Friday, October 30, 2020

Nancy Sanchez: the Voice We Need to Hear

 Melinda Palacio

Bilingual Singer-Songwriter, Nancy Sanchez uses her voice as a tool for protest. For the past several years, her music has been gaining traction. It’s no surprise to see the multi-talented artist from East L.A. in diverse places from an award-winning album to a lending her vocals on a horror movie. I first heard about her when she released a cover of the song “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Origins. Sanchez is a gifted song writer and musician. She imprints her own style on popular covers, but truly shines when she performs her own music. Her powerful lyrics of protest are paving a way for change, such as her song, “The Kids Are Still in Cages,” which was recently featured on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now and is also being taught in high schools. 

A Mariachi teacher, Sanchez plays a variety of string instruments and piano. Her songs are both personal and political. As someone from Toluca who became a citizen in 1989, it is easy for her to put herself in the shoes of dreamers. Nancy has had the dreamer experience, came to California as a child and grew into a California girl, not knowing another home. 

Her discography is impressive. Part of her success and productivity has to do with building a relationship with her ideas and not letting them get away. “Ideas are alive,” said Sanchez, “If you don’t grab them, they’re gone. We are just vessels.” 

Find Nancy Sanchez on most all digital formats. Her various styles appeal to a wide variety of musical taste. Her sound is classic. Songs such as “The Kids Are Still in Cages,” sound timeless.  The overall topic of striving for a better life will appeal to anyone who has dreamt of a goal or something better for themselves. Everything about the song says it was written by an experienced and thoughtful musician. 

When I was thinking of a topic for this week’s Blog, the last in October, I wanted to go back to this subject of kids who are detained in concentration camps here in the U.S. and the trauma that brings. I was going to reprint two of my previously published poems, “ICE DETENTION, Tornillo, Texas” and “Bad Girl.” I’m thrilled to add Nancy Sanchez’s song and video to this poest. Check out her webstite, Nancy Sanchez music, her instagram, and her music. Now, more than ever it’s important to support artists, especially those who use their platforms to speak up for justice. Nancy has a new protest EP out today, “Say Something,” a 3-song album with “The Kids Are Still in Cages,” “Say Something,” and “Hasta Que Todos Estos a Salvo.” She’s running a special on bandcamp today, October 30. 

Use your voices. Vote, Wash your hands. Stay safe. 

Bad Girl 

Melinda Palacio

(Published in Fifth Wednesday Journal 2019)

A girl hides her mermaid shirt with a cardboard sign

She colored herself FREE THE  KIDS!

After the hot march on a day with no wind or clouds,

She will return to the land of innocence and make believe.

Wasn't it yesterday her mother marched with her mother,

Held up a sign:

No Person is Illegal?

When a six-year old boy asks,

"Why is the President mad at us?"

Innocence is lost.

When a tween begs for a Trump piñata. He'll take

The one with the flimsy orange streamers falling off.

Baseball bat included, no need for a birthday.

When children and babies are jailed 

For wearing the wrong skin color,

Songs and laughter sound strange.

No one dares asks the Cat Stevens question:

Where Do the Children Play?

One hundred days into the mind games at our border and

I have a recurring dream, the kind that follows me into

Wakefulness, a loop of despair. Once again,

I am separated from my parents. S-E-P-A-R-A-T-E- D. 

First I am a grown woman, jailed with young children. 

I wake up screaming: I am not an orphan, I have a family, 

I am American.

I awake, but the dream continues, has a separate life of its own.

I am a child, separated from my parents, unable to speak English,

let alone defend myself in a court room.

The one thing I understand is I am a bad girl. 

I took my friend's marble, a beautiful glass. 

Swirls of kaleidoscope hold the universe.

Does God live at the marble's center?

I stole the marble. The long trek, my mother's nervousness,

the difficult smile, the rushed steps. I know why I am in jail.  

A bad girl's fate. 

The immigration officer lets his dog lick his face.

I wish someone would hold me as sweetly.

Nuzzle my neck, tell me I am a good girl.

Once upon a time my mother.

Once upon a time my grandmother.

Once upon a time the lady jailer reads.

What does once upon a time mean to a child in jail?

¿Quién sabe?

ICE DETENTION, Tornillo Texas

Melinda Palacio

(published in Santa Barbara Literary Journal 2018)

Strange hands spoon feed 

a hungry baby.

Lice fall out of her hair like stardust.

The girl is my daughter.

The girl is your daughter.

The girl is ours.

No more food for the baby girl.

Her celestial caul becomes earthen.

She turns into a pig. 

When all the children morph into swine,

their puckered lips turn to snouts

inside hell’s version of Wonderland.

Then, and only then, did they bust open

walls that separated them from their parents.

Our eyes go dark.

Melinda Palacio is a poet, author, and speaker. She lives in Santa Barbara and New Orleans. Her poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place 2009 award. She is the author of the novel, Ocotillo Dreams (ASU Bilingual Press 2011), for which she received the Mariposa Award for Best First Book at the 2012 International Latino Book Awards and a 2012 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. Her first full-length poetry collection, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, (Tia Chucha Press 2012) was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Award, the Paterson Prize, and received First Prize in Poetry at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards. In 2015, her work was featured on the Academy of American Poets, Poem-a-Day Program. Melinda's latest poetry collection is, Bird Forgiveness, 3: A Taos Press 2018.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Poodle



     I am not sure if everything in this story is exactly how I remembered. Over the years, the details we remember seem to readjust themselves into what we need more than what was real at the time. Either way, it is funny how this story has always stayed with me.

     In the 1970s, Venice, CA still had the feel of the 40s and 50s, wood frame houses, dirt yards, potted plants, canaries on the porch, and the ubiquitous nopal in a corner, often next to the house. 1960s apartment complexes beside residential homes. Kids playing in the street. Across at Oakwood Park, the vatos took up a corner, a group of black men play dominoes, and kids, mixed ethnicities, playing touch football. 

     It was a typical poor neighborhood, mostly blacks, Mexicans, and working-class Caucasian—no, not the Dennis Hopper-type, or today’s techies. The hipsters hadn’t yet discovered Venice, especially not the barrio-ghetto near Oakwood Park. My friend had a wide, long front yard, at least a 150 x 50 lot, the house way in back.

     As I approached, his three dogs came at me, barking and yapping. He called them off, a large bowl of food in his hands. He set it down, and the three of them rushed the food, eating from the same bowl, the two big dogs squeezing the little one out.

     I stopped to watch. The little dog looked like a poodle, kind of a dusty brown color, like a dirty towel instead of a fluffy manicured mane. He growled at the bigger dogs, snapped at them, moved in, and took up his place at the dinner dish, looked like kibble, frijoles and rice to me.

     As I looked closer, I could see the poodle was no mutt. It looked like a real poodle, it’s designer haircut, overgrown by at least a month, or more. All three dogs ignored me as I approached, fearing to lose a bite to the other two if turning away for a second.

     My friend said, “Hey, come on in.”

     “That sure looks like a poodle,” I said, “like a real poodle.”

     He laughs, “He’s even got papers.”

     It didn’t make sense a poodle with these two big dogs, probably mixed breeds, maybe German shepherd and Doberman. So, I ask, “Where did the poodle come from?”

     What I was really asking was why in the hell would you want a poodle—in Venice?

     My friend, at the time, a tree trimmer, did a lot of work north of Sunset, homes to the rich and famous, deep-pocketed folks. He goes on to tell me he was trimming trees for a woman who was kind of snooty, talking always with a poodle in her arms. If she set the poodle down, the little beast would come at him, snapping. 

     When he'd finished trimming her huge oak trees, a three-day job, she asked if he could trim up a few smaller trees in a corner, which ended up being another half-day's work, the poodle sitting in the yard watching, like a supervisor, a sparkling collar around his neck, not a curl out of place. 

     Anyway, when he gave her the bill, the poodle in her arms eyeing him, he included the amount for the extra work. She said she thought he was doing it for free, part of the original bid, and refused to pay, even raising her voice, the poodle growling at him.  Long story short, she didn’t pay the extra few hundred dollars, a lot of money back then, but he still had to pay his workers. What was worse than the money was her attitude, a sign of disrespect. He wasn't about to hire a lawyer and take her to court, which those who are wealthy-deadbeats, know. They just don't pay.

     Fuming, he wrote it off as a loss and swore he'd never work for her again. And he knew she'd call in a couple of years. He was one of the best and cheapest around. Some people have no shame. Each time he drove past her house to do another job up the street, he’d see her and her little dog outside, the poodle prancing around like a prince. 

     One day, as he passed the house, he saw the dog out near the street, doing its business. The woman was nowhere in sight. He pulled up in his truck and told one of his workers to grab the dog. They pulled it inside, and drove off. It wasn't like he'd planned it, a second-degree crime rather than a first. 

     Really, he didn't know what to do with it. He had two big guard dogs at home, vicious, if they didn't know you. Would the poodle get along with his two bigger dogs? Maybe he'd just keep it for a few days and return it. Honestly, he didn't know. 

     He said as soon as he got it home, the poodle started fighting with the big dogs, the poodle holding its own. The first time he fed it, mostly leftovers from dinner, a little meat, rice, and beans, the poodle went nuts, fighting for survival but an obvious lover of Mexican food. From then on, it was the first to attack any meal, pushing its way to the front of the bowl, nudging the two guard dogs aside.

     When I asked if he was going to take it back, he said he still hadn't decided. That poodle had no life with that woman. Now, it plays with the kids and the other dogs. It runs around neighborhood looking for other dogs to play with. "Man, that dog gets chorizo and papas for breakfast, chunks of carne asada for dinner, happy, prob’ly for the first time in its life. I don't have the heart to take it back. It was alone with that woman all day and night.”

     When I looked down at it, it sure did look satisfied. It had finished eating. It sat down next to the other two dogs in the dirt. Someone walked by on the sidewalk out front. The three dogs rushed forward to do their job, barking, threatening, as if itching for the stranger to enter, the little poodle the grittiest of the three. The little dog came back, as one of the kids came out to play with it, pushing it around, the little dog growling, jumping into the kid's arms. 
     Who knows, maybe all those years with the woman it was really waiting around to what, who knows, maybe to just be a real dog? To this day, I don't know whether my friend kept the dog or not. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Virtual Presentation

The 25th Anniversary 2020 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award took place on Monday October 26, 2020.

To view the virtual celebration, click this link,

Texas State University College of Education created The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award in 1995 to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. It is named in honor of Texas State University distinguished alumnus Dr. Tomás Rivera.

My Papi Has A Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

Works For Younger Readers

My Papi Has A Motorcycle

By: Isabel Quintero

Illustrated by: Zeke Peña

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she's always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there. 

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl's love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Veterans Day 2020: Loco


Michael Sedano

January 1969: Ft Ord, California 

I took an instant like to the way this vato ate his food, con ganas and gratitude, like until four days ago, he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. 


“Te voy a decir una cosa, loco,” he started his observations. I agreed with him more than I could say, but te voy a decir una cosa. I didn’t like that he thought I was crazy. He kept calling me loco. I called him on it. “No me dices ‘loco.’”


He laughs and explains. Órale, loco, it’s not me, it’s you. This is how we talk. Then slowly, the huero ‘splains it, ‘Loco’ no es loco, es como fren, vato. 


Seven months later some Sergeant tells me to watch those Koreans shoveling brass ammo casings. I stretch across one of the mounds of .38 cal brass in the humid morning. The shovels remind me of shoveling steel mill slag, scrape-scoop-lift-toss-land. Scrape-scoop-lift-toss-land. I sleep.


I sit bolt upright. What did that Korean call me?


“Hey, chingao!”


My ears don’t deceive me, “chingao.” I rise with attitude. The Korean laborer is smiling and laughing. The Sergeant is headed my way and my new-found friend is giving me a Lifer-alert.


“Oh, you Metsican G.I. ‘Chingo’ fren, you fren, chingo.” 


Loco fren. This kid whose name I don’t remember doesn’t make it past the third week of basic training.


Rose was the first to go. He gets on the bus in Santa Barbara covered in his father’s tears. Desolation gave way to anger at being drafted and fuck yous at anyone around him on the bus to Los Angeles. Why didn’t you just refuse?


Sullen getting on the bus, five days later, unshaven and wound up tight, Rose stands in front of Company A-3-1. We stand stiffly at Attention. Rose stands alone facing the Captain who leans out his window, taunting Rose for looking like shit. Rose refuses to dry shave. He’s wearing the same green fatigues and field jacket we all wear but Rose gives them a disreputable look that you know there’s something wrong with that guy.


We Double-time away from the ugly scene. Rose and that Captain. They deserve each other.


What was the vato’s name? In the Army you read people’s name, you don’t have to know it. He’s probably eighteen, maybe younger and he lied to get in? He really likes the chow. We do K.P. together. The kid with no name chatters with energy, disarming, like un locutor del radio, but one who’s totally freaked out. This kid has been immersed in an English-speaking world and I’m his ally and buffer. I have to listen hard, translate unpracticed Spanish through grad student ears. Once I travelled in realms of gold and now I’m asshole deep in pots and pans and this vato from East El Lay is making it funny. Loco.


The drill sergeants like him, the kid has that effect on gente. Even the Cubano who likes to push my face into the mud with his boot takes it easy on loco. 


The second lieutenant fresh out of ROTC smells blood. Loco makes an easy target, mystified by the hubbub, physically slight, an inconspicuous trainee, no threat. We’re a couple weeks into basic training. We’re getting strong, but P.T. is still challenging. I’m grateful for respite when some guy’s getting chewed out for doing it wrong. 


These guys mess up a lot, but a lot of the chewing is equal opportunity ritual. When it’s your turn you take it and speak silent oaths. Mostly, harassment has good nature behind it, classic are you laughing at me? Outrage with a smile “Position of a dying cockroach, Ho!”


Out the corner of my right eye I see the LT stride over and stop at Loco’s spot. We’re in the front-leaning rest position and Drill Sergeant calls “exercise!” ROTC observes the body at his feet. “1,2,3, one! Drill Sergeant. 1,2,3, 2…”


2LT bends and shouts into the kid’s ear, “Straighten your back!” When the body doesn’t offer a response to his command, the lieutenant yells a little louder, “straighten that back, I said!”


The kid doesn’t move his espalda but keeps pumping out those push-ups, counting out, “1, 2, 3, 4, Drill Sergeant!” 


“I said ‘straighten that back’!” Loco’s thin arms tremble with the upward push. Army push-ups use four counts. The fourth push-up represents the sixteenth straightening of the arms. The kid who devours his chow doesn’t have big muscles that flex like elastic bands. His arms shake and struggle to extend. The young Lieutenant is not satisfied. 


“That’s not straight,” the officer declares. ROTC grabs Loco’s right wrist and pulls it out from under.


Mexicans are tough, you know? We can take it. And all Loco says is something like a surprised “ahh” as his left shoulder suddenly tears apart inside. Loco doesn’t even writhe. He tries to resume push-up position and collapses with another soft “ahh”. The lieutenant’s boots back away and out my sight. “…Ten, Drill Sergeant!”


The kid with no name goes through the rest of the day with the platoon. At chow the next morning the kid whose name I cannot remember doesn’t eat with much gusto. That cabron lieutenant chingared this arm so bad, Loco moans. Get on the truck, I tell him. No, I can make it. Get on the damned truck. I read his name and say it. Loco.


Outside on the company street, Drill Sergeant marches us away. Behind us on the spot where Rose stood that morning, waiting for the “sick, lame, and lazy” truck, Loco must have saluted us farewell.


What if there’s a comfortable house in Montebello where a 100% disabled American Veteran lives after a career as a bilingual 5th grade teacher? What if the teacher’s friends called him “Lefty” because he has a useless left arm that he alternately calls Lieutenant Pendejo and My Golden Ticket Home? I used to wonder what ever happened to Loco? 

Ft. Ord now Cal State University Monterey Bay

Monday, October 26, 2020

“Un cardenal” por Xánath Caraza


“Un cardenal” por Xánath Caraza


Italia, 2019

Día de muertos está a la vuelta de la esquina y en Venecia, Italia también lo celebrarán por quinta vez este 2020.  La artista y muralista Concepción García Sánchez es quien ha dado vida a esta importante celebración para las comunidades mexicanas y latinas residentes en Italia. He tenido el honor de acompañarlos con poesía por cinco años consecutivos.


Hoy les comparto uno de los poemas con los que participaré en Offerta del Giorno dei Morti nella Tradizione Messicana este 2020. “Un cardenal”, originalmente escrito en español, fue traducido por Anna Lombardo al italiano y por Sandra Kingery al inglés. Publicado por primera vez aquí en La Bloga.



Un cardenal

Por Xánath Caraza


Se percha en lo que

queda del invierno.


Me acecha con su cuello

emplumado y ojos nocturnos.


Sigue cada uno de mis

movimientos en la cocina.


Correspondo en silencio.


Soy yo quien está perchada

en lo que queda de vida.


Crecen las plumas en lo

que fueron mis brazos.


Me veo a través de la ventana

deslizándome en la eternidad.



A Cardinal


Translated by Sandra Kingery


It perches on what

is left of winter.


It stalks me with its feathered

neck and nocturnal eyes.


It follows every one of my

movements in the kitchen.


I reciprocate in silence.


It is I who is perched

upon what is left of life.


Feathers grow on what

used to be my arms.


I see myself through the window

sliding my way into eternity.



Un Cardinale


Traduzione di Anna Lombardo


Si è appollaiato su ciò

che resta dell’inverno.


Mi insegue con il suo piumato

collo e gli occhi notturni.


Segue ogni mio singolo

movimento nella cucina.


Rispondo in silenzio.


Sono io che sto appollaiata

su ciò che resta della vita.


Crescono piume su quelle che

erano le mie braccia.


Mi vedo attraverso la finestra

scivolando nell’eternità.


Italia, 2018

Friday, October 23, 2020

Día de los Muertos - 2020

Hernandez - Ramos Altar 2020 (WIP)

When Flo Hernandez Ramos, around 1984, assisted in the organization of a public display of folkloric muertos, skulls, and figurines, and constructed her first altar at home for Día de los Muertos, and then continued that tradition at radio station KUVO, she was among a handful of Denverites who celebrated the holiday and respected its cultural importance. She understood that Día de los Muertos was not the “Mexican Halloween,” and that the specific traditions connected to the holiday, such as altars, ofrendas, and pan de muerto, not only honored ancestors and the recently departed, but that they also represented a strong and vibrant connection to the indigenous roots of all people who claim Mexican heritage.

A lot has changed since then, and today “day of the dead” is omnipresent. Every fall, alongside the Halloween costumes and bowls of candy, we are surrounded by sugar skulls, greeting cards, movies, masks, face paintings, and, until Covid-19 restrictions, day-of-the-dead theme parties. At one extreme is the news that the Día de Muertos Barbie doll has been released in a second edition for 2020. Truly, the times have changed. 

I don’t necessarily begrudge the acceptance and assimilation of Día de los Muertos by the mainstream. I think it’s a positive result in many respects, although the commercialization can get out of hand – that’s what the capitalistic U.S. is all about, sometimes. My reasoning is that those who have even the slightest notion about Día de los Muertos must automatically acknowledge their mortality and humanity, if only for an instant. In these days of the pandemic, wildfires and other climate disasters, racial tensions, government sanctioned violence against people of color, and the circus known as the presidential election, we need something that reminds us that yes, absolutely, we are in this together, whatever “this” happens to be at the current time. The one thing we have in common is the fact that one day we all will be eligible for a space on the day-of-the-dead altar. Pick your altar photo now. How do you want to be remembered?

We are surrounded by relentless news of Covid deaths and hospitalizations. We’re choking on smoke and ashes, isolating ourselves from human contact, and confronting unemployment, closed schools, and universal dread. But the obvious contradiction can't be ignored. We also hear of amazing sacrifice and unbelievable courage. Heroes confront the virus and risk their own health. They rush into burning forests to save strangers’ houses. They take a stand against racism and police brutality, hand out dinners at food banks, comfort the anxious teenager, read to the bedridden grandmother.

In this year of so much death and sadness, Día de los Muertos is what some of us unexpectedly need to find our footing, to get grounded again, whether it’s done with a traditional visit to a cemetery or a family movie night to watch Coco

Día de los Muertos is really about the living.


Susan Froyd of Westword wrote about some of the Día de los Muertos events happening in the Denver area in her article Seventeen Ways to Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, which you can read at this link. Check out the article and you will find something just for you.

Here are two of the many events.

Panel on Colorado's History of Día de Los Muertos
Saturday, Oct. 31, 6-7pm
The LCAC & CHAC Virtual Presentation
Join us to learn how the ancient traditions of Día de Los Muertos took root in Denver by the people that planted the seeds. 
Moderator: Alfredo Reyes
Panelists: Flo Hernandez-Ramos, David Atekpatzin Young, and Stevon Lucero​​​

Ofrendas at Home
The ofrendas, or offerings upon an altar, are the centerpiece of this sacred celebration because they are what guide the spirits of ancestors back to their living relatives. They may include photographs, foods, flowers, candles, decorations, and other sacred elements that our loved ones enjoyed in life. As such, the LCAC is putting together a series of unique altar-kits. They include original handmade contributions of four Denver artists: Ana Marina Sanchez (Jeweler), Victor Escobedo (mixed-media), Lilian Lara (mixed-media), Cal Duran (sculptor), and artisans from Mexico and Peru. These altar-kits are meant to be taken home and personalized according to your familial legacies as a form of remembrance and healing.

Our aim is to build healthier and more resilient communities, so for every two that are acquired through donations, one will be gifted to a family or individual.

Altar-kits can be picked up October 16th through October 29th at Hijos del Sol, 2715 W. 8th Avenue, from 11am-4pm or by appointment by contacting us at or by calling Joyce Sanchez, LCAC Program Coordinator, at 303-946-8873.



Manuel Ramos has completed his eleventh novel -- Angels in the Wind. Watch for it in May, 2021.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Chicanonautica: ¡Vote, Cabrones!

by Ernest Hogan


Things being as busy and crazy as they are, I was tempted to just put the above photo up, and leave it like that, but the election and the subject of voting are kinda important, so here’s some words:

When I was growing up in West Covina, SoCal, the folks who ran the local precinct practically knocked on your door to make sure everyone was registered and walked you to the polls on Election Day. They didn’t care what party you were, or who you were voting for. They wanted you to vote.

Later I moved to Arizona, the notorious red sate, where things were different. They were always changing where the polling places were. Tracking yours down was a royal pain. We once saw poll workers treat a Native American woman who showed up at the wrong place like a criminal. We know people who couldn’t get to the polls on time. They also decided to not have as many polling places. It’s like they’re afraid of a little good, honest democracy.

That stuff, and the fact that we worked across town from where we lived, had us sign up for mail-in ballots. We've been doing it for years and it’s been working fine.

This year, with the pendejada over the post office, we filled out our ballots as soon as we got them, then drove them down to an official drop box, next door to the sheriff’s office, and tracked them until they were accepted by the county.

Sure, Trump is crashing and burning, but we can’t count on that . . .

Biden isn’t radical leftist enough for a lot of you, but right now we’re plummeting back to the Dark Ages. Staying home, or voting for a third party candidate, or writing someone in will just continue the fall.

Voting is like pinball. You whack the ball in the direction of the alternate universe you want to live in. Sometimes it gets tossed where you don’t want it. Sometimes it all goes tilt. But, if you aren’t whacking, everybody else is deciding what world you’re going to live in.

You can complain all you want, but if you don’t participate, it’s your fault.

Ernest Hogan is running himself ragged with stuff that you’ll be reading about in future Chicanonauticas.