Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chicanonatuica: The New, Improved, Salsa-Enhanced Cultura Wars

The Cultura wars are always going on in the twilight zone between the Anglo and Latino Americas. The latest has to do with Chipotle, a corporate chain with a Nahuatl name that is trying to make Mexican food classy, so that folks who suck down Starbucks coffee all day can feel superior to the gente who like home-style cooking. Post-Ethnic America wants classy, upscale taco stands, culture, rather than Cultura, which is why they had bestselling-author Jonathan Safran Foer come up with a “branding campaign” called Cultivating Thought.

People need to have their thoughts cultivated? I though they came naturally. What kind of dystopian mind-control is this?

Cultivating Thought will put short stories by “award-winning authors, as well as celebrities” on cups and bags. Unfortunately they did not include any Latino authors, which of course has caused a backlash.

La Bloga’s own Rudy Ch. Garcia got into the act. he posted this on Facebook:

What we can do to answer Chipotles' exclusion of latino writers--
1. Make up our own story (250 words, max)
2. Use your favorite LOCAL latino restaurant's logo or slogan
3. Identify your city, and share your piece across the country.
4. You can use the LatinoStory4Chipotle tag
I'm working on mine. Even if you're not, spread the word, por favor.

I was amused. I usually don’t participate in things like this, especially if they have a list of requirements, but inspiration hit me like sniper’s bullet, and the following story squirted out of my scrambled brain:


© Ernest Hogan 2014

Got a message from Victor Theremin: MEET ME AT EL BRAVO, MUY PRONTO!

I rushed to mi troque and zig-zagged through Phoenix. I hadn’t heard from Victor in years. And I needed no excuse to indulge in El Bravos’s red meat burritos.

I passed a burning Chipotle on the way.

At the restaurant, I looked around. No Victor.  But I saw someone dressed as a saguaro cactus at a table, sitting next to a brain in a plexiglass box.

“Ernie, I’d like you to meet Flash Gomez,” the brain said in Victor’s voice.

“Flash! I haven’t seen you since you disappeared back in the Nineties --”

“Yes. A lot has happened since then.”

Then agents in FBI-ish suits and sunglasses burst in, brandishing sparking stun guns.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this,” said Victor’s brain. It began to glow with a pulsating yellow light, accompanied by an electronic whine. They pulsed and throbbed faster and faster.

Soon I was dizzy and couldn’t see.

The next thing I knew I was in my backyard, seated in full-lotus position facing the big cow skull. I had the aftertaste of salsa in my mouth and a tingling in my inner ears. When I got up and peered over the fence, everything looked wrong.

Instead of our neighborhood, I saw a Martian landscape, just like the NASA photos. Except there was a Chipotle on a nearby hill. It was burning.

I asked my wife, “Did we always live on Mars?”

It’s my usual schtick -- surreal imagery hung on a pulp framework. The word “sci-fi” is in the title, but it’s not really science fiction, probably more like speculative fiction, magic realism, or some such conceit, but we’ll let future generations figure that out. 

You can enjoy the quick weird jolt without knowing whothehell Victor Theremin or Flash Gomez are, but if you’re curious you can investigate.

I do like the idea of putting stories on cups, bags, T-shirts, the social media and such. We writers are going to need to get creative as big time publishing heads for disaster.

Ernest Hogan encourages you to commit acts of  #LatinoStory4Chipotle. Watch for his on Facebook, Twitter, and Mondo Ernesto.