Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Cha Cha Files: a Chapina Interview With Maya Chinchilla!

book cover by Rio Yañez and Yolanda Lopez
Maya Chinchilla is a Central American/Guatemalan poet, performer, video artist, and educator.  She is a “bridge” the way that feminist and lesbian writer, Gloria Anzaldúa describes “bridge” in her book Borderlands/La Frontera. Anzaldúa writes: “Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar” ("Voyager, there are no bridges: one builds them as one walks").  In her newly released collection of poetry, The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poetica, each poem is a carefully crafted “bridge” the reader crosses, entering and journeying into and through a Central American/U.S. bildungsroman, a reflexive and powerful coming-of-age lyrical narrative.

La Bloga is very fortunate to have Maya with us today to talk about her work. 

Amelia Montes:  Welcome y Saludos, Maya!  First--tell us how you came to poetry.

Maya Chinchilla:  Poetry opened up my world in so many ways.  I could tell you so many stories about this, but one of the ways I first started writing poetry was as a form of poetic code in my adolescent diaries.  I think I secretly wanted someone to find them, so they would know the depths of my little kid, later teenage, angst, and heartbreak—my observations about how unjust the world, my parents, my sister, and of course, the kids at school were to me and others.  Some of those themes have shifted in attention and depth, but that need to connect is still there.  I am inspired by the musicality and play with language that poetry offers, and the push to use the space on a page, and sometimes the stage, carefully.

Maya reading: Brava Theater at "Our Mission, No Eviction" fundraiser, in
San Francisco. Photo by Jean Melesaine
My intention was to show up as a full poeta in ways I had never personally seen.  Although I identify with a whole host of writers and artists from different backgrounds, growing up, I didn’t see anything like me or know any other Guatemalan (hyphen) American queer writers telling stories like mine.  I am first and foremost writing for that little kid who played with gender and other expectations, who essentially had to fight her way out of a suffocating silence.  She is still here because of this creative work.

Also, I wanted the whole book to be a work of art that could travel beyond myself as an individual.  The cover is intentional as well; Rio Yañez and Yolanda Lopez collaborated to create the most beautiful reflection of the many parts of me, and the characters inside my head that I could have ever imagined.  If I could, I would have covered the whole inside of the book with illustrations too, but I might do that in another project. 

Amelia Montes:  As I read through your collection, I felt Gloria Anzaldúa’s work infused within your writing.  Her work in Borderlands/La Frontera is a call to all of us to arrive at la “conciencia de la mestiza”—“to be the bridge” and I feel that is exactly what you are doing here: giving us a perspective that we have not read.  You are breaking more assumptions and stereotypes of the Latina/Latino, as you say in “Baby Holds Half the Sky,” “I was born a bridge.” 

Maya Chinchilla:  Anzaldúa, along with many other women of color writers from her generation, have been important influences in my life, my work, and my teaching, and have especially pushed me to consider and reclaim the many languages we speak as well as the languages we are told not to speak.  The bridge is more than a burdensome metaphorical structure used to connect two places, but is a perspective and experience all unto itself.

As well as reading women of color writers for the first time as an undergrad, I studied poets like Martín Espada, José Antonio Burciaga, CherríeMoraga, Sandra Cisneros, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Lorna Dee Cervantes, tatiana de la tierra, for example, and Latin American Poets like Giaconda Belli, Daisy Zamora, Otto Rene Castillo, Rubén Darío, Pablo Neruda, Roque Dalton, Claribel Alegría, Gabriela Mistral, to name a few.  Something about these poets, some I read in translation, most in both Spanish and English, split me open and gave me permission to write as a cultural translator of sorts, until I recognized the “in-between-ness hyphen life” as a unique position, as a  place of endless possibility.  

Amelia Montes:  I love how you say “in-between-ness hyphen life.”  I think you’ve just given more readers/writers permission to be more conscious of this “unique position place.”  And so you divided your collection into four sections. 

Maya Chinchilla:  Each section and poem can be read on its own, but experiencing the sections together is like reading a narrative. 

Amelia Montes:  Yes!  In Part I, “Solidarity Babies,” we arrive at a historical moment where children of 1980s Central American revolutionaries now have a voice and are using that voice to give us their perspective.

Maya Chinchilla:  One of the driving forces behind (especially) my early work was to tell stories from the perspective of a second generation Central American in the U.S., who was hungry for her own history and reflection that is not mediated by one-dimensional stereotypes.  I decided I needed to write myself in where we are often left out.  There are definitely autobiographical elements to this work that provide the grounding for these stories, but there are parts that are also about imagining oneself into being when no one is hearing or seeing you and you want to be seen. Because if you aren't taken into consideration, then someone else will be making decisions on your behalf.  It is absolutely imperative that U.S. Central Americans tell their own stories as many have already started to do.  Everyone wants to romanticize parts of our culture such as the pyramids, the revolution, the colonial cities.  They romanticize the Mayas as if they are only in the past, but many of us are hybrid beings consuming pop culture, and repurposing it with all our conflicts, contradictions, and cultural baggage. 

The picture with the group is taken in my childhood living room in Long Beach, California.  My mom is in the center back with glasses.  I am up front holding the white cat and my dad is left front.  The people in the picture are members of a  Guatemalan solidarity organization of which my parents were members.  
Amelia Montes:  In reading this last poem from Part I, “Central American-American,” the lines “am I a CENTRAL American?  Where is the center of America?” are so powerful given this particular moment in history where so many young children are fleeing Central America and now find themselves in detention centers on this side of the border. 

Maya Chinchilla:  As of late, there have been moments that I have screamed at the television or computer screen:  “We’ve been trying to tell you about this ‘crisis’ since the 80’s!  We are here because you were there.  You caused this.  You exported military and government resources and your 'gang problem' and your drug war exploited our colonial history . . .” We are all implicated in this.  We can’t just send this problem away.  Our immigration policies need to take into consideration our humanity and the ways U.S. policies have directly affected people’s ability to live peacefully. People don’t just want to come here.  They would stay where they are if that were possible.  They want to live decent and productive lives without fear of repression, violence, and hunger. 

Seeing those pictures of the young children curled up on bare mattresses placed next to each other on the floor, behind gates, and bars, in over-crowded detention centers, as if they are criminals for surviving their harrowing journeys—it tears me apart.  It’s about survival.  Pure and simple.
No one put them on trains or sent them on this journey as if what lay across multiple borders was some sort of easier lifestyle.  Some of these kids made that choice on their own.  Many of them are without parents because they have been victims of violence, or their parents made the journey to the U.S. earlier for similar reasons.  

They leave because there is no other way.  In their faces and their stories, I see my friends and family members who came to the U.S. previously; thinkers, workers, teachers, business people, family members, who are now integral to helping make this country run.  Militarizing the border, incarcerating and deporting people does nothing to solve the problem.  It does not help to reduce the amount of people searching for a better life, reduce the suffering, nor does it contribute to our collective healing.  No one is looking for a savior.  You should share our outrage and encourage stories that don’t treat Central Americans as victims, but as canaries in the mine, story-tellers with wisdom that reveal something about all our humanity. 

That particular poem, for me, was written many years ago when I was looking for a cultural movement to call my own that was specific, and didn’t just assume that I fit under some umbrella generic version of Latino-ness that erased all these tensions and concerns I felt.  It’s so strange to hear people talk about your people as if you’re a ghost or a problem to be fixed.  Ask us.  I’m sure we have lots of suggestions. 

Amelia Montes:  Your words here are so powerful and important, Maya.  They connect with what you wrote in Part II regarding “the unicorn.”  You write:  “What if I tell you that I am usually the only one of my kind.”  The unicorn is a universal myth spanning the Greeks, the Middle Eastern civilizations (Indus Valley Civilization) and Asia too.  But you bring it home to what is happening now.

Maya Chinchilla:  The Central American unicorn is a metaphor for that feeling you get when you are seen as who you truly are with all your parts intact.  Not just as a daughter or student, or teacher or queer, woman, or immigrant, or Guatemalan, or poet; fragmented –only allowed to exist one piece at a time.

I could also describe it like this.  I am a Voltron of the worlds I walk between.  My right arm is a Queer fierce femme red lion.  My left arm is second-generation Guatemalan green lion, still coming to grips with its struggle.  My right leg is a blue lion that negotiates space with the Chicanos/Chicanas/Latin@s in my world. Lastly, my left leg is a yellow lion who pours her heart into a "Hello Kitty" diary while listening to The Smiths.  When you know what they are like individually, and when they are complete, they hang in the imagination like a protective nahual. 

The Unicorn is that feeling of recognition that is illusive if you are not reflected in the media and culture as a full and complex human being.  If your eye is tuned to it, you can see it despite the non-believers.  Seeing someone who is similar to you, and who just gets it, it is the sweetest feeling because the heaviness and loneliness lifts in that moment. 

Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
Amelia Montes:  I see in your description and in this section, there is much “play” – a kind of wondrous creation of identity. The poem, “Guatemala Place of Trees” is one such piece. 

Maya Chinchilla:  Chapines are all about that play with language.  We have this dry playful humor that comes out even in the darkest of moments.  In my family, someone is always playing with you.  Some of these poems reflect that play.

This is one of those poems that couldn’t exist in sentences traveling across the page.  It’s a list of possibilities, messages, taunts, and reminders that slice the page in half forcing you to look at all its parts.

Amelia Montes:  Yes, and the poem “Chapina Dictionary,” links up as well.  The use of the letter “X!”

Maya Chinchilla:  Again, more playfulness.  I am fascinated with the “X” as a political statement or as a reclaiming, but also the sounds of words, the fear or absence of the “X” in the English language and the embrace in Spanish and Indigenous languages.  In this poem, there is desire to explain, but in that Guatemalan way of playing with language where there are several levels, where you’re not sure if you’re in on the joke and another story emerges.  This poem is inspired by so many things, in particular, my study of Spanish from the bilingual yet English speaker experience.

Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
I first learned the alphabet in Spanish.  The “Ch,” the “LL,” and the “ñ” are letters you sing in the alphabet with their own sections. I have had to spell out my own last name for people in both languages; I have had to correct the pronunciation in English (Chinchilla, like tortilla . . .) almost every day of my life.  I am intimately aware of the possibilities of using "Ch," or "C," "H," to spell my name.  Also, sounds.  The sounds of some of these words and the ways we use them in different regions of Latin America has always fascinated me.  Some of the words are favorite words, some are words that I collected polling some friends one night online . . . many of them are specifically words and slang used in Central America.  Others are the ones that stick to you, having shared space with other Spanish speakers and infiltrators. 

Amelia Montes:  In Part III, you are respectfully honoring the elder mujeres (“Homegirls and Dedications”) while also proudly voicing a queer epistemology.  It’s a powerful section.  The lines in “Jota Poetics,” are key to this section: 
Broken Tongues Speak
Jotas into harmony
full of living theory
and supported creativity

Maya Chinchilla:  Yes to all of this.  Again, more reflecting and more imagining what our language of self looks like.  Raw, burning, wild, wanting to be desired, with all the edges and necessary tenderness. 

Amelia Montes: There is also disappointment in love or the experiences of the highs and lows of relationships.

Maya Chinchilla:  Love is integral to my transformation.  I have learned the most in those intimate spaces where theories fall away and you have to figure out how you really show up in the world.  Intimate relationships and their successes and failures show you exactly who you are.  There’s no running away from yourself when you show up for love and when you fail miserably.  Damn, sometimes my most dramatic stories come out with an unexpected humor and honesty in their hyperbole when I think I meant to write something else.  There’s no hiding here, and yet there are versions of myself here that are able to show up differently than I did in real life.  In the end, it’s about letting it go with a wink, a nod and a desire to channel that ferocity into the kind of transformative love that doesn’t need so much as it just is.

Amelia Montes:  In Part IV, “Cha Cha Files,” you come back to bridging Latinidad, to breathing.  It begins with “Wanted,” and having the space to breathe one’s truth, ending with “Nuestras Utopias:” “I wish I didn’t lose my breath when I need to speak my truth.”  Here, readers reach the writer’s maturity—a place of working through equilibrium. 

Maya Chinchilla: Yes, I intended for this work to embrace multiple arcs or grow like a tree with branches.  I like to read books in a nonlinear fashion, so I think you could pick any page and go on a different journey.  I also thought about this work with this particular spine from beginning to end as if witnessing snapshots of the main character’s journey.  In the editing process, I tried several versions and orders.  Another version closed the book, like a bookend, returning to the beginning.  I chose instead to leave the end with a sense of questioning, looking towards the future, and with "defiant vulnerability." 

Some of the earlier voices were more declarative with an urgency to define oneself with an expectation that if you didn’t get it, then you needed to do more work, not me.  The urgency is still there, but by the end, she is more comfortable with her complexity and uncertainty, and there is a peace and an openness to other possibilities or worlds.  I am embracing all parts of myself and believe that my/our survival depends on our creativity and ability to imagine alternative futures.  That brooding angsty girl is still there, but she’s not as hard on herself because she knows she sees the world for what it is.  This attention is a skill she needs to manage instead of just absorbing it all in the hopes of minimizing the impact of the world’s ills on others.  Now she’s letting that go in preparation for what is next.

Amelia Montes:  In addition to The Cha Cha Files, what other Latina writing would you suggest we read?

Maya Chinchilla:  There are too many.  I will be here all night so I will just name a few.  Anything from Kórima Press.  I am so in love with my Press-mates.  They are all so amazing and inspiring.  I’m going to take this opportunity to mention some names that are some of my favorites right now, and are probably not on a list of the usual suspects:  Vickie Vertíz, Rachel McKibbins, Sara Campos, Meliza Bañales, Alice Bag, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Lorena Duarte, Sandra GarciaRivera, Lizz Huerta, Ramona Gonzalez, Nancy Aide Gonzalez, and MelissaLozano. 

I also constantly think about the women I know that, in my mind, will always be writers but stopped writing because they had another gift to offer the world or something else took priority.  I think any one of them could still be writers, but for whatever reason, aren’t able to do it.  These are the women who motivate me to write as well.  When I feel doubt, I remind myself that any one of them could be writing, but often women are expected to take care of others or are just handling so many things that make it not possible. 

Amelia Montes:  Important words about women and writing, Maya!  Thank you so much for being with La Bloga today. Is there something I haven’t asked, that you would like to share with La Bloga readers? 

Maya Chinchilla:  This book really is a dream.  I am thankful to those that coaxed me to complete the work I have spent my life cultivating.  I am grateful to the many storytellers I have met on this path and feel a sense of peace that this work is now doing what it is supposed to do, and I can now release it as an offering for the ones who were meant to read and connect with it.  Hopefully, it raises some questions, offers some comfort, makes you smile, pushes you to write your own versions, and provides some clues that we were, we are, here. 

Maya Chinchilla, photo by Rio Yañez
BIO Maya Chinchilla
Born and raised in Long Beach, California, by a mixed class, mixed race, immigrant activist extended family, Maya currently lives and loves in the Bay Area.  Her work has been published in anthologies and journals including: Mujeres de Maíz, Sinister Wisdom, Americas y Latinas: A Stanford Journal of Latin American Studies, Cipactli Journal, and The Lunada Literary Anthology.  She is quoted (and misquoted) in essays, presentations, and books on U.S. Central American poetics; Chicana/Latina literature; and identity, gender, and sexuality. Maya is a founding member of the performance group Las Manas, a former artist-in-residence at Galeria de La Raza in San Francisco, California/ and La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California; and is a VONA Voices and Dos Brujas alum.  She is also the co-editor of Desde El Epicentro: An Anthology of Central American Poetry and Art.  She holds an MFA in English and Creative writing from Mills College and is a lecturer at San Francisco State University.  Maya is currently touring her first book, The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poética across the country.

Check Maya Chinchilla's websites for touring details:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

About politics, spec fiction, Zombie Baseball Beatdown

With Chicano and Latino speculative fiction* blossoming, I and others believe its authors can blaze our own trails to not follow the paths of mainstream Anglo authors. This might sound like a risky way of succeeding as a writer, but the rewards go beyond book sales and personal income. All across the planet, writers advocate and practice this.

Cherokee author Celu Amberstone says of Indigenous speculative fiction: “Our fiction is alive with new possibilities inspired by our cultural heritage, fiction that can offer new insights to our troubled world. As Indigenous peoples, we understand that the specters of colonialism and corporate greed still haunt Earth’s future. It is our responsibility to offer humanity a new vision of the universe.”

An Australian aborigine from the Palyku people, YA spec fiction author Ambelin Kwaymullina is another. In a speech earlier this year, she said, "We are, along with speculative fiction fans in the world, the people who know. We understand the great promise and the great flaws of humanity; we have seen both writ-large across magical kingdoms and alternate realities and far off planets. So the question for us is not what the future will hold, because we’ve already seen a thousand variations of it. The question for us is, how do we create the futures of our dreams and not our nightmares? Like other spec fiction writers before me, I believe humanity is now living in the times that will define what is to come for our species."

American author Paolo Bacigalupi expects even more for writers of any nationality: "The real purpose of novels of Sci-Fi, apocalypse, dystopia, etc. should not be escapist. A spec lit novel that doesn't tell about the present moment is no more meaningful than a romance or tea cozy mystery. If it doesn't, then why did it have to be Sci-Fi to begin with?"

I agree with all of the above. More in my alternate-world fantasy novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams than in my short stories, issues of immigration and border "security," militarization of the police, gentrification of barrios, "Christian" intolerance have all played roles. As a Chicano in the U.S., when I write, the reality that we and others live pushes for inclusion. I can't imagine any other approach that would make my stories worth reading.

Here's an example of what I mean: French kids don't suffer weight problems, obesity, diabetes & hypertension like ours do. They get fresh and freshly prepared fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that are locally sourced; only filtered tap water for drinks. Three recess periods, a total of 90 min./day; and they walk or bike alone (if you can believe!) to school. No school on Wednesdays. All of this, U.S. kids are denied. It doesn't mean we're stupider than the French; we've simply allowed food corporations to victimize our kids. So what?

So how would a spec author include the junk food we're sold into a novel? How about the pink slime served in school cafeterias? Written into a YA zombie novel, with the two main, non-white characters, one the mexicano Miguel. Add racism and flash round-ups of undocumented workers. Sound like a stretch? Not so much, even after you realize that Paolo is not a Chicano writer.

In a podcast this month, here's what he said about learning the story and facts behind pink slime: "The politics makes you angry enough to write fiction--the company "ethics", and government "protection" [of our food]. The status quo doesn't see us being able to talk about the data surrounding us. I was a sci-fi reader growing up and spec genre held my interest. But lots of sci-fi books were dated and not relevant to kids. Zombie was for my own joy, my own creativity, to feel passionate about. I knew that if I found something interesting, I could strive to make it interesting for my readers."

The publisher's synopsis of Zombie Baseball Beatdown: "In this inventive, fast-paced novel, award-winning author Bacigalupi takes on hard-hitting themes--from food safety to racism and immigration--and creates a zany, grand-slam adventure that will get kids thinking about where their food comes from.

"The zombie apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are practicing baseball near a local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant's toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters! The boys decide to launch an investigation into the plant's dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation's plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive...and maybe even save the world."

The author didn't stop at publication. On the book's website, the political matters lace throughout the jokes, zaniness and funny, zombie madness. Here's a sample, and you might want to give the URL to your kids. (If you think this is violent, see the videogames kids play.)

How kids can prepare for a zombie outbreak in ten simple steps.
  • 70% of evil monsters come from nasty places like toxic waste dumps. 100% of documented zombie outbreaks originated from an infected food.
  • Protect Your Head. To a zombie, your brain tastes like the best food ever.
  • 9 out of 10 zombies say they prefer brains to any other food.
  • The brain size of kids who like reading is 1/10 larger than that of kids who don't.
  • On average zombies find bigger brains 33% more appetizing than small brains.
  • 92% were easily able to bite through a single layer of clothing, penetrating the skin.
  • 33% of zombies were unable to bite through 5 or more layers of clothing, and left to starve.

I recommend the book, even for some kids as young as eight. Latino kids will sympathize with and enjoy Miguel, a main character. Politically, the book promotes investigation, exposing the facts gathered, organizing other kids, and the success of defending your beliefs about what's true, even when corporations and adults don't know or hide the truth.

Paolo is beginning to mull ideas for a sequel to Zombie. Not to critique, but  to suggest ways I think a sequel could improve over the first of the series, I note the lack of major girl characters. To all spec writers: the boys-only legacy of old sci-fi can and should be discarded. Research show boys will read books with girl protagonists and more, if they are intriguing and well written. And we need to help boys break down whatever impedes their working and living well with the opposite sex.

Secondly, I think the climactic battle (obvious from the title, but most of this is spoiler) has two huge real-world, emotional and action gaps that the author could have used to heighten conflict.

The hero organizes his friends in the final battle WAY too easily. Anybody who's had or worked with boys knows--organizing them is like herding olive-oil-slimed pigs in the middle of a muddy field, away from their trough of amphetamines. The protagonist Rabi should have had to more realistically overcome those problems. Yes, I know it was the climax, and maybe the author didn't want to give his hero too much to overcome. Still.

The second, emotional gap that the author missed out on was the trauma of who the boys had to beat, hurt and kill to escape the zombie breakout. Their friends, siblings, parents and adults they knew. According to my read, none of the boys had much trouble beating down their family and community. Obviously, in the real world, this would be major PTSD. (That coming in the sequel?) Adding bits of scenes about this conflict would have extended the big battle, which might be why the author excluded it. I won't say how he might have been able to do it; he's the author. As a reader, the gap left me unfulfilled, pick-pocketed.

Read the, buy it and give it as a present, order it for your room or library. If you're a Latino author, read it and see if you can say that we Latinos can't do the same or even better at bringing politics into our spec lit. For our gente to learn and read and enjoy.

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano fantasy author Rudy Ch. Garcia

* Speculative fiction - spec lit includes fantasy, magical realism, horror, alternate world and alternate history, fables and science fiction, at the least.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Window of Isolation: Louisiana's Leprosarium

Carville: Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
Poems by Gina Ferrara

Poet Gina Ferrara's new chapbook, Carville Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
(Finishing Line Press 2014) delivers a new way of looking at leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. The beauty of these poems is arresting and surprising, given the once taboo subject of leprosy. The leprosarium at Carville operated for over a hundred years.

As a child in catholic school in New Orleans, Ferrara grew up hearing about lepers. Four years ago, when she visited the colony in Carville, Louisiana, she learned more about the lives of the patients. Carville is located off River Road, near Baton Rouge. However, it is essentially in the middle of nowhere. Ferrara captures that sense of isolation in her Carville Poems. The title references the fact that moss and resurrection fern can be found in the oak trees at Carville. Ferrara was taken by the physical beauty of the landscape at Carville and how the beauty of the land was intertwined and connected to the personal experiences of the patients. From "A Perfect Terrain": 'Drenched in moss and resurrection fern, the oaks stayed stoic--/a perfect terrain for the ostriches, swift-footed and flightless/that would never arrive.'

In writing these poems, Ferrara never lost sight of the loneliness experienced by Carville residents. "I wanted to convey how people who had the disease became isolated--very removed from the lives they had lived and previously known, " she said. "They no longer saw their families or loved ones. They had to establish a new and different way of living."

Residents at Carville may have been isolated, but they lived life to the fullest, put on dances and Mardi Gras balls, and published a newspaper with a circulation of over 250, 000. The poem, "Tea Hour on Point Clair Road," shows how the ladies would take their tea, 'The fingerless/Even the unmarred waited for the sips and stains of tea hours,/ Something miraculous as a cure/under a sun no longer at apex.'

Gina first began writing the poems in the spring of 2010 and finished the book over a period of two years. She approached Finishing Line Press because they had published her first poetry chapbook, The Size of Sparrows, in 2006. She met one of  the patients, Pete from Trinidad, who was about ten years old when he arrived and is now in his eighties. He is one of the last patients to live there, rides around on his bicycle, and is eager to talk to visitors. The lyrical poems, along with photographs by Elizabeth Garcia, offer a window into life at Carville, Louisiana.
Gina Ferrara

Carville in the Spring
Gina Ferrara

Sugar surrounds this sanctuary
far from ordinary or Galapagos.
The road ends each time
I check my appendages
for open wounds, red splotches in tandem.
I remember the last pliant hand I held.
Would the constellated sky feel like a hand?
Each finger with its own unblemished identity—
supple and tapering to a square tip,
the bony range of knuckles
buckling only to brush inside my palm.
I squint and scan for semblances of past lives.
Who is the gypsy? Who is the physicist?
I have my suspicions.
Today a woman arrived.
She strolls through the covered corridors
with memories of her identity and scepter,
helpless and unable to reign over the bacilli
waiting to uprise in time as unwanted suns.

Gina Ferrara's work has previously been featured on La Bloga. Her latest full-length poetry book, Amber Porch Light was also recently reviewed by Frank Mundo in the Examiner.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cuba en Boston, NYC y Miami


El Museo de Arte McMullen en el Boston College presenta "Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds", la primera exposición retrospectiva del importante artista cubano en Norteamérica en muchos años.

La muestra se inicia con una recepción el doming, 31 de agosto, de 7:00-9:30pm en el museo. 

Y permanecerá expuesta hasta el 14 de diciembre.

Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds - August 30–December 14, 2014
Presenting more than forty paintings and a wide selection of works on paper by Wifredo Lam (1902–82), this retrospective is the first to examine the artist as a global figure whose work blurred boundaries among established artistic movements of the twentieth century. Lam was born in Cuba to parents of Chinese and African/Spanish descent. He gave expression to his multiracial and multicultural ancestry whilst engaging with the major political, literary, and artistic circles that defined his century.

The works displayed in Imagining New Worlds are drawn from major public and private collections in Europe, Latin America, and the United States and from all of the artist’s major periods. These outstanding examples reveal the imprint on Lam’s hybrid style of surrealism, magic realism, modernism, postmodernism, and the syncretic religion of Santería practiced in the Caribbean and West Africa. Also examined in the exhibition is the influence of Spanish baroque poets and Spanish, French, and Latin American avant-garde artists and writers like Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Federico García Lorca, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, and Aimé Césaire. Exhibited together for the first time are many of Lam’s greatest masterpieces, allowing for a reexamination of the breadth of the artist’s oeuvre and chronicling how his poetic imagination inspired his depictions of "new worlds."

Organized by the McMullen Museum, Boston College, this exhibition has been curated by Elizabeth T. Goizueta. The accompanying catalogue contains essays by Claude Cernuschi, Roberto Cobas Amate, Elizabeth T. Goizueta, Roberto Goizueta, and Lowery Stokes Sims. The exhibition, which travels to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (February 14–May 24, 2015), has been underwritten by Boston College and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.

el Centro Bildner de estudios hemisféricos presenta la película
de Fernando Pérez (2003)
el viernes 12 de septiembre a las 6:30pm
Segal Theatre, The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street)

Habrá una discusión después de la película.
Para más información o para asistir, envíe un mensaje a:

Y en MIAMI, próximamente:

Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres
Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery
Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, First Floor
September 19, 2014 – August 30, 2015

The Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery is a permanent space dedicated to the impact of Cuban culture on South Florida and throughout the world. The inaugural exhibition Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres presents a selection of iconic photographs of various writers, performers, composers, designers, and artists from the photographer’s Cuba Out of Cuba series. The exhibition will take a unique and historical approach in surveying the legacies of individuals who influenced the greater culture of their time. 
Rodríguez-Duarte was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1968 he moved with his parents to Miami, where he was raised. At the age of 10, he was given his first camera by his grandfather, which sparked his interest in photography. Today, he is an internationally renowned photographer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar, among others.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Children's Books from Piñata Books- Arte Público Press

Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family’s Hands

by Samuel Caraballo
Illustrated by Shawn Costello
ISBN: 978-1-55885-795-7

Publication Date: 10/31/14
Bind: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Ages: 4-8

In this heart-warming ode to family, the young narrator compares the hands of family members to plants in the natural world. “Your hands, the most tender hands! / When I’m scared, / They soothe me,” she says to her mother. The girl compares her mother’s hands to rose petals, which represent tenderness in Latin America.
Her father’s hands are strong like the mahogany tree; her siblings’ friendly like the blooming oak tree. Grandma Inés’ are the happiest hands, like tulips that tickle and hug tightly. And Grandpa Juan’s are the wisest, like the ceiba tree, considered by many indigenous peoples of Latin America to be the tree of life and wisdom and the center of the universe. His are the hands that teach his granddaughter how to plant and care for the earth and how to play the conga drum.
She promises to give back all the love they have always given her, “Dad, when your feet get tired, / My hands will not let you fall.” Samuel Caraballo’s poetic text is combined with Shawn Costello’s striking illustrations depicting loving relationships between family members. An author’s note about Latin American symbols will introduce children both to the natural world and the idea that one thing can represent another.

Cecilia and Miguel Are Best Friends / Cecilia y Miguel son mejores amigos

by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Illustrated by Thelma Muraida
ISBN: 978-1-55885-794-0

Publication Date: 10/31/14

Bind: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Ages: 4-8

Cecilia and Miguel are best friends, and have been since the third grade when he gave her bunny ears in the class picture. Their life-long friendship is recorded in warm recollections of bike races and soccer games, beach time and fishing from the pier.
Their closeness endures separation, “even when he drove north to college and she drove west.” The relationship evolves and grows, but remains strong even when … he dropped the ring and she found it inside her flan … he set up one crib and she told him they need two … the twins climb into their bed and beg for another story. In this celebration of friendship, best friends forgive mistakes, share adventures and—sometimes—even become family!
Popular children’s book author Diane Gonzales Bertrand teams up with illustrator Thelma Muraida to create an album of memories that reflect their shared Mexican-American childhood in San Antonio, Texas: swinging at birthday party piñatas, breaking cascarones over friends’ heads and dancing at quinceañeras. Young children are sure to giggle at the adventures of Cecilia and Miguel, and they’ll be prompted to ask about their parents’ relationship as well as explore their own.