Friday, March 29, 2019

Sabrina & Corina: Stories -- Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Back in September of 2016 I interviewed Kali Fajardo-Anstine, a writer who had published several  short stories and who hoped to publish her novel-in-progress and a collection of stories.  You can read the interview here on La Bloga at this link.  Two short years later, Fajardo-Anstine celebrates the publication of her short story collection entitled Sabrina & Corina:  Stories (Penguin Random House, April 2, 2019.)  

It was obvious from the interview that this author was serious about her work and that her potential was unlimited.  I could see, although I'd read only one of her stories, that she was a gifted writer with a solid voice that I believed would resonate in many readers' hearts.  

In the interview, Fajardo-Anstine said, "When read together as a collection, I want my stories to create a historical and cultural landscape that is undeniably unique. I want these Chicana characters to feel as real as the lands they inhabit, even if the lands themselves fall victim to mythology. I write about Chicanas in the American West because I want my region represented in a way that feels accurate, the land as I know it -- a populated urban center with skyscrapers, universities, homelessness, and an ongoing cycle of boom and bust. Denver, my Queen City of the Plains."

Sabrina & Corina has been greeted with exceptional praise.  

Sandra Cisneros said, "Here are stories that blaze like wildfires, with characters who made me laugh and broke my heart, believable in everything they said and did. How tragic that American letters hasn’t met these women of the West before, women who were here before America was America. And how tragic that these working-class women haven’t seen themselves in the pages of American lit before. Thank you for honoring their lives, Kali. I welcome them and you.”

Julia Alvarez: "Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s collection of stories, Sabrina & Corina, isn’t just good, it’s masterful storytelling. Fajardo-Anstine is a fearless writer: her women are strong and scarred witnesses of the violations of their homelands, their culture, their bodies; her plots turn and surprise, unerring and organic in their comprehensiveness; her characters break your heart, but you keep on going because you know you are in the hands of a master. (Is this really her first book?)"

Kirkus Reviews
: "Fajardo-Anstine writes with a keen understanding of the power of love even when it’s shot through with imperfections. . . . Fajardo-Anstine takes aim at our country’s social injustices and ills without succumbing to pessimism. The result is a nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope.” (starred review)

And in the announcement that Sabrina & Corina was the Tattered Cover Book of the Month for April, Lainie of the Tattered Cover said, "I declare Sabrina & Corina required reading for all Denverites (transplants especially)! You'll find some familiar place names here: Colfax, Cheesman, Central Library, Tacos Jalisco, and the neighborhood formerly known as the Northside, for example. They are the backdrop to Fajardo-Anstine's perspective on the gentrification of the West and the lives of its all but entirely displaced residents. Follow her cast of indigenous Latinas, among them a young girl at home in the shadow of the Sangres, a just-released prisoner, a sex worker, a grandmother on Galapago, and a pair of cousins, one who lives, one who dies, as they grapple with their histories and, often, their Mile High roots. If nothing else, read the title story -- it's haunted me for months!”

The launch for Sabrina & Corina is set for April 5 at 6:30 P.M. at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, 1515 Race, Denver.  If you plan to attend you must register on the Lighthouse web site at this link  (seating is limited.)  

Congratulations to Kali -- and thank you for this gift of your stories.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Chicanonautica: Inked in Dystopia

The United States will soon be require all residents to have color-coded biometric tattoos to keep track of their immigration status and citizenship.

Sounds like something out of recent news broadcasts, or a tweet from the White House, doesn’t it? But it’s the core concept behind Sabrina Vourvoulais’ novel Ink. When it was originally published in 2012 (we thought the immigration/border issue was getting crazy back then . . .) it was considered to far-out speculative satire, now I hesitate call it science fiction, because it’s not very “futuristic” and is to  all too plausible.

Looks like outrageous is the new normal.

Ink just may be required reading our current era. It reads like a thriller, the situation presented with journalistic eye for detail, that has been well-researched, even lived, Vourvoulais being an immigrant herself. There are also a wide variety of Latinx characters--the main characters, not just victims who need to be rescued.

And there is even a touch of magic realism. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s the Latinx way of seeing the world. And it blends perfectly with the story full of gritty realities, which of course, is another Latinx thing.

It’s a good book to read as we slither toward another presidential election campaign. We can use it to gauge how dystopian the immigrant experience has become. And how hysterical the proposed “solutions” have become.

I wonder if kids like to read dystopias because they remind them of the only reality they have known . . .

But then, as I have pointed out before, what is dystopia to some is utopia to others. Those who want a border wall would also think that biometric tattoos are a good idea.

Maybe there are people who think that Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451,The Handmaid’s Tale, and Ink are models for a better world.


I hope I’m just letting my imagination get away from me here. But then I think about current politics . . . Could dystopia be the new normal?

I hope books like Ink can help.

Ernest Hogan has been asked participate in an oral history project on Latinofuturism and Space History for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Lee & Low Announces New Voices Award and New Visions Award Winners

New York, NY—January 22, 2019—LEE & LOW BOOKS is pleased to announce that SD Youngwolf of Moffat, Colorado is the winner of the company’s nineteenth annual New Voices Award. His picture book manuscript, The Echo People, is the story of two children who go on a special journey with their grandfather and, through their different experiences, learn how we create our own realities through the words and actions we give to the world.

SD Youngwolf is a writer and an award-winning artist who is tribally enrolled in the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee. His creativity is inspired by traditional indigenous stories and history, and by the young people he meets during his storytelling performances. He hopes that The Echo People will resonate with readers by giving them a stronger sense of responsibility for the way they lead their lives. Youngwolf will receive a prize of $2,000 and a publication contract.

LEE & LOW BOOKS is also proud to announce that Patty Cisneros Prevo of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, will receive the New Voices Award Honor for her picture-book manuscript, Unstoppable: Thirteen Adventures Alongside Athletes with Physical Disabilities. Prevo introduces readers to a variety of modern-day athletes with physical disabilities who have overcome challenging obstacles to achieve great successes in their lives. 

Patty Cisneros Prevo is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist, a first-generation Mexican-American elementary teacher, and a mentor for people with disabilities. She wrote Unstoppable to bring people with disabilities to the forefront of children’s literature and inspire all young readers with these athletes’ exciting stories. Prevo will receive a prize of $1000. 

New York, NY—Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, is thrilled to announce the results of its sixth annual New Visions Award for new authors of color. This year, Monica Zepeda has won the New Visions Award for her manuscript, Boys of the Beast. Michelle Jones Coles’ manuscript Woke received the New Visions Award Honor.

Established to increase the number of authors of color writing for children and teens, the New Visions Award is given to a middle grade or young adult manuscript by a new author of color or Native author. Winners receive a cash prize and a publishing contract with Lee & Low Books, a children’s book publisher specializing in diversity. Previous winners include Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, named one of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, and Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar, named a Notable Social Studies Trade Book.

Boys of the Beast, this year’s winning manuscript, is a young adult contemporary novel about three cousins who go on a road trip after the death of their abuelita. As the miles pass, the boys are surprised to discover that they have more in common—and more to teach each other—than they think.

“As a third-generation Mexican American who doesn’t speak Spanish, I know that not all Latinx stories are immigrant stories,” says author Monica Zepeda. “I wanted to showcase Latinx teens that had wildly diverse backgrounds, even though they’re blood-related.” Zepeda currently serves as the Teen Services Librarian at Beverly Hills Public Library in California, as well as a writer for stage, film, and television.

Zepeda will receive a cash prize of $2,000 and a publishing contract with Lee & Low Books. Publication of Boys of the Beast is planned for fall 2020.

Woke, by Michelle Jones Coles, is a young adult historical fiction novel about Reconstruction centered on the story of Cedric, who was born a slave but rose to secure a front row seat to the struggle for equality as a legislative aide to some of the first Black members of Congress. Cedric’s story, told in diary form, is framed by the story of Malcolm, a modern-day teenager and Cedric’s descendant.

Author Michelle Jones Coles works as a civil rights attorney with the United States Department of Justice. “As a civil rights attorney, I see constant reminders of the legacy of slavery and the harm racism inflicts in Americans’ everyday lives,” Coles says. “The Mother Emanuel massacre lit a fire in me to tell a relatable story about race relations with the hope that it could help Americans learn from our history, so that perhaps we could stop repeating it.”

This year’s other New Visions Award finalists include Chasing Stars by JaNay Brown-Wood, Flying in Colors by Padma Prasad, and The One With a Father by Kit Song.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Cabañuelas: Two Views

Review: Norma Elia Cantú. Cabañuelas A Novel. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2019. 
Isbn book/ebook 978-0-8263-6061-8 / 978-0-8263-6062-5

Michael Sedano

Cabañuelas doesn’t mean “there’s no place like home,” in Cristiano, yet the English expression paraphrases the attention-getting title and floral cover that, hopefully, leads a browser to pick up Norma Elia Cantú’s novel in the form of a scholar’s travel diary, Cabañuelas from academic publisher University of New Mexico.

A local form of managing time, "las cabañuelas" won’t be entirely clear--to me they're not-- but ni modo. Not knowing things isn’t what the book’s about. Maybe gente from Laredo get it. The story itself comes to readers smoothly through narration and conversation, unfolding quickly from a happy Fulbright settling into her Madrid digs, into a love story.

“Love story” needs an adjective. Setting down the book after a couple days’ steady enjoyment, readers can supply their own adjective. 

Might women say Cabañuelas is a sweet summer romance, and leave it at that? A male reader might sit there agape at what Nena does to Paco. Nena was always going to leave at the end of her Fulbright-Hays, while Paco believed she would relent. Might some broken-hearted swain see Paco as just Nena’s latest?

Doomed love story. Futile love story. Bittersweet love story. Tragic. Summer dalliance. Adjectives like that fit, depending on how you read this interesting story told from a woman’s point of view. Taxonomists will find Cabañuelas fits comfortably on the shelves of Chicana feminist United States fiction. It’s a conclusion the author emphasizes in the final paragraph of the book where the narrator says Nena is “happy with the Chicana feminist work she is doing now. Her teaching. Her writing. Her beloved borderlands. Laredo. It’s all as it should be. But.”

Cantú writes the effortless prose of a travel writer or memoirist reporting contemporary events, a diarist. The writing is supposed to appear effortless and Cantú controls her art with excellence.

The author Cantú fleshes out her plot of the relationship’s path, reporting Nena’s scholarly pursuits in la Biblioteca Nacional and those of her fellow medievalists poring through aging histories. The scholar Cantú tracks down contemporary expressions of her historical findings, giving the book a geographical structure tied to the Catholic Church saint-day calendars. No Cabañuelas  time here. In fact, Nena's religious foundation irks agnostic Paco.

Nena is a liberated woman of the 1980s. Paco, Nena’s love, replaces a guy back home with hardly a pause between men in her bed, from jazz to opera in this case.

Paco works in the art department of a publishing house, and does freelance work. He’s an intellectual with a car. Nena semi-moves in. But she keeps up her share of the rent with the roomies as a safeguard against homelessness.

La Chicana scholar comes loaded with attitude, and gets disarmed. It may be occupational propensity to fall in love with a studied cultura. Nena manages to do that with her scholar’s eye. Nena's sense of history leads her to see how traditions become themselves in every annual expression. Change not only is inevitable, it’s what happens every year. 

Folklorists reading Cabañuelas will enjoy Nena’s observations linking New Mexico and Texas fiestas and traditions like matachines, or precariously balanced statues paraded into someone’s back yard, to root expressions continuously practiced in Spanish villages.

Similarly, readers will find interesting how Spanish regionalisms lend distinct identities and language to one’s view of a no-longer monolithic “Spain” and Spanish culture. Most readers know about Basques and Catalan separatists, Nena explores regional folklore, not just Valencia but a particular village in that region. Then another in Asturias. Then another, and on and on through the scholar’s quest for authenticity.

There’s lots of code-switching in Cabañuelas, and a distinctive style. The author, or her editor, resist the technique of appositional translations. She/they allow Spanish to express its own meaning, rarely adding that following translation. I don’t remember seeing an italics anywhere.

Linguists will enjoy forays into dialect. A Chicana grows up multilingual, English, Spanish, Tex-Mex. In Spain, people continue to speak local idioms like Gallego, Valenciano, but they're not mutually understood. The essentially monolingual boyfriend enjoys Nena's linguistic color, but remonstrates Nena for her Texanism, “mande” which some gachupines would take literally and order her around.

Feminists will enjoy—men will learn from it—how Nena doesn’t like being objectified as “Flaca” nor PDA, public display of affection, of Paco wrapping his arm across Nena’s shoulders like he owns her. “But you’re mine,” Paco innocently protests. Men don't get it.

“But.” That’s the writer's stylistic idiosyncracy. Cantú employs the conjunction as a dysjunction, building a logic into a narrative then bringing it full stop. "But." suggest there’s more, an ellipsis, but the author usually doesn’t explore what’s left out, if it doesn’t fit the paragraph, even though we all know there's more here.

He must really love me, she ponders. And he was upset, and hurt, but by his actions he forgave me. What possessed me? She wonders. Can’t be just jealousy. Or can it? He is right; I destroyed his property. And she imagines a book with her letters to him. And his letters to her. Must be in the future when she writes about this part of her life, this is part of the story. No. What’s done is done. But. Perhaps she will write it all. Who knows who will read them? No. I’ll see him or call him occasionally, she vows but no letters. That’s all. But.

Nena has searched Paco's home to find and destroy all the cards and letters she mailed from her forays into the country. She's erasing evidence of herself from future lovers of Paco's. There's irony in a scholar of literary ephemera destroying her own ephemera. 

Set in 1980, Cantú updates Nena's and Paco's story to 2000 at the Madrid Operahouse, when Nena and Paco see each other a final time and readers can put that adjective in front of “love story.” 

Nena’s friend Martha has heard Nena’s memories of her Fulbright, her research, the passion that tempted her, the man who wanted her. Nena introduces that man to Nena's best friend.

Martha thinks Paco’s a wimp. And ugly.

Why would the author do this to Nena’s dewy-eyed memory of her summer man?

It’s “literature as equipment for living” for dewy-eyed lovers. Events like Nena’s and Paco’s affair, happen when they’re supposed to, when you’re young, and only one time. After this, a woman matures out of the motives that guided her path to that point. She continues along the trail, more woman for it. As it should be.

You’re going to love Cabañuelas with its several layers of academia, tourism, language and dialect, Chicanidad, smooth easy-reading style. But.

But in the story of a woman’s amorous adventures, there’s another side.

My View
By Paco Fulano

She broke my heart, la flaca. You hear those stories from los universitarios, how these norteamericanas come to do research in la biblioteca nacional, and while they’re here they find a lover, use him, and at the end of her Visa, vuela vuela chicanita back to your tierra and never think of me.

Well that’s what happened to me. I saw her at a fiesta and looked for her all day only to meet up with her back home. I loved her way of mixing Castellano with Ingles, and how she recognized her homeland in nuestras costumbres. Always curious, my Nena, making friends in villages—hasta con gypsies—finding stories behind the stories.

Nena’s love for the traditions are part of her emotional make-up. Academic scholarship is a gift of self-interest, she can spend all the time in the world thinking, looking up information, writing books and monographs other scholars read. She loved the regional dialects that are fused with the local customs, but she never got over her distaste for Gachupines like me. But. I’m Asturiano.

What a reward for me that she’d eventually come out with a book about that time when we were young. Ronald Reagan and the Republicans had just taken over that country. We were at that age when our careers were taking off. Me, production artist in the publishing house, her a Fulbright year and a sabbatical from teaching in the University.

I liked the book. Some of it I didn’t know she was aware, like that time I invited her just to show her off to my friends. And she just didn’t get some stuff. There’s nothing wrong with the weekly tertulia but some of her gilipolla friends I didn’t care for. I would prefer to use a free afternoon hearing different performances of an aria than sip tepid espresso in the back of that bookstore. I did a lot of things she didn’t notice, like using my car to take her and her roommates sight-seeing all over the country. Notice she never mentions who paid for gasoline? But she had a good time and that was how I wanted it. Forever, vale?

I hope everyone in Spain doesn’t read Cabañuelas and think she played me. I was young and she was my jewel. I needed her. New Orleans was a ritual we played but I asked her to come back. That last night, when I saw her again, I was with my Alicia, and still me. But la flaca, she was not who she used to be, not my flaca any more. So it goes. I hope mi chicanita sells a lot of books with my story.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Each year, AWP holds its Annual Conference and Bookfair in a different region of the United States in order to celebrate the outstanding authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and small press publishers of that region. The Annual Conference typically features hundreds of presentations: readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums plus hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings. The conference attracts thousands of attendees and hundreds of publishers. It’s one of the biggest and liveliest literary gatherings in the country. And many of the writers who have contributed to La Bloga (or have been the subject of interviews, profiles, and reviews on our site) will be there.

This year it's in Portland, from March 27 through 30, at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE M L King Blvd. For a general overview of this year's conference including panel and event schedules, visit here.

And I am delighted to be a participant this year as a panelist. On Thursday, March 28, at 9:00 to 10:15 a.m., I will be a on a panel titled “Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Writers on Employment Outside of Academia” moderated by Wendy J. Fox and featuring Teow Lim Gow, David Abrams, and Yuvi Zalkow. It will be in room A106, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1. For more specific information on this panel including author bios visit this link. Please join us!

I will also be signing books on March 28 and 29 if you want to come by and say hi (no need to buy…it’s really great just to see fellow writers). Here are my two signing events:

∎ Thursday, March 28, 1:00 – 1:30 p.m., I will sign my debut poetry collection, Crossing the Border (Pact Press), at the Regal House Publishing exhibition space T10093.

∎ Friday, March 29, 2:30 – 3:00 p.m., I will sign my two University of Arizona Press titles, The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (2017), and The Book of Want: A Novel (2011), at the Latino Writers Caucus booth 6042 (co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Press). Here is the complete schedule for this booth:

As I put together my own schedule of events to attend, I realize that there are more than I can get to, especially when great panels happen at the same time. But I will do my best. One event I won’t miss is the meeting of the Latino Caucus on Friday, March 29, 6:00 to 7:15 p.m., in room F150, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1. The Latino Caucus creates space to network with new, emerging, and established writers of varied Latinx identities, to discuss issues around the obstacles to publication, and to discuss panel and event planning to increase Latinx participation at AWP.

In any event, if you’re coming to Portland to enjoy AWP, check out the list of events, support your favorite authors, presses, and literary journals, and have fun!

P.S. If you're on Twitter, I will be tweeting from @olivasdan to #LatinxLit and #AWP2019.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Spring Brings Green

Melinda Palacio

Spring brings good news for California and weather-beaten Santa Barbara County, where we've battled fires and a drought that's lasted 7 years. In Santa Barbara, or paradise as locals like to call the town, signs of its verdant past have returned, and most important, rain. The rain brings much needed water to Lake Cachuma, the county's reservoir, now at nearly forty percent capacity. A year ago the lake resembled a few puddle splashes. Friends that have lived here for several decades speak of a time when Lake Cachuma spilled over into the Santa Ynez River.

However, experts warn not to do too much celebrating over the resent rush of rains. I'm sure it's hard for restaurants not to fall into old habits of offering water at the table. Only a few months ago, a person had to be parched enough to beg for a glass of water. Now, waiters carry ice filled jugs of cold water and are eager to fill a glass. I realize this is standard practice for most restaurants, but after so many years of drought in Santa Barbara, I'm still surprised when I don't have to ask for water. Water has been such a luxury and I've grown to appreciate water more than ever.

Everywhere the hills remind me of Ireland. I feel lucky and grateful to see green hills and green lawns. For so many years, I've kept my lawn brown and have turned off my sprinkler due to the drought, but thanks to all the glorious rain we've received all the neighboring lawns are green again. As I mentioned earlier, it's too early to celebrate the end of the drought and I hope the best practices and water saving solutions continue to be part of everyone's routine. I know I won't go back to turning on the sprinkler for my lawn or freely flushing the toilet if merely yellow or taking long showers (something I've actually never done, but now my showers are quicker than ever before).

One of my favorite things about the rain is curling up with a good book. Currently, I'm reading Claudia D. Hernandez's Knitting the Fog (interview coming soon). Until then, enjoy the rain and enjoy a good book.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Rock Schoolhouse in the Clouds

Cuzco, the jumping off point to the Andes or Machu Picchu
   At first, we thought it was a nice gesture, to buy school supplies and deliver them to poor kids living high in the Andes. Then came the question, school supplies, for kids with barely enough to eat and who probably need clothing and medicines?
     We’d been in Peru all of three days, two in metropolitan Lima and one in Cuzco, a trendy colonial city up around 11,000 feet altitude, where even the hotels came outfitted with oxygen tanks. For me, when traveling abroad, it takes a few days to acculturate, which means, fusing with my new environment and leaving my “gringo—Chicano-ness” behind, transcending nationality and nationhood. I clearly understand the phrase, “The world is my oyster,” or, to turn a phrase, “I am just another oyster in the world.”
     It remind me of Vietnam, the war, and the assault on my senses, and how the smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings transformed me into my new environment. I was no longer invading Southeast Asia. I was Southeast Asia. This enigmatic transition could be scary to the guys who fought it. They told themselves they hated everything about Vietnam, especially the people, friend or foe, but really, I think, there was a bit of self-loathing, not completely understanding why we were bombing the shit out of these villagers for a larger abstract cause--to preserve our freedom, whatever that meant.
Lake Titicaca's next generation
     And we, of course, saw ourselves as superior to the foreigners; though, deep down, as time passed, we knew it was their world, and they were superior to us. It was like the 1930s King Kong movie, when the beast was shackled with chains in a New York theater, the speaker announced to the audience, dressed in tuxedos and evening dresses, “In his world, he was king.”
     That’s why I understood the guys in reconnaissance, operating in small units, alone, in the jungle for weeks, at a time. They began to smell and look like the bush around them, to take on the spirit of the Viet Cong they pursued, just as T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), had begun to inhabit not just the dress and culture but the spirit of the Arab world.
     Back in Cuzco, the coordinator of our trip recommended we each purchase $10.00 worth of school supplies, whatever we chose. As an anthropologist, he had visited Peru many times and felt the “duende” of the place.
     At a local libreria, I picked up a supply of stuff, heavy writing tablets, along with boxes of pens, markers, and pencils. I ended up splurging, spending over $20, thinking, man, am I overspending, not to mention that now I’d have to lug not only my suitcase and bags but a heavy plastic bag of school supplies; hopefully, it wouldn’t be an albatross around my neck.
     We hauled our school supplies around with us on buses, vans, and trains for the next week and a half, from Machu Picchu to Puno, the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the town of Ollantaytuabo in the Sacred Valley, and through the beautiful Colca Valley, where volcanoes, some spewing dark billows of smoke, surrounded us on many sides.
Any means necessary to survive at 16,000 feet

     It was then, I began hearing grumbling. “Man, these bags are getting heavy,” or “I can’t carry these bags and my own luggage much longer,” and “when are we going to deliver this stuff.” Ironically, nobody complained about the sacks of souvenirs they'd accumulated, new bags filled of knitted alpaca and llama scarves, sweaters, caps, ceramics, etc. et.
     The school supplies become a burden. Passing one large school, children playing outside, someone in our group said, “Hey, let’s just dump the stuff off with these kids.”
     One morning, our bus pulled out onto the highway, leaving the mountain village of Sicuani behind us. We headed through the clouds, at about 16,000 feet. The temperature dropped down to the 40s. It was a sunny day, the wind blowing hard. All I could see around me were mountains, rock, and llamas dotting the landscape. Brandon, our group leader, called to the bus driver, “Pull over here.”
Boy in red sweatshirt, responding to bus driver's call
On the same level
     We all looked out wondering why we were stopping. The bus driver honked his horn, reached out of the window, and motioned to the rocks, for that’s all I could see. First, a little boy in a red sweater peeked out from a mound of rocks, which I realized was a shanty. In seconds, he came running down to the highway. In no time, other children followed, then mothers with children in their arms, as if emerging from the ground. “Okay,” I heard, “bring out your supplies and give them to the kids.”
A special union
     The kids stood along the shoulder of the road, happily taking pens, paper, tablets, pencils, and rulers, whatever we had. Their faces brightened as if we were giving them pieces of gold. One young mother asked if she could take some supplies for her son who was out working in the fields.
     With our supply depleted, the children hugged us. The older ones shook our hands. Beaming, they looked down at the gifts in their hands, in near disbelief. Every once in a while, a car passed, doing about 65, honking at us to stay off the road.
From me to you
     For this short interlude, I didn’t feel like a tourist or a visitor but like a fellow human being sharing in a bit of delight these kids were experiencing. Back home, children complain if they don’t get the newest cell phone, laptop, Mac Tablet, or video contraption on the market. They don't engage with anyone but their electronic devices. Have we lost them? Is there appreciation misplaced? Is there no appreciation? Are we all in the States now so jaded, even adults, that we take too much for granted, desiring the finest car or house?
Back to the mountains
     Slowly, we board the bus, the kids and their parents waving at us. We don’t want to leave. We want to savor the glory of appreciation, theirs and ours. They have touched us more than we have touched them. They have given us more than we have given them. Brandon, our coordinator, points to a low-ceilinged rock structure, stark and cold. "That's their school house," he says.
     The children continue to wave as we drive away. We are no longer travelers or tourists, and they are no longer poor mountain people. For a small instant, we are not rich or poor, black or white, Americans or Peruvians, we are just people.