Thursday, November 26, 2020

Lost Orders and a Lucky Thanksgiving

 

                                                                                 


                                                                               

I lucked out, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I flew into Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport on October 26th in the early afternoon. A convoy of trucks and gun jeeps drove us a short distance to the old 90th Replacement Center, the entry and exit point for G.I.’s coming in-country in 1966, the early days of the war. I was 19 years old.

Unluckily, I got chosen for guard duty and had to spend the night, while, after a few hour’s break, my friends continued on to the new, larger replacement center in Long Binh, twenty miles from Saigon, leaving me behind.

It was the first time I’d ever pulled guard duty with live ammunition and the realization that someone on the other side of the frail wire fence wanted me dead.

The only instructions I remember a young corporal giving us before heading out to “walk the post” was, “Stay awake, and don’t let the dink vendors come up to the fence and try selling shit. They ain’t all vendors.” When the sun rose, I began to understand the fear I would feel every day for the next 364 days.

At noon, I boarded another convoy headed to Long Binh to meet up with my friends. I was assigned to a group of about 20 guys waiting for their orders. We slept beneath a large canvas tent, plywood floors, and flaps for walls, not much protection from mortars or artillery attacks.

Each day, guys lined up to get their orders and ship out to their permanent duty stations. So, I waited. Two weeks later, I was still waiting. The Army had lost my orders.

Long Binh was miserable, a barren, hilly, dry, dusty place, bad food, rationed water, no laundry (not for us, anyway), terrible duty, mostly pouring gas on human waste in large metal barrels and burning it. Later, there was nothing else to do but sit around, wait, and sweat.

When my orders still hadn’t arrived, and we were nearly halfway into November, they gave me a choice, stay here and wait, or go to Cam Rahn Bay and work with the engineers building the enormous new military complex and wait for my orders there. They said it was on the ocean. Raised five miles from the Pacific, that’s all I needed to hear. I was in. Other guys decided to wait in Long Binh.

Thanksgiving rolled around. My orders still hadn’t arrived. Probably, I wouldn’t have remembered any of this until one day a few years ago as I rummaged around through some old files, I found my military documents, and inserted in the papers was a Thanksgiving Day menu, compliments of General William Westmoreland.

That’s why I was lucky. I got to spend Thanksgiving Day in Cam Rahn Bay with the engineers, who had the best of everything. Had my orders arrived as they should have, I’d have been out in the field some place with the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade, probably eating turkey from C-rations for Thanksgiving, or, at best, turkey slices and mashed potatoes served in our mess kits from warm metal containers.

                                                                                     


I know this because my orders finally arrived in mid-December. By the 25th, they called an Xmas Day cease fire. I was with the Brigade operating in Kontum province. On the 26th, we made the first large parachute jump since WWII. Around the 28th, we were dug in at fire base and in the mountains outside Duc Pho, and one night, during a "probing" I was wounded by grenade shrapnel. Whether it was ours or theirs, who knew? On the 29th, a Huey whisked me off to a field hospital in Pleiku, but my mind still had me swimming in the warm South China Sea waters of Cam Rahn Bay. How lucky was that?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Horario del XI Festival Internacional de Poesía Infantil Manyula

 

XI Festival Internacional de Poesía Infantil Manyula

 

Ayer comenzamos el XI Festival Internacional de Poesía Infantil Manyula en Facebook.

 

Este festival se lleva acabo en El Salvador a finales del mes de noviembre. El festival toma lugar en la Biblioteca Nacional Francisco Gavidia y en las sucursales de la Biblioteca de los Sueños en el mercado San Jacinto, Barrio San Jacinto y en Santo Domingo de Guzmán en el departamento de Sonsonate. También el festival a viajado a otros sitios de El Salvador con el lema principal de promover la lectura en los niños salvadoreños.

 

Este año tenemos presentaciones de escritores y poetas que con su trabajo contribuyen a la promoción de la literatura infantil en El Salvador.

 

Este es nuestro horario, síguenos en Facebook presionando este enlace,

 

https://www.facebook.com/Festival-Internacional-de-Poes%C3%ADa-Infantil-Manyula-101335125133941

 

 


 



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Memory: Thanksgivings In Plague-times

Michael Sedano 

In 1968, my bride and I planned our first Thanksgiving Day feast with dampened spirit. Married on August 31, I got the letter in October. Not the plague, but the draft felt like a terminal disease.

At first, Selective Service told me to report on November 15, 1968. I managed a postponement, and would report on January 15, 1969. Thanksgiving and Christmas, then New Year, then I'd disappear. Disappear maybe forever, Barbara feared, had I gone to Vietnam and been killed. A lot of draftees got killed in those days, so we were feeling rotten.

There has been a single thanksgiving day meal we haven't shared together, otherwise for the past fifty-two years, Barbara and I have enjoyed the national eating holiday feasting on cocono.

Guajolote, other gente call them, I learned cocono. My grandmother raised gallinas and a few coconos. My elementary school teachers requested the bags of turkey feathers my gramma saved for them. Emilia Macias was the best poultry dresser in California. Customers drove from Pomona to DeYoung's Poultry on Highway 99 outside Redlands, to buy a thanksgiving turkey dressed by "Emily." 

Emilia's great-granddaughter, Amelia, raises gallinas and a few coconos. This year, Christmas heritage turkeys will be on several holiday tables, fresh from McDonald's Urban Farm, dressed by Emily's great-grand-daughter. Thank you, Time, for coming around and going around.


Tamales For Thanksgiving

Miss McCartney begins her fourth grade class with the annual holiday poll, "What did you have for Thanksgiving?"

The weeks leading to the holiday weekend we chattered about the upcoming holiday. We were taught to know our place--at Thanksgiving it was noble Puritans feeding sluggard indios. We were set up to beg for turkey because it was American.

Kids already knew the score. The northside was the wrong side of the tracks, where the poor people live. But there's poor, and then there's dirt poor. Playground talk sorts it out. A few families went for cocono, for most, it was pollo. The dirt poor Sepulvedas had a really festive meal, the twins reported. Tamales. 

"Felix, what did you have for Thanksgiving?" Felix had turkey, and stuffing, and everything. "Irma, what did you have?" Turkey. Freddie, Foodo, Zeferino, Michael. Turkey, Turkey, Chicken, Turkey.

Inevitably the teacher turns her attention to the Sepulveda twins. Painfully quiet and normally uncommunicative, their faces show the tension of the upcoming inquisition. "Carmen, and what did you have for Thanksgiving?" Carmen bows her head in silence. "Oh, come now, Herlinda, what did you have for Thanksgiving?" Both girls hunch their shoulders and hang their heads lower. 

"Now, speak up, girls, what did you have?" the teacher cajoles and wheedles. 

We sit in  uncomfortable silence until one of the one of the Weeks twins whispers loudly, "they had tamales."

"Oh, no," cries Miss McCartney, "no one has tomallies for Thanksgiving. You're supposed to have turkey, and cranberries, and . . ." The young teacher lists an exquisite menu while the twins do their amazing shrinking Mexicans act. Pulling their shoulders to their ears, the sisters' heads slide lower and lower in their desks until the two girls disappear before our eyes, only four trenzas hang over the ladder back seats.

The First Thanksgiving, 1968

Barbara keeping a stiff upper lip. I have just opened the envelope drafting me.
    
Thanksgiving made us sick. She feared I was going to get killed in Vietnam and this would be her only Thanksgiving of the idyll she envisioned for the happily ever after. I scoffed at getting killed, but teevee pictures infected my self-confidence with flag-draped aluminum tubes of doubt. This might be our only Thanksgiving. Not that I would know it, if I did get killed in the Army. I had to leave in January.

We determined we’d make a great big Thanksgiving Day dinner that couldn’t be beat and share it with Karen and Mike, who’d been in our wedding August 31st. 

The Salvation Army stove cost me twenty-five bucks back in July, and the appliance fried and boiled our food all summer, making me confident the oven would roast the turkey. I struck a match and got the oven going. Barbara studied her Rombauer & Becker and got the bird prepped.

Flames squeezed out from around the oven door. Black smoke poured out the top under the burners. Barbara was not calm.

I pulled down the hinged door to see turkey grease and butter splatter pooled on the oven floor boiling and burning angrily, fed into spatters and growth by the infusion of air I’d introduced. The turkey carcass had acquired a black coating of soot from the grease fire.

I grabbed the orange cardboard box of Arm & Hammer out of the refrigerator and ripped off the top. Turning to the smoking fire box I nodded at Barbara who pulled down the door. 

The turkey was covered in baking soda, coagulating spatter, and black grime. Barbara washed it off in the sink while I called our guests over in Isla Vista. Karen and Mike had a cliffside apartment, a functioning oven, and Alice's Restaurant. 

That’s where we finished roasting that turkey and had us a great big Thanksgiving Day dinner that couldn’t be beat. We laughed every time the theme came round on the guitar again, and we had the record on replay for nine hours and that was our first Thanksgiving, 52 years ago.


Thanksgiving Dinner With All the Trimmings. Class "A" Bummer.

Army chow has a deservedly bad reputation. Holiday chow usually makes an exception, and a year after our burning turkey, I looked forward to the Army's promise of an "old-fashioned turkey dinner" in the mess hall here at Bravo Battery. I would not pull duty up on the mountain, where the dinner would arrive after an hour ride tucked inside aluminum cans, not for this upcoming feast!

The site buzzed with excitement at the posted menu of real food. Up in the crew hootches on the mountain, guys passed the hours reminiscing about family  favorites, trading stories, getting lost in memories of the taste and smell of grandma's stuffing, playing football in the yard, getting stuffed, and then having pie. 

Warm thoughts of home help men ignore the routine hardship of the world's "highest and ruggedest HAWK site." Bravo Battery and Site Seven-five lie six thousand miles from home, and two hours from the nearest PX. Men live in close quarters, with the same five or six men, 24/7, North Korea fifteen miles a constant presence in every breath. 

Forget that crap, in a few days, we'll be eating like Thanksgiving  back home. The Army says so.

Turkey, roasted by our own cook, and all the trimmings: stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans, peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls. And pies. Among all the other food we didn't get at Bravo Battery, we never get dessert. And now, not only can we look forward to a great big thanksgiving day dinner that couldn't be beat, there will be pie. Alice's restaurant didn't have pie.

The cook laments the all-nighter he's going to pull, so I tell him I'll make the pies. Tyner agrees. Tyner could get an Article 15 for letting me into the kitchen, a remote risk.  I wait for the mess sergeant to disappear into the ville. I watch Tyner work with impressive efficiency. I am proud of my friend's skill at his work. The chow sucks but it's not the cook's fault.

I had never seen a refrigerated pie crust. Tyner rips open white waxy boxes and dumps the things on the stainless steel workspace next to a stack of pie tins. I make apple and cherry pies, I don't remember how many pies, enough to feed 75 soldiers. 

I was a bit disappointed there was no magic, anticipating mixing dough, rolling crusts, trimming and pinching edges. I simply filled the crusts with canned pie fillings and Tyner did the rest. That disappointment was nothing compared to the next morning's news and the outrage it produces.

Top ruins everyone's day at morning formation. The uniform of the day for chow will be the Class "A" uniform. Incongruity slathered with absurdity tempered with last-minute notice is a slap in the face. Wear coat and tie, all your brass, formal wear out here where locals don't have electricity and running water.

Had we been ordered to wear pink tutus, the outrage wouldn't have been matched. Thoughts of home smolder behind spit-shined dress shoes in the middle of nowhere. The Lifers, of course, love it. They keep their brass polished and dress greens pressed. We enlisted men dig Class A traje out of the bottom of our duffel bags and wear them wrinkled and looking like shit. 

The BC knows it, Top knows it, we know it. Out here, GIs wear a dress uniform when they land, then roll it up and stuff it in the bottom of their duffel. A week before we leave, the houseboy presses it and the soldier wears the Class A home.

We make the best of it, looking like shit. We eat seconds, laugh a lot and darned if we don't look good all dressed up military. And, of course, we eat the best pie in the United States Army. I have cherry.

The Second Thanksgiving

The two happy people in the foto are eating a perfectly-baked turkey. This is the second turkey the woman roasted, and the first that did not catch fire. They remember how grim their first thanksgiving day had been, this is their next. Today, they talk about that time in their lives, they listen to "Alice's Restaurant" on repeat, like they played during that awful day, and they begin again. 

That terror never completely extinguished itself, until recently, for Barbara. That flaming bird never happened again. Barbara became a skilled cook, happily ever after. Every Thanksgiving Day, the couple puts "Alice's Restaurant" on the turntable, play the song on repeat all day, recalling how scared they were at what might have been, and how that absurd scenario gave them nightmares. 

And the people in that foto, they laugh, because things turn out good, and the couple sits there and they know it.



Monday, November 23, 2020

Juanita Lunita por Xanath Caraza y traducido por Sandra Kingery

 


El día de hoy, lunes, presento para nuestros lectores un cuento, originalmente escrito en español, titulado “Juanita Lunita”.  Este cuento ve la luz por primera vez aquí en la Bloga. No solo eso sino que está acompañado de su traducción al inglés.

 

La traducción al inglés de “Juanita Lunita” estuvo a cargo de la Doctora Sandra Kingery y sus estudiantes.

 

Los estudiantes-traductores son: Rachel Blizzard, Naji Campbell, Sanjeeta Choun, Aishatou H. Coulibaly, Patrick Dwyer, Patrick R. Erikson, Carlos X. Gonzalez, Eion H. Hicks-Lee, Earnie Jr., Matt Kuna, Litzy R. Pablo Sanchez, K. Pfannschmidt, Angel Ramírez Martínez, Aalam K. Singh, Christian M. Spahn, Emily Valladares y Noah G. Vogeler a quienes estoy muy agradecida.  

 

Quiero tomar unas líneas para felicitar a la Doctora Kingery por su cumpleaños y por este monumental trabajo de traducción que formó parte del semestre de otoño de 2020 en la clase First Year Seminar: Lost (and Found) in Translation de Lycoming College.

 

Espero que esta historia, ahora bilingüe, sea de su agrado.  

 

 

Juanita Lunita

por Xánath Caraza

 

“Uno, dos y tressss, uno, dos y tresss. ¡Ay! Me caí otra vez.”

 

Juanita Lunita es una pequeña niña que brinca y salta para alcanzar la luna.  Camina hacia atrás, toma la velocidad necesaria y corre y requete corre hasta sentir que lleva el impulso adecuado para saltar.  Si no alcanza la luna, lo vuelve a intentar.

 

Juanita Lunita empezó a brincar desde que tenía dos años, fue la primera vez que recuerda haber visto la luna.  Hoy en día ya tiene casi cuatro y es toda una experta saltando.

 

Cada brinco de Juanita es más alto que el anterior. Una vez saltó tan alto que se quedó colgada de un árbol de manzanas rojas.  Otra ocasión pudo saludar a los pasajeros de un avión y otra casi choca con una estrella fugaz. La pobre estrella casi se desmayó del susto cuando la vio.

 

A Juanita le ha llevado tiempo perfeccionar su técnica de salto de super altura: “Número uno, caminar de espalda para atrás”, se dice Juanita así misma. “Número dos, correr muy velozmente hacia adelanteeeeeeeee y número tres”, grita Juanita, “brincar con los ojos cerrados para no marearseeeee”, vuelve a gritar.

 

Algunas noches cuando está oscureciendo, los niños y niñas salen a sus patios y jardines para ver qué tan alto saltará Juanita y saber cuánto tiempo tardará en regresar a la tierra.

 

Una noche Juanita Lunita oyó que su amiga Leni lloraba y lloraba. Se acercó para saber qué pasaba.  Lo que estaba pasando era que la rana de Leni se había perdido y ella estaba muy triste.  Juanita respiró profundamente, contó uno, dos, tres y saltó tan alto como pudo para buscar la rana.  Cuando estaba en el aire se dio cuenta de que la rana estaba en la gran fuente del parque.

 

Otra ocasión Mayte y María la fueron a ver muy preocupadas. “Juanita Lunita, por favor, ayúdanos”, sollozaron. “Nuestros globos morados se han escapado”.  Rápidamente Juanita Lunita saltó lo más alto que pudo y con la mirada de más enojo que ella recordaba y el ceño más fruncido, asustó al par de globos morados.  Los tomó por sus lazos y los llevó de vuelta a la tierra.

 

Gustavo también le pidió ayuda.  Su papalote gigante tenía dos días y una noche de estar huyendo.  En esta ocasión Juanita Lunita tuvo que montarse en el papalote gigante y obligarlo a regresar a casa y aunque le costó mucho trabajo, finalmente lo logró convencer.  Cuando el papalote vio a Gustavo esperándolo con tanta alegría, comenzó a volar lo más rápido que pudo para estar junto a él.  Desde entonces el papalote gigante y Gustavo son inseparables.

 

Juanita Lunita brinca y salta cada vez más alto. Sin embargo no ha podido alcanzar la luna.  Eso la entristece por las noches.

 

La otra noche Juanita Lunita descubrió que alguien la seguía.  Primero se asustó porque no vio a nadie.  Luego sintió que la miraban unos grandes y brillantes ojos. 

 

La seguían por todos lados aunque se escondiera en los lugares más difíciles de encontrar.  Se escondió atrás de una puerta pero supo que la observaban por entre el ojo de la cerradura.  Otra noche se escondió debajo de un gran árbol de aguacate pero los grandes y brillantes ojos la miraban a través de las hojas.  Otra vez corrió y corrió lo más rápido que pudo pero aún así supo que no dejaban de perseguirla.

 

Tras varias noches de haberse escondido, sin éxito, por aquí y por allá, esos relucientes ojos seguían observándola. Juanita Lunita levantó su mirada al nocturno cielo de obsidiana y cuando sus pupilas recorrían el negro firmamento se encontró con la luna.  Vislumbró una suave sonrisa y, para su sorpresa, descubrió unos delicados, grandes y luminosos ojos que la miraban con mucha dulzura.  Era ella, la luna, quien reía con ella. En ese instante Juanita Lunita supo que la luna la seguía y la seguiría siempre por todas partes. No importando a donde fuera, la luna siempre estaría con ella.

 

Desde entonces Juanita Lunita juega a las escondidillas con la luna cada noche.  Se esconde debajo de la cama y la luna la encuentra.  Se encierra en su recámara y la luna la ve a través de su ventana. 

 

Juanita sigue saltando para tratar de alcanzarla. Ya tiene casi cuatro años y es toda una experta brincadora pero ya no se pone triste por no alcanzar la luna.  Juanita Lunita tiene una amiga para siempre, una amiga que cada noche está y juega con ella.  Unos suaves, grandes y relucientes ojos la cuidan cada noche.

 

 

Juanita Lunita

 

“One, two, threeeee, one, two, threeeee. Ouch! I fell again, you see.”

 

Juanita Lunita is a little girl who jumps and leaps to reach the moon. She takes a few steps back, gathers all the speed she needs, and runs as hard as she can until it feels like she’s got enough momentum to make the perfect leap. If she doesn’t reach the moon, she tries again.

 

Juanita Lunita started jumping when she was two years old. That’s the first time she remembers seeing the moon. Now she’s almost four, and she’s the best jumper around.

 

Every jump that Juanita takes is higher than the last. One time, she leapt so high she got stuck at the top of an apple tree. Another time, she was able to greet the passengers on an airplane. And then there was the time she almost ran into a shooting star. The poor star nearly fainted from the shock of seeing her.

 

It has taken Juanita time to perfect her technique for the super high jump: “Number one, take a few steps back,” Juanita tells herself. “Number two, run as faaaaast as you can, and number three,” shouts Juanita, “jump with your eyes closed so you don’t get diiiizzzy.”

 

Some nights, when it’s starting to get dark, all the boys and girls go out onto their porches and into their yards to see how high Juanita will jump this time and how long it will take her to come back down again.

 

One night, Juanita Lunita heard her friend Leni crying and crying. She went over to her to find out what was going on.  It turns out Leni’s frog had gotten lost, and she was really upset. Juanita took a deep breath, counted one, two, three, and jumped as high as she could to look for the frog. When she was in the air, she realized that the frog was in the big fountain in the park.

 

Another time, a very worried Mayte and María went to see her. “Juanita Lunita, please help us,” they sobbed. “Our purple balloons have gotten loose.” Juanita Lunita quickly jumped as high as she could and, with the angriest look she could muster and the most furrowed brow, she frightened the two purple balloons. Then she grabbed them by the ribbons and brought them back down to earth.

 

Gustavo asked for her help as well. His giant kite had escaped two whole days and an entire night ago! This time, Juanita Lunita had to hop onto the giant kite and force it to return home. Even though it was a lot of work, she was finally able to bring it down. When the kite saw how happy Gustavo was to be waiting for it, it began to fly as fast as it could to be with him. Ever since then, the giant kite and Gustavo have been inseparable.

 

Juanita Lunita jumps and leaps higher and higher all the time. However, she still hasn’t been able to reach the moon. This makes her sad at night.

 

One night, Juanita Lunita discovered that someone was following her. At first, she was frightened because she couldn’t see anyone. Then, she felt a couple of large shining eyes watching her.

 

They were following her everywhere, even when she hid in the hardest places to find. She hid behind a door, but she realized they were observing her through the eye of the keyhole. Another night, she hid under a big avocado tree, but the large shining eyes were watching her through the leaves. And then one time, she ran and ran as fast as she could, but even then, she knew they were still chasing her.

 

After several nights of hiding unsuccessfully anywhere and everywhere, those glistening eyes continued to observe her. Juanita Lunita looked up into the pitch-black nocturnal sky, and when her eyes traversed the dark firmament, they came across the moon. She glimpsed a tender smile and, to her surprise, she discovered two eyes—large, gentle, luminous—looking at her so sweetly. It was the moon! The moon was laughing with her! At that very moment, Juanita Lunita realized the moon had been following her and would follow her until the end of time. It didn’t matter where she went, the moon would always be with her.

 

Ever since then, Juanita Lunita plays hide and seek with the moon every night. She hides under the bed, and the moon finds her. She locks herself in her bedroom, and the moon watches her through the window.

 

Juanita is still jumping to try to reach the moon. She’s almost four now, and she’s the best jumper around. She doesn’t get sad anymore when she can’t reach the moon. Juanita Lunita has a friend for life, a friend who shows up every night to play with her. Two eyes—large, gentle, glistening—take care of her every night.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Popul Vuh Rises Again, and Other News

 New books, new style book fair, old world wisdom.


Popul Vuh: A Retelling
Ilan Stavans

Illustrations by Gabriela Larios
Foreword by Homero Aridjis
Restless Books - November 10


[from the publisher]
An inspired and urgent prose retelling of the Maya myth of creation by acclaimed Latin American author and scholar Ilan Stavans, gorgeously illustrated by Salvadoran folk artist Gabriela Larios and introduced by renowned author, diplomat, and environmental activist Homero Aridjis.

The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popol Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K’iche’ nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously. 

Cosmic in scope and yet intimately human, the Popol Vuh offers invaluable insight into the Maya way of life before being decimated by colonization—their code of ethics, their views on death and the afterlife, and their devotion to passion, courage, and the natural world. It tells the story of how the world was created in a series of rehearsals that included wooden dummies, demi-gods, and eventually humans. It describes the underworld, Xibalba—a place as harrowing as Dante’s hell—and relates the legend of the ultimate king, who, in the face of tragedy, became a spirit that accompanies his people in their struggle for survival.

Popol Vuh: A Retelling is a one-of-a-kind prose rendition of this sacred text that is as seminal as the Bible and the Qur’an, the Ramayana and the Odyssey. Award-winning scholar of Latin American literature Ilan Stavans brings a fresh creative energy to the Popol Vuh, giving a new generation of readers the opportunity to connect with this timeless story and with the plight of the indigenous people of the Americas.



__________________________


Alberto Álvaro Ríos
University of Arizona Press - October, 2020


[from the publisher]
In Alberto Álvaro Ríos’s new picaresque novel, momentous adventure and quiet connection brings twenty people to life in a small town in northern Mexico. A Good Map of All Things is home to characters whose lives are interwoven but whose stories are their own, adding warmth and humor to this continually surprising communal narrative. The stories take place in the mid-twentieth century, in the high desert near the border—a stretch of land generally referred to as the Pimería Alta—an ancient passage through the desert that connected the territory of Tucson in the north and Guaymas and Hermosillo in the south. The United States is off in the distance, a little difficult to see, and, in the middle of the century, not the only thing to think about. Mexico City is somewhere to the south, but nobody can say where and nobody has ever seen it.

Ríos has created a whimsical yet familiar town, where brightly unique characters love fiercely and nurture those around them. The people in A Good Map of All Things have secrets and fears, successes and happiness, winters and summers. They are people who do not make the news, but who are living their lives for the long haul, without lotteries or easy answers or particular luck. Theirs is the everyday, with its small but meaningful joy. Whether your heart belongs to a small town in Mexico or a bustling metropolis, Alberto Álvaro Ríos has crafted a book that is overflowing with comfort, warmth, and the familiar embrace of a tightly woven community.

_________________________________



Angels in the Wind
Manuel Ramos

Arte Público Press - April 30, 2021

[from the publisher]
Felon turned private eye Gus Corral isn’t doing too well after getting whacked in the head with a baseball bat following his last big case. He was unconscious for a couple of days and still can’t see right. Plagued by headaches, there are days he can’t think straight. Tired, sore and disoriented, he takes his sister’s advice to get out of Denver and help their cousins in Eastern Colorado.

George Montoya’s son, Matías or Mat, has run off again. The seventeen-year-old has run away before, but he always came back. This time, his dad and Aunt Essie know there’s something wrong. As Gus begins to talk to the boy’s family and friends, a picture emerges of a smart kid with strong opinions who fought a lot with his dad. Did he run away because of his father? Or did he leave because his girlfriend broke up with him? Her father, the town doctor, definitely didn’t want his daughter dating a Mexican American.

But when Gus tracks the missing boy to a shelter for runaways in Pueblo, the ailing investigator discovers something much more sinister. The boy was helping victims of human trafficking. Could the criminals have caught on to him? All too soon, men with guns are threatening Gus, warning him to get out of town, or else! Acclaimed writer Manuel Ramos’ fourth novel featuring Gus Corral’s unique and weary voice once again combines a complex and moody mystery with issues of identity, family and responsibility, to oneself and others.

_______________________________________




Later.

______________________________________

Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. He is working on a story for an anthology and patiently waiting for the publication of his novel Angels in the Wind.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Chicanonautica: Zooming into Latinx Science Fiction

Just a few weeks ago, I was on Zoom (again), on a panel with Cathryn Merla-Watson, and Matt Goodwin on Latinx Science Fiction: Genealogies, Foundations, Futures, as part of Cal State Fullerton’s Zines to the Future! exhibit.


Watch the panel here:



Then I rushed of to a multi-state road trip amid the pandemic, and election turmoil, which is another story . . .


Meanwhile, I’m struggling to keep track of where the real life ends and the sci-fi begins.


Ernest Hogan will be judging the Somos en escito Extra Fiction Contest again. The deadline has been extended to December 1st. Latnoid writers, send your stories NOW!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

XI Festival Internacional de Poesía Infantil Manyula

 

 

Bienvenidos a la página del Festival Internacional de Poesía Infantil Manyula.

 

La Biblioteca de los Sueños se une a la celebración de la lectura, a la fiesta de la palabra. Leer es Maravilloso.

 

Este 2020 el festival cumple 11 años compartiendo la alegría de leer con los niños de el Salvador.

 

Este año nuestro festival será virtual del 24-27 de noviembre.

Esperamos que nos visiten, nos apoyen y que disfruten de las presentaciones en FACEBOOK. 

 

Sigue el festival presionando este enlace,

 

https://www.facebook.com/Festival-Internacional-de-Poes%C3%ADa-Infantil-Manyula-101335125133941

 

 

Estos son videos de festivales pasados. 

 

  

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Looking Back: A Penny Waits For the Old Guy

Note: November 28 marks the 16th anniversary of La Bloga's First Day of Publication. That's six years longer than Odysseus wandered while Penelope spun her spinning wheel. November 2020 feels like it's been 10 years since January 20, 2015. Is Joe Biden showing up on January 20, 2021 to give the boot to the thieving looters occupying the nation's living room? We'll soon find out. In the meantime, Michael Sedano shares a pair of Penelope columns, from 2006 and 2013. 

Review: Margaret Atwood. The Penelopiad. NY: Canongate, 2005. ISBN 1-84195-717-8.
Michael Sedano

Devotees of the great writers of American literature may find it unseemly to say someone "stumbled across" a Margaret Atwood title, but that's what I did recently when I picked up the north-of-the-border novelist's The Penelopiad. 

Atwood nearly always leaves me reeling in delight, as she did in The Handmaid's Tale and The Robber Bride. But because I had not much enjoyed Oryx and Crake–found it obscure and a small deviation from the writer's usual quality–I wasn't looking for another title of hers when my eyes caught the thin (198 pages) spine's almost illegible title, then noted the writer's name. 

What a grand idea, telling Penelope's story! For thousands of years, people have celebrated Odysseus. The Iliad's nine years fighting the Trojan war, then the trickster's own story of the long sail home, only to find his household in thrall to treasure-seekers. 

Penelope's is the backstory. Crafty Odysseus' equally crafty spouse spinning a cloak during the day, then unravelling it during the night as a strategem to hold off the greedy suitors' demands.

Atwood will have none of this backstory stuff, starting the tale with the 15 year old girl on her wedding day wondering which of the contestants would win her, then fleshing out the story of a lonely girl in a foreign city, an uncaring suegra, a bossy handmaiden and a chorus of the hanged. Homer's story winds to a close with Odysseus and Telemachus wreaking revenge on the suitors. 

After the slaughter, twelve slave girls, identified as collaborators, are assigned to clean up the blood and gore, then taken outside and hanged. But the story of the hanged slaves intrigues Atwood, and she builds the tale around them. As the writer observes in her foreward: "the maids form a chanting and singing Chorus which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of The Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in The Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids; and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself." (xv) 

The heuristic of building a novel from a cherished myth is the idea behind the publisher's myth series. In addition to Atwood's work, Canongate recruited Chinua Achebe, AS Byatt, and others to delve into old stories in new ways. Atwood relishes the retelling. There's Penelope in Hades, remembering various heroes trekking in search of answers, blooding a beast into a trench, then, "Once the right number of words had been handed over to the hero we'd all be allowed to drink from the trench, and I can't say much in praise of the table manners on such occasions." 

Pity the reader devoid the classics, they'll miss so much fun: "Odysseus had been in a fight with a giant one-eyed Cyclops, said some; no, it was only a one-eyed tavern keeper, said another, and the fight was over non-payment of the bill." The story of the twelve--thirteen, actually, according to Atwood--hanged slavegirls, along with Penelope's satisfaction hearing that Helen looked old during a visit by Telemachus to Meneleus' court, shows the fun a writer can enjoy when imagination runs freely through classic texts, plots, and characters.


Finding a Voice for Penelope 

Review: Tino Villanueva. So Spoke Penelope. Cambridge MA: Grolier Poetry Press, 2013. ISBN: 9781891592027 1891592025 

The woman approached me in the hall, outside the seminar at the New York Sheraton, book in hand. Now I’m generally not open to hallway sales pitches, but the law of Zeus Xenia requires fairness to strangers, so I let her engage me. It is the best hallway conversation I can remember. 

The woman had brought along a single copy of Hay Otra Voz Poems by Tino Villanueva. 

No, I admitted, I was not familiar with the poetry nor the poet. I flipped through the artisan-crafted pages that just covered the palm of my hand, scanning a line or two. Yes. Yes, wow. Spanish, English, mezcla. Then I read one at random, “Aquellos Vatos.” An instant classic, I had to own this volume. 

That was 1972 or maybe 1973.

Today, Villanueva comes forth with another instant classic of chicano literature, So Spoke Penelope. Published in a limited edition of only 800 copies, the slim volume of 60 pages presents 36 one- and two-page meditations Odysseus’ wife consoles herself with over the 20 years her husband went missing in the Trojan War.
Calculating Penelope’s age to be nineteen when her husband sails off to war, the woman ages across the poems until, at the eve of her fortieth year, her story reunites with Odysseus’ in a bloodbath that isn’t mentioned in Penelope’s rapture and falling into bed with her long-absent lover. 

Readers will enjoy the sweep of years that creates a poetic plot in Penelope’s biography. Villanueva picks moments of thought at 5 years, then six, ten, eighteen, twenty years, to illustrate Penelope’s determination to wait out the painful absence.

Homer didn’t know Puccini, but Villanueva certainly does. When certain images recall un bel di, it comes as an irony that the smoke Butterfly seeks on the horizon will bring only tragedy, while the sails Penelope longs to see will fulfill the three motives that Villanueva has invested her with, seething passion, desperate patience, and good wife faithfulness.

It’s curious that “home” is a rarely-visited thought throughout the collection. Penelope wants Odysseus back, wants to be wrapped in his passionate arms, wants him in bed, in Ithaca, wants to see his sails on the horizon. All that wanting, longing and absence, yet Penelope’s vocabulary rarely mentions “home.” Only in the sixth year of wanting does the word enter Penelope’s vocabulary.

“Home” implies permanence and resolution, qualities Penelope cannot grasp because she’s stuck in a world of ever-shifting never-satisfied wants and hopes, seemingly at the mercy of gods and goddesses that have already mucked up her world. So she weaves.

Villanueva writes for readers familiar with the Odyssey, rewards their knowledge with a rich tapestry of allusions, and dramatic ironies pointing to the larger context of world literature. Penelope wonders if Odysseus has taken up with another woman, not knowing how Kirke seduced her husband on the other side of this story. Penelope wonders if Odysseus has been captured, and the reader thinks how crafty polytropos used a word game to blind the one-eyed Cyclops and escape captivity.

At their most elemental level, So Spoke Penelope speaks love poetry. Richly textured from classical literature, each piece nonetheless stands on its own. Each poem deserves to be taken for itself, read one at a time, in any order. They stay with one, these poems, long after closing the book.

So Spoke Penelope is under translation now for Spanish and French readers, and possibly Hangul. From Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad now to Tino Villanueva’s romantic exploration, after 2500 years or so, it’s good seeing Penelope coming into her own. Visit the Grolier on-line bookshop to order your copies.

Monday, November 16, 2020

In Memory of the Legendary Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones: Chicano Scholar, Activist and Poet

“Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones,” oil on canvas, Salomón Huerta (2018)

By Álvaro Huerta, Ph.D.

“Anti-Mexicanism is a form of nativism practiced by colonialists and their inheritors.”

 Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones (2017)

Tuesday, November 11, 2020—marks one of the saddest days of my life. On this day, we—the Mexican people on both sides of la frontera and our allies—lost a legend: the one and only, Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones (JGQ).

We lost one of the greatest intellectuals not only in the Americas, but also the world. The fact that JGQ was born a Mexican in el sur (Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico) and died a proud Mexican/Chicano in el norte (Los Angeles, California) in a time when the Mexican continues to be otherized, marginalized and pejoratized serves as a grim reminder of this great loss for la raza.

For over 50 years, JGQ  dedicated his life to uplift the people of the sun through his superior scholarship, dedicated mentorship, political actions and eloquent words. While his contributions are many, for the sake of space, here go a few: wrote classic books and articles on Chicana/o history, labor, politics and culture; helped establish the theoretical foundations of Chicana and Chicano studies, along with the living legend, Rodolfo "Rudy" Acuña, whom JGQ fondly admired; taught and mentored thousands of students who became leaders in their own right; supported and participated in countless political actions for social, economic and racial justice; lead co-author of El Plan de Santa Bárbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education; co-founded UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC); co-founded CSRC’s Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; NACCS (National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies) Scholar Recipient, 1990; and wrote eloquent prose — something that escapes most academics.

Did I mention that he also wrote beautiful poetry?

“My father’s land / is crossed / ribbon like / by stone fences / the wither in the sun / White stones that glisten in the sun, / Stones that ballast a sea of brown hills. / My father whip laid them, / My mother’s tribe fed them.”

—Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones, 5th and GRANDE VISTA (Poems, 1960-1973), Colección Mensaje, New York, 1973, p. 61.

One word: brilliant!

Like in the case of another brilliant Mexican in el norte, Gloria Anzaldua, JGQ provided us with a powerful voice against a racist American system that has attempted (and failed!) to erase our history. JGQ took the ashes of our once burnt history by the European colonists (and their inheritors) and created scholarly books, peer-reviewed articles, essays and eloquent poems in spaces limited to the best and the brightest Western Civilization has to offer. He has done so—and continues to do so—through his publications, speeches and memories without succumbing to fear or forgetting where he came from.

“Witness or, more particularly, the witness frames the process of social movements for change beyond a generational approach by emphasizing actors, motives, and actions in relation to a specific goals or enterprise. To witness means to know and to provide evidence.”

Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones (2020)

As I reflect on JGQ, there are no words that I can conjure to heal the immense pain that I’m feeling. I cried when I first heard the terrible news on Tuesday morning and have been struggling to maintain my East Los Angeles composure ever since. I think I lost my street cred! I’m sad because I won’t be getting random calls from JGQ at odd hours when he has something on his mind. I’m sad because I won’t be receiving mail packets of his latest manuscripts for me to review or help get published.

“No worries,” Juan, “I’ll make sure that the last two manuscripts you sent me will see the light of day!”

Given all that he has done for me, I’ve always heeded his friendly and warm requests. That’s what familia is all about.

I first met JGQ in 1985, when I started UCLA as a freshman, majoring in mathematics, from East Los Angeles—a place where JGQ also hails from. I must say that I was originally shocked to see a Chicano professor at an elite university. Since most of my K-12 teachers were White, I never knew that Chicana/o professors even existed. I was equally shocked when JGQ assigned us books written by brown scholars. Many moons later, I’m following the example of the great Chicana and Chicano authors that I read in JGQ’s classes, especially his fine works.

Speaking of historians, I’ve always wondered why history professors assign at least 5-6 books—300+ pages per book without pictures!—to read in a quarter or semester? I only read one book— John Steinbeck’s The Pearl—throughout my dysfunctional K-12 education! While JGQ practiced this norm, he made it clear to us that the study of history represents a serious subject. When he walked around North Campus at UCLA, he was always carrying several books on one hand and numerous student papers to grade on his other hand.

Constantly thinking, reading and writing, he was oblivious and impervious of his surroundings. One day, for instance while taking a small seminar on historiography with JGQ, I, along with my classmates, waited for him to teach and lead us in discussion/dialogue for about 30 minutes after class started. We then formed a posse to rescue him from his office, where we found him in a deep state of writing.

As I've said before, while JGQ was stoic, like my late Mexican father, once you scratched beneath the surface, he was a sweet and caring teddy bear. That said, during my initial encounters with JGQ, I was intimidated. Over 30 years later, I can still recall knocking on his office door on the 6th floor of  Bunche Hall, where he would gruffly say, “Yes!”

My response? “Hello, Mr. Quiñones…I mean, Professor Quiñones, I want to talk to you about my paper. I’ve never written a 10-page paper and don’t know how to start.”

Once I got to know him, I learned to announce myself. “Hello, Quiñones, this is Álvaro.  I need to ask you some questions about the readings.” Often, I would go with my fellow student activists or MEChistas, where we minored in “JGQ Studies,” just to hang out and talk about politics or sports. He wasn’t fond of small talk or chisme. Also, he rarely talked about himself or how he grew up, especially as one of the first Chicanas/os to pursue higher education when he first entered the university. He never took credit for all of his accomplishments. Instead, he would always credit the collective efforts of the committed educators, youth, activists and other agents of social change throughout the Chicana/o movement and beyond.


In terms of MEChA (
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán) at UCLA during the mid-1980s, whenever we organized a protest on campus or in the community, we could always count on JGQ for his unconditional support. For instance, when we organized a hunger strike at UCLA—one of the first, if not the first at UCLA and at any UC campus—in defense of undocumented immigrants (November 11-19, 1987), we knew that JGQ had our back. When we didn’t show up to class, he didn’t scold or hector us. He encouraged us, teaching us a key lesson that I pass on to my students and colleagues: knowledge comes from practice!

Later, when several of us, as former UCLA students, became community activists and organized Latino gardeners against the City of Los Angeles’s draconian leaf blower ban during the mid-1990s. (City penalties for Latino gardeners caught with using a leaf blower? Misdemeanor charge, $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail). To challenge this racist law, we sought help from JGQ to lobby Council Members—like Mark Ridley Thomas, Jackie Goldberg and others—who voted for the ban on December 3, 1996.

On a more personal level, when I got married to Antonia Montes—fellow MEChista, educator, activist—in 1992, I invited JGQ. To my surprise, he showed up. Since then, we became homeboys (and later colleagues), where he counseled me throughout my graduate studies at UCLA and UC Berkeley. He supported me without reservations when I was on the academic job market. Whenever I experienced racial micro-aggressions or academic hazing or pinche bullying, I never flinched since I knew that I could count on my academic homeboy, JGQ, like in the case of the late Dr. Leo Estrada

In short, JGQ was/is my professor, mentor, homeboy, fellow-activist and colleague. He taught me/us that we, as Chicanas and Chicanos, also have history—a proud history that must be taught in K-12, higher education and our communities.

“The point of learning about Indigenous past is not to relive past practices, or to propose one essentialization over another, or to be immobilized by history. The first stone to demolish the old presidio is our own consciousness.”

—Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones, Indigenous Quotient/Stalking Words: American Indian History as Future, Aztlan Libre Press, San Antonio, Texas, 2012, p. 39.

Despite our generational divide, we shared many similarities: Mexican roots; native sons of East Los Angeles; doctorates from the University of California; veteran activists; practitioners of respect and confianza (something absent in the academy); lovers of music (e.g., oldies), art (e.g., Mexican/Chicana/o art), food (anything Mexican), drink (e.g., mezcal), culture (our own) and sports (e.g., boxing); readers of poetry; educators and mentors; and, our defense of the otherized, racialized and pejoratized…

“Human issues can be resolved with humanistic solutions. Immigrants are not strangers; they are family.”

Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones (2013, foreword, p. 14)

Moving forward, while I'll humbly do my part to maintain and expand his legacy through my lectures, writings and musings, etc., I only wish that I was able to tell him in person four magic words before his passing: "I love you, Juan!”

¡Viva JGQ!

[Dr. Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor in Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University. Among other scholarly publications, he’s the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in urban planning and a B.A. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.]

[Photo and art credits: (1) First image, “Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones,” oil on canvas, Salomón Huerta (2018). (2) Second image, right: Juan Gómez-Quiñones speaking as a graduate student and member of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) at UCLA; UCLA Daily Bruin, front page (1968).]