Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Pura Belpré Celebración 2021


The Pura Belpré Celebración took place on Sunday, June 27th, 2020, at the virtual ALA Book Award Celebration.


Here is the video of la celebración. ¡Felicidades a todos!




The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

2021 Children's Author Award Winner  

Efren Divided book cover imageEfrén Divided, written by Ernesto Cisneros and published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Efrén Divided brings us the story of twelve-year-old Efrén, whose world flips when his mother is deported to Mexico, but whose determination to reunite his family never wavers. Ernesto Cisneros’s debut novel adeptly balances hope and heart break in this timely story of undocumented individuals working to build a better life.

2021 Children's Author Honor Books

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez book cover imageThe Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, written by Adrianna Cuevas and published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

Army kid Nestor Lopez knows the drill: new deployment, new town, don't settle in, no real friends. But his new posting has a mystery: animals are disappearing and afraid (they told him themselves), and  Abuela is acting suspicious. To rescue the town, Nestor may have to break his own rules. 

Lupe Wong Won't Dance book cover imageLupe Wong Won’t Dance, written by Donna Barba Higuera and published by Levine Querido.

Lupe Wong never imagined a goofy dance could hamstring her chance to meet her pitching idol and fellow Mexinese/Chinacan, Fu Li Hernandez. But taking up the cause against square dancing in gym class proves to be more challenging, and enlightening, than this opinionated dreamer expected

2021 Youth Illustrator Award Winner

Vamos! Let's Go Eat book cover¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, illustrated and written by Raúl Gonzalez, and published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat follows Little Lobo and his pet sidekick Bernabé on a savory adventure, fetching lunch for Toro y sus amigos ahead of the Lucha Libre 5000. Each food truck stop highlights diverse and delectable cuisine, and is flavored with cultural references and a vibrant community of food vendors.


2021 Youth Illustrator Honor Books

Sharuko book cover imageSharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, written by Monica Brown, and published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc.


This bilingual biography traces the life of Julio C. Tello, from a young curious boy nicknamed “Sharuko” in Quechua, to his career as an accomplished archaeologist who elevated Peru’s indigenous history. Elements of Peruvian culture and landscape are captured in Chavarri’s splendid watercolor and gouache illustrations.

2021 Young Adult Author Award Winner

Furia cover imageFuria, written by Yamile Saied Méndez and published by Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Furia brings us a story about Camila “La Furia” Hassan, a young Argentine girl and fútbol player with monumental talent. Living in a household that considers fútbol a boys’ sport and a society fighting for gender equality, Camila goes against all odds to follow her dreams and her heart. 


2021 Young Adult Author Honor Books

Never Look Back cover imageNever Look Back, written by Lilliam Rivera and published by Bloomsbury YA.


In Never Look Back, Lilliam Rivera depicts the diverse culture of the Bronx and its people through the nascent romance of Eury and Pheus. This retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice evokes the smooth sounds of bachata, joys of Caribbean heritage, and the trauma caused by grief and loss.

We Are Not from Here cover imageWe Are Not from Here, written by Jenny Torres Sanchez and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.


We Are Not from Here is a compelling and realistic story of teenage friends, Pulga, Pequeña and Chico, forced to leave their homes in Guatemala and embark upon a dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S. hoping for safety. An eye-opening and timely read.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Guest Columnist: Time & Space

Editor: La Bloga-Tuesday continues a series of essays dealing with dementia, decline, and death. Although various kinds of dementias strike so many people with ferocity, not everyone "gets" Alzheimer's or one of the numerous kinds of cognitive diseases collectively known as "dementia."

Death is no mystery. Facing death ought not be a mystery, either. Today's Guest Columnist, Emily Devenport, shares her own final hours with her mother, and prescient final words, perhaps Mom had been there already. The "Ernie" Devenport speaks of is La Bloga's Thursday coumnist (with Daniel Cano), Ernest Hogan.  mvs

Time and Space

Emily Devenport

Thirty-six hours before she died, my mom asked me, "Do you think it's okay if I go traveling through time and space?"

I knew what she meant; I just didn't think she meant it right that minute – but she did. She had awakened bright-eyed and bushy tailed. When I asked if she wanted coffee, she said, "That's just for starters!" I suspected that was a bit ambitious. Mom hadn’t taken more than a few bites and a few sips for a while, a situation that had caused me some anxiety. When people die of extreme old age, they often can't eat or drink anything in the last days. Their bodies just can't process things anymore.

Fortunately, when she asked me that question about space and time, I had the presence of mind to say, "I don't see why not, Mom. That sounds wonderful." We chatted while I cleaned her up for the morning, and I said, "I'll fetch you a little water, and then we'll see about that coffee." 

"Okay," said Mom. "I'm going to go traveling through time and space, now." That was the last conversation we had. 

When I returned with the water, she wasn't "present" anymore. She had been checking out for longer and longer periods of time for the past year. By the time she died, she was only aware of things for about half an hour per day. When I tried to get her to drink, she clamped her jaws shut and refused. Later, the nurse told me that was an autonomic function, not a conscious refusal. 

She deteriorated rapidly, that day. I called a hospice nurse, who checked Mom's vitals and told me things were progressing normally. After the nurse left, Mom's breathing became more labored, and she sometimes had long spaces between, when she seemed to have stopped completely. I sat by her bed, wondering if I was watching her go. I told her I loved her and held her hand, despite an earlier experience we had with her about a month before she died – she had me call Ernie into the room and wanted both of us to hold her hands, and then she got this faraway look on her face. I believe she thought she was going to pass, and she wanted us there. But after a minute, she shook us loose and said, "Oh never mind." Having us hold her hands didn't help her go; it derailed the process. It reminded me of that scene in Little Big Man when Old Lodge Skins decides “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.” 

By nightfall she got quieter. We went to bed, and I wondered if she would pass in her sleep. I felt a sad relief that she was too far gone to call out to me in the middle of the night. Over the past year, Mom had often cried out in alarm at all hours. “Em!” 

Regardless of how much you love someone, your first reaction to something like that is panic. Your second reaction may be resentment, and your third, sadness. 

When I would go in to comfort her, she would demand, “Where is everybody!?” She had lost her understanding of night and day, and I always had to explain to her that Ernie and I were trying to get some sleep. She would feel bad about that, and then she would resolve to go back to sleep, but that didn’t always guarantee peace for the rest of the night. Often, I would hear her calling out in panic again, just as I was dropping off. I learned a new appreciation for the character of Elinor, who took care of her invalid mother until she died, setting her up to be especially vulnerable to the machinations of the ghosts in The Haunting. The last night of my mother’s life, she didn’t have the self-awareness to call out to me, and yes, that was a blessing.

In the morning she was still holding on, and I talked to her some more. I said, "I love you" and kissed her forehead. I came in to check on her every half hour or so, and to sit by her bedside. Looking back, she had left the world when she told me she was going—this was just her body shutting down. 

By the time Ernie got home from work, I began to wonder if I weren't making my mom's situation worse by not finding a way to get water into her. I called a nurse for an emergency visit, and she set me straight. She was the one who told me how eating and drinking shut down at the end. She gave me some sponge-pops for wetting the mouth, but when we tried one on Mom, she clenched her jaws shut on the stick. "That's automatic," the nurse assured me. "She's not upset and she's not in pain." She measured Mom's oxygen level with a monitor that goes on the finger. In a healthy person, the reading should be above 98%. Mom's was 72%. "She could go tonight," said the nurse.

We said goodbye to the nurse, who ordered us not to stay up all night. Then I wrote a group email to my sisters and brothers, telling them what was happening. Five minutes later, I checked on my mom. She was dead. She looked peaceful. She was well on her way through time and space.

The most powerful emotion I felt when Mom died was relief. I had already begun to grieve a year ago, when I saw she was starting to go, so I had plenty of time to work through it. It wasn’t so much the loss of her mental faculties that bothered me; Mom never completely lost herself, and I was able to gain appreciation for the person she became rather than obsessing over the partial loss of the person she had been. What challenged me the most was the loss of her dignity. She required adult diapers, and I was the one who changed them. Don’t underestimate how demoralizing and nauseating that task can be, though it did have its humorous moments. For instance, one morning when I was trying to shift her in bed so I could clean her up, I said, “Mom, we need to take this off.”

She began to sing, “’Take it off, take it off!’ cried the boys in the rear, ‘Take it off, take it off!’ that was all you could hear . . .” 

Because I was right there with her, I’m not burdened with guilt or regrets. Mom handled it. She decided how it should go, and I honored her wishes. She didn't feel sad or upset that people weren't flocked around her deathbed. The nurses saw beauty in her process. They were touched, and a bit awed.  That's how I felt, too.    

I think the picture I’ve posted here of my mom was taken about 15 years ago. She would have been about 85. You can see why we thought she would last forever. She kept her sense of wonder and her humor until the very last minute. In the last couple of months before she died, she had long, happy conversations with deceased friends and relatives, including her sister Katey, who grilled me, through Mom, about her care. "Who is bathing her? Who is doing the shopping?" I managed to give Katey answers that satisfied her.

Weirdly, it was the COVID crisis that gave me quality time with Mom in the last year of her life. I was furloughed from my job, and I collected enhanced unemployment payments while I stayed home with her and took care of her. It as an amazing gift. I'm not sure how I would have managed it if I had been forced to work while trying to be a full-time caretaker. I'm so grateful.

In August, Ernie and I will be scattering Mom's ashes in a couple of her favorite places in New Mexico: the Very Large Array of radio telescopes near Socorro (I think that's where she got the idea about time and space – from the film in the visitor's center, narrated by Jodie Foster) and a farm in Truchas. We've converted her room into an office, and we're planning road trips, which my mother taught me to love. I'm learning how to play her favorite music on the piano. When someone leaves a void in your life, expand into it.

100 years is a long life. I celebrate my mom.  

Monday, June 28, 2021

Playwrights' Arena presents the world premiere of my play, WAITING

By Daniel A. Olivas

In the summer of 2018, I wrote a New York Times opinion piece about my fictional response to Donald Trump’s election in the form of my 2017 dystopian short story “The Great Wall” where the President has finally constructed his long-promised southern border wall, and used the adjoining detention center to separate undocumented parents from their children. I argued that a year after creating this fictional, horrific world, my dystopian tale had essentially become a reality. In other words, for many immigrants and their children, the dystopia was here.

But it got worse. Trump flailed and sputtered—usually in late-night or early-morning Tweets—attacking anyone who opposed his policies and laying blame on others for failing to fulfill his promise to build the wall. He eventually unilaterally highjacked billions of dollars of the military budget to fund his wall. Even some Republicans were aghast at such self-help from an increasingly volatile president.

A year later, I believed that “dystopia” no longer fully described what we were witnessing. In my mind, the irrational hatred aimed at immigrants by Trump and his followers amounted to absurdity in its purest form. Merriam-Webster defines “absurd” as “having no rational or orderly relationship to human life: MEANINGLESS.” Under the Trump administration, we were certainly living in absurd times.

For over two decades, I had used fiction and poetry to depict and honor my Mexican American culture and experience all the while taking aim at the systematic bigotry my community has suffered for over two centuries in this country. But Trump took it to a new level. Don’t get me wrong: his thuggish, ignorant bigotry was nothing new. But to witness such unabashed hatred of immigrants—and anyone who looked like an immigrant—proclaimed and implemented as policy at the highest levels of our government in this day and age was flabbergasting.

So, in the summer of 2019, I was inspired to write my first play, Waiting for Godínez. Looking to Samuel Beckett’s iconic Godot play as the framing of my tale, Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, and Lucky were now embodied in my characters Jesús, Isabel, Piso, and Afortunada. In my play, Jesús is kidnapped each night by ICE and put into a cage. But the immigration agents forget to lock the cage, so Jesús escapes and makes his way back to Isabel as they wait for Godínez in a city park. It is a wholly different play, of course, but Mr. Beckett’s absurdist spirit runs through my work.

I wrote it almost in a fever—it was the literary equivalent of a primal scream. I immersed myself in Beckett’s text and watched many filmed versions of the Godot play available online. According to my journal, I started writing my play on July 23, 2019, with a working title of Waiting for Gómez. On August 3, I changed the title to Waiting for Godínez because, as I explained in my journal, it “fits better than ‘Gómez.’” The next day, I proclaimed in my notes: “Finished Waiting for Godínez!” In other words, I wrote the play in 13 days.

I then went about the business of submitting it to theatres and play competitions. I had never written a play before, and I do not have an MFA. So, I had to teach myself how to write a play and then figure out how to get someone to read it. In my research, Playwrights’ Arena looked like a potential home for what I was trying to do, so I submitted my play on August 7, 2019. The odds were stacked against me. But then remarkably, ten months later, I received an email invitation for my play to be included in Playwrights’ Arena 2020 Summer Series. I was suddenly a playwright.

That acceptance resulted in Waiting for Godínez being read on July 5, 2020, via Zoom, by professional actors and directed by Dr. Daphnie Sicre, a drama professor at Loyola Marymount University. I was bitten by the playwriting bug, and there was no turning back. I was invited the next month to submit a new draft of my play that addressed several notes made by Playwrights’ Arena’s artistic director, Jon Lawrence Rivera, and literary managers, Jaisey Bates and Zharia O’Neal. I quickly turned around a new draft and submitted it. But as I had learned from my research, there was no assurance that Playwrights’ Arena would make the commitment to fully stage my play. I was fine with that. My experience was already beyond anything I could have imagined, and I felt deeply gratified that my artistic challenge to our country’s anti-immigrant policies reached an audience, albeit a small one.

I started on a second play as part of a playwriting group sponsored by another local theatre. Then in November 2020, I received an email from Playwrights’ Arena asking for a Zoom meeting to discuss Waiting for Godínez. We were, at that point, well into the pandemic without widely available vaccines. In-person theatre was almost non-existent except for a few pandemic-friendly productions such as Playwrights’ Arena’s Garage Theatre where a small audience could watch a live play from the safety of their cars.

At the meeting, Jon gave me the wonderful news that Playwrights’ Arena wanted to produce Waiting for Godínez but I might have to wait a year or two for that to happen. Alternatively, I could rewrite it into a shorter, pandemic version—essentially trimming it by half—for a Garage Theatre-style production for the summer of 2021. After consulting with my director, Dr. Sicre, and my wife (not in that order), I decided to take on the challenge and rewrite my play for an earlier production.

The result is Waiting, which I like to call my pandemic remix of Waiting for Godínez. It is about half as long as the original, and the pandemic is now part of the storyline. In fact, the pandemic theme served an important role in helping me to trim and rewrite it into a shorter play that maintained the spirit of the original but that stood on its own as a separate and new theatrical work.

And as Playwrights’ Arena’s production of Waiting moves forward, we are still witnessing the residual violence done to immigrant families by the Trump administration. And the current administration—though eons better than the last—is still grappling with the harsh realities of a broken immigration system and the cruel politicization of the border.

Through absurdist humor, I hope that my play shines a bright light on the human rights tragedy suffered by immigrants while also humanizing that suffering. My goal is to give a voice and face to those members of our community who deserve to be respected and appreciated for their humanity. In other words, though I looked to Beckett’s absurdist theatre for inspiration, I actually do believe that there is something to be done. The alternative is too much for me to accept.


Waiting will have its world premiere on Saturday, July 24, and will run through August 15, 2021, at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039. For show times and ticket information, visit Playwrights’ Arena’s page for this play. Tickets are now available.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle Raises Up a Bit of Sky in Santa Barbara

 Melinda Palacio

Rod Rolle, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Salud Carbajal

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle is a 24th US Congressional District 2021 Woman of the Year. Congressman Salud Carbajal recognized Santa Barbara poet and activist for her work that raises awareness of diverse cultural history, especially of African-Americans in Santa Barbara and her involvement in Juneteenth Santa Barbara, among many other community activities. 

       Sojourner is no stranger to sharing poetry and culture. When she was five years old, she was invited to recite a poem she knew by heart to classes at her future school. She was then invited to recite the poem to more classes and schools, thus a life of poetry, speaking, and community service was set into place; and she hasn’t stopped using her voice since her childhood in Marion, North Carolina. 

       She arrived in Santa Barbara in 1985, during what was supposed to be a one year stint while her husband, photographer and musician Rod Rolle, finished his studies at Brooks Institute of Photography. Within days, she was introduced to a vibrant African-American community in Santa Barbara and participated in the city’s Martin Luther King parade. Someone took her picture from the middle of the crowd and she somehow found herself front and center of the city’s newspaper. She’s been in the public eye ever since. The affluent city known as the Riviera of the Central Coast is that much richer for Sojourner Kincaid Rolle’s presence in the community. 

Sojourner continues her educational work and finds she cannot escape notice thanks to her dedication to the community. She has brought poetry to underserved schools and has helped establish the Santa Barbara Poet Laureateship, of which she served as Poet Laureate for two years in 2015. She's a playwright, environmental activist and peace educator. In addition to the Congressional Record and receiving  a Congressional pin, Sojourner has received an Arts and Culture award from Juneteenth SB, and a Vision Award from Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Her books several chapbooks and the full-length poetry collections Common Ancestry and Black Street

Up next for the decorated poet is her upcoming children’s book, Free At Last, a Juneteenth Poem (Sterling Books May 2022) with illustrations by Alex Bostic. The book is based on Sojourner’s Juneteenth poem that went global last year, prompting readings of the poem all over the world and including a short film. Of the notoriety her poem has received, she says: “I feel like I am raising up the sky and helping to educate the world about Juneteenth.” 

    Next year will certainly be exciting for Sojourner Kincaid Rolle with the release of her book and Juneteenth being a national holiday.  

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Great Eastern Wall

Beautifying the wall, just above Taos, NM

     Truly enlightened New Westerners, both liberal and conservative, once they cut through all the national political crap, agreed the New West had come to its senses when it decided to build a border wall, not on its southern border, as most Americans assumed, but at the eastern border, separating the region, physically and existentially, from the rest the country, including Texas, which New Westerners agreed was better aligned with the Deep South, sacrificing so many lambs to the wolves. 
      After a decade of studies by major government agencies, international corporations, major research universities, NGOs, and environmental think tanks, it became clear the west’s problems, from crime to  housing crises, unemployment, mass gentrification, and congestion were caused by the multitudes of out-of-state migrants arriving daily, the uptick during times like January 1, after the Rose Parade festivities, when the entire country froze but watched, from the televisions, as New Westerner basked in seventy-five degree temperature. 
      The New West, as they dubbed the region, taking a hint from the New England states, militarized its borders, turning away those out-of-state residents who failed to meet the residency requirement. 
     When outsider couldn’t gain legal entry, they breeched the border in makeshift boats crossing the Colorado River, trekking through New Mexico’s deserts, and taking blue highways over Colorado, Washington, and Utah's dangerous mountain passes, like in the Rocky’s (or Rockies, depending on one's spelling), to the chagrin of New Westerners, who’d had it with migrants usurping the most coveted spaces, like Pagosa Springs, CO, Raton, NM, Flagstaff, AZ, and the picturesque towns along California's Highway 49, all the way to the Canadian border.
     New Western ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists complained about the uncontrolled masses of migrants illegally storming the western border, some dying in desolate locations for lack of food or water, reminiscent of the famed Donner party of the 1800s, a real humanitarian disaster. 
The wall's early prototypes, reminiscent of Inca construction

     It was at this point, the western states stopped the political debates and voted to create a wall across the most traversable areas. Arizona was indignant--and divided, some wanting noting to do with a border wall, while others saw the benefits. Minor skirmishes started in Peoria, just outside Phoenix, and moved to Buckeye, where rebel forces, mostly overweight guys dressed in an assortment of unmatched military clothing and brandishing automatic weapons, tried suppressing the vote, but were subdued in Douglas, by superior New West resistance forces. After a brief battle in Old Tombstone, the rebels called it quits, the 124-degree heat-wave too much for them. 
      Besides, many Arizonans had such shallow roots in the state, they weren’t willing to die for the cause. Also, the Californians who had migrated to Arizona in the past thirty-years, especially the areas around Tempe and Tucson, both university towns, used their money and influence to sway political power. Ultimately, the Arizona rebels headed east, back to the “wet” states from where they’d come, originally, states like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Vermont, Maryland, and New Hampshire, where doctors, in the early 1900s, had advised their asthmatic ancestors the western air and sun would do wonders for the respiratory systems.
      Initially, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Utah saw the wisdom in the creation of the "New West,” a region where the relaxed, kick-back vibe had always been ingrained in the culture, where men once wore socks with their shoes and dress-shirts under their blazers, not colorful t-shirts. 
     The New Westerners wanted to get back to their “work hard but rest harder,” “drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll,” culture, so tired were they of the Calvinist, “All work no play keeps the devil away,” and “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” beliefs, anathema to true westerners, even those who'd migrated from the East and Mid-West as far back as the 1800s, looking for "wide-open spaces," as the Dixie Chicks so appropriately sang, and even hippies, in the 1960s, travelled, to be "find themselves," and for the plentitude of the magic weed, and, of course, to avoid the draft. They were all "cool" and adopted western ways. 
      Up in Utah, the Mormons were split, referencing the song, "Should I Stay of Should I Go, but they knew the great earning power of the country was in the west, and seeing as hundreds, if not thousands of Mormon Temples already dotted the western landscape, the church fathers saw prime ground for recruiting, especially among the new Latin American and Asian immigrants working low-wage jobs. Besides, Mormons had been in the west so long, they had adopted western ways, a true “chill” attitude. 
      The clincher, though, was the uproar at BYU and University of Utah, two powerhouse higher education institutions in the state. Utah argued it had taken so long to become part of the Pac-12 Athletic Conference, competing with the likes of Stanford, UCLA, Washington, USC, Oregon, and Cal, it didn’t want to jeopardize its television rights and lose billions in revenue. Eventually, BYU agreed, as long as nobody challenged its right to remain Independent, not beholden to any conference, and, maybe, when the time was right, it too could join the Pac-12, which would then make it the Pac-13, and cash in on television rights.  
      Like the angry Arizonan rebels who turned tail and headed east, the reactionary Mormons packed-up and fled to places like Grand Rapids, Fargo, Billings, Des Moines, Lincoln, and Manchester, NY, where Joseph Smith had his first vision in the Sacred Grove in 1816, their true religious and cultural roots. 
     Actually, a flicker of awareness had begun when Boyle Heights Chicanos in the early 1990s lobbied the Los Angeles City Council and Board of Supervisors to change Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar Chavez, and again in 2020, when East L.A. Chicano protesters, bolstered by supporters from as far away as New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, amassed thousands to stop Eastern Yuppies from gentrifying the barrio, fearing it would end up like Echo Park, Highland Park, and Silverlake, then move on to gentrifying old, cool neighborhoods across the west. 
 Photos of the wall at Tepatitlan as an example of simple construction

      Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and states farther east, lobbied Washington to send in troops, first to stop the creation of a “new west,” then to stop the construction of the border wall, but seeing nothing in the Declaration of Independence prohibited states from unifying or building border walls, the New West had every right to proceed. 
      Besides, precedent had been set in the 1930s when western states, using armed guards, secured their borders, prohibiting Okies and Arkies from entering the western states. Really, Uncle Sam was cool with unification as long as the individual states kept their legislatures separate. Besides, no way did the feds want regional internecine war. 
      Furious, most die-hard rebels who opposed the wall said the New West would fail, spreading on social media sayings like, “No man is an island” and “It takes a village,” and demonizing the region as backwards, lazy, and sneaky, which pissed off some of the more conservative farmers and ranchers who saw themselves and their employees as hardworking as anybody. 
      Some rebels protested at the capitol in Washington, D.C., even bringing weapons, but realized they were outmanned and outgunned when the National Guard and contingents of the 82nd Airborne confronted them, the federal government having learned a lesson from the great insurrection of the capitol way back on January 6, 2021. 
      Many states thought it wrong the New West could regulate its borders, allowing residency only to those who met their requirements, which, once you understood the political jargon, was mainly to have a job, a savings, housing, to mind your own business, obey the laws, and be “cool,” avoiding the angst inherent in many East Coasters, explicit in Woody Allen’s movies, the music of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, not to mention the Ramones, all nervous wrecks. 
      The Wall did cause Hollywood some concern, since so many of its big stars migrated west, like George Clooney and Johnny Depp, both Kentuckians, Brad Pitt, a Springfield, MO. boy, and Alabama’s, Courtney Cox. Even in the Latino community, people feared Floridian Pitt Bull, and New Yorkers Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, might be nixed, but seeing as they'd they purchased homes in the west and claimed residency, years ago, they were admitted.  
      The New West wasn’t worried about its economy, not with the names of the world's richest people and corporations in residence, including the most sophisticated aerospace and weapons manufacturers, the largest naval ports, Marine and Navy bases, Air Force bases and Army posts, a host of nuclear arms sites, names like Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Vandenburg and Point Hueneme. 
     The New West boasted the mighty technology, agriculture, and energy sectors, so it held a lot of leverage over Washington. One California senator was heard to have stated, “We don’t need to fire a shot if attacked. We can cripple the country--no, the world, with a bank of computers and a few geeks from Silicon Valley.” 
Many natural boundaries were uncovered during the wall's construction 

      As the wall moved to completion, the New West continued sending more tax dollars to the nation’s capital than any other state or region in the union, especially since approximately 25 million of its residents had no legal federal documents, yet were still required to pay federal taxes and couldn’t claim tax refunds, so billions of dollars in surplus funds created a real bonus for the feds and citizens of the U.S., as well as giving the New West a boost in low-wage employees to work the vast amount of jobs westerners felt beneath them. 
     This was a great embarrassment to states like the Dakotas, New England, and the South, who sent practically nothing to D.C., considering their states had barely between 300,000 and a couple of million residents, yet they got their two-senator representation in Washington, the same as each New West state, California, alone, boasting nearly 40 million people. One Washington State senator who pushed for more federal representation claimed,, "Hell, man, you can drop the entire state of Montana into Imperial County."
      Major corporations, which supported the New West from the beginning, bragged how California, alone, had the 5th largest economy in the world, stronger than Russia’s, but not quite a vast as Brazil’s, but together, the New West was number one, so the region didn’t fret about its entrepreneurial power or its vast resources, and claimed it had every right to protect its border from, what they called, “Culture busters, out from east of the Rockies. 
      Ultimately, traditional New West Republicans and Democrats joined forces, stopped listening to all attacks from cable news and political provocateurs, and realized the culture they embraced had been under assault for decades, and not from Latino migrants, people who stayed to themselves and had little to no political power, and after a generation or two, blended nicely into the rest of the population. 
     It was a matter of saving the West's cultural values, a fusion of music, foods, clothes, and behaviors going back to the late 1800s, when mostly Indians, Spanish, Mexicans, Chinese, Irish, and Italians fused a new culture, wide-open, kick-back and “cool.” 
Satellite photo of author shows how high tech assists in border security

      The architects and engineers who designed the new border wall decided to take a page from the Intercontinental Railway that started at two opposite geographic poles, east to west, and met at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. So, beginning in the north at Kaniksu National Park, on the Canada B.C. border and at Hobbs, N.M. in the south, the workers, mostly Mexican, Central Americans, and the unhoused from the cleared-out camps who were offered residency if they worked on the wall, would meet at Salt Lake City, where the Mormons lobbied to host the historic moment, a reward, of sorts, for staying loyal to the New West. 
      So many high mountain ranges, like the Rockies, and impassible deserts, created a natural barrier, so the border wall wasn’t as expensive or difficult to build as the old, ineffective U.S.-Mexico wall, which lay in ruins, some place west of Otay Mesa, in California. Secret high tech security centers monitor areas where the wall was impossible to build.
      The New West courted all Baja, the Sea of Cortez, and large stretches of Sonora, from Agua Prieta to the beautiful beaches of Guymas, and even opened its southern borders, as the federal government looked the other way. A strange thing happened. 
     New Westerners began settling in Mexico's border states, with Mexican government's permission, starting businesses and buying vacation homes on the San Quintin bluff, just south of the Bufadora in Ensenada. Mexicans flooded U.S. border businesses, and vice-versa, adding to the economy of every New Western state, boosting trade from Loretto to the Canadian border. 
     True, Mexicans and Central Americans poured across the border, but they replaced jobs abandoned by the millions of their brethren who had saved up money working in the New West, taken their earnings and returned to their countries to retire, infusing lackluster economies, causing something of a boom, creating jobs, and keeping many people home, instead of having to make the dangerous journey north, La Bestia becoming a thing of the past. 
      The New West revealed to the rest of the country, the money to build the wall had all come from private investors who believed states east of Rockies (surely east of the Great Divide) were a drain on New West economies, which had already shifted from fossil fuel to renewable energy, created salt-water treatment plants, fast rail systems across the region, public transportation, and cleared the freeways, air and water, ironically, led by California auto manufacturers and energy corporations who took the lead from the Asian auto industry. 
     Refineries in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana cried “foul!” Already, they were fragging more violently and slanting wider and deeper, to no avail. Secretly, out of desperation, the big American oil companies created a scandal when it was learned they'd been illegally bringing in low-grade Mexican crude, stolen by "huachileros", and driven across the border to small refineries from Brownsville to Matamoros, and shipped in-land from there. 
      In the New West, the pandemic of 2021 had been a godsend. It proved companies profited more by allowing employees a hybrid schedule, part at home, part in the office, selling off unnecessary, underutilized facilities and using fewer utilities. They turned the buildings over to public educators who built charter schools and public universities, creating an educational watershed for everyone. 
     Companies offered employees six-month paternity leave, a four-day work week, automatic 30-day vacation a year, free healthcare and education, all the way to a B.A., but only if students worked one year of hard labor after high school graduation. 
      The only problem was when the announcement of these benefits reached the ears of outsiders across the country, it caused a mass exodus west, a whole new take on the Gold Rush and “Go west, young man, go west,” and just as the new wall was passing Provo, on its way to completion in Salt Lake City.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

New Voices And New Visions Awards



For more information visit,

From Lee & Low Books:

Lee & Low Books offers two annual writing contests that encourage writers of color and Native/Indigenous writers to submit their manuscripts to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Winners of each contest receive a cash prize of $2,000 and a standard publishing contract with Lee & Low Books. Honor Award winners receive a cash prize of $1,000.



New Voices Award - Picture Book Manuscripts


Established in 2000, the New Voices Award is given annually to an unpublished author of color or Native/Indigenous author for a picture book manuscript. Previous winners include award-winning titles such as As Fast As Words Could Fly, Juna's Jar, It Jes' Happened, and Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds.


Manuscripts may be FICTION, NON-FICTION, or POETRY for children ages 5-12. Manuscripts should address the needs of children of color or native children by providing stories they can identify with and which promote greater understanding of one another. Themes relating to non-traditional family structures, gender identity, or disabilities are also of interest.


Eligibility: Contestants must meet all of the following criteria to be considered:


• Self-identify as a person of color or a Native/indigenous person.

• Be at least 18 years old at the time of entry.

• Be a resident of the United States.

• Not have had a children's picture book published.

Submission Period: May 1, 2021 - July 31, 2021



New Visions Award - Middle Grade/Young Adult Manuscripts


Established in 2012, the New Visions Award is given annually to an unpublished author of color or Native/Indigenous author for a middle grade or young adult manuscript. Previous winners include the award-winning Ink and Ashes, Ahimsa and Rebel Seoul.


Manuscripts may be novels or graphic novels in any fictional genre for children ages 8 to 12 or young adults ages 12 to 18. Manuscripts should address the needs of children and teens of color by providing stories the can identify with and which promote greater understanding of one another. Themes relating to LGBTQ+ topics or disabilities may also be included.


Eligibility: Contestants must meet all of the following criteria to be considered:


• Self-identify as a person of color or a Native/indigenous person.

• Be at least 18 years old at the time of entry.

• Be a resident of the United States.

• Not have had a middle grade or young adult novel published.

Submission Period: May 1, 2021 - July 31, 2021



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Guest Columnist Ricardo Muñoz: Collecting Chicanarte. In Memoriam: Serge Hernandez

Editor:"What is Chicano Art?" A question akin to answering, "What is Chicano Literature?" Clear your throat, rare back, and don't say anything. Let the art do the talking. 

Arte becomes in the eye of the Collector. Definition by acquisition. Not because the Collector says so, but because the Arte says so. A work calls out "here I am, Chicano Art!" and the Collector buys it. Sometimes, they don't see it first. No ratiocination other than checkbook logic.

What is Chicana Chicano Art? The stuff on the walls of this particular collection is some of it. In upcoming columns, La Bloga explores the genre of arte and collecting. We welcome Guests with their own collections and views of what they're doing.

La Bloga-Tuesday's Guest Columnist, Ricardo Muñoz, stands out, among the small population of raza Fine Art collectors specializing in Chicanarte, for his support of Los Angeles artists and venerable Avenue 50 Studio. 

La Bloga welcomes Ricardo with appreciation for his collection, and this reflection on art, taste, cultura, aesthetic motivation. Unspoken in the essay, gente: Galleries are opening and soon you will be standing in front of a compelling work of arte. Buy it. 
michael sedano 

Essay On My Attraction To Art Collecting

Ricardo Muñoz

I can't specifically recall when I first purchased a work of fine art.  

I do recall obtaining one or two art works in exchange for duplicate wedding gifts made at a wedding gift exchange store.  One was a seascape and we may still have it somewhere in our storeroom. 

Having taken courses in Art History and Art Appreciation at UCLA, I acquired a bit of academic knowledge about European art.  My parents had art books purchased to expose us at home to great works of art.  I was drawn to many of the images and they left a lasting impression.  In my youth, I regularly visited the Los Angeles County Art Museum, then at Exposition Park.  

On trips to Mexico, during my late teens and early twenties, I got a good exposure to modern Mexican Art by visiting museums and observing a large number of public art works.

Thinking about what has motivated me to become a fine art collector has led me to think about my self-identity and personal philosophy.  

I believe my personal philosophy of existentialism has been the principal motivating force that has led me to collect fine art works. 

One concept of existentialist philosophy that drives my motivation is the sense of profound loneliness that is held by each individual (Siamese twins may be an exception).  This loneliness exists  because each person has an individual consciousness.  Each person has their own individual existence. We can't totally know all about another being's life.  

This means no one can fully comprehend you, nor me.  Most of us beings, including myself, try to know, comprehend and understand others, especially those closest to us. 

My wife,Terry (Maria Teresa), has shared in the decision making on many of the works we purchased for our collection.  We have hosted a number of silent art auction fundraisers and Terry so much liked many of the works that were hung on our walls for these events.  These events have significantly increased her interest in collecting fine art.    

Having this existentialist outlook drives my interest in fine art, for in it I find a form of communication of existential messages that the artist has created to relate something about the artist's own sense of their being.  

Expressionism is the style of art that attracts me most, for in it dramatic feelings and emotions are what the artist seeks to communicate.  

When the artist is successful, the observer of the work will be drawn deeply into the theme.  The artist will impart through the image a message that transcends the artist's separateness from observers.  Of course individual observers may find messages that differ among themselves.

The works that I have collected have touched me in some way and most have been the product of artists whom I have known personally.  A substantial number are the works of artists whom I have befriended.

My eldest daughter, who attended the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts for  three years, followed by four more years studying visual art at Cooper Union, has left many of  her works with us for safe keeping.  Of course, my daughter Brigida's works are ones that belong to her, for they have never been purchased.  They are most special to me for they are images she produced and are existential messages from within her being, giving glimpses into her conscience.  One of her works that is most intriguing is the eye which she produced while at LACHSA.  She has never put a name on this work but I consider it an "Existential Eye".

Among the works in our collection are ones that have strong existential images.  Andres Montoya, in many of his works, conveys the theme of isolation and estrangement.  In a work entitled "Waiting", he paints a scene of a solitary man standing on the street waiting for someone.  Montoya told me the narrative is derived from a film about a man who goes off to war, but before leaving he and his girl make a pact to meet up after the war ends at the location where the man in the painting is waiting.

A painting by Carlos Bueno, from his the series "Virgenes de la Media Noche", is an image of desolation.  A middle aged prostitute sits at a table with her elbows on the table holding her head with her hands and possibly weeping.

Kathy Gallegos renders a pastel  image of an accordion player with his eyes closed, apparently playing with deep feeling and emotion.  In this image of the accordionist one senses that he has a passion for music and performing it. For an existentialist finding a passion is an ultimate goal.

Ramses Noriega paints a religious-themed mixed media watercolor entitled "Cristo Man of Hope" that raises the issue of humanity's quest for salvation. 

I have experienced a great amount of emotional lift from having these works of art displayed in our home since they are constantly in view.  They draw me into thinking about what message the artist either consciously, or subconsciously, produced.

One of the most recent acquisitions is the commissioned painting by Eloy Torres which he has not entitled but I call it "La Abuela Manuela con Maria Estela".  

The subject of this portrait comes from a photograph I took of  my mother-in-law, Manuela Martinez, who is holding on her lap, my daughter, Maria Estela, who at the time was one year old.  

One of my uncles, Rodolfo Urias, wanted to paint this portrait using the photograph, but he became ill and was unable to do it.  I became familiar with Eloy and we became friends through Carlos Guitarlos who knew Eloy from back in the 1980s, when Eloy was a guitarist and singer with a new wave band called "The Rent" or something like that.  

Eloy still devotes some time to music and song writing.  I became more familiar with Eloy and his art and he paints photo-realist works as did  my Uncle Rodolfo.  Last year at one of the art events I had a conversation with Margaret, Eloy's wife, and she told me Eloy had lost out on a job opportunity and he was in need of some work.  Later I decided to ask Eloy if he would be interested in doing the portrait that Uncle Rodolfo never started on.  He decided to do it.  

This is one work that Terry and I acquired sight unseen since it still had to be produced.  It turned out great.  

The portrait in the painting closely resembles the photograph but the background sky and mountain vista is Eloy's creation.  He put a great deal of thought in deciding what background to paint.  Eloy's rendering seems so alive to me and takes me back in time to when my daughter was one year old and my mother-in-law was living and in relative good health.

With the growing interest I have in fine art I expect to go on collecting more works and experiencing the feelings and thoughts one gets from the images produced by gifted artists.  

Through my participation as a Board Member of the Avenue 50 Studio I meet many artists whose works I admire.  Many of these artists are not yet represented in our collection, so we look forward to including the works of more artists, each with their distinct images and messages.