Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Post Mother's Day. Altadena Cultura. Paredes Wrap-up.

Guest Columnist, Thelma T. Reyna
It’s Past Mother’s Day: Is Your Mom Still Being Honored?

Another Mother’s Day has ended. And Anna Jarvis, the person credited with attaining federal holiday status for Mother’s Day in the U.S. in 1914, spun in her grave again.

The special dinner (luncheon, brunch, breakfast…fill in the blank) was much enjoyed this past Sunday, with Mama in her special dress, perhaps her wrist or neck adorned with her children’s and/or grandchildren’s beautiful gifts of bracelets, pearls, and glistening chains.

Perhaps toasts were made to Mom. Adults took turns sharing tidbits about how she’s the most devoted, doting mother on earth, bar none. Those seated close to her were the most obsequious, passing the platters, making sure her fork and knife were within reach, pouring water into her glass when it emptied. Little, loving rituals that are made more special because Mother’s Day comes only once a year.

You held her elbow and escorted her to the car. She entered first, with children and adults waiting respectfully before taking their seats. Little, loving gestures that shone the spotlight on this special woman, your mother, their mother, their grandmother, this woman being honored by the annual gathering of offspring.

And there were cards, of course, for indeed, the Mother’s Day holiday is America’s occasion for breaking Hallmark records, for buying more greeting cards than almost any other time of year. And Mom relished these, in Spanish, English, or both, and took kisses on her cheeks each time a loved one handed her a card, or read it to her, and gave her the special, annual hug. Big hugs, little loving gestures to show your special woman how much she is cherished.

And at the end of the day, all the honoring contingents packed up their bags, purses, hats, sweaters, hugged one another, and shuffled off to their cars. More hugs, kisses, proclamations of devotion, more little rituals to prove to Mama how utterly prized she is to us, as everyone waved, and promised to call, exhaled, and headed home. Anna Jarvis, back in the 20th century, knew it would come to this.

The Birth of Mother’s Day in the U.S.

After fighting for formal recognition of the importance of mothers in our lives, in our civilization, starting with her own mother’s death in 1908, Jarvis began militating to rescind Mother’s Day about a decade after President Wilson signed it into law. Why? The commercialization of the event. She grew to scorn the once-yearly showering of store-bought attention that the holiday, her hard-won holiday, had wrought. An unmarried heiress with no children, Jarvis spent the rest of her life--and her entire inheritance--fighting to undo a holiday originally meant for heartfelt, personal honoring. She once famously said that “people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards.”*

Perhaps in the early 20th century, her sentiments were realistic: people handwrote most communications back then. People stayed geographically closer to family back then. And Hallmark, a relative fledgling, was only beginning to rake in profits. Today Mother’s Day generates billions of dollars in sales of cards and flowers--as well as other gifts and restaurant meals. It is one of the most profit-generating American holidays.

But in our internet era, with families living hundreds or thousands of miles apart, with our gift-shopping often done in our pajamas with a click of the mouse button, how can our honoring of moms be non-commercial, more authentic and down-to-earth?

From the Heart…Without Dollar Signs

Perhaps children exemplify truly simple, unaffected affection: they write poems, draw pictures of their mothers or grandmas, make up songs, and sing these gleefully. Adults? Not so much. But the rest of us can take the fundamental cue from our children’s methods: Our caring comes from inside us, not from wallets or credit cards.

Before she passed away last year, my last aunt on earth--my mother’s only sister, my beloved Tía Meme--received my Mother’s Day phone call from 1,500 miles away, and we chatted for at least an hour. Sprinkled monthly in between, I regularly phoned my Tía to see how her health and Texas family were. I ended each call with my proclamation of love for her, my surrogate mom, my childhood mentor. I didn’t need to send her things, because she knew I honored her as my mother throughout the year.

Each Mother’s Day, I receive a bouquet of flowers in a glass mason jar on my front porch early in the morning. It’s a small bouquet, because the flowers are picked from the sender’s backyard garden. There often is a small, Saran-wrapped stack of oatmeal cookies, home-baked, and the ubiquitous hand-made card: To Thelly. Happy Mother’s Day! The sender is a family friend, salt of the earth, who believes a simple life is the best and professed love is its staple.

Possibilities for honoring are vast: Phone calls. Visits just to chat and catch up. Walks together. Working on a project or hobby together. Helping Mom clean out the basement, or pantry, or closets, when she didn’t think anyone would help. Writing letters for her and taking them to the post office. Helping her wrap up her Christmas gifts. Taking her to a movie. Simply asking: “What can I help you with, Mom? I’m available for you” at any random day of the year. [To me, this last one is pure gold.]

Let’s not limit ourselves to Anna Jarvis’ most-loved/most-hated day. Honoring mothers is an ongoing act of love.

Thelma T. Reyna, Poet Laureate Emerita in Altadena, CA, is the national award-winning author of a short story collection, two poetry chapbooks, and a full-length poetry book. She is also editor/publisher of two poetry anthologies: the Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2015, and in 2016. Visit her websites at www.ThelmaReyna.com and www.GoldenFoothillsPress.com

Altadena Library Celebrates A Year of Cultura

Occupying the high ground north of Pasadena, California, the unincorporated community of Altadena preserves a rural-urban ambience that makes the area highly desirable. For earlier generations, Altadena was a peaceful, welcoming refuge from whites-only redlining. Today, hikers throng to the crest of Lake Avenue to explore miles of mountain trails and challenge the steep climb to the rusted gears of the abandoned funicular on Mt. Lowe. Perhaps stopping on the drive home for menudo at El Patron, or a locally-sourced fruit gelato at Bulgarini, most visitors bypass the small town charms that make Altadena’s secluded character a good place to live and raise a family.

This Saturday, May 14, the Altadena Public Library offers a special reason to visit. Recipient of a year-long Latino-American Grant, the library marshals an all-day celebration of raza culture in its Grand Finale Celebration: Celebrating Roots / Celebrando Raices.

La Bloga was lucky enough to join one of the weekend sessions of the ongoing program. Kudos to Mindy Kittay, District Director, Altadena Library District, for her vision in bringing the program to her community, whose Latina Latino population increased from 20% to 27% in recent years.

The noon to 8p.m. festival, emceed by mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán, features performances by Jose-Luis Orozco, members of the band Quetzal, a craft and arts sale, and fun, fun, fun.

Noon - 8PM - Over 30 Artist Booths, Food, Beer & Wine Garden.
12:30 - 1:00PM - Chris Holden, Assembly Member: Welcome 

1:00 - 2:00PM - Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin: Storyteller 

2:00 - 2:45PM - Jose-Luis Orozco & Quetzal: Music (also at 4PM) 

2:45 - 3:15PM - Yuyi Morales: Award Winning Illustrator - Thunder Boy Jr. 

3:00 - 4:00PM - Ballet Folklorico: Student Ballet Performance 

4:00 - 5:00PM - Jose-Luis Orozco & Quetzal Music 

6:30 - 8:30PM - Tremoloco: Live Music & Dancing

There are several La Bloga conectas in the program. One is Yuyi Morales, whose work with Sherman Alexie was featured in March. Suzanna Guzmán was featured in La Bloga in April 2011. Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin was featured in January 2015. And there’s a special La Bloga conecta: Michael Sedano will offer floral, bird, landscape, and personage photographs, including notable Chicano writers and leaders.

Sedano's archival prints include blossoms, writers, landscapes, animals

Click here for a PDF sharing full details and artist profiles. http://www.altadenalibrary.org/sites/altadenalibrary.org/files/AL_ProgramGuide6.pdf

Conference on Américo Paredes Wraps at CSULA
Michael Sedano

California State University, Los Angeles, occupies a hilltop in El Sereno, bordered on the east by the unfinished 710 Long Beach Freeway that divides Los Angeles from the city of Alhambra. It’s a sprawling, growing campus whose intellectual highlight is the annual Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Conference Series organized by Roberto Cantu, professor emeritus in Chicano Studies and English.
Keynote speaker Richard Flores
Past years, the conference highlighted Sor Juana, Carlos Fuentes, Rudolfo Anaya, Modernity and Humanism. For 2016, the conference spotlighted Américo Paredes across two days of keynotes, dramatic performances, and academic papers featuring scholars from across North America. Full details of the panelists and performers, along with periodic updates, are at the conference website. http://americoatcalstatela.blogspot.com

Academic conferences come with a built-in irony. Call it a bitter irony: there’s little conferring in a conference. In a rewarding event like CSULA's Paredes conference, it's not harmful to just sit there and take it. But it doesn't have to be like that.

Audience listens patiently to scholars reading papers
Bringing together experts who’ve read extensively in the primary and secondary literature of the subject, these people have a lot to say and a lot to offer one another via open exchange of words. Despite such concentrations of knowledge and the possibility of colloquy, hour and a half conference sessions typically feature panelists who stand at a lectern to read papers verbatim. These papers, detailing the scholar’s extensive program of graduate-level or professorial research, offer challenges, ideas, presumptions, lay out ample fodder for give-and-take. And that doesn’t occur.

Not that such give-and-take isn’t planned. Panels of readers are engaged by a chair whose role is introducing speakers and keeping time, moving along the schedule as planned.

Monika Kaup
In the “best laid plans aft gang agley” department, the scheduled Q&A is regularly curtailed when readers abuse their allotted time and the Q&A plan is abandoned in order to honor the schedule for the following panel. That’s the chairperson’s responsibility, but more so in the breach than the observance.

Perhaps the problem of no communication is inherent in the origins of academic conferences. But the future need not replicate the past. There’s structure in-place that could be managed to produce more salutary results.

Rosaura Sánchez
For example, Cantu goes to great lengths to publish a précis of each reader’s paper. Extending this valuable model, conference organizers could ask participants to record their reading a month in advance so everyone attending would have the opportunity to hear every word, in advance. When the conference arrives, audience and presenters superbly prepared could gather in a circle and enjoy a rousing discussion on the model of good graduate seminars.

As it happened, I was able to attend only the first morning, the keynote and the first panel. In the panel, AMÉRICO PAREDES: Folklore, Literature, and the History of Greater Mexico, three of the four presenters carried the theme with excellence, albeit tied to their text. The fourth offered a tenuous connection between Paredes’ work and the researcher’s. However, his was the only extemporaneous presentation, without paper and interacting with the audience. “What was I saying?” Alfedo Mirandé asked, when he lost track of his subject. Then he queried the audience’s knowledge of gay sex, asking, “Do you know what a mallate is?”

Alfredo Mirandé
Somewhere in the academic world, conferees put aside their papers (or close that laptop) and engage their listeners to take advantage of the deep pool of knowledge sitting patiently in the darkened auditorium. Technology and better preparation could easily transform the conference experience into something lively and vastly more rewarding to all involved.

Elena V. Valdez

1 comment:

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Michael, thanks for this wealth of information. First, thank you for publishing my essay on Mother's Day. I felt good to get those sentiments off my chest! Second, thank you for the post on the neighboring Altadena Library Lit/Art Festival. I've calendared it and will certainly be there, especially to hear my colleague, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, and to see your lovely photos/artwork. Kudos to all the distinguished authors whom you've featured today. I always love learning about other writers and their good works. Keep up the championing!