Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicanonautica: Aztlán is the Wild West

by Ernest Hogan

Oralé, buckaroos! Lost Trails 2: Forgotten Tales of theWeird West, edited by Cynthia Ward, with another story by me, plus a lot of other fantastic rip-snorters by some of the best damn writers around.

It's a follow-up to the first Lost Trails anthology, that included my story “Pancho Villa's Flying Circus,” an anti-steampunk romp that has gained a bit of a reputation.

You better grab them both if you want to stay on top of things.

This second volume features “Lupita's Hand,” an Aztláni western with gunplay and Aztec magic. It was inspired by the travels in Arizona and New Mexico, searching for my roots. Did I mention that I'm descended from Irish cowboys and Mexican curanderos? I'm as Wild West as huevos rancheros, another weird, rasquache product of Aztlán, as all Chicanos are.

It's an obsession with me. So much that I find visions of a sequel popping into my head. Maybe there's a whole world – or even a universe growing in there, while I gather research materials in the real west.

As a kid growing up in the fifties and sixties, I absorbed a lot of the Wild West through popular culture, though I do find Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour kind of dull. I prefer things like Jodorowsy's El Topo and Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke Down. I like my west weird as well as wild.

Mexicans and Indians help. Spaghetti westerns – my favorite is A Bullet for the General -- especially when they are bizarre and don't know it, are great. Just don't let it get all whitebread on you. For me Aztlán is the Wild West.

You see, the Wild West isn't history, it's myth, violent dreams spawned by the struggle to build a life in land snatched through generations of bloody conflict. Who are we? What are we becoming? Who are we shooting today?

Of course Hollywood and its corporate masters want to make it all suitable for Chinese videogame addicts and American tract-housing dwellers, but there's something about this land and its myths. They want to be wild. They have issues. And the real history is there: fermenting under the volcanic landscapes, mongrel ghosts with mythotecnic agendas that go way back, and reach into the future . . .

It's time to take back the Wild West, Aztlán, and let it be as weird as it needs to be.

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