Thursday, January 16, 2020

Chicanonautica: ¡Remember El Espejo!


I buy a lot of books at used book and thrift stores. Not only are they cheap, but I often find lost treasures. I like rescuing books before they end up in the landfill to rot, or hopefully be restored by the archeologists of the future with brave new technology.

I also like finding Chicano and Latino lit. When I saw a yellowed copy of El Espejo/The Mirror: Selected Mexican-American Literature edited by Octavio I. Romano-V. I couldn’t help but grab it.

It’s from Quinto Sol Publications, in Berkeley, California, first published in 1969. The cover and title page of this copy of the fourth printing say Selected Mexican-American Literature. Later editions and internet call it Selected Chicano Literature. I remember those days. “Chicano” was still an insult, like the N-word, and proper “Mexican-Americans” didn’t want to be confused with those vatos who were rioting and writing on walls. Even back then we were arguing amongst ourselves over who and what we are.

The works are classic Chicano literature, poetry, nonfiction, poetry, prose, Spanish, English--sometimes all at the same time, and often similar to the experimental, new wave speculative fiction I was reading at the time. The Chicano imagination is powerful.
The mirror is the rim of illusion.” as Miguel Ponce says in the “Notes for an Anti-introduction.”

History is 
presented like time travel, cruising from preColumbian times, to the 1910 Mexican Revolution, to Sixties flashes of post-psychedelic utopias that cross borders and break them down. From Rudy Espinosa’s scenario for a screen playKiko’s Tale:” “Ya know since traveling I’ve understood myself more clearly and I want out! Out of the cities of Americana, and all those tinsel time machines.”
Minority” (I don’t like the word, it makes it seem like we can be ignored) writers and science fiction writers have a common problem: presenting cultures that are often alien to your publisher and audience.

It’s all about being and dealing with aliens.

Yeah, the writers are all men. In those proto-feminist days, when it was called Women’s Lib, most Chicanas had their creativity beaten out of them or channeled into more “practical” pursuits. Women who could become writers and artists back then were a special breed.

The writers are mostly Californios from San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose,Oakland, Berkeley, Olivehurst, and Lemon Grove, with exceptions from Tucson, Arizona, and Guadalajara, Jalisco.

They also seem to have broken into print through contact with academia. I wonder if it was anything like my struggles with commercial publishing.
Ocatvio I Romano-V. founded Quinto Sol, and was no doubt the driving force behind this and other books. Sometimes if you want something published you have to do it yourself. Writers owe a lot to people like him.

And some of the other writers have gone on to other accomplishments. Miguel Méndez-M. won the Premio Nacinal de Literatura Mexicana José and is ASU’s School of Transborder Studies. Nick Vaca became an author, attorney, and journalist. The poet Alurista won the American Book Award. José Montoya was Sacramento’s Poet Laureate. Juan Garcia’s imaginative works won him the Juan Rulfo Prize. And I’m sure Silvio Villavicencio, Miguel Ponce, Estupian, and Rudy Espinosa have done amazing things that can’t be found on a Google search. We often don't get documented.

In all, a welcome addition to your Chicano literature shelf.

Ernest Hogan creates Chicano literature without even trying.

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