Monday, May 05, 2014

5 de Mayo, Celebrating with Palabras

Xánath Caraza

In celebration of el 5 de Mayo, Chicago activists share with us their empowering Latino Writers Initiative.  See whose books have been released or will be released soon; learn about my partial itinerary in Spain and enjoy more Con Tinta NaPoMo 2014 Poems.

Chicago is a great literary town and it is the perfect time for writers who are Latino to generate new work and amplify the stories being created in this city. Proyecto Latina and Gozamos are partnered and launched a groundbreaking writing initiative to cultivate a new generation of Latino writers and help promote Chicago as a mecca of powerful Latino voices. Since its inception in January it has already gone through its first series of writing workshops and is now moving into its second series of panels and workshops.

The unique partnership brings together two organizations in the community that value the power of stories told through a variety of traditional and innovative platforms. The initiative will be housed at the 1900 South in the Pilsen neighborhood, where the idea was conceived by writers and media makers DianaPando and Luz Chavez and Stephanie Manriquez.

While brainstorming programming for Latino writers, the trio realized there is a significant gap in writing initiatives in Latino communities. That is when they decided to join forces and create the Chicago Latino Writers Initiative (CLWI). “Our goal is to mobilize Chicago Latino writers to take ownership of their stories, generate new work, and create opportunities for themselves and others,” explains Diana Pando, Proyecto Latina. The initiative is also slated to expand to other writers in the Midwest.

“Chicago has corazón. We are the heartland after all. Yet we don’t get the credit we deserve for our contributions to Latino literature. Where do people think pioneering Latino writers like Sandra Cisneros, Achy Obejas, and Ana Castillo come from? Look at the Latino writers grabbing the national spotlight right now: Esther J. Cepeda, Erika L. Sanchez, Tanya Saracho, and Ray Salazar–all from Chicago,” says Luz Chavez, Tu Cultura Editor, Gozamos.

The goal of the initiative is two-fold: to cultivate and elevate the voices of Latino writers in Chicago through innovative writing workshops and resources such as a Latino writer’s directory that will be distributed to universities and other institutions. The directory will serve as the first database of Latino writers in Chicago and as a speakers bureau. “We are ecstatic about helping to shine the spotlight on the Latino writing community in Chicago,” says Stephanie Manriquez.

Recently, writer and co-founder of Proyecto Latina Diana Pando led the first introductory CLWI workshop, Puro Cuento, for 15 emerging writers. The event reached capacity within 24 hours and resulted in a waiting list of 40 people. “When you create these types of spaces for writers it’s absolute magic because something inside of them clicks and they are more compelled to generate new work. My vision by leading this workshop is to help these writers tell their stories and contribute to the larger Latino narrative from a Chicago and Midwestern point of view that is lacking in mainstream media and literary scenes across the country,” says Pando.

About the workshops

The writing workshops will be held every other month and facilitated by notable writers. There will also be two scholarships given to emerging writers to make sure that our community has access to these workshops. The goal of the multi-genre series is to give writers new skills and tools to implement into their own writing projects.

About the panels

Panel discussions covering a range of topics for writers will also be organized throughout the year. The goal is to give writers new insights and access to professionals in the writing field. Q&A included.

About the writer directory

The online Chicago Latino Writers Directory will be developed throughout the year. Latino writers of all genres (poets, essayists, journalists, screenwriters, etc.) are encouraged to reach out to us with their contact information, bio, and headshot. This database will be housed online at and will be easily accessible to writers and other organizations who are looking for writers who happen to be Latino. The goal of the directory is to serve as a speaker bureau and keep track of all of our writers and distribute to institutions in the Midwest and nationally.

About the writing incubator

The initiative will also roll out drop-in times for a writing incubator at the Gozamos space where writers can generate new work and build relationships with other writers in a supportive environment.

About Proyecto Latina

Proyecto Latina is a multi-media project amplifying the success and impact of Latinas in our community. Our initiatives include a reading series and a website that allow us to create a culture of self-empowerment, spotlight emerging and established Latina talent, create safe spaces in under served communities, and provide a virtual platform to chronicle stories, share resources and to insert ourselves into larger mainstream narratives.

About Gozamos

Gozamos is a Chicago-based independent online magazine and community for culturally savvy Latinos and friends. Since its launch in March 2010, Gozamos has grown into a cutting-edge new media platform that inspires, educates and entertains readers across the United States. Gozadores write what they are passionate about and bring thoughtful, unorthodox approaches to Latino cultural coverage with original content created by a talented corps of bloggers, community leaders and journalists. At its core, Gozamos strives to be a platform for those voices often ignored by mainstream media.
Learn more about the initiative

To keep in touch like our Facebook Page and visit our site at

Media Contact: Diana Pando

Los libros

The Rhythm of Every Day Things by Sandra Santiago (pandora lobo estepario press, 2014)

The Lost Letters of Mileva by M Miranda Maloney (pandora lobo estepario press, 2014)

Confessions of a Book Burner by Lucha Corpi (Arte Público Press, 2014)

Algunas presentaciones

Gabriela Lemmons of The Latino Writers Collective will be featured at The Writers Place on Friday, May 9 at 8 p.m. as part of the Riverfront Reading Series

For Envision, Empower, Embrace: Inspiring Change for Women held by the United Nations Association of Greater Kansas City on Saturday, April 26, 2014, I had the privilege of being the featured poet at this inaugural, fundraising event.


In Lawrence, KS, Mammoth Publications, Denise Low-Weso and Tom Weso, hosted a wonderful reading for some of their authors on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.  What a beautiful evening it was.

I have the honor to be the featured poet along with Juan de Dios García for the 2o Encuentro de Poesía in Puente Genil, Córdoba, Spain on Saturday, May 10.  As part of el 2o Encuentro de Poesía, artist Adriana Manuela, inspired by my poems, has created a special series of paintings for a special exhibit at the Encuentro de Poesía.  Yet to see the paintings, I am naturally looking forward to seeing them.  This event is sponsored by Asociación Cultural Poética, el Ayuntamiento de Puente Genil and the Municipal Library. 

El Festival Internacional de Poesía Ciudad de Granada, Daniel Rodríguez Moya and Fernando Valverde, will take place from May 12 -17.  I’m happy to be part of this great Poetry Festival.  For this occasion, I will be reading in Almuñecar, la Costa Tropical de Andalucía.

In Granada, Andalusia, Spain, I will be presenting my short story collection, Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings (Mouthfeel Press, 2013) on Wednesday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m..  This event is sponsored by Encuentros Literarios, Fernando Soriano and Juan Peregrina.  The presentation will be at La Qarmita, Calle Águila 20, 18002 in Granada, Andalusia.

More to come about my literary activities in Spain and Portugal in upcoming La Bloga Columns.


CON TINTA NaPoMo 2014 has come to an end.  However, I’ll continue publishing some of your powerful poems on my next posts.  Thank you everyone for your participation. 

Algunos poemas

Long Road to Here
by Celina Villagarcia

When I was ten
I began to keep
a blue-lined book—and quickly


It was that September, my voice
was born—collecting
letters that speak
of love and all that feels

like home; these words
had to be—along the way—

my definition of home
changed—I traveled
the path—a girl in

a borderland—a wife
—a mother

I was still lost—looking

for a place to call
home—then the book

I had arrived

© Celina Villagarcia
Originally published in PULP (Mouthfeel Press 2013)

By Lauro Vazquez

            sometimes I think they confuse you with that other thief by the name of Harry. George Washington’s runaway slave, Harry Washington—the other Washington.

running away
from all human &
inhuman presence alike
slowly sipping the stars
with the thirst of an animal
Harry stirs in the dusk
& descending Mt. Vernon
in the cover of darkness
Harry covertly steals fire
from the word &
words from the fire

for the burning cinder
of a world different from his

for the tiny ember
of freedom that
belongs to himself
& to everyone

            When the eagle finally tore into your liver you were probably still distracted by a crease in the summer sky, an unquenchable thirst like a torch in the sky, the always-eluding mystery of your people’s freedom.
            Harry, you never got away with stealing the fire & the cooling ash still gnawsat your hands.

© Lauro Vazquez

For my sons & their brilliant minds
By JP Howard

Black boy
Blaze of light
Shine shyt everywhere
Black boy brave brilliant black boy bright
Be leader be jazz all night long be student by day
Be fiber artist be only boy in your dance class be confident in your body

Be Afro ebony fist pick sticking out your pocket, be your biggest advocate
Be black gay man be straight be true to yourself always
Be shine be son of two mamas 
Be cornrows and curls
Be soul food
Be bloom

© JP Howard

Shoulda Married the Pillow
By Daniel Chacón

I used to kiss my pillow imagining it
my girlfriend. “Love you.” “Love you too!”
And I’m having a serious make-out session
when my mom walks in. I know, mom. She’ll crackup.

But she’s looking at me with a face
I don’t know. . . She comes to my bed,
sits down, puts her hand on my head.
It’s okay. You're just curious. You know something?
As a girl I pretended my pillow was a man
who was going to carry me back to Jalisco.

I shoulda married the pillow.

© Daniel Chacón

On Magnolias
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

For Frida

you painted magnolias
pure smelling and white
the color of soft linen
a canvas you entered then
slashed open your wounds
and bled upon

loss of life and love
splayed across in living
coloror splattered
onto ecru in shades
of flowers you braided
into your hair

back to get to future
you time-walked
into your paintings
attached to your other
self reconnected to mother-
roots that reached the ancients

you bled everywhere
in beauty as bold as you
a constant image emblazoned
across our retinas burning and
wet with tears we've shed along
with you fragile and wild

and in love with the world.

copyright © 2014 Odilia Galván Rodríguez. 
All Rights Reserved.

Carcass, South Texas Dirt Road
By Octavio Quintanilla

You still remember how it looked
                                after the drizzle licked it clean.

What the hell was it?

Blades of grass
taking the place of teeth; 
the wind’s snout
                                sniffing sockets for a light
long gone.

You must’ve been nine years old,
old enough to know that dust is raised
to fall on dust again.
Old enough to keep secrets.

Years turned horror into poetry.

Maybe you want to go back.
To the wood-framed house sitting
on concrete blocks.
To the mutt you saved from drowning
                in a canal. To the girl
who had no faith in you.

She had a pretty yard.
Her father worked for the city.
Maybe you don’t want to remember her.

Or  that your father was without legal papers.
                                All day digging trenches                                                                                                                         
                for plumbers, always walking
on the dusty colonia road
that darkened when wet

like a monument for old bones.

© Octavio Quintanilla

Por Karla Coreas

 La mujer vestida de blanco me llama.
Camino hacia ella.
Alguien me toca la espalda, me frena.
Oscilo entre el aquí, entre el allá,
entre el ayer y el mañana.
Aún reconozco mi sonrisa y mi lamento.
Aún sigo viva.
Me acerco a la orilla del río
busco verme en el agua de la mañana.
También veo la mujer despedirse
con un vestido negro de tanta espera.

© Karla Coreas

Come See Chicago

by Hector Luis Alamo

Come see streets perfectly planned
Glistening titans with twinkling antennas
Come see cold waves crashing & the murky green meandering
Come see bridges

Come see metal wheels screeching blue electric fire
Bikes, busses
Green parks with green trees & beige diamonds
White hulls huddled in teal harbors
Come see Wrigley Field, & the other one

Come see American Gothic & Nighthawks. Come see Centennial Column
See bronze limbs outstretched
Buckingham Fountain
Lions guarding treasures, Picasso’s mask
Come see yourself in The Bean

Come see on State Street. On Division. On 18th Street, come see.
On Clark. Along Michigan Avenue
Under the L
Come see Milwaukee, Cermak, Halsted, Lake Shore Drive
Come see North Avenue. Western. Come see Cottage Grove & Stony Island
Come see in the Loop

The Kennedy & the Eisenhower & the Dan Ryan, come see them
Old hunting paths buried under crosswalks
Union Pacific. And Soo Line
The Sauk Trail. Route 66
Come see deep dish pizza & hot dog no ketchup

Come see Navy Pier & Skydeck. Come see Drake Hotel. Merchandise Mart
The Chicago, the Aragon, the Oriental
Come see what was the Savoy
See Old Post Office Building & Armchair Building & Diamond Building
See defiant Water Tower

But before you leave...

Make sure you’ve seen North Avenue beach packed under a searing sun
Kids chasing peacocks at the zoo
Soldier Field crammed with thousands of faces puffing steam
Fiery flowers glittering off ripples of onyx

Make sure you’ve seen the people dancing between iron flags
Babies and grownups staring into illuminated windows on State Street
A young girl stirring her curves as she walks, her smiling
The old man conjuring up his youth as he sips coffee with milk

Make sure you’ve seen them get up before the sun to dig cars out
Them guarding spaces with fists
The college student catching a bus & two trains to get to class
Her working after school for minimum wage

Be sure to see the crowded schools without libraries or toilet paper
The new schools where the teachers can’t unionize
Angry strangers marching into Daley Plaza
The toothless soldier sleeping under an overpass

Make sure you’ve seen the forgotten children
See where most of the tax money goes
Where the people used to live but were forced to leave
New businesses opening that aren't for them

Come see the enclaves of outcasts
The sons & daughters rejected by backwardness
See the foreigner treated as an alien
See him shackled & shipped away, his family broken

Make sure to see fathers destroyed
Their boys under the street light handing each other something
The intersection empty except for those boys
A single mother pacing a callous strip of sidewalk

Make sure you’ve seen “the marks of wanton hunger”
The stinging needle & the burning pipe
Welts on thighs & forearms where the leather landed
The swollen faces of departed angels

Be sure to see them shot, stabbed, raped & stole from
See violent blue lights & the hard stretcher raised
The vigils, the white-hot eulogies
Their bitter cheeks & lifeless eyes

Have you seen this city?
See it

© Hector Luis Alamo

Saffron Light (Poema) 
by Xanath Caraza 

© Xanath Caraza


Miguel Lopez Lemus said...

The work Diana Pando is doing in Chicago has geared allways towards helping other writers; giving them a hand, aninsight into what it takes to be a writer. She is is in my list of "up and coming writers" although I believe that the work speaks for itself.
Thanks for giving recognition to such wonderful team.
Gracias a Diana Pando por su trabajo y dedicación a la comunidad de escritores en Chicago!

Odilia Galvan Rodriguez said...

I love hearing what's up in my home town. Diana Pando and artists/activists like her are so important and my idea of what Chicago needs, more people who care and bring others into the beauty, art and I dare say radical act of writing.

Gracias Diana Pando for being an ejemplo and Xanath Caraza you too, for always being there to promote and let the world know what Latino writers are up to!

Saludos, Odilia

Anonymous said...

Great article. I always love to hear what fabulous work is taking place around the U. S. Congrats to Chicago's community of writers for bringing poetry and dialogue to the community. And thank you for sharing my good news, too. --M. Miranda Maloney