nationwide distribution channels shared with the rest of the publishing industry.

With access to Big Publishing comes access to nationwide distribution systems. Small publishing exhibits a tree falls in the forest problem because of distribution. Big publishing’s deep pockets come with built-in sales from contracts with academic libraries, brick and mortar chains, two-step distributors, all the comforts of perpetual stock systems and remainder tables. Sales produces credibility, credibility opens doors. And gente get to read the books.

Bless Me, Ultima helped set off a literary explosion that's still expanding and incredibly healthy. Regional houses like Aztlán Libre and Wings Press in San Antonio, academic presses like Bilingual Review Press or Arte Publico Press, and various east coast houses like imprints of Hachette or the respected Grove Press, all compete to publish the best writing they can buy, to sell to readers of chicana chicano literature. The pinnacle of this good better best market is the preference among some "writers of color" to be thought of as a United States writer, not a chicana chicano writer.

That attitude is not Rudolfo Anaya's fault, but it's grand that writers enjoy the opportunity to prefer the one or the other. And that's largely Anaya's fault. 

Prior to the emergence of Quinto Sol on the West Coast, a school literary anthology was likely to present as its “ethnic” component a hodgepodge of material like Chester Seltzer writing as Amado Muro, or John Steinbeck doing local color on quaint Mexicans. In 1971, The Chicanos: Mexican American Voices, lists Muro as one of its voices. I was unable to locate the 1973 contents to learn if Ed Ludwig and James Santibañez allowed Muro/Seltzer to espeak. As late as 1984, Daniel James was honored as a chicano newcomer to watch, writing as Danny Santiago.

Had TQS not published Bless Me, Ultima forty years ago and not opened its doors and provided literary access for writers and publishers… this spins halfway into a chicas patas Xeno’s paradox, or post hoc ergo propter hoc. Besides, I abhor shoulda woulda coulda scenarios. Then again, I lived through the good old days. Pancho and Cisco, Speedy Gonzalez, Jose Jimenez, Sgt. Gonzales, Frito Bandido at Disneylandia, Pepino and Walter Brennan repartée. Such allusions, thankfully, grow more apocryphal daily as TQS and Bless Me, Ultima’s co-legacies continue their influence upon world literature and readers who enjoy good books.

Padrino, father, famous writer, I’ll call Rudolfo Anaya any good influence you name. Don Rudy’s role becomes irrelevant when reading his work: folktale; mystery novel; allegory; essay.

My favorite Anaya book right now, with my granddaughter about to become a reader and writer, is Serafina’s Stories. I will be reading the stories to Charlotte because her imagination is going to take wing when she hears what Anaya’s imagination can do, and she’ll hear echoes of her own grandfather’s stories. I want Charlotte to hear Anaya’s timeless writing and begin finding models for her own expression.

I’m turning back the clock to January 26, 2005, when I reviewed my current favorite book written by Rudolfo Anaya, edited to reflect current events.
Serafina's Stories. Rudolfo Anaya. Albuquerque, NM:UNM Press, 2004. isbn 0-8263-3569-1

Chicano crime novelist Rudolfo Anaya has produced a delightful collection of bedtime stories kids and adults will enjoy equally. Adults will get a kick out of reading aloud these stories Anaya says he's collected and translated from the New Mexico’s oral tradition and that represent the Hispanic community's folkways, and values. Picaro and trickster tales have universal appeal, and when well-crafted, make the reading fun. These are fun.

The twelve stories would be fun to read aloud, to the right kids. Anaya weaves Serafina’s stories into a plot centered around events at the eve of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. New Mexico’s Governor will conduct trials of twelve indians captured plotting revolution. One turns out to be sixteen year old Serafina, her Castillo--Spaniard--name. The teenager has been raised in the Church, speaks Bilingual eloquently, knows the Iberian cuentos, and works a deal. She'll tell the Governor a story every night. If the Governor likes the story, he'll free a prisoner.

Serafina adds a local spin to classic tales of amputated ears, eyes put out, daughters forced to marry strangers and other exercises of wildly simple human values. Catholic rites and absolute monarchy might want explaining now and again–and if not, Serafina raises the issue to make sure kids hear it. Kids who have been raised listening to fairy tales will find some cuentos familiar, plus such kids probably have high tolerance for magic. Experience-- or a capable reader-- will help the kids recognize the same foundation myths, allegorical desperation, and contorted plotting that makes their other bedtime stories fun.

The stories build a moral landscape in the Governor’s heart. The Governor "falls" for the girl as if a daughter, but her stories offer a constant reminder of the cultural gap between man and child, between his pueblo’s imported customs and the indians’ colonized culture and religion. Through marriage and propinquity, the Spanish and Indian cultures fuse, yet foreign pressures seek to pull the cultures inexorably apart. The local padre recognizes the practicality of allowing the indians their religion, but the big shots from the Inquisition sour the land of enchanting stories. Serafina must be a witch, argues a powerful Churchman, how else explain the insanity of freeing the revolutionaries one by one? The zealot priest intends to drag Serafina in chains to Mexico City, then to be sold into slavery in the mines of Durango. Only the Governor stands between that fate and some alternative.

Find a kid or two. Read them Serafina’s Stories and that will be its own reward.

Eventually, US culture would have changed enough without Bless Me, Ultima’s success that such enterprises as Arte Publico Press and Bilingual Review Press would have the credibility to get accounts with national scale distributors. How long “eventually” and what cost the delay thankfully ask for irrelevancies. It is what it is, and, that's a good thing mostly.

Banned Books Update

The List” continues to enjoy the protection of the U.S. Constitution in Arizona, where The State enjoys the liberty to ban books, ban history, ban culture from its classrooms. If Tucson Unified School District defies the racist law, the State withholds millions of dollars in taxpayer funds owed the District. If a teacher defies the hate law, she or he will lose their livelihood for teaching banned ideas.

That's how it is, Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Arizona. Nothing's changed.

When Dolores Huerta told Tucson Republicans hate Mexicans, the statement so affronted GOP legislator Tom Horne  that he led the drive to make it official. Now Arizona has Mexican-hating legislation that bans their culture from the public schools. QED.

Bless Me, Ultima has been banned before. Who among today’s chicanas chicanos doesn’t remember being hated by evil counterparts—teachers, classmates, strangers--in their home communities? Let us work to ensure this is the last time any book will be banned anywhere in the United States of America, including poor Arizona.


Michael Sedano Reading From Bless Me, Ultima

May Day Floricanto Because Today is May 1

Abel Martinez, Claudia D. Hernández, Francisco X Alarcón, Raúl Sánchez, Ana Chig

"Birthmark" by Abel Martinez
"Frontera: de mi lado / The Border: From My Side" by Claudia D. Hernández
“Three Wise Monkeys Facing SB 1070 / Tres Sabios Monos ante la SB 1070” by Francisco X Alarcón
"Working the Fields" by Raúl Sánchez
"Jornadas nocturnas" by Ana Chig

by Abel Martinez

When playground swings 
Were still agents of change
And the day still smiled
Happy with a crayon 
Yellow sun 
I remember my aunt,
The tragedy of days
Weighing down the corners
Of her eyes,
Clotting mascara like spackle,
Damning the memories
That simmered in her schlera.
Her bottled red hair pinched on top of her head
Pulling the lines on her forehead tight
To freeze the youth into her face.
Her lips, pursed and sewn
Together with lipstick
Pumped her voice back 
Into her throat.
Her words snuck from the corners
Like curses she never betrayed.

She loved me, I know
As she dug the washcloth into my skin
And scrubbed the brown 
To red.
I held my cry,
Being a big boy,
And crunched my hands into 
My crotch.
My dark skin
Wouldn’t fade
Into her schema,
I wouldn’t look
Like her alabaster children
Who deviled her dreams.
Her soapy hands 
Tightened around my arms
Leaving white stripes of fingers
As she spit back into her mouth
And hissed,
“You are a dirty boy!”

© Abel Martinez 2012

Frontera: de mi lado
by Claudia D. Hernández

con pies

platicábamos  a
p  a  u  s  a  s

con bocas
de la sed.


a  s  u  s  t  a  d  a  s

de ver tanto

en lo oscuro
del camino/

en el polvo
de la nada/

hasta tropezarnos
con los húmedos
labios del río.

Río Bravo
de mi lado.

Río Grande
de tu lado.

Ninguno quiso
beber de ese

Nuestra piel
nos abrigó

y flotamos
como lanchitas
salpicadas de
agua dulce/
agua salada.

al otro lado—

Tu lado.
Mi lado.

Border: from my side

We walked
with melted

Chatting in
s  l  o  w      m  o  t  i  o  n

With viscid
sealed with


A  f  r  a  i  d

To see the

In the darkness
of the path/

In the emptiness
of dust/

Until we stumble
upon the moist
lips of the river:

Rio Bravo
On my side,

Rio Grande
on your side.

No one drank
from the

While floating
in the water
resembling small boats,

Our bronzed
flesh kept us warm;

Splattered with
salty water,

We disembarked
on the other side:

Your side.
My side.

by Francisco X. Alarcón

Three Wise Monkeys
don’t see, don’t hear, don't speak
facing SB 1070

racial profiling!
lawful discrimination!
imposed apartheid!

no reason prevails –
our people, the real target –
and we won’t forget

victory will come
even after short term defeat –
the Sun rises for all

monarch butterflies
will go on flying over fences
Uniting the land 
apples will fall down
from branches to ground
even against the law

© Francisco X. Alarcón
April 25, 2012

por Francisco X. Alarcón
Tres Sabios Monos
no ven, no oyen, no hablan
ante la SB 1070

¡perfil racial!
¡discriminación legal!
¡apartheid impuesto!

no valen razones –
nuestra gente en la mira –
para no olvidar

la victoria vendrá
aún tras derrota temporal ­–
el Sol sale para todos

mariposas monarca
seguirán sobrevolando cercas
uniendo la tierra

manzanas caerán
de ramas al suelo
aun contra la ley 

© Francisco X. Alarcon
25 de abril de 2012

Working the Fields
by Raúl Sánchez

These days of miserable discrimination and right wing politics have not only stirred anger in me but also the memory of  past  generations who were in communion with the land, this land. This poem is for them.

It is a dream in which I immerse myself
a dream that does not feel like a dream
because I’m not dreaming
I’m re-living what I heard before

back in the day,
the migrant days a past vanished
but present at best
when I smell the fertile soil of the valley

in the early morning
just like the smell of the earth
when rain vaporizes on the hot ground
the hot cement

I breath, breath and breath
until my lungs can’t hold such bliss
exhaling memories like rows
of apple trees, rows of orange groves

rows of plum trees rows of lettuce fields
rows of strawberry fields
everything comes back,
the sacks full, crates bursting with fruit,

tomatoes, bundles and bundles of asparagus
lettuce, cotton heaping sacks
their backs breaking
from dawn to sun down

aching muscles fragile
like dry sticks fine crystal  
dirty, thirsty, hungry man and women
with soil on their hands

a day’s work for a day’s pay
with soil still in their fingernails dry.
Working the fields is the ultimate
reverence man can pay to this land,

our land their land
the land whose soil they walk
retrieving the harvest
for you and me

by Ana Chig 

A Heriberto

Noche de otoño silenciosa 
nubes de arena llueven derramando la ceguera 
Sombras fugaces de entre los matorrales, emergen 
-Son muñones de cuerpos simuladamente humanos- 

Viento del norte recorre bardas coronarias, 
La malla del borde se extiende como una arteria 
oxidada, sinuosa y verde como un olivo -fermentado 

Aguardamos en la comunidad de arena 
La roca fría es margen de una alcoba momentánea 
Junto a un jardín inmenso de espina y eco deformado 

La noche es la conciencia del desierto 
y el desierto un espejo multiplicando el sueño americano 

Ana Chig


"Birthmark" by Abel Martinez
"Frontera: de mi lado / The Border: From My Side" by Claudia D. Hernández
“Three Wise Monkeys Facing SB 1070 / Tres Sabios Monos ante la SB 1070” by Francisco X Alarcón
"Working the Fields" by Raúl Sánchez
"Jornadas nocturnas" by Ana Chig

Abel Martinez was born the 12th child of migrant farmworkers in project housing in Fresno, Califas.  At 16 years old, he had the honor to playing congas for the “multicultural papaya-mobile” TROKA, founded by Juan Felipe Herrera, and traveled the country eating and drinking poetry, art, and transformation.  This experience left an indelible impression Abel, and from that time, art would always play a key role in his life.  Throughout the years, he has written poetry, wrote children’s stories for his kids, designed specialty cakes, and did motivational speaking.

Abel earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and is working as a Clinician serving low income children and families in Santa Clara County. He is completing hours toward licensure and plans to open a practice helping people deal with traumatic events. He has completed a yet unpublished volume of poetry entitled “Waiting To Rehearse”, which deals with the trauma and duality associated with being Latino in the United States.

Claudia D. Hernández was born and raised in Guatemala. She holds a BA in Liberal Studies with a minor in Art and a BCLAD teaching credential. She is a bilingual educator in the city of Los Angeles and is currently finishing a Masters in Multicultural Education. Beginning in June of 2012, Claudia will attend Antioch University in pursuit of her MFA in Creative Writing For Young Adults and Children’s Literature. She writes, illustrates, and manually binds children’s books. Her photography, poetry, and short stories have been published in The Indigenous Sovereignty Issue of The Peak, Hinchas de Poesía, Chicana in the Midst, Poets Responding to SB1070, La Bloga’s on-line Floricanto, KUIKATL ~ A XicanIndio Literary and Arts Journal, and in the first anthology of Colectivo Verso Activo.

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His most recent book of bilingual poetry for children is Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008). He teaches at the University of California, Davis. He is the creator of the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Poets-Responding-to-SB-1070/117494558268757?ref=ts

Raúl Sánchez is a Seattle Bio-Tech technician, eschatologist, colletic, prosody enthusiast, hamartiologist, translator, DJ, and cook who conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead. His most recent works are the translation of John Burgess’ Punk Poems in “Graffito” released by Ravenna Press and his debut Chapbook “All Our Brown-Skinned Angels” will be released by MoonPath Press June 2012. His work appeared on-line in The Sylvan Echo, Flurry, Gazoobitales, Pirene’s Fountain and in La Bloga. He has been a board member of the Washington Poets Association and is a moderator for the Poets Responding to SB 1070 Facebook page.

Ana Chig. Residente de la ciudad Fronteriza Tijuana, Baja California. Es Editora y fundadora del proyecto Editorial Frontera Esquina, Revista Mensual de Poesía  publicada en Tijuana. Ha participado en recitales poéticos, lecturas urbanas y conversatorios organizados por diferentes instituciones y centros culturales.  En agosto de 2010, participa como invitada al Primer Encuentro Internacional de Poetas del Mundo contra la Violencia, realizado en El Salvador, interviniendo en recitales poéticos y conversatorios en torno al fenómeno social que afecta las vertebras de la sociedad moderna. Actualmente es coordinadora del programa Poetic Borders que se realiza cada mes en La Casa del Túnel Art Center, en la ciudad de Tijuana.

Su obra aparece publicada en diversos medios electrónicos, revistas y prensa escrita (Letralia, Revista Electrónica Ágora, Revista Bimestral del Colectivo Intransigente, Revista Literaria Existir).  En el  blog Migración Estacional (http://migracionestacional.blogspot.com/), diariamente publica su trabajo poético resultado de la experiencia de vida urbana y existencial.  Poemarios inéditos: Criatura Suburbana (2009),  La Noche sobre el rostro (poesía erótica 2010) y Migración Estacional (en preparación).

No comments: