Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Fresh New Face of Griselda

By Jennifer Torres

  •                Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  •             Grade Level: 3 - 7
  •             Hardcover: 256 pages
  •             Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  •             Language: English
  •             ISBN-10: 0316452602
  •             ISBN-13: 978-0316452601

A moving coming-of-age novel about one girl's struggles after her parents lose their home, and her journey to find hope in family and friendship, from Jennifer Torres, the author of Stef Soto, Taco Queen.

Griselda "Geez" Zaragoza has a love for beautiful things, like her collection of vintage teacups and the flower garden she and her dad planted in the front yard. But when his business fails, Griselda loses not just her home, but also her confidence and her trust in her unflappable parents.

Tagging along with big sister Maribel, who postponed college for a job selling Alma Cosmetics, Geez dreams up a way to reclaim the life she thinks she lost. If she can sell enough tubes of glistening, glittery Alma lip gloss, she'll win a cash prize that could help jump start her dad's business.

With ups and downs along the way, Geez will discover that beauty isn't just lost or found, but made and re-made.


"Fans of Kelly Yang's Front Desk (2018) will enjoy Geez' entrepreneurial spirit and appreciate another strong-minded young woman of color seeking ways to relieve her family's financial burden. An enjoyable story about the ingenuity and bonds that help a family withstand tough times."Kirkus Reviews

Jennifer Torres is an award-winning writer and the author of The Fresh New Face of Griselda, Flor and Miranda Steal the Show, Stef Soto, Taco Queen, and Finding the Music/En pos de la música. A former journalist, her work is inspired by her Mexican-American heritage. She lives with her family in Southern California. Visit her online at

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

They Call It "The Journey"

The Memory Care Unit – The Journey
Michael Sedano

Friends have been telling me they’ve found use in reading my columns about living with Alzheimer’s Dementia. “We all face this,” they’ll say. Indeed, it's a deep-seated fear. But no, we won’t all get it. 

Sunset, a metaphor for dementia. Memories flee the extinguishing brilliance of a mind.

No one knows its cause, no one knows what leads to a person developing Alzheimer’s. Vascular dementia results from brain injury, a stroke a fall. Parkinson’s patients experience dementia, Huntington’s patients similarly “sink” into dementia. Dementia shows itself in different symptoms yet for all, gradually, personhood disappears. A functioning organism takes its place. Then the organism forgets how to operate and the body dies. How long?

People say stuff like “My uncle had dementia for ten years” then tío died and his wife was desolate over his symptoms and her responsibilities to care for his body while his person changed. Ten years.

While dementia strikes patients differently, symptoms come like boilerplate copied off the internet. Things add up and symptomatic idiosyncracies turn into permanent deficits. Concerned others with information, ask, does she wander? Does she steal? Does she clean herself? How well can she walk and move?

Those symptoms will happen to us. Some really ugly symptoms come and go already, like not recognizing me. Nearly 51 years together and some days she won’t know my name. She acts all pleasant because at her core, Barbara is a pleasant human being. She'll say, "Michael was here this morning." I tell her my name. "The other Michael," is her response. I hope he was a good guy.

Alzheimer’s strikes the entire family, all your friends, and perfect strangers when they hear about your luck. Perra suerte as the corridos go.

I am dealing with understanding the fundamental nature of cognitive disease: dementia patients face whatever comes next all alone. I visualize watching an angry horizon consuming itself in an oncoming conflagration, standing against its onslaught the solitary figure of my wife silhouetted against the disaster she faces and she's going into it all by herself.

The memory care unit is filled with people going it alone together.

Old people with money form an attractive market for specialty corporations in senior housing. Pasadena Highlands where Barbara lives, stands as a mid-rise monument on its street. Upper floors have Independent Living where couples or singles live free of domestic encumbrances like cooking and entertaining. I see these people downstairs laughing near the main dining room, or out in the lobby going for a ride somewhere. This is their apartment house in a retirement community.

The lower floors house Assisted Living. Attendants work here at one’s call but not beck. Response times are progressive. Walkie-talkies buzz out repeat calls, status reports, someone’s getting there soon. Nothing is immediate, the company imposes no performance standards on its personable employees.

Staff to resident ratios offer consistent presence of a blue-shirted person who invariably offers helpful and pleasant care. I say “Buenos dias” to muchas personas in blue.

The Journey is the name of the memory care unit in the basement. Memory care is 24/7 attendance by a slim team of incredible people. There could be more staff but given the cognitive condition of some residents, more staff wouldn’t improve anyone’s comfort.

The lowest-functioning people will disappear from these hallways onto their hospice Journey. That service comes with a financial consideration, hospice is medical and if you have insurance, it pays.  If you're young enough, buy long-term disability insurance and that will help with your move into Independent Living.

Access in and out of The Journey is a number pad with a 15-second window to open the double doors. The memory care unit is a single hallway with 2-person unfurnished apartments. Residents furnish their own homes. Some have doors, other rooms a passing attendant can monitor. Body smells waft here and there.

Socialization is vital for people losing themselves to the nothing. Residents gather, or are gathered, in the lounge, where an all-day schedule of activities and a minimum of teevee watching seeks constant stimulation. Some hours, an attendant might be playing ukulele leading the residents in oldies. Most residents stare stolidly at the dancing musician, others slouch in semi-consciousness, one higher-functioning woman dances and sings.

Some residents don’t cooperate during balloon aerobics. They refuse to bat the balloon, or complain, “don’t hit that at me!” The attendant does a lot of jumping and reaching and cajoling since only one or two have muscular coordination to whap that globe. Most stare at the floating toy, some watch, aim, rare back and swing only to make finger contact to cheers and attaboys from the attendant and a couple of residents.

Nothing is easy, nothing is normal. Although some are agitated, these are gentle souls who need to be protected from everything because a dementia patient is simply present.

A frail shell of a woman waits inside the door. “I need you to do something for me.” She doesn’t have words for the keypad nor the door. She points. An attendant comes out and guides the woman to the lounge.

“Have you seen my sister Edith?” a woman sitting in the hall asks. Residents might hang around the meal room, where mealtime extends hours to accommodate random dining habits.

A dapper fellow limps down the hall saying good morning. He carries on conversations about the day, the surroundings. A medical doctor, he’s always been named “Doctor Name,” and that’s how staff addresses him. I saw him for a medical issue thirty years ago, when he was a different man. When he was.

My wife is high functioning most of her hours. On my morning visits we have lively conversations. I’ll drive her to a favorite restaurant, the local coffee roaster for a hot chocolate like we used to do when we lived together. We cannot live together, she knows that. She falls. She forgets. She sinks into depression, we’re together in that one. She sundowns, sometimes badly.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia sufferers have functional cognitive faculties for parts of their day. Mornings are great. As their bodies wear and cognitive resilience wanes, the person begins to fade. Desperately she asks the same information, what day is it. Was it hot today? What day is it? What is hot today? What is today?

She doesn’t know what she's doing. She wants to know, so she asks. That’s good. Me, I’m filled with terror. I still cry a lot. What if sundowning doesn’t go away tomorrow? That’s on those lists of symptoms, that permanent absence. Those frail souls wandering the halls, live here and that's all. They live.

Gente have alternatives to memory care. It’s frightfully expensive. It's dignified.

Less expensive but costly in other ways is 24 hour home care. An organization at the heart of this service is A Place for Mom. They’ll come to your home, assess needs, and place an employee, or two, in your home. This person will live in their own space in your house and works four hour shifts.

A few weeks ago I expressed how devastated I am at what has become of a fifty-one year lifetime. We’re 51 this August 31. We almost made it. We're happy when we're together now, these weeks into the torment. Barbara's husband is adjusting to real life again. 

I still listen to hear if she's coming to my office, or if that sound is her calling or flushing the toilet. It won't be. She doesn't live here.

But I'm getting out there among 'em again. I went out with friends to eat, hasta I went out at night to a nice restaurant and got a free meal! Friends and familia will get you through it, folks. 

It will always be bad. So it goes.

Announcing our wedding date to la familia, 1968

Monday, July 29, 2019

To Be Frida Kahlo

A found poem by Daniel A. Olivas based on a Salma Hayek interview

Never conventional
about anything she did.

Never apologetic
about who she was.

And it was not easy.

From paint,
she did art and poetry.

From the infidelities
of her husband,
she found freedom.

Frida was the only woman
that kept challenging Diego

: for the right reasons

: she always surprised him

: he truly believed she was a genius

And it was not easy.

SOURCE: Salma Hayek interview conducted by Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel around the time of the 2002 release of Frida. 

IMAGE: Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in the 2002 film Frida.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  For many of us who grew up in the Mexican culture, Frida Kahlo has been part of our lives since childhood. Her “rediscovery” by the general public was somewhat surprising (for some) but quite welcome. If she were alive today, I believe she would have used the Internet, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as yet another canvas. I Googled Frida Kahlo and found an interview with Salma Hayak who played Kahlo in the 2002 movie Frida which was based on the truly remarkable 1983 biography by Hayden Herrera.

For more on “found” poetry, visit here.

["To Be Frida Kahlo" was first published by Silver Birch Press.]

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Reporting from the Concentration Camp Exit Gate: Part 2

Juanita Salazar Lamb is an author who lives in Northwest Arkansas. Geographically removed from the Rio Grande Valley where she was born and raised, Juanita keeps her pulse on happenings in the Valley, on immigration issues, and other topics that affect the Latino community. She continues to work on her mystery series featuring Yara Garcia.

Read Juanita Salazar Lamb's first two days here, link.

Juanita Salazar Lamb

Day 3 was a slow day at the bus station. By 9:30 on other mornings most of the seats in the waiting area of the Greyhound station...

... are filled with travelers carrying their immigration documents and tickets in large manila envelopes as they juggle a tote bag and the black plastic bag that contains their sack lunch. But this morning there are no travelers in the waiting area by ten a.m. Two situations loom over everyone today: the impending landfall of tropical storm Barry, and the visit of Vice President Pence to McAllen.

Tropical storm Barry is taking aim for the Gulf Coast, taking direct aim at southern Louisiana with widespread rains as far west as Houston, as far east as Memphis and as far north as Arkansas. Busses to Houston and New Orleans were canceled the night before.

This morning travel to Houston is delayed because of the weather. Vice President Pence’s visit poses a different concern: will the airport shut down entirely for security reasons? How widespread will street closures be? Maybe the ICE busses can’t get through to deliver travelers to the bus station?

Late in the morning travelers start arriving in groups of twos and threes. They hold their immigration documents in their hands without the manila envelope. The adults look exhausted and disoriented. The children’s clothes and hair are dirty, their eyes frightened. Group members cluster together, the children cling to the adults; the teens always close by, watchful of the adults’ interaction with me.

I approach a group of five people, two women and one man with several children, including an infant.

As I talk to them, I learn that they are two separate families. They tell me they are waiting for confirmation from the bus line that their sponsor has paid for their tickets. I decide to wait until they have their tickets to explain their travel arrangements and documentation to them all at once. As I start to move away, the teen-aged boy asks is he can take his younger brother to bathroom. I say yes and explain to them that restrooms are free and that the water in fountains is safe to drink.

I then move on to a couple with a baby to determine the level of assistance they need. I notice the shins of the adults’ pants legs are smeared with mud. They are both wearing sneakers but neither has laces in their shoes. She tells me that they were released by ICE that morning and went to the “Catholic church,” and were told to come to the bus station to arrange their travel. After more discussion I determine that they haven’t eaten and have no sack lunch for themselves nor food for the baby.

Other volunteers encounter travelers in the same situation, without food or tickets and not having had a chance to clean up and rest. I walk to the Respite Center and find a Catholic Charities staff member. I explain the travelers’ situation to him, and he comes to the station to escort them to the Respite Center where they can get rest, a shower, clean clothes and food for themselves and the children. Although activity at the bus station was slow, the Respite Center volunteers who make travel arrangements and direct recent arrivals were short-staffed. Some travelers were inadvertently directed to the bus station prematurely.

In the afternoon small groups of travelers, carrying manila envelopes and wearing clean clothes, are grouped together according to departure time. Today we have five volunteers and few travelers, so I don’t get to assist too many people, which gives me time to think about those I have assisted. 

This week I talked to several travelers going to Houston and southern Louisiana. Will the neighborhoods in their new cities flood? Did they reach their new homes safely? What about the young man who was held for 40 days, is he now safely wit his family who prayed for him every day of his detention? What about the teen girl who wants to be a doctor, how long before she will start school? And what of the man who worked on farms and ranches his whole life and is now moving to a metropolitan area, what kind of work will he do? He just wants to work.

In the morning I had received a text about a shipment of 1,600 blankets that were due to arrive at a church in McAllen. One of the volunteer coordinators with Angry Tias and Abuelas asked for volunteers to unload the truck. The truck arrived around 2:00 pm after many delays and miscommunications.

When the rig pulled up to the church, the driver said he would have to unload the pallets on the sidewalk leading. As four of us volunteers pushed carts to load the bundles of blankets, the driver relented and said he would take the pallets in only as far as he could. 

This kind-hearted driver took the pallets all the way into the building. Six of us volunteers made quick work of unloading the pallets and arranging the bundles of blankets in space provided by the church.

The evening news of Day 3 has coverage of Vice President Pence’s visit to Ursula, the processing center in McAllen where many of the travelers I spoke with have been held. Video of his visit shows men in such crowded conditions that they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder within a chain-link enclosure.

One man standing in front keeps holding up fingers of both hands to form 4 and 0, indicating he has been held for 40 days, and keeps mouthing the words “cuarenta días”, forty days. Another portion of the news coverage is of the Vice President’s interview in which he was asked about the conditions of the centers. The VP repeatedly referred to the clean and comfortable conditions he had toured where the children were held.

I later learned that the VP had visited the tent city at Donna, Texas, a few miles from the Ursula facility. The Donna facility is relatively new, having been built within the past year, and the facilities and furnishings are said to be comfortable. It is a small facility which holds less than 100 immigrants.
Even the Vice President didn’t mention the availability of a full-time dentist.


I volunteered at the border for three days to learn for myself the situation. What I learned through what I saw and heard was a need, a great need: a need and willingness to work on the part of these travelers. A need to pursue dreams of education and a medical career. A need for clean clothes, and a ham and cheese sandwich packed by a religious Sister, a need to be able to use the restroom without asking permission.

I’ve learned in talking to these travelers that they have been in ICE-operated centers anywhere from 4 to 40 days after traveling for weeks, if not months, to reach the border. They have slept on the floor in cold rooms surrounded by other people in similar situations. They haven’t had a good night’s sleep because the officers have come in several times during the night, turned on the lights and made them get up from their make-shift beds, sometimes for no apparent reason.

In reviewing their documentation, I learned that ICE has given them permission to be in the U.S. Each person must still report to immigration court, but they have written permission to be in the U.S. If, and until, the immigration court hears their case and makes a decision, each of these people is in the U.S. with permission from ICE.

I am not an immigration lawyer nor a politician. I did not learn how to fix our immigration system. One thing that strikes me now when I hear politicians claiming that our immigration laws need changing because of the overwhelming numbers of immigrants, I can’t help but think “if the numbers of immigrants are illegal, the laws don’t need changing because the laws are being disregarded. And if the laws need changing to curb the numbers of immigrants, doesn’t it mean that they are coming here legally?”

There is a crisis on the border. I did learn that. But it’s not a political crisis, or a partisan crisis. Finger-pointing and name-calling will change nothing. This is a humanitarian crisis. Regardless of politics or broken systems, these travelers, these new arrivals, need our assistance. The Humanitarian Respite Center is doing a tremendous job serving the thousands of people they do each week. And it’s done entirely on donations. Food, clothing, water, toiletries arrive at the Respite Center each day, provided by individuals and organizations who want to help. The Center is staffed by volunteers who perform the many functions it takes to run the Center. The organization Angry Tias and Abuelas of RGV provides the volunteers at the bus stations.

I spent three days at the border. I know I will spend more days at the border.


Humanitarian Respite Center gift registry on This registry is up and ready for orders. I’ve included the items listed on the most recent list from the Respite Center, and they will ship directly to the Respite Center’s warehouse.

Direct Donations – Mail or ship your direct donation to
Catholic Charities Respite Center
700 N. Virgen de SJ Blvd
San Juan, TX 78589

In addition to the items listed on the gift registry, the Center is always in need of travel size toiletries for men and women.

Volunteer – Volunteers are always needed. You don’t have to speak Spanish as there are many tasks that need to be done. Volunteers are welcome to serve for as little or as long you can. Contact the respite center at 956.702.4088.

Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV – This is the group that coordinates the volunteers at the bus station. Contact them through their Facebook page, (link).

Friday, July 26, 2019

Some Like It Hot: New Orleans

Melinda Palacio

Thanks to a cold front, New Orleans went from triple-digit weather last week to a double digit's Summer breeze. Many of my friends in Santa Barbara and New Orleans are surprised that I've chosen to spend July in New Orleans. After freezing in Santa Barbara's June gloom, I was eager to experience the summer warmth of New Orleans. I really should be more careful with what I wish for. I wasn't prepared for the inferno that is the South's summer humidity. Thanks to Hurricane Barry rolling through Louisiana, I've experienced both hell and high water in the same month. New Orleans was fortunate enough not to receive the catastrophic one-two punch many a CNN newscaster had predicted. See my last bloga for more details. This week I ventured out into the French Quarter and in  Audubon Park to show that all is not so bad. Today, with a high of 88 degrees and a faint but noticeable breeze, I took a walk in the park. The stroll was a respite from the ongoing disappointing news cycle. Here's to voting out our collective nightmare #impeach. Enjoy a stroll through two of my favorite neighborhoods in New Orleans.

Aboard the Creole Queen riverboat, a calliope plays a jaunty tune.

Angels watching over Royal Street or Calle Real. 

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Not quite nude cycling, but too hot for clothes.

Egret enjoys a worm.

Ducks seek shade.

Turkey Ducks too hot to move.

Summer meditation

Can you see it? A squirrel camouflages with the cypress knees. 

Angina dries her wings.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

1.3 Million Viewers Absorb U.S. Foreign Policy in Mexican Popular Culture

Kate Del Castillo's "Willing Suspension of Disbelief" 
     Artists, whether playwrights, novelists, screenwriters, painters, or performers, face a rough road when blending politics and entertainment in their work. I mean, they have to take a political side, right, conservative, liberal, or something in between, so they are bound to anger some of their readers or viewers?
     One of the most powerful works of art is Picasso’s “Guernica”, a cryptic, angry montage depicting the massacre of innocents by Franco’s forces during the Spanish civil war, and Picasso, who usually avoided politics in his work, caught hell from Spain and the world’s conservatives.
     Think about your favorite television or movie drama, even the Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise movies. The villains are often Latin America, Russia, China, and now, Middle East terrorists. America can’t be a villain because few U.S. viewers want to see our country’s brutal policies towards other, often weaker nations, exposed or criticized in a piece of art.
     In “Three Days of the Condor,” where the U.S. slaughters its own loyal agents for fear they will stumble upon the truth about our country’s villainous, political shenanigans, the scriptwriters put the blame on rogue CIA department heads and agents but not on our country, directly. Robert Redford's character is a bewildered whistleblower when the movie ends.
     To criticize our country’s democratic system takes the entertainment a little too far for many. Audiences can even deal with unscrupulous American presidents and others in powerful positions, but our country, as a system, as a democratic institution must remain a beacon on a hill, stainless and white.
     In his recent work, “The Border,” Don Winslow, an experienced writer in the political-entertainment genre, received harsh criticism for portraying Donald Trump, his son-in-law Jerod Kirshner, and their political regime, as drinking at the well of Russian oligarchs, drug cartels, and anyone else willing to exchange money for access.
     With Kirshner’s well known money problems and an albatross of indebtedness in New York real estate around his neck, the wonder boy’s thinly veiled role in Winslow’s narrative hit a little too close to home for some of his million-plus readers, especially those Trump supporters who only wanted to read: the U.S.--good; Mexico--bad.
     Winslow’s books usually top bestsellers’ lists for months. “The Border” dropped off in a matter of weeks, days, in some places. Many readers criticized Winslow’s liberal politics, saying it distracted from the story. Others were just outraged by his attack on the president and his son-in-law. I personally liked the book, though, I did think it suffered from too many cardboard characters and stiff plotlines. I can see where politics got in the way.
     It is a difficult chasm to bridge this attempt at political fiction as entertainment. Even though an audience knows its country and leaders are corrupt, few want it tossed in their faces. We prefer our politics nuanced, like Trump said about Charlottesville, “There are good people on both sides,” which also means, “there are bad people on both sides.”
     We know there is good and evil in our country’s past, just as there is good and evil in every country’s past. We just don’t want to admit it, and to those who do point it out, we say, “Go back from where you came.”
     We can handle the negative portrayal of good and bad political and, even, spiritual leaders. Afterall, they are human, and humans are fallible. We just don’t like saying our country, as a system, is bad, and most of all, we don’t want anyone else saying it, like a wife who tells her husband, “Don’t you dare talk about my family. Only I can talk about them.”
     Most of us Americans get our news and entertainment from the U.S. media-machine. And, though I hate to admit it, our president is correct. Our media are multi-billion-dollar corporations, in it, today, for the money, and yes, they tell us what they want us to know, see, and hear, and, of course, what makes the most money, even “fake news.”
     Most media heads are conservative, and probably, Republican, even those who run what many consider liberal media empires. Why cater to liberals? Well, because the liberal market is a big and marketable. Still, there are those powerful, influential Americans captains of industry who could care less about Democrat or Republican. They know it’s a scam, so they see themselves as above the fray. “Let the peasants fight it out, and we’ll reap the profits.”
     So, what of Americans who travel the world or get their news and entertainment from other sources? Do they see the U.S. in a different light? I would guess so.
     When I travel to Europe or Latin America, I notice that the U.S. barely merits a mention in the nightly news, even when ISIS was at its height of violence. I realized ISIS was more a U.S. news construct than a world news story, unless there was a bombing in a country outside the U.S.
     Recently, when I travelled to Peru, Donald Trump was a blip on the television screen. CNN in Espanol covered news pertaining mainly to Peru or Latin America. Venenzuela’s Maduro, and his ouster, was a daily report, mainly telling both sides of the story, and sometimes suggesting U.S. involvement, especially in fiery words from Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, which, when shown on Latin American television, appear arrogant, out-of-touch, and belligerent.
     I also understood that Latin American audiences like to watch a lot of old, silly sitcoms, where Americans are the buffoons or over-the-top investigators. For an American, like me, watching from abroad, we look even more ridiculous on the screen, especially re-runs of such programs like the Dukes of Hazzard, Bay Watch, or Hawaii Five-O. I suppose it is the same in Russia, China, the Middle East, and other foreign countries. In their own programming, they are more likely to see themselves portrayed as heroes and Americans as villains. Which brings me to Telemundo’s monster hit series “La Reina del Sur.”
     The Spanish language (subtitles upon request) program is having fun as a shoot-‘em-up, over-the-top, narco-drama, delving into current political corruption, in both the U.S. and Mexico at the highest levels, including the presidencies of both countries. “La Reina” reaches 1.3 million viewers around the world. It is the highest rating series on Spanish-language television. Of course, the target audience is Spanish-speaking, Americans and Latin Americans.
     Telemundo, after a number of business manifestations, going from a small Puerto Rican television station in the 1990s to ownerships from Sony to Comcast and NBC, has been trying to reach an American Spanish-speaking population for many years. It seems to finally have succeeded, challenging Hallmark’s Univision for the number one spot.
     So, this morning, as the Muller hearings were beginning, I needed to watch the latest episode of “La Reina,” featuring the magnetic Kate del Castillo, who, in real life, with Sean Penn, was credited with bringing down El Chapo Guzman by exposing his hiding place in his hometown of Badiraguato, Sinaloa, of all places [gee big surprise there, great hiding place, down the road from Mom’s house] where they met him to discuss a movie project, so I got to thinking about how viewers might take the show’s plot: the U.S. government meddling in another country’s affairs, kind of like us badgering the Russians for meddling in our affairs by creating fake Facebook memes making Hillary look bad and Trump look good.
     The writers of “La Reina” hold back nothing. It’s overt. The American president (kind of a Wizard of Oz off stage), and I suppose his advisors, has ordered his CIA director, one enigmatic Eric Roberts, to have his Mexican FBI and CIA cohorts manipulate Mexico’s presidential elections by eliminating all opposition to their chosen candidate, a known cartel leader Epifanio Vargas.
     There is nothing about rogue agents or broken-down ex-spies walking the “foul” line. This order comes directly from the top, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. But when don Epifanio Vargas isn’t acting as he should, the U.S. president orders Vargas’ assassination, and names Alejandro, his gay campaign manager and brother-in-law, who is also the American agent (of Mexican descent) pulling many of the strings, the new candidate for the presidency.
     So, what "La Reina's" screenwriters have given us in a television program where an American CIA agent will become Mexico’s next president.
     Tongue in cheek? No doubt. The acting: superb. The dialogue is a wonder, capturing Mexico’s sophistication as well as its colloquialisms. When Alejandro and his lover are caught in a private moment, Alejando’s cousin, who saw them, said something like, “Te vi hacienda tacos con a lengua.” I’m not sure it translates.
     Okay, I’m hooked. The actors don’t play parts. They are the parts, especially villains like El Zurdo Villa, the handsome, gritty, cartel boss and descendent of the famed Pancho Villa. To watch “La Reina”, one must give into, what Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined, the “willing suspension of disbelief.”
     The action not only revs up in every scene, characters pay a high price, and suspense always reaches a peak, everyone seems to escape impossible situation by impossible methods, MacGyver on crack.
     So, here I sit, along with 1.3 million, mostly Spanish-speaking viewers, watching the United States assassinate another country’s presidential candidates, steal their election, and place an American in the coveted position in Los Pinos, the Mexican White House. We are never told this is a mentally unstable president or these are rogue American agents. We must assume this is normal U.S. foreign policy, as if everyone in the world knows it except Americans, or want to admit it.
Los Tigres turn life into art 
     “La Reina del Sur” is based on the real-life exploits of Sandra Beltran, the true Reina del Pacifico, as portrayed by Spanish novelist Arturo Perez-Reverte in his book “La Reina del Sur,” which is a reference to the south of Spain, where she escaped, and not Mexico, where she lived. Reverte said he received his inspiration from a song by Los Tigres del Norte.
     So, how much is fiction and how much is real?  Does it matter?
     Just like Manuel Noriega, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman will disappear into the dungeons of the American penal system not because of his drug empire and violence but because, well, he knows too much. Noriega knew all about Reagan, Bush, and Clinton and how their policies towards drugs and Latin America caused a bigger problem. Guzman knows even more, the payoffs, from on-the-ground border patrol agents to legislators and presidents in both countries. They had to keep him quiet and away from the public, especially writers.
     Former head of Customs and Border Patrol, James Tomsheck once stated, “It is very clear…that DHS (Homeland Security) was attempting to hide corruption…so as not to create a political liability.” Some claim, as high as 30% of agents on the border have been bought by cartels, and their superiors and the U.S. don't want to know.
     We are talking about millions to billions of dollars a day crossing the border to satisfy Americans’ need for drugs. Some say, along with Saudi and Chinese money, illegal drugs are helping prop up the U.S. government and economy, including employment, healthcare, pension plans, real estate and Wall Street.
     With so much at stake, who wouldn’t turn a blind eye? Ah, and since Pablo Escobar’s murder and El Chapo’s capture, the flow of drugs crossing the border has increased. It’s no wonder “La Reina’s” gaining a large audience worldwide, and all of us are willing to suspend our belief for, at least, another episode.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Public Events at Macondo Writers Workshop

The Macondo Writers Workshop is an association of socially-engaged writers working to advance creativity, foster generosity, and serve community. Founded in 1998 by writer Sandra Cisneros and named after the town in Gabriel García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the workshop gathers writers from all genres who work on geographic, cultural, economic, gender, and spiritual borders. An essential aspect of the Macondo Workshop is a global sense of community; participants recognize their place as writers in our society and the world.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM CDT

San Antonio Public Library

This stellar faculty reading will take place at the San Antonio Public Library downtown in the SAPL Latino Collection. Our Macondo Writers Workshop leaders are Helena Maria Viramontes, Sherwin Bitsui, Joy Castro, Ruth Behar.  They are joined by the Macondo ad-hoc board members Alex Espinoza and Natalia Trevino.

All writers will have books for sale and will be available for autographs.

Light refreshments served. This event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, July 25, 2019
7 PM – 9 PM CDT

McAllister Auditorium
San Antonio, Texas

Internationally acclaimed, MacArthur Fellow, author of The House on Mango Street and Macondo Founder, Sandra Cisneros, will be starring in the play adaptation of Have You Seen Marie? by San Antonio playwright José Rubén De León. This will be a one of a kind show with elaborate costuming and serve as a fundraiser for Macondo Writers Workshop.

To open the evening, historic presidential inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, will be reading from his new book, How To Love A Country.

Dr. Ito Romo will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

Authors will be available for book signing.  Books will be on sale by The Twig Bookshop.

Friday, July 26, 2019
8 PM – 10 PM CDT

Texas A&M Univeristy-San Antonio

Do not miss this!!!

Sarah Dalton
Eve Allegra Raimon
Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes
Miguel Angel Ramirez
Juanita E. Mantz (JEM)
Sehba Sarwar
Désirée Zamorano
Leslie Contreras Schwartz
Leslie Larson
Liliana Valenzuela
Saúl Hernández
Kay Ulanday Barrett
Leticia Del Toro
Cynthia Prochaska
Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera
Norma Liliana Valdez
Aida Salazar
Melissa Bennett
Janel Pineda
Monica Rico
Mona Frazier
Eneida Alcalde
Fan Wu
Xelena Gonzalez
Angelina Sáenz
Gabriel Fernandez
Marisela Barrera
Amada Perez
liz gonzalez
Daphne Santana -Strassmann
Maria Agui Carter
Rene Colato Lainez