Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Conversation sobre un desmadre

Evil is afoot in parts of south Texas
Michael Sedano, Rossy Lima, David Bowles

Evil is afoot in parts of south Texas and I’m not talking la llorona (not evil) nor los rinches (unmitigated evil). Character assassination by proxy has struck two friends of La Bloga in an ugly pedo that can have subversive repercussions on United States literature, especially Chicano literature.

It’s already irreparably hurt people, talk about a desmadre.

I’m mad as hell about this bull roar and for a lot of life-long reasons it’s a sickening commentary on the fragility of diversity in today’s United States, the nature of belief in one's fellows.

A scurrilous individual planted a poisoned seed in poet scholar publisher Rossy Evelin Lima’s ear. That is the root cause of the “he’s not Chicano” pedo that exploded in social media in May pointing at Chicano author scholar David Bowles and Lima’s Latino Book Review. (links in bold)

Social media itself is problematic. A cesspool of anonymity, access, and distribution ensures everyone will have different information but they’ll all be alarmed as hell at what they hear from others.

This comes at a critical time. “Chicano” is dropped from MEChA in a welter of confused ratiocination and charges of colonial and neo-colonial and pseudo-colonial thinking, a mirror of the national sickness and arguments about socialism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, corporatism, so it’s not just raza. There’s a coordinated attack upon unity and solidarity in this nation, “I got mine!” versus the collectivism typical of culturas like Chicanos, Mexicanos and gente from hispanoparlante cultures.

Raza, we’ve been infected by this and I wish I could point to a specific anonymous person or persons known only to Rossy, who was a target of opportunity. “You’re not Chicano” is the most incendiary insult in the world, so there’s no going back and little room to fix things.

La Bloga reached out to Lima and Bowles to ask them to air the issues here in a written colloquy. They agreed because they both are professionals recognizing communication as a way we Chicanas and Chicanos address issues.

I suggested the format you will read below: Rossy explains events. David responds. Rossy responds. And without getting David’s response La Bloga opens discussion in the Comments section below. Be sure to click the box to be notified when the conversation expands.

I hoped sharing this exchange would clear the air, enumerate issues, engage the community, and protect literatura chicana. The two artists are at impasse, and that’s in two dimensions, personalities and professionals.

As personalities, the two have drawn lines they don’t need to cross but it’s up to them exclusively. Personal animosity and the complexities of raza cultura are human dimensions that do not involve us. Consejos and indirectas won’t help, so let us hope these two people work out their personal animosity. They’re the only ones who can and it’s there. A person never deontically must apologize for making a mistake or being hidebound. And no one has to accept an apology in some phatic ritual reciprocation. Professionals work on a different standard.

As literary professionals both must lay aside ego in recognition they are cultural guardians with accountability and obligation that transcend individual satisfaction. What you read happening here in give-and-give-back isn’t just he she said. The pedo strikes at the heart of the role of literature in culture: who gets read and what gets read.

The juncture of editorial gatekeeping and a culture’s infinite capacity for creativity, entertainment, and instruction creates a tenuous connection that relies upon editors. Who gets paid, who gets recognized, who gets to take part are elements defining the identification and identity processes that are the whole of cultura. 

Materially, do a good job and la cultura supports you and spends its money and kisses on you because they agree with your truths.

Readers trust people like publishers and authors to demonstrate mutual professional respect. There’s a long enough history to “you’re not Chicano enough” fallacies that David is coming out of this with a minor scab that won’t leave a scar, but he got blooded sure enough. His livelihood is in good standing. For example, David Bowles is featured on Latinopia this week and thus in perpetuity on the definitive site for raza documentary. While the scurrilous person would turn David into our Rachel Dolezal, raza are going to tell that guy to go jump in Lake Comemierda and stay there.

Rossy might lose her investment if LBR goes under from this.

Someone whom Lima is keeping confidential approached her with venom. It’s my pure speculation this person had (I hope ‘had’) credibility with the poet, or the person is in her intimate circle with intractable credibility. Further, I speculate that person is broken and takes advantage of the relationship with Rossy and a lot of people. The temptation to heap vitriol is mighty, upon this human manchineel spirit who planted evil seeds, the poisoned tree grew, the fruit has fallen and sullied the ground. 

The Latino Book Review recently debuted its hardcopy magazine via PayPal. The magazine is as slick as  LBR’s website, that hits you between the eyes with literary and design power. Think Huizache The Magazine of Chicano Literature, but electronic; that’s the vibe LBR was hitting on most cylinders until an editorial decision fulfilled that scurrilous person’s evil intent and brings today's crisis. David Bowles gets called an imposter like an Amado Muro or Danny Santiago, writers who got famous all over town impersonating Chicanos.

The pedo over the insult to Bowles drew lines. A number of contributors have threatened to or requested Rossy pull their work. These contributors were feathers in the cap of a debut publication. Now these opinion leaders are voicing support for David Bowles.

Managers in the customer service industry believe that any voiced complaint represents 15 to 25 others with the same opinion. But they don’t complain. They just silently go away. Markets shrink or grow on the basis of an endorsement. Sabes que? Negative endorsements have more impact than favorable; gente love to spread bad chisme, que no?

I want David and Rossy to be happy and satisfied with their roles in our community. I want to see Rossy examine her relationship with that source who started all this. There's a fellow named Jose Lopez stoking the fires. Maybe that's the provocateur. Ratiocinate as I might, and speculate too, I cannot see a single honest element behind the chisme that starts this. Publishers should not be held accountable for what writers express nor what some pendejo posts on Facebook. Some of that’s been tested in courts. But we’re raza here. We hold people to high standards and we have long memories. 

I want to see David not discriminated against in our literary circles. His livelihood depends on the perception people hold of him. Listen to Bowles interview at Latinopia, read my review of Feathered Serpent. Do not look for Bowles' birth certificate. 

I want Rossy’s company to enjoy a long life and achieve the highest accolades. Have a look at a story of mine Rossy published when she launched her On-line literary endeavors. Check out the links above on Rossy and LBR.

Buy their books. Recommend their books.

Share your views or related experiences by leaving a Comment below. 

Rossy Evelin Lima:
Thank you to La Bloga for providing the opportunity to reach your readers.

The allegations that my husband or myself have conspired to damage the reputation of David Bowles are false and unfounded. For this reason, we would like to offer a detailed explanation of the situation that developed following a publication made in the platform Latino Book Review.

Previous to this publication, LBR received adverse reports regarding David Bowles’ ethics, including false ethnicity claims. Our position concerning these claims was, and will continue to be, not to become involved. We decided not to attract any negative attention to LBR by posting any information about anybody making these claims nor David.

When redacting the article about Latinx authors winning this award, we wished to stay away from anyone involved in these claims since we did not know their validity.

The following morning after this article was published, we noticed several people arguing in the facebook comments section. While some people questioned why David had not been included, a person allegedly named José López stated that David was not Mexican American and posted some of David’s personal information. As with any other facebook page, we are not responsible for the comments posted by individuals. The moment we saw these comments, we erased everything and blocked López from commenting again.

In our continuing efforts to remain not-involved, we issued a message stating that we would not tolerate any behavior that would harm other people’s reputation regardless of ethnicity, a call for civility, which was interpreted by some people as an agreement with the posts López made. We do not agree nor are we involved with any claims regarding David’s heritage.

Quickly after we blocked López, and while we were at work, we started to receive harassing messages from individuals who took this situation as if it was us who attacked David, using ultimatums and offensive language. Even though it was heartbreaking to read comments from people we considered friends, and who know that we have never been involved in disputes or “writer tribes,” people who know me personally, who have seen my working ethic, I decided that we were not going to respond to any of it. We refuse to provide a platform for anything that is not uplifting to our culture. I did not publish anything on my personal account because I am sure people who know me can discern that we were not involved in such a thing.

The statements he is making regarding a conspiracy against him by us and any allegations that we want to hurt his public image are entirely unfounded and bereft of facts. By making these accusations, he is damaging our professional relations with other authors. We did not take part in the actions he is accusing us of.

I don’t understand where his assumption of conspiracy against him comes from and resent that he has used this situation to question my integrity and my dedication to our community. I have given David and his family nothing but my respect, I am grateful that he included me as part of his acknowledgments in his book Flower, Song, Dance, first edition, stating, “Rossy Lima’s beautiful Náhuatl, an unerring sense of musicality, aided me in finding a voice that would do justice to the original.” He has participated in many events I have organized, as I have been included in anthologies he has published. What reason do I have to hurt a writer with whom I have shared the stage, projects, even invited over to have dinner at my home? My question is, who is benefiting from this situation?

After this situation happened, our first thought was to reach out to him, clear everything and apologize for the circumstances, but after we saw his posts, we decided that any communication was going to be used against us. From that point, we have been overwhelmed by assumptions on our character made directly by David.

Since then, members of our writing community felt that we were not including David in this list out of malice. The reality is that we did not know the validity of these claims presented to us; our decision was nothing more than an effort to distance ourselves from any controversies. We have no wish nor intention to be part of any polemic or problematic claims. But since David has made direct accusations, I am extending this statement in hopes of clearing this situation.

Agradezco mucho este espacio de diálogo.

Rossy Evelin Lima

David Bowles response:

If, as Rossy claims, she and her husband Gerald Padilla were not responsible for the accusations of dishonesty and cultural appropriation made against me, then I have some very serious questions for them.

First, however, let’s consider the timeline of events on April 29, 2019. The following events happen within about an hour of one another.

1. Latino Book Review shares to its Facebook page its article on the Latinx winners and finalists of the Texas Institute of Letters awards, including the novel El Rinche, published by Rossy and Gerry’s Jade Publishing, but excluding me.
2. Several residents of the Río Grande Valley comment on the post, pointing out what they see as an oversight, asking that I be included.
3. The Wikipedia article about me is edited by a newly created account called “AncestryVerifier” to include genealogical information about my family that calls my self-identification as Latino into question.
4. Almost immediately, a fake Facebook account in the name of José López begins to respond to my supporters’ comments with allegations that I have falsely claimed to be Mexican American when I am not. These comments include screenshots of the Wikipedia article about me.
5. LBR takes hours to pull down all of those comments, adding a call for civility and voicing their support of both Latinx and non-Latinx authors writing about Latin-American issues (thereby reinforcing the perception that they agree with José López / AncestryVerifier”).

Most people, I imagine, would conclude what I have: this feels like a coordinated attack.

The following morning, learning of the above series of seemingly interconnected actions, I posted an explanation to Facebook in which I explained that my father was born out of wedlock during my grandmother Marie Bowles had left her first husband and had begun a relationship with my grandfather Manuel Garza. I went into difficult detail about how my father came to retain the surname Bowles even after Marie and Manuel married in Mexico about two years after my father’s birth. I eventually was compelled to share my family tree and a photo of my father to bolster my assertions.

Given the above, here are my questions.
• Why didn’t Gerry and Rossy immediately contact me upon receiving the report that I was lying about my heritage? If Latino Book Review cares about its reputation as a publication, why not adhere to standard journalistic practice?
• Rossy asserts that LBR decided not to become involved. However, this strikes me as disingenuous. Isn’t not including me in an article discussing Latinx authors receiving TIL recognitions becoming involved? Aren’t they tacitly taking a side against me?
• After I explained on Facebook the reality of my ancestry and lived experience as a Chicano, after multiple people—including those working with LBR and contributing material—insisted that the article be updated to include me as a way of carrying out damage control … why did Rossy and Gerry continue to insist on leaving me out of the article?
• Why has it taken so long for Gerry and Rossy to reach out? We live in the same town, have the same friends, do the same sort of work. As Rossy points out, we have known one another for a long time. I have been supportive of her poetry; as one of Gerry’s former supervisors at Donna ISD, I strove to be supportive of his teaching as well. I simply don’t understand the silence. Silence breeds suspicion. It feels like either tacit support of the accusations or even complicity.

Even if Gerry and Rossy didn’t start this, I hold them accountable. There were multiple steps they could have taken after they “received adverse reports” about me. By excluding me from their article without a word of explanation, they have demonstrated that they doubt me, and even when people who have known me for decades affirm that I am indeed who and what I say I am, they refuse to back down from their tacit disapproval of my self-identification.

Until that situation changes, I am unable to show any further support for them or their endeavors.

Rossy’s response:

1. The chronology of the events David describes is incorrect, and I have time stamps to prove it. I also want to stress that having to clarify unfounded claims takes away an effort I could be investing in the projects I have.
2. The article was published Sunday afternoon, around 5 pm.
3. The comments posted on the facebook article started around 11 pm, on a Sunday. David mentions that we took hours to take action. We did, we were asleep since we had to work on Monday. None of us saw the messages until the next day. When Gerald saw them the following day, around 8:30 am, he erased and blocked the person.
4. After researching the Wikipedia article, you can see that the edits were done around midnight, the same time the discussion between the community members mentioned by David, and José López were commenting on the facebook page. It is evident to us, that after seeing the article someone decided to create an issue out of it. Our question is who is trying to discredit who, and who is gaining something out of this.
5. Another thing I would like to clarify is that I don’t live in the same town as David. I moved last year to another city, 10 hours away.

He states this was an organized conspiracy without any proof or evidence.

• When we first learned about the ethnicity and ethical claims we didn’t immediately contact David because that is none of our concern. I will not dedicate my attention and effort to something that is not productive, aside from the fact that I had no way to contact him since he unfriended me on facebook (I don’t know when).
• After Gerald took down the comments and blocked López, we did want to reach out to him, but we saw the post he had published early morning and the comments he was making blaming us, and desisted from it. His post has since been erased by him.
• We are not a journal; we are a platform to publish book reviews and occasionally announce good news. We have never claimed to be journalists. Our mission has nothing to do with investigating claims.
• By declaring that we did not want to become involved, I mean that we did not want to be associated with David. This is a practice that I learned while being an undocumented woman of color. I learned not to get involved with people I perceived as problematic. That does not mean that I don’t like them, that I don’t appreciate them or support them. What it means is that for 19 years I was so afraid of being tangled in a problem that could put my family or me in a difficult situation, that I would evade being associated with anyone whom I perceived as being problematic. This practice has worked for me since I can gladly say that I have not been involved in any problems with anyone. For example, if someone tells me something negative about someone else, I distance myself from both. An approach that cannot always be understood by those who have never been undocumented while being focused on a goal.

I am happy for David’s success. I can’t help but notice that his posts on Facebook, where he included my name, kept mentioning that this attack allegedly by me was because of jealousy. As mentioned, I am happy for his success as I am happy with my own achievements. Until recently, I was an undocumented woman, I have received numerous international awards in the US, México and Italy, created a press for Latin American authors that publishes in various indigenous languages, and I was offered a position at a Tier One University, not only as a professor but the director of a language program. I was just named Poet of the Year by the Americas Poetry Festival in New York, and this year my name will be engraved in the home of Walt Whitman. All of this while being almost 20 years younger than David. I mention this not to brag, but to exemplify how his reasoning of me being jealous does not make any sense. As for my husband, he has never had any desire to become an author.

We agree that this seems like a very coordinated effort. The question is, from who?

I also have some serious questions:

• How does David know that the Wikipedia user AncestryVerifier was a newly created account? Wikipedia doesn’t seem to show when accounts are created.

• Why were most of the alleged proof Lopez posted from David’s own ancestry page?

• Why did he post, the following day, “There is a strange irony to the recent attack on me…. given the storyline of They Call Me Güero.”? Is the connection of the topic of his book and this “coordinated attack” a coincidence?

o The plot of his book revolves around a kid: “Wishing he had been born with a darker complexion so no one would question his Mexican American Heritage.” –School Library Journal

o This is a very timely controversy.

• We have just realized that in the second edition of Flower, song, and dance, revised in 2016, I was erased from the acknowledgments. Why, and since when has this apparent animosity toward me been going on?

I am accountable for the decision of not including his name on this article. But this decision was not based on false heritage claims alone, but on reports of ethical concerns. I want to make clear that as individuals, we decided to protect the image of our platform by not associating with David.

We are not asking for David’s support, we are asking for a retraction of his accusations regarding our involvement in the claims about his heritage.



Argh . . . As a Chicano with an Irish surname I can identify with this mess. I do feel compelled to give my ethnic credentials regularly, and still people get confused. Though in this case, leaving someone out of a story on the basis of rumors is simply bad reporting. The borders of our ethnicity are not defines by a wall topped with barbed wire. We include a lot of people. I hope we can get over this.

jmu said...

Indeed, Bowles was left out apparently due to someone badmouthing him to LBR. LBR owners claim they did not want to get involved and left him out. If Lima, the owner of LBR, were still undocumented, I could understand the reticence. But she no longer needs to be afraid, so why not ignore the chisme and include him, specially since she has shared her table with him?

Yes, it is a slight. But that is not enough reason to solely blame her for the start of a major flame war on a Sunday night. There are very few people who are so wicked they'll change a Wikipedia page to go after anyone's reputation. This should make it very clear that someone who immensely hates Bowles is willing to torch the village in order to save it for themselves, even if it is a burned ruin.

Having been the target of a very vicious attack at my place of work by one of the first trolls in the Chicano Internet community I know how it feels to be a target. But people around me and those very high above me realized it all was a hoax and cooler heads prevailed. (The troll made one major mistake: he forced the hand of the local sheriff department who then visited him for getting them involved. They probably talked to his wife who apparently read him the riot act. He left the InterTubes since then.)

Given that, there is a need for people to reflect on what this has wrought, how to repair the damage, and how to prevent it from happening in the future. Sure, some feathers have been ruffled. But the cost is too high to not mend and heal this self-inflicted wound.

In my opinion and based on their narratives, both of the parties in this brouhaha made mistakes that need to be acknowledged and then given proper burial. For the good of their community and past friendship they need to amicably resolve this.

Why? Because one of these days there will be no more "pure" Chicanos. Many of our children are well on their way to marrying someone not like their parents. And why not? The heart gets what the heart wants and "purity" is only for the Westminster Kennel Club.

Best wishes in getting that done.

He dicho. ;-)

Edward Vidaurre said...

I don’t like the evil is afoot in south Texas headline. It’s people holding people accountable for their actions and inactions. We’ve always supported one another here and we’ve seen each other grow. David has been a beacon in this community, he’s held free workshops for children along with his family to elevate awareness for the arts. I’ve spoken to him in length about this and he’s never once said a demeaning word about this whole situation.