Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Voices from the Ancestors at Ave50. Gluten-free Chicano cooks. Autry Mural Update

Rigor, Received Knowledge, Learning to Think

Review: Lara Medina and Martha R. Gonzales, Eds. Voices from the Ancestors. Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices. Tucson: UArizonaPress, 2019.

Michael Sedano

Beatrice Villa was born in Pomona, California in 1898. As a girl, she herded sheep in the Crystal Springs Pass area, where today, Redlands and Yucaipa shake hands along Interstate 10. Grampa grew up in La Barranca somewhere in the Chihuahua monte. Grampa could cure any ailment with herbs and ointments and magic fingers. Gramma told me she knows where the lost gold mine of Crystal Springs is located. Both she (English) and my Grampa (Spanish) were storytellers whose knowledge and wisdom are handed to me through stories, beliefs, practices, and the continuity of generations.

And my other gramma, from Michoacan, who knew herbs and plants and food and taught me the difference between de la casa and del monte, and who made caldo from the rooster that beat me up one day, I know languages and stories from her, too.

Like every Chicana or Chicano, I'm a product of what these abuelos taught me, even if I can remember only a fragment of what they told me. Were I to formalize my memories and turn them into expression, invent new knowledge from received knowledge, I would unlock immense spiritual resources in words, and connect across generations into ancestral knowledge. All of them, not just mine. In reading, others would do likewise. If there were such a book.

Such a book would be literature anyone could use in practical ways, and specialists like students, can use professionally. But there'd be a caveat to the latter. To certain members of the academy, the spiritual content of cultural identity comes with suspiciously tenuous conceptual rigor.

Get over it, as the parlance goes. It's been done. There's a book. Voices from the Ancestors. Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices. 

Editors Lara Medina and Martha R. Gonzales collect the work of eighty-five writers investigating, documenting, teaching spiritual practice and theory as indigenous gente have done, would do, could do, will do. "Xicanx and Latinx Spritual Expressions and Healing Practices," the subtitle of the collected knowledge Medina and Gonzales compile, makes clear how Voices From the Ancestors(link) comes with its own audience along with an enhancement of curricular impact for its exogenous readers. "Decolonization" looks like this.

Editors Medina and Gonzales and la portada arte by Emilia Garcia, back: Prisoner art
Medina and Gonzales debuted the thirty-dollar book at Highland Park's gallery of record, Avenue 50 Studio,(link) almost within sight of the Native people of the Americas mural the gallery's helping restore. Gonzales debuted the work recently in Europe.

There's an interesting dual layout at work. The lineal table of contents flows along a topical agenda but also reflects the flow of a day or a person's growth, from morning ritual to evening prayer, from birth to sexuality to death. Chapters on altars and sacred spaces, dance, writing, painting, meld with chapters on death and dying, dreaming and cleansing, curanderismx and health.

The x in some words conveys attitude more than grammatical precision. Writers elect x's use or not, throughout. I don't recall reading "wymyn" or variants. Gender topics range through, male, female, transitional, queer, joto. Rape, recovery and identity occupy important roles in the impact of the collection. Sexuality-related topics, and food, will be the book's most accessible elements. There's not a lot of Spanish in the text. Interestingly, the introduction, which Medina read at Ave50, italicizes "conocimiento" but when Medina reads it, she substitutes "knowledge" for it. The editors state their use of language and parlance is not a hang-up. That's a method of ensuring its widest possible readership.

Voices From the Ancestors exemplifies the value and importance of material culture in spiritual subjects by including a nicely-printed set of eleven color plates on coated stock. Medina mentioned the pages, naming contributors who sponsored the pages. These plates, and the how-to content, make the book a solid addition to anyone's library, though I'd check any used copies to make sure it still has those gorgeous plates.

Raza and allies come to this knowledge eager for a book

Raza already know how to read this book. Its knowledge is what we heard, or were prepared to hear, as we grew up. There's a montón of unknown material here for us, variants of what we grew up with, thoughtful essays articulating shared experiences for us. This is what we send our kids to college to learn.

Beyond that, there are woman-specific topics like the essay on recovering from sexual trauma. Don't give me "men get raped" egalitarian crud. That ritual is for women punto.

Still, everyone will benefit from understanding trauma while not diluting the horror of sexual trauma and the assholia of men. Generational, medical, cultural trauma is shared together alone. Victims of epistemicide don't know it.

In Voices From the Ancestors readers endeavor to recover what got killed and what nearly died off, in getting colonialized. Some is recovered, some is made up as they go along and there's nothing wrong in that. Gramma improvised, too.

Some of the anthologized writers believe the ancestors possessed infinite wisdom about divinity and that the act of writing helps encounter its extant forms. While Lauren Francis Guerra is the one who articulates that, the attitude is a clarion throughout the work. Becoming decolonized requires deliberation and deliberate effort, in lak ech doesn't happen by itself even if it's universally true. This is the foundation urgency of the work, the being-in-becoming from reading.

I don't know if Lara and Martha can expect pedo from fusty old-line professors, if any still exist. In my day, this material could not have been considered. Rigor and spirtuality are mutually anathema in some ways of knowing. People have learned to think better nowadays, even the hard liners on curriculum committee should be open to new audiences, if not new ideas. Besides, they're not the only audience.

Does the Academy have the critical acumen to understand this material? If they cannot or will not allow us to create our own knowledge, they'll have to get over it. There were the authors at Avenue 50, reading from the book. Independent booksellers, college bookstores, the publisher, will get your copies to you quickly.

TopL:Jacqueline Garza Lawrence, Omar Gonzalez
BottomL: Linda Vallejo, Marta López-Garza
TopL: Yreina Cervantes, Trini Tlazohteotl Rodriguez
BottomL: Maritza Alvarez, Marisol Lydia Torres

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Gluten-free Apple Cheese Quiche
Michael Sedano

Mother Hubbard overextended herself, lived in a shoe along with her dog Tighe and so many mouths to feed, her cupboard invariably stood empty. She made bulgogi.

The Gluten-free Chicano was mother hubbarding the other day. Having grocery-shopped ineffectively, he got home with a bag of apples and whole milk. He went to his cupboard where he found butter and cheese, so The Gluten-free Chicano made custard.

1/3 cube butter melted (.03g carbohydrates)
1 cup loosely packed jack cheese grated (.77g)
2 peeled apples rough chopped (32g)
3 eggs (1.2g)
1 cup milk (11g)
Approximately 45g in the entire dish.

El gluten-free chicas patas used the Honeycrisp apple. Any variety with dry solid flesh whose juice doesn’t run down your chin when you bite into it is ideal for this naturally gluten-free recipe.

Preparation time is however long your oven requires to get up to 375º, plus or minus a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º
Grease a standard pie pan and set it aside.

Grate Monterey Jack cheese or Mozzarella. Loosely fill a measuring cup. Do not pack the cheese, it needs to be loose.

Microwave the butter if it’s not room-temperature, when it melts and slumps it’s ready for later.

Peel 2 Honeycrisp or other dry-not juicy-apples. You can use 3 if they're smallish. This should leave the mouth wanting apple, and leave no confusion with apple pie. But that's up to the cook and the crop.

Rough cut them into chunks and slices and chops. You want distinct texture and flavor bites. Use as much apple as you can cut and trim away.

Get a deep bowl so you can work vigorously in it without splashing.
Have the eggs room temperature, and break them into the big bowl.
Use a wire whisk to whisk eggs to a uniform color and consistency. Tilt the bowl and form a pool of liquid to whisk into.

Whisk in the milk and get the uniformity back.
Whisk in the soft melted butter. Work vigorously to make a smooth mixture.

Stir the cheese into the egg mix.
Stir the apples into the egg and cheese mix and be sure everything is coated.

Pour the bowl into the pie pan to just below the rim. The volume is enough to fill an 8" pan.

Pull out the oven rack and place the filled pie pan, uncovered, on the rack. If you wish, place a cookie sheet on the rack first. Gently slide the rack into the oven and keep the door closed for 40 minutes.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

The custard is done when it doesn’t jiggle but wobbles a bit. If you use a juice apple, your dish will be wet and need an hour, might never fully thicken. Quiche is ready when a butter knife emerges mas o menos dry from the center. If your oven is uneven, 45 minutes. An hour is not unheard of. Experience will give you timing with your set-up.

Allow the quiche to sit for a few minutes so it comes out of the pan solid. The appearance loses its fluffiness right away. (In the foto notice the high-water line). It nonetheless makes an elegant presentation at the table, served from the pan.

This apple-cheese combination will be a hit. Maybe serve a crisp green salad, or a pungent Caesar salad with champagne—that’s good friends or courtship comida gente. The GFC cooks for one, so this dish was dinner and breakfast. (It saves, reheating is simple.)

El GFC discovered what Mother Hubbard knew, when life gives you eggs, milk, cheese, and apples, make quiche.

Update: Autry Museum, Highland Park, Califas

This wasn't in her contract but Pola Lopez did what any responsible community artist does, she worked with local gente to assure long-term protection for the mural. It's the kind of ground-based "activism" that produces results. People-to-people always works, that's gente, that's not "activism."

Week after week, Lopez invested hours under unusually harsh conditions restoring the Highland Park landmark. One morning she finds it tagged. Kids, Pola shook her head recounting the morning. After years painting murals in schools, confinement walls, public places, working with local young people, Lopez knows communities invest love in murals and do not tag them, out of honor and self-respect. 

HP tagged the mural.

The artist welcomed the visitor who parked and ran across busy Marmion Way to meet the artist. The fellow knew Chicano arte and talked about its presence in the community. Lopez bemoaned the fact some kids had tagged it. The fellow said it wasn't us, we don't do that.

Keen to the "us", Lopez asked and the vato identified himself as HP. Sensing her visitor affronted that the muralist accused HP people of disrespecting the art, Lopez showed him the fotos of the repainted wall. The gentleman excused himself. He walked across the street, made a phone call, and returned to assure the muralist it had been taken care of.

Los Angeles enjoys a lengthy rich mural history. Seeing Daniel Cervantes' landmark mural restored to vibrancy illustrates important dimensions of that mural history: Indigenous cultures and semiotics, today's Chicano Renaissance, chemistry and surface technology, fund-raising and the business of public art, painting as an industrial work site. Then there's art people and their arte.

There's a concrete, hard-edge to arte. Someone has to pay to restore the Autry's property for them. Stretched thin and at the limits of their once-prodigious fund-raising capacity, the museum has done what it will do and thrown itself upon the kindness of committees to secure grants to fund ladders and brushes and stuff.

Efforts fell shorter than vision and Lopez labors under industrial conditions that alarm this retired corporate safety officer. I worked in an ISO9000 environment with low tolerance for worker conditions like those Lopez has to put up with. The Autry's standards are a lot looser.

Ni modo. That's a popular actitud when there's nothing to be done but do what you do. It's obviously the artist's flexibility to ignore the hardship, solve the problem, get the job done.

She is fund-raising independently, however. The committees and city councilmen and arts commissions and the Autry are tapped out or have moved on to other phases of the project. They're done. (A spokesperson for the Autry offered to update La Bloga's Update but has not followed up).

Protecting the mural, longterm, was the next task before the institutions behind the project. Now the most critical element needful of protection from, tagging, has been dramatically removed without spending a cent, using capital no committee was going to produce. Gente do it right.

Giving directly to the project allows Lopez to hire a qualified professional muralist to join her in the unrelenting sun and finish the Autry's landmark.

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