Thursday, February 28, 2019

Chicanonautica: Beyond the SFF Latinx Bundle

by Ernest Hogan
The SFF Latinx Bundle, one of the great deals of the year is over, sorry.

But if you’re a chronic procrastinator, or just scalp-deep in the craziness of our times, don’t dive into the pit of despair just yet. The bundle may have been archived, but the books are all still available, as they were before.

To remind you about them, I will be reviewing them (with the exception of the one I wrote, because you have probably been hearing enough about it lately).

I have already read and reviewed some of these books, and my thoughts on Signal to Noise and The Closet of Discarded Dreams are just a click away.

(Note: I know the link to the Closet review is to a blurb, not a review. I could have sworn that I wrote a review of Closet, but I can’t find it. Maybe I misremembered the blurb as a review. Awk, this is getting more gonzo than I intended . . .)

Unfortunately, the website where I reviewed Soulsaver is no more, and my file of it was lost in one of my many computer crashes of the new millennium. I’ll review it again; it’s been a while.

Meanwhile, I’ve read Lords of the Earth, and Ink, and am going through The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria. This will give me plenty of material for Chicanonautica in the next few months.

Something earthshaking and on subject could also come along that I just have to write about.

It probably will happen. 2019 promises to be a year of political madness, and a lot of it is aimed at us Chicano/Latino/Latinx/Latinoids.

We seem to be what’s happening.

Meanwhile, it's great to have a lot of Latinx science fiction and fantasy (with us, the line blurs, because magic realism from a sufficiently advanced technological culture tends to be indistinguishable from science fiction) to read while dodging the pendejadas.

Ernest Hogan runs around trying to survive in our desmadreized world. Sometimes the results look like art, literature, entertainment, or some other pretense of culture. The imagination is a weapon, or at least his is.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A is for Activist / A de Activista

In support of Oakland Teachers

 A is for Activist

Written and illustrated 
by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. 

The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents' values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books.

 A de Activista

Escrito por Martha González
Ilustrado por Innosanto Nagara

Following on the outrageous success of Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist (now in its fourth printing), A de Activista is a Spanish-language ABC board book written by Grammy Award-winning lyricist and singer Martha Gonzalez and illustrated by Nagara for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, calling them to action while teaching them a love for books.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

ORLL, Making Twenty-dollar Güiros. Austin Artists Attendance Asked.

Creating Cultural Currency Launches With Guiro Workshop
Michael Sedano

Saturday’s guiro workshop was like the old days for me, when I was training assembly lines of people making automotive windows. Except Saturday we are a group of artists learning to make twenty-dollar bills out of timber bamboo.

Traveling guiro fabrication line. Regular and Timber Bamboo samples.
Today’s workshop culminates on December 1, 2019 at noon, when the artists deliver their finished production to La Tienda at Plaza de la Raza,(link) then show up the days of the sale and work the vendor table.

This is my ORLL, Operations Report, Lessons Learned, a planning roadmap of where we go from here. The overall project, Creating Cultural Currency, is something artists can duplicate in their own locales, especially where establishment places reaching out for diversity open new markets to chicanarte. 

Now is the time to get holiday inclusion launched. Kudos to Plaza de la Raza for sponsoring the events, and more for idea generators Margaret Garcia and Amy Inouye. (links). La Bloga will continue reporting on the project as it moves into high gear.

Garcia envisions the project seeding knowledge into the community of ways to make money. Garcia observes in Facebook, "Cultural Currency is a #grassroots #initiative using art to improve the economy of our community. “ Comprised of local artist who want to give back to the community, the goal for the collective is to “partner working artist with members of the #underserved communities to design, produce, and promote artworks. Partners will learn new #skills that will enhance future employment opportunities in an #entrepreneurial environment."

Anything worthwhile deserves FU. Be it a 15 minute reading of your own stuff, or something taking weeks of planning, important work deserves evaluation. And when there’s money and commitments to others involved, people who don’t Follow Up, Foul Up.

Screen grab from May de Castro Facebook. Used with permission. ©May de Castro.

Fortunately, FU is easily begun by posing three questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What will I do differently next time? (For readers and public speakers, the questions are “What did I like about my reading? What is one element I must do differently next time I read? What is something I want to try, do more of, or not at all?”).

On Saturday, What worked? Seven people attended out of a ten-person goal.
What didn’t work? Moving outdoors disrupted the orderliness of our process.
What will I do differently next time? Take an elementary approach to power tools. Do fabrication outdoors.

Designing the embellishment of their first guiro.
Being able to do training again was fun. Talking to people, working toward a common goal, is its own reward. We talked theory, quality, value, examined samples, then drew a personal design to burn or engrave onto a guiro. That was the first hour.

We took several lengths of cured bamboo and sawed them into twelve segments. Individuals worked personal segments with power tools to fashion blank guiros. A supplemental lesson learned, I wasn't proactive enough with Plaza's administration to ensure their own FU to my site visit last week. Some guy from Plaza showed up and moved us outside, later offering a chop saw if he'd known. A chop saw is a big deal--turns an hour into ten minutes work.

I reminded the artists they needed to work quickly because a twenty dollar guiro shouldn’t absorb ten hours work. The purpose of the industrial model today is to master the process of cutting and finishing bamboo musical instrument toys. 

The same bamboo segment crafted to sell for twenty dollars can be fashioned by the skilled hand with the right tools into a fine instrument of high value. By the same token, the skilled hand can use PVC plumbing fixtures to fashion a ten-dollar toy.

Make a hundred-dollar guiro, I tell the group. Someone jokes about making a thousand-dollar guiro and we all chuckle, only partially in jest. It’s possible. Imagine, the Guarneri of Guiros and it all started at Plaza last Saturday.

Price and value topics open a practical discussion of marketing. The artist has to install value into the hundred-dollar guiro beyond intrinsic beauty. Packaging and display communicate a different message about the thing itself and the artist in person. Ethos is not an accident and this consideration is written into the production checklist.

Going forward through the summer, the artists, perhaps as a collective, will find and harvest timber bamboo, then follow the production process on the written plan to produce a supply of guiros for the December sale. Margaret Garcia will open her studio for FU workshops.

Creating Cultural Currency has ten core projects, the guiro its first. Garcia’s pet name for the activity is “The Toy Project.” Members of the project will use recycled, upcyled, and natural materials to build a variety of toys to delight kids, be affordable to parents, and divert gift spending from Amazon to a local artist.

Here's Alurista's "Let Yourself Be Sidetracked By Your Güiro," from Nationchild Plumaroja, 1972.

Let yourself be sidetracked by your guiro
Carnal let yourself be free
To do your music when your heart pounds
In the melody of your ringing ears
Unto death do not allow your love to pass
Unto life embrace other carnales
Help each other sweat the day away
Eat your tortillas together
Carnales we gotta share our joys
In the Quetzal pride
On the pyramid of sun glaze birth
Get together
Make your music
Make your canto raza
Make your barrios
Make your lives carnales
Make la raza live
Unto life juntos
Bajo el sol de nuestros padres

A Güiro will take you places, ¿ves?

Mail Bag-Tejas
Austin Invitation • Start a Cultural Currency Project!
Dear Austin Community,

We are inviting all artists in the community to join us at the Latino Arts Residency Program (LARP) Review Community Meeting. This is a unique opportunity to learn about LARP and to lend your voice to strengthen the Latino artist community in Austin.

We are looking for your thoughts on:
Mission of the Program
Application and Selection Process
Program Contract
Guidelines and Procedures
We welcome your feedback and look forward to seeing you in March!

LARP Review Community Meeting
Monday, March 25, 2019
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Facebook Event

Learn more about LARP by visiting:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Costco Gringos

A poem by Marc García-Martínez

Past the MAGA caps
perched atop those viejos’
grey hair.

Then mu-mu waddling ladies
with more ketchup
and kitty litter than
they can ever

Past pinkish white ankles,
flip-flopped shorts and
discolored tattoos—too
many tattoos.

Turn to three drooping
shouldered teens,
mouthing and tonguing
their food.

Giving pizza looks at me,
eyes deep sockets of lethargy,
they see me passing
in loathing.


What are you doing
drinking Pepsi at 9:30 a.m.?

*      *      *
A grandchild of Revolution-era immigrants from Western and Northern Mexico, Marc García-Martínez is a Professor of English at Allan Hancock College in Santa María, California, and a Lecturer for the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Flesh-and-Blood Aesthetics of Alejandro Morales: Disease, Sex, and Figuration (San Diego State University Press, 2014), the first full-length scholarly study in English on the innovative work of Chicano writer Alejandro Morales.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What To Do When Stage Fright Strikes

Melinda Palacio

I understand your stage fright, but not my own. This newfound rack of nerves is something I am owning up to in order to squash my fear. As a writer, reading my work in publish has always been a breeze. I write the stuff and reading it aloud to others is fairly easy, even when my middle-aged eyes fail me and I have trouble seeing the words when there is little light. I have a good idea of what the text should say and therefore can usually fill in if necessary. However, recently, I’ve dipped my toes into waters deeper than my comfort zone. I’ve started singing and playing the guitar, something I didn’t think I could ever do, let alone perform in public. I’ve blogged about my journey in learning the guitar and writing songs. The first song I wrote was an accompaniment to my poetry book, Bird Forgiveness. You can hear it on you tube. Although I said I would put up new songs on my channel, I have yet to do it. Part of it has to do with this shy stage fright business I need to nip. 
While I don’t get nervous speaking in public, singing in public sets on a whole set of nervous reactions. First, my voice becomes very thin and barely audible. I have difficulty summoning the outdoor voice I am sometimes famous for. Stage fright takes over and I start to make mistakes in my guitar playing, knowing I’m making mistakes me me even more frightened and nervous.

Although songwriting and poetry have something in common, ask Bob Dylan, performing those songs is not as easy as reading my own poetry. Two weeks ago, at the Core Winery in Orcutt, I decided to take a leap of faith and perform the Bird Forgiveness theme song. As a featured reader, along with Toni Wynn, I figured I would take advantage of the extra time I had and work in a song into my presentation. The Core Winery is an intimate  and relaxed tasting room and the proprietors, Becky and Dave Corey treat everyone like family. The tasting room serves as Orcutt’s community center and hosts all kinds of events in addition to poetry and music (they’ve even held discussions with a doula (a person that assists with the final hours of life). I knew that the comfortable space of the winery was where I wanted to debut the Bird Forgiveness song in public. 

At least I’ve learned some tricks over the years that have helped me become a better speaker, and hopefully, a better singer and guitarist. I can share three helpful tips with you. The first is something Becky Corey pointed: no one but you knows you’ve goofed. After performing my song and replaying all the mistakes I made, I mentioned the fact that I had made mistakes and she said that no one but me knew that I had made a mistake. This is something that’s important. When you are reading prose or poetry, if you stumble on a word or a line, it’s acceptable, and sometimes helpful, to repeat the line so the overall meaning will not be lost. This repetition is not necessary in a song. And never start all over, unless you are Patti Smith. Number two is volume. Saying it loud, singing it loud, can trick you and the audience into thinking you have all the confidence in the world. My last tip is to over prepare. Even if you are reading just one poem or singing one song, knowing the material backwards and forwards will help you make an adjustment, should you stumble or miss a beat. 

Article in the Santa Maria Sun on the Core Poetry Series

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Peruvian Journal

       by Daniel Cano

January 21, Lima, Peru
Smooth flight from LAX to Lima on LATAM airlines. Professor Brandon (as the Peruvians call him), colleague, anthropology professor and trip coordinator, at airport to greet me. My flight arrived at 11:30 PM. The rest of our group coming within the next two days. Brandon told each he’d be at the airport in Lima to welcome them to Peru. He’s got a lot of taxis ahead of him.

January 22, Lima, Peru, 9:30 AM
Three-hour time difference. Still, I make it to “free” breakfast in hotel, LIMAQ, restaurant. Brandon and Dave, second to arrive, finishing their meal. I take a seat at their table. "Watch the coffee," warns Dave, a harbor patrol cop from Santa Monica, "it's strong." Brandon off to airport for another pickup. Dave tells me he has been with Brandon on other trips, like the one to Guatemala and Belize. I’ve also been there with Brandon. I taught English to a group of study abroad students. Brandon taught archeology, his specialty. He’s originally from Indiana by way of Connecticut then Los Angeles, UCLA. Latin American indigenous cultures are in his blood.

1:00 PM I arrive two days early to rest and acclimate, concerned my, sometimes, hurting feet and tired legs might not withstand the next 17 days in Peru’s highlands and valleys. The folks in our group, age-wise, are spread out, four college students, two retired married couples, one in their late 50s, the other 70. Dave, retired early, is in strapping shape, and works part-time at the pier. Hal, an ex-hippie from Berkeley who has just left his 69th birthday behind, and me, a septuagenarian, once an avid traveler who has slowed some since my retirement three years ago, nothing to do with energy or desire. I mean since I no longer have to rush off to work every day, I’ve begun to enjoy observing what I’d always sped past, from the different neighborhoods where I live to even the plants, trees and sounds of the suburbs.

In my hotel room, I tire of reading. I grow stir crazy. I put on my shoes and go out into the mid-day heat. The LIMAQ is off a main drag, Avenida Elmer Faucett. That’s a hellavu name for a main boulevard in Lima. I quickly learn the locals don’t consider I’m in Lima. They tell me I am in Callao, a neighborhood bounded by another, San Miguel, about fifteen miles from downtown Lima. Everything looks pretty rundown, like the outskirts of other major Latin American cities, and not unlike many U.S. cities, minus the KFC, Popeyes, Carls’ Jrs., etc.

The buses and vans here look like Mexican hand-me-downs. Everyone is going about his/her business. A woman points me to the bus stop where I can catch a bus into Lima, 2 soles, about 75 cents (3.34 soles = $1.00). (It will take me awhile to catch on.)

I push my way onto a bus. I feel like I’m in Puebla or south of Mexico City, many dark skin people, mestizos, mostly, dressed in jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, and baseball caps. The women also dress simply, modern-ish. Our bus pulls off the boulevard and into a gas station to fill-up. A man, a gauchupin (very tall and light-skinned) complains to a woman next to him. She looks like an Indian grandmother. She smiles politely at him. He says he can’t believe a bus would stop for gas during rush hour. He looks at me. I shrug. He readjusts his ear plugs. He couldn’t have heard us if we’d replied, anyway.
After a few minutes, we’re back in the thick of traffic. I enjoy the sights, schools, parks, businesses, government buildings. A half-hour later, I am in downtown Lima, busy, rush-hour, modern buildings everywhere. I spot a Starbucks tucked away in a quaint outdoor mall. I want to see old Lima, the historic center.

People don’t understand when I ask for La Plaza principal, Plaza de Armas, or la catedral. The city moves past me. Another guachupin, tall, European-looking, standing in front of a business, hears me. “El centro historico?” he asks, simple, direct. Why didn’t I think of that? He points me to a busy side street and tells me to follow it to the end. I follow directions. Of course, I come to a fork in the road, a construction site before me. A woman sees my confusion. When I tell he my destination she tells me any road will get me there.

I continue, as if I’m in Robert Frost’s poem "The Road Less Travelled," except I choose the one most travelled. After 45 minutes, my feet shoot me warnings. I stand in front of the cathedral, the plaza mayor spread out below, surrounded by municipal buildings.
I see a plaque on the cathedral wall. It reads: “Francisco Pizarro, 1535.” I am in the right place.

The sun shines and I bask in the glory of Atahualpa and Pizarro, founders of modern-day Peru, for better or worse. A tour through Lima’s centro historico is on our itinerary, so I don’t stress my ignorance of the place. I did read the Conquest of Peru, as well as James Lockhart’s book the Men of Cajamarca years ago, so I do have a feel of what took place on this ground back in the 1500s, Atahualpa’s kidnap and murder at the hands of Francisco Pizarro and his forces.
In a letter from Lockhart’s book "Letters and People of the Spanish Indies," one of Pizarro’s soldiers wrote of the encounter with Atahualpa: “We took this Lord by a miracle of God, because our forces wouldn’t be enough to take him not to do what we did, but God gave us the victory miraculously over and his forces. You must know that we came with Governor Francisco Pizarro to the land for this lord where he had 60,000 warriors, and there were 160 Spaniards with the governor, and we thought our lives were finished because there was such a horde of them, and even the women were making fun of us and saying they were sorry for us because we were going to be killed; but afterwards their bad thoughts turned out the opposite. …We attacked them and seized the lord and killed many of his people, most of the ones that came with him, and then we went out where all the rest of the warriors were, all armed with lances 15 feet long, and we routed them all. In the rout we killed 8,000 men in about two hours and a half, and we took much gold and clothing and many people. It would be too long to tell if all were told.” (Gaspar de Garate, Cajamarca, New Castile, 1533)

I wander the zocalo and try to imagine the meeting of the Inca and Spanish. Mostly, I can only conjure up ghosts, a sensation, an idea of what must have taken place here, the blood and sacrifice.

There are groups of tourists. I spot a young man standing alone, a clipboard in his hand, and a sign hanging from his neck, “Free lance tour guide.” I ask him, “How much of the plaza mayor is original?”

He comes to life. So, he doesn’t get his hope up, I tell him I am with a group, and we have a tour planned in about two and a half weeks, after we return from the Andes and Machu Picchu. He answers, “Other than the cathedral’s facade, little is original, due to earthquakes and fires. Remember, we surrounded by volcanoes. That building on the corner, the small one, is about the oldest building here.” It's a simple two story wood building.

Attached to his clipboard, he shows me photos of the plaza mayor in different stages of constructions, going back to the late 1800s. “Most of the newer construction is from the 1900s. Lima’s cathedral was built on top of Inca settlement, though Atahualpa’s city was not nearly advanced as Moctezuma’s Tenochtitlan, with its pyramids, waterways, and floating gardens. I thank him, give him a sole, and move on.

I explore the city center, a myriad of restaurants and souvenir shops, crowded in among government building and other businesses. I find the river, a fastmoving dark brown wash carrying debris to the ocean. I cross the bridge and enter a 18th century neighborhood, Spanish style, two story homes, businesses on the first floor. Each balcony is covered in a wood burka, I’m told, so women could go out onto the balcony in private, without men gawking at them.

Everything is yellow, mustard colored. The neighborhood is called Apurimac, same name as the rebel group Sendero Luminoso, who operated in el valle de los rios, Apurimac, Ene y Notero (VRAEM), I copy from a street sign. Its leader Abimael Guzman is eligible for release from prison. Most Peruvians believe he will remain behind bars, but with the amount of corruption in the country, who knows?
Guzman, and his group, are seen by most as a terrorist organization who slaughtered many Indians in the mountains who would not join their cause. I feel a heaviness in the air, as if I’m being watched.

Back across the river, I stop to see a young woman in a tight red dress dance, a blend of flamenco and modern dance, the fused Peruvian flute and rock music pumped through two large speakers. She draws a large crowd. Every few minutes, two men move among the crowd passing the hat. Though people smile, everyone looks depressed, or it's just me.
It takes me a half-hour to walk back to the Starbuck’s, where the bus dropped me off. My energy level drops—fast. I don’t wait for a bus. I see a man in a black Toyota Corolla holding a sign Callao. “How much?” I ask. “Two soles he answers. I know he’s a bootleg driver, legal but not advised for tourists. I go against my better instincts and jump in. He takes in three more passengers, and within twenty minutes, we are in Callao. He points the way to the hotel. I have no idea where I am.

I walk Callao’s back streets and enter different neighborhoods, a mix of old and new homes, but overgrown lawns, a park in the center of each neighborhood, weeds, broken swings, dilapidated basketball courts. I ask passersby where is Avenida Elmer Faucett. I try giving it a Spanish pronunciation. It sounds odd. A man tells me I’ve been on it for the past fifteen minutes, but farther south than my hotel. I ask a man in front of a bike shop if he knows where the LIMAQ hotel is. He looks up the street and points. It’s in front of me.

I’m tired and sweaty. I go to my room and shower, put on a change of clothes and head across the street to dinner, a place called Roky’s, upscale, $7.00 dinners, pricy for Lima. Most Peruvians meals are meat, potatoes, and veggies, with a soup or salad, or a fusion of Chinese-Peruvian, nothing Mexican here, or Incan, nothing ranchero, unless you want alpaca.

Back in my hotel room, I read, watch Mexico’s CNN, listen to what might be Madero’s last days in Venezuela, and fall asleep.

January 23.
I miss breakfast, oversleep. In the lobby, I run into Brandon, our fearless leader. He’s making his last trip to the airport. Everyone was looking for me this morning, going on an outing to the beach community of Miraflores. I told him about my excursion yesterday. “Today, I’m staying in.”

I walk to the kiosk and buy a newspaper. I ask the attendant, an old man inside, which paper is the best. He says they all lie to suit their own political agenda. He hands me Peru 21, the most informative, he says. He gives me the rundown on corruption in Peru. Like Mexico, it sounds, everyone is on the take, especially the Fujimoristas. I tell him I won’t need to buy any more newspapers. I will just come down and ask him for the news. He laughs at that. Tomorrow, we leave for Cusco. We need to catch our van by 6:00 AM It will be a long night.