Monday, October 31, 2022

Here comes the Texas Book Festival!

The 27th annual Texas Book Festival Weekend will take place on November 5 and 6 in and around the State Capitol in downtown Austin. The Festival Weekend is FREE and open to the public, featuring nearly 300 authors of the year’s best books across all ages and genres.


Saturday, November 5, 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, November 6, 11 am – 5 pm

Note: Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday, November 5 at 2 am. Turn back your clocks one hour on Saturday night.


Downtown Austin in and around the State Capitol.


You may access the complete events schedule at this link. For more information such as parking, event locations (including maps), volunteer opportunities, book signings, and more, visit this link.

I am delighted to be a guest author at this year’s Texas Book Festival to read from and discuss my latest book, How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories. If you’re attending, I’d love to see you at my panel, “Ghosts, Scorpion Women, and Scrawny Chicken Gods: Genre-Defying Fiction and Poetry,” 1:45 pm - 2:30 pm, Sunday, November 6, in the Capitol Extension Room E2.014, 1100 Congress Avenue. My co-panelists will be Adam Soto (author of Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep) and Leticia Urieta (author of Las Criaturas). Our moderator will be Christina Miranda, literature section editor for Latinx Spaces.

See you in Austin!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Outgrowing the Myth


After the war, outgrowing the myth

     In the opening of Luis Valdez’s play Zoot Suit, the narrator, “El Pachuco,” says, in a near invocation of the pachuco spirit, “It was the secret fantasy of every vato to put on the zoot suit and play the myth.”

     The words might be nothing more than dramatic hyperbole meant to capture a feeling or exaggerate the spirit to help the audience understand a past era. The narrator does use the past tense “was,” so is he talking about “vatos” in the early 1940s, the time the play was set?

     However, in 1979, the year of the play’s release, if you were a young Chicano sitting in the audience, listening to the powerful lines fill the theater, might you have felt he was talking to you, and the word “vato” meant any young American male of Mexican descent?

     Maybe, the narrator had no particular time in mind, spatial ambiguity. Perhaps, the lines were an observation on Mexican culture in the U.S., and how, young “vatos,” even today, have that mythic fantasy, except, in California, it’s no longer the old-fashioned zoot suit but baggy Dickies or Ben Davis pants, white t-shirts, gleaming sneakers, and bald heads, or the retro, short hair combed straight back?

     Perhaps, we should take the words literally. El Pachuco was talking about “vatos” during the WWII, zoot suit era, but is that possible? Art is a funny thing. As George Orwell said, “All art is propaganda.” So, even if the words were meant to describe young Mexican men in the 1940s, once art is released to the “world,” it is there for the taking, regardless of the artists’ intent, kind of like the Bible, one book breathing life into a myriad of “Christian” religions and interpretations. 

     Then there is the word “vato” or as some might pronounce it “bato.” In Castellano, the letter “v” is supposed to be pronounced “b,” so it should be pronounced, “bato,” which confuses things, like the song La Bamba. Ritchie Valens, a California Chicano, pronounced it La [V]amba,” where Mexicans, south of the border, who sang it originally, pronounced it La [B]amba. Just saying. Maybe there is a Spanish teacher out there who knows, for sure. I taught English, even though I lived in Spain almost a year.

     What is a “vato,” anyway? I figured it meant, “guy,” as in “guy” versus “gal”, but when I looked up “guy” in the Diccionario Conciso Internacional, I didn’t find “vato as the Spanish translation.” Instead, I found words like sujeto, tipo, tio, adefesio, mamarracho but no “vato.” So, I turned to the dictionary’s Spanish section to look under “vato.” No go, nothing, zip. Ah, I’ll try “bato,” which I found, and the definition, “A Simpleton” or “Shepherds in Nativity scenes.”

     Dr. Google tells us “Bato” is from the word “Chivato” used mainly by people from Sinaloa, Sonora, and Chihuahua. I don’t’ know about you, but I never heard any vato call another vato “chivato,” but it could be, right? Many of the early settlers in Alta California travelled north from those states, but the derivation from Sinaloa to the streets of L.A., and other U.S. cities, still seems a bit of a stretch to me.

     I know what you’re thinking. Of course, I won’t find the word “vato” in a dictionary since it’s slang, or calo, something of a Chicanismo. I’m sure Chicano Studies’ professors know all this, probably even the correct origins of the word. Unless it’s like the word “orale” and scholars are still debating its origins.

     However, what I want to get back to is the validity of Luis Valdez’ idea about every “vato’s fantasy to put on the zoot suit and play the myth.” Valdez may be right, except, if a guy used the word “vato” to refer to himself or his friends, wouldn’t he already be wearing the zoot suit, or some type of gang attire, depending on the decade? I know when I grew up on L.A.’s westside, the word carried over into the fifties and sixties, but, of course, only to pachucos and cholos. I think it lost its luster in the seventies forward, except, maybe as comic relief, a sort of sarcasm or irony picked up by Chicano college grads, toying with each other.

     In my day, the 60’s and 70’s, nobody in the wider circle of kids descended from Mexican ancestors would be caught dead using the word “vato.” We didn’t even use “guy,” “dude,” “cuz,” or “bro’.” We called each other by our name, which means, no one I knew had the fantasy of putting on the zoot suit, or the pressed, baggie khakis, Pendleton, Sir Guy shirt, and French toes, and play the myth, which, to us, represented something of a joke, but. needlessly, dangerous, sometimes deadly.

     To me, my friends, and the majority of Mexicans across the vast swath they call L.A.’s Westside, there was no myth to play. We were basically kids growing up, too busy struggling with school, part-time jobs, and carving out our free time. The small group of friends and family members who got caught up in the pachuco-cholo lifestyle, ended up isolated on a street or corner of a park, fighting with guys from other towns, drunk, high, dodging the cops, or in jail. My friends and I could walk or drive, freely, from one Westside neighborhood to another and never hear the war-like challenge, “Where you from?” Besides that, I had relatives and friends who lived in Venice, Culver City, and Santa Monica. Boundaries meant nothing to us.

     Even my cousins and friends who lived in L.A.’s Eastside didn’t refer to each other as “vato” or “play the myth.” Most of them said, like kids everywhere, they went about their everyday lives, going to school, playing sports or music, working, and eventually graduating, finding jobs, marrying, and starting families. So, was the myth more media hype meant to demean Mexicans by showing them as either criminal, or budding criminals, like a few of my relatives and friends who chose to play the myth and, ultimately, ended up in prison, forever labeled ex-cons, on drugs, and ended up dying younger than those who saw nothing in the myth but pain and suffering, especially for their families?

     It is strange to me, still, how the pachuco mythic culture, though small, has crept into the culture of Mexicans raised in the United States, like in California. Much of our art perpetuates the myth, coopting images of low riders, pachucos, and cholos, as if conferring a certain sainthood on them, an iconography as represented by images of the Virgin, Adelita, or Zapata tattooed on prisoners' backs. 

     In the 1950’s, while visiting the United States, Mexican writer Octavio Paz made an observation on the pachuco, which he published in his 1961 book of essays, the Labrinth of Solitude. In the essay, “Pachuco and Other Extremes,” he wrote, of the pachuco representation:

     “His deliberate aesthetic clothing, whose significance is too obvious to require discussion, should not be mistaken for the outfit of a special group or sect. Pachuquismo is an open society, and this in a country full of cults and tribal costumes, all intended to satisfy the middle-class North American’s desire to share in something more vital and solid than the abstract morality of the “American Way of Life.” The clothing of the pachuco is not a uniform or a ritual attire. It is simply a fashion, and like all fashions it is based on novelty – the mother of death, as Leopardi (19th century Italian poet and philosopher) said – and imitation.” (Paz)

     I suppose, then, for true artists, the objective is to avoid creating art that is derivative, a novelty, or imitation, which, according to Paz, is the essence of North American pachuquismo.

     That’s why it was so uplifting, last week, when Los Angeles television stations carried stories about one of the longest, and yes, mythic, athletic spectaculars in L.A. history, Garfield versus Roosevelt football, drawing upwards of 25,000 fans to the famed Memorial Coliseum, a true sports showdown, the protagonists young East L.A. athletes and scholars, the student bodies, their families, and alumni, holding on to a positive tradition, a representation of the best of Mexican-Latino culture in the U.S.

     Often, it’s the negative news the media splashes that reaches American audiences, immigration raids, drug busts, or the influence of a Mexican prison gang on local neighborhoods, minor infractions in a world where much larger, though quiet, strides are being accomplished each day.

    I think it’s Michelle Alexander, in her book the New Jim Crow, who gave examples of drug dealing in the United States. She argued, on any given weekend, more drugs are bought and sold by students on university campuses than in any barrio or ghetto in the country. In his book on the Mexican Mafia, Tony Rafael writes of interviewing one drug dealer who said he sells more cocaine to customers at major movie studios in Burbank than on any neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Yet, look who fills our jails, mostly on drug charges, not college students or movie employees.

     Recently, I don’t know why, maybe because my past jobs, encouraging and counseling Latino high school students about enrolling in college, I was curious about the college-going rates of Latinos. When I worked in the early Affirmative Action programs, back in the 80s, enrollment for Chicanos-Latinos were was under 7%, at most colleges and universities, except, maybe ELAC and Mission College. I was stunned to find that from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley, the enrollment of Latino students at many community colleges and universities, today, was upwards of 30%, and as high as 70%.

     At Cal State Los Angeles, both undergrad and graduate Latino enrollment was close to 70%, Long Beach State, 45%, CSU Northridge 50%, Cal State Dominguez Hills 64%, and the very selective UC, like UCLA and UC Irvine, it’s 23% and 34%, respectively.

     Any way you view it, those are encouraging numbers, which means hundreds to thousands of raza students are working hard to create their own myth, one that is rarely mentioned in the media or represented in Chicano art, in any genre. If these kids use the words “vato,” or “ruca,” I’m sure the definitions have little connection to the originals.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022



By Erika Said

English translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura

Illustrations by Claudia Navarro


ISBN:  978-1-55885-954-8

Publication Date:  October 31, 2022

Format:  Hardcover

Pages:  32

Imprint: Piñata Books

Ages: 4-8


Vivid illustrations show two girls’ excitement about a birthday celebration


Six-year-old Dulce loves sweets, which is fitting since her name means “sweet.” She especially relishes the candy in birthday piñatas, and she and her sister can’t wait for her own party “with candles and cake, / balloons, music and a piñata.”


Kids will eagerly follow Dulce and her sweet tooth in search of the perfect birthday treats. At the store, there are brightly colored piñatas shaped like stars, cacti, donkeys and even a guitar! How to decide?!? And what does she want to fill its belly with? There are “mountains of delicious candies” to choose from! There are mazapanes, tamarindo and sweet toffee! Crunchy wafers with teeth made of seeds and sugar-crusted sweet potato slices!


Claudia Navarro’s colorful illustrations joyfully depict two girls’ excitement at a traditional Mexican birthday celebration where hitting the piñata leads to a cascade of sweet treasures. Children—and some adults too—will enjoy identifying their favorite candies, and this bilingual picture book for children ages 4-8 is sure to inspire kids’ plans for their own birthday celebrations!


Erika Said is the author of iPoems: Poemas en Shuffle (El Humo, Querétaro, 2013) and co-author of Fuego del Aire (Media Isla, 2015). Her work has been published in Mexican and US magazines such as Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea and Círculo de Poesía. Her writing has been anthologized in numerous books, including Lados B (Nitro Press, 2018), Viejas Brujas II (Aquelarré Editoras, México DF, 2017), Along the River II (VAO, McAllen, 2012) and El infierno es una caricia (Fidaura, Mexico DF, 2011). She is a Ph.D. student in the Creative Writing Program in Spanish at the University of Houston.


Claudia Navarro, a Mexico City native, studied graphic design at the National School of Arts at UNAM. Her books include La Divina Catrina/ Oh, Divine Catrina (Piñata Books, 2020) and La Frontera: El viaje con papá/ My Journey with Papá (Barefoot Books, 2018).

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Guest Review: Chicana On Fire

Editor's Note: the poet Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin shares her collection this Sunday, October 30, 2022 at Pasadena, California's venerable independent bookseller, Vroman's Colorado Blvd. location at the forgiving hour of 1600, 4 p.m.

by Jimmy Centeno 
Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin’s poetry in Chicana on Fire (2022) is testimonial and collective. She was born and raised in Boyle Heights, California. She earned an M.A in Theater Arts from California State University, Los Angeles. She is an activist, writer and a visual and performing artist. Aparicio-Chamberlin has been published in several literary and art magazines. In her preface to  Chicana On Fire she describes her childhood memory “as a need to shout out her grievances, for this I was called a bad mouth, a grosera. By today’s standards I would have been considered a critical thinker.”

Aparicio-Chamberlin’s poetry draws us to the center of her inner glow. To open Aparicio-Chamberlin’s book is to encounter an aroma of wet earth. History and politics are braided into her poems and stories. At times her poetry and storytelling process is of volcanic dimensions, eruptive and explosive. On other occasions they are soft swells of maternal loving care dedicated to her family and loved ones.

Her feminist consciousness does not exclude understanding the liberation of women but depends also on the need to liberate men from their own dominant patriarchal chains. Aparicio-Chamberlin’s Chicana feminism draws a clear distinction between white (Liberal) feminists and that of her Chicana identity; family, community and her Mexican heritage are all connected by her Indigenous roots and its mythology. Her writing is the offspring of a cactus tree with arched arms full of prickly pear fruit in resistance against droughts of love and the intolerable heat of racism.

Aparicio-Chamberlin’s identity and cultural references weave through the book like a huipil. Each page in  Chicana On Fire  opens up with a grito of reflection or a call out for redemption.  Unlike academics who in their attempt to be politically correct describe earth as a biosphere, Aparicio-Chamberlin’s oppositional thinking joins the majority of the world’s Indigenous/aborigine people who refer to earth as Mother Earth; a giver of life. Her chapter titles “Roots,” “Cactus pad,” “Cactus Flower,” ”Prickly Pear,” “Thorns and Nopal,”  are in communion with her passion, feelings and emotions. She amplifies her strength in these chapters with teyolia: the spiritual force that resides in the human heart. An Intimate love experience in 'Flor y Canto' feels like a heart stricken by a cactus thorn; it hurts again when removing it:

With insatiable hunger you stroked my waist.
Now you turn your eyes away from me.

'Flor y Canto,' without a doubt speaks truth, “Every time you refuse tenderness, your heart dies—Loveless, unrequited.”

In 'Don’t Open the Door,' Aparicio-Chamberlin brings us close to the frightful drama of an undocumented family. The poem begins as a letter from the teacher to the mother of Alejandro, warning her to tell her son not to open the door, to be quiet and stay still if he hears a knock. The mother’s consecutive instructions of don’t do this and don’t do that to her child string like beads on a rosary, one right after the other.

The 1970 sheriff assault on the Chicano peace protest against the Vietnam War at Laguna Park in East Los Angeles led to Aparicio-Chamberlin’s poetry of protest. Her indignation fired up a series of poems addressing police brutality. In "Attacked, Tear Gassed, And Bludgeoned By Sherrifs At The National Chicano Moratorium Against The War In Vietnam East Los Angeles, August 29, 1970", Aparicio-Chamberlin reveals her outrage and determination never to forget the life-changing incident.  She writes, “I froze; lost my speech. I cried inside my head.” Her invisible tears are fossilized amber in this poem.

Aparicio-Chamberlin’s poems and stories capture what, at times, other forms of art cannot, the breadth of sound united with words that rhyme out the soul of her experiences. Her poems are poetic documentations of life.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Day of the Dead Celebration at the Writers Place 2022 por Xánath Caraza

Day of the Dead Celebration at the Writers Place 2022

por Xánath Caraza

Este 2022 el Writers Place llevará a cabo la XIII edición de la Celebración de Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead Celebration el 28 de octubre a las 7 p.m. CST en Zoom. Tendremos como poetas invitados a Brenda Cárdenas, Cárlos Cumpián y la que escribe. Así mismo Andrés Ramírez nos acompañará con música. Con mi altar mostraré algunos elementos que hace esta celebración tan importante.  Ojalá y nos acompañen y se registren por adelantado a la sesión.

La música

Andrés Ramírez is a drummer born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He started his music carrier at age 16. Andres has always practiced the Mexicayotl and the indigenous ways of praying to the best of his knowledge as a Mexica (Meshica) Dancer and Huehuetero (drummer). He co-founded with his partner Arelis Flores the Danza Mexica Calpulli Iskali in 2011, a group that promotes and practices the indigenous way of praying. 

Los poetas

Brenda Cárdenas is the author of Trace (forthcoming, Red Hen Press), Boomerang (Bilingual Press) and three chapbooks. She also co-edited Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance (Spuyten Duyvil Press) and Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest (MARCH/Abrazo Press). Her poems and essays have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Latinx Poetics: The Art of Poetry; Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations; Grabbed: Poets and Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment, and Healing; Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Anthology; POETRY; and many othersCárdenas has served as faculty for the CantoMundo writers’ retreat (2021) and as Milwaukee Poet Laureate (2010-2012). She currently teaches Creative Writing and Latinx Literatures at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Carlos Cumpián a Chicagoan originally from Texas.  Human Cicada marks his fifth poetry collection: Coyote Sun (March Abrazo Press), Latino Rainbow (Children’s Press/Scholastic Books) Armadillo Charm (Tia Chucha Press), and 14 Abriles: Poems. In 2000, he was recognized with a Gwendolyn Brooks Significant Illinois Poet Award. 

 Cumpián has been included in more than thirty poetry anthologies, including the Norton Anthology Telling Stories.  Before becoming a teacher, he worked with various social service organizations such as ASPIRA and public relations for the Chicago Public Library. Cumpián has taught creative writing and poetry through community arts organizations including the National Museum of Mexican Art, Urban Gateways and as a writer-in residence funded by the Illinois Arts Council.  Cumpián taught in the English Department of Columbia College Chicago and in the Chicago Public School and Charter school system.

In addition, he has hosted live readings with Galeria Qui Que & La Palabra Series and published over 20 poets/writers with MARCH ABRAZO PRESS between 1978-2015. His most recent essay, “Learned to Read at My Momma’s Knee,” appears in With a Book in Their Hands: Chicano/a Readers and Readerships Across the Centuries (University of New Mexico Press, 2014). His first in a series of true supernatural accounts, “A Chicago Premonition” was published in Hombre Lobo #2, True Xicanax Spooky Stories, (Ponte Las Pilas Press, Los Angles, Ca. 2021) Cumpián is currently working on his “anti-war years” memoir Accidental Rebel: 1968-1976.


Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, short story writer, and translator.  She writes for La Bloga, Revista Literaria Monolito, and Seattle Escribe. In 2021 It Pierces the Skin received Bronze Medal for the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Book of Poetry. In 2020 Balamkú received second place for the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Book of Poetry Award. In 2019 for the International Latino Book Awards she received Second Place for Hudson for “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish” and Second Place for Metztli for Best Short Story Collection. In 2018 for the International Latino Book Awards she received First Place for Lágrima roja for “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author” and First Place for Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble for “Best Book of Bilingual Poetry”.  Her book of poetry Syllables of Wind / Sílabas de viento received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry. She was Writer-in-Residence at Westchester Community College, NY, 2016-2019.  Caraza was the recipient of the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain.  She was named number one of the 2013 Top Ten Latino Authors by Her books of verse Where the Light is Violet, Black Ink, Ocelocíhuatl, Conjuro and her book of short fiction What the Tide Brings have won national and international recognition.  Her other books of poetry are Perching, An Exercise in the Darkness, Fără preambul, Μαύρη μελάνη, Le sillabe del vento, Noche de colibríes, and Corazón pintado. Caraza has been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish. Her upcoming book of poetry is titled Jackeline’s Butterfly.


Mi altar

Mi pan de Muertos, buen provecho. Los esperamos.



Friday, October 21, 2022

Laughing at COVID

Mario Acevedo
Hex Publishers - October 25, 2022

Humor about the pandemic? Too soon? Not for Denver author/artist/renaissance man Mario Acevedo. He had all of us laughing about quarantines, vaccinations, masks, and other assorted COVID paraphernalia during the darkest times of 2020-2021. With cats and cartoons, if you can believe that. And you should because it's true.

Mario's cynical, brash, and irreverent cats spoke for many who felt gob smacked by the virus.  They came along just when we needed them, and Hex Publishers deserves a hearty "thank you," muchísimas gracias, for preserving their wit and wisdom.  

Here's what Hex says about Mario's latest project.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, award-winning author and artist Mario Acevedo chronicled life in lockdown with a daily cartoon. Cats in Quarantine, a single-panel comic, appeared every day on Acevedo’s social media, and every day, it drew more fans. As the days and weeks stretched to months and years, these sketches became more than a pastime for Acevedo, more than a touchstone for his friends. They became an incisive record of a historical turning point. From toilet paper and vaccines to political pique and social unrest, Cats in Quarantine captured the zeitgeist of the Covid era with Acevedo’s signature humor and keen, observant intelligence.

This collection of 300 Cats in Quarantine favorites commemorates the tragic and the absurd, the frustrations, fear, and loss that marked a time we might want to forget, but one humanity would do well to remember.

Written and illustrated by Mario Acevedo.

Introduction by Peter Heller, National Bestselling Author of The Dog Stars

The book launch for Cats in Quarantine is scheduled for November 5, 4:00 PM at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson, Denver.  Register at or


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

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Chicanonautica: Exploring Mexico With the Cuban American Jules Verne

by Ernest Hogan

For a lot of Americans, Mexico is still Terra Incognita. They look at the border with fear and loathing, imaginations filling it with their worst nightmares.  These concepts are not modern creations, they have a long history in popular culture.

An early example is Frank Reade Jr. Exploring Mexico in His New Air-Ship by Luis Senarens, who was a Brooklyn-born Cuban American, and times being what they were, published as “NONAME,” and was called “The American Jules Verne.” 

I’ve reviewed another Frank Reade dime novel for La Bloga a few years back. Now, Barnes & Noble is making the series available again. Exploring Mexico in His New Air-Ship was first published in 1885. Frank is older, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with his wife and kids when he is contacted by a group of New York millionaires, who want to build a railway across Mexico, opening the country to investment and “development.”

They would like him to fly an airship to survey the route. He balks, but after appealing to his patriotism, he agrees.

Then he has to convince his assistants Barney, an Irishman, and Pomp, a black man, to go along to provide comedy relief, keep the airship running and use rifles on occasion.  

So, Frank designs and builds a new airship with a “rotascope,” making it more of a helicopter than a dirigible.

They also bring along two Americanos, Kensel, and Sallinger, hired by the millionaires to do the actual surveying.

The flight to Mexico takes them through Texas, where they rescue a beautiful Mexican girl from the Comanches and deliver her to her family’s idyllic farm on the American side of the Rio Grande.

The Rio brims over with dangers: a giant, black, anaconda-like snake, and alligators. Plus smugglers, though it’s not said what they are smuggling.

The Mexican side is a desolate wasteland where they save a town with a lot of beautiful girls from a vicious band of guerrillas. One of the beauties falls for Kensel, but he finds her lacking:  “She is beautiful in form and face, but after all is nothing but a doll. She is ignorant and superstitious in the extreme.”

Even though Pomp and Barney speak in thick dialects, since Frank speaks “perfect” Spanish, the Mexicans speak plain English rather than the bandito-speak of the Wild West dime novels of the time.

They pass a lake, and Frank remarks: “And yet there is not a house within miles of it, which shows that these Mexicans do not appreciate the beauties or resources of their country. The natural resources of Mexico are such as would make them the richest country on the globe if they were properly developed.”

And Kensel notes: “It is a beautiful sheet of water, and may ultimately become a famous resort when the railroad opens up this country to the outside world.”

Sallinger says: “I am going to put it down on the survey map as Lake Reade.” 

To which Frank says, “Don’t do anything of the kind. It may have a name that is known throughout all Mexico, and in that case we should be laughed at.”

The rest of the trip is a series of encounters with nature: bears, a condor, a cyclone, a volcano, and yes, more giant snakes and alligators.

In a chapter titled, “Frank Teaches a Wholesome Lesson to the Natives,” a Castilian-speaking landowner tells them to leave his property, and they take him prisoner until they catch and eat fish for breakfast.

And there are more guerrillas, bandits, and rebels. After defeating some of these bad hombres Frank declares: “I am the guardian of Mexico!”

Finally, they end up in the jungles of the Yucatan, where they find mummies and a fantastic treasure of silver and perfume that they take back to New York and sell for big bucks.


Frank is inspired to speculate on the future of airships: “Oh, they’ll be cheap enough after a while, and as common as umbrellas.”

Meanwhile, I’m imagining Frank Reade’s daughter in the year 1900, riding the Trans-Mexican Railway, staying at a lakeside resort, attending a conference where she’s about to unveil her latest invention–a wireless, portable telephone–but is kidnapped by Yucatecans who want her to return the treasure her father stole . . .

Ernest Hogan, Father of Chicano Sci-Fi, is judging the Extra-Fiction Contest 2022. Writers of the Latinoid Continuum, send your fantastic stories now. The deadline is October 31. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Videos- Latinx KidLit Book Festival 2022

If you missed the festival or if you want to watch the videos again, you can go to Youtube and enjoy all the panels. It was a fantastic festival.



Muchas gracias a Las Musas y todos los demas organizadores.


The Latinx KidLit Book Festival is a virtual celebration of Latinx KidLit authors, illustrators, and books for all readers and educators. 


The festival opened its virtual doors from December 9-10, 2021, and presented two free days of keynote sessions, Q&A events, and panels with your favorite Latinx authors and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novel, and poetry. 


The sessions are geared towards readers and educators everywhere. Everyone is welcome! For details got to


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Caldo, Sopa, Caldillo: Soup's On!

Michael Sedano

My grandmother lived on Lawton Street, close to the packing house where she worked. The North side of town stopped where the navel orange groves began and stretched from Redlands to Bryn Mawr and all along the Santa Ana River wash to the mountains. My Mother dropped me off at Gramma's during the day.

Gramma's kitchen featured a wood-burning cast iron stove, lumbrita going all day. Inside the firebox, Gramma kept camotes slow-roasting in residual heat, crinkled cascara dripping with miel. On top of the stufa, frijoles waited in a clay vessel, and always a pot with soup. "Caldo de Res" I've seen it named, but to us, it is Cocido.

Was I four? Three? I remember walking into the kitchen and being guided to a bench at the table. Mom and Gramma begin their visit as my grandmother places a bowl of cocido in front of me. 

Gramma ignores my protests as she cracks chile japones into the bowl, shushing me that chilito is good, and good for me. She squeezes a lemon half into the soup, places a hot tortilla de harina in my hand. Later years, if I whined about hot chile my Dad would tell me to chow down because chile "puts hair on your chest."

The little boy doesn't know that yet. But right now, ahh, the intense pica, mollified by limón, is just right. Gramma pulls a tortilla de harina off the comal and it hits the spot with this caldo. I make a tiny scoop of tortilla, fill it with caldo and into my mouth. A spoon will come later.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but inside, it's so comodo. It's caldo weather, gente!

Three Soups For The Season, y Más

The photograph illustrates a version of my grandmother's recipe. My mother wrote down the familia recipes for my wife and daughter. Our descendants will not miss the flavors of home. Of sentimental importance, I use my mother's cocido / menudo pot for my caldos now.




The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks

La Cruda


Miguelito sat in the small unpainted room between the front room and the kitchen, leafing through a Hit Parade magazine. Dany Landeros was spinning rancheras on the radio. The boy looked away from the black marks on the paper to study the photograph of “Woozy” tacked to the wall by his Uncle John. “Woozy” must have been the name of the four-eyed man.


Woozy was an American, meaning a white man. Jesus next to him was white, too, hasta en color, but that's different, it was a drawing. Woozy’s grizzled unshaven face made him look like a bum in grainy black and white. Miguelito recognized retouching without having a word for it. Somehow the photographer had duplicated Woozy’s eyes giving the bum two sets of eyes, over-under. Fake but compelling to the small boy. 


Pondering the provenance of Woozy’s photo—did Uncle John pay for it? Did Woozy give it to Uncle John? Why two eyes?--the boy had not noticed Uncle John stumble into the room. Tall, unshaven like Woozy, Uncle John smiled down at his nephew, his hard-working little sister’s own little boy. Smiling made John wince in pain.


John wore the creased baggy trousers he wore last night at El Resbalón. His left leg bore a dark stain and drops of blood dotted his undershirt pointing to swollen crusty nostrils and a bruise coloring Uncle John’s face with black and blue and green and yellow blotches against his deep brown left cheek.


“Sientete, Mi’jo,” gramma told him. She didn’t say it the way she invited Miguelito to sit to a bowl of Cocido and her hand-made tortillas hot off the comal. Miguel detected sadness and the stress of helplessly aguantando the fact her oldest child was a wino. In a few weeks, she’d give him money for the Greyhound to Stockton or Fresno from where he’d pick his way down the valley. All his mother had to do every year was worry and send money.


John ignored the chair and leaned into the ice box. He took a drinking glass off the top of the white appliance and two eggs from inside. He hastily cracked each blanquillo into the jelly jar, bits of brown shell clung to the viscous egg. Juan looked at Miguelito with his one good eye, the other swiveling with it under the swollen lid. “Salud!” he saluted the youngster. John tilted his head back and let the raw eggs slide into his mouth.


“La cruda,” Uncle John said. Miguel recognized the statement as both fact and lament. The boy stared at the empty jar on the table. A single drop of albumen glistened on the rim in the light from the window. A thread of eggwhite stretched and slowly glided down the outside of the glass. Woozy stared blankly from the other room. The moment burned itself into Miguelito’s awareness and he would never forget it.


Gramma used her apron to pull open the firebox to stoke up the heat with a piece of orangewood that she pushed into the coals. Then she poured water from the olla into a shiny steel soup pot. In a practiced blur she peeled six tomatillos, sliced a small onion, halved and sliced a yellow lemon into the pot with a Bay leaf and black peppercorns.


She walked out to the garden to pick six slender green chile pods and all the red chile piquin on one bush. She tore off two leaves from the tall blue-green plant and walked back to the stove.


Uncle John breathed in deeply. The blooded nostril gave off a shrill wheeze and bubbled when he exhaled. He pulled a wadded handkerchief from his back pocket and emptied his nose. Miguel couldn’t avoid seeing the green and bloody mocos Uncle John folded away into his pocket.


Gramma added the chiles whole into the pot, followed with a generous sprinkle from a round cardboard box of salt.


She pulled the blue-green leaves from her apron pocket. Laying one leaf flat on her palm, she slapped the other palm sharply onto the leaf, three quick slaps. Gramma looked at the leaf between slaps. The surface had a whitish cast now. Gramma peeled off the transparent skin to produce a wet poultice. She did the same to the other leaf and placed them on Uncle John’s face. He went “mmmm,” the pain hidden below the leaves’ cool healing tissue. Gramma cured Miguelito’s frequent headaches with the same tall blue-green plant, whose name he never learned.


The scent of burning leña and earthy lemony steam filled the kitchen with deliciously fragrant breaths. Miguelito inhaled deeply and made a secret vow that he would never forget the aroma, nor the moment’s complex of feelings.


In a few minutes, gramma ladled some broth into a bowl adding a few tomatillos, onions, and lemon slices. Setting the clear liquid in front of her first born, she said a single word. “Caldillo.”



Caldillo is chiloso with lemony flavor from tomatillos and lemon. Not only does gramma’s Caldillo cure la cruda, it cures the common cold. Naturally gluten-free with about 70 grams of carbohydrates in the whole pot, Caldillo is good for what ails you these cold, wet days.


6 – 8 whole tomatillos, dehusked.

1 yellow lemon (or lime), halved and sliced.

1 medium white onion, sliced.

6 pods fresh or dried chile arbol.

3 pods chile piquín.

2 cups water.



Bay leaf.


Add to water and bring to low boil.

Serve steaming hot.

Breathe steam, sip soup, wake up, breathe clearly.