Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Shameless Shenanigans of Míster Malo / Las terribles travesuras de Mister Malo

By Alidis Vicente

Spanish translation by Carolina Villarroel

  • ISBN: 978-1-55885-853-4
  • Bind: Paperback
  • Pages: 239

This entertaining bilingual book for intermediate readers features a fourth-grade bully avenger.

During the school day, Lance García looks like a typical fourth-grader at Oakland Elementary School. But after school, dressed in disguise—black jacket, black baseball cap and dark, cool sunglasses with tiny, rectangular mirrors so he can see who’s behind him—he checks the mailbox labeled “Malo Mail.” No one realizes that he is the infamous Mister Malo, righter of wrongs, punisher of bullies.

There’s an interesting plea for help in the mailbox. Isabella Santos spread a rumor that Madeline Wilson farted on the playground, and now everyone makes farting noises when she walks by. No one will talk to her, and a group of boys in particular are making her life miserable. Madeline offers Mister Malo a large box of tropical-flavored fruit snacks if he’ll teach Isabella a lesson. Soon Lance is busy plotting the perfect revenge. He wants to rehabilitate the bullies and help them realize how hurtful their actions are. What will be the best tactic to convince Isabella that being laughed at and picked on is no fun?

But Mister Malo’s scheme doesn’t go exactly as planned, forcing him to think outside of the box. Meanwhile, Lance has to deal with his own problem in the form of his difficult cousin, Manuel. This entertaining bilingual “flip” book will resonate with kids ages 8-12 in its examination of popularity on the school grounds and dealing with troublemakers.


“Vicente invites readers to experience the daily life of an elementary school anti-bully vigilante in this quirky bilingual tale. Lance is endearingly earnest, and Vicente does a great job of focusing on kid priorities. The educational possibilities will appeal to parents and teachers, and the hint of Greg Heffley will draw young readers in.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Humorous vignettes, realistic conflicts, and a male protagonist bent on doing the right thing make this first title in a new series stand on its own alongside other popular series for this age group.”—School Library Journal

ALIDIS VICENTE is the author of two bilingual books for intermediate readers in The Flaca Files / Los expedientes de Flaca series, The Case of the Three Kings / El caso de los Reyes Magos and The Missing Chancleta and Other Top Secret Cases / La chancleta perdida y otros casos secretos, and two picture books, The Coquí and the Iguana (Operation Outreach-USA Press, 2011) and Violet (Operation Outreach-USA Press, 2014). She received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and worked for New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services. She lives with her family in New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

La Bloga Welcome At LitFest, Banned On Face. For Mother, On-line Floricanto

La Bloga Meets Gente At Pasadena LitFest
Michael Sedano

It helps having conectas. Melinda Palacio had one of those desultory conversations that segue into business and in this case, that business manifested as a panel at Pasadena, California's annual LitFest. Getting a slot on the program is a challenge for most, so Melinda scored a coup for La Bloga and gente of Pasadena.

This year the festival, organized by the Light Bringer Project, occupied the Playhouse District. Once the go-to college for Hollywood aspirants, Pasadena Playhouse now limits itself to staging out-of-town tryouts, revivals, and original work like an upcoming Culture Clash. (link). Unlike "Old Pasadena", parking is free and available in the district. The Playhouse District is where the locals gather to avoid the tourists.

Vroman's Bookstore, one of the last free-standing independent booksellers in the San Gabriel Valley, has long stood on this isolated stretch of Colorado Boulevard. The bookstore sponsored author readings in its airy patio. Across the street from the Playhouse, al fresco poetry reading delighted boulevardiers and coffee sippers.

La Bloga: Chicanx and Latinx Community. Banned, Sometimes Buried, But Always Online took place at 530 p.m. in the living room-like space of a recently opened condo development adjacent to Vroman's.

La Bloga turns 14 this Fall and has found its way to the computer screens of over four million visitors. Yet, according the Facebook, La Bloga is a dangerous site and is blocked from the popular site. Thus the "banned" in the title.

A gratifying handful of souls found their way to The Andalucia to hear Daniel Olivas, Olga Garcia, Melinda Palacio, Rene Colato Laínez, and Michael Sedano. Despite its location at Vroman's rear entrance, the room in the Andalucia is around the corner on the other side of the building.

Only a few attending have been part of the 4 million visitors, so the panel introduced a new resource to readers. Others were familiar with the blog and shared disappointment learning how Facebook has banned La Bloga. Any friend wishing to share the words ""gets interrupted with a screen telling the user La Bloga is a dangerous site.

For Mother: On-Line Floricanto
Eréndira Santillana, Edward Vidaurre, Briana Muñoz, Nephtalí De Leon, Vanessa Caraveo, Sarah St George, Julieta Corpus, Anatalia Vallez, Odilia Galván Rodríguez

“Nantli” Por Eréndira Santillana
“The Age of Softening” By Edward Vidaurre
“Mother” By Briana Muñoz
“Mamá” By Nephtalí De Leon
“Final Reflections” By Vanessa Caraveo
“Mother” By Sarah St George
“This Constant Ache” By Julieta Corpus
“Bond” By Anatalia Vallez
“Itzpapalotl” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Por Eréndira Santillana

Yehua in xochitl,
Xiquiyehua ipan moyollo,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
ica nochi noyollo.
-"Xiquiyehua in xochitl", canción de arrullo nahua

En esta oscuridad, nantli,
abrazo la flor de tu canto
soy el niño
que se cobija en el río
y cada noche
aguardo en el recodo
para presenciar
tu amor
mover mis ondas,
vendaval ardiente
que surge
al pronunciar tu nombre.

Yehua in xochitl,
Xiquiyehua ipan moyollo,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
ica nochi noyollo.

El recodo está vacío, madre
tu viento no me reconoce
y entre la serpiente de agua
antes grávida, hoy tranquila,
me ahogo
en los caudales de mi padre
mi ser, atado, toca fondo
me ahogo
no puedo recordarte mujer-viento
¿y si, quizá, nunca supe tu nombre?
¿y si la canción que movía
mi manta de agua
era un sueño
como la flor caída del cielo
el grito del huracán
y las hazañas del Sol?
Me ahogo...

Guarda esta flor
guárdala en tu corazón
porque te amo
porque te amo
con todo mi corazón.

The Age of Softening/ La Edad de la Suavización
By Edward Vidaurre

I see pictures of my mother
with silver hair, the age of softening

Is in her house now. Dad has gone,
she swallows the clouds that pass

Hoping to taste his sweat one last time
Hoping to taste his tears one last time

Mom, when did we grow up and forget
your cradling hands and sweet kisses?

I want to be that child again. I want to
be held in your arms snuggling with

My face buried in your neck, and feel your
Hands pat me to sleep. When did I forget

You worked jobs that had you hunched over
for hours at a time and still came home to

Clean up our mess? How many times
did I tell you I Love you? Was it enough?

When I sleep, may my breaths
be odes of love for you.

La Edad de la Suavización
Por Edward Vidaurre

Veo fotos de mi madre
con el cabello blanco, la edad de la suavización

Ha llegado a su hogar. Papá se ha ido,
ella se traga las nubes que pasan

Esperando probar su sudor por última vez
Esperando probar sus lágrimas por última vez

Madre, ¿cuándo crecimos y olvidamos
tus manos que acunaban y tus dulces besos?

Quiero volver a ser ese niño. Quiero que vuelvas
a tenerme entre tus brazos acurrucado con

Mi rostro escondido en tu cuello, y sentir tus manos
palmeando mi cabeza para dormirme. ¿Cuándo olvidé

Que realizabas labores que te mantenían jorobada
por horas y horas y aun así regresabas a casa y

Limpiabas nuestro desorden? ¿Cuántas veces
te dije Te Amo? ¿Fueron suficientes?

Mientras duermo, que cada una de mis exhalaciones
sean odas de mi amor por ti.

By Briana Muñoz

My mother is a mystical creature
Her skinny fingers have the ability
To cure ailments
By holding a wet cloth on sweaty foreheads
Her humming fills rooms
With chirping birds
Singing songs of serenity
Rocking insomniacs to sleep
Do all mothers come from the same place?
Sculpted from hands of empathy?
I think so.
Though I realize, that some do stray from these origins
If governments were run by mothers
No child would go hungry
And homelessness would be,
Only a tale told
Around campfires
To the younger kids
My mother is a mystical creature

By Nephtalí De Leon

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro hijos.

¡Qué misterio tan profundo,
tan lejano
evoca el nombre!

Cuatro letras
en el fondo de las almas.

¿Qué misterio
germinado en tierra blanda
brota alegre
al palpitar?

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro metas.

Recorristes calles negras,
y tus manos afanosas
con la dulzura de rosas
forjaron cuatro caminos.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro espinas.

Absimaste la lectura
de gran sabios y de santos
y forjaste mi destino.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro hijos.

Con el arte de tus manos
y las rimas de tu mente
modelastes dulceménte
la vida de mis hermanos.

Cuatro letras que contienen
el misterio de mi infancia,
el eco de mis ensueños,
la inquietud de mis recuerdos.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro letras que bendigo
en cada puerto remoto --
ya que no existe olvido
ni imaginable distancia
que nuble ni tu memoria
ni la risa de mi infancia.

Cuatro letras.

¿Qué me diste madre mía –
que cuando observo la noche
y se alumbra de luces bellas
lloro de tanta alegría?

¿Qué me has dado madre mía –
que cuando sufro una pena
y veo las blancas estrellas
radiantes en su esplendor –
silvo y canto de dolor?

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro vidas.

Cuatro vidas ya forjadas
cual piedras y joyas finas
del árbol y del vida
que se convierte en carbón;
y luego, después de duras veintenas
alumbran su forjador …

Cuatro letras de hermosura
que encierran con gran ternura …
la grandeza, la violencia,
el misterio de la vida –
y el total …
¡de toda la existencia!

Final Reflections
By Vanessa Carave

Lying next to you on the hospital bed
I know the time is coming near
I squeeze your pale thin hand once more
And touch your forehead gently with my warm hand.
We’ve been through so much together
We faced it all
When others walked away we made it.
You taught me what truly matters in life
We all have the same heart and a person’s value lies within them.
I made mistakes in life
You forgave me with your unconditional love which knows no boundaries.
When I felt I couldn’t go on
Your words uplifted me to not give up and keep fighting like a true warrior.
You sacrificed so much and always put me first
You are the epitome of true unconditional love.
I slowly lean over to give you a soft kiss on your forehead
I see a small tear form in the corner of your eye and the slightest hint of a smile
Thank you mother
Before you go please know this,
I love you
You will always live in my heart.

By Sarah St George


I am so sorry to bother you,
I know you are busy

Counting down the days to the rapture,
Arguing with empty chairs

It's just that it's a beautiful day
and I was thinking maybe we could take the kids for a walk in the park

They still ask about you
each time we drive by your place

Don't worry,
Your wine bottles and dead husband
will be exactly where you left them
when you get back home.

This Constant Ache
By Julieta Corpus

Everyday I wake up like this---
Missing you. Not much has changed
Since you left us. Ni el caudal de lágrimas,
Ni la mirada ausente de papá después
De que platica contigo en sueños. Your
Name remains hidden in the soft ridges
Of each of your children's lips. None of
Us dare to say your name out loud. We
Fear suffocating beneath grief's avalanche.

Dejamos tus cenizas entre la espuma
Del oceáno, mixing forever with salt,
Flotsam, and seaweed. By now, you have
Travelled around the world more than
A few times. I remember that day as though
It just happened. I remember Dad's hands
Hanging limply, shaking slightly. He looked
Lost and smaller, somehow---shrunken.

Our older brother waded in the water
With the rectangular blue box that contained
Your ashes. My sisters and I sang you
Into your final resting place while the seagulls
Seemed to keep a respectful distance.
The moment was both beautiful and terrible,
All at once.

Ever since, I look away from any newspaper
Advertisement or tv commercial announcing
Mother's Day. Too painful--a constant ache.
Our loss is a sparrow's injured wing, a moon-
Less August sky, a thirsty hummingbird, a
Mockingbird's plaintive call.

Everyday I wake up like this--missing you, Mamá

By Anatalia Vallez

as a fetus my mother inhaled love
it lingered in her vocal chords
then traveled to her stomach
through her umbilical chord
and into me
it now lives between my stomach and diaphragm

Perhaps that's why I exist
to exhale what was trapped in my mothers throat

Por Anatalia Vallez

cuando aun estaba en su vientre
mi mamá inspiró amor
perduro en sus cuerdas vocales
se desenvolvió en su estómago
y viajo por la cuerda umbilical
hasta llegar a mi
ahorra vive entre mi estómago y diafragma

Tal vez por eso existo
para exhalar lo que se detuvo en su garganta

By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

for my mother and all the mothers

Butterfly warrior woman
you were forged in fire
fierce in your desire
to transform yourself and
your world
from the red-orange flames
to birth and inspire
new nations without borders

Oh precious star
your beauty does not blind me
nor do the tongues of your flames
I am not frightened
to walk into your embrace
you Obsidian Flower
who like the sharpest knife
cuts through all the lies and
shapeshifts tomorrows

Meet the Poets
“Nantli” Por Eréndira Santillana
“The Age of Softening” By Edward Vidaurre
“Mother” By Briana Muñoz
“Mamá” By Nephtalí De Leon
“Final Reflections” By Vanessa Caraveo
“Mother” By Sarah St George
“This Constant Ache” By Julieta Corpus
“Bond” By Anatalia Vallez
“Itzpapalotl” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Briana Muñoz is a writer from San Marcos, California. She is a full time student and enjoys writing about what she observes around her on her free time. She writes fictional short stories, creative non-fiction and poetry. Briana is striving to publish her works some time in the near future.

Nephtali De Leon, is a poet, author, playwright, muralist painter and screenwriter. A migrant worker, he published his first book while a senior in high school, which was the last experience with formal education that he cared to be involved with. His works have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Catalan… into a total of 12 languages. He writes for all ages , from elementary to University levels, and illustrates most of his works. He has been published in USA, Mexico, France, Spain and China. His dream is to have Mexica Chicano Natives de-colonize themselves from misnomers such as “Latinos” and “Hispanics,” which he says hold us as psycho/physical hostages of ourselves in a self-colonizing perpetuity that needs the chains to be broken. His most recent book (of eight already published), will be his fourth presently being published in Valencia, Spain. The book will contain at least 5 languages of the many he has been translated into, so that issues such as the Aytozinapa’s search for justice -- goes worldwide.

Vanessa Caraveo has been avidly involved in writing throughout the years and was published in HWG’s, “Out of Many One: Celebrating Diversity,” 2017 anthology and “Boundless 2018: The Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival” anthology, both available on Amazon. She had her winning essays published for the IMIA for two consecutive years in a row (2013 and 2014) and also has various fiction, non-fiction and poems published for diverse organizations. Vanessa has been a volunteer and member of various non-profit groups and hopes to uplift the lives of others while emphasizing the importance of making a positive difference through her literary work.

Sarah St. George is a poet turning up the volume in the quiet corner of Connecticut. Since the age of twelve she has been using poetry to make exes infamous, unravel the enigmas of existence, and cope with trauma and loss. Her work covers a wide range of topics including nude Muppets, domestic violence, and the joys and challenges of motherhood. She has been featured in several anthologies and literary magazines. When not writing and sharing her poems, Sarah enjoys spending time with her son and daughter, learning, walking around town with her sloth puppet, and making jewelry. She is currently working as a an instructional assistant and hopes to one day teach creative writing at the college level.

Anatalia Vallez is a​ proud​ daughter of migrants, writer, performer & artivist passionate about using art as a tool for creating consciousness and community. ​She seeks to find intimate truths and plant seeds to change the world. Learn more at:


Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, educator, and activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, a collaboration with Texas photographer, Richard Loya, by Merced College Press 2016. Also, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, she edited the award-winning anthology: Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, University of Arizona Press, 2016. This poetry of witness anthology, the first of its kind because it came about because of the primarily on-line organizing work of Alarcón, Galván Rodriguez, and other poet-activists which began as a response to the proposal of SB 1070, the racial profiling law which was eventually passed by the Arizona State Legislature in 2010 and later that year, HB 2281which bans ethnic studies. With the advent of the Facebook page Poets Responding (to SB 1070) thousands of poems were submitted witnessing racism, xenophobia, and other social justice issues which culminated in the anthology.

Galván Rodríguez has worked as an editor for various print media such as Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She is currently, the editor of Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online; facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is director of Poets Responding, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people and encouraging people to take action. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

As an activist she worked for the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO, The East Bay Institute for Urban Arts, has served on numerous boards and commissions, and is currently active in Women’s organizations whose mission it is to educate around women’s rights, environmental justice issues and disseminate an Indigenous world view regarding the earth and people’s custodial relationship to it. Odilia Galván Rodríguez has a long and rich history of working for social justice in solidarity with activists from all ethnic groups.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Latina/o Immigrants in the Racist Era of Trump

Guest essay by Dr. Alvaro Huerta

President Donald J. Trump represents an existential threat to immigrants in the United States.

Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies consist of racist, xenophobic, enforcement-only and divisive (i.e., “us-versus-them”) political positions. Moreover, Trump’s domestic positions on immigration interconnect with his foreign diplomacy based on isolationist and unilateralist policies. While former U.S. presidents espoused (and implemented) similar anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of an estimated 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens during WW II, Trump, during his short presidency, aims to re-imagine or re-invent the country’s dark past with his racist slogan, “Make America Great Again”—which Trump originally claimed he coined. However, Trump actually stole it from the late President Ronald Reagan.

The “Hustler-in-Chief” lies so much, it must be difficult for him—along with his lackey apologists and fellow liars, like John F. Kelly, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, etc.—to keep track of all his lies. I just hope that the brave comedian Michelle Wolf returns to the White House Correspondent's dinner, so she can ridicule and rip into Kelly and Giuliani in same manner she exposed Sander’s infinite lies at this year’s memorable event.

Americans and people around the world shouldn’t be surprised by Trump’s lies, xenophobic (or anti-immigrant) rhetoric and policies. On June 16, 2015, for instance, when he delivered his “famous” presidential announcement speech (or “infamous,” depending on your political affiliation), Trump launched into a diatribe against Mexicans: “…When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists…”

In this racist speech with his immigrant wife by his side, Trump clearly connected with a significant segment of the American electorate receptive to anti-Mexicanism. In his brilliant essay, La Realidad: The Realities of Anti-Mexicanism—A Paradigm” (HuffPost, January 25, 2017), UCLA History Professor Juan Gómez-Quiñones posits that “U.S. anti-Mexicanism is a race premised set of historical and contemporary ascriptions, convictions and discriminatory practices inflicted on persons of Mexican descent, longstanding and pervasive in the United States… Anti-Mexicanism is a form of nativism practiced by colonialists and their inheritors…”

While the dark history of racism against African Americans is highly documented and well known, such as slavery, Jim Crow and police abuse, public knowledge of racist policies (historical and contemporary) against individuals of Mexican heritage—immigrants and citizens—is desperately lacking. For example, in addition to the imperialist U.S. war against Mexico during the mid-1800s (1846-1848)—where Mexico lost half of its territory—the U.S. government has implemented (to the present) racist campaigns and policies towards Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans (or Chicanas/os).

As part of the many draconian and inhumane cases against Mexicans in el norte during the 1900s, this included mass deportation campaigns of this racialized group, such as the “Mexican Repatriation” during the 1930s and “Operation Wetback” during the 1950s. In their insightful book, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, Dr. Francisco E. Balderrama and Mr. Raymond Rodríguez argue that an estimated one million individuals of Mexican heritage were deported during the Great Depression, where an estimated 60 percent consisted of U.S. citizens. In terms of “Operation Wetback,” then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the deportation of over one million individuals of Mexican heritage—immigrants and citizens.

Inspired by Eisenhower, during his presidential campaign, Trump praised “Operation Wetback.” By doing so, then-candidate Trump sent a clear signal to his white nativist base, where his anti-immigration policies will consist of enforcement-only measures, resurrecting the mass deportations of brown immigrants of the 20th Century. The underlying premise of Trump’s mass deportation fantasies (of the past) and policies (of the present) center on the eugenics ideology (or pseudoscience), from the late-1800s to the present. Coined by Francis Galton, this pseudoscience is based on the premise that to “advance” the human “race,” individuals with “good” traits/genes (“whites”) or so-called “desirable” traits/genes should reproduce with each other.

Throughout history, the eugenics ideology/movement has been used by racist individuals and groups, like the Nazi leaders in Germany or neo-Nazis in the United States, to claim that the Aryan race is genetically superior compared to other “races” or groups. Prior to the rise of Nazism, however, white Americans used this pseudoscience to argue that they were superior compared to racialized groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Mexican Americans. For instance, as a way to justify their racist policies towards African Americans throughout the late-1800s to the mid-1900s, like residential segregation and whites-only spaces (public and private), white American leaders and white citizens claimed (to the present) that whites were/are superior to blacks.

In his op-ed on the plight of undocumented youth, the award-winning writer Michael D’Antonio connects Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporary deportation relief and work permits for qualified undocumented youth, to eugenics: “There is another distinction that sets Dreamers apart, of course: Most of them are from Mexico, and they are not white. Trump's move to end DACA, therefore, must be understood within the historical context of America's exclusionary immigration policies, the bulk of which have relied on the pseudoscience of eugenics” (Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2017).

In terms of being a divisive leader, Trump has played his “us-versus-them” card throughout his presidential campaign (to the present). Be it Mexican immigrants, Muslim Americans or African American athletes (e.g., African American professional athletes who refuse to stand for the American flag due to police abuse), Trump represents the next “great-white-hope” to protect white Americans against the so-called black and brown “barbarians.” Under this context, Trump’s fetish or fantasy for a southern border wall, which Mexico will miraculously “pay for,” makes absolute sense. Instead of focusing on bridges that unite us, for instance, Trump is focusing on walls that divide us. In his superb book, Why Walls Won't Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide, Dr. Michael Dear brilliantly makes case that walls don’t work.

While Trump has solidified his racist credentials, there’s no denying the large share of American voters—almost 63 million voted for him against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 7, 2017—who bought his racist message. For example, of the millions of Trump supporters, how many of them abandoned Trump when he reportedly disparaged immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries during a White House-led meeting on January 11, 2018, where Trump reportedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (The Washington Post, January 12, 2018). To remove any doubt of his racist credentials, Trump also inquired about bringing more immigrants from countries like Norway.   

By examining Trump’s domestic immigration policies based on his racist, xenophobic, enforcement-only and divisive political positions, we can better understand or examine his foreign positions based on isolationist and unilateralist policies. For instance, while Trump insists on building his southern or U.S.-Mexico border wall, where the tax payers will eventually pay for it (not Mexico), what incentives does Mexico (as a so-called friendly nation) have to cooperate or trade with the United States, especially with other viable options, like China or European Union (EU)?

While Mexico’s ruling political party—the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)—constantly caves or bows to Trump, there’s no guarantee that if a progressive candidate like Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins the Mexican presidential election on July 1, 2018, Mexico will continue to capitulate to los gringos or the “Orange-Man-in-the-White House.”

In short, while the U.S. remains a superpower with asymmetric diplomatic relations throughout world, its leaders—Trump and the morally complicit/bankrupt Republican Party—and its citizens must decide if they want to use their enormous military and economic power for good or evil? Unless Trump gets impeached, where his entire administration resigns, including the equally dangerous Vice President Mike Pence, a significant segment of the world—especially the marginalized and oppressed—will continue to perceive the American citizen via a singular gaze: “The Ugly American.”

[Dr. Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. As a Chicano scholar-activist, he is the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm, (San Diego State University Press, 2013). Dr. Huerta holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. in urban planning and a B.A. in history—both from UCLA.]



On Thursday, I had the great pleasure of being a guest author at Professor Maceo Montoya’s Chicanx Narrative class at UC Davis.  Prof. Montoya had assigned my latest short-story collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures (University of Arizona Press), and the students came ready with great questions and insightful observations.  I was so impressed by the students…they made me proud!  And I want to thank Prof. Montoya for being so welcoming, and for the lovely dinner he and his partner, Alejandra, prepared for me and several of their friends.
Prof. Maceo Montoya in his art studio.

Prof. Montoya's students welcome me into their midst.

And on Saturday, several members of La Bloga participated in a panel discussion at LitFest Pasadena.  What a lively dialogue we had, and it proved once again the importance of this community we call La Bloga.  Mil gracias to the volunteers and sponsors who made the festival a reality, and many thanks to Melinda Palacio who did a beautiful job moderating the panel.

The panelists joined by several members of the audience who didn't mind being photographed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

When Poems Fly: Adventures in Songwriting and Bird Forgiveness

Melinda Palacio

I wrote a song. Not only did I write a song, but I came up with the chords and lyrics all on my new guitar, something that impressed me and my friends. My husband, Steve, was the only person who was not surprised by my sudden interest in all things musical. He's the one who took me guitar shopping for my birthday last November and he's the one who kept saying, 'you're a poet, you should write songs'. Every time he'd mention the songwriting idea, I simply chuckled to myself. Thinking, I can't even sing, let alone write a song.

When we went guitar shopping, I noticed there were several people who like to hang out at guitar shops and show off their skills. Then there was me; I'd pick up a guitar and play the handful of open chords I knew very well. At Jensen's in Santa Barbara, the small shop is very laidback and the owner, Chris Jensen, showed me all of their inexpensive guitars before busting out the big guns. Even before hearing the Martin Road Series, I knew it would be a guitar I would be super happy with. The beautiful rose wood had a dark red body. It was love at first strum. The guitar sounded just as rich as it deep mahogany color, like a fine wine and chocolate all rolled up in one perfected instrument. Last March, I wrote my first song on that guitar.  

Poem: What the Birds Know by Melinda Palacio

You're probably wondering just how did that magical moment happen. I had been putting the final touches on my latest poetry manuscript, Bird Forgiveness. It was a Saturday when I walked down to the Santa Barbara Roasting Company. That coffee shop always has a long wait. You could do an errand while you wait for them to pour your coffee into a paper cup, but Steve likes it. While I was reading Casa Magazine, the first lines of the chorus floated before me. I took out my pen and wrote the lines on the magazine. I had no doubt that I was writing a song, partly because I heard the melody in my head. The words were familiar to me because they were based on my poem, 'What the Birds Know' from my new book. Because the poem is now associated with the Bird Forgiveness book, the line I kept hearing was, 'because forgiveness begins with a bird, flying high, flying high, waiting for a lonely hand to say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye'.

Bird Forgiveness, the song by Melinda Palacio

I had a chorus and two versus. Now, what? Steve advised me to grab my guitar and work out the chords, something that sounded like a very tall order, but ended up working out like a charm. I chose the key of D because I was learning a Bob Dylan song in the key of D, 'Don't Think Twice'. Because I heard the song in my head and had chosen an easy key with all open chords, when I finished the song, I recorded it and wrote everything down to make sure I wouldn't forget it. Two months later, I recorded myself playing my song on my new guitar. It's a great feeling to see one of my poems turned into a song. I look forward to writing more songs. I know I will be able to write more songs because I had the same anxious feeling about writing my first poem. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to write another poem. Three books later, I can assure anyone who wants to write or learn guitar that secret is daily practice.

Special thanks to Susan and Dennis Chiavelli for hosting the location of these videos and for their hospitality. Although I'm noticing several hiccups and mistakes in both the video of the poem and the song, I'm leaving them here for viewers. How many poetry books have their own theme song?

Bird Forgiveness, new title from 3: a Taos Press

Praise for Bird Forgiveness

As a lover of birds, I am a lover of Bird Forgiveness.  As a lover of poetry, I love these poems because though beaked and winged, in pain and in joy, they also take flight out of their occasion. With a focus on birds, the world is renewed, and the poet reminds us it is we who need forgiving. Melinda Palacio's birds touch us everywhere they fly: from the drowning of a homeless woman in Audubon Park to the oil spill damage to a duck. Like the birds she loves and mourns, Melinda Palacio migrates her songs between two coasts, Gulf and West, Latino and Anglo—and she asks for the poetic freedom birds have. Sometimes the poems appear as near sonnets, sometimes in utterly free shapes, but always this is a book of fierce mourning for the birds that fall at our feet and for a grandmother who dies under her watchful care while caged birds quarrel. In the end Melinda Palacio sets all her birds free, and we remember what birds and poets have most in common—their wild song. 

—Rodger Kamenetz, To Die Next To You

How wonderful to think that Melinda Palacio is writing poems so delightfully human, so unexpected in their movements  from wit to profundity, so uncompromisingly honest. Who else would recognize a bluebird as Elvis? Who else ask birds for forgiveness? Her finest book yet, Bird Forgiveness is a work of great modesty, invention, and abiding respect for all the living world.

—Rodney Jones, Village Prodigies

Bird Forgiveness is a deeply nourishing and exquisite book about living. Melinda Palacio
masterfully explores confinement, liberation, freedom, and flight. Abundant joy and wonder run through the poems—from the harpy eagle, to a bluebird named Elvis, to instructions on how to wash a duck—and they examine human behavior and relationships with wisdom and grace. This is a delightful, unforgettable book from a marvelous talent at the top her game.

—Lee Herrick, Scar and Flower

Happy Saturday. If you are reading this today, May 19, come to the La Bloga panel at the Pasadena Lit Fest at 5:30 pm at the Andalucia, 686 E. Union St. Bring any comments or questions. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Midnight Blue Lowrider A Young Adult Short Story Part I by AntonioSolisGomez

Once upon a time, many years ago, but not so many as to be forgotten, an old 1967 Chevy was slowly rusting away at Tony’s Jalisco Auto Parts. No longer shiny and cute, the car was parked in the farthest corner of the oily dirt yard, hidden from view by stacks of tire rims, radiators, car seats and front bumpers. Still, a person could see that the car was a classic, its long sleek lines starting at the heavy chrome grill and going all the way back to the giant red taillights. Cheyito had been passing by the junkyard everyday since he was in grammar school, peeking at the car that he hoped one day would be his.

Old Tony the owner of Tony’s Jalisco Auto Parts was well acquainted with Cheyito’s ambition and for years had been telling Cheyito the same thing. “No the car’s not for sale. I’m saving that car for myself.” Secretly Cheyito was pleased that the car was not for sale as it meant that the car would still be around by the time he was old enough to drive.

When Cheyito turned thirteen he pestered old Tony to let him work in the junkyard doing some of the lighter work of dismantling cars. Tony gave in to his persistence and put him to work sorting and arranging hubcaps, side view mirrors, door handles, front headlights, chrome trim and dozens of other items that car owners needed to replace on their cars and trucks. It was Cheyito’s job to arrange those small parts by car make, model and year so that a customer’s request could easily be located.

Cheyito began saving most of the money from his weekly pay, keeping just a little for himself and giving some to his mother. By the time he was entering the ninth grade Cheyito was old Tony’s most valuable worker. He knew where every piece of a car was stored or hidden, among the thousands of car parts that filled every bit of empty space. A person walking through the junkyard had to squeeze by stacks of engines, hoods, axles and transmissions, doors, front windshields, and entire chassis. Some of the parts were piled so high that it felt like being inside a canyon of car parts.

Cheyito felt right at home amongst the grease and grim. He looked forward to passing through the sliding fence gate and stepping on the oil imbedded dirt that even rainwater could not penetrate. He loved the work of striping down a car, unscrewing doors, popping windshields, taking off tires, and sticking his whole upper body inside the hood to get at a car’s engine. But most of all he liked looking at the 67 Chevy, tucked away in the corner and piled with so many parts of other cars that it was no longer visible. Cheyito kept it that way. He didn’t want any of the customers spotting the classic car and making old Tony an offer that he couldn’t refuse.

Old Tony was a short round man with a bushy mustache that had turned snow white. Whenever he had something serious to think about he would stand against the side of the corrugated metal enclosure that was his office, his thumbs stuck inside the wide straps of his blue overalls, staring at the sky. He would stand that way for long periods, his muscular Rottweiler not letting anyone disturb him. Cheyito found him that way when he arrived after school one day and knowing that Tony was in a pensive mood simple said hi and passed him on the way to the back room where he slipped into his own work overalls.

When Cheyito came out of the dressing room, Old Tony said
“Cheyito I need to talk with you,”

“Sure, what’s up,” Cheyito said.

“I’ve sold the car.”

It only took Cheyito a moment to realize that Old Tony was talking about his car, the 1967 Chevy he had dreamed of owning since grade school.

“What do you mean you sold the car,” Cheyito said with a high pitched voice that Old Tony didn’t recognize, making him cringe in embarrassment.

“Well I didn’t exactly sell it. I lost it in the card game last night.”

You what? You lost my car? No way Tony!” Cheyito shouted.

Cheyito looked pleadingly at the old man who was still against the wall but no longer staring. He had a look of sadness on his face that told Cheyito that he was serious. Cheyito ran to the back of the yard and there where the car used to be he saw an empty space and his heart sank into his stomach. Cheyito was angry and sad. He knew that Old Tony had a gambling problem. If he wasn’t losing money at cards he was losing it at the horse races or at the fights. Sometimes he won and won big. But mostly he lost and although the junk business made him plenty of money the gambling losses barley allowed him to pay the bills.

Old Tony found Cheyito sitting on the ground in front of the empty spot.

“I’m sorry Cheyito,” he said. I was sure that I had an unbeatable hand last night when I bet the car. I wouldn’t have bet it otherwise. You know that? Don’t you?”
“Yeah I know that,” Cheyito answered. “You mind if I go home early Tony? I don’t feel like working today,” Cheyito said.
“No of course not. Take the whole week off if you feel like it,” Tony answered.
“Who won it? Cheyito asked as he was leaving.
“Taki”, Tony answered.
“Taki from the restaurant?” Cheyito asked in surprise. “What’s he want with a lowrider.”
“Says he’s sending it back to Japan where they have gone crazy over lowrider cars. Apparently they bring in top dollar.”

Cheyito shook his head in disgust when he heard that Taki was sending the car to Japan. He left Tony’s and leisurely walked home, kicking paper cups and food wrappings that had been thrown on the sidewalk. He walked along the industrial area, passing by more junkyards and other business. There was one business that specialized in glass windshields and rear windows, another that delivered concrete, a factory that made mattresses, and a storage yard for large machinery. He turned on Daily Street and the industrial area was now interspersed with occasional apartment houses and single family homes with small front yards filled with flowers and medicinal plants that old Mexican women tended. The homes were old and worn, in need of paint, their fences falling and their roofs patched with different colored asphalt singles. At one time there were no factories or warehouse or trucking yards, only homes. The remaining homes belonged to people that hadn’t sold when the zoning was changed to allow an industrial area to develop. The city was waiting until the owners died then the homes would be razed and replaced by a factory or by an asphalt yard.

With every block that Cheyito walked and every turn that he took, there were less and less factories and more homes, many of them also old but better maintained, colorfully painted in bright colors with well kept yards. This was Cheyito’s neighborhood and when he arrived at the small one bedroom bungalow that he and his mother rented, he went into the small section of the living room that had been partitioned with a heavy curtain as a bedroom for him. He took off his shoes and jumped onto his small bed. On the two walls he had placed pages from Lowrider Magazine showing the cars and trucks that were his current favorites. In his mind he had seen a picture of his 1967 Chevy on the wall, painted midnight blue with white tuck and roll upholstery and spinning chrome rims. Now he realized that it would never be. He flung the current copy of the magazine off his bed and turned over and tried falling asleep.

He was angry and he had thoughts about getting revenge on Old Tony by mixing up car parts so that nobody could find anything when they went looking in the places they should be. Or perhaps by steering customers away, telling them that only Panchos across the street had what they needed. But after spending time contemplating those negative thoughts he realized that he could never take revenge on him. Old Tony had been good to him all these years and he knew he had to find it in his heart to forgive him.
Still he knew he had to devise a new plan to get himself a car. He had saved money, maybe not enough to get something that was in running condition but he had learned quite a bit by taking cars apart. It shouldn’t be much different to put one together, he thought. There were plenty of good frames at the junk yard, and rims like he wanted. The big expenses would be the paint job and the upholstery. And of course the hydraulic system. Can’t have a lowrider that doesn’t hop, he thought.
He was getting excited, lying there in his bed daydreaming and developing his plan. Just maybe he thought I could finish the car during summer and in time for the start of my sophomore year in September. He was a Virgo and his sixteenth birthday was in late August, the age that he could get his driver’s license. He saw himself driving into the school’s parking lot and doing a few hops just to show off and then racing the motor a bit before shutting it down. Of course Natalie would be there looking and admiring maybe even coming over to say hello. He had a crush on her but she already had a boyfriend, a senior, named Carlos. Why didn’t seniors stick to their own classmates, he thought? There were plenty of girls in the senior class without boyfriends. Why couldn’t he have taken one of them? Natalie’s boyfriend did have the best ride in the whole school. And everybody knew that girls go for the dudes with the cars. He and all his friends thought Natalie became Carlos’ girlfriend because of his car, a red Pontiac that had been chopped and lowered. That’s why Cheyito now wanted a car so badly and why Old Tony losing the car he wanted had angered him so much.

The next day he was full of enthusiasm and went straight to Tony’s office when he arrived at work.

“I want to build a car Tony. Can I buy that 1950 Buick that came in last week?
“You can have it for nothing Cheyito. And I’ll help you get it running,” Old Tony said.
“You will,” Cheyito answered, surprised at Old Tony’s offer to help him as he didn’t much like working on cars anymore. Not since that engine block had fallen and crushed his foot.
“Sure. We’ll bring the frame into the shop after work tonight. You can work in there.”
Cheyito had more than he could handle during the next few weeks. The car frame was in good condition with hardly any dents but not only was the engine missing, someone had also torn out all the electrical wiring. Fortunately he was not alone and with Tony guiding and occasionally lending a hand, Cheyito was making good progress. He finished installing the electrical harness by the time the spring semester ended.

He had been so busy that he didn’t to want go to the ninth grade dance to celebrate the end of school but his friends wouldn’t take no for an answer and they forced him to attend. He was glad that he went. Otherwise he would not have seen Natalie. He was surprised to see her as she almost never attended any of the class activities. Somehow he mustered up the courage to ask her to dance and she accepted. She was a pretty brunette, with light brown skin and a bright smile that made Cheyito get goose bumps when she flashed her teeth at him as they danced. She was a clever girl and almost always got A’s, a fact that embarrassed Cheyito because he was not a very good student. Still he didn’t think that made them unsuitable for each other. “You’re a good dancer Cheyito,” she said after the music ended and they had walked back to where she had been standing with her girlfriends. “Thanks you’re pretty good also,” he answered, proud that she had liked the improvised steps he had shown her. “So what will you be doing all summer?” “I’m not sure. My dad wants to spend the summer with his parents in Mexico.” “Hey that should be fun. Where in Mexico?” Cheyito asked. “You so don’t want to know. They live on a rancho in Michoacan without running water Can you believe that? I think my dad has Alzheimers or something.” “It won’t be that bad,” Cheyito answered. “You can ride horses and swim in the rivers and shoot guns.” “Oh yeah that’s a lot of fun for a girl,” she said sarcastically. “I thought all girls liked horses,” he said. “Clothes horses maybe,” she said. “What’s a clothes horse?” “It’s what my mom calls me because I like shopping for new clothes so much. How about you, are you going on vacation some place?” “Yeah I’m going to Jalisco,” he said. “Jalisco Mexico? she asked surprised. “No, I’m kidding. Jalisco Auto parts. It’s wh ere I work.” “You turd!” she said, raising her hand as if to hit him. I didn’t know that you had a job?” she asked with disbelief. “Yeah I’ve been working there since I was thirteen.” Suddenly one of her girlfriends pulled her aside and started talking to her in a hushed voice. Cheyito wanted to wait until Natalie returned to continue their conversation but he began to feel uncomfortable as the minutes dragged on and finally he left to join his own crew.

 Natalie left soon after with the same girlfriend and it seemed that there was some sort of problem. At least that was what Cheyito thought when he saw them leave and saw how stiffly the girls moved across the gymnasium floor. Later he danced with a girl who told him that Natalie’s boyfriend had appeared high at the door, asking for her. Cheyito felt the same pangs of jealousy that gripped him every time that he saw or heard of Natalie’s boyfriend and he tried to forget those feelings by losing them on the dance floor, dancing almost every song until the evening ended. Later on the way home his friends laughed at him, saying that he must have caught some sort of dance fever. He had enjoyed himself and he didn’t care what his friends said, especially since they had spent most of the night leaning against the wall of the gymnasium.

The days passed quickly for Cheyito that summer. Normally after the first month of vacation he was bored but this time it was different; he had a car to restore. There were even days that he didn’t want go home at night and Old Tony had to turn off the lights and force him out. His mother who usually didn’t worry about him was concerned that he wasn’t getting enough rest and one day told him as much. “Mijo, I want you to get home by nine every night,” she said. “Nine, I’m just getting started at nine mom.” “Let’s not argue. I want you home at nine,” she said. There was no use arguing with her once her mind was made up. She was a woman that always knew what she wanted and never wavered in her resolve. She had learned that a single parent had to be strong to overcome the many problems that are encountered in raising a child alone. Otherwise she wouldn’t have much of a chance at succeeding. And she was determined to raise a good and honest son. Her husband was killed by a drug addict who was robbing a convenience store when Cheyito was just two, a fact that she never let Cheyito forget. Drugs were always around in the neighborhood. Cheyito knew about them, knew the guys that bought and the ones that sold. Secretly he knew that Carlos, Natalie’s boyfriend, ran errands for the local dealer. That’s why he had a nice ride. He had seen Carlos come into Tony’s looking for a replacement part to a 57 Thunderbird and no one else had a car like that but Duran, the dude that controlled the drug action in the neighborhood. Carlos didn’t know that Cheyito had a crush on his girlfriend Natalie and in fact Carlos ignored him as if it was beneath him to even acknowledge that Cheyito existed. Carlos had a senior class complex of arrogance and also felt superior because he had money and a nice car. Natalie thought that the money came from Carlos’ parents. The only ones that knew about Carlos’ sideline were those that he supplied with drugs and now Cheyito knew too or at least had a good reason to suspect where Carlos got his cash.

Summer vacation was ending quickly and with only two weeks left Cheyito was afraid that he was not going to meet his goal of driving to school on the first day. Actually he was not as an anxious to do so as he had been at the start. The car was looking really fine and he was now savoring every minute that it took to put the finishing touches. He wanted most of all to make sure that everything was as perfect as possible. He didn’t want to rush loco like just to get it finished. He and Old Tony were even taking time from the regular work day to take care of the last details. By Labor Day, traditionally marking the end of summer vacation, the car still needed lights, paint and upholstery. He and Old Tony had installed the rebuilt engine the previous weekend and they both cheered when they took the car around the block on the first trial run. It performed beautifully. The lights were the last things that Cheyito would work on. He would have to pay someone to paint and upholster it.
When school started Cheyito walked the same route that he had walked for the past several years. When he met up with his school friends he wanted to tell them about his car but he had planned a surprise and it took all his mental strength to keep quiet. Several times he was tempted to spill the beans about Midnight, the name he had secretly been calling his car. But he resisted the temptation, even when he saw Carlos drive into the school parking lot with his 1980 Pontiac painted Candy Apple Red and all his friends ooed and awed. Natalie was also in the car and Cheyito’s heart leaped inside his chest when she got off and walked toward them, hand in hand with Carlos. Cheyito mentally blocked Carlos out of the picture and all he could see was Natalie, looking tanned and even more radiant than before summer. Natalie smiled as she walked by. Cheyito and each of his friends assumed that the smile was meant for each of them. Actually the smile was for all of them. She was happy to be beautiful and to have the best boyfriend in the whole school. Cheyito resisted saying something when his friends began to describe Natalie’s physical attributes in lewd, vulgar language. He felt like telling them to grow up and get a life instead of ogling girls. In the past he had eagerly contributed to similar sessions about girls and when he thought about it, realized that he had changed over the summer.

He had social studies with Natalie later that morning and he managed to get a seat across the aisle from her. “Hi,” he said shyly. “Hi Cheyito,” she said with a smile. “How was Mexico?” he asked her. “You were right. I had fun. I rode horses, swam in the river, made friends.” “I told you, you would like it,” he said. “You can’t believe it but I almost wanted to stay. Can I tell you a secret? I met a great guy there, she said. He wanted to marry me. Guys are so mature down there.” Cheyito was not expecting such a terrible turn of events. She was seeing him as a friend. Someone that she could tell her secrets to, a confidant in her love life. He was crushed and would have let out a moan if the teacher had not entered the room and demanded quiet from the class. The entire period he reviewed the conversation with Natalie, hoping to see that he had misinterpreted what she meant. But in the end he came up with the same conclusion, he meant nothing to her. He was just a friend. When class was over he hoped to continue the conversation with her but she went off with one of her girlfriends, talking in hushed tones and every once in awhile they would let out a loud exclamation such as “No way girlfriend!” or “get outta here bitch!” He walked behind them, trying to overhear what they were saying and managed to make out that Natalie was telling her friend about her fling in Mexico. He had heard enough and he slowed down and let them get out of hearing range.

The rest of the day he went through the motions of going to class but if anything important was said he missed it. His mind was on other things, like wondering why in the heck he had worked so hard on the car. He thought about not finishing midnight, letting it rust in the yard along with the other junk frames. He felt sorry for himself and began to enjoy feeling miserable and wronged. He even imagined himself in a tragic accident and Natalie finally realizing how much he meant to her, throwing herself on his dying body and confessing her love for him. Not even old Tony could cheer him up when he saw him. “You look like I felt when I lost that 67 Chevy at cards to Taki,” old Tony said. “I saw him yesterday and asked about the car. He said that when they were loading it onto the ship that was to take it to Japan, the cable broke and it plunged into the ocean. I laughed my ass off. I guess if you couldn’t have the car nobody else was going to get it either."

Actually old Tony’s story cheered Cheyito up a little but he wanted to continue keep feeling sorry for himself. At least for a little while longer. However once he started working he began to feel better, the lifting, pushing and climbing having an energizing effect on him and he forgot his earlier state of mind. At the end of the work day he and Old Tony dropped by to see the car at the paint and upholstery shop run by a friend of old Tony’s. Cheyito was feeling like his old self by then and when he saw the car’s midnight blue paint job it shocked him. He had been working on the old frame for so long that he had gotten used to the bare gray metal. Even Old Tony was impressed with the way the car had been transformed. It was beautiful.

During the next few days Cheyito filled his thoughts with his car, remembering every detail; the way the engine roared to life when he turned over the motor, the way it felt to sit at the wheel and look over the hood and out the side windows. He still needed to install lights and a stereo and chrome trim but that was easy, pleasurable work. The difficult work was behind him. He thought a lot about Natalie too, went over in his mind the conversations he had with her, what she said and how she said it. How she had acted when she was telling her friends about the young man from Mexico that wanted to marry her. He felt he had seen deep inside her and he didn’t like what he saw, a girl more interested in herself than in other people. His friends had been right she went with Carlos because he had a nice car, not because she loved him. And she was not interested in him that was for sure. Still he couldn’t help feeling pleasure when he saw Natalie in the hall or in his social studies class but he made no effort to find a seat close to her or to make up reasons to engage her in conversation. Intuitively he knew that he had to stay away from her just as he kept away from the drug users and the drug dealers. Luckily putting the finishing touches on his car was more than enough distraction, a delicious job that he prolonged until Old Tony practically had to threaten serving him with an eviction notice.

The night that he was to drive his car home for the first time, Cheyito was full of excitement and trepidation. Old Tony had taught him to drive and had gone with him to get his license but at the last minute Cheyito had doubts about his driving ability. What if he wrecked his beautiful car, or stalled it on the way home and couldn’t get it started again? These and other negative thoughts assailed him and again it was Old Tony that practically shoved him inside the car. “Go on get out of here,” he told Cheyito. “You’ll be fine.” The car handled superbly and by the time he reached home he had lost his fears and wanted to continue driving. He went around the block a few times before he headed towards Broadway, the main street of his barrio. He felt a little embarrassed driving such a beautiful car and he was glad it was a quiet school night with few people out. As he went through the next intersection he saw Carlos’ candy apple red car on the side street, waiting for the red light to change. He looked back through the rear view mirror, hoping that Carlos was going to cross Broadway but he turned and was right behind him. Damn he said to himself, realizing that he didn’t want to be seen by Carlos or to be seen by Natalie if she was in the car with him. He pressed on the accelerator and the car’s big engine roared and quickly gained speed. He was hoping to make the green light at the next intersection but it turned yellow and then red and he was forced to bring his car to a stop. Thinking quickly, he slipped the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, just before the candy apple red car pulled up alongside him. Carlos gunned the motor of his car several times and then engaged his car’s hydraulic system and raised the front end up and then brought it down. The red car‘s passenger door was next to Cheyito and he could see that Natalie was seated next to Carlos but she didn’t recognize him, the hood completely covering his face. The red car continued going up and down and its engine was gunned several times. It was a clear and out challenge and Cheyito’s apprehension about being seen gave way to anger and he engaged his own car’s powerful hydraulic system and the car began to rock from front to back and sideways then he gunned the car’s engine. When the light changed back to green both cars sped out but Cheyito made a sharp right turn onto a side street as Carlos and Natalie continued down Broadway. Cheyito made another turn and headed back home. He was not about to jeopardize months of work on some silly race.
He and his mother had cleaned out the small one car garage and when he reached home the garage was open, his mother waiting on the front porch in anticipation. He pulled into the garage and his mother went out to take a look at the car that he obsessed about all summer. “It is beautiful mijito”, she said admiringly “You really like it mom?” he asked. “Yes I do. I would never drive such a car but on you it looks good.” “Thanks mom,” he said as he draped one arm over her shoulder and hugged. “Now maybe you’ll spend some time at home and not in that dirty junkyard,” she added. “Come on now, get cleaned up and have some dinner.”