Thursday, March 30, 2023

Cesar Chavez Day and National Poetry Month Mañana

First Happy Cesar Chavez Day

Tomorrow is April Fool's and National Poetry Month Begins 

 Does anyone else hide from the pranksters? I've never been one for jokes and do not enjoy that we have a day dedicated to fooling each other. In the spirit of no fooling, one real event is Poetry Month. April is when event coordinators bring out the poets and for one month, there are more poetry events than usual. I have to admit, this is another custom I am not a fan of. I prefer celebrating poetry everyday, all yearlong. Since you'll be hearing more about poetry in April during my posts for April 14 and the 28, I'll only share a few events to start with. 

April 1: The Poetry Buffet, an online event to celebrate women poets. Zoom reading. No fooling. Saturday 2pm 

April 8: Poetry Without Borders. Poesia Sin Fronteras. A one-day Poetry Fest from 2-7pm, Cafe Istanbul, 2372 Saint Claude, New Orleans

In Santa Barbara, there's big Poet Laureate news. On the 18th at 2pm at Santa Barbara's City Hall, the city will proclaim its 10th Poet Laureate. 

On April 25, Santa Barbara welcomes the 24th United States Poet Laureate, Ada Límon to Campbell Hall, UCSB, 7:30 pm. 

April is also a month when I revisit poems I've written in the past. 

Our President Sings Amazing Grace

Melinda Palacio

For the slain Reverend Pinckney and nine 

of his flock. Bible study will never again

be sitting in the same room, breaking bread,

discussing all things of importance, faith

On the other side of the fence, a divided

nation, the crazies call an obama nation, an obamination, 

an-oh-not-my president nation. 

Since when is the President, not your President?

Will you move to Canada?

Oops. You forgot Canada allows equal marriage.

Will you move to France?

You forgot France will not tolerated your ignorance.

Parlez-vous français?

That's right. You don't speak the language.

Go back where you came from.

Is your solution a fence?

Because all of a sudden you notice the town you live in,

the street your house is on is not spelled in English.

English only. You voted for it. 

A Mexican told you. I will marry your daughter 

and you will eat nothing but burritos,

burritos three times a day.

Which flag will you fly?

Will you hold up stars and stripes,

rebel stars and bars,

or will a white dove help you

with a white handkerchief?

For your pain, for my pain, for their pain, for our pain,

President Obama Sings Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace,

How Sweet the Sound...

A Journal Entry: Street Dogs of Tepatitlan

by Daniel Cano                                                                       


Starting early

August 5, 2016, Tepatitlan, Jalisco, Los Altos

1:00 PM

     At 104,000 people, Tepatitlan is the second most populated city in the region known as los altos de Jalisco, my ancestors’ homeland before their arrival in Santa Monica, California in 1917.

     So, legend has it, my grandfather, Nicolas Gonzalez, as a young man, had already made the long trek from his family ranch, Mitic, in Jalisco to work north of the border. Possible? Maybe. Mitic is nearly 1000 miles from the El Paso border, the Mexican Ellis Island. It would have been a brutal journey in the early 1900s, even for a man travelling alone. Although, watching one’s family suffer from hunger and/or violence is a strong motivator.

     Los Altos is part larger region in Mexico known as el Bajio, mostly an agricultural region, farms, ranches, and villages, home of Mexico’s most exported cultural traditions, Tequila, charros, and mariachi music. In my grandparents’ Santa Monica neighborhood, most of their neighbors migrated from Los Altos, specifically, the ranches around San Juan de Los Lagos, a pilgrimage site for Mexicans.

     Maybe that’s why my deeply religious aunts taught me the story of Juan Diego and the Virgen de Guadalupe when I was barely able to understand. I still remember accompanying my aunt Josie to mass. If I looked toward the rear of the church, she would warn, “No, don’t look back there. That’s devil behind us.”


Museo Municipal, Tepatitlan

     I’ve travelled through much of Los Altos, but it’s my first time in Tepatitlan. I’m trying to understand the heritage my family bequeathed to my siblings and me. I walk down calle Hidalgo and come to a beautiful historic building, #197, El Museo Municipal de Tepatitlan, about an hour from Mitic, where part of my family resides, still working the land. Some historians claim Mitic, like many villages in Los Altos, was an indigenous settlement before the arrival of the Spanish, so am I as much Chichimeca as European?

     Once inside the museum, the first thing I notice are the precolonial dog figurines, a lot of them. A sign says the caciques’ (local rulers) families, in this region of Mexico, placed the miniature dog statues beside the caciques when they were buried. The dogs were believed to escort them into the next world.

     Since my great-grandfather Juan and his family owned many acres in Mitic, going back to the early 1800s, was he a descendant of caciques? After all, it was rare for anyone but the most politically and socially connected to acquire that much land during the colonial period, especially Indians.

     I don’t recall any of my relatives having dogs, not even my grandmother whose home in Santa Monica was more like a farm, complete with animals and vegetable gardens, and a lot of dirt for us kids to play, same with the neighbors’ homes. The cries of roosters are clearly etched in my memory.

     I pass more signs, coats of arms, and Indian relics…Tecuexes, Caxcanes, and the greater Chichimeca, who populated the lands from Zacatecas to Jalisco. In 1530, they first laid eyes on the white man. The Spaniards who conquered and settled Jalisco came from the regions of Castilla, Andalucia, Estremadura, and the Basque regions of Spain. Many were veterans in the campaigns against the Mexica. They observed the brilliance of Tenochtitlan and participated in its collapse.

     Two Spaniards who conquered Los Altos were Nuno Beltran de Guzman and Pedro Alvarado. The museum doesn’t mention it, but I read somewhere that Beltran was known for his savagery toward the Indians, who weren’t nomadic in this region but sedentary, living in villages, and growing corn and beans and domesticating animals. They weren't savages but lived by the rules of their leaders and gods.

     In 1542, after conquering Los Altos, the best Spanish fighters travelled to explore the lands to the north. The Caxcanes, Tecuexes, Zacatecos, and Chichimecas took advantage and started what would become the Mixton Wars. The Indians won many battles in their attempt to expel the invaders and recoup the lands. In one battle, they killed Pedro Alvarado and many of his soldiers and Indian allies.

     Seeking vengeance, and complete control of the territory, the Spaniards returned with four to five-hundred soldiers and upwards of 30,000 Mexica and Tlascalteca warriors. Unable to defeat such a force, the Tecuexes and Caxcanes who survived were forced into labor and adopted the Spanish encomienda system.

     Jalisco was different than other conquered lands in Mexico. The Spanish who invaded this region avoided mixing with the indigenous groups. Tepatitlan and larger towns were meant to be pure Spanish settlements, segregated from the Indians who lived in their ancestral villages, except to work for the encomienderos.

     Indian labor on Los Altos’ farms and ranches provided sustenance for the development of Guadalajara. Over the years, the Indians adopted the conquerors’ customs, but ultimately, the Spanish were unable to avoid total mestizaje. Could that be a reason so many Jalisciences, today, have light skin, and can point to, at least, fifty percent or more European DNA on their Ancestry charts?

     How did that affect the early migration into the north, where so many Spanish and mestizo explorers hailed, originally, from Jalisco and the regions north? Because of their agricultural skills, many migrants from Jalisco, Michoacan, and Zacatecas, like my grandparents, were in high demand to work on American ranches, farms, and dairies.

     During Hidalgo’s war for independence, many of the fiercely Catholic and conservative people of Los Altos rejected the movement towards independence, seeing themselves more loyal to the mother church and the king of Spain than a revolt, apparently, led by liberal, anti-church indigenous forces.

     These notions, more than likely, carried into the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and 1920s’ Cristeros Wars. Many Mexicans who arrived in El Paso and crossed into the greater regions of the Southwestern United States, like Los Angeles, came from Central Mexico. Perhaps, rather than fight in a rebellion they didn’t understand, they decided, like all my grandparents, to take their families and flee north. So, are those Mexicans who came to the United States during those years, not “migrants,” as the media labeled them, but refugees and exiles, escaping war and famine?

6:00 P.M.


Another day in the plaza

     Five perros de la calle (street dogs) gather each day in the Plaza de Armas. They chase each other, roll around on the grass, sleep huddled together, and hope for a handout from people in the plaza. The dogs are gentle. Children jump on them, ride them like horses, and pull their ears and tails. The older kids wrestle them. Some kids kick them a shoo them away. The adults, mostly, ignore them. I notice, they are the same dogs who were here yesterday. Maybe someone owns them, and they come to the plaza to get out of the house. Who knows for sure?


Hard at play 

     Later that evening, I see a man in his 40s, long hair, well dressed, walk by, and the dogs follow him across the street and around a corner. I figure he must own the dogs. A little while later, the dogs are back on the grass, playing or sleeping. As night falls, the plaza begins to empty. I see the man go into a pharmacy. Two dogs sit outside, waiting for him. He comes out of the pharmacy and sits on a stoop, a shorthair golden retriever on one side, a small black mutt on the other.

     I approach him. He can tell I am a stranger in town. I ask, in Spanish, of course, “I am just curious. I have been watching the dogs for a couple of days playing in the plaza. Are they yours?”

     “Well, they follow me.”

     “But you don’t own them?”    

     “No, they are street dogs.” He pets the black mutt. “People whose dogs have pups just toss the pups to the street. They raise themselves.”

     I look to the dogs in the park. “All these dogs, but they look so healthy?”

     “People throw them food. I try to feed them when I can. These two,” he pets both dogs on either side of him, “won’t leave me. It’s very hard. You get them and you begin to like them. Then, yes, it bothers me to see them on the streets.” He shrugs, “What can I do? I am nice to them, so four or five of them follow me home at night and sleep outside my door. The neighbors complain. I don’t have room for all of them inside. This one,” he looks at the retriever, “sleeps inside.”

     “Doesn’t the government do anything?”

     “No, they don’t care.”

     I remember an article I read. I tell him, “I once visited Belize, street dogs everywhere. A local newspaper warned everyone to keep their dogs and cats inside the house. On a particular day, it said government workers would be catching them and injecting them with poison, as a form of control.”



The bus central: waiting for a kind traveller

     “When I arrived at the bus station in Tepa, I saw many of the dogs everywhere.”

     “At the bus station, the dogs know people will give them scraps of food.” He looks down at the retriever, again. “A woman was taking care of this one. She would let him sleep inside every night and feed him, but it became to much for her, so he went back to the street.”

     “That is very sad. The government should have some type of program for them.”

    “They do, but, in the end, it costs too much money.”

     “Well, you do a good thing by trying to take care of them.”

     “I do what I can.”

     He says his name is Felipe. We bid each other good night. He continues to stroke the fur of both dogs. He rises and walks up the street. The dogs from the park see him, catch up, and follow behind. I walk back to my hotel.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023



Written by Jorge Argueta

Illustrations by Felipe Ugalde Alcantara


ISBN:  978-1-55885-967-8

Publication Date:  May 31, 2023

Format:  Hardcover

Pages:  32

Imprint: Piñata Books

Ages: 4-8



This trilingual picture book illustrates the interdependence of life on Mother Earth. 



“My name is Earth / but people call me Little Earth.” In the fourth installment of their award-winning Madre Tierra / Mother Earth series of trilingual picture books about the natural world, Jorge Argueta and Felipe Ugalde Alcántara collaborate again to introduce Mother Earth, who is “full of all the colors / and all the flavors.”   


She is the mother of water, fire, wind and earth. Some call her planet, others nature or creation. “I am Mother Earth / a globe spinning around the sun, / creating sunrises, sunsets and nights.” She is the song of all the plants and animals, she is “dew, snow, heat,” she is life.  


A Junior Library Guild selection, this book about Mother Earth reflects Argueta’s indigenous roots and his appreciation for the natural world. Felipe Ugalde Alcántara’s stunning illustrations depict streams, mountains and wildlife in their habitat. Containing the English and Spanish text on each page, the entire poem appears at the end in Nahuat, the language of Argueta’s Pipil-Nahua ancestors. This is an excellent choice to encourage children to write their own poems about nature and to begin conversations about the interconnected web of life.  


Jorge Argueta, a Pipil Nahua Indian from El Salvador and the 2023 Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, is a prize-winning poet and author of more than twenty children’s picture books. They include Una película en mi almohada / A Movie in My Pillow (Children’s Book Press, 2001) and Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016), which won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and was named to USBBY’s Outstanding International Book List, the ALA Notable Children’s Books and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. His Madre Tierra / Mother Earth series celebrates the natural world and is made up of four installments: Tierra, Tierrita / Earth, Little Earth (Piñata Books, 2023), winner of the Salinas de Alba Award for Latino Children’s Literature; Viento, Vientito / Wind, Little Wind (Piñata Books, 2022), winner of the Premio Campoy-Ada given by the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española; Fuego, Fueguito / Fire, Little Fire (Piñata Books, 2019); and Agua, Agüita / Water, Little Water (Piñata Books, 2017), winner of the inaugural Campoy-Ada Award in Children’s Poetry. His poetry collection, En carne propia: Memoria poética / Flesh Wounds: A Poetic Memoir (Arte Público Press, 2017), focuses on his experiences with civil war and living in exile. The California Association for Bilingual Education honored him with its Courage to Act Award. In addition, Jorge Argueta is the founder of The International Children’s Poetry Festival Manyula and The Library of Dreams, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy in rural and metropolitan areas of El Salvador. Jorge divides his time between San Francisco, California, and El Salvador.


FELIPE UGALDE ALCANTARA, a Mexico City native, illustrated Viento, Vientito / Wind, Little Wind (Piñata Books, 2022); Fuego, Fueguito / Fire, Little Fire (Piñata Books, 2019); Agua, Agüita / Water, Little Water (Piñata Books, 2017); Mother Fox and Mr. Coyote / Mamá Zorra y Don Coyote (Piñata Books, 2004); and Little Crow to the Rescue / El Cuervito al rescate (Piñata Books, 2005).

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Cooking and the Soltera, Soltero, Solterx

Cooking for Companionship

Michael Sedano

I recently became a no longer married man faced with the prospect of cooking for one and dining alone. There are also new joys of cooking for a companion, dining and enjoying the fireside with a good meal, conversation, companionship. Cooking, and eating together, fashions increasing intimacy between strangers. Propinquity and liking are just a first consequence.

My new state makes me little different from the bachelor I was in April1968, a grad student living alone in Isla Vista, looking for steady companionship in the UCSB relationship desert. I enjoyed companionship on the debate circuit; the occasional date into Santa Barbara or Goleta. 

All my friends had graduated and moved to Frisco. I was solitary and dug it with a little equivocation.

Work and study, eye women at the burger bar, have coffee alone in the student union after class, cooking a lot of spaghetti cause it's easy, eating cold cereal for breakfast, alone.

Millions of single people share my kitchen predicament, but unlike so many others, I cook when I need to make an impression. Cooking at home saves money.

This brings me back to late May, 1968. Barbara and I enjoy a couple of  dates, resulting in Barbara asking to cook me dinner in my Isla Vista apartment. Barbara lives in Santa Barbara, so an evening meal takes on importance, on the courtship scale, an 8 out of 10.

Barbara wants to impress this guy, but Barbara is broke, and not a cook. 

The roommate, raven-haired Paula, has a boyfriend who cooks like a chef. Don gives Barbara a recipe for stroganoff. At forty-five cents a pound, Barbara can afford hamburger. My mom cooked stroganoff from round steak; I adapt the recipe below from hers. That was Barbara's competition, though she has no idea when thanking Don and Paula.

There was no question I loved Barbara already. Our town-and-gown relationship was desperate for a steadier companionship. Our second date found us getting along, comfortable like future lovers. We had auguries and ganas. 

A good meal would cement the foundation. Barbara told me how she wanted to impress me with her kitchen prowess. Her confidence and experimental attitude told her to go ahead and do it. Paula said I hope I don't lose a roommate.

A few months after that first meal, we provisioned at a Bakersfield mall and hit the road north.  Almond groves whizzed past in skeletal monotony when I asked Barbara to make us sandwiches for lunch.

“On the road? While we’re moving?” 

Barbara's family had not eaten in the car, on the road. My familia's lonche style was just dip the weenie in the mustard, wrap a slice of white bread around it, hand me a pickle, and next stop, Salinas. Barbara skeptically unwraps the loaf, effectively spreads some mayonnaise with a wooden coffee stick, lays bologna on the single slice of white Webber's bread, folds it and takes her first bite of a sandwich on the road as almond groves whizz past.

My bride tells me it is the most delicious bologna sandwich she’s ever eaten. Probably tells me that just to swell my head. We won't talk about pooping under a highway bridge, another first.

That May, 1968 afternoon, The Doors play on the stereo as I take my chair at the sturdy formica table that doubles as a study desk in every apartment in the mile-square Isla Vista student ghetto. Tonight in IV, hundreds of men are sitting down to meals cooked by a woman hopeful this food will feed his soul as well as his appetites.

I’ve cleared away my papers and books. Barbara lays two plates on the barren off-white surface. The singer wants his fire lighted, and my fire won't catch. I stare at the plate listening to Barbara hopefully offering me “beef stroganoff” from her hand. It is the color of shit on a shingle brownish grey with stirrings of white sour cream.

You gotta hand it to Barbara’s toughness. She sat there and watched my face grow aghast then I swing into action, pulling catsup from my cupboard to stir tons of that shit into the stuff on the plate until it takes on a grey-pinkish color. Barbara stares at what I've done to her food and gets asco. She doesn't have that word, yet.

I explain, apologetically, I do not eat white food. That doesn't sound right. I don't eat white-colored food. My food has to be red. Or brown. Preferably “spicy”. But not white. White-colored.

That was the night Barbara learned what “asco” means. White food gives me asco. She also learns to forgive me for boorishness. I offer to discuss how the basis of a long-term relationship, a key to companionship of the best kind, is red-colored food. She is tolerant, hurt, steaming.

That was 55 years ago. She stuck with me. Five months after we marry, I go into the Army for 19 months. My mother takes Barbara under her wing as soon as my ass hit Ft. Ord for Basic. My Mom teaches her daughter-in-law Mexican Chicana cooking. 

When I return from 13 months in Korea, in 1970 in time for our 2d anniversary--our first together-- Barbara’s repertoire of my comida is completely professional. There is nothing she cannot cook, and cook right, just like my Mother used to make. And it is all red. 

And ever shall be food without white, white-colored food, así es. Era.


I was fortunate Barbara had a thick skin and saw something in me so she stuck around. Not all Solterx are in for the same kismet. It behooves them to sharpen their kitchen game. Expanding one’s courtship repertoire into the kitchen is a sure-fire something. 

The Gluten-free Chicano, remembering how it was back in 1968 before being struck by lightning and white food, white-colored food, offers a series of courtship food for the person with passing familiarity with the kitchen. The most important element is having an experimental attitude and the confidence in your abilities to overcome any obstacle.

Courtship Food

Gluten-free Beef Stroganoff on a Budget

“steak pieces” the butcher calls the tray. Odd-shaped strips of beef trimmed off carcasses in the process of cutting meat into t-bones and filets. The bargain isn’t the 4.99 a pound but the work half-done for me.

These fotos illustrate two servings. Cooking for one means having left-overs. Stroganoff for breakfast means find a friend and feed them the night before and don't have sobras. Stroganoff is fancy eating, courtship food. Plan a good playlist.

"Steak strips" are the right size, you could cut them in half lengthwise. Half-freeze them to make slicing a breeze and you won't cut your fingers. Cover the meat with garbanzo flour while the onions wilt in hot olive oil.

The Gluten-free Chicano uses his suegra's cast iron frying pan. Such a pan is a universal kitchen tool for everyone from tyro to chef.

Keeping the flame high, stir the meat and onions, add the sliced mushrooms. Increase quantities to feed more people, stir more vigorously the more volume you're moving.

When the meat has greyed, mostly, add equal volumes of tomato sauce and water. Add a lot of liquid if you like a lot of sauce. Some people love their noodles / rice / mashed potatoes to swim in that rich stroganoff sauce, that rich red stroganoff sauce. 

Lower the fire to simmer.
Cover the pan and simmer 20 minutes. Stir or shake the pan now and again.

Two large dollops of sour cream look like this. If you like extravagance, just use an entire container of sour cream. When you're doubling this to feed four, use the whole container.

Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul-nourishing Comida

Six strips of beef
Halfcup sliced mushrooms
4 slices off a white Onion
⅓ cup tomato sauce, ⅓ cup water (totally variable here if you want more sauce)
Good, healthy, sprinkle garlic powder, or 1-2 dientes minced
½ cup Cheap red wine
½ cup Sour cream (2 big scoops with a tablespoon)
Garbanzo flour, or other gluten-free flour
Coarse ground black pepper, pinche sal

Dowse the sliced beef in Garbanzo flour.
On a hot flame, get olive oil smoking
Wilt the onions and garlic for a few seconds

Add the beef and stir and stir.

Stir in the tomato sauce and the water. Make a thin soupy volume.
Stir in ½ cup or less of cheap red wine.

Lower the flame

Simmer for 20 minutes, covered. (You want all the alcohol and half the volume of liquid to reduce away, becoming puro flavor in the meat/hongos stew).

Stir in the sour cream.

Cover for five minutes or so, until the sour cream is fully blended and heated. The more sour cream, the longer you cook it to make a rich thick sauce. (If you added too much water or it didn't boil away enough, serve it anyway. Next time, you know.)

Serve over rice or gluten-free egg noodles.

If served as a courtship meal, be prepared. Get the ingredients to make eggs benedict for tomorrow’s breakfast. 


Monday, March 27, 2023

“Sinfonía” y “Primavera” por Xánath Caraza

“Sinfonía” y “Primavera” por Xánath Caraza





La sinfonía de este bosque me envuelve. Sólo las estrellas modelan un camino en la oscuridad donde escribo. Algunos grillos contrapuntean la música mientras el croar de las ranas rompe el ritmo de la respiración.



Las estrellas


la respiración






The symphony of this forest engulfs me. Only the stars model a path through the darkness where I am writing. Crickets counterpoint music while the croaking of frogs fractures the rhythm of breathing.



The stars








La primavera


El recuerdo recorre las sillas de hierro. El traspatio sigue vacío. En los retoños cubiertos de escarcha blanca las aves trinan gélidos cantos. ¿Es que acaso llegará la primavera a mi corazón?



Las sillas

trinan gélidos cantos

a mi corazón





 Memory traverses the chairs forged in iron. The backyard remains empty. On sprouts covered by white frost, birds chirp icy songs. Could it be that spring will find its way to my heart?




chirp icy songs

to my heart





“Sinfonía” y “Primavera” versión original en español por Xánath Caraza


Traducidos al inglés por Sandra Kingery, Hanna Cherres, Joshua Cruz-Avila, Zachary L. Donoway, Angelina M. Fernandez, Luis Felipe Garcia Tamez, Nicholas A. Musto, Julia L. Nagle, Aaron Willsea, and Joshua H. Zinngrebe


Ilustraciones por Tudor Şerbănescu


Pandora Lobo Estepario Production Press



Friday, March 24, 2023

Historical Remains

Today's guest contributor offers his thoughts and opinions about history and why we should be aware of the importance of understanding and preserving history, warts and all. 

After all, what is truth? Jack Kerouac said something like "the only truth is music." There you go.

Dr. Frank Davila is a retired public-school teacher and administrator, university instructor and a published author. He is a co-founder of CALMA (Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors) and a strong advocate for mentoring public school leaders and aspiring Latino writers.


Historical Remains                                                                
Frank S. Davila, Ph.D.


That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.                                                                                             Aldous Huxley

History is always in the making given the churning reservoir of dynamic human and natural sources. When the day is done and we wake up to a new sunrise, all the activities and events around us and beyond, from the day before, are now recent history. How often do we pause and review those episodes with an eye toward the future and their potential impact?

It is essential to remind ourselves that history is the written description of how we currently view the past based on evidence such as diaries, photos, letters, stories, and archeological remains that are readily available for us to review and codify so they can be shared. Many aspects of the history of our country are frequently and fondly remembered while other occurrences are ignored, belittled and swept away. Concrete historical events cannot be changed; they remain with us for eternity.

Historical Perceptions 

In the last few years, our high regard for the preservation and sharing of intimate historical events and episodes has come under intense scrutiny. In some quarters, that scrutiny has morphed into a direct denial of our nation’s historical background when attempts are made to display some books and historical accounts in public settings. There are those who argue that some of the historical descriptions paint an unfavorable, negative and racist caricature of the white population. This characterization is seen as laying the blame for all of the nation’s social ills on the doorsteps of a group of citizens.

And then there are books whose topics appear to be inappropriate for some school age children and for many parents who are not yet ready to accept new social codes and lifestyles.

In contrast, others feel that negating the factual and chronicled events of our past is to deny and erase the painful memories that some citizens suffered. They emphasize the importance of sharing all our historical ups and downs with every generation. They also point out that proper and objective channels should be made available to review materials rather than the issuance of a blanket rejection of materials that some in powerful leadership positions argue for to impose their values and in some instances to score political points.

Historical Pieces from the Past

This apprehension of different public displays of lifestyles and provocative materials is not a new phenomenon. The Roaring 20’s, post WWII with its new views, the music revolution of the 60’s and the advent of social media have created visible discomfort in some population groups.

We should note that when different groups of individuals come together and add a new historical imprint, they bring with them their respective values, customs, language and cultural attributes that contribute to the overall mix. This transformational period of becoming comfortable with each other takes longer especially when those who have been the dominant human force begin to resent the intrusion of others who are different and whom they perceive as growing in number and impacting the currently accepted social norms. The new immigrants who want to become an integral part of the whole of the country disrupt the status quo with their burning desire to hold on to their heritage.

It is natural, to some degree, to feel different and estranged when we are placed in a situation where most of the folks around us are speaking a language we do not understand or display a behavior that is different from our traditional views. This is accentuated when it is interpreted as a sign of disrespect and a refusal to be a part of the mainstream. Our history is continuously in a state of flux particularly when new citizens add their flavor and footprint. 

Historical Antagonism and Social Justice

The labels and derogatory remarks we use to describe people whom we disdain, create further schism among the various groups. Unfortunately, this often leads to acts of reprisal, finger pointing and worse, outright discrimination and segregation among some groups. Unfortunately, “hate” crime has manifested itself dramatically in the last several years primarily against those US citizens whose background and heritage are perceived as the culprits for some of the problems we are experiencing. It appears that a general permission has been proclaimed so that individuals can now feel it is acceptable to use physical and deadly force to emphasize their personal views against those customs that do not reflect theirs, or to simply respond with unbridled anger.

We are at a stage in our country where social justice has become a contentious battle as each group wants to be recognized and respected. When the rhetoric is not one that invites common ground and a healthy dialogue, then we use other punitive means to get our message heard. Marches, demonstrations, pillage, killings, destruction of properties along with negative stereotypical writings and legal mandates are some tools that are used to force changes to fit a prescribed moral standard.

Yes, we have many beautiful moments where we sense the pride of being an American. These include major accomplishments in medicine (smallpox, measles, polio, COVID, space (constellations, planets, stars), science and medicine (cancer research, robotics), sports, and other fields. And then we have violent disruptions leading to death, destruction of property, school shootings, bullying, and more.  The amazing accomplishments and the antagonistic responses both become part of our history.

Your Personal Stories 

Have you ever wondered about the origins of history? Obviously, you and I as individuals are a primary source. And then we have our beloved and somewhat kooky and fun family, in addition to our intimate and casual friends who contribute to the historical drama. The human occurrences on the national and world stage can also be prominent ones that capture our interest from an historical perspective.

We all have stories we can share about our family and related cultural experiences. We can proudly display military photos, share personal and professional triumphs, devastating or epic moments, discrimination, and friendships through poems, memoirs, and other intimate revelations. The preservation of these memorable events adds to our overall knowledge of who we are and how we charted our personal course amid the ongoing social, political, pandemic, and other challenges of our own era. This contextual viewpoint helps all future generations understand the resiliency and changes that occurred and perhaps, more importantly, why some of these new initiatives (civil rights, voting rights, bilingual education, and others) were pursued.

When we consider the historical topics that are highlighted, there are several that seem to be frequently headlined. These include political, religious, cultural, and social inclinations that often are hot buttons given the wide gap of how we interpret and condemn and affirm certain elements within those topics. Additionally, prayer in the schools, responses to the US flag, personal lifestyles, critical race theory, voting rights, stolen elections and others add to the historical panoramic view.

Historical Legacy

The uplifting moments mingled with heartbreaking and painfully poignant atrocities are part of our history. The ugly ones and the marvelous ones give us a glimpse of how we continue to grapple with our growth as a nation that is comprised of individuals with different visions and dreams and personal pursuits.

Unfortunately, some of those ancestral and historical events that are at the heart of some of our current struggles are lost and no longer available. They have been discarded, stifled, or ignored. We are then left to interpret and surmise a particular historical episode based on bits and pieces of what we can uncover or redesign to fit our thinking. Others simply want to totally forget the past proclaiming that we should solely focus on the present.

It seems that the expectation, based on the old adage that we should learn from the past to help us improve and build a more enlightened and collaborative view of who we are and want to become, is no longer highly valued.

We are fortunate to have among us a wide range of “historical guardians” who boldly create and display a piece of history through their works and talents. I am referring to our published authors, poets, musicians, singers, storytellers, historians, and others.

Lessons from History

And where can we go to access recent and dated historical information to help us have a more complete understanding of us as a nation? Our numerous libraries and bookstores along with daily social media outlets and podcasts provide us with a stream of information that at times seems burdensome. We each make an attempt to filter out the most impressionable ones; the ones that resonate with our mindset and personal interests. Our selective viewing and listening will see us turn to a particular television or radio talk show or to a favorite newspaper to hear stories that one day will be a prominent part of our historical fabric. Fortunately, we have well prepared documentaries and museums that provide hard and visual evidence of our historical background, if we choose to explore those sources.

So, what holds us back from seeking a pathway that honors the past and the present in a way that past actions can be interpreted with our present understanding of our society and thus creating unity rather than divisiveness? Who is pulling our strings and writing a narrative that one set of actions and beliefs is pro American and pro Christian while other beliefs are considered un-Christian or un-American?

Centuries ago, the Greek philosophers coined the word Epistemology. This focused on the theory of knowledge distinguishing among knowledge, belief, and opinion. They set the standard that knowledge is an event that can withstand the test of challenges from the public; that it is a truth. 

They stated that beliefs and opinions are emotionally charged and often based on fears of new and different cultural expressions. This tends to impact our thinking and how we respond to the voices of others around us. This is further manifested in how we begin to follow our beliefs and opinions rather that the truth of what is around us.

Similarly, the study of metaphysics examines the nature of existence and reality or the abstract and the concrete. An extension of that is how we view logic that is based on valid and sound reasoning. Additionally, we can focus on our understanding of ethics that describes how we can choose among right or wrong moral choices and actions. Ethics is derived from the Greek “ethos” meaning character and asking, “Who am I?”

The impressionable word, morals, is derived from the Latin word moris or mores (pl.) meaning customs and etiquette; our actions and duties.

These lessons are still relevant today. A key to deciphering our outlook and bias related to how we view and accept our nation’s history, is to find and ask the right question to bring forth the best answer.

Historical Remains

In keeping with the title “Historical Remains,” it is fitting to look back at the 4th Century Christianity movement that declared Christianity as the official religion by the Edict of Milan (313 CE). That led to the destruction of statues, burning of literature and the prohibition of other religions and cultures from existing. This is reminiscent of the 3rd Reich (Nazis) and the bonfires and the burning of books.  In May of 1933, books considered “un-German“ were burned by students to further solidly the power of Hitler and to censor and control opinions and the presence of non-Germans.

This censorship is further manifested in the Middle East of today where the human rights of women and free religious beliefs are denied. Lately, Texas and Florida have begun to negate and statutorily deny the rights of certain historical events. These repressive and castigating actions remind us of vicious atrocities by other so called “civilizations” such as the Huns, Goths, and Visigoths, as they all pushed their vision of what is right and just onto the masses.

Once again, we are pressured into disregarding historical manuscripts and certain topics by our great poets and writers, particularly on those that reflect the stories, traditions, customs, successes, tribulations and the daily lived experiences of our forefathers.

Are we now relegated to only writing on topics that have not been prohibited and is a next step one of going underground to avoid persecution when we choose to write about our history that depicts “the good, the bad, and the ugly?”

Historical Mandate

Our response to these multitude of historical events will be viewed and analyzed by the next generations.  They will note how these pivotal decisions shaped the course of history. And if they closely examine our nation’s history, they will deduce, as we do so now, that some specific historical events seem to matter more to certain individuals and to our nation in general. The feelings, interpretations, and experiences of an historical event touches the soul of each of us in a different manner and that invokes a distinct and personal response that either elevates or diminishes the importance of any historical moment.

If we hear or read about an historical event, our emotional and sensory level may not feel the anguish to the same degree as an individual or group who actually lived through that specific event. Experiences such as getting lost, being bullied, violated, discriminated or spat upon, pushed, or neglected often produce deep and sensitive feelings that lead to a long-term emotional scar. The individual’s or group’s painful experiences produce a higher level of significance to a historical event. It is unfortunate that some of us are unwilling to accept and face the dark and painful historical chills experienced by our brothers and sisters.

The mandate is for our writers, poets, artists, musicians, and citizens to consciously sustain their collective contribution of keeping our history alive to help us build a better today and a more creative and vibrant future.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.            George Santayana