Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chicanonautica: Strange Rumblings in the Global Barrio

It didn’t take long for the year to go stark, raving sci-fi, did it? The Pope called it quits, a meteor buzzed and boomed Russia, and an asteroid came by for a visit. Keep watching the sky, there’s weirdness raining down.

Then, in Mexico, another UFO -- or OVNI, if you prefer -- was photographed near the volcano Popocatepetl. This new one moves horizontally, and looks like it could be either a digital flaw or mischief. It’s amazing how many UFOs move at a perfect right angle to the camera. Also, note how blurry it is compared to the crystal-clear dash cam footage of the meteor over Russia.

Getting more down to Earth, I’m sorry to report the death of Ángel Arango, a Cuban science fiction writer. He was one of the writers I discovered in anthologies I picked up in Mexico. His first book, a story collection, was ¿A Dónde Van Los Cefalomos? in 1964. His novel La Columna Bífida is available at Amazon. In recent years, I got to know him on Facebook, where we shared our love of Hispanic culture and bullfighting. 

Another writer in those anthologies was Angélica Gorodischer from Argentina. Her masterwork Kalpa Imperial is available in an English translation by Ursula K. Le Guin. My cyberpunk generation cohort, Paul Di Filippo just reviewed her latest work to be translated into English (by Amalia Gladhart), Trafalgar, that should help to breakdown the barriers of the Tortilla Curtain, that sadly, still disrupt the global development of science fiction.

But, fortunately, a new generation isn’t intimidated by such barriers, bringing the dream of the Global Barrio closer to reality. One of these writers is Nas Hedron. He divides his time between Canada and Brazil, expresses the need for a Star Trek-like universal translator, and has written and published Luck and Death at the Edge of the World, a novel that takes place in a world where the U.S./Mexico border is thing of the past. Its hero, Nat Burroughs, shuttles from L.A. to Mexico City in a world where the barriers between life and death, as well as government and organized crime, are dissolving. A resurrected Alan Turning even shows up. It’s state-of-the-art, cutting edge speculative fiction.

Makes an old vato like me feel I need to take some notes, do some updating.

I was not just impressed by the novel, but also by the way he’s presented it in ebook form, providing connection to his other work, and his blogs, where he provided details on the background and world building. He even provides a suggested music playlist. It’s science fiction breaking free of the restraints of the printed word, plugging into the new media, and causing those changes in perception that allow you to survive in this mutating world.

It makes me feel a little old, but then the kids don’t get the thrill of realizing how futuristic it all is.

Ernest Hogan's novel Smoking Mirror Blues in now available on Smashwords as well as Kindle for only $0.99.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2013 Pura Belpré Award Winners

Gracias to ALA (The American Library Association) and ALSC (Association for Library Services for Children) for this post about the 2013 Pura Belpré Awards Winners. 

The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. 

2013 Author Award Winner  

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” brings readers the tale of 15-year-old loner Aristotle Mendoza and his friendship with Dante Quintana. Sáenz exquisitely captures the story of two boys on the edge of manhood. By addressing issues of identity, friendship, family and love, Sáenz pushes beyond geography, sexuality and cultural identity to create a truly universal novel. 
“Sáenz demonstrates superb use of language and character development, while gently exploring important aspects of identity without straying into gender or cultural stereotypes,”said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Charmette S. Kuhn-Kendrick. 

2013 Illustrator Award Winner

Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt, and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Capturing both historical fact and legend, “Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert” is the illustrated biography of the first African-heritage saint of the Américas. Diaz’s luminous mixed-media illustrations complement and expand the story.  Diaz expertly uses color, perspective and contrast to portray Martín’s gentle spirit and miraculous abilities.
“The committee was impressed with Diaz’s ability to capture and expand Schmidt’s text, while including references to traditional South American artisan crafts, word carvings and textiles,” said Kuhn-Kendrick. 

2013 Author Honor Book

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano,  by Sonia Manzano, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
In her debut novel, Manzano beautifully recreates a world of turmoil in 1969 Spanish Harlem. Fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano is caught in a whirlwind of events led by the revolutionary Young Lords. Navigating the tensions between her activist abuela and conservative mother, Evelyn learns to value her own culture and history.  
Better known as “Maria” on Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano has won multiple awards for television writing. Raised in the South Bronx, Sonia’s life-long commitment to children continues with this distinguished novel for adolescents. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Old Kentucky Hangout; Mailbag; February's Final Floricanto

 Review: Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

Michael Sedano

Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club. El Paso TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-935955-32-0

I thought Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club was Benjamin Sáenz' new Young Adult novel. Surprise! It's not.

Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club collects seven stories about love, suffering, courtship, suffering, torment, suffering, pain, and suffering.

Something’s changed in novelist Sáenz’ art—he appears to have taken a lot of the art out of his writing, and that takes a lot of art. Unlike the author’s Carry Me Like Water, a wonderfully beautiful novel that explores relationships with tenderness, friendship, love, and complexity, Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club pounds on relationships like a ball peen hammer dappling soft aluminum. Pound pound pound and every blow leaves a mark, by design but not always pretty.

Sáenz doesn’t endeavor to craft a unique voice for the seven first-person stories. One story the narrator is a teenager, another he's a would-be painter, or a high school counselor, or a guy named Al or Charlie or Neto. In every case, the same empty frustration echoes throughout the character's world and the character himself lives to be tormented, if not out of anomie then by his choice in partners.

There’s a sameness to the characters: abuse, cryptic lives, refusing to commit nor admit the word “love” into a relationship, a handsome man who attracts sex but leaves love out of it.

The stories are tightly wound like the characters. Drugs, danger, brutality contribute to the messy lives Sáenz creates. But there’s something beneath the surface the author wants to dig out of these gay Chicanos’ lives: a sense of decency, an urgency to do good and be happy despite the conspiracy of events that strike at the characters’ sense of well-being.

Fathers are brutal monsters who appear and reappear in horrific cycles. In the final story, “The Hurting Game,” for example, Mr. Michael Steadman is a high school counselor surrounded by violence, some obvious, some a not unexpected surprise. When a boy shows the counselor the bruises, Steadman gets a social worker involved to rescue the boy.

“Where will I go? Where will they take me?”
“Wherever it is, you’ll be safer. Gina won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“What about my dad?”
Shit, why was it thata kids like Danny were always trying to take care of a parent who didn’t deserve to be taken care of, that didn’t deserve their love, that didn’t deserve to be called Dad? It was too common and too sad to talk about. (205)

Steadman is himself a refugee from that kind of father, so Danny’s endangerment becomes a causa for Steadman, a beacon of hope out of his battered past for this child’s future. In fact, Sáenz gives Danny’s foster family the name Lucero to emphasize the point. And, when Steadman abjures the gratitude Danny wants to assign, Steadman declares there’s no extra credit for doing your job. “Mr. Steadman, I’m on to you” are Danny’s parting words.

Then Steadman’s lover, Tom, reappears after a period of unexplained, but typical, absence. Tom’s strung out and paranoid, needs Michael to rescue him as he’d rescued the youngster. It's a parallel of hopefulness contrasted to consequential behaviors.

Now Sáenz pulls a ray of hopefulness out of the depression that permeates the collection—but not really. Tom has seriously messed up—he’s going to prison. But might there exist strong likelihood of life with Michael after exiting prison? Sáenz sets that up as a ruse, proffering an imagined happy ending:

“I can almost hear his voice as he tells me about his dream, 'You were sitting at the bar of the Kentucky Club and you looked like a fucking angel.' I’m imagining me sitting there and I do, I do feel like a fucking angel, and I’m waiting for him and then I picture him walking in, and he says to me, “See, babe, it’s true, everything begins and ends at the Kentucky Club.” I look at him and say, “No, not everything, just your dreams.” (222)

Relationships, in these characters’ lives, do not end with a bang but a whimper. And of a sudden, what appeared to be simple pain and suffering becomes infinitely complex, à la lady and tiger, and that takes a lot of art.

Mailbag: Kentucky Coincidence 
Marketing a Chapbook: We'll Print What We Sell

Kentucky's Finishing Line Press emailed recently to share the news that La Bloga friend and Guest Columnist Thelma T. Reyna's upcoming chapbook, Hearts in Common, would be available for pre-ordering from the publisher, with a catch.

What catches my eye in the publisher's announcement is Finishing Line's plan to limit the print run based on pre-orders: This limited-edition book can be ordered now. The number of books printed for public purchase nationwide will be determined strictly by how many books are ordered between now and APRIL 5.

I'm not sure I understand what that all means. If only a thousand people pre-order, will the publisher print only 1000 copies? Maybe there's a different formula. There's a principle in customer service management that a complaint represents at least 15 people with the same issue, but who remain silent without complaining; they just go away.

Paralleling that complaint formula, perhaps Finishing Line Press will print 15,000 copies if they get 1000 pre-orders by their April 5th order target?

Surprisingly, the publisher's come-on doesn't offer a sample of Thelma's poetry, making all the more problematic their decision-making process.

La Bloga is happy to share "Rosita's Hands" that appears in the upcoming chapbook. The poem moves from drudgery to dream, not like some raisin withering in the sun deferred, but the product of Rosita's deliberate doing. "Rosita's Hands" is a Dreamer piece. Reyna's poem lifts a lamp to light the path through the rapidly opening door of immigration reform. You don't realize a dream by dreaming but as a result of dedication and labor.

by Thelma T. Reyna

Rosita’s hands soaked in early morning suds,
the scalding pinking her skin as she
swooshed and swirled the scouring pad and
scrubbed pans until they sparkled.

Then her prune-skin hands wiped baby’s
face, peach oatmeal sticking on Allegra’s
chin and rosebud mouth, dangling like mushy
earrings on the child’s pale curls as she
cooed and grabbed for Rosita’s Gerber wipe.

At noon, Rosita’s hands folded linens with
precision, her fingers pressing creases in lines
straight and pure, stacking sheets and cases in
the master rooms while baby dreamt of
dolls and Rosita dreamt of vows.

At four, Rosita’s hands waved to Allegra and
her mother, gathered car keys and canvas purse, then
lay still on the manicurist’s table as her nails were
freed of jagged edges and transformed to
ruby nuggets of promise.

When I raise my hand tonight, Rosita said to
the manicurist, and, smiling, raised her free hand
to demonstrate, when I take the oath, I want my
hand to be beautiful. She inhaled radiantly:
And when I sign the paper at the end, when I sign my
name, my hands will be beautiful.

Rosita’s hands lay on the towel on the table,
pristine, the tiny salon fan whirring its breath on
the red-tipped hands that tonight, tonight,
tonight would be American hands at last.

Click this link to order the chapbook for under $15.00. Finishing Line Press welcomes mail orders at Finishing Line Press, P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY 40324.

About Thelma Reyna:
Thelma T. Reyna’s new poetry chapbook, Hearts in Common, was a semifinalist in a national poetry competition, as was her first chapbook, Breath & Bone. Thelma is also author of The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, winner of four national awards. Her stories, poems, essays, book reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and regional media. Thelma’s fourth book, Life & Other Important Things, will be published this spring. She is an editor, ghost writer, and writing consultant with her business, The Writing Pros, and holds a Ph.D. from UCLA. Contact:

Mailbag: Mysteries' Re-emergence
Henry Rios On the Rebound

6th novel in the Rios series
La Bloga friend Michael Nava forwards word from epublisher Open Road Media that Nava's exciting and infuriating Henry Rios series is available for a variety of devices.

Rios is one of those characters who's his own worst enemy, taking the lumps that come of bad decisions, then making more knuckleheaded moves.

Struggling with father issues that complicate his life, Henry Rios' career keeps readers on edge like lookie-loos staring up some pendejo on a ledge threatening to jump. Except Henry isn't threatening to jump. In most stories, he's in mid stride with no idea how far down the bottom lies, and he doesn't think he can fly.

Nava didn't kill Rios, Rios simply stopped appearing in print on paper. So these ebooks are not new titles, but given the growing readership for excellent Chicano literature, and the insatiable audience for top-notch detective fiction, the re-emergence of Henry Rios into the literary marketplace is great news.

Click here for Nava's book trailer and datos on the ebooks.

On-line Floricanto for February’s Final Tuesday: Love Lingers in the Air
Ramón Piñero, Zahra Zamorano, Francisco X. Alarcón, Mari Herreras, Victor Avila

"La Lenta Noche En Tus Ojos" by Ramón Piñero
"When time danced the tango" by Zahra Zamorano
"Love Blessings / Bendiciones de amor" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"she has a nopal heart" by Mari Herreras
"The Romantic Notion" by Victor Avila

La Lenta Noche En Tus Ojos
por Ramón Piñero

Te espero perdido
en esta noche lenta
ausente tu presencia
aun tu aliento
como un humo
rodea por el
cuando la
ultima vez
te vi.

Te espero perdido
en los callejones
de mi mente
el recuerdo
de tus besos
y tus caricias
como puñales
directo al

Te espero perdido
en esta lenta noche
que no llegas
ni llegaras.
Te espero
por esta
lenta noche
de mí

Espero ver
tus ojos
tu velo
tu piel
junto a

Te espero
en esta
noche lenta,
sin fin
sin aurora
sin luz.
Te espero
en esta
lenta noche.
como me perdí
en tus ojos
me perdí
en tus
me perdí
en la
que fue

Mi alma
en el suelo
como las
hojas de
una flor
el ayer
sin piedad.

Te espero perdido
en esta noche lenta
ausente tu presencia
aun con tu
memoria tachada
en mi corazón
como un clavo
de acero
en mi ser.

© Ramón Piñero 3/10/10

When time danced the tango
by Zahra Zamorano

and then they danced
to ancient rythms calling
back time to yesterday
past the tango, the salsa
into years sliding by as
steps become two, a beating
heart of the earth itself in
revolutions per minute, where
red meets black meets brown
where volcanoes erupt into
oceans of love's forbidden
adam and eve, where dark
histories are found in forgotten
books of old stories told, in
bandages shred from bloody
wounds begin to heal, inside
this beating heart of earth lives
a universal drum, beating death
into love, ancestral memories
come alive, as she saves life
in this story told to you...
now, kiss me, you fool.

by Francisco X. Alarcón

my grandma
and grandpa
blessed me

Mamá and Papá
also gave me
their blessings

kissing me
on my forehead

o every time
I am kissed
on my forehead

I feel so blessed! —
all love always is
a true blessing!

© Francisco X. Alarcón

by Francisco X. Alarcón

mi abuelita
y mi abuelito
me bendijeron

Mamá y Papá
me dieron también
su bendición

en la frente

oh cada vez
que me besan
en la frente

me siento bendecido —
todo amor siempre es
¡una bendición real!

© Francisco X. Alarcón

she has a nopal heart
by Mari Herreras

she has a nopal heart.
it bursts big
blue to green
the space
between thorns widens
when that heart belongs
to everyone along her street

she has she has she has
a nopal heart
sometimes tender, small
made purple
made easy for a hand's caress
tufts of yellow thorns
prevent this delicacy
from breaking apart

she has this heart
this nopal heart
every havelina feral creature
wants for it
a mordida
careful around the thorns
a flesh that sets even feral souls afire
no mouth can resist

The Romantic Notion
"mi corazon, te quiero infinito"
by Victor Avila

Around my wrist a red bandana
bought in '66 with Bolivian coins.
Then your memory was a soft vein of ore
that I would mine and soon rejoice in
as cigarette smoke filled still another cantina.

It's now 1967.
Ahead of me lie oil fields and insurrection.
I wait in a train station in Angola.
It's an oven full of flies.

When all fails here
I'll write you from Mozambique
where the gibberish in Portuguese
is unfamiliar to both of us.

I've waited for your letters
near every airfield and in every dusty village
where the machetes that once cut the sugar cane
are now raised against automatic rifles.

I once cradled inside of me
notions of a romantic nature-
"I will die in a smokey trench
looking out toward the Rio Tama
for then maybe, just maybe..."

After two years of contaminated water,
dysentery, and stolen rifles,
I have seen through my own field glasses
that we fight battles that aren't
worthy of our weapons.

There is a pier we once walked on.
With paper arms I reached for stars
that were violently unreachable.
You were a wonderful addiction
and your girlish kiss naive.

I no longer want to die drunk
but return home instead with Lorca's poems
stuffed inside my passport.

I want to plant a silver bayonet
underneath your feet
and talk to to you for hours and days
of how I never missed you.

There's a DC-10 now landing in Los Angeles.
On it there is someone asking,
"Did we have Paris?
Yes, we had Paris.
And, aren't we both magnificently alive?

"La Lenta Noche En Tus Ojos" by Ramón Piñero
"When time danced the tango" by Zahra Zamorano
"Love Blessings / Bendiciones de amor" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"she has a nopal heart" by Mari Herreras
"The Romantic Notion" by Victor Avila

Ex Bay Area poet living in the buckle of the Bible Belt, aka Florida. Where good little boys and girls grow up to be republicans who vote against their own interest. Father of three and Grandfather to six of the coolest kids ever. Nuff said...

Zahra Zamorano is a poet/artist of mixed heritage who resides in the Bay Area of California, where she is raising her children as a single mother and working on a collection of poems. She looks at the world though a unique lens which is comprised of different spiritual disciplines and beliefs and influenced by global indigenous movements and a deep reverence for nature. "I love love and I love life. I want everyone to feel the same way." She is currently involved in putting vision into action and publishes some of her poetic commentary on her website:

Mari Herreras is a fifth-generation Tucsonan who spends her days writing about the weird, ugly and beautiful of Tucson, Arizona as staff writer for the Tucson Weekly. When she's not writing, she talks to friends and her heart -- her middle-schooler son -- about the weird, ugly and beautiful of Tucson. It's a vicious cycle that requires massive amounts of coffee and poetry, and a little mezcal, but someone has to do it.

Victor Avila is an award-winning poet. Two of his poems were recently included in the anthology Occupy SF-Poems for the Movement. He is also an illustrator whose worked has been featured in Ghoula Comix. Victor's own collection Hollywood Ghost Comix will be published in August 2013.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gregg Barrios awarded 2012 Artist Foundation grant

Gregg Barrios (with Sophie Bolles)
at Artist Foundation Reception

In 2012, the Artist Foundation made its sixth cycle of awards to artists residing in Bexar County, Texas. Each award is for $5,000 and is made for the creation of new, original work. The awards are designed to recognize artistic achievement, dedication to an artistic discipline and the potential for further professional development. Awards are made for a proposed project, which may already be in progress but should be completed by the end of the grant period of one year. Prior to receiving award funds, artists must sign a contract with the Foundation that specifies certain responsibilities. These responsibilities are intended to ensure that the award funds will be used in a manner that satisfies the Foundation's charitable purposes.

The Artist Foundation’s 2012 awards ceremony was held on January 23, 2013, at the Liberty Bar. “I can't understand why people are afraid of new ideas. I'm afraid of old ones.” Paula Owen, president of the Southwest School of Art, quoted the late composer John Cage in her role as moderator of the awards ceremony.

Gregg Barrios (pictured above with Sophie Bolles at Artist Foundation Reception) won for playwriting. His project is “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of a Texas Bad Girl.”

Since its founding in 2006 by artist Bettie Ward and Patricia Pratchett, the Artist Foundation has given $460,000 to 84 artists. Besides gifts, where does the money come from? Parties! The next is a Moveable Art Party at Southtown locations TBA from 6 to 11 p.m. on March 2. For details, go to

For a list of all the winners, visit here.


My review of the just released The Routledge Concise History of Latino/a Literature, by Frederick Luis Aldama, appeared in yesterday’s El Paso Times.

Sarah Cortez’s Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston (Texas Review Press) received Honorable Mention in the Autobiography/Biography section of the 2012 - 2013 Los Angeles Book Awards. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt book which I recommend to all.

This weekend, we celebrated the 12th anniversary of Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, 13197-A Gladstone Ave, Sylmar, California 91342.  If you haven’t been there before, you’re in for a treat: Latino/a books, community events, great coffee, and a strong dose of cultura! Make it your destination soon!

All done! So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres at La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Boston, You're Killing Me: AWP Options for the Poor

Olga García Echeverría

“It’s interesting, don’t you think, how politicians don’t even mention the working class anymore,” said Elba, a friend and fellow poet. “We don’t even exist. Everything is either about the wealthy or the middle class.”

Her words struck a chord. We were on the phone talking about the upcoming Association of Writers and Writer Programs Conference and we had veered off on a tangent. Well, kind of.

At the end of last year, Elba and I enthusiastically registered for the AWP Conference being held this year in Boston, Massachusetts from March 6th—9th. Neither of us had ever attended, and we thought it important to finally do so. 

We took advantage of the AWP pre-registration and one-year membership bundle, each of us paying $220.00.  It’s a pretty penny for the underemployed, but we felt it well worth the four days of being inundated with writer’s panels, readings, presentations, book fairs and publishing information.

The bigger hurdle was lodging. Boston hotels are pricey, even those associated with the conference, offering “discounts.” Elba sought out an old colleague in the area as a housing option, but that didn’t pan out. In November, I had applied for a writer’s grant and budgeted part of the AWP Conference as a cost for professional development. We kept our fingers crossed. When I didn’t get the grant, we figured it was time to look for the best deals and suck up the costs. If there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

We found and booked a hotel, but in order to get a cheaper price, we had to prepay the entire cost of our four-day stay in Boston. When I got my confirmation receipt online, all taxes and fees included, I gasped.  James Baldwin said it better than I ever could: “Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

Plus, there were still plane tickets to purchase. The taxi from the airport to the hotel. The taxi from the hotel to the airport. I could not help but convert the dollars into living expenses, one of my life-long working class habits. Even with all the so-called bargains, my overall trip to Boston would equal my share of the rent for one month, two weeks of groceries and gas, and the cost of my pending visit to the dentist. Boston, you’re killing me! Forget the fancy Boston cream pie I had been fantasizing about. Since our hotel accommodations didn't even include breakfast (that would have cost extra), I imagined packing my own tea bags and pilfering hot water and snacks to survive. In Boston, I thought, I will live off crackers and tea.

Poverty sucks.

Despite our friendship that spans decades, I was embarrassed to call Elba and express my growing anxiety over the cost of Boston. Internalized working-class shame. To make matters worse, my girlfriend had come home from work one day and casually mentioned the Boston weather as something we should look up. The weather? Oh yeah, that might be important, considering we had booked a hotel farther away from the conference for a better deal. Our plan was to walk daily to and from the Haynes Convention Center, where the conference is being held. Save money and exercise at the same time. That’s how the working-class rolls, or in this case, strolls.

Online, weather forecasts of March in Boston predicted in the 30's and, if lucky, in the 40's. One anonymous Boston resident shared that in March one should expect weather that is “chilly, blustery and bleak. Nothing is blooming. Sand and trash are left around from the melting snow.” Another said, “Typically wet and cold.” We would be indoors mostly, of course, but there were the walks to and from the conference to contend. Both Elba and I are Californian Chicanas; we don’t own East Coast winter gear. Neither do our families or friends. Would we have to rummage through our local thrift stores and buy real winter clothes and shoes? Another potential expense. Boston was slowly, but surely, becoming a royal pain in my piggy bank's ass.

Then the phone rang. It was Elba. "We've got to talk about Boston," she said. "Yes!" I answered immediately. There was a strain in both our voices, a communal sense of urgency; yet for a few seconds, silence hung. I knew what she was going to say before she actually said it. Telepathy? Probably more like shared reality.  Finally, she spoke our truth: “Honey, we can’t afford Boston.”

I exhaled. I was so grateful for her words.

We canceled our hotel immediately. Full refund. Perhaps we should have been sad, but we were, more than anything else, relieved. We would not have to eat peanut butter and jelly for the next month. We would not have to starve in Boston. We would not have to walk through the sand and trash “left around from the melting snow” in our lightweight cloth tennis shoes, our feet stiff and numb against the slushy concrete.

Next year the conference will be in Seattle, much closer. We’ll try again. Meanwhile, we have come up with our own AWP Conference options that are more realistic for us and for any other working class writers out there who may not be able to attend this year's conference.

Option 1: Designate March 6th-9th as official Days of the Creative Word. Read, write, visit a new bookstore or library, hold your own intimate, local writing workshops or readings. Elba and I will be doing just that.  It’s an opportunity to honor the AWP Conference dates we had already reserved and use that time to further foster our poetry and prose. We may not be at the conference in the flesh, but we will be there in spirit.

Option 2: Apply for a writer’s grant for a future conference. Yes, the competition is stiff and you may not get it (like me this past year), but it’s a great exercise in writing anyway. AWP actually offers two annual scholarship of $500 each to emerging writers who wish to attend a writer’s conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency. Submissions are accepted between December 1 and March 30 of each year (there’s still time). For more information, visit

Option 3: Go online and check out the authors who will be presenting at the AWP Conference.

Depending on your budget, pick one or a few of the authors and go out and get their books of poetry, memoir, essays or prose. Delve into the pages. Even from afar, you’ll get a whiff and a flavor for this year's highlighted authors at the conference. This is precisely what I did. Considering all the money I won't be spending in Boston, I figure I could treat myself and simultaneously support the literary arts by buying a few books at my local independent bookstore. It isn't the actual conference, I know, and it isn't Boston cream pie in Boston, but as working class Chicana writers who exist (despite invisibility aquí y allá), we’ve got to keep wizarding our own caminos.  

Tune in to my next blog where I’ll discuss the four AWP Conference authors I selected from this year's line-up: Adonis, Joy Castro, Eduardo C. Corral, and Tracy K. Smith. I'm just now exploring their texts, but they are already dazzling me with their words. For now, I leave you with a fitting verse from one of them:

Is this really the world?

Shall I grieve? Shall I hope?

I prefer to sing.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Why la política in latino fiction and poetry

by RudyG

March on The White House
Photos are of nationwide protests against Keystone XL Pipeline, of which my wife and I attended the Denver march and rally last week. More here.

One question raza writers and poets gets asked, usually by blancos, is why we "put" the politics of the Mexican-American War and other information about repression and rebellion into our fiction, like the latinoamericanos so often do. The easy answer is that culturally and politically we share in the history of U.S. corporate and governmental domination and exploitation.

This answer has always bothered me--not that some raza writers and essayists have not covered it well, but because it seemed to not go the final step, at least in my head. For some reason, this week jelled it better for me.

D.C. rally, 50,000
Below you'll read news and events from Califas, Nuevo Mexico, Tejas, AridZona and Latin America. The content obviously touches, if not more deeply examines, the historical exploitation of mexicano labor, Obama's so-called immigration reform, internationally illegal American torture camps, the ecologically devastating XL Pipeline, and the outlawing in Aridzona of Mexican American studies. How these things negatively affect latinos should be obvious; if not, you can click links to read more.

S.F. rally
What dawned on me was that the reasons for such news and events happen every week, if not day, in the latino communities. It's life for our gente. But do they not also happen every day for Anglos? Yes, but many don't see them as relevant to attend, support or learn about.

Which led me to a new conclusion: it's not that latinos "put" more politics about repression, exploitation and protest into their stories and poems. It's that most/many Anglo artists are behind us, historically, on the curve of learning about their own dire situation, and how and why they should in fact having been injecting la politica into their own fiction.

The result is that our fiction, because it includes the political, tends to be more realistic, and theirs (as a rule), because it excludes a big chunk of reality, leans toward idealism and romanticism in its portrayal of American life.

So, the next time you a latino get asked this question at a reading or conference, you might ask the questioner why his favorite gringo fiction writer doesn't include global warming, ripping the ecological guts out of America's Heartland with the XL Pipeline, exploitation of farmworkers by gringo agribusiness, school board repression of Mexican American Studies, the American gov't's illegal torture camps, for instance. I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts on this.

If you missed it, check Ramos's post yesterday about the film version of Rudy Anaya's novel, Bless Me, Última, that opened this week in theaters. He's got links to find venues an times.

I'm taking my young godson with me, making him put down the video remote and shut off his cell, so that he too leaves more knowledgeable about his gente. Take a kid of your choosing with you when you go, por favor. 

Es todo, hoy.

Farmworkers & Immigration Reform: The Forgotten Ones

The numerous discussions on immigration reform presently taking place between Obama and the Congress that would grant legal status to those living within the shadows of society include some form of legal residency with a possible path to citizenship. This proposed legal residency could take the form of either a visa or green card. The discussions pertain to the eleven million undocumented persons within the country, but the fate of the two million farmworkers is viewed differently by Republicans and some conservative Democrats. Read the entire Latino POV post of February 19, 2013 by Jimmy Franco Sr.

Update: Arizona - The Battle Over Ethnic Studies

PBS's Ray Suarez of Need to Know traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to report on a long-running dispute over a Mexican-American studies program. Mexican-Americans have the second highest push-out / drop-out rate in the nation. That accompanied with the fact that they are the fastest growing demographic in this country with the lowest educational attainment is a crisis not just for the Latino community but for all communities.

Mexican American studies in Tuscon’s public school district, a program created to reach out to ‘at risk’ Latino students was an idea to improve academic performance by teaching literature and history they could personally identify with. Students who never had an interest in school started coming to class.

A University of Arizona study found that in 2010 students in the program were 64% more likely to pass standardized tests than students of a similar ethnic background not in the program. Ethnic studies programs like this have now been outlawed by the state of Arizona, forcing classes to be conducted in a youth center and not a high school. Read the entire report or watch the video here.

The Latin American Exception -
How a Washington Global Torture Gulag Was Turned Into the Only Gulag-Free Zone on Earth by Greg Grandin - excerpts

Gitmo detention camp
Of 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in the American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries. The hallmark of this network has been torture.

What’s most striking is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.”  Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area. It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point of Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, held by the U.S. "in perpetuity."

How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix? After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror. Read the full story here.

Jan. 1948 disaster news
The Deportee Song memorial

From Tim Z. Hernandez comes this:
I’m currently working on a book surrounding the “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” incident, in which 32 people died, 28 who were “Mexican nationals” and were being deported. This is the incident on January 28, 1948, that Woody Guthrie wrote his famous song The Deportee Song about, and was later recorded by Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and many others. For details about my book project and the incident, check out the website.

In short, the 28 “deportees” were buried in a mass grave at Fresno’s Holy Cross Cemetery, and during these last 65 years their names have never been on that headstone. It simply reads “28 Mexican Nationals Who Died in a Plane Crash Buried Here.” A big part of my research has been to confirm the names of all 28 people, and with the help of Holy Cross Cemetery we have accomplished this.

We are now going one step further and working to erect a new memorial headstone listing all of their names. The memorial will be a public event at a later date. Right now we are working hard to raise $10,000. This is the total cost of the memorial. Again, if you click on the aforementioned link you will get the details on how to contribute. Also, I want to announce a new opportunity to contribute as well.

Fresno based musician, Lance Canales and I have recorded a new version of the famous song, which includes me reading the names of the passengers. You can now purchase a copy of this song, and all proceeds will go directly to the memorial. Simply click on this link,

Also, we’ll be organizing a concert fundraiser in Fresno, so please keep an eye out for that, too. If you have any questions at all you can contact me.
Thank you all, sincerely…
Tim Z. Hernandez       web:

From Idle No More to Eagle Ford and Beyond: ...

Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
922 San Pedro Ave, San Antonio, Texas
Saturday, March 2, 2013, 10:00am–3:00pm CST

Idle No More is an indigenous rights movement that began in December 2012 in Canada, in response to the passage of Bill C-45. Most famously, Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence undertook a 44-day hunger strike to protest the bill, which weakens treaty rights for First Nations peoples and national environmental protections, giving industry greater access to Native lands and to Canadian waterways. From its beginning in the actions of four Indigenous women, Idle No More has refused to be a single issue movement, with many observers comparing it to the Arab Spring and calling it an “Occupy movement with roots.”

Since it began, numerous solidarity actions have taken place across the world, including here in San Antonio on January 11th and 28th. These actions were organized by a group of residents from San Antonio, Tejaztlan who support the vision of Idle No More—recognizing that indigenous rights are human rights, and that the struggle to preserve indigenous sovereignty and knowledge is crucial to the struggle to protect the planet for its own sake and for all of our children.

In solidarity with First Nations peoples of Canada, our next step is to make urgent connections between the concerns of Idle No More and local environmental justice issues. Please join us for a teach-in March 2nd on INM, the Keystone XL Pipeline, and fracking.

Facilitators include:
Diane Wilson, a 4th-generation shrimper and longtime environmental justice activist who recently completed a 45-day hunger strike protesting Valero’s involvement with the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Krystan Bruce, a seventh generation South Texan from San Antonio who recently returned to her home state to join the fight against the oil and gas industry. In the past, she organized with Black Mesa Indigenous Support to help residents resist Peabody Coal's theft of their land, livestock and water.
Antonio Diaz, a Native rights activist from San Antonio and former Green Party congressional candidate.
For more info, go here.

The Handsome Pepper art show in San Anto
Saturday, March 2, 2013

6:00pm until 9:00pm CST

Born in Mexico D.F., Carlos G. Gómez found his first artistic expression in the “Tex – Mex” culture of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville where he was raised. “Brightly colored buildings and the surreal atmosphere of the Mexican border towns gave me the first appreciation of color, line, and the generalization that my chosen images would have to be bold and realistic," explains Gómez. He obtained his B.F.A. at Pan American University and attended Washington State University for his M.F.A. in painting and drawing. He is currently exploring multi-technique painting and drawing. 
A prolific artist with an extensive resume, Gómez is an active curator and currently is the Interim Chair and Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Gómez was included in Arizona State University Hispanic Research Center publications; Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art Work: Artist, Works, and Education and Chicano Art for Our Millenium, among others. 

The Handsome Pepper is a celebration of the beauty that for thousands of years dominated the new world. The peppers like the original people of the Americas vary in nature. This body of work looks at the strength and determination of a people metaphorically and places them in typical situations common to all human beings. The pepper icon was chosen due to its impact globally when Columbus introduced it to the rest of the world. The intensity of its flavor and depth of varieties mimic the plethora of new world people. The Handsome Pepper was an idea that came about when a art connoisseur viewed it as an inferior symbol not worthy of hanging.
Gallista Gallery1913 S Flores St., San Antonio, TX.
(210) 861-3646
San Antonio, Texas

Denver's KUVO 89.3fm's Raza Rocks! anniversary

MeCha Reunion by Mecha de WNMU

Let's Get Ready to Create New Great Memories!
April 5-7, 2013 at WNMU
Friday: Tentative: Meet Greet at MeCha Building (T-Shirts)to be handed out!
Saturday: BBQ 11-2pm Location TBA
Saturday: Evening: Appetizers Location to TBA
Sunday Brunch: @WNMU
Please message back if you will be coming for the Great Event I will need you Names and addresses to send out proper invites by March 5th!
This event is brought to you by New and Old MeChistas and WNMU Alumni! This event will be $35.00 per person and the money will go towards the weekend and any money left over going towards the Club. If you would like information about the Event please feel to email me at or call me at 520-227-9507.

Please let me know by the end of the Feb, 23rd, 2013!
Angelica Rojas, WNMU, Silver City, New Mexico

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima - the Movie

Today is the national release date for the much-anticipated movie of Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya's masterpiece. The movie has already been previewed in several places, and many of the reviews are excellent. To commemorate the movie's general release, I present a guest review done exclusively for La Bloga; a few sentences from other reviews; a re-post of a message from Mr. Anaya about the movie; and information about Denver venues for the movie. You can find out more about this movie on the movie's website:, and also on the movie's Facebook page.

Guest Review of Bless Me, Ultima
Michael Ramos

Luke Ganalon and Miriam Colón

Let me say this right up front, I enjoyed the movie.

The filmmakers succeeded in re-creating Rudolfo Anaya's great coming-of-age story filled with drama, mystery, violence, family - but mostly it's a story about a boy who is a witness to and a participant in powerful change and transition.

I admired the interaction between Antonio (played by young actor Luke Ganalon) and the curandera, La Grande (played by veteran actress Miriam Colon). They propelled the movie forward with a strong chemistry born not only out of the family bond but also of something more mysterious and spiritual. The story moves quickly with humor, tragedy, and Antonio's entrance into a dark and disturbing world of witchcraft and violence, healing powers and the imparting of La Grande's earthy wisdom. Alfred Molina's narration provides just the right touch of maturity that helps the viewer to an understanding of the storytelling.

The film's visual style is somewhat muted and I wanted a more dramatic flair to some of the scenes, but for the most part the cinematography worked for the time and place of the story. Overall, Bless Me, Ultima is a moving, layered story that reveals the Mexican-American culture of a time that has long since passed but still resonates today. This culture, this life, as seen in the story, serves as a powerful and pervasive character of its own. The traditions, the church, farming, family bonds and loyalties, and most of all, the old ways of healing and being connected to the earth are all represented and given their due. It's a movie well done and hopefully there will be more from Anaya's rich collection of stories.

I definitely recommend this movie for many reasons but especially to support and applaud good film making.

Michael Ramos

Michael Ramos
Born in Florence, Colorado a long, long time ago. Currently residing in Mesa, Arizona. In 2002, Ramos graduated manga cum laude from Arizona State University (BFA). Currently employed at Arizona Museum of Natural History - Museum Graphic & Multimedia Specialist. Ramos enjoys hanging out with the four grandkids and creating art in a variety of media.

Other reviews

"Although it was published only in 1972, Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima has achieved the iconic stature as such novels as The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird. Now comes a movie to do it justice. Carl Franklin's film is true to the tone and spirit of the book. It is patient and in no hurry. It allows a balanced eye for the people in its hero's family who tug him one way and another." Roger Ebert - four stars (highest rating)

"Bless Me, Ultima succeeds at placing audiences inside the head of its young protagonist, who is more of an observer than a doer, and yet, because he manages to be present for all the narrative's key incidents, emerges the most transformed by them. With its sometimes-skeptical view of religion and willingness to confront adult themes -- from violence to the corrupting influence of alcohol and prostitution on supporting characters -- Anaya's novel has encountered its fair share of controversy over the years. The film will no doubt face similar criticism, and yet, for audiences young and old alike, both represent valuable coming-of-age tracts that reject formula in favor of big questions." Chicago Tribune

"The film won't disappoint fans of the book, although they may regret some of the adaptation's necessary condensation and/or elimination of narrative themes and events. ... Filmed in New Mexico, Bless Me, Ultima visually captures the area's distinctive geography and light. Director of photography Paula Huidobro makes the landscape appear to be an active element in the story. Although Bless Me, Ultima can feel a bit overstuffed, it's an honest and naturalistic kids' story about growing up Mexican-American." Orlando Weekly

Anaya on the movie of Bless Me, Ultima

Back in July, 2012, I posted a message from Rudolfo Anaya about the movie of his famous book. In honor of the national release of the movie, here's the message again.

The producers brought the Bless Me, Ultima movie to Alburquerque for a private screening for my family and friends. The movie is excellent, it captures the story and characters. Every single person attending the screening gave it fantastic, positive reviews.

I am positive la gente is going to love the movie. Like my friend John Nichols said, a novel becomes a short story when turned into a movie. Don't expect to see the full novel on screen. Everyone knows that.

Carl Franklin did a great job with the story and bringing characters together as familia. Except for Miriam Colón, the cast are actors that don't have big celebrity names.  I hope they do after their roles in the movie.  Everyone did excellent work.

Carl Franklin, the director, did talk to me and asked me questions, but the screenplay is his work. I approved his work.  Some themes in the novel are left out, but the story works.
Carl Franklin

I met the director several times here at our home. I was invited to play a role in the movie and attend all shooting events, but I stayed home. My feeling was to let them do their work. I don't make movies.

I met all the actors at the cast party. They had only positive things to say of the process. Miriam Colón visited me here at our home. She is lovely, a perfect Ultima. Her face shines in the movie, so does Luke (Ganalon) who plays Antonio.

Get it to Denver, the people will love it. Will there be critics? Of course.  All art is criticized if only by responding to it. Let the people enjoy and judge. I feel confident the movie will be around in 50 years.

tu amigo  Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima in Denver

These theaters have scheduled the movie. Check with them for show times. We all know how important the opening weekend is for any movie - if you have the opportunity, take your family and friends to Bless Me, Ultima.

AMC Highlands Ranch 24 

103 W Centennial Blvd.
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

(303) 471-6911


Manuel Ramos
Desperado: A Mile High Noir (Arte Público Press - March, 2013)