Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Review: Looking for Zeta in All the Wrong Places. NHCC Events. No Walls Video On-line Floricanto

Not-quite Review Antonio Solisgomez. Search for the Brown Buffalo. 2016.

Michael Sedano

Literary historian Maxine Borowsky Junge published excerpts from Antonio Solisgomez’ novel-in-progress The Search for the Brown Buffalo, in Junge’s co-written history of Con Safos magazine, Voices From The Barrio, “Con Safos: Reflections of Life in the Barrio”. For the blossoming movimiento in 1970s southern California, C/S defined an ethos centered around irony, humor, and peoplehood. Theirs was a serious pursuit and their achievement towers in the history of raza.

The people who assembled C/S are still around. That’s one of the benefits of reading Borowsky Junge’s history, the first person chapters of writers, editors, artists, staff and extended family. Those comfortable interviews and warm recollections provide a personalized view of this important publication and the personalities who wrote it. But…isn’t there always a “but”?

Formal interviews, no matter how comfortable the setting, are posed photographs. The subject is presenting a version of oneself. Effective interviewers manage moments of candid self-disclosure. Antonio Solisgomez’ novel-in-progress uses a rich command of creative non-fiction to draw founding C/S personalities who jump off the page. The wellspring of C/S’ insouciant ethos rings in the sound of taunting repartee when the old fellows gather for a reunion or debate the issue of the moment.

Students of Chicano Studies know the names and their respective titles, some of their biography. Solisgomez' portrayals aren't the presentation-of-the-self kind but a first-hand participant observer's take on good friends, warts and all. Adopting the omniscient narrator stance the author shows not only how these vatos acted but what they were thinking about. Even with the slow build-up, the story has a lot of built-in fun. The detour to Shangri-la and later urban guerilla tactics are plenty to send the reader off into paroxysms of delight. There's sobering consideration, too, when Isabela wonders if the harassment didn't get old, if they ever took anything seriously?

Browsing readers won't know any of this literary fun. Not from the excerpt Solisgomez includes on his web page, the same as in Voices From the Barrio. The rambling stream-of-consciousness flow eventually finds a place to land—and the story comes slowly to life—in the narrator’s drive into the old neighborhood of Rose Hill where 40 years earlier he and the others wrote and pasted down the boards.

After a sweat cleanses bodies and minds, a wild-hair-up-the-ass manda develops. The former magazine staff go in search of their youth, seeking the fate of Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, whose Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo was first excerpted in an edition of C/S. Publication was a major accomplishment that Rolling Stone overshadowed by running the entire book.

Solisgomez plots the stages of a heroic journey with deliberate speed. The journey starts with the sublime, Magu holds a successful Mental Menudo in Tucson. In high spirits, the Magulandia van carrying Rafas, Rudy, Tudi, Pancho, Serge, Diane, Magu, and a young woman, Isabel, begins its descent to hades when Diane knocks out a pocho-hating narco gunman in a barroom melee. Logic dictates they kidnap the murderous devil. Desperately on the lam, the group is savagely beaten on the highway and sent crashing into an arroyo.

Fans of speculative fiction need to fasten their seat belts here. Rescued by passing indios, the injured chicanada are nursed to health in a remote village that exists in a 5th dimension with attendant magical restorative powers, willing women offering nights of sexual fulfillment, and these old pedos beguiled don’t want ever to give up all that… Despite knowing Isabel has been captured by the narco gunman.

They’re kicked out of paradise and at the end of the road the aging artists and writers and editors of Con Safos magazine use the cover of a DDLM parade to rescue Isabel and make a desperate escape across the Sea of Cortez to freedom.

Antonio Solisgomez weaves a grand vision but is well aware he has miles to go before the book is ready for a wide audience. The copyright title page lists this as "Preliminary proof edition May 2016." His opening pages are a slog. The author indulges himself without an editor, rambling through personal details, sexual braggadocio, and lacking the hand of an editor, allows himself to lay down spontaneously combusted ideas that don’t quite spark into full thoughts. Snip away idle schist, compress, drill down to bedrock material. That’s the ticket.

A geode looks like a round black rock until opened up to display the fire that has always been there. That’s this book. Some of this writing sings with narrative and metaphoric skill. When he wants, the author crafts with structural efficiency, dropping a word or suggestion in an earlier page then giving it new life later on. He could chip away at reducing expositions on movimiento epistemology, and just get to his point. When he’s on, he zings:

“Many of those that didn’t say Fuck You, that ingratiated themselves, that tried losing their uniqueness in some ill defined amorphous cultural cauldron, who lost the ability to speak to their abuelas, that erase or suppressed childhood memories, cut a chunk from their heart, pissed away some of their courage, and learned to eat shit the rest of their lives.”

The characters, fictionalized from actual to plausible to fantasy interactions, are keenly drawn. Although the first words of the story are “None of this story is true”, the narrator has a twinge of sentiment for his characters getting a taste of doing good, and fame. Except for Magu, Solis writes, none of them would again experience the heights of popular acclaim. They've never been able to resurrect the magazine.

One of the raps on the C/S staff was its sexist exclusion of women. Solisgomez lamely addresses the issue as a matter of prisoners of the era. He makes up for the sleight in his Diane Hernandez character. Diane delivers a salutary cachetada to sexism in any form. In the aftermath of the bar brawl, Diane treats readers to this exchange with husband Sergio:

“Damn Diane, you really did it this time” Serge said, voicing something we were all thinking.
“Fuck you Serge,” she said. “If you had any balls I wouldn’t have to lend you mine. No asshole is going to threaten me with a gun and get away with it.”

Who knows if there is an “Isabela,” or she was added to engorge the author’s old man fantasies of seducing a twenty-something chick. The woman’s next generation voice is clear and strong, supported by finely distilled new age philosophy. I hear the author’s message in there, but equally it’s the banter of an old man angling for a pity lay. The author’s lothario fantasies slow down the story and in the end limp flaccidly from concern.

The Search for the Brown Buffalo offers rich cultural textures resounding with authenticity. This is how vatos of a certain age, with a bit of schooling and couth in them, talked to one another. This particular intellectualized tribe bonded through speech stylistics, what they argued about, and their vehemence. A strong undercurrent powers the group dynamic. The older C/S founders graduated high school in the fifties and sixties. The younger generation activists were just then coming of age in the 70s. There’s a critical generational split between editors who demand prescriptivist values called “literary,” and the younger tipos who endorse heart over quality.

Readers will take away a keener understanding of the cultural forces that brought Con Safos magazine into public acclaim. Some will bear a grudge because of how the insiders treated Pancho, others will wonder at the author’s cavalier attitude to the captive Isabela. Fans of the Brown Buffalo will engage that line with glee, knowing that Antonio Solisgomez knew Acosta well, has good sources, he’s stringing together rumors only one or two removes from the source. Is the Brown Buffalo idling the hours in Samoa? Was Zeta murdered and reincarnated as a raging buffalo exacting vengeance upon his murderer?

There’s a PBS film on Oscar Acosta headed to your teevee set in the near future. Look for it knowing that Acosta’s homeboys went looking for him and it turned into a real gonzo of a road trip.

Look for Antonio Solisgomez to edit the heck out of The Search for the Brown Buffalo. Right now it's available exclusively through Solisgomez' website (link). When it hits the bookshelves, snap up your copies. And if you don’t yet own the C/S biography book, think of it as a holiday gift to yourself.

Muralist Eloy Torrez Feted

Something there is that does not love a blank slab of a wall. Murals, for one. Los Angeles supports one of the world’s most vibrant mural traditions. One of the city’s preeminent painters, Eloy Torrez, is the focus of three events coming to Plaza de la Raza at 3540 N Mission Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90031

Torrez’ painting of Culture Clasher Herbert Siguenza will be in the show. The painting is the cover piece for La Bloga’s Daniel Olivas’ upcoming book.

Vamos a Jugar en las Ruinas (Let’s Go Play in the Ruins)
A Survey exhibition curated by Dr. Sally Mincher
September 8th - October 21st , 2017

Opening Reception Friday, Sept. 8th, 7:30 pm
Boathouse Gallery, Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center
3540 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90031

There are three events:
+Opening Reception - Friday, September 8, 7:30pm-10pm

+Artist Talk - Thursday, Sept. 14, 7:30pm - with Eloy Torrez, Sally Mincher and Mat Gleason

+The Pope of Broadway Revisited Film Screening - Friday, October 6, 7:30pm - directed by Juliane Backmann. Q&A with Eloy Torrez, Juliane Backmann, Art Mortimer, and Isabel Rojas-Williams. (Special performance from Eloy and his band immediately following.)

"The Pope of Broadway" restored.

NHCC Events in Peak Mode for Alburquerque

Visit NHCC's website for ticketing details  http://www.nhccnm.org

No Border Wall On-line Floricanto In Alliance With Resistencia en la frontera: Poets Against Border Walls
Carolina Monsivais, Santa Ramirez, Alejandro Sanchez

A Letter to My Son by Carolina Monsivais
Manos by Santa Ramirez
Chicano in Exile by Alejandro Sanchez

Carolina Monsivais
A Letter to My Son

A Letter to My Son

“Lo que mas cuido
En este mundo
Eso eres.”
Eres-Café Tacuba

It was only the third time
since you arrived into the world

the year “hope”
a dark blue and red emblem

seemed to mark a crossroad
that you noticed my voice splinter

and my son I had to hold
your head close and breath in

your hair, to evoke the desert
our home, our shared birthplace

our shared homeland, la frontera
my comfort against the hate

that grasped at an era of imagined
redemption. I heed my mentor’s

warning, history does not repeat

exactly. Any similarities
are the deliberate

calculated actions of men. Replications.
Their plan stirred fears held

about our gente. Our home.
A space they think wide

open, our people, interlopers
always. They haven’t experienced

the fence jutting or the heat or the river
claiming and giving.

We are here when
blame needs placing.

My son,
your Ita returned the year I was born

and the U.S. seemed less a specter
that deported your great-great aunt

when she dared to say her children
deserved a better school. I want you

to know our continual
presence, our rootedness, our belonging

our place in this land’s history
is a threat to an invented color-line.

The they, who chanted and chanted for
a wall, want to clearly re-mark

re-establish this line, that men
these men who always want something from us

our land, our labor, even our absence

You can count the three days you witnessed
tears. The women who raised me

taught me strength in arms wrapped tight
to close away vulnerabilities

that I resented but understand now
as a necessity to believe I can keep you safe.

A feeling that you my son, equate with our home’s
mountains, that limits every storm’s reach

that I echo in my embrace so you may
feel it wherever we go, so we may carry

home everywhere along la frontera.
Our home where a man who rules

in favor of divisions will declare
our home, our history a violent sliver and

force it into the image of his rhetoric
A war zone that isn’t except in necessity.

I remember also that on that day
I saw a young man on campus

clad in bright red and blue
covered in the slogan of what

will be made great again, gleefully
as if some match had just been won.

And my son, I wanted to hug him
this boy, someone else’s son

against what he doesn’t know
is coming. From the those who

chanted wall, wall, wall, wall
from those who whispered

it wistfully to themselves
so their one friend of color

wouldn’t judge them openly
from those who recognized the slogan’s

danger but voted
for an imagined past anyway

because like a beast diseased
and eating its own tentacles

they would rather destroy themselves
than finally accept us.

Carolina Monsiváis is the author of Somewhere Between Houston and El Paso, Elisa’s Hunger, and Descent. A former counselor in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault, she remains committed to eradicating patriarchal violence through her writing and activism. Originally from El Paso, Texas she earned degrees from the University of Houston (B.A) and New Mexico State University (M.F.A.). She is currently a doctoral candidate in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso, and resides in McAllen, Texas.
Visit: carolinamonsivais.wordpress.com

Santa Ramirez


Esas manos que piscan algodón
Que lavan frijoles, tallan ropa,
Que curan de ojo, de empacho, de susto

Esas manos que estiran, que amasan
Que arden y siguen cuidando
Al pesar del dolor de huesos

Esas manos cortadas, quemadas, arrugadas,
Cicatrizadas con venas saltadas
Esas manos que han luchado día tras día
Y siguen luchando

En esas manos
corre sangre guerrera, revolucionaria
Quebrando ciclos
Criando mujeres con voz
En la frontera

Mujeres educadas
Mujeres empoderadas
Mujeres con manos en puño
Resistiendo contra muros
Con palabras mágicas

Fork tongued women
Keen eyed
Talons perched on piercing spines
Wings spread wide across the Rio
Taking flight into borderless skies

Santa Ramirez is an MA candidate in English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Texas Rio-Grande Valley.

Chicano in Exile
Alejandro Sanchez

Chicano in Exile 

Si Chicano / Todos los mariachis / Estan listos
Pa’ llevarle serenata / A tu Valle querido

I am a chicano en exilio / I have no pride / No tengo orgullo
Por ser un chicano en exile / Estoy lejos de mi gente
Quien entre las fronteras se organizan / Derrumban murallas
A barrios liberan / Y yo
Lejos de la batalla / Me pierdo viendo
En tristeza {Grito}

No te rajes Chicano

Y yo…I
Have this pain on my chest / Ancestral weight / Bearing down / Creating a cavity
Puncturing my heart / But I don’t bleed /No blood running through my veins
I’m dry / Toy seco /Like the fields
Who / Brought / Anxiety to my predecessors
Con la venida del frio / Aya cuando
“Con el alambre viene el hambre” /Now el alambre
Me adorna / Tengo corona de alambre / Piercing
My brains, my thoughts / Numbing all sensation
Time is a frustration / No healing to come by
Lost all piety / Lost all conscious
Could’ve lost myself / But my corona de alambre
Serves to recall / I remember
I do not bleed / How could I bleed?
Depleted / By divine intervention
For el curandero / I had no expectations
No blood no bleeding so / No red stains to
Mi piel morena / Hacerla mas negra
Negra / Negra tengo las penas
Mi esperanza no es sincera / En desesperacion
No conozco el amor / Compasion
Te lo perdi / Me veo convertir
En las manchas que no deja mi sangre / Ni porque el hambre
But life continues / Porque sigo siendo el rey

Andale Chicano cantale con ganas a tus paisanos

Me canse / de esperar
Me canse / De extranar
Este exilio / Me had de matar
Y hoy les canto / Pa’ deshogar
Mariachis please / Change this somber tone
For I will return / And so I’ve heard
Que dicen / Dicen que pa’ volver
They say / In sane condition
Strong in mind and soul / Free from malice
I must be / To return
But I / Accept my fate
Cause I / Understand I can change it
And I / Will return
For I / Am the Chicano in exile
Returning to his gente / A su Valle querido
In the dawn of a movement
Isan Bak San
You come for one
You come for all

Alejandro Sánchez is from Brownsville, Texas. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he earned his B.A. in Mexican American Studies last year. He is a student organizer for La Union Chicana de Hijxs de Aztlán.

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