Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Undercover Latina

By Aya de León  


Publisher: Candlewick 

Language: English

Hardcover: 320 pages

ISBN-10: 1536223743

ISBN-13: 978-1536223743


A Latina teen spy goes undercover as a white girl to stop a white supremacist terrorist plot in a fast-paced middle-grade debut from a seasoned author of contemporary crime fiction.


In her debut for younger readers, Aya de León pits a teen spy against the ominous workings of a white nationalist. Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín hails from a family of spies working for the Factory, an international organization dedicated to protecting people of color. For her first solo mission, Andréa straightens her hair and goes undercover as Andrea Burke, a white girl, to befriend the estranged son of a dangerous white supremacist. In addition to her Factory training, the assignment calls for a deep dive into the son’s interests—comic books and gaming—all while taking care not to speak Spanish and blow her family’s cover. But it’s hard to hide who you really are, especially when you develop a crush on your target’s Latino best friend. Can Andréa keep her head, her geek cred, and her code-switching on track to trap a terrorist? Smart, entertaining, and politically astute, this is fast-paced upper-middle-grade fare from an established author of heist and espionage novels for adults.



Social criticism is woven into a fun read centered on kids of color; the narrative is accessible and engaging, never shying away from difficult conversations about race and privilege or the many forms White supremacy can take. . . . An engaging, insightful adventure with a heartfelt conclusion.

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


Readers will be intrigued and compelled to the very last page. . . Activist and author Aya De Leon, who typically writes for adults, has not shied away from taking on current and weighted issues while still delivering a novel for middle grade readers that is easy to read and which is sure to be a hit. . . . With strong male and female characters, suspense, and gaming, this novel is sure to appeal.

—School Library Connection (starred review)


Portraying Andréa as a spy skilled in espionage, quick problem-solving, and making visual connections, De León (A Spy in the Struggle, for adults) adeptly interrogates themes of ageism, colorism, institutional racism, and sexism, layering them with a thrilling tale of a teenage girl.

—Publishers Weekly


Aya de León is the Afro-Latina author of several suspense novels for adults, as well as The Mystery Woman in Room Three, an open-source online novel about two undocumented Dominican teens who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley, and is active in movements for racial, gender, and climate justice. She lives in Northern California.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Suerte Sirena. ¡Presente!

Michael Sedano

The Los Angeles Times book section surpised me joyously on November 27 as writer Christopher Soto introduces millions of people to our La Bloga colleague, tatiana de la tierra, qepd.

Soto is completely accurate in his call for more recognition of the work of our colleague. Today, La Bloga-Tuesday offers links and material Soto's research missed.

Here's a link to the article with hopes it's not behind a paywall. 

Soto offers a thoroughly interesting story about tierra's literary activism and supportiveness for other writers, her own creative work in writing, fashioning libros cartoneros, publishing. The Times and Soto missed tierra's conecta to La Bloga.

Ni modo. Here are two La Bloga columns, and a video link, remembering our colleague. The first, by this link (please click here),  comes from by Amelia ML Montes, collecting memories of our colleague upon her transition.

The second, reproduced in full, by Olga García Echeverría, relates the news that readers today enjoy free access into tatiana de la tierra's website and extensive materials for study and enjoyment.

Olga García Echeverría

Fotos: Rotmi Enciso

Shortly after tatiana de la tierra passed away in the summer of 2012, her website went down. My brother managed to temporarily put it back up. Later in the year, though, the link was dead again. For the past two years, the website has flickered in and out of existence. Mostly, its been dormant.

Not having full access to tatiana on the Web drove me mad, as I'm sure it did many people who love and miss her. tatiana had invested a great deal of time and effort in her original website. She had a particular aesthetic too--clean, simple, bonito. In the spirit of Literature for All, she had also carefully selected a wide range of previously published materials to share on the site. Anyone could visit and read "Mujeres con barbas," "Visions of Colombia," "Big Fat Pussy Girl," and so much more.

I don't know much about websites, so the job of resurrecting tatiana's electronic domain mainly fell on the shoulders of my brother, Mario Garcia, and my girlfriend, Maritza Alvarez. They both are pretty busy individuals, juggling work, deadlines, and just plain old life, but like me, they both loved tati, and she loved them.

On the surface, it may seem very simple. A website goes down? Put it back up. Ya estuvo. But it wasn't so easy. tatiana's website resurrection project was emotional at the core. Yes, we have always known how important it was to get the site back up and share it con todos, but the loss of tatiana in 2012 left us all a bit spellbound, mourning. Also, tatiana was ultra picky. Because we respected her and her work so much, we knew we needed to be realistic and take our time verus rushing to put something/anything up.

What we had when we embarked on the journey of reconstructing tatiana's site were files of the old website (almost all of them) and also the memory of what the site looked and felt liked. We also had everything she and her mother Fabiola had left us--boxes of papers, libros, fotos, muebles, piedras, lamps, Colombian casitas en el campo, ojos de Dios, bath salts, so, so, so many things. We were surrounded by tatiananess, especially at my brother's office where tatiana herself had, during her final weeks, designated box after box be sent to "La Oficina de Mario."

Since I had witnessed tatiana's initial website journey--she was meticulous and obsessed about cada detalle--I had a pretty good idea of what she wouldn't want and what was important to her. I knew that reconstructing her website would have to be done como ella lo hubiera querido, and because we did not want to run the risk of injecting too much of our own ideas and aesthetics into it, we made an agreement to make the site as close to the original as possible.

My job during the process was mainly to be a bossy overseer. I wasn't at my brother's office regularly. I just showed up every now and then and made comments or suggestions. Yes, I was super annoying. Imagine, "No, no, no, tatiana wouldn't like that. Asi no era el original. tatiana always had a site map. We have to add a site map. tatiana..." I got exasperated miradas and sighs from Maritza and Mario, who were putting in the real labor whenever they had the time, but mostly my tati-demands were met with patience and understanding.

I asked Maritza what working on the website was like for her, and here is what she shared. “Being a part of the collaborative process to relaunch tatiana's website was both an honor and a unique opportunity. It was also a memorable and special experience. I recall several times sitting in front of the computer for hours as I read through her writings and browsed through her photos. Often there were moments when I blurted out 'damn, she's bad-ass!' Then my eyes would swell up with tears because I was better able to understand why she was so terribly missed by so many. I also found myself laughing aloud because she had such an unapologetic rhythm and rhyme to her writings! All these things I had heard of from you, Olga, but revamping her website felt like I was personally discovering them for myself. And those were definitely special moments! I will always appreciate and cherish them. Who wouldn't?”

My brother had the following to say (I believe it's partly in tatiana-Mario code because they shared a special bond).

"mono cosmico azul, sirena, tomate, hermana shamana, puro fuego
blue cosmic monkey, mermaid, tomato, shamanic sister, pure fire

tatiana was a great friend and teacher, so I feel honored that she chose me to be one of her keepers...amongst the many boxes, writings, artwork, furniture, bed sheets, and such...tatiana lives among us, when we sit in her rocking chair at the office, stare at the Botero painting, read her poems, and especially when I have to carry her very heavy boxes (insert happy face)."

Bueno, this is our bloga for today and here is the website link again, in case you missed it.

Please visit it and share it! If you knew tatiana, you will surely be delighted to read or re-read some of her classics. If you didn't know tatiana and are wondering why I am always mentioning her in my blogs, check out her work and enjoy. All of the tabs on the site, the chosen literature, and the general organization of the materials are from tatiana's original webpage. The exception is the tab entitled Suerte Sirena, where we have added a picture of tatiana taken by Rotmi Enciso and Ina Riaskowa, a quote from me, and links to tributes to tatiana. There are still a couple of future tabs to be added, one that will feature links to tatiana's blogs here at La Bloga, and another one that will connect visitors to tatiana's archives at UCLA. But all of that is for Resurrection Part II.

Hasta next time, gracias and happy Sunday!

=== === ===

tatiana de la tierra performs (link, please click here) at the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto, University of Southern California

Monday, November 28, 2022

My father’s Quiet De Luxe typewriter: Chicano stories that the world will never read


By Daniel A. Olivas

“Pop would have wanted you to have it,” said my older sister as she handed the case to me. “Because you’re the writer in the family,” she added, though this explanation was quite unnecessary.

The “it” is a Royal Quiet De Luxe that reportedly was Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter of choice. The Royal Typewriter Company manufactured its popular portable model from 1939 until 1959, the year of my birth. My late father, Michael Augustine Olivas, purchased it sometime after he had returned to the United States in 1952 after serving two years as a Marine during the Korean War. I surmise that this 17-pound typewriter was a prized possession for this son of Mexican immigrants who worked in a factory and had dreams of becoming a published writer.

Sadly, those dreams would remain unfulfilled to the end of his life in 2020.

As with many immigrant families during the 1950s in my old neighborhood a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles, my parents were able to start a family, purchase a small house, and buy a car on the sole salary of my father’s factory job while my mother focused on the hard work of primary caregiver to their children, who would eventually number five over the course of a decade.

My father worked the nightshift at an electric turbine manufacturing company. He told me that when I was a baby—their third child—he would set his typewriter near my crib and work on a novel, short stories, and poetry. Pop joked that all that typing near my young self must have destined me to the writing life.

I imagine him now, a handsome young man in his late 20s—younger than my own son—clacking away on that Royal Quiet De Luxe with dreams of becoming a published writer like the authors he loved: Fitzgerald, Cather, Maugham, and of course, Hemingway.

Pop’s old portable typewriter is a beast of a machine in all its mid-century glory. The light-brown metal casing complements the green keys and space bar. The ivory-colored letters, numbers, and symbols still stand out brightly against the green beds of the keys, which dip slightly at their centers to allow fingertips to nestle in comfortably. And the smell—oh, that smell!—when I open the case: The pungent tang of typewriter ink emanating from the ribbon ignites a flood of childhood memories. I love that metallic, inky scent. It reminds me of my father.

What happened to Pop’s typed pages? That was a mystery to me until about 15 years ago. I had a book reading at Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore for a short story collection, and my father attended. When it came time for audience questions, Pop stood, arms behind his back, and introduced himself as my father. Everyone nodded, smiled, appreciated that this man offered his son the support of his presence. Then he said softly, “I used to write, too.”

The audience again nodded, smiled, and perhaps became a bit puzzled about where this was going. I grew nervous, not certain what Pop was planning to say next. He continued: “But it was trite.” I took a breath. And he added: “Nothing important. Nothing like what you write.”

 “I wish I could read your stories,” I said, not knowing what else to offer.

He waved his right hand slowly to brush away my desires. “I burned them all,” he said, punctuating the end of his story with a smile that was far from bitter or morose, just accepting. He then sat, and the room fell into a thoughtful silence. I could not bring myself to ask why he took such final action in destroying his creative writing.

But a few years later, when my parents were visiting me and looking at my various books and literary journals in our family study, I asked Pop why he had destroyed his pages. As my mother looked on with trepidation, my father explained that his writing had been rejected repeatedly by publishers, and he decided that he needed to move on with his life. That meant he focused on getting his college degree and master’s and eventually getting a job where he wore a suit to work.

I so dearly wish Pop had saved his writing. I think about what he wanted to express through fiction and poetry. The question of what he wrote about was clearly a painful subject for Pop. I tried a few times to find out what stories and sentiments he tried to tell through the written word, but he never offered more than a wince and vague responses.

I do know this: My father was a proud Chicano who loved his culture and people. My suspicion is that the publishing industry in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was many times less hospitable to Chicano literature than it is today—even with the structural racism that BIPOC and other underrepresented writers still face and battle.

And that is a heartbreaking conclusion. A conclusion that means my father’s voice will remain in my memory and not in the printed word. A voice thatI believe—would have enriched not only his family but also the world at large.

[This essay first appeared in The Writer Magazine.]

Friday, November 25, 2022

Quick Trip to San Francisco

 Melinda Palacio

November is a beautiful time to visit California. Crisp, sunny weather makes for a nice weekend getaway. Bonus excursion to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where you can view Diego Rivera's America exhibit until January 3, 2023. 

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend in Richmond who introduced me to the ferry near her house that goes straight to San Francisco. When I lived there, the only non car option was to take Bart and get to SF. Bart is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and how you will get around without being stuck in car traffic. 

San Francisco

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Richmond Ferry to SF.

Once in the city, Bart will get you to all destinations, but it's fun taking the trolley. 

close up of the Rivera's mural

With Diego's Siren drawing. 

Andy Warhol's Triple Elvis 

Bording the trolley from Powell street

If you look closely, you might see Nancy's house in the distance. 

Do not attempt this photo while the trolley is moving. 

Fisherman's Wharf was different from what I remembered, busier, crowded. Allioto's shuttered and a victim of the pandemic. 

Tony Benett sang about leaving his heart in San Francisco and it's easy to see why. It's still a special city by the bay and I am a lucky to have good friends who showed me around the city I once loved and lived in. San Francisco will always have a piece of my heart. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Towers of Tepatitlan

Tepatitlan, the funeral processon

     I decided to make a trek across Los Altos de Jalisco, the highlands between Guadalajara and Guanajuato. A priest I talked to in the town of Canadas de Obregon told me the people of the region, like my grandparents, uncles, and aunts, no matter where they ended up, would maintain close ties to the land of their birth. To make his point, he raised his eyes, and said, “Mi alma va al cielo.” Then he smiled, made a fist, and pumped his heart, “Pero mi corazon esta en Los Altos.” 
     As the oldest of my siblings, and many of my cousins, I spent much time with my grandmother and older relatives who told me stories of their life in Mitic, a rancho, once an ancient Indian settlement, some 45-minutes outside of Jalostotitlan, the closest major city. 
     A little closer is the town of San Gaspar de Los Reyes, so small that when I visited there were no hotels or restaurants. If you ask my relatives, or any of their friends who came north during the Revolution, around 1910, they liked to say they were from San Juan de Los Lagos, a larger, more prestigious city, mainly because pilgrims travelled from all over Mexico to pay their respects to the virgin of San Juan. Sure, we all want to hail from somewhere important, and for the people of Los Altos, San Juan is it. 
     I’d read that the end of the Chichimeca Wars, between the Spaniards and the natives of the Gran Chichimeca region, most of Jalisco was vast, vacant land. Accordingly, the ruling Spaniards would arrest rebellious Spaniards, or mestizos, essentially criminals, and they’d send them to wander the wilds of Los Altos, figuring, I suppose, if the animals didn’t get them the Indians would. So, it was with this in mind that I made my way by bus, both expresses and locals, to as many towns as I could reach. 
     I’d visited Jalisco many times but had never been to Tepatitlan, famous for its charros, mariachis, and beautiful women, mythologized in song and dance. As always, when I travel, I liked to settle in university towns, where I find museums, bookstores, restaurants, music, even lectures. Not so in Los Altos. 
     I mean, Tepa had a university, which I located after three long bus rides to the outskirts of the city, and a forty-five-minute walk along a country road. When I arrived, I found it closed for summer. The guards wouldn’t let me pass a certain point, so I was only able to see it from afar, and it looked more like a large community college than a university. That’s when I realized what I’d already suspected, I hailed from the land of rancheros not academics. 
     My people are of the land. They are hard workers. They work with their hands, sunup to sunset, to make something from nothing. They are tough, weather-beaten, and proud. They don’t want to hear excuses. Maybe I can compare them to Midwesterners in the U.S., farmers and ranchers, the salt of the earth, the way I’d work as a kid and young man, delivering newspapers, construction, gardening, or whatever would bring in a buck. 
The Towers of Tepa

     Here is where I’ll start. From my journal, Tepatitlan, Saturday, August 6, 2016. 11:00 A.M. 
     The first thing that strikes me this morning as I sit in the Plaza Morelos, one of the two plazas de Armas in the center of Tepa are the church towers. They rise into the sky, like sentinels over the people. They are massive, four towers stacked on each other, topped off by rounded cupolas and crosses. 
     The smaller plaza where I sit is crowded with old men wearing cowboy hats. Many of the men sit on wrought iron benches. Others stand around. They’re all talking. This is their retirement. They look like they are happy to be meeting every day like this, a ritual, I suppose, or just happy to be alive one more day. 
     They tell stories and catch up on the news. The old man next to me is talking to another man, describing the death of a friend. They talk about so-and-so from San Juan and how much land he now owns. The man beside me asks his friend, “Do you remember, Trino, that tall, light-skin guy from El Valle? Well, I think he died.” 
     “Yeah, I do remember him.” 
     “I mean, I think he died. He was a pinche.” 
     “Yeah, that’s him.” 
     “He played in a baseball game and went sliding into third base. They tagged him out. He was mad. Everyone said he was out. When he complained, somebody said, ‘Well, hide your signals, dude.’ Yes, he was un corajudo. Tepa was the name of his team. Industrias de Tepa sponsored his team. That’s why they named it just Tepa for short.” 
     Most of these men look older than me, probably in the 70s and 80s, but there are a few standing around who are about my age, maybe younger. I wonder had I been born here, and had my grandparents never migrated to Santa Monica, California, would I be sitting around in a cowboy hat shooting the shit, too? 
     Another man just walked up, a short man, rugged looking, wearing a baseball cap. One of the men says, “Good morning. What a miracle to see you.” 
     The man answers, “What do you mean what a miracle? I live here, don’t I?” Then he says, nodding to a group of men, which I’m not sure how to translate, “Mira, esa cabronaza parada alla.” Something like, “Look at those sons of bitches standing over there.” 
     The thing about the Mexican working-class version of Castellano is that it is peppered with so many obscenities it carries a meaning all its own. 

Sunday, August 7 
     I watch twelve horses, eleven with riders, one riderless, come up the calle Lerdo de Tejada. They turn on Esparza and station themselves alongside the church of St. Francis. A half-hour later, a hearse pulls up and the church yard fills quickly. 
     I walk across the street and see a procession forming, the men on horses in the middle, one of them guiding the riderless horse. A group of people starts to form on a corner to watch. I say to a man next to me, “He must have been someone important.” 
     He answers, “A local.” 
     “Was he a rancher?” 
     “He lived out of town on one of the ranches, yes.” 
     “Was he very old?” 
     “About fifty. We called him, El….” 
     I don’t understand the word he uses. “What does that mean?” 
     “It’s a pig on the farm that has gotten too fat. He was short and fat.” 
     “He must have been pretty popular for all these people to show up.” 
     “Look,” the man says, pointing. “That’s his horse, the one with no rider.” 
     “Is that a tradition?” 
     “For those with horses, but this is nothing. You should have seen when Dr. Gonzalez died. You couldn’t even get through the streets.” 
     “People liked him?” 
     “He treated everyone, rich and poor. Even if you couldn’t pay, he’d still treat you. He was a good man. The whole city came out that day.” 
     “Gonzalez is a pretty common name in Los Altos. My grandfather was a Gonzalez.” 
     He looks at me and laughs, “We say there are more Gonzalez than burros.” 

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Written by Alexandra Katona

Illustrated by Claudia Navarro


Publisher: Barefoot Books

Language: English

Hardcover: 32 pages

ISBN-10: 1646862937

ISBN-13: 978-1646862931



“This magical home turns a normal Sunday into domingo: the best day of the week.”


Warm memories wash over a first-generation Latinx American girl as she experiences a typical Sunday night dinner at her Abuelita’s house. Readers are immersed in the rich ways love is expressed within this home: the delicious smells of Ecuadorian home cooking, dancing, hugging and playing games with aunts, uncles and cousins. As Alejandra thinks about all the good times her family has had there, she decides that she wants to be brave and try speaking Spanish with Abuelita so that they can deepen their bond. Based on the author’s own life, this timely tale reflects the experience of many families.


“Navarro’s joyful illustrations are filled with movement and bright, happy colors, capturing the boisterous reunions in an accessible and humorous way . . . An ebullient celebration of family and the rituals that bring a family together” – Kirkus Reviews


“Drawing upon her own childhood experiences, Katona offers a warm story of family, food, and fun . . . A wonderful celebration of culture and family, idea for storytime or classroom reading” – Booklist


Alexandra Katona has been writing stories since she was young. When she's not writing, you can find her on an outdoor adventure, cooking for her family, or working in the specialty coffee industry. She lives with her husband, son, and dog in Southern California.


Claudia Navarro studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas UNAM in Mexico City, and has illustrated for clients around the world. She lives in Mexico City, Mexico.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Throwing the Book At Mexican Muralists

Review: Roberto Cantú, Ed. Mexican Mural Art Critical Essays On A Belligerent Aesthetic. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK. 2021.  

ISBN(10): 1- 5275-6224-7

Michael Sedano



Editor Roberto Cantú’s Mexican Mural Art Critical Essays On A Belligerent Aesthetic, arrives as a singularly important book for a quintessential American readership that includes arte professionals like scholars and artists, students, collectors, hasta language students, will gravitate to the collection, not alone for its subject matter but to appreciate Cantú’s unique cohort of scholars who write in English, or Spanish, or both when citing freely in untranslated quotations. Each idioma stands on its own, y que?


I don’t know if textual inclusiveness like this makes the book belligerent like the arte, but readers comfortable en ambos idiomas of north American linguistic pluralism will appreciate the editor’s matter-of-course approach to language pluralism. Let the essay speak its own language, translation unnecessary; Mexican Mural Art, after all, is a United States book published in England about Mexican arte featuring scholars from Mexico and the United States.


English monolinguals won’t be excluded from gaining general understanding of the entire set of essays, owing to editor Cantú’s exhaustive Introduction. Cantú weaves an historical narrative linking the essays with historiographic and aesthetic contexts. A constrained reader might cherry-pick the body of the collection by letting the Introduction offer its keen précis of the scholarship.


You want an “executive summary” of Mexican Mural Art? Read the Introduction.


One beauty of the book also offers a blemish. The publisher needs to lavish a few euros or pesos or dollars on an aggressive illustration program for this book about murals. A book about murals shouldn’t have a paucity of illustrations, and at that, low-resolution black and white images with no color plates. 


There’s a solution, of course, to © and licensing and lawyers: the web. 


When, for example, where Mary Coffey describes a segment of the Orozco Dartmouth mural, “It culminates in a highly unorthodox scene of Christian Apocalypse in which a mortified Christ chops down his own cross and thereby refuses to redeem the civilization created in his name”, a hyperlink to a ©-cleared, or fair-use, image gives that text stunning impact.

Leonard Folgarait’s essay, “Thinking Mexican Muralism through Still and Moving Photography” illustrates the inherent problem with “the web” in a text resource like a chapter in a book. Folgarait dutifully documents his images via footnotes that include permalinks-as-text. Readers eager to see what we're talking about will be typing out 100 weird characters on just that one footnote!

Hyperlinks aside, Mexican Mural Art offers accessible, useful, reading. For the most part, the Conference provenance of the works leads essayists to employ a colloquial style, first person in many instances. In other instances, there’s an argumentative stance, less the critic’s dispassion and more the voice of a seminar speculation finding solid ground. The published words keep the liveliness of a conference talk. Thanks to Editor Cantú’s expectations, the scholar whipped those remarks and talking outline into something publishable.


Mostly. My comprehension has to depend on Cantú’s account of Fernando Curiel Defossé’s, “El Ateneo Muralista,” which is written in Spanish. I do not recognize the structure of the essay, and have no idea what’s going on. Cantú explains:


“A historian who knows the history of Mexico by heart, a literary critic, poet, and radio announcer, Curiel Defossé draws from different fields and a variety of topics related to Mexican muralism, guiding the reader through apparently distant or unrelated accounts that nonetheless cohere at the end. The essay’s mural-like composition, with a variety of interpretations of the history of Mexican art and post-revolutionary Mexico is traced with evident mastery of the subject at times formulated through satire, irony, or understatement so as to encourage the reader to think critically and independently.”  


The 2019 Conference must have been a highlight of an academician’s year. The essays look like the scholar had fun writing, you’ll have fun reading. I like to think of the sweep of the collection, alternating from language to language, man to woman, akin to watching a one-camera b&w film of a live staged production.  You didn’t have to be there to get it, but it must have been something in person!


Adding to the accessibility of the collection is the scholars’ motive to revisit and newly-explore accepted ideas, maybe turn something on its coco. As Cantú avers, the propósito of the collection is to revisit comfortable ideas.


“Studies of this scope are evidence that Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, including other Mexican muralists, were caught in an international network of interests and conflicts from day one, often beyond their comprehension or control. Such is the aim of the essays selected for this volume: to propose alternative theoretical and critical perspectives on Mexican mural art, distinguishing between aesthetics and its relation to beauty and taste, and the aesthetic Mexican muralists sided with: belligerently against “bourgeois” taste in art; against capitalism; against the Mexican government (e.g. the Calles regime), against Stalinism, against Trotskyism and, at times, against each other.”


As they cover old, familiar ground, being responsible scholars, they take nothing for granted. The essays don’t assume a deep knowledge of the cultural and historical milieu of the periods in ferment, hence added usefulness.


Re-envisioning ways to assess and understand renowned, well-loved classic murals, and explain your ideas even to well-informed tipos, demands deep background to place historical context  around ideas discovered in murals. The essays assume an informed reader. The scholars own up to a responsibility to give readers a good history lesson, especially the anglophone audience. Maybe a Mexicano got all this in high school, but a United Statesian won’t have any idea which Mexican liberator cut down the nopalera and didn’t lie about it, or why Rivera painted Marx in a Mexican scene?


Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, CDMX



Monday, November 21, 2022

Brenda Cárdenas y Carlos Cumpián leyeron poesía en el Writers Place por Xánath Caraza

Brenda Cárdenas y Carlos Cumpián leyeron poesía en el Writers Place

por Xánath Caraza



El pasado 28 de octubre de este 2022 el Writers Place presentó la XIII edición de la Celebración de Día de Muertos a las 7 p.m. CST en Zoom.


Los poetas invitados para este año fueron Brenda Cárdenas, Carlos Cumpián y la que escribe. Así mismo el grupo Calpulli Iskali compartió su talento con los asistentes. Como cada año Maryfrances Wagner y Steve Holland nos apoyan en la organización de esta celebración. Espero y disfruten de algunas fotos de este evento.

Friday, November 18, 2022

More End-Of-The -Year Books

The never-ending list of new literature gets a boost with books from surreal Venezuela, timely academia, and gritty Denver.


Sacrifices: Stories

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, translated by Thomas Bunstead
Seven Stories Press - October 18, 2022

[from the publisher]
These revelatory short stories tread the line between surrealism and realism with strange, appealing characters who take on a sacrifice in spite of themselves.

A followup to his first novel, The Night (winner of the Rive Gauche à Paris Prize for foreign books in 2016), this collection of short stories by Venezuelan literary star Rodrigo Blanco Calderón features a taxidermist painter, a blind man lost in Mexico City, a female motorcyclist who rides naked through the night, a foreigner who learns a language making confessions in Paris churches, and a dying pilot who finds peace in a reading of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Impeccable and masterful in his storytelling, Calderón constructs a nocturnal cast of characters who become the victims and executioners of a sacrifice in the midst of a floundering Venezuela, others with the threat of terrorism in France, or in a Mexico symbolizing the first shots of the revolution.

University of Arizona Press - September, 2022

[from the publisher]
World of Our Mothers captures the largely forgotten history of courage and heartbreak of forty-five women who immigrated to the United States during the era of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. The book reveals how these women in the early twentieth century reconciled their lives with their circumstances—enduring the violence of the Revolution, experiencing forced labor and lost childhoods, encountering enganchadores (labor contractors), and living in barrios, mining towns, and industrial areas of the Midwest, and what they saw as their primary task: caring for their families.

While the women share a historic immigration journey, each story provides unique details and circumstances that testify to the diversity of the immigrant experience. The oral histories, a project more than forty years in the making, let these women speak for themselves, while historical information is added to support and illuminate the women’s voices.

The book, which includes a foreword by Irasema Coronado, director of the School of Transborder Studies, and Chris Marin, professor emeritus, both at Arizona State University, is divided into four parts. Part 1 highlights the salient events of the Revolution; part 2 presents an overview of what immigrants inherited upon their arrival to the United States; part 3 identifies challenges faced by immigrant families; and part 4 focuses on stories by location—Arizona mining towns, Phoenix barrios, and Midwestern colonias—all communities that immigrant women helped create. The book concludes with ideas on how readers can examine their own family histories. Readers are invited to engage with one another to uncover alternative interpretations of the immigrant experience and through the process connect one generation with another.


Erika T. Wurth
Flatiron Books - November 1

[from the publisher]
Erika T. Wurth's White Horse is a gritty, vibrant debut novel about an Indigenous woman who must face her past when she discovers a bracelet haunted by her mother’s spirit.

Some people are haunted in more ways than one…

Kari James, Urban Native, is a fan of heavy metal, ripped jeans, Stephen King novels, and dive bars. She spends most of her time at her favorite spot in Denver, a bar called White Horse. There, she tries her best to ignore her past and the questions surrounding her mother who abandoned her when she was just two years old.

But soon after her cousin Debby brings her a traditional bracelet that once belonged to Kari’s mother, Kari starts seeing disturbing visions of her mother and a mysterious creature. When the visions refuse to go away, Kari must uncover what really happened to her mother all those years ago. Her father, permanently disabled from a car crash, can’t help her. Her Auntie Squeaker seems to know something but isn’t eager to give it all up at once. Debby’s anxious to help, but her controlling husband keeps getting in the way.

Kari’s journey toward a truth long denied by both her family and law enforcement forces her to confront her dysfunctional relationships, thoughts about a friend she lost in childhood, and her desire for the one thing she’s always wanted but could never have…



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Chicanonautica: Hockey-Pucking Through the Arizona Midterms

by Ernest Hogan

Following the midterms in Arizona has been like chasing a hockey puck, being batted around, bouncing off things, not knowing what will come next.


Since my last column:

A federal judge “ordered that a group monitoring Arizona ballot drop boxes for signs of fraud stay at least 75 feet away from ballot boxes and publicly correct false statements its members have made about Arizona election laws.”

Maricopa County’s sheriff warned political leaders “not 'to incite violence or riots' with false claims, sent extra police to polling places, and barricades went up around elections offices.”

There was a break in at Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Katie Hobbs’ headquarters. When suspicion was cast on Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari “Trump in a Dress” Lake, called an Emergency Press Conference in which she showed fake picture of a man in a chicken suit breaking into her headquarters, and attacked the press.

Lake told a reporter, “I am going to not only be the governor of Arizona for four years, I’m going to do two terms. I’m going to be your worst fricking nightmare for eight years.” Her transformation from smiling news gerbil to fire-breathing politician is complete. She’s always screaming hallucinatory nonsense. Maybe there’s something to that wild rumor that she’s hooked on datura enemas.

A suspect in the Hobbs HQ break in was arrested and wasn’t politically motivated.

An envelope with a hateful letter and a mysterious white powder was found at Lake headquarters but was thrown away. Police couldn’t find any powder in two other letters.



And the race was still close. 

My scifiista mind conjured up a scenario where I’m trying to sneak across the new border from recently seceded Lakeian AZ into California, so we don’t lose our Medicare and Social Security. Would the fact that I was born in East L.A. make me a citizen of the new United States? Would my Arizona marriage be recognized?

Early on Election Day, there was some trouble with the tabulators at some polling places. The glitch was fixed by noon. Kari Lake snarled about “incompetence.”

Except for that, it was a quiet Election Day. No incident at the polls. 

There was a lot of talk about a Red Wave, but even though races were tight all over the country, it didn’t happen. Trump-backed candidates–particularly, celebrity-physician Dr. Mehmet Oz–lost.

The next morning, Michael A. Cohen of MSNBC stated: “While we still don’t have the final results, Democratic losses will be nowhere close to the historical averages.” After a day of agonizing doldrums, more results came in:

Democrat Mark Kelly kept his Senate seat from extreme Republican Blake Masters. Democrat Adrian Fontes beat Republican Mark Finchem for Secretary of State. Hobbs is the new Governor, but the Attorney General race is a toss-up.

On the national front, Ron DeSantis kept the governorship of Florida, and is being hailed as the new hero of the Republican Party. Trump got mad.

Lake supporters marched around the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, trying to reenact the Biblical Battle of Jericho.

What does it mean to La Bloga readers? Well, I have noticed that there was no reaching out to Latinos in the last few weeks of the election–even after Lake made an awkward Spanish-language ad earlier. Democrats Hobbs and Kelly both made ads showing them as being tough on “the border.”

Yeah, I know that it was strategic, because it comes down to winning over those peculiar folks who can vote fascist or socialist depending on the prevailing mood, but it stings that a lot of our fellow Americanos still see us as a problem, instead of a solution.

And on the other hand, Proposition 308, that approved in-state tuition of all qualifying students regardless of immigration status, passed.

Meanwhile, a zombie-like Trump has announced his run for the presidency in 2024 . . .

Ernest Hogan, Father of Chicano Sci-Fi, works hard to keep his fiction stranger than the news.