Friday, September 18, 2020

Puppy Love Solves Pandemic Fatigue

Melinda Palacio

When Pandora sleeps, it's time to write. 

I can check all the boxes: zoom fatigue, social distancing fatigue, mask fatigue, fatigue of feeling fatigue. However, adopting a puppy has filled me with a welcome muscle fatigue brought on by a dog bred for retrieving ducks. This puppy can play fetch until your arm feels as if it will fall off if you have to throw the ball, stick, or toy one more time. I named the two-month old Labrador Retriever Pandora, meaning all gifts, and she is certainly a gift to cure all sorts of malaise that can come with life in Covid-19 lockdown. 

The sight of her eager face in the morning sets things right in the world and makes me forget about the pandemic she was born into. Since early May, the nation has experienced a shortage in dogs and puppies. Shelters report no available dogs. I know of at least four friends who have adopted puppies. La Bloga’s own Michael Sedano took in a gray kitten. After my dog Montezuma passed, almost eight years ago, I thought I’d never get another dog, the heartbreak is too much, but I had been missing having a furry companion to fuss over. I’ve come very close to rescuing dogs who seem to have the type of personality similar to my old dog, a beagle crossed with a Labrador Retriever. Montezuma was a smart dog and won the sit-stay competition at PetSmart during his puppy training class. 

Having a pet makes staying at home a lot easier. On occasions when I venture out in the real world, I can take my dog with me since most restaurants and cafes are now outdoor only establishments. 

There are downsides to having such a young creature. Puppies don’t come with automatic training. There’s potty training and rules to teach, such as no biting, no chewing on shoes or tables or hair. People have warned me that having a puppy means losing a pair or two of good shoes. My strategy has been to hide my shoes away from puppy level, but, so far, I’ve only succeeded in hiding my shoes from myself. The social distancing imposed by life during a pandemic also poses conundrums for puppies. How can you socialize dogs when people can’t socialize. Places such as PetCo and Petsmart no longer offer group puppy training classes. 

Today, Pandora is three months old. I look forward to beginning her puppy training this weekend. She’s pretty smart and learned how to use a doggie door in two weeks. I trust she’ll pick up basic commands easily, especially walking on leash. At least, that’s what her trainer told me. With the abundance in people adopting pets, dog trainers are in high demand. Nathan, the dog trainer, tells me puppy training is more for the human than the puppy. I’ll let you know how that worlds. One thing I have learned is the full extent of the word Retriever. Pandora is the perfect example of a yellow Labrador Retriever. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Musings While Watching "Tombstone:" Are Americans Living in a Movie?



     I changed channels, ah, TombstoneWyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) walked into a near-empty saloon and challenged the toughest, meanest card shark to a fight. Turns out the card shark, fat, sloppy, but nattily dressed, like a king on his throne, controlled the saloon, scaring away all the good, honest gamblers and drunks.

     New to town, along with his family, and famous Earp brothers, Wyatt (Kurt) wanted to show the tyrant that the town’s people had the right to gamble and drink wherever they wanted—freedom! Independence! Liberty!

     Wyatt, in a sharp-looking, Macy’s-style, black trench coat, wide-brimmed fedora, and a huge mustache, more cosmopolitan dandy than dusty, western lawman, stepped up to the “bad hombre” and glared into his eyes. The gambler stood and met his glare. They exchanged words. The Royal didn’t back down. Glare, glare, glare. Finally, Wyatt-Kurt said, “You’re scared. I see it in your eyes,” and slapped the tough across the face. Shocked, the man’s hardened face melted like hot wax, and he slithered out the door, abandoning his throne to the outlaw turned lawman-hero, Wyatt Earp.

     His blue eyes blazing, Kurt Russell, in the true American spirit, had freed the people in the saloon of the dictator—independence for the citizens of Tombstone to get as soused as they wanted. Hollywood justice!

     Man, I thought, Kurt Russell is a bad dude. No, wait, that’s not Kurt Russell. That’s Wyatt Earp—or is it Kurt Russell playing a better Wyatt Earp than the real Earp? Then, I wondered if the incident with the card shark had ever happened or a screenwriter invented it, creating the kind of Wyatt Earp American movie-goers expected.

     We know there was a Wyatt Earp, a real man, but how much of him is true or fiction, a screenwriter’s imagination or an historian’s facts, but, then, even historians can be biased? How about Jesse James, Joaquin Murrieta, Ma Barker, Tiburcio Vasquez, Bonnie and Clyde, the Founding Fathers, Katy Hurtado, Abraham Lincoln, Betsy Ross, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or even William Bonny (AKA Billy the Kid), who most serious “cowboy” scholars claim was a homicidal maniac, not the romantic kid-gunslinger the dime novels portrayed. Where does the myth end and reality begin?

     Most successful actors have PR machines who create personas for them, turning 1930s dance hall girls into Hollywood starlets then princesses, with fairytale lives, better than Cinderella. Come on! Johnny Depp is from Owensboro, Kentucky, population 160,000. How much can he really have in common with the cool, hipster, eccentric characters he plays?  Though, to be fair, he did move to Miramar, Florida, when he was eight. Still, the real and the fiction must get confusing.

     Kids of my generation grew up thinking Davy Crockett, Elfego Baca, Kit Carson, and Jim Bowie were handsome, well-spoken, good-hearted, outdoorsmen, who opened up the west, American heroes, at least the way Disney portrayed them on television. I can still see Fess Parker’s (Davy Crockett) wide smile.

     Crockett and Bowie died at the Alamo, defenders, fighting to the last man, even in the newest 2004 Disney version with Billy Bob Thornton, dead Mexicans at their feet. Truth or fiction?

     How about the 7th Cavalry, making its heroic last stand at the Little Big Horn, fighting to the last man, George Armstrong Custer, the courageous general, golden locks flowing in the breeze, firing his revolver to the end?

     Hold on! If they fought to the last man, that means there were no survivors. Now here is where a basic course in English Composition enters the picture, under “logic.” If there were no survivors how do we know what happened?

     Well, at the Alamo, they say, two survived, a man and a woman, one escaped and witnessed nothing, the second claimed to have been hiding and didn’t see a thing. They couldn’t confirm a “last stand.” For sure, no one in the 7th Cavalry survived the Little Big Horn. Though, Captain Reno watched some of the action from his perch in the mountains.

     The only participants of the battles who lived to talk about them were the opposing armies, ahhggg--the enemy, Mexicans at the Alamo and a myriad of Indian people at the Little Big Horn, including Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by some of the most famous American heroes, Crazy Horse, Little Big Man, and Sitting Bull. But, in the 1800s, who could trust their account?

     Newspaper reporters out of the East, far from the battles, who wanted to sell as many papers as possible, after learning about the fighting, simply invented what happened. In fact, newspaper reporters were notorious for inventing stories, anyway. On slow news days in New York, they met in local bars, shared stories with hoodlums and drunks, started making stuff up, then they’d go back to the office and write it down, barely making the deadline for the next day’s dailies. A good day was if somebody really got shot.

     New York writer Jimmy Breslin maintains that writers, like Damon Runyon, were the real genius behind iconic times, places, and people, like the Roaring Twenties, Broadway, the Babe, the Copacabana, and professional athletics, which were more crooked than “a dog peeing in the snow,” as one Irish friend told me. Reporters made the sports appear legitimate to get “losers and suckers” to put their hard-earned money down on the table, so some swindler could wipe them clean. The Roaring Twenties didn’t “roar” any more than any other time in history, but Hollywood made sure movie-goes heard them roar.

     Runyon and his ilk turned lazy, inarticulate, uneducated, bloodthirsty thieves into, what they titled for their readers, “Gangsters” and “Mobsters”. Violence, criminals and crime sold papers. Most reporters writing for big city newspapers agreed that even more corrupt than the mobsters were politicians, bankers, real estate speculators, and lawyers, who got the thugs to do their dirty work, while keeping their hands “clean” for the unsuspecting public.

     Hollywood took it from there, glamorizing gangsters through Bogart, Cagney, Brando, and Pacino,  with Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwick, Lorraine Bracco, and Michelle Pfeiffer at their sides, much more beautiful than the real thing.

     I once asked my father (born 1924) how working-class Mexican kids became pachucos and cholos. He answered, no hesitation, “Hollywood. In the 1930s, we all went to the movies every Saturday afternoon, mostly gangster movies. Everybody wanted to be like them.” I asked about racism, the WWII zoot suit riots, and police abuse. “Nah,” he said. “Before any of that, the kids were already wearing second-hand suits, greasing back their hair, and talking tough, just like the gangsters in the movies.”

     Without the magic of reporters’ pens, none of those everyday-Joes, places, and events would have come down to us as they have—American myth.

     The truth about the Alamo? According to scholar Phillip Tucker, the Alamo in most Americans psyches came packaged in an 1836 book by Richard Penn Smith, “Colonel Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas,” what Tucker calls, “a bogus account,” “complete fiction,” even the quotes, portraying Mexicans in the most heinous way. Americans still hold on to this account.

     As for Custer, we now know, once the coverup of a "last stand" was debunked,” scholars agree Custer was a megalomaniac and a narcissist who led his men into the valley of death, ignoring all warnings. No last stand, like in the movie. Custer's men scattered under the intense barrage. They didn't form a circle like in the movies. Archeologists found skeletal remains far from the site of the actual attack, soldiers fleeing. Had he lived, he would have been court marshalled. Truth be told, it was all hubris, like George W’s “Mission Accomplished,” the Iraq war now going into its seventeenth year.” More myth.

     Polk, Sam Houston, Custer, and probably Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld too, believed in Manifest Destiny, the belief that the “Almighty” willed America’s right to take as much land as it wanted, regardless of ownership. This belief had at its root: no Indian, Mexican, or person with dark skin could defeat a white man in battle. So, the Alamo and Little Big Horn had to be portrayed for readers as how an “immoral, unscrupulous enemy had to have tricked courageous Americans into unfair battles.” (My quotation marks.)

     Every good movie needs a scapegoat. The level-headed Captain Reno, who refused to send his men into the valley to die, and still had to fight overwhelming forces to save his men, was Custer's scapegoat. I remember reading a few years back, Captain Reno’s descendants forced the Army to absolve him of his crime and admit they’d lied—or, at the least—erred in unjustly court-marshaling Reno.

     Inside the Alamo, the mostly green, volunteer-militia was caught sleeping or in sick-bay, ill from lack of food and water. They couldn’t fight. Their gun powder was old, wet, and, much of it useless. Recently, archeological evidence showed the majority of the Alamo’s defenders died fleeing the old mission’s walls, many skeletal remains found up to 500 yards away. Bowie was sick in bed when he was killed, probably sleeping. Crockett? Too many decayed bodies to ever 100% identify his remains.

     Cowards? No way! The Alamo was a death trap. The men retreated in the hopes of fighting another day, except, well, they ran straight into Mexican lancers, who were, historians agree, superbly trained in that antiquated style of combat.


     In fact, Mexicans had been living on the range and herding cattle when the Yankees were still growing cotton and tobacco east of the Mississippi. American cowboy lore is more Mexican than New England, thanks to the Spanish conquistadores. That’s why so many Spanish words have seeped into the American cowboy lingo, hombre, vaquero, bronco, coyote, chaparral, barranca, canyon, reata, etc.

     The men inside the Alamo were pawns, a motley sort, many shouldering their personal hunting weapons. These men were used by politicians and pro-slavery plantation owners who promised reinforcements that never arrived, as well as "land" if they lived. There was no central command or organized force. Some defenders didn’t’ even trust each other, pro-slavery on one side and anti-slavery on the other. Why didn’t the Disney movies mention slavery?

     The battle took place in the blinding dark, and thick smoke clogged the air. The majority of Mexican casualties, much lower than reported by the New York reporters, occurred from fratricide, get it? Friendly fire. They shot each other in the dark.

     The battle lasted all of 30-to-45 minutes, not much of a defense, and the Mexicans attacked only after Santa Ana had sent the Alamo’s leader numerous warnings. That’s when the hubris set in--Manifest Destiny, “No greaser could defeat a white man in battle.” They died believing that.    

     Mexico, like its patria, Spain, celebrates everything--big, with monuments, songs, and parties, holidays, life, death, baptisms, confirmations, every saint’s day, war heroes, quincineras, and war. South of the border, nobody celebrates the Alamo. To Mexicans, it was a minor skirmish. The old abandoned mission was a lonely outpost in San Antonio, a wilderness, and its defenders a rag tag group of slave-traders, encroaching on Mexican territory. The battle barely made it into the Mexican history books.

     If important historical events are fictionalized, what are we to believe? When I see people claiming: “USA! USA! Freedom! Independence! The Constitution!” I wonder where that came from. Even the early settlers in the colonies, though seeking freedom to practice religion, still saw themselves as subjects to the king of England, including the so-called Founding Fathers. Few considered themselves “free” of laws, whether of God or of man.

     Now, why would people flee a monarchy only to continue supporting it? Turns out the alternative was to live under the rules of the new, rich plantation owners, who cared little for the small farmers, artisans, and tradesmen, and preferred slave and indentured labor to paid workers. As low as some companies pay today not much has changed there either.

     By 1780s, even after George Washington and his rebels sent the red-coats packing, the rich plantation owners ruled the roost, so to speak. They didn’t want anybody messing with their profits, least of all, a bunch of poor lazy farmers and tradesmen who charged too much money for their goods and labor.

     Historian Harlow Unger, in his book, the Last Founding Father: James Monroe, describes a German visitor’s account upon witnessing a congressional meeting in progress. “In the anteroom, they amuse themselves zealously with talk of horse-races, run-away negroes, yesterday’s play…according to each man’s caprice.”

     When Founding Father James Monroe began attending congress meetings, “…he adapted quickly to ‘club rules,’ joining other council members—especially his good friend John Marshall—in card games, dice, and billiards, and at horse races and cockfights. Monroe was an avid player of whist, poker, chess, checkers, and dominoes. Although he did not document his gambling, he proved a consistent winner and Marshall’s account books show at least one loss of 19 pounds (about $1,200 today) to Monroe at whist.”

     Only the rich land owners could serve in Congress. They represented the thirteen colonies, north and south. They didn’t want any laws passed that might limit their rights to make money. So, it was in their best interests to play games rather than pass laws. (I am paraphrasing Unger)

     Maybe the reason Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is such a smash hit is that it may be one of the few “popular” portrayals of the Founding Fathers showing them meeting at bars and bordellos, and the use of rap, hip-hop, music and dance, captures a more realistic side than any other portrayal. These early landlords were--well, the first “hipsters,” partying while everybody else worked.

     Unger’s book shows when politicians, including some Founding Fathers, took time away from their play-time in congress, the laws they passed benefitted them, their business interests, not the “people”, as Hollywood and our education system would like us to believe. Think how much Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Universal must donate to politicians’ coffers, today. How much has really changed?

      Our country is a republic, modeled on the principles of Greece and Rome. In some Southwestern states, certain water laws (more rules), were not founded in New England, but go back to Spanish rule. In other states, the citizens are proud of their indigenous roots and practices and have incorporated some into their own local government. Talk about true “Independence.” Rules and laws everywhere you turn.

     If any group in the U.S. was completely free, it was the plains Indians, even more so than the iconic cowboy, who owed his allegiance to the rich ranchers. Since when did any American have the right to make up his or her own rules?

     Even the revolutionary war, which relieved us from the laws of a monarchy, didn’t free us from the rule of law, whether federal, state, or local. So, is American “liberty” itself a myth? Is U.S. history a myth, fantasy, fiction? Is there really no such thing as our constitutional rights?

     How about the American Tea Party, claiming our freedoms were being violated just like the Boston Tea Party back in the day.

     Well, let’s take a look. According to Benjamin Culp, professor of history at the Brooklyn colleges, who is an expert on the subject, in 1773, twenty-two percent of the tea dumped into Boston Harbor was “green” tea, the favorite of elites, like, our Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Dumping their favorite green tea didn’t make either “Founding Father” happy, especially Washington who tried avoid violence or trouble with the English king.

     Were the “tea dumpers” patriotic Bostonians, angry at the English king’s increased taxation, as so many American, today, believe? No! There was no tax increase. Tea was already taxed. No big deal. In fact, the king’s tea wasn’t even the king’s tea. It belonged to the privately owned British India Tea Company and sold cheaper in the colonies than any purchased from colonies own wealthy tea merchants.

     Turns out, the East Indian Tea Company had a surplus of tea, and the king wanted to sell it in the colonies at bargain prices, which pissed off the tea scalpers, mostly wealthy merchants in the colonies, like Amazon wanting to keep out foreign Amazons to keep prices high.

     Scholars argue the “tea-dumpers” were criminals and thugs hired by the colony tea merchants to pretend to be citizen-patriots, like outsiders, today, who come in a usurp peaceful protests and start violence giving the protest movement a bad name.

     The tea merchants called themselves Sons of Liberty to fool the public. They wanted to keep the price of tea high and make a bigger profit off the unsuspecting colonists. You know? Follow the money. It wasn’t about liberty or independence but about the almighty dollar. Duped again.

     The thugs didn’t even attack the king’s ships. They destroyed tea on American ships bound for the colonies. But, if you see a movie about it, you will see patriots (actors) crying, “Unfair taxation! Liberty! Freedom! USA! USA!”

     From where I sit, I see freewheeling journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, and slippery politicians as more responsible for the myth of the independent American spirit than any real historical events or people. John Wayne, Edward G. Robinson, Audie Murphy, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayward, Henry Fonda, and the rest--actors, all, have more to do with our views of the free American spirit than anything real or historical.

     Ever ask how Russia became America’s nemesis? At the end of WWII, the U.S. wanted to loan Britain five-billion dollars to “restore London as a financial center.” President Truman believed this would “revitalize world markets.” In exchange, the Brits promised to remove trade limits affecting the U.S. Though, not all countries trusted the British, who had brutalized many in their colonies and lorded over other European countries.

     Democrats were on board but not the Republicans, who believed the U.S. had already helped Britain enough, not only with money but also with troops during the war. To convince the Republicans, Truman knew he needed a “boogey man.” He told the Republicans if the U.S. withheld the loan from Britain, the English might “swing into the Russian orbit.” Fat chance. Russia was a poor as any other wrecked country after the war.

     As economist Jeffrey Frieden writes in his book Global Capitalism, “…he [Truman] persuaded them [Republicans] that economic engagement would serve their anti-Soviet goals.” At the time, Russia had suffered massive losses to the Nazis. They had just helped the allies defeat the Germans. The Russians, even though communists, weren’t our enemy. Communism wasn't even such a nasty word until we needed it to be.

     Republicans, taking the bait of a Soviet scare, agreed to the loan. Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State, who helped create the tale, later lamented, “This [the Soviet scare] was almost certainly overblown.” Acheson’s biographer wrote, “Acheson regarded it as unfortunate that the loan had to be justified with veiled illusions to the Soviet threat, but he accepted it as a price that had to be paid….”

     I guess some times politicians can be as creative at stretching the truth as reporters and screenwriters. Maybe that’s why so many are hired as presidents’ speech writers and spokes people. But consider: would our fixation on Russia as a threat have been more nuanced if not for the Acheson’s machinations? Might Kennedy and Khrushchev have worked out the Cuban issue without the threat of atomic weapons? Might we never had fought North Korea? Might 60,000 Americans killed in Vietnam still be alive? After all, Vietnam, like Iraq, were both started because of lies.

     If you believe Honest Abe never told a lie or George Washington admitted to chopping down the cherry tree, you just might believe Kurt Russell saved Tombstone from a murderous card shark. I can even hear Kurt-Wyatt tell the independent-minded tyrant as he walked out the door, “And put on a mask, idiot! We have rules in this town.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

International Latino Book Awards 2020 Ganadores



Congratulations to all the ganadores.


This is the Children Book Award category (A1). To see the complete list of winners visit,'l%20Latino%20Book%20Awards%20Ceremony%20-winners_MjYwMz.pdf





The Alma Flor Ada Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book Award

FIRST PLACE La pequeña emigrante, Enrique Parrilla; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Seville, Spain; 'Este libro es una joya. Una historia conmovedora con un mensaje importante.

SECOND PLACE Mango Moon, Diane de Anda; Albert Whitman & Co; U.S. Latina; Los Angeles, CA; 'This book is beautifully written and the illustrations accompany the text in a meaningful way'

SECOND PLACE Un Coquí de Boriquén con los Reyes a Belén, Lara Mercado y Armando Valdés; Lilac, LLC; Puerto Rico; San Juan, PR; 'Beautiful illustrations that create a connection between elements of Puerto Rican culture.'

HONORABLE MENTION García for President: un cuento para soñar a lo grande, Daniel Pinilla; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Seville, Spain; 'Excelente libro con un tema inspirador e ilutraciones hermosas'

HONORABLE MENTION The Spirit of Chicano Park / El espíritu del Parque Chicano, Beatrice Zamora; Tolteca Press; USA/Chicano/Mexican; San Diego, CA; 'A delightful celebration of culture and history!'


Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Bilingual

FIRST PLACE Sing with Me / Canta conmigo, José-Luis Orozco; Scholastic Press; USA/Mexico; Los Angeles,CA; 'Classic songs that promote bi-culturalism'

SECOND PLACE The Adventures of Mr. Macaw / Las Aventuras del Sr. Macaw, Leticia Ordaz; Cielito Lindo Books; Mexico; Sacramento, CA; 'Beautiful illustrations.'

HONORABLE MENTION WOMAGIS United States of America, Marta Villegas; ; Spain; Madrid, Spain; 'Lovely message and story'


Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – English

FIRST PLACE A New Home, Tania de Regil; Candlewick Press; Mexico; Mexico City; 'A wonderfully-written book which highlights children's similarities, not their differences.'

SECOND PLACE Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day, Carmen Agra Deedy; Scholastic Press; Cuba; Atlanta, GA; 'A solid picture book and a fun read-aloud.'

HONORABLE MENTION Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music, Michael Genhart; Magination Press; USA/Mexican; San Francisco, CA; 'A great read-aloud that has lots of kid appeal!'

HONORABLE MENTION Child's Play, R. J. Peralta; Cuento de Luz; Argentina; A Coruña, Spain; 'Nicely detailed illustrations'


Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Spanish

FIRST PLACE Abracadabra, Marta Comín; Combel / Editorial Casals, S.A.; Spain; Valencia, Spain; 'Un libro hermoso, lleno de color y magia que los niños disfrutarán leer'

SECOND PLACE Hija, Ariel Andres Almada; Cuento de Luz; Argentina; Madrid Spain; 'Hermosas ilustraciones que hacen que las palabras en el libro cobren vida '

HONORABLE MENTION El Día Mágico de Mindfulness: Una historia acerca de mindfulness, conexión, y cuidado de la tierra, Deborah Salazar Shapiro; Degas Publishing; El Salvador/América Central; San Diego, CA; 'Padres y maestros estan en busca de estos textos'

HONORABLE MENTION Nina y el país de los lazos de celofán, Gabriela Lardiés; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Zaragosa, Spain; 'Un cuento que ayudará a los niños a tener confianza en sí mismos y a hacer felices.'


Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book

FIRST PLACE Tiny Travelers: Mexico Treasure Quest, Steven Wolfe Pereira & Susie Jaramillo; Encantos Media Studios, PBC; USA/ Dominican/ Venezuela; Los Angeles. CA and New York; 'Great book for Latinx little ones to be proud of their culture and share that with others.'

SECOND PLACE Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln, Margarita Engle; Atheneum/Simon & Schuster; Cuban/American; Los Angeles, CA; 'Excellent and brilliant illustrations with a deep message and harmonious verses'

HONORABLE MENTION Be Bold! Be Brave: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History, Naibe Reynoso; Con Todo Press; Mexican American; Los Angeles, CA; 'Excellent stories of 11 Latino Role Models in a brilliant bilingual presentation'


Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual

FIRST PLACE Countdown to the Last Tortilla / Cuenta atrás hasta la última tortilla, María de la Luz Reyes; La Luz Books; USA/Chicana; San Diego, CA; 'Families and teachers will enjoy reading and sharing about the history of the flour sack dresses and doing the author's suggested classroom activities.'

SECOND PLACE Mei Ling in China City/Mei Ling en la Ciudad China, Icy Smith; East West Discovery Press; Hong Kong/Chinese American; Los Angeles, CA; 'Well written for Young readers.'

HONORABLE MENTION Cerca / Close, Juan Felipe Herrera; Candlewick Press; Mexico; Fresno, CA; 'Good concept book for the preschool-aged child'

HONORABLE MENTION Home - Casa, Sandra Elaine Scott; Vision Your Dreams; U.S - Panama; Boston; 'Illustrations are vibrant! A great read-aloud'

HONORABLE MENTION Lejos / Far, Juan Felipe Herrera; Candlewick Press; Mexico; Fresno, CA; 'Good concept book for preschool-aged children.'


Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – English

FIRST PLACE Tiny Travelers: Puerto Rico Treasure Quest, Steven Wolfe Pereira & Susie Jaramillo; Encantos Media Studios, PBC; USA/ Dominican/ Venezuela; Los Angeles. CA and New York; 'I loved this book. It was interactive and did a great job bringing in history. '

SECOND PLACE One is a Piñata, Roseanne Greenfield Thong; Chronicle Books; USA; Los Angeles; 'The writing is excellent and the illustrations are perfect. It has great cultural context.'

HONORABLE MENTION T-Shirts Aren’t Napkins, Marta Zafrilla; Cuento de Luz; Spain; Madrid, Spain; 'Content was entertaining as well as informative. Illustrations

were really nice.'


Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish

FIRST PLACE La pequeña emigrante, Enrique Parrilla; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Seville, Spain; 'Hermosa historia.'

SECOND PLACE El “Amazing” mundo de la aviación, Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz; Fig Factor Media LLC; Mexico; Aurora, IL; 'Excelentes historias cortas'

SECOND PLACE Monstruolandia y la magia de los valores cívicos y democráticos, Benjamin Villegas; Villegas Editores; Colombia; Bogota; 'Amo la incorporación de actividades para losniños'

SECOND PLACE Mortimer y Filomeno: La constitución española contada a los niños, Pirata de Nata, Enrique Parrilla, Chema García, and José Iglesias Blandón; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Seville, Spain; 'Excelente ilustraciones y diseño'

HONORABLE MENTION El pequeño presidente: La política contada a los niños, Pirata de Nata, Enrique Parrilla, Chema García, and José Iglesias Blandón; Mr. Momo, Lantia Publishing Group; Spain; Seville, Spain; 'Las ilustraciones son maravillosas.'

HONORABLE MENTION La cometa de los sueños, Pilar López Ávila and Paula Merlán; Cuento de Luz; Spain; Madrid, Spain; 'Ilustraciones extraordinarias.'


Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish

FIRST PLACE Río de colores, Adalucía; Cholita Prints and Publishing Company; Perú/Cuba/Spain; Santa Fe, NM ; 'Very useful book during these times of racial divide - Un excelente libro para estos tiempos de divición racial'

SECOND PLACE Brujiponcia, Liana Fornier De Serres; ; Uruguay; Miami; 'Cada vez que terminaba de leer un capítulo quería leer más'


Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual or English

FIRST PLACE Anita and Grandma’s Dulce de Leche, Pilar Vélez; Snow Fountain Press; Colombia; Miami; 'Excellent book on traditions. The illustrations are lovely'

SECOND PLACE Bathing in the Forest, Nívola Uyá and Marc Ayats; Cuento de Luz; Spain; Mallorca, Spain; 'Beautifully written and illustrated'

SECOND PLACE Lala: A diferent kind of lizard / una lagartija diferente, Susana Illera Martínez; Snow Fountain Press; Colombia; Miami, FL; 'A great bilingual book for parents to read with their children.'

HONORABLE MENTION A Special Ostrich - El ñandu diferente, Lorena C. Brown; Pukiyari Editores; Uruguay; Columbus, OH; 'This story of friendship, acceptance and

determination was wonderful.- Esta historia de amistad, acceptación y determinación estuvo maravillosa.'

HONORABLE MENTION Home - Casa, Sandra Elaine Scott; Vision Your Dreams; U.S - Panama; Boston; 'Important subject matter in a sensitive manner.'

HONORABLE MENTION Luisita Recycles / Luisita recicla, Dora Przybylek; Laredo Publishing Company; ; New York City; 'Great content for teaching kids about recycling'

HONORABLE MENTION The Day Abuelo Got Lost, Diane de Anda; Albert Whitman & Co; U.S. Latina; Los Angeles, CA; 'I think this book would make a great short film'


Best Learn to Read Book

FIRST PLACE Little Sunny Sunshine / Sol solecito, Susie Jaramillo; Encantos Media Studios, PBC; USA/ Venezuela; New York City; 'Bilingual, hard cover book perfect for little hands.'



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Life On the Urban Farm: Heat Stroke and Lions

Heat Stroke and Lions On McDonald's Urban Farm
Michael Sedano 

 Hundreds of thousands of years ago, a cleft in an unnamed mountain range eroded into a foothill arroyo that time, and rainfall, filled with sand and stones and topsoil. The river left behind an alluvial fan, rich land teeming with animal life, predators and prey. After people arrived, the animals adapted, avoiding contact while feeding on pets and livestock before moving to other parts of their mountain habitat. 

News programs delight in videos of bears basking in a hapless owner's backyard swimming pool. It's cute when dangerous beasts get urban on television. It's lethal when it happens in your own backyard. The incredible heat wave didn’t help.

McDonald’s Urban Farm occupies that dell where ancient alluvial deposits support wild and farmed abundance. Amelia McDonald grows citrus and stone fruit, seasonal vegetables, duck and hen eggs, dressed poultry, and a delightful herd of goats. Soon the farm will produce goat milk soaps with local luffa and dried flowers.

Visitors to the farm pass through steel gates plasma-cut by Michael Amezcua, depicting local wildlife, including a mountain lion. Until last week, the only Puma on McDonald’s Urban Farm were soccer shoes. 

Last week,  a pair of mountain lions announced themselves, easily leaping the 8 foot enclosure to kill several goats and drive the farmer to momentary desperation. Forest rangers said McDonald could kill those cougars, just get a permit. The lions occupy a "watch" overlooking the animal pens.

McDonald now locks up the goats in their barn before dusk, hunting hours. The goats safely ensconced, a few nights later, the mountain lions excavate a narco-worthy tunnel, defeating a coyote-proofing wire apron. 

The lions leave with McDonald’s entire breeding flock of “easter eggs”, pink, green, chocolate, and blue-black shell-laying hens. The loss hits doubly devastatingly; California prohibits importing poultry into Los Angeles county. Amelia McDonald’s indomitable spirit is shaken, but her concerns go to her aging parents in the impending climate emergency. 

The power of those lions looms, with two goats about to kid, preventive action demands immediate work. The cats moved several cubic feet of earth to get under that wire apron.

Barbara and I live in a home with 1922 air conditioning: casement windows and screens. We were defenseless against the worst heatwave of our lives. Barbara has never tolerated heat, and the week’s thermometer hit me harder than those hot, wet, Korean Summers when I was young. Our daughter insisted I move her mother to Amelia’s place, McDonald’s Urban Farm, where modern air conditioning and filtration would ensure Barbara’s survival. Much as my wont is to be home, I was lucky to be at McDonald’s Urban Farm when the day dawned hotter than ever, and temperatures soared. McDonald’s Urban Farm was prepared, but for an extra set of hands to save the flock.

Amelia McDonald operates McDonald’s Urban Farm out of a personal commitment to sustainability and local advantage. There’s no money in it—never a justification. My daughter derives enormous personal satisfaction in making things grow, and from connections with other women engaged in self-sustainability lifestyles and responsible environmental engagement. No money, but fulfilling a social responsibility pays one's soul. 

The plague has underscored a glaring weakness in our social fabric, the fragility of long-distance supply chains: they break down and you can’t buy potatoes at your local chain grocery store. Local provisioning provides fresh, fresh provender, with the confidence knowing it's local. McDonald's Urban Farm operates an honor basket for customers, who drive up, take eggs, leave payment or iPhone it in. The farm also supplies vegetable boxes, hosts farm-to-table chef dinners, local 4-H and Girl Scout activities, and private tours. Last year, the menu included mixtamalization lessons and comida from farm-grown heirloom corns.

When Barbara and I arrived, suitcase in hand, to take over our granddaughter’s bedroom in that cool air, McDonald had stocked dry ice, blocks, and bags of crushed ice to lay in front of blowing fans. With the cooling fanning, hens can survive most heat outbreaks. Young chicks and pullets, and badly stricken hens, will go into Amelia’s converted garage, where Poultry ICU is ready for sick beaks.

As for killing the cougars, Charlotte declares that an absolute No. Her mother's joy and the lives of the farm's livestock occupy lower precedence in Charlotte's scheme of things. This is her land, Charlotte's decision. McDonald's Urban Farm immediately began installing welded wire floors and roofs. Those jaulas will be enclosed on six sides against gophers and mountain lions.

The morning heat builds, so by ten a.m., hens are collapsing, desperation in their beady eyes, some collapsing in their tracks. We are losing the flock. All hands on deck. 

In my grandfather-eyes, my granddaughter remains that laughing joyful little girl, reading and dancing, capturing lizards and insects, writing poems, and living deservedly in unfettered happiness. In today’s heat emergency, fourteen-years old Charlotte stands out as a competent young adult, impressing the heck out of her grampa, or any observer, with her knowledge, skill, indomitability. 

Hens are dying. Charlotte springs into action with confidence and expertise and everything organized and in order. I'm impressed what a solid character she's building. "When duty calls and says, 'You must'..." Charlotte has already begun saving hens, not taking time for aphorisms.

In the goat pen, a rooster and his hens need to be caught and brought into the ice-cooled jaula. My granddaughter works fearlessly, undeterred by rooster spikes and flapping hen wings. She makes a beeline for a bird, traps it in a corner, and seizes that bird, gently and lovingly. Sugar and spice. In no time flat, Charlotte has saved those birds. The rooster, whose name might be Rod Stewart, finds himself overjoyed at all these hens!  Last night’s terror from marauding lions long forgotten, look at all the hens.

With Rod and his flock safely moved, Ms. Charlotte leaps to her responsibilities in the main hen yard. Charlotte triages the suffering hens, kneels in the muck to extract a hen and place her on ice and run a hose over the confused bird. The studious teenager surveys the scene, pulls one, two, three, four hens to go on ice and for Amelia to or me to douse under a hose. Some birds revive enough to lift a neck and raise hopes. When a hen rises and wobbles into the palomilla, we know we’ve saved her. No time for cheering, other hens are failing.

Three hens don’t make it. Their colorful bodies lie rigid in the icy run-off. Unhesitatingly, sin asco, Charlotte grabs the stiff legs and stuffs the carcasses into a plastic bag she's retrieved. Later she’ll pull the hen leg bands, tally the loss.

An hour’s intense work, McDonald’s Urban Farm’s main laying flock survives the crisis. A final hen wobbles precariously. Amelia cradles the girl and heads for the ICU. Outside the jaula, the wet fainting chicken doesn’t have the strength to finish expelling a final blanquillo. The pinkish globe bulges partially exposed under the hen’s tailfeathers. Amelia isn’t fazed one bit—I see where her daughter gets her aplomb and skill. McDonald places two fingers around the protruding shell and gently massages free  a warm and slightly wet, pinkish-brown egg.

I eat that egg for breakfast the next morning. 

And there will be others: that hen survived her stint in ICU and clucks happily ever after. As do we, the familia that keeps hen hearts beating is a happy familia. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

International Latino Book Awards 2020: Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award—Spanish por Xánath Caraza

 International Latino Book Awards 2020: Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award—Spanish por Xánath Caraza


El sábado, 12 de septiembre, a las 4:30 p.m. CST, comenzó la ceremonia de premiación para los International Latino Book Awards de 2020.  Con una gota de esperanza, ante este año tan bizarro, me preparé para disfrutar de este importante evento literario. Mi poemario Balamkú era finalista para el “Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award—Spanish”.


La emoción me abarcaba porque también este 2020 fue la primera vez que pude participar en la ceremonia de premiación a pesar de que otros de mis poemarios y libros de relato han sido previamente galardonados.


Cerca de las 4 p.m. me cambié, aunque confieso que no me maquillé, me preparé una taza de té de lavanda, para los nervios, me tomé una foto, como suelo hacerlo cada vez que voy a un evento literario, prendí la computadora y, ¡voilá! Hice click en la invitación que enviaron a los autores finalistas y, de un momento a otro, ya estaba en la ceremonia.


Confieso que por primera vez vi, aunque fuese en la pantalla, a muchos nombres que de alguna manera si hicieron realidad y que, únicamente, había visto antes en emails.  Entre estos, Kirk Whisler quien siempre firma los emails que llegan desde la oficina de Empowering Latino Futures / International Latino Book Awards, y es cofundador de Latino Literacy Now.


Debo decir que me llenó de alegría ver a Edward James Olmos, cofundador de Latino Literacy Now, líder en estos andares literarios, activista de la palabra, entre otros de sus atributos, ya que es bien sabido que está siempre involucrado con la comunidad Latinx, en mil y una formas, además de ser el gran actor que es.


Se me llenaron los ojos de lágrimas cuando Rudolfo Anaya, en un video pregrabado para este 2020 International Latino Book Awards ceremony, tomó la palabra. Verlo, escucharlo, sentirlo como maestro de la literatura me hizo simplemente recordar líneas de sus novelas, en especial de Bless me, Ultima que siempre ha tenido un lugar muy especial en mi corazón pero tampoco pude dejar de pensar en Tortuga, Jalamanta, Alburquerque, entre tantas líneas que me empezaron a asaltar mientras lo escuchaba.  Celebro todo lo que nos dejó este gran maestro de la literatura chicana.  Sí, se me llenaron los ojos de lágrimas pero tomé un aliento de felicidad al escucharlo y una sonrisa se dibujó en mi rostro.


Una por una las categorías literarias fueron anunciadas, aquí hay un enlace para todos los libros premiados; y, finalmente, Juan Felipe Herrera nos deleitó con su presencia para presentar los premios de poesía.


Sinceramente, para mí, ya era un honor ser finalista para este 2020, lo tenía claro, y, para mi sorpresa, me puse tan nerviosa cuando empezaron a presentar los poemarios para el “Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award—Spanish”, que hasta se me cayó el celular de las manos.


Anunciaron cada libro finalista con un pequeño comentario hecho por los jueces. 


Ahí estaba mi Balamkú, y bueno, aunque no se llevó el primer lugar, recibió segundo lugar como mejor libro de poesía en español para este año. 


No supe sino hasta la noche que Balamkú recibió el segundo lugar, ya que solo anunciaron los primeros lugares durante la ceremonia. 


Creo que no es necesario decir que, literalmente, brinqué de alegría. 


¡Que la poesía nos salve!


Balamkú (Pandora Lobo Estepario Produdtions Press, 2019)

por Xánath Caraza y traducido al inglés por Sandra Kingery

Prólogo por Elizabeth Martinez, Ph.D.

Fotografía por Steve Holland

Editores: Miguel López Lemus & Kapra Fleming