Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Chicana/Chicano, Latina/Latino Literary Renaissance! Que Viva!

by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Last week, Cindy Carcamo, (The Los Angeles Times) wrote, “Arizona lawmakers passed a law to dismantle a Mexican American studies program in Tucson schools, but the legislation has had an unintended effect:  The controversy is renewing interest in the state and nationwide in ethnic studies and Chicano and Latino literature.  Some Tucson students have found new ways to study the subject while receiving college credit to boot.  Others who had no interest on the topic say they are now drawn to the material . . . Chicano and Latino literature libraries are springing up nationwide, and students are gravitating toward the topic (click here for article). 

Cindy Carcamo
Earlier this month, (March 7-9) in New York City, the first of what is planned to be a biennial conference, took place:  "Haciendo Caminos:  Mapping the Futures of U.S. Latina/Latino Literatures."  

It brought together Latina/Latino scholars and writers from across the nation and drew a critical mass of foundational thinkers and emerging voices. At this conference, plans were discussed about instituting a Latina/Latino literary national group. (click here for info)

Tony Diaz

Props go to all those working to provide these important books, this education to our children and young adults.  Tony Diaz, founder of Librotraficante is key in launching a “Latino Renaissance.”  You can find Librotraficante information on Facebook (click here) and Twitter (click here).

Diaz says:  “The law (House Bill 2281) was meant to prohibit books that promote the overthrow of the government, but anyone familiar with those books knows it’s ridiculous to think that.  I think people in Arizona are scared of our culture.  So when right-wing reactionaries further that fear, we are able to say, ‘Wait a second.  The books you’re talking about include House on Mango Street, which is required reading in most states in America.’ The irony is that actually if you take the ACT (American College Testing) test, there are questions about House on Mango Street to get into college.  So they’re not only infringing on civil rights, but they’re sabotaging their students’ ability to compete on college entrance exams.” 

When I think of Carcamo’s article describing a renewed interest in Chicano and Latino literature, I think of how the power of banning books affected me when I was a child.  In grade school and high school, my sister and I would easily acquire books that were on our Catholic Church’s “banned books” list. Every Sunday, our local parish would distribute a bulletin that included a list of “condemned” books. Then we would go to the public library and find the books.  Sometimes I’d hide in the closet to pour over these apparently evil books, books that later I would read again in college: J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Candide by Voltaire, The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. Sometimes I understood sections of these books and sometimes I didn’t.  I was only in junior high (while my sister was in high school), but I would ask her questions or simply find those sections in the book that meant something to me.  It was a perfect example of what the early twentieth-century educator, María Montessori described as, “children discovering, learning freely.”  But in this case, we were learning freely spurred on by the ban.  And perhaps this is what is happening now in Arizona and throughout the country. 
María Montessori
For a few months, many years ago, I trained with one of María Montessori’s protégées (click here for information on María Montessori and her schools).  These are some Montessori quotes that have stayed with me: 

“It is true that we cannot make a genius.  We can only give each child the chance to fulfill [her] his potential possibilities.” 

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experience in the environment. To assist a child, we must provide [her] him with an environment which will enable [her] him to develop freely.”

While reading Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, I keep remembering my Montessori training and thinking about Arizona’s ban.  When Sonia was a child, Sonia’s mother had bought a set of encyclopedias.  Her mother’s decision to have these in the house (not instructing the children on what to read or when) was exactly “providing” the necessary environment for learning.  Sonia and her brother poured over the books, marveled at the information.  Worlds unfurled before them.  The books further encouraged Sonia’s love of reading, her interest in everything.   Today, Montessori schools are linked with the privileged and upper classes, but at the turn of the twentieth century, Montessori was a method for the impoverished, for children classified as mentally challenged. 

Like Sotomayor, Montessori was a gifted child.  Unlike Sotomayor, Montessori grew up in privilege and her privilege allowed her to be one of the first women in Italy to become a medical doctor.  However, because she was a woman, after she received her medical degrees, she was shunted off to the poor and destitute areas of Rome and soon had in her care a group of children that the government had deemed un-teachable, mentally challenged.  About ten years later, her community of “undesirables” became famous for testing higher than any other group in the state examinations.  The Montessori Method was suddenly famous.  Unfortunately, instead of this “Method” remaining in the impoverished part of town, or being available to all students, especially the destitute, Montessori schools today are only available to those families who can afford the high tuition.  Montessori never “patented” her “Method” or made sure to keep it available as a state-run system.  She died before she could achieve that. 

Sonia Sotomayor, 8th Grade Graduation
The struggles to provide the best education for every child, to provide the necessary environments are ongoing. Affirmative Action is another effort to provide opportunities for those who otherwise would not have them (e.g.:  María Montessori’s “destitute” students). 

In her book, My Beloved World, Associate Justice Sotomayor writes: 
“Much has changed in the thinking about affirmative action since those early days when it opened doors in my life . . . But one thing has not changed:  to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.  It is the same prejudice that insists all those destined for success must be cast from the same mold as those who have succeeded before them, a view that experience has already proven a fallacy (192).”

This is the intricate matrix of prejudice facing our students.  First, the best education, the books are taken from minority students.  Then, when minority students achieve, say, a PhD and are hired at a university, they still face negative sentiments that they arrived there not because they are smart or have been proven successful.  No.  They are faced with the sentiment that they really don’t belong there.  And this will follow them after they graduate and acquire a position at a law firm, in academia, etc.  Associate Justice Sotomayor provides her own personal experience. 

The Associate Justice recounts this event when she was looking for positions in law firms upon graduating from Yale Law School (pages 187-192 in her book):  Sonia is invited to a “recruitment dinner” hosted by “Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Towbridge, a well-respected, small Washington firm.”

She writes:  There were eight or ten of us at a large table, and I happened to be seated facing the partner who was steering the event.  Scott made introductions, circling the table with a few words about each of us.  “Sonia’s Puerto Rican and from the South Bronx in New York.  She was at Princeton before she came to Yale.”

As soon as the introductions were over, and before another word was spoken, the partner facing me asked whether I believed in affirmative action.  “Yes,” I said, somewhat guarded but hardly imagining what my answer would unleash.

“Do Princeton and Yale have affirmative action programs?” Yes, of course they do, I told him, at which the challenge only escalated:  “Do you believe law firms should practice affirmative action?  Don’t you think it’s a disservice to minorities, hiring them without the necessary credentials, knowing you’ll have to fire them a few years later?”

I was stunned, as much by the bald rudenss of the interrogation as by its implications.  I’d heard nothing of the kind so blatant since the school nurse caught me off guard at Cardinal Spellman.  “I think that even someone who got into an institution through affirmative action could prove they were qualified by what they accomplished there.”

He looked at me skeptically.  “But that’s the problem with affirmative action.  You have to wait and see if people are qualified or not.  Do you think you would have been admitted to Yale Law School if you were not Puerto Rican?”

“It probably didn’t hurt,” I said.  “But I imagine that graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton had something to do with it too.”

“Well, do you consider yourself culturally deprived?” 

Gee, Officer Krupke, I thought, how do I explain?  Shall I talk about my ancestors, the heritage of Spain?  About having two languages, two ways of seeing the world?  Is there only one culture that counts?  I didn’t even know where to begin answering that one.  And an awkward silence descended upon us, before spreading like a stain to the other end of the table.

Later that day, Sonia meets with the same law firm partner, and to her credit, even though this meeting is really an interview, she challenges him.  She is not worried about whether she gets the job or not.  She confronts the partner.  She tells him how rude he was.  She says:  “That was really insulting.  You presumed that I was unqualified before you had seen my résumé or taken the trouble to learn anything about me.”  His response?  “You didn’t seem terribly upset.  You didn’t make a scene.  You were perfectly civil (189-190).”

According to the partner, then, she successfully “took” his insults by not “reacting.”  And this is often what is expected of all of us.  They are free to tell us who, what, how they think we are, and we are not to react.  And if we do, we are deemed “loud,” “a troublemaker,” “difficult to work with.” Little did this partner know what was coming.

After the interview, the future Associate Justice filed a grievance about the incident.  Sotomayor writes:

“News of the incident flared across campus and divided the school into camps—those who thought I had made too much of some off-hand comments, jeopardizing Yale’s relationship with an important employer of its graduates, and those who were solidly in support of my action.  The latter view spread far beyond New Haven as word reached one minority student group after another across the country.  Letters and news clippings describing similar affronts elsewhere started to arrive . . . the university, clearly uncomfortable with the attention the complaint was drawing, was eager to reach a settlement” and they “negotiated a full apology (190-191).” 

Looking back at the incident, Associate Justice Sotomayor writes about the importance of opportunities like Affirmative Action (or like what María Montessori had provided her destitute students):

“[T]o create the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds could be brought to the starting line of a race many were unaware was even being run.  I had been admitted to the Ivy League through a special door, and I had more ground than most to make up before I was competing with my classmates on an equal footing.  But I worked relentlessly to reach that point . . . (191).“

And that is at the crux of Affirmative Action:  To reach a wide swath of our population, the doors must be opened.  This does not guarantee that every minority will succeed.  Not every individual from the dominant or privileged class who goes to college succeeds.  That’s a fact.  But to give those who do not have the privilege, the opportunity, the “chance,” is key.  The doors must be opened, and then it is up to the individual to make use of that opportunity.

And therein lies another cheap shot at us when minorities either don’t finish college, don’t receive reappointment or tenure in academia, or in other professions:  that when one of us “doesn’t make it” it is then considered an “I told you so.”  A hasty generalization is created:  “Well this minority did not succeed, so all minorities really cannot succeed.” 

In the early 1990s, research was conducted at The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).  Researchers wanted to challenge what they felt was a fallacy:  the idea that Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students didn’t graduate or graduated in very low numbers in comparison to the other students.  Researchers found that earlier instruments of evaluation were only looking at the four-year academic cycle.  They expanded it to 6-8 years.  By looking at a span of 6-8 year graduation records, they found that Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino students were graduating at the same or higher rate than the average student. And it was not due to potential or capabilities.  The research was quite nuanced, taking in a number of detailed factors.  By investigating the reasons for the longer period of time, they found students were taking time off to help their families in various circumstances (ailing family member, helping other family members get to school, recuperating finances).  It was not about aptitude.  The majority of these students were doing the work, had high GPAs.  It was about cultural traditions: the commitment to family. The important discovery in this research was finding that the majority of these students did eventually return to their studies and did graduate. 

I think of the Associate Justice who reminds the reader that we have to do the work.  “I worked relentlessly to reach that point,” she writes.  Once the door is opened, it is up to us to do the best we can.    

Why then does someone like Associate Justice Clarence Thomas oppose Affirmative Action?  Like Sotomayor, Thomas also attended Yale Law School.  Yet both have opposing views of Affirmative Action.  In his autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas writes:  “I learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much any one denied it . . . I’d graduated from one of America’s top law schools, but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value.” (click here for an article on Thomas)

Given Sotomayor’s experience with the law firm partner, she obviously experienced these kind of sentiments Thomas is describing.  However, I see a difference in that Associate Justice Thomas internalized those sentiments.  In an NPR interview with Sotomayor, she was asked why she and Thomas diverge in their beliefs about Affirmative Action.  Sotomayor answered that she couldn’t speak for Thomas but, “I do know one thing about me:  I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” (click here for interview)

And that may be the key point between Thomas and Sotomayor.  She, like Thomas, has had to endure, over and over, individuals questioning them as to their merit for being where they are.  Sotomayor stands strong in feeling grateful for the opportunity of Affirmative Action, allowing her the opportunity to get to Princeton, to Yale—but once there, she “worked relentlessly” to be successful.  And when she felt the comments belittling her were publicly insulting, she did something about it.  She confronted the prejudice.  She didn't blame the problem on Affirmative Action.  She focused specifically on the source of the prejudice (i.e. the law firm partner).  She didn’t remain silent.  She spoke out.  She was and is loud! 

President Lyndon B. Johnson
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law Executive Order 11246 codifying Affirmative Action, he wrote:  “Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth.  Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in, by the school you go to, and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings.  It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the [woman] man.” (see more, click here)

Last December, I wrote the "La Bloga" post, "What Presumed Incompetent Looks Like”—a review of the important text that has been receiving much attention in the weeks and months since its publication.  This book contains countless stories similar to the one recounted here by Supreme Course Justice Sotomayor.  We continue to fight those individuals and government legislators who want to prevent our gente from a sound education, from upper level positions in the work force. 

Doors that are closed only weaken a society.  María Montessori writes:  “The unknown energy that can help humanity is that which lies hidden in the child.”  

I began this post with Cindy Carcamo’s article announcing a “renewed interest” in Chicana/Chicano, Latina/Latino Literatures, and Ethnic Studies.  May it continue to unfurl and blossom into a major renaissance.  Que viva our literature, our Ethnic Studies programs.  ¡Que Viva Nuestra Gente!  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Migas about violence, sexual and physical abuse

The topic seems to be in the news a lot more lately. I consider them to be one topic, interrelate and often coexisting. Their specific characteristics matter less than their shared aspects of violent control and power.

It's also a literary question that has and will make its way into our fiction, as it should. Unfortunately, there's too many non-fiction facts and history that will never see the light of print.

Some people cringe at the topic, don't want to read about it, and wouldn't ever want to talk about it. But if you've ever been on the receiving end, you might feel it hasn't been covered enough. I don't think it has been.

La Bloga's pages have also featured it. I've written about my young nephew's suicide resulting from priestal abuse, when you was very young.

Dan Olivas's article, The Priest That Preyed, concerns Assumption, a fictionalized piece based on an abusive Califas priest.

LatinoPOV's Jimmy Franco Sr. covered a piece, The Catholic Church: A Trail of Shattered Young Lives, about 500 victims who filed suit over priest molestation in Califas.

Survivors network of those Abused by Priests
There's even a national organization devoted to exposing priestal abuse. Unfortunately, I know at least one member. 

Of course, this isn't simply a Chicano topics, it's a worldwide travesty that mainstream Americans are discussing. For a powerful piece on that, go here.

Claudia D. Hernandez
Yesterday, Melinda Palacio featured Claudia D. Hernandez, "a revolutionary woman with her project, Today's Revolutionary Woman of Color." In that piece, Melinda wrote of women's powerful stories of resilience that need to be told. About the project, Hernandez said: "Not only am I helping myself, but I’m helping others as well, especially young women who sometimes experience certain situations in life and find themselves alone in the world. Not knowing how to cope and overcome such obstacles in life."

Hernandez's project is a part of closure and healing, in that it aims to empower young girls.

Equally important is talking about our individual experience, discussing, writing or painting it. Such cancers don't go away without diagnosis and prognosis.

To my knowledge, there was no sexual abuse in my immediate family. Only physical. Beatings. Slappings. "Spankings." The last one is a joke among my siblings because those of us who got "spanked" by our father carried visible scars for some time and invisible ones that in some cases might never heal.

I also once heard about a Chicano grandfather's funeral that no children were allowed to attend, no distant family members nor friends of the family either. A decision had been made by the molested children of the deceased. They would share/expose the knowledge of how he sexually abused them when they were young. I'd never heard of such dramatic action being taken by a Chicano family. But maybe it's happened.

How other Chicano families deal with such abuse is not for me to judge or condemn. What's important is that something is done because of the unhealed scars. To me, la verbüenza latinidad seems more inclined to conceal such family shame than other cultures do, although that may not be true. It's just my impression.

In any event, the following contribution by ex-oficio-bloguera Lisa Alvarado is a contribution to that discourse of healing:

Lisa's memoir

I am seven years old. It is somewhere in the middle of the night, the time where little girls should be dreaming. I am in my bunk bed, the lower one, since I am the oldest. I am awake, listening. My sister Cookie, three years younger, sleeps above me. Lori, the youngest, is in a small twin bed across from us.

It starts like it always starts, like the buzz of the storm before the hurricane hits, when the air feels electric, when the roar gets slowly louder until there is nothing else. My father is yelling, swearing at my mother. I can hear them move from their bedroom down the hall, across the wooden floor to the kitchen. It's always the same, I hear them, he screams, she screams, he curses her, us, the day we were born. Sometimes he hits her.

Tonight is different. Tonight the yelling rolls through the house like thunder. His voice comes closer, closer still—now he's in our room. I squeeze my eyes shut, hold myself stiff, pray. I prayed a lot as a little girl, but there was never an answer.

"Get up," he yells, "Get the fuck up now."

When I open my eyes, he's already dragged my youngest sister, Lori, from her bed. Lori is still half-asleep rubbing her eyes. She knows not to speak. Cookie climbs down as fast as she can. She is little, frail, pale skin and big eyes. I get out of bed and we look at each other, look at Lori. I am big for my age, "big-boned" was what they called it then, my two sisters both seem so much tinier. We know not to look at my father.

He pushes us all into my parent's bedroom. My mother stays in the kitchen. The yelling that had pelted us constantly all of a sudden stopped. It was quiet, like the inside of a hurricane. I remembered learning that in school. He lines us up by size against his dresser with me the first one, then Cookie, then Lori.

He goes to the closet, tossing things out. I can hear him cursing softly now. He finally emerged and I see green greenish-blue metal in his hand. I blink and look again. What he has in his hand is a gun.

The three of us are still, so very still. I am squeezing Cookie's hand and I am praying Lori is holding hers. I don't pray for God to save us, because it hadn't happened any other time I did.

My father takes me by the shoulders, pulls me close to him. I can see the gun coming toward my head. I say nothing, but I am cold, very cold, but I can feel a hot tear roll down my cheek. I feel the barrel against my head, cold, too, my father pressing it against my head.

I hear a click, but nothing. I tell myself, the green blue thing is a fish, a fish that will swim away. Click again. Nothing. My sister's hand loosens and falls away. "Maybe she swam away," I think, "swam far, far, away."

One more click. Nothing no one moves, not even my father.

Finally, he says, "All of you go to fucking bed, I'm sick of you all." I take my sisters and quickly get them back into bed, try to cover them, touch their hair, their faces, try to tell them it will be OK. Then I get into bed, but I don't sleep well.

I've always been a light sleeper.

Es todo hoy, pero no terminó,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cycling for Today's Revolutionary Woman of Color and La Global Bloga

Claudia D. Hernandez. Photo by Melinda Palacio

Claudia D. Hernandez is a revolutionary woman. La Bloga has been following the progress of her project, Today's Revolutionary Woman of Color. The idea of creating a photo exhibit of 50 revolutionary woman of color to inspire young girls is a growing movement with a website, a facebook page, and plans to showcase future revolutionary women around the country. La Bloga spoke with Claudia on the eve of her clycothon at Hollydale Park in South Gate, March 24. It turns out there are many ways to support this project.

La Bloga :
When did you first come up with the idea of Today's Revolutionary Woman and how has the project changed or evolved?

I came up with the idea of the project in October 2012. I was going through a difficult time in my life and instead of isolating myself like I normally do because I’m a very private person, I surrounded myself with amazing women who not only inspire me with their art and careers, but were there for me to support me in the most difficult time of my life.

As a photographer, I first envisioned the project as a photography exhibit, but when women come together, great ideas explode like colorful fireworks. Odilia Galván Rodríguez gave me the idea to make it into a photography book. From there, I decided to add the component of a live interview where women talk about their accomplishments, involvement with the community, and their story of resilience, a five-minute interview that will inspire young women in our communities.

Someone else gave me the idea to create a Facebook page specifically for the project. After uploading all the interviews on my Youtube Channel and on Facebook, I came up with the idea of compiling the interviews on a DVD, which will also be part of the photography book and be given as a gift to all the women who attend the opening night of the exhibit. 

Now I’m in the process of creating a webpage for the project because I want the project to be accessible to everyone, not just people on Facebook. Eventually, I want other women/artists to help me expand the project to other states and other countries. This is one of those projects that will continue to grow because there are too many women out there who are not getting the recognition they deserve for the exemplary work they are doing for our communities.  Not to mention their powerful stories of resilience that need to be told.

La Bloga:
Are you almost done with all of the interviews and photographs? How many in total? How many left to go?

Almost done. I have interviewed 40 women out the 50 who first confirmed participation. The project continues to grow. I have been presenting the project at different events and I continue to meet phenomenal women who have unique stories of resilience to share with the world. I have to admit that now it’s more like 65 women who want to participate in the project. I might have to publish another book in the near future. But for the purpose of the project, I will only publish 50 women in the book and exhibit 50 in the photography-walking exhibit.

La Bloga:
What have been some of the challenges and why are you personally committed to seeing this project through?

I have confronted many challenges with this project, but I have to admit that I have conquered most of them and that makes me feel great and unstoppable.

To start, I am a full-time student, pursuing two masters (please don’t ask me how I got myself into that) I’m also working full-time as a bilingual educator at an elementary school, and I am the proud mother of a wonderful teenager. The project alone has become another full-time job. Balancing all these tasks has been the greatest challenge.

Money has been another significant challenge. I have written several applications for grants and now I’m waiting for the money to come in. In the mean time I don’t waste my time, I have created several events to raise funds for the project. Coordinating these events has been a learning experience.

The project is supposed to last a year. I have learned to sacrifice sleep, exercise, and going out. I live in a tiny studio that has become my heaven where I write, edit, and create art. I’m personally committed to seeing this project become successful because it has been my medicine, my therapy. . . a healing journey that will not only last a year, but hopefully a lifetime. I am most interested in the impact that it will have in other communities as well.

Not only am I helping myself, but I’m helping others as well, especially young women who sometimes experience certain situations in life and find themselves alone in the world. Not knowing how to cope and overcome such obstacles in life. This is for them, to empower and inspire them and also to highlight the revolutionary women who are transforming our communities with their art and careers.  

La Bloga:
In the Facebook page for the Cyclothon, you mention different levels and leaders for the race. How will this work? Who are the cycle leaders? Will most of the program take place after the race? Have you been involved in such a Cyclothon before? 

I created a Cyclothon event for March 30th, where professional and beginner cyclists will meet at Hollydale Park at 8:00 a.m. to help me raise funds for the project. The program will take place before and after the race.

Before the race, I will present the project and introduce some of the Revolutionary Women who will briefly share their story of resilience. Raffling tickets will be sold before and after the race for $10. Cruz Cycling Team will help me divide the cyclist into two groups: beginners and advanced. They will lead the cyclist towards the lighthouse in Long Beach and back to Hollydale Park where the event will culminate with the raffle.

I will raffle one of my photography pieces and other art pieces that several artists have kindly donated to help me raise funds.  LunaSol Mexican Vintage will donate a gift basket. Artist Irene Carranza will donate several of her “Bella Mujer” 2013 calendars. Melinda Palacio will donate a signed copy of her latest poetry book: How Fire Is a Story, Waiting.

I have never been involved in a Cyclothon event, let alone coordinating one. Four years ago, I was part of a cycling team of educators from Southeast LA. The team evolved into Cruz Cycling Team, with Tony Cruz being the founder. I stopped riding because I had knee surgery, and decided to go back to grad school. These cyclists have become lifetime friends who continue to support my art projects.

La Bloga:
What is your vision for an ideal Cyclothon and what are your fundraising goals. Can people help by sending checks directly to you or to the fundraising account?

The ideal Cyclothon for me would be that everyone who says they are participating shows up on time, buys a raffle ticket, and enjoys the ride. I don’t have a fundraising goal at the moment because I’m not sure how many people will show up and how much money they’re willing to donate. I just hope that the people, who are planning to attend, help me spread the word so that more people show up and learn about the project.

Many people have offered to sponsor a cyclist because they are not able to attend or because they live out of state. Since the Cyclothon evolved from a race to a tour, I prefer they donate to the project by sending checks directly to an account I opened specifically for the project or to my PO box address:

Wells Fargo Bank account

Send a check to:
Claudia D. Hernández
PO BOX 522

La Global Bloga

Photo by Douglas McColloh and article by Susan Straight for KCET

Susan Straight has another wonderful article on the history and haps in Riverside in KCET SoCal Focus. Read about Riverside's Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Over in Denver:
"Please post on La Bloga, Write a letter of support to name Denver's new library in Westside after Rodolfo Corky Gonzalez, to Librarycommission@Denver see"

Tonight at Tia Chucha's in Sylmar...The Open Mic Feature is Karineh 'you don't want to miss her' Mahdessian
    • 8:00pm until 10:00pm
  • Open Mic Feature: Karineh Mahdessian
    Friday March 29, 2013 @ 8-10pm

    Karineh Mahdessian learned English by reading Nancy Drew books and watching Married with Children. She has a great affinity for really large earrings. She enjoys tacos from highland park taco trucks. she will challenge anyone to a thumb wrestling match. anytime. anyplace. She always has her chess set riding around in the trunk of her car. And she is absolutely in love with haikus.

    Ire'ne Lara Silva 

    Over in Texas. Congratulations to Ire'ne Lara Silva. She is a Genre Finalist in Fiction and will receive $5000 from A Room of Her Own foundation for women artists and writers.

    Tomorrow, Saturday, March 30 in Albuquerque, the NHCC presents Reyna Grande at 2pm, 1701 4th Street SW, AlbuquerqueNM 87102

    Sunday, Easter.

    Next month in Los Angeles...

    Next month at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the panel to see is Saturday, April 20 at 3:30 pm with Reyna Grande, Luis J. Rodriguez, Melinda Palacio, David Treuer, and Hector Tobar, Taper Hall 201, Conversation 1134 with interviewer, Hector Tobar.
     Taper Hall (THH 201)

    11:00 a.m.Young Adult Fiction: Danger & Determination
    (Conversation 1131)
    A.S. King
    Martine Leavitt
    Elizabeth Wein
    Interviewer: Angelina Benedetti
    12:30 p.m.Serious Science: Stunning Stories
    (Conversation 1132)
    Sean M. Carroll
    K.C. Cole
    George Dyson
    Moderator: Michael Hiltzik
    2:00 p.m.Memoir: Close to the Bone
    (Conversation 1133)
    Meghan O'Rourke
    Emily Rapp
    Rebecca Solnit
    Moderator: Samantha Dunn
    3:30 p.m.Writing American Identity
    (Conversation 1134)
    Reyna Grande
    Melinda Palacio
    Luis J. Rodriguez
    David Treuer
    Interviewer: Hèctor Tobar

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chicanonautica: Wild About Semana Santa

So, why would a self-professed heathen devil and believer in creative blasphemy like myself love Semana Santa, Holy Week? Why do I keep writing about it in my blog? Again? And again?

I’m constantly amazed by the fact that human beings are capable of believing anything. And once they get to believing, they are driven to do things that go beyond the limits of my perverse, overactive imagination.

Semana Santa is celebration of this. I enjoy it without guilt, only pleasure. Weirdness in the sun that sometimes gets bloody -- what’s not to love?

After all, bullfighting and crucifixion are my two favorite outdoor spectator sports.

So this week they’re getting ready to reenact crucifixions in Pampanga, in the Philippines, with real nails -- and once again they won’t bleed, and will heal miraculously. In Iztapalapa, in Mexico, they will use nail-like devices that don’t go through the body, but hanging from a cross does restrict the breathing and is still dangerous. It takes courage.

And penitentes are getting their Klansman-ish outfits (does the Klan know they are dressed to do penance? did the Nazis know what the swastika really stands for? do you know where the symbols that control your life came from?) ready for fantastic processions. Now they often include chariot races, soon we will also see gladiatorial games. Then, the Judases will be burned.

All with a shiny, new, virgin Pope . . .

Like most Latinos, I have a relationship with the Catholic Church. Fortunately, I had been running around a while and got my brain running before I was dragged off to catechism. I didn’t get why all these funny people with their funny clothes and funny accents seemed to think they had the right -- the duty -- to tell me how to live. Like Frank Zappa, I consider myself an escaped rather than a lapsed Catholic.

Members of my family now practice Buddhism, Hinduism, and other faiths. Forget your stereotypes.

Exposure to Catholicism helped in the inspiration of my novel High Aztech. Having Semana Santa going on now is helping with my going over the document (I almost wrote manuscript) before I send it off to be formatted for the ebook versions, and picking and tweaking the fonts for the lettering on the cover. Writing is my ritual.

I’m also getting ideas for another work-in-progress: my futuristic bullfighting novel, that will be as much about a woman on a spiritual quest as a spectacle of speculation.

Meanwhile, crucifixion reenactments are becoming more and more popular, and not just among Latinos and Catholics. Borders are being crossed and are breaking down.

And not far from where I live, under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, down a street with a lot of Virgin of Guadalupe shrines, past a guard tower with a rifle-toting mannequin, there’s a high school. At the end of a football field are three life-sized crosses -- with foot supports . . .

Ernest Hogan is the author of  the controversial novel High Aztech, that will be resurrected soon.