Thursday, January 27, 2022

Chicanonautica: Chicano Science Fiction Meets The Reality Dysfunction

by Ernest Hogan

If only I had known, when the pandemic started, I would have kept a list of the things I would do that I had never done before. Seems like it’s happening all the time now. Maybe it’s better that I’m not keeping track, just jump in, do it.


Like when I found an email from Somos en escrito, asking if I would like to participate in a podcast about El Porviner, ¡Ya! Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl: A Chicano Science Fiction Anthology next Sunday. This was great, except that the message was a few days old. Leave town for a couple of days in the middle of the week, and you miss something—I’ve got to get in the habit of checking email on my phone while traveling, as well as  working on novels. I sent a yes, and they got back to me, sending me the Zoom link.


Zoom link? Was it going to be video? I thought podcasts were audio only. Just in case, I cleaned up the background area behind my computer, and put on a nice shirt when the time came.


Turns out, you can record the sound of a Zoom meeting without the visual. Which is great, because the participants can see who they’re talking to. For me, it helps, and you can feel more like you’ve “met” these folks.


In this case, I would be meeting Ernesto Mireles, PhD, an aspiring filmmaker, organizer, and part of the faculty at Prescott College, and Co-Director of their Social Justice Community Organizing Program. He started the podcast, called The Reality Dysfunction, early in the pandemic, as a way of figuring out how we’re all going to get through this thing.


Chicano science fiction and futurism turned out to be a natural for them.


We were also joined by Somos en escrito editors: Scott Duncan Fernandez and Jenny Irizary–also Armando Rendón came in late to announce that El Porvenir, ¡Ya! would be coming out around the end of the month–be on the lookout, I’ll be making a lot of noise on my blog and in the social media . . .

 

There was also Rosa Martha Villareal, another Porvenir writer, a recently retired Adjunct Professor at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California, and the author of several novels including Doctor Magdalena, The Stillness of Love and Exile, and Chronicles of Air and Dreams,and Somos en escrito columnist. She also has some very interesting ideas about time travel from a Latinoid/pre-Columbian perspective that have me rethinking a novel I’ve been thinking about writing.


In all it was a lively discussion of the current predicament, how we’re dealing with it, and teaser for El Porvenir, ¡Ya!  It’s well worth a listen.  


I think we impressed Professor Ernesto, planting a mutagenic seed in the tortured field of academia. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime.


Ernest Hogan, Father of Chicano Science Fiction, and author of High Aztech, Cortez on Jupiter, and Smoking Mirror Blues is struggling to finish his novel Zyx; Or, Bring Me the Brain of Victor Theremin.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

American Library Association Award Winners 2022


 

 

For a complete list of ALA awards and winners visit,

 

https://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2022/01/american-library-association-announces-2022-youth-media-award-winners







Pura Belpré Awards honoring Latinx writers and illustrators whose children's and young adult books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: 

 

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“¡Vamos! Let's Cross the Bridge,” illustrated by Raúl Gonzalez, is the 2022 Pura Belpré Youth Illustration Award winner. The book was written by Raúl Gonzalez and published by Versify, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

Four Belpré Youth Illustration Honor Books were named: 

 

"Boogie Boogie, Y’all," illustrated and written by C. G. Esperanza and published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

"Bright Star," illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales and published by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House.

 

"De aquí como el coquí,” illustrated and written by Nomar Perez, translated by Farah Perez and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

 

"May Your Life Be Deliciosa," illustrated by Loris Lora, written by Michael Genhart and published by Cameron Kids, an imprint of Cameron + Company, a division of ABRAMS.

 

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"The Last Cuentista,” written by Donna Barba Higuera, is the 2022 Pura Belpré Children’s Author Award winner. The book is published by Levine Querido. 

 

Three Belpré Children’s Author Honor Books were named: 

 

"Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna," written by Alda P. Dobbs and published by Sourcebooks Young Readers, an imprint of Sourcebooks Kids.

 

"Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua," written by Gloria Amescua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

 

"De aquí como el coquí,” written and illustrated by Nomar Perez, translated by Farah Perez and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

 

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"How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe,” written by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, is the Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award winner. The book is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. 

 

Three Belpré Young Adult Author Honor Book were named: 

 

"Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun," written by Jonny Garza Villa and published by Skyscape.

 

"Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet," written by Laekan Zea Kemp and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group.

 

"Where I Belong," written by Marcia Argueta Mickelson and published by Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.




 

 

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: 

 

“Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre,” written by Carole Boston Weatherford, is the King Author Book winner. The book is illustrated by Floyd Cooper and published Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 

 

Three King Author Honor Books were selected: 

 

"Home Is Not a Country," written by Safia Elhillo and published by Make Me A World, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House.

 

"Revolution in Our Time," written by Kekla Magoon and published by Candlewick Press.

 

"The People Remember," written by Ibi Zoboi, illustrated by Loveis Wise and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

 

“Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre,” illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book is written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

 

Three King Illustrator Honor Books were selected: 

 

"Nina: A Story of Nina Simone," illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Traci N. Todd and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

 

"We Wait for the Sun," illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe and published by Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.

 

"Soul Food Sunday," illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, written by Winsome Bingham and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

 

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award: "Me (Moth)," written by Amber McBride, is the Steptoe author award winner. The book is published by Feiwell and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

 

 

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award: “The Me I Choose to Be, illustrated by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt, is the Steptoe illustrator award winner. The book is written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and published by Little, Brown, and Company.

 

 

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

 

Nikki Grimes is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton. Grimes has been widely recognized for her distinguished contribution to children’s and young adult literature, winning numerous major awards. After more than 77 books, she has sealed her legacy by weaving poetry and novels in verse into an impressive body of work. Grimes currently resides in Corona, California, where she continues her powerful writing.





 

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature: 

“The Last Cuentista,” written by Donna Barba Higuera, is the 2022 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Levine Querido.

Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: 

“Red, White, and Whole,” written by Rajani LaRocca and published by Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“A Snake Falls to Earth,” written by Darcie Little Badger and published by Levine Querido.

“Too Bright to See,” written by Kyle Lukoff and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

“Watercress,” written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin and published by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House.


 

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: 

“Watercress,” illustrated by Jason Chin, is the 2022 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Andrea Wang and published by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. 

Four Caldecott Honor Books also were named: 

“Have You Ever Seen a Flower?” illustrated and written by Shawn Harris and published by Chronicle Books.

“Mel Fell,” illustrated and written by Corey R. Tabor and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre,” illustrated by Floyd Cooper, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.

“Wonder Walkers,” illustrated and written by Micha Archer and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.  

 



 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Magical Thinking Metaphorical Wall

Review: Alberto Roblest. Trans. Nicolás Kanellos. AGAINST THE WALL: STORIES. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2021. ISBN:  978-1-55885-925-8

Michael Sedano


"I found myself right in front of the door to paradise"


That's not Paradise on the other side of the wall, that's the United States, and by the stories being lived on the other side of that wall, paradise is a metaphor for a bad joke. These people are up against the wall, they have hit the wall, they're walled-in, their backs are against the wall facing all comers. The hellish lives these people live here suggests they're also walled-in.

The kind of magical thinking supposing a wall at the southern border would stop people infects these stories in a good way with their own magical flights from normalcy to carry characters into delightful, now and again, hilarious, situations.

The first story, "Blackened Obelisk" begins with puro fantasy. Imagine the Washington Monument crawling with millions of insects that fuse into a giant creature. Movie fans may envision the bugs in Starship Troopers, or Evolution's mutant conquered by Head & Shoulders shampoo. If so, the story gets all the more pizzazz.

I'm not over-reading nor over-reaching. That stuff is built into the structure of the stories. This first story about the cockroaches is broadly obvious in its connections to Oscar Acosta's Revolt of the Cockroach People, or the syndicated raza cartoon series La Cucaracha. And there's this author's message:

"Poets inspired by the happening drafted sad prayers, and only of the novelists, just the fiction writers, saw it as more than just a simple… as something else."

A hundred thirty pages later, those million golden brown cockroaches on the obelisk have become something else, the teeming masses of a big city needing "food for the poor, the thousands of little tiny creatures moving along the streets."

Subtle structural links hold the stories together so there's a continuity among them. The obelisk story ends with the image of millions of crawling critters. The next story, "We're Here and If You Get Rid of Us We'll Come Back", dedicated to Cesar Chavez, opens with the image of teeming masses emerging from hiding. The story closes with the masses returning to their shadows.

Alberto Roblest dedicates most stories to familiars and artists. Roque Dalton, Luis Buñuel, Jack Keroac, Octavio Paz, his mother and father.

The father's story recounts a sexual adventure on a random highway. The mother's story, Lost & Found, is the longest in the collection and its most well-crafted piece. In contrast, the Chavez story and Roque Dalton pieces could easily be left on the cutting room floor. Cesar's piece offers a tired rant, and the Dalton voice just feels sorry for itself. Those two, however, compared to Luis Buñuel's story, illustrate the difference between mere narrative, and story.

"Work Abandoned" for Luis Buñuel, starts off on the same vein as the two whining pieces. It's in Mexico, the wrong side of the wall. Carlos Villegas got ripped off and is moving his family across town, a victim of a corrupt real estate rip-off, to an abandoned job site. Dead-serious political outrage consumes Carlos, in Spanish he probably feels like a pendejo. When total absurdity turns Carlos' lament into slapstick comedy, it comes with a kick in the ass from Sisyphus. It's what Carlos gets for being a pendejo.

Carlos is moving a mattress up a steep hill. He stops for a breather, the wind catches his mattress and Carlos watches helplessly as his marriage bed careens back where it came from. Luckily, Carlos is not Orpheus who'd be condemned for looking back. There's a beauteous façade on the apartment house, the only finished element. It's visible only from the wall.

"Lost & Found for my mother" not only is the collection's longest story, it's its best work. Roblest and Kanellos craft a fast-moving narrative that starts uneasily enough with Ramirez, an incompetent narrator thrust into a bus depot in hell. There's a wall--a luggage cage staffed by a truculent baggage agent. Ramirez is one of many lost souls with lost baggage. There's a police riot. Ramirez is bloodied and escapes into an endless warehouse of timeless lost luggage, a place akin to Rudy Garcia's Closet of Discarded Dreams.

Ramirez starts rifling through other people's luggage. The catalog of Ramirez' discoveries suggest this could be the other end of the enormous sinkhole Jesus Treviño discovered, but Ramirez' vision of a fatal car crash suggests a connection to Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.

Trickster tales are always a hit, so one of the undedicated stories, Tonantzin, will be a highlight for most readers. Read it and dedicate it to yourself.

Translator Nicolás Kanellos has given Alberto Robles the same clean, colloquial voice to every story. Owing to that connection, the seventeen stories take on an identity a reader will recognize whether an omniscient or first-person voice is telling the story.

Blank that wall. It was magical thinking to suppose a wall along the border would be useful to any purpose than making money. There was already a wall. They built more wall. And yet, they're here. We are here, immigrants.

That pointless wall turns out not entirely useless, it makes a good metaphor for a collection of short fiction that could as readily carry a title like "life in these united states, or, take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise."



Friday, January 21, 2022

Waitress: The Musical or Theatre During Plague Time

Melinda Palacio







    

It’s been two years since I’ve seen a movie or concert indoors, thank you Ccovid. On Tuesday, I braved the crowds and the tail end of the Omicron surge to attend the musical, Waitress, at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. So many events have been canceled and I assumed that the Granada would ensure my safety by making sure everyone was vaccinated, boosted, and not sick. Masks were required at all times. I also hoped that the seats would be spaced out, but my wishful thinking was only that, wishful. I probably should have splurged and purchased the extra seat next to me if I didn’t want anyone sitting near me, guffawing and coughing behind a mask. The theater filled all of the seats from the orchestra up to balcony where I was seated. I will have to wait until Sunday to find out if Omicron got me. Although Dr. Fauci says that eventually everyone will get Covid, it’s a chance I’d rather not take. 

In hindsight, the risk of being in a crowded theater was not worth it. There’s no way to social distance when every seat has been sold or spoken for. The actors deserve a full house, but perhaps a smaller crowd is better than having to cancel the show due to the pandemic. I know I would have enjoyed the show had the theater been less crowded, but I’m more cautious than most people. The pandemic has also turned me more into a hermit than I was before the lockdowns and the restrictions. The vaccines gave me a glimmer of hope that this would all end, but not everyone was onboard with the vaccine. First there was the struggle to find a vaccine and then the struggle to inject doses in people’s arms. Summer travels and winter holidays showed us that the minute we let our guard down and gather freely with friends and family, the virus comes back with a vengeance. 

Let’s suppose that everyone in attendance was protected by a piece of cloth, the musical, regardless of my anxiety over being out and about during plague time, was wonderful and featured music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. As a fan of Sara’s singing, I wanted to see the show for that reason alone. The songs hold their own. The lead role is performed wonderfully by Jisel Soleil Ayon from Long Beach. She has also played Cosette in Les Misérables and she is nothing short of amazing in this production. If this production comes to a theatre near you and you feel comfortable stepping out during Covid, see this musical or put it on your wish list for a better time. Stay safe everyone.

 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Bart and Pearl Carrillo: As American as Anybody

Daniel Cano 

        Note: Some fight to keep our stories out of our schools. We must fight to keep them in. Dedicated to the teachers fighting the "good" fight.

                                                                               

Bart and Pearl Carrillo, smiling towards the future 

          Bart Carrillo’s father, Santos Carrillo, was born in 1899 in Moyahua, Zacatecas and came to the U.S. in 1915. "My dad went back to Mexico," Bart said, "to fight for Pancho Villa."

     In Mexico, Santos met Inez Medina, also of Moyahua, and soon after, they married and started a family. The fighting between rebel and federal forces intensified, so Santos and Inez--along with thousands of other Mexicans--decided to leave Mexico and move permanently to the U.S., joining a great wave of Mexican immigrants north.

     Santos worked in Arizona taking whatever job he could find. "My dad dug holes, worked the mines, and picked vegetables and fruit,” Bart said. "When my dad got to Sawtelle (today’s West Los Angeles), he heard they needed workers out by the Veterans Cemetery.”

     He chuckled as he told me how his dad, Santos, who spoke no English, showed up early one morning at the job site looking for work. The supervisor, probably wanting to get rid of him, asked if he could pour concrete and lay a cement sidewalk.

     "My dad didn't know the first thing about cement work. He never learned, but he needed a job."

     “Yes,” Santos answered. The supervisor handed him a trowel, and said, "Show me." The Anglo workers stopped to watch. Santos stooped down into the cement, turning the trowel different ways, figuring how it worked. He started slapping awkwardly at the wet cement. Everybody went wild with laughter. Santos got up to leave, but the supervisor called him back and hired him on the spot. Bart said, “I guess the boss figured if my dad had the guts to humiliate himself like that, he could make a good worker.”

     Santos didn't know it at the time, but he was helping lay the first sidewalks for what was to become the Westwood Village. Still, Santos’ dream was to one day be his own boss.

      Pearl Pino Carrillo, a bright smile on her face, said her father, Alejandro Pino, was born on Oct 9, 1900, in Peticato, Sonora, in northern Mexico. When he was nineteen years old, Alejandro left Mexico and moved to Arizona searching for work. There he met Carmela Arujo, the girl he’d one day marry. However, looking for better job opportunities, Alejandro moved from Arizona to L.A.’s westside, a little town known as Sawtelle.

     Pearl said that her maternal grandfather, Feliciano, worked quite a few years in Arizona for a man named A. J. Stoner. When Stoner left Arizona to open Sawtelle Lumber at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Cotner Avenue, he invited Feliciano to move his family out west and work in the lumberyard. Feliciano agreed. The family settled in, Carmela and Alejandro found each other, and rekindled their relationship, eventually marrying at St. Sebastian Church in 1922, and six years later, 1928, Pearl was born in the Sawtelle family home.

     J. Stoner went on to become an important developer in Sawtelle, and the town would name a park and street in his honor, ironically, the same street where Bart and Pearl would purchase their last home.

                                                                                       

Stoner Park, the Japanese Garden

     WWII was heating up. Bart and Pearl were dating. Just before he joined the Navy, Bart asked his dad if he would go ask Mr. Pino for Pearl’s hand in marriage. "That's how it was done in those days, an arrangement between the fathers."

     After visiting, what seemed like all day, with Pearl’s father, Bart’s dad, Santos, returned home. Bart was wild with anticipation, but his father didn't say anything. Finally, Bart, unable to control himself, asked his dad, "What happened?"

     Santos told Bart that Mr. Pino needed two weeks to think about it. Bart didn't understand. What was there to think about? Bart and Pearl had already been dating. The two families had known each other for years. Still, Bart knew better than to question adults. The two weeks seemed like months. After the second week passed, and his dad still said nothing, Bart reluctantly approached him again. 

     "Oh, yeah," his dad said, casually, "Mr. Pino said fine."

     The long delay confused Bart. It wasn’t until years later his father told him, laughing, that Pearl's dad had given his blessing the same day Santos Carrillo had asked. The two men figured they'd make the kids sweat it out a little.

     After a stint in the navy on a destroyer, the Dale, Bart returned home. He and Pearl began working at boring jobs, Bart gardening, a trade he’d learned before the Navy. Like his father, Bart couldn't see himself working for anybody else. So, he and his father went into business with a relative who lived in Tijuana. After the war, Tijuana boomed, catering to American tourists and servicemen from San Diego. The Carrillos opened a curio shop, selling souvenirs to tourists.

     Bart loved it, the bargaining, the socializing, and the feeling of being self-employed. As a Chicano who spoke English and Spanish, Bart liked haggling over prices with his fellow Yankees, who always believed they were getting the best price. Bart laughed, “My dad would give me the rock bottom price of an item, and I'd take it from there. We always made money, no matter how little we sold it for.”

     The Carrillos opened two more stores. Bart, his father, and relative were putting in a lot of hours each day, working hard to bring in the inventory and sell it as quickly as possible.

     Bart said, “But oh man, the drive from West L.A. to Tijuana was getting to be too much.”

     This was before the 405 Freeway cut through Orange County, and the drive to Tijuana along the Coast Highway could take up to five hours. “I didn’t like leaving Pearl at home alone all that time. It was a really hard time.”

     Bart said American tourists flooded the border town. The competition with other curio shops in TJ increased. Bart realized he couldn’t keep the business up for too much longer, so he talked his father into selling and taking the money and investing in a tavern in Santa Monica, an idea he’d had for some time. His dad agreed.

     The Carrillos opened Tijuanita, a tavern on Main Street and Pico Boulevard, in the heart of Santa Monica, across from the Memorial Auditorium, known for its boxing cartels. Inez and Pearl cooked. Santos and Bart brought in the customers. Pearl took care of the paperwork. After boxing matches, the Memorial Auditorium provided a constant flow hungry men and women, sometimes up until midnight and even to the early morning hours. Chicanos crammed the neighborhood. On weekends, everyone came to Ocean Park to attend the concerts and dances at the Aragon Ballroom.

     My father once said of Tijuanita, “Bart’s mom made the best menudo in town. On weekends the line was so long people couldn't even get in.”

     The young couple decided to move from West L.A. and buy a home in Santa Monica, the first of twelve Westside homes they’d come to own. It was in an Anglo area, far from her family in Sawtelle.

     Pearl said, “After we bought the house, we couldn’t even afford a refrigerator, a stove, or any furniture. I felt alone. I didn’t like the area because I felt like we were so far away from Sawtelle where all of my family and friends lived. Five miles was like a hundred in those days.”

     Bart and his father began investing in real estate, rental property. “Oh, what a headache,” Bart said. “I lost a lot if sleep during that time.”

     Rather than sell the family home in Sawtelle, Bart and his father decided to rent it, Bart recalled, “…to a gringo family.” After some months, the renters stopped sending the rent payments. “The guy just refused,” Bart said.

     Months went by and still no rent money arrived. Santos and Bart decided they couldn’t go to the police or courts. The law moved slowly. They didn't want to threaten the man and make the situation worse.

     Bart said, “The guy was always complaining about simple repairs, so we figured he wasn't very handy with tools. One night we sneaked in and disconnected the water heater. It was winter and cold. I guess, he didn't know how to reconnect the pipes, and he couldn't call us because he owed us so much money. After a few weeks of cold water, he moved out, just like that. You always had to be using your head."

     Customers crowded Tijuanita. Inez Carrillo added new foods to the menu. Always the businessman, Bart knew he had to move the restaurant to a bigger place. He wanted to stay in Santa Monica. He knew the importance of a good location. The wrong move could mean disaster.

     He found a perfect building on the eastern part of Santa Monica, on Pico Boulevard, a main street for thousands of people visiting the beaches on weekends.

     The mid-1950s…. The Bundy Theater was just up the street. Every Saturday and Sunday evening, people leaving the movies and bars filled Pico Boulevard. The Korean War was stirring. Three shifts of workers from Douglas Aircraft Co. on Ocean Park Boulevard, just blocks from Carrillo's Restaurant, guaranteed that workers packed the restaurant at all hours.

     Carrillo’s, along with Casa Escobar, began to attract customers from all over the Westside, including Brentwood and Beverly Hills. Americans had discovered tacos and enchiladas. Bart worked over-time catering to the customers’ needs, but he also anticipated a change in the area. 

     With all the wars ending, Douglas Aircraft downsized. Gone were the round-the-clock shifts. The government tore down the Bundy Theater to make way for the new Santa Monica freeway. Other Mexican restaurants set up shop along Pico Boulevard and the Westside.

     Juan Escobar had firmly established his Casa Escobar in Westwood as the Mexican choice for the more upper crust clientele--the fur coat, suit-and-tie crowd. Outdoor attendants were needed to park the luxury cars that pulled up to the restaurant doors.

     It didn’t take Bart long to recognize the lull in his business. He knew he needed to change. Assisted by his brother Carmen, a contractor, Bart remodeled the restaurant, complete with dance floor, tables, Mexican arches, and upholstered booths. Business picked up. The Westside population and income levels soared. Bart's restaurant began to cater to a solid middle-class clientele.

     The skyrocketing property values in Santa Monica and WLA began to reverberate through the Westside, and since Bart didn’t own the property where his restaurant was located, he knew, to survive, he would have to buy his own property.

     Bart found a perfect lot up the street from his restaurant, but he’d also heard the owner had already rejected numerous offers to sell. Desperate, Bart met with the owner, who also owned the Rexall Drug Store nearby. Bart explained his predicament. To Bart's surprise, the man agreed to sell. Bart's landlord became infuriated because he had already tried to buy the lot.

     This gave Bart some leverage. If the owner of the property where Carrillos was located demanded an unreasonable increase in rent, Bart would simply pull his business and build again on his own property. Bart and the landlord negotiated a new ten-year lease at a fair price. As Bart told me, “One that I could live with.”

     He said it worked out because he didn't want to invest the money and time to build a new restaurant if he didn’t have to. He also began thinking it didn’t make sense making mortgage payments on the vacant land, so he sold his lot on Pico for a decent profit to a local realtor.

     It wasn’t until later, Bart found out that McDonald’s was interested in the lot. It was to be one of the first McDonald’s on the Westside. "I had no idea how much that land was really worth," he said. "Mistakes happen, and I've made my share." He smiled at Pearl. "That was a big one.”

     The ten-year lease on his restaurant passed quickly. In the late 1970s, Westside real estate skyrocketed. His rent jumped from $700 to $6,000. He had no choice but to turn off the lights on his beloved restaurant. Though, he said, "I was getting tired of all the work and staying so late every night."

      As Bart and Pearl told me their life story, they both spoke contentedly, not that everything had been easy. They had experienced difficult, trying times as well. Still, the Carrillos considered themselves among a special group of pioneers who introduced the modern version of Mexican culture, not just food, to the Westside.

     Bart said one of the things of which he was most proud was having hired many workers, young and old, from both sides of the border, men and women of various ages and ethnic groups. Of those who came from Mexico, he encouraged and assisted in helping with citizenship or residency.  He helped them buy their first homes and send their children to school. He talked about many of his ex-employees who today own businesses. Many of their children have gone to college and entered respected professions.

     After Bart closed his restaurant, he invested in a number of smaller fast-food restaurants, which he opened in shopping centers and malls throughout the Westside and Los Angeles. Again, his businesses flourished, but by the 1990s, he realized that it was all too much an emotional and financial strain. He sold his restaurants and settled into a comfortable retirement.

      In 1998, they sold their Rancho Park home, their pride and joy.

     "We designed and built that house. We lived there for thirty-five years, and it's where we raised our children," Pearl said. She showed me photos of a two-story house, its modernist architecture reminiscent of Frank Geary's work.

     Bart said, to keep busy, he spends some hours doing gardening at one of his son’s businesses. He told me, “Right back where I started.” Pearl laughed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From




Written by Jennifer De Leon

 



Publisher: ‎ Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Language: ‎ English

Paperback: ‎ 352 pages

ISBN-10: ‎ 1534438254

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1534438255

 


“A funny, perceptive, and much-needed book telling a much-needed story.” —Celeste Ng, author of the New York Times bestseller Little Fires Everywhere

 

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

 

Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.

 

There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.

 

There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.

 

And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.

 

So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.

 

But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.

 

 

Jennifer De Leon is an author, editor, speaker, and creative writing professor who lives outside of Boston. She is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, the 2015–2016 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library, and a 2016–2017 City of Boston Artist-in-Residence. She is also the second recipient of the We Need Diverse Books grant. She is the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and Maya.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Why MLK Marched. Time Marches On Las Adelitas

Michael Sedano

 

Note: Esteban Torres, 8-time United States Congressman from California, graduated Los Angeles’ Garfield High Class of 1949. He and his friends left for Ft. Ord on graduation night. After the Army, Torres returns to ELA to lead the Chicano Moratorium.


In this excerpt from his unpublished, as-told-to-Michael Sedano autobiography, Torres recounts an incident that illustrates one reason we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


• • • •


I’d told the counselor at Garfield I knew about electricity, that I wanted him to enroll me in Aeronautics, that I didn’t want Electric Shop. He stuck me in Electric Shop anyway. I was ready to quit high school because of that, when I got a chance to convince the Aeronautics teacher to give me a seat, so I stayed in school.


Maybe that counselor saw something in me the Army discovered in its tests. After Basic, I was ordered to Ft. Belvoir, Virginia to train as an Electrician with the Combat Engineers.  Garfield did a decent job of preparing me for the Army’s electrical engineering training. Algebra, that I got to use in aeronautics class, made it easy for me to get into the electrical diagrams, to do line resistance calculations, for example. There’s a lot of technical knowledge a soldier needs, to pull wire for miles along the tops of poles, or string along ground terrain.  


Army training was a serious trade school with high expectations. When you pay attention in school, you find yourself getting good at any mental or manual skill an employer throws at you. 


I got my wish to see new parts of the country. Ft. Belvoir, Virginia sits outside Washington, D.C., in the middle of history. All that history I’d read about in books lay there before my eyes, and I was able to walk the same ground: Gettysburg; Appomattox; Andersonville.


Touring the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., history and art-loving visitors squeeze-in as many places as they can, before they have to go home. 


For me, home was just a few miles down the railroad tracks and I could do a lot of squeezing and not miss the commuter train back to the Army.


The Smithsonian and the National Mall are endlessly involving, and free. I spent days exploring a single gallery then moving over to another artist or major event.

 

I fell in love with the city’s parks and scenic avenues and took breaks from museums to walk and wander and not spend money I didn’t have. I filled daydreams thinking someday, somehow, I’d live in the Capital again. 


But everything in the nation’s capital wasn’t rosy and enriching.Virginia, and Washington, D.C., are the Deep South. The depth of racism in the South is not something a guy from East L.A. understands. Back home, Ronnie Washington and I can walk into the drug store, order a soda, and, as long as we have a nickel, the drug store serves us. 


Ronnie and I walked into a drug store, not too far from the Lincoln Memorial, and got slapped in the face by racism. Ronnie, a black soldier, couldn’t buy a soda. I was astonished and completely unprepared for the ugly face of our country.


Every Army post across the world, Sunday chow is cold cuts at noon. That’s it until breakfast Monday, so Sunday afternoon is a time for freedom. 


One Sunday, after payday, four of us decide on making a day of it in D.C. We’d take in the sights, work up an appetite, and eat at a good restaurant.


After a couple hours looking at paintings and sculpture in the National Gallery, we go outside for a long walk down the reflecting pond to the Lincoln Memorial, opposite the United States Capitol.


We decide to walk into the business district for a quick lunch. We go into the first drugstore we see. The four of us sit at the lunch counter. 


The waitress asks us what we want. I sit next to “Arky,” a guy from Arkansas. Ronnie, who was from Alabama, is on my left. When the waitress gets to Ronnie she puts down her pad and looks at him scowling like she’s done this many times. 


"You know you're not supposed to be sitting here at the counter. You know where you're supposed to be." 


Ronnie looks around where the waitress nodded with her chin. The drugstore has a separate counter, where you couldn't sit, you stood up. There was a sign.


That's where soldiers like Ronnie Washington have to eat. It’s called Segregation. Ronnie got up to move over there to the Negro Section. He knew.


Arkie knew, but two of us weren’t from around here. We looked at the waitress. 


"Why is that?" 


“Why can't he sit here?" 


She wasn’t flustered at all. She acted like we were in the wrong.


"He knows why. He knows why." 


Like all soldiers, Ronnie had felt a lump in his throat the day he stood and recited The Soldier’s Creed, the one that begins, “I am an American soldier.” It doesn’t say “Negro Soldier,” and it concludes:


“I am proud of my country and its flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent, for I am an American Soldier.”


Like all Black soldiers, Ronnie couldn’t sit with me at that lunch counter. Private First Class Ronnie Washington couldn’t order a soda and a hamburger in the capital of his own country.


The four of us left. We talked it over, decided to have dinner and call it a day. I felt defeated and disappointed, and struggled to keep my pride strong.


In a few days we’d have our Orders. Our country would send us overseas to defend that waitress and that drug store from the Communist menace that threatened our way of life.


“Pencil Me In”


The twentieth century spawned a welter of expressions that didn’t survive the next century’s technology. Case in point, “pencil me in.”

There’s nothing to pencil in when using an App. No pretty photographs to change with the month. Also, there’s no calendar when the device goes haywire. Or there’s User Error. Or you can’t find your phone!

Paper calendars to the rescue, and Edgewater, Colorado’s Las Adelitas to the rescue.

Michelle Sánchez

Las Adelitas Living the Arts programs organize to assist women healing from trauma, through the arts. Proceeds from the organization’s 2022 Las Adelitas Calendar support efforts, also, for members to embrace their professionalism through training in Mexico with Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández.

Michelle Sánchez, who’s been a Las Adelitas member since 2018, and performs in the Asuka Baile Folklorico group, is also a visual artist seeking sponsorship for herself and the group.

Buying a $25 calendar is a small contribution to Sánchez’ efforts, and a great way for you to revive that old saying, “I’ll pencil you in”.

Details contact Las Adelitas or Sánchez directly: mssanchez@asu.edu On Facebook, search for fridafighter.

https://www.lasadelitaslivingthearts.org