Monday, January 31, 2022

Presentación del artículo “Modalidades del Ecofeminismo en la poesía de Xánath Caraza” por Justine Temeyissa Patalé

 Presentación del artículo “Modalidades del Ecofeminismo en la poesía de Xánath Caraza” por Justine Temeyissa Patalé


          “Modalidades del Ecofeminismo en la poesía de Xánath Caraza” (pp. 237-252) en Ecología y medioambiente en la literatura y la cultura hispánicas, Numero 12 de la colección “Peregrina” del Instituto de estudios Auriseculares (IDEA) en New York (Estados Unidos), editado por Ignacio D. Arellano-Torres y Mariela Insúa. “Esta colección de aproximaciones pretende ser, desde su parcialidad, una invitación a la reflexión estético-literaria, pero sobre todo medioambiental, acerca de esta nuestra casa común que vive tiempos tan convulsos.”


          “El Ecofeminismo es una corriente de pensamiento ambientalista de corte feminista, reflexiona sobre los problemas medioambientales pero desde una perspectiva y categoría femenina poniendo de relieve la problemática del género y del medioambiente… El presente artículo, titulado «Modalidades del Ecofeminismo en la

Poesía de Xánath Caraza», nos lleva a plantearnos las siguientes preguntas: ¿Cuáles son las diferentes manifestaciones textuales del feminismo ecológico en los poemarios de Caraza? ¿Cuál es la particularidad de la poesía feminista de la autora? ¿Cuál es el lazo que existe entre la conciencia medioambiental y la estética literaria?...


          Xánath Caraza es una poeta mexicoamericana. Es una de las figuras más representativas de la poesía chicana…se distingue por sus producciones que siempre ponen de relieve la cultura…y el paisaje mexicano. La poeta utiliza deícticos pronominales y desinencias verbales que se refieren a ella misma en un diálogo entre un yo lírico y la naturaleza. El Ecofeminismo en el discurso literarios pasa por diversos temas… utilizando la temática de la inmigración, la poeta presenta una comunicación profunda con los espíritus…ella describe minuciosamente, con un léxico medioambiental todos los lugares visitados…


… Madre tierra,

abre tus brazos,


recíbeme en este

huir sin rumbo.


Conecta mis raíces a la tierra.

Dame tregua, naturaleza…

(Caraza, 2019, p. 22, vv. 24-32)”



Justine Temeyissa Patalé es una doctoranda en Estudios hispánicos en la universidad de Maroua (Camerún). Su investigación de tesis es sobre la perspectiva ecocrítica en el Ecofeminismo y la literatura chicana. Actualmente es becaria en la Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (España). Es también docente de la enseñanza secundaria en Camerún.  


Extracto del poema “Raíces” incluido en Balamkú (Caraza, 2019)”


Friday, January 28, 2022

Saving History

We are often told that we should preserve history, that if we don't tell our stories they will be lost and forgotten, especially for marginalized communities.  Here are a few examples of recent literary attempts to shed a bit of light on tales that otherwise might languish in darkness. Each one is unique, but whether mundane, inspirational, or epic, they help to plug gaps in what we know about identity, culture, history, and, ultimately, ourselves.


In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage
Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

Henry Holt and Co. - February 1

[from the publisher]
Endless ice. Thin air. The threat of dropping into nothingness thousands of feet below. This is the climb Silvia Vasquez-Lavado braves in her page-turning, pulse-raising memoir following her journey to Mount Everest.

A Latina hero in the elite macho tech world of Silicon Valley, privately, she was hanging by a thread. Deep in the throes of alcoholism, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing the abuse she’d suffered as a child, she started climbing. Something about the brute force required for the ascent— the risk and spirit and sheer size of the mountains and death’s close proximity—woke her up. She then took her biggest pain as a survivor to the biggest mountain: Everest.

“The Mother of the World,” as it’s known in Nepal, allows few to reach her summit, but Silvia didn’t go alone. She gathered a group of young female survivors and led them to base camp alongside her. It was never easy. At times hair-raising, nerve-racking, and always challenging, Silvia remembers the acute anxiety of leading a group of novice climbers to Everest’s base, all the while coping with her own nerves of summiting. But, there were also moments of peace, joy, and healing with the strength of her fellow survivors and community propelling her forward.

In the Shadow of the Mountain is a remarkable story of heroism, one which awakens in all of us a lust for adventure, an appetite for risk, and faith in our own resilience.

Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a humanitarian, mountaineer, explorer, social entrepreneur, and technologist living in San Francisco. In 2014, she launched Courageous Girls, a nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking with opportunities to find inner strength and cultivate their voices by demonstrating their physical strength. Courageous Girls has had projects in Nepal, India, the United States, and Peru. Vasquez-Lavado was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the Corporate Heroes of 2015. CNET named her one of the 20 Most Influential Latinos in Silicon Valley. She has also been recognized by the Peruvian government as one of the “Marca Peru” ambassadors (country brand ambassadors). She is a member of the Explorers Club and one of the few women in the world to complete the Seven Summits.


Stepmotherland: Poems
Darrel Alejandro Holnes

Notre Dame Press - February 1

[from the publisher]
Winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Stepmotherland, Darrel Alejandro Holnes’s first full-length collection, is filled with poems that chronicle and question identity, family, and allegiance. This Central American love song is in constant motion as it takes us on a lyrical and sometimes narrative journey from Panamá to the USA and beyond. The driving force behind Holnes’s work is a pursuit for a new home, and as he searches, he takes the reader on a wild ride through the most pressing political issues of our time and the most intimate and transformative personal experiences of his life. Exploring a complex range of emotions, this collection is a celebration of the discovery of America, the discovery of self, and the ways they may be one and the same.

Holnes’s poems experiment with macaronic language, literary forms, and prosody. In their inventiveness, they create a new tradition that blurs the borders between poetry, visual art, and dramatic text. The new legacy he creates is one with significant reverence for the past, which informs a central desire of immigrants and native-born citizens alike: the desire for a better life. Stepmotherland documents an artist’s evolution into manhood and heralds the arrival of a stunning new poetic voice.

Darrel Alejandro Holnes is an Afro-Panamanian American writer and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing (Poetry). His poems have previously appeared in the American Poetry Review, Poetry, Callaloo, Best American Experimental Writing, and elsewhere. Holnes is a Cave Canem and CantoMundo fellow who has earned scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Postgraduate Writers Conference at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and residencies nationwide, including a residency at MacDowell. His poem Praise Song for My Mutilated World won the C. P. Cavafy Poetry Prize from Poetry International. He is an assistant professor of English at Medgar Evers College, a senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he teaches creative writing and playwriting, and a faculty member of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.


"...Not Bad for a South Texas Boy"
Federico Peña
- October 2021

[from the author/publisher]
The title, Not Bad for a South Texas Boy, comes from a note penned by Federico Peña's college English professor. While first read as encouraging, it took years to understand the nuanced message of low expectations for one of the University of Texas' few students of color. From modest beginnings in South Texas, through perseverance, Peña would earn a law degree; fight for social justice as a civil rights attorney; serve as a Colorado Legislator and Denver's Mayor; and become our nation's Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy.

Describing a challenging life journey from the small border town of Brownsville, Peña details his transformation from his original dream of practicing conventional law, to a passion for fighting for the underserved. He discovers a rekindled hope in America by lobbying for education reforms in Colorado and then serendipitously becomes a state legislator. Surprising political pundits, he is elected as Mayor of Denver where he blazes through a calamitous recession, builds a new international airport and modern convention center. He invests in neighborhoods, preserves historic buildings, and brings major league baseball to Colorado.

As Transportation Secretary, he helps restore Los Angeles from its 1994 devastating earthquake, introduces new transportation safety standards and technological advances, and supports significant infrastructure investments. As Energy Secretary, he fashions a national energy policy, invests in clean energy technologies, and travels the world fighting for America's interests. He becomes the first Latino to lead two federal departments in our nation's capital.

Today, Peña, a successful businessman, remains engaged in local, national and civic affairs and is highly sought for advice and leadership.

Peña aims to inspire Americans who have lost faith in our country through his life's challenges and his regained optimism for America. He provides guidance for our nation's leaders with long-term strategies for the 21st Century.

Ultimately, he believes that if a boy from South Texas can make a can you.


our sacred community
North High School Students - December, 2021

[from news reports about this project]
A look at North Denver through the eyes of the students growing up there. Students in North High School's Latinos in Action class created a photography and poetry book inspired by the pride, pain, and perseverance of their community.

[from the Dedication]
This book is dedicated to all the Latinx people in our community who feel the same pain and experiences we do. This book is also dedicated to the past and current families of North Denver, including Anna Hernández, who are impacted by gentrification and white appropriation.  These photos are meant to show appreciation of an old authentic Northside that we, as students, choose to remember and preserve.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. His latest novel is Angels in the Wind.

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,

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




“¡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.




"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.




"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.