Monday, October 31, 2016

Día de Muertos at the Writers Place

Día de Muertos at the Writers Place

Altar para The Writers Place 2015

Poetry, music, dance, art, and altares de muertos--be certain to come to this bright and joyful annual celebration at the Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO, November 4 at 7 p.m. The event includes poetry by Las Lunas Locas from Los Ángeles, CA, and Monique Gabrielle Salazar from Kansas City, in addition to live music by Hide in the Shadows, a dance performance by Calpulli Iskali, art by Juan Chawuk, and Día de Muertos alters by World's Window, and Xánath Caraza.  Maryfrances Wagner and Xánath Caraza host the evening.  The event also includes a reception with comida Mexicana. 

Calpulli Iskali: family, rebirth. A family that continues to grow as we search for knowledge of our ancestors to find the identity that was denied to us through traditional Mexica dance and prayer.

Hide in the Shadows is a fusion of indie folk and acoustic rock style. Their bilingual lyrics fosters their identities as Allen Arias (guitar and composer) is from Costa Rica, Stephen Barber (bass) and Hank Winterscheidt (percussion) from US as they perform about their life experiences.

Juan Chawuk, originally from Chiapas, Mexico.  Chawuk’s art has been displayed in Chicago, Kansas City and other cities in the U. S.  Powerful murals are also part of his creative process.

Sophia Rivera is a Chicana writer, scholar and educator from Northwest Pasadena. A proud Luna Loca, she is also the co-facilitator of Las Lunas Locas. a womyn’s writing circle based in El Sereno, CA. Sophia recently published the co-written essay, “Passing the Sage,” in the Chicana/Latina Studies Fall 2015 Journal and her poetry has been published in Tia Chucha's Press anthology, “Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles”, Las Lunas Locas Zines, Hometown Pasadena, and the International In The Words of Womyn 2016 Anthology. She believes in the sacred power of telling stories, Selenas Forevers, that lunas locas are magic, and poetry saves lives.

Vanessa Reynaga, a brown grown girl with a penchant for kind hearts, rap, and home-made food. She seeks peace and tranquility in all corners of her earth. 

Karineh Mahdessian, a community social worker, is interested in people and art.  She hosts La Palabra reading series and co-founded and co-facilitates Las Lunas Locas, a womyn-identified writing group.  She loves haikus, tacos, basketball and big earrings.

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a poet, performer, emcee, drag artist and business owner residing in Kansas City, Missouri. Having written poetry for almost half her life, she has released her first book entitled If You See My Ghosts Like I Do and is slated to publish another book early next year. Salazar is a fervent human rights and cultural activist with tendrils nourishing local poetic Open Mics, a monthly vintage cinema event called “Cinema Cabaliste” that seeks to highlight the oldest films available and is a Novice Sister in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Owner of a shoppe of curiosities, The Skullery Maid, Salazar is always looking for the obscure and fantastical. A world traveler, she culls her images from graveyards, churchyards, protest zones and the mitered corner of self-reflection.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"MUJERES"-- Five Latina Artists Exhibit Their Work in Kearney, Nebraska

"Mujeres" Artists (left to right): Reneé Ledesma, Claudia Alvarez, Sandra Williams,
Linda Garcia-Perez, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez
On Saturday, October 22nd, The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), in Kearney, Nebraska, held its opening reception for "MUJERES," an exhibition featuring work by five Latina artists who consider Nebraska as "home."  The well-attended opening reception gave guests an opportunity to hear the artists speak about their work, to personally meet them, and ask them additional questions.  This exhibition will be on display until February 12, 2017 so there is time for you to visit and enjoy these wonderful pieces. 

Teliza V. Rodriguez, the Curator at MONA took a number of years to carefully conceptualize and plan the exhibit.  MUJERES brings us an opportunity to learn from and celebrate Nebraska’s Latina women artists who present a “new Mestiza consciousness”— beautifully illustrating from where they came, and how they walk today on this Nebraska land.  

Installation painting by Claudia Alvarez

Teliza V. Rodriguez, MONA Curator, giving the opening remarks
During the Q&A, Teliza V. Rodriguez asked the artists to discuss how they consider their work in regards to latinidad and gender.  Sandra Williams noted that her latinidad is inextricable from her work, while Reneé Ledesma explained that she came to consider her identity in the creation of her clay pieces.  Claudia Alvarez, who was born in Mexico,  came to Nebraska much later, having worked in the art department at University of California Davis and at the Beavis Center.  She says, "wherever I am, that is where my home is."  Linda Garcia-Perez has been greatly influenced by her research in Mexican art. 

"Mujeres" Artists left to right:  Sandra Williams, Reneé Ledesma, Linda Garcia-Perez, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez, Claudia Alvarez, and MONA Curator, Teliza V. Rodriguez
 For Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez, her first identification with being an artist is being a feminist.  The notion of latinidad came after--when she moved to the United States from Colombia.  Living in the U.S. has encouraged her to express her artwork in terms of going back to her Colombian roots, creating a "cultural memory of Latin America."  Nancy says, "I'm a hybrid that rides a line between cultures and worlds."

Q&A Artists (left to right): Linda Garcia-Perez, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez,
Claudia Alvarez; MONA Curator, Teliza V. Rodriguez asking questions
In the catalog to "MUJERES," Teliza V. Rodriguez writes, "Those selected to take part in this exhibition are: Mexican born, New York and Omaha-Based artist, Claudia Alvarez; Colombian-born, Brooklyn and Lincoln-based artist, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez; Mexican-American Omaha artist, Linda Garcia-Perez; Mexican-American Omaha artist, Reneé A. Ledesma; Sandra Williams who foregrounds her Peruvian ethnicity in her work. While each of the artists hails from different backgrounds and experiences . . . their work swirls around themes of family, history, society, and spirituality . . . "

Opening Reception Q&A (left to right): Sandra Williams, Reneé Ledesma, 
Linda Garcia-Perez, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez, Claudia Alvarez

Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez broadened her discussion of feminism by explaining how, in her piece "Cornucopia," the flowers are magnified while the animals and individuals depicted are much smaller. Flowers are often seen as female symbols, she explained.  Friedemann-Sánchez, therefore, places the "female" as having primary value in this piece.  "By putting them [the flowers] in a monumental way, I also tie the feminine into a craft tradition--heroizing the art and the craft."  She also explained that "Cornucopia" is a "visual novel.  This piece is chapter 4, existing between two cultures:  A narrative of immigration memory and subconscious as well as [revealing] what we do to nature (the abuse of the environment)."

Artist, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez discussing her work, "Cornucopia" (behind her)
during the Q&A
"Cornucopia" by Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez

"Cornucopia" (close-up) by Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez
"Cornucopia" (close-up) by Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez

"Mujeres" Opening Reception: Q&A

"Mujeres" opening reception: Q&A
Artist, Claudia Alvarez

Artist, Claudia Alvarez says her "smart and incredible mother" is one of her major inspirations.  Alvarez was among nine children her mother raised.  "My work reflects how she raised us." As well, she has worked for a number of years with women affected by domestic violence.  She has also experimented in taking these pieces, placing them in different environments, and photographing them in various settings to reveal diverse perspectives.  She says she's interested in broadening her work to include photography.

Installation, "La Casa de Tierra" by Artist, Claudia Alvarez

In the foreground:  "La Casa de Tierra" by Claudia Alvarez and in the background,
"The Bear Prince: A Peruvian Folk-Tale," cut-paper works by Sandra Williams
For Linda Garcia-Perez, her paintings and paper cut-outs reflect her Mexican heritage.  She says she's always baffled when people say that some of her work "doesn't look like Mexican art.  Language teaches you to look at life in various ways.  I am most concerned with women's voices that are today being silenced."  

Artist, Linda Garcia-Perez with her "Papel Picado" behind her

Linda Garcia-Perez's painting, "Cuando El Lenguaje Murio" (When Language Died)

Artists Claudia Alvarez and Linda Garcia-Perez

Artist, Linda Garcia-Perez's "Papel Picado"
Artist, Reneé Ledesma was born in San Diego, California.  She came to live in Bellevue, Nebraska when she was six years old.  For many years she was fascinated with animal spirit symbols and has sought to capture them in various forms, primarily in clay.  

Artist, Reneé Ledesma, with her sculptures
Sculpture by Artist, Reneé Ledesma

Sculpture by Artist, Reneé Ledesma
Artist Sandra Williams says that her work is very narrative and literal.  Her installation that includes seven paper cut-out pieces visually narrate a Peruvian fairy tale that is not available in any publishable form.  Instead, this fairy-tale has been passed down orally.  "It is an unusual fairy tale. I was in a workshop in the jungles of Peru--a cultural sustainability workshop.  Because my older work was ecologically irresponsible, I chose to change to cut paper and watercolor.  In Nebraska, I felt stranded without family so I began going to Peru.  This is a 'Reverse Story'--a man and woman walk to the rain forest and as they are walking, he begins to become a bear.  It is a theme of hybridism because, later, they have a child that is half bear." Sandra went on to explain how stories like this usually begin with the animal transforming back to a human.  The fact that the child becomes half bear and then returns to the forest places the emphasis and value on the natural world.  "My work now," she says, "is ecofeminist infused."

Artist Sandra Williams with "Bear Prince:  A Peruvian Folk Tale,"cut-paper works

"Bear Prince, A Peruvian Folk-Tale" by Sandra Williams

Close-up of "Bear Prince Peruvian folk-tale" print by Sandra Williams
The evening of art display and discussion could not have been successful without the help of the students below.  --A shout-out to the wonderful students from University of Nebraska-Kearney who helped make the exhibit opening reception a resounding success!
Students from University of Nebraska-Kearney who assisted with the installation and opening reception
Here's hoping that YOU, dear Gente, will be able to make it to MONA sometime before February 12, 2017 to explore and enjoy these wonderful Latina art works!

Friday, October 28, 2016

From Pancho to the Postman to Mitchum to Gus. And Private Eyes and Really Bad Vatos.

Ah, 2016 ... what a long strange trip it's been. And it ain't over yet.  A few days shy of día de los muertos and it's like endless summer here in Colorado.  I won't be surprised if trick-or-treaters show up in shorts and tank tops.  The weather's not the only thing askew, as they say.  In the year of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize and the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, shouldn't we expect the ... uh ... "unusual" from the national election?   "Winter is coming" might describe the election results if a certain demagogue pulls off his grand illusion. Speaking of, have you listened to Lila Downs' ode to the trumpster?  

On to something more pleasant.

Noir has become a popular topic of conversation. Prime example:  the recent edition of NPR's Alt.Latino program entitled Latino Noir: Private Eyes And Really Bad Vatos. That program features the writing of Carmen Amato, Ernesto Mallo, Myriam Laurini, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, and me. 

I like what program host Felix Contreras and guest Carmen Amato say about the genre (and about my books too, of course.)  For those of you wanting to expand your reading experiences, you won't go wrong if you check out any of the mentioned writers.

And if you listen to the program you not only get a good overview of what Latinos are doing with the mystery story, but also intriguing readings from works of all the authors by Washington, D.C.-based actress and performer Marisa Arbona-Ruiz.  For good measure, Contreras throws in a couple of noirish musical selections including the exceptional Moonlight (Claro de Luna) from the album Nocturne by Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.  Listen up.

Another example of the emergence of Latino  noir from the shadows:  I've been asked to speak on various college campuses (most recently CSU and UCCS) about my brand of Chicano noir. For these talks I use a visual presentation that traces my writing history, but the fun part, for me, is that the slide show gives me an excuse to use pictures like this one.

Out of the Past, a 1947 classic, is one of my favorite movies -- tough guy Bob Mitchum meets his match in tough gal Jane Greer -- and as the poster says, the plot is a "high powered romance that begins with a double cross and ends in double trouble ... for a guy without a future and a girl with too much past." Man, talk about a Chicano scenario.  Makes me want to watch it tonight.  

I also use covers of books that have influenced me and countless other crime fiction authors.  First, an American masterpiece, The Postman Always Rings Twice by noir icon James M. Cain.  Provocative cover, even more provocative prose in Cain's brutal dissection of the so-called American dream, the American myth. There's a passage in this 1937 publication that reflects on anti-Mexican racism and Mexican self-hate. 

One more cover -- The Burglar by David Goodis, master creator of the down-and-out and sinking fast antihero.  Without reading a page you already know it's not going to end well for the burglar, no matter how many sultry women he shacks up with. "His code: honor.  His destiny:  evil."  Exactly. 

Eventually, my talk includes a photo of one of my high school teachers,  the covers of all of my books, and a plate of huevos rancheros.  Among other things.

I get to showcase the missing Pancho Villa skull legend and the possible connection of the grave-robbing to the Bush family (the ones from Texas), and that allows me to explain how my character Gus Corral turned into an amateur detective since he had to find the missing skull or risk the wrath of his older sister Corrine.  For more on that story, check out Chapter 5 of Desperado:  A Mile High Noir, the precursor to my latest  - My Bad:  A Mile High Noir.

You can guess that I try to entertain with my presentation. But at heart, I'm serious about all this.  Crime fiction is my vehicle for story-telling.  All I want to do is write stories that people will read.  

Here's the prologue to My Bad.

My Bad:  A Mile High Noir 
Arte Público Press, 2016
©Manuel Ramos

The big man waited at the back door of the low ugly building. He stood next to a pickup. The snow was light but it would be heavy in another hour. Grab the money and run.

The double-sized door opened and a bearded man dressed in jeans and a greasy flannel shirt walked out. A cloud of vapor floated from his mouth. “Hey, it’s cold out here,” Eugene Eccles said.

“Yeah, tell me about it. You took your sweet time about opening the damn door.”

“You are Toby King, right?”

“You expecting someone else?”

Eccles thought that Toby King did not look like a Toby King. More like a José or a Juan or a Carlos. Gonzales or Martínez, maybe. Something Mexican. But the customer was always right.

“No. It’s just that usually we load through the front, Mr. King. We don’t often use this back door. Since you said you had a bigger load . . . guess it’s okay. Hope it fits in the unit. How big is your box
of stuff?”

He peered into the truck’s empty bed.

“Uh, where’s your stuff?”

King pulled a gun from the deep pocket of his coat.

“Get back in. Number one forty-three. Now.”

Eccles led the way down the narrow hallway until they stopped at door 143.

“Open it.”

Eccles used the ring of keys hanging from his belt. The door opened with a loud grating noise.

King pushed Eccles into the small room, then smashed him on the side of the head with the gun. Eccles collapsed on the concrete floor. A red line of blood creased the side of his face. King rushed to the box in the middle of the floor. He grabbed the top flaps and tore them open. Something was wrong. The box was too light.

“Where’s the goddamn money?” he shouted at the unconscious Eccles.

King grabbed Eccles under the shoulders and dragged him to the hallway. He closed 143, found the right key on the bleeding man’s key ring and opened 144 across the hall. He pushed Eccles into 144, shut the door and locked Eccles and himself in the dark. 

He didn’t want to, but he had to wait for the lawyer. Goddamn Luis Móntez. He knew something about the money. Why else was he coming to this place? Toby King spit on the wall.

“I’ll have to kill him, too,” he whispered to the man on the floor. He hoped he’d be finished by the time the storm hit.


I'll be reading from and signing copies of My Bad at the Tattered Cover here in Denver (Colfax store) on November 3 at 7:00 p.m.  We're going to have a good time -- absolutely.  Join us for a noirish night.  If you can't attend but still want a signed copy, request an autographed book here:


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in October, 2016.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chicanonautica: Tom Swift and His Old-Fashioned Racism

I had a couple of the Tom Swift, Jr. books when I was a kid. I don't remember much about them, except that the author – Victor Appleton II, who turns out is a pseudonym owned by the publisher – kept mentioning the Blond Inventor's hair color, as if it were the source of his superior intelligence.

Nowadays, Tom Sr., who was also the son of an inventor, whose books were written by Victor Appelton (another house pseudonym) can be accessed through Project Gutenberg.

I find obsolete pop culture fascinating, so I downloaded the first novel in the series, Tom Swift and His Motorcycle, or Fun and Adventures On the Road

The most remarkable thing about the book is the one black character, Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson, usually referred to a Eradicate, or Rad for short. Tom's driving style consists of going as fast as he can, and honking his horn if anyone is in the way. He literally runs into Eradicate with his motorcycle. This sets up a subplot in which Eradicate keeps acquiring more and more advanced technology, but can't figure it out, so Tom has to explain it to him. The impression is made that, with the help of sympathetic and patient white men, negroes just may be able to adapt to life in the twentieth century.

This being 1910, Afrofuturism is a long way off.

Curious about how Mexico and Mexicans were depicted in the series, I next downloaded Tom Swift In the City of Gold, or Marvelous Adventures Underground

This one begins with Tom getting news from white explorers in Africa about the discovery of “gold images” that seem to be from Mexico – one statue holds a globe with las Américas on it, and has a crude map scratched on its base. Tom organizes an expedition, not to find out if there was ancient travel between Africa and Mexico, but to, in the tradition of Cortés and other conquistadors, grab the gold to help finance his new inventions. Of course, resources in places like Africa and Mexico are seen as fair game for white men to come and get, especially if they have an airship.

At first Eradicate – whom Tom has hired as handyman/cook/comic relief/airship mechanic – isn't keen about going to Mexico, but once assured that he'll be able to take away all the gold he can carry, he's game.

Tom has to hire Mexicans to help him with his expedition through the jungles (yeah, sounds more like Mayan territory, even though the word “Aztec” is used) to the lost city of Poltec. For some unknown reason, the Mexicans speak rather ordinary English, while Eradicate's negro dialect is lovingly rendered: “A'right, Massa Tom, I shorely will.” Though it might have been that the person hired to be Victor Appleton for this one simply didn't know much about things Mexican, except for popular stereotypes: “Another reason why some of the Mexicans were of little service was because they were so lazy. They preferred to sit and shade and smoke innumerable cigarettes, or sleep.”

Poltec is guarded by headhunters, degenerate Aztecs who provide the action-packed, climactic chase. And it turns out to be a fantastic underground city, suggesting an advanced technology and sophisticated culture, that Tom and his crew are unimpressed with. Tom thinks nothing of decapitating a statue, but then he was a inventor looking for financing, rather than an archeologist.

Today he would be running crowdfunding campaigns.

Some people will find these books offensive, but I think they need to be preserved. Racism should be dragged into the light of day, exposed, and dissected.We need to know where our culture came from, because a lot of this is still alive and well, and running for president. 

Ernest Hogan, the Father of Chicano Science Fiction has already voted via early ballot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Support Great Storytelling: TELL YOUR TRUE TALE

Hey folks

My writing workshop - TELL YOUR TRUE TALE, which for three years has been turning novices into writers/storytellers -- is competing for a $25,000 grant from LA2050 to help us continue the project. Grants are selected via online public voting.

The voting deadline has been extended until Friday afternoon. I'd be much obliged if you'd vote for it if you haven't already....via FB it's very easy.

And please consider sending the link to friends, colleagues, neighbors, relatives etc....

Many thanks,

Poetry of Resistance and Posada Readings

CSUF Grand Central Art Center
125 N Broadway, Santa Ana, California 92701

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27TH (6:30-8:30pm)
with local poets, Javier Pinzón & Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Event Description:
The reading will start with an open mic session featuring six local poets paying tribute to the late Francisco X. Alarcón. Odilia Galván Rodríguez will read her writing along with a selection of the works in the "Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice" anthology published by The University of Arizona Press in 2016. Alarcón's life partner Javier Pinzón will close with his own work.

The reading will address a wide variety of themes, including racial profiling, xenophobia, cultural misunderstanding, violence against refugees, shared identity, and much more. "Poetry of Resistance" is a political call for tolerance, reflection, reconciliation, and healing.

Flor y Canto poets:
Iuri M. Lara
Jesus Cortez
Marilynn Montaño
Jose Morales
Natalie Sánchez Valle
David Lopez

Before the reading (6:30-7:30pm), a special poetry workshop with maestra Odilia Galván Rodríguez! Email to reserve a spot. All ages over 16 years-old are welcomed.

The reading (7:30-8:30pm) will be followed by a book sale and signing. GCAC Artist in Residence, Sarah Rafael García will host the reading.

This literary reading is supported by Grand Central Art Center and in part by Poets & Writers through grants it has received from The James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations.

About the featured poets:
Javier Pinzón came to the United States from Mexico in the eighties. He has had his poetry published in Bay Area community newspapers of San Francisco, and various literary magazines among them, Revista Mujeres, of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and La Palabra, at the University of California, Davis.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, and social justice activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, along with photographer Richard Loya. She is co-editor, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, of Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, from The University of Arizona Press. Odilia has worked as an editor for various magazines, most recently as the English edition editor of Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. Her activist work stems several decades with organizations such as the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO. Currently she facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and well-being of many people. Her poetry and short fiction has been anthologized in many anthologies and literary journals in print and on-line media.


Saturday, October 29th  at 7 PM - 10 PM
Avenue 50 Studio
131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, California 90042

Message from Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo:

Hi everyone! I'm excited to share that my book, POSADA: OFFERINGS OF WITNESS AND REFUGE, will be released from Sundress Publications October 15th, and I will be holding a release party on Saturday, October 29th at Avenue 50 Studios in Highland Park.

POSADA: OFFERINGS OF WITNESS AND REFUGE celebrates my family's immigration story from Jalisco, Mexico to Los Angeles, CA in the 1950s while also giving visibility to those currently crossing into the country from Central America and the human atrocities occurring at the Arizona-Mexico border.

The night will include readings from badass writers Ashaki M. Jackson, Kenji Liu and Melissa Chadburn, a collective building of a Día de los Muertos altar for those who have passed along the border, music from Angela Spiñorita Blanca, food, and of course a book signing. A collection will be taken to support the work of No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes.