Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Guest Writer: Nikki DeNecochea, Su Ultima

Editor's Note
Michael Sedano
“We have nothing but time.”

Betty summarized our Memory Club gathering. Our fellow caregivers, living with different progressions of dementias, talk about our medications and disappointments, deteriorating status quos, our undying love for a disappearing partner. Our outlook grows dim. Our souls are hopeless. 

The four of us fight despair and look forward to talking to people going through their own versions of the same process: a brain breaking down kills a loved one’s cognitive abilities. Finally, dementia takes a spouse’s life from us. Everything we caregivers speak about has the same inevitability.

“We have nothing but time,” Betty spoke. She was hopeful for it, the time.

A year and a half passed since that conversation. Today all we have is memories. Time ran out for both of us. 

Death and dying are elements of dementia and caregiving no one talks about. It's yet another hard fact about the enormity of living with Alzheimer's or another cognitive disease. Unspoken words tend to bear great weight and value.

Guest writer Nikki DeNecochea shares the most intimate moment in a caregiver's experience, that moment of transition. 

La Bloga thanks our returning guest for sharing these moments. Dementia is a growing disease in the United States. Being aware is a way of preparing for life with Alzheimer's. Diagnosed with your partner's dementia, all you can do is prepare and endure and enjoy; all you have is Time.

Nikki DeNecochea

It had been a day of dread and one for feeling the weight of my heavy heart.  I believe anxiety to be my comfort from total panic, and my self-protection.   My mother is ready, I am not.

 “Pay attention” is the urging of that voice that accompanies me each of these last days.  It seems I’m being asked to pay particular attention, throughout this June day.   Don’t panic, breathe, and comfort her is repeated to me.  

“Be aware” -- my ancestors taunt. 
All the signs are here I was being readied to be her ultimate solace, on her last night.    It would be the day that no one is fully prepared to accept -- losing a mother.   And, not one of those routine ‘get ready for bed, lock up, lights out’ kind of nights.  It was to be my mother’s last night.  Su ultima.  

On this eve she’s beginning her hard exit, and the struggle was getting noisy.  Death is noisy to the last inhale, and then the heavy silence is equally intense. 
This day would be different from all others.  Something extra-sensory was going on. Guides seemed to whisper, “Ayudala mija” as I felt directed to help ready her to let go of the rope suspending a freefall.  Together, moving into the last night toward her last dawn, clinging tightly to the reality of it all. 
I admit that there was a self-protective nudge to numb-out and reside in comfortable denial.   “Not today.  I can’t today. Maybe tomorrow, if I’m wrong and she doesn’t transition,” I think to myself.  

Today is the day.  

Our final unspoken obligation was identified and accepted without either of us ever exchanging a word, sealed by our souls, long before this last night.  She was obligated to leave, and my obligation was to let her go.  

My providence – to be the last person she heard and felt, as we held hands, and I stroked her brow while speaking softly of things that had nothing to do with death and everything to do with our lives together.   My final ofrenda to her, and my purpose was to be the conduit for her soul’s release and to help her receive all the hope and love of all who came before, waiting, waiting, waiting for her to join them.   

I imagined them giving us their ofrendas of peace and calm. She would speak of them to me, in those last weeks, and point in the direction of their spirits in the room, saying, “Ya quieren que me vaya.” So real to her, she would squint to see them, and lower her head with a laser focus to see better.   These visions were patient and forestalling.  

 It was the last time I spoke to her of her life and parents recalling her shared stories. I spoke of her children and grandchildren, and of her closest lifetime friends to fill the room with their presence, so we didn’t feel so alone.    My intent was to calm her spirit with meaningful memories, as she made headway toward releasing her soul.   My ultima ofrenda and thanks for the life she gave was to be her light on this eve.     

With it came blind faith and a calmness of purpose.    
The room glowed with candlelight and music from her era, and some from mine.  I sang the lyrics so that she could hear that I was next to her.   Or was I calming myself and my fear of this night’s inevitable loss?   

Generous to the end, she shared her deathbed with me, as we lay on her pillow that smelled of her and captured the warmth of her head.  We shared our body heat under her favorite blanket, as she began the final glide.  Hand in hand, ear to ear, and heart to heart as all those bouncing atoms in the room began transforming her soul into stardust. 

At dawn, she was gone.   

Outside, a new day, with an unexpected envoy.  A hummingbird, with full courageous intent, made its way from the yard of color and flowers, zooming under the patio cover and in a suspended flutter she buzzed and hovered inches from my face, as I sat making cell calls to announce my mother’s exit.   

Gracias, Mamita.   The hummingbird brought a resounding message and symbolic gesture on her part and a thoughtful, and reassuring ultima despedida – her last farewell.   In gratitude, I rose to return to her cooling body and summoned all her guardians to raise her and strengthen me for what is to come.   And as if by ancestral imprinting, I opened the house and windows, smudged her body and the room with white sage and invited her spirit to su ultima.

Beatriz De Necochea 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Día de Los Muertos Flor y Canto y Calenda: Santa Barbara

 Melinda Palacio

*This column was first published in the Santa Barbara Independent on Thursday, October 26, 2023

During a day-long celebration of the Day of the dead, Santa Barbara came to life. The community celebration and Calenda was something the city of Santa Barbara had never experienced before. I am very grateful to have participated in the procession and in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s pre-Calenda activities. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art outdid itself with altars and activities for the whole family. Many people sported their flower crowns and decorated skull necklaces. The Día de los Muertos activities made for a colorful audience. While people waited in costume for the calenda, some dropped by to hear poetry and song in the galleries. 


I prepared a small altar in honor of my muertitos. The museum suggested three fifteen-minute sets of poetry and music. In hindsight this format would work better in longer sets. I was also dressed for the occasion and my flower and twig headdress made managing my microphone headset a challenge. 


The first set focused on poems from How Fire Is a Story, Waiting and the companion song I had written for the book. The first audience was made up in large part by a tour group. A few friends attended and it was so nice having familiar faces in the audience. The museum’s tall ceilings meant that sound became dispersed. I made a mental note to purchase a proper microphone and stand for situations where one was not available. 

 An hour later, I presented my second set, which consisted of poems from Bird Forgiveness and the theme song, written for guitar. The Bird Forgiveness theme song was based on a poem, “What the Birds Know,” about my time taking care of my grandmother during her last month of life. I have many poems and songs that honor my deceased loved ones. I also presented a tune that was born a song, Love Always Wins. This was a big breakthrough for me because I am fairly new to playing music and writing songs. I wrote my first song four years ago. I wrote Love Always Wins this past summer after a friend suddenly passed away. 


Some of my favorite poems have been assignments or requests. Many people ask me what is it I do as Poet Laureate and a large part of the Poet Laureate duties is to write poems for various occasions or institutions. I wrote an inaugural poem when I was installed as Poet Laureate at City Hall, a poem for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and, recently a poem for Perla Batalla, who asked if I wanted to read poetry during the musical interlude of her La Llorona set at the Margorie Luke Theater. I was thrilled because I’ve been a longtime fan of Perla Batalla and her music. She has gorgeous voice. Her version of the song La Llorona is a favorite. Reading the poem on stage with her and her band and daughter was a dream. 


My third set for the Día de los Muertos celebration was my La Lllorona set. I read the poem that I had written for Perla and played the companion song that composed. In the mythology of La Llorona, she is a woman who wanders and hollers in search of her children. There are different stories, in one of the more popular stories, La Llorona (she who cries) drowns her children because her lover does not want them. In my poem, La Llorona is tasked with helping the children who have crossed the border and who are alone. She is redeemed. I was humbled to be able to share this poem and song as part of the Santa Barbra Museum of Art’s Día de los Muertos celebration. By the third set, the audience was filled with people in costume, faces painted, everyone was ready for the Calenda procession to paseo nuevo and the Museum of Contemporary Art for the final stop with tamales and aguas frescas. 




Last Words to La Llorona

Melinda Palacio




The poet’s coffin is made of books.

She said, bury me with my books, 

Send me down the Rio Grande.

Even La Llorona needs to read. 

Llorona, I dedicate this poem to you.

Read these pages before my coffin sinks into mud.


If the ink should bleed onto pebbles at the bottom

of the river, do not worry.

I have memorized them all. I will sing to you.

But please, cover me, for I grow colder.


I know where you went wrong, Llorona. 

You are here and this is my last flor y canto.

On the river we will float on a song. 

My last dying wish: Protect the Children at the Border.


Children have left their homes with nothing

But a name and a flower embroidered on their sleeves.

Llorona, redeem yourself, redeem them, redeem me.

Aye de mi Llorona, ayudales. Save the children. 



La Respuesta / La Llorona’s Response

Melinda Palacio




I have come to take your hand, child.

Don’t think you’re in a stranger’s land.

Don’t you know I’ve always been here

You belong here too.


First, they came for the children

Then they came for the land

Built a wall so high, crushed butterflies

To a fine pulp, their royal wings discarded.


When I met the Devil, 

his cloven hooves wanted to dance.

I knew better. I will not lose again.

My children died in this river.

I will escort you out of this hell. 

What they say is a lie.

He alone has jailed the children.

All at the border.


Musings on the Novel, Pedro Paramo



     For me, the novel Pedro Paramo is Mexico’s Moby Dick, its Don Quixote, its Crime and Punishment, probably even, its Inferno, except for one major difference, what took Melville, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, and Dante hundreds of pages to write, Mexican novelist, Jalisco’s Juan Rulfo, wrote his masterpiece in 124 pages.

     Maybe it's just Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos, and as I walk the streets, I see calaveras and goblins hanging in neighbors’ front porches, plastic boney skulls, hands, and feet protruding from the front yard graves, as if deleting the lines between life and death. Maybe, it’s because I’m aging, and thoughts of mortality and immortality are on my mind, so Rulfo’s 1955 novel becomes more real.

     It’s been a while since I’ve read Pedro Paramo, but it remains embedded in my psyche. I first assigned it to an advanced English composition class back in 1995, and I’ve probably read it dozens of times since, its main character, Pedro Paramo, in my face whenever I hear tyrants inflict atrocities on people somewhere in the world.

     Literary critics proclaimed Pedro Paramo a masterpiece in Mexican and World literature, but I’d never read it until I assigned it in class. In college, I minored in Spanish and majored in English, but in 1977, I changed my major to Spanish to take advantage of a fellowship to study in Spain.  

     Spanish teachers in American higher education taught as if only literature from Spain had relevance in the Castellano language, or what most people call Spanish. Even the few Chicano teachers in Spanish departments assigned mostly books from the Iberian Peninsula; though, they’d begun to explore works from the America’s, mostly the big boys, like Borges, Neruda, and Garcia Marquez. So, I don’t remember hearing much in the classroom about Mexican literature, except by a few renegade professors who mentioned names, like Azuela, Castellanos, Rulfo, and Fuentes, giants in Mexican literature.

     By 1995, I had tenure, so I could assign whatever I wanted. Also, I figured my community college English students needed to know there were literary masters beyond the limits of British and American writers. They also existed in France, Russia, Spain, and, yes, Latin America. So, as the deadline approached to submit my book list, I scribbled the words Pedro Paramo, by Juan Rulfo, Grove Books, on the form, stuck it in an envelope and dropped it off at the bookstore. This was before everything became electronic.

     I had a couple of weeks before classes, so I knew I’d better read the novel to discuss it intelligently in class. Once I received my complimentary copy, I sat down and started reading, the opening line: “I came to Comala in search of my father, a man named Pedro Paramo.” Easy enough. Okay, I got it. I can deal with that, kind of like Mexico’s version of, “Call me Ishmael.”

     So, I read on, as the unknown narrator stated, almost as if whispering: “It was what my mother had told me, and I promised I would go and see him after she died. I assured her I would do that. She was near death, and I would have promised her anything. ‘Don’t fail to go and see him,’ she told me. ‘That’s what his name is, although they sometimes called him something else.  I am sure he would want to know you.’”   

     I’m not sure I read it correctly, or I completely understand, something of a mental disconnect. The words sound more like murmurs, and I feel as though my world is shrinking, like I am alone with two people, a dying woman and her son, and they’re pulling me into a death scene. It smells of death and reminds me of my own family and friends’ dying, emotions that can’t be described in words but only felt.

     The narrator continues: “The only thing I could do was to tell her I would do it and, after saying it so often, it became such a habit that I continued repeating it, even after I managed to remove my hands from her lifeless hands.”

     Not only is Rulfo assaulting my senses but also my reason. I start asking questions, the key questions, who are these people and where are they? Is the narrator talking to us, the readers? Talk about critical thinking.

     My eyes move to the next lines: “Before she died, she also told me: ‘When you go, don’t ask him for anything. Demand that he give[s] you what is ours.  What he should have given me and never did…  Make him pay dearly, my son, for the way he has neglected us.’

    “Yes, I’ll do that, mother.”

     This doesn’t sound like any story I’ve read before. Who is making whom pay for what and why? Who are these voices, and why is a mother, on her deathbed, making her son promise revenge on a man, his father, who, it sounds like, took everything from her? My mind reels. I hear echoes of Joseph Conrad and William Faulker. The narrator’s voice is haunting, addictive, like it’s coming from some place unknown. So, I go where he leads.

    “I never really intended to fulfill my promise. But now I have started to dream about it and be filled with illusions.  After that a new world began to take shape, based on the hope of a man called Pedro Paramo, the husband of my mother.  And that’s why I came to Comala.”

    He said, “The husband of my mother,” instead of “my father.” He also implies he is already in Comala, not journeying there. Comala, such a strange name for a village, like comal, a hot platter used to make tortilla, symbolism?

     The opening, or exposition, was from one fragment of many, which, eventually, together, tell the story of Pedro Paramo, a man described as, depending on the translation, "pure evil," "human bile," and hatred personified, who murders viciously, with impunity, and is ultimately responsible for the destruction of Comala, not unlike many strongmen, politician, and corporate heads, modern day caciques, responsible for death around the world, personifications of evil. Was this Rulfo’s Mexico, or even Rulfo’s view of the world?

     Rulfo writes, ignoring a traditional structure in plot, character, setting, or narration. The voices within the fragments, like vignettes, tell the story, like fallen leaves from a tree, pick up a handful, toss them into the air, and however they fall, they tell a story.

     So, as I read, the characters appear, often with no context or reference, like spirits from the grave, Eduviges Dyada, Dorotea La Curaca, Miguel Paramo, Susana, Father Renteria, Juan Preciado and his mother, Dolores, whose voices we hear at the beginning, el Tartamudo, various revolutionaries, unknown peasants, all dead, yet think they are still alive. 

     Since there is no beginning, middle, or end, it is they who tell the story, the villagers of Comala, as they recall its once rich harvest to its final desolation. It isn’t until you finish the book do you know the story of Pedro Paramo and Comala, like so many old villages throughout Mexico, like those in Jalisco, Rulfo’s home state. 

      It is said that Rulfo, a government employee traveling throughout Mexico, stood in an abandoned Jalisco village, a ghost town, and wondered what it would be like if the people who lived there returned, and so was born the novel, Pedro Paramo.

     Books and dissertations have been written about the novel, about its richness, symbolism, Christian and pagan references, European and Aztec representations, like the name Pedro Paramo. Pedro, the name Jesus bestowed on the apostle Simon, whom Catholics call the first pope of their church. Pedro originates from the Greek Petros, or Petras, which means stone or rock, as in the original Aramaic. So, when Jesus told Simon, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church,” Rulfo took the name for the main character, as a religious symbol.

     However, unlike the apostle Peter (Pedro), Paramo’s namesake, or as Mexicans say, tocayo, Rulfo juxtaposed the name with "Paramo," a barren plain, a wasteland, a soulless entity, evil swallowing the good, God versus the devil, heaven or hell, maybe purgatory, or the Aztec underworld, where the god Mictlantecuhtli rules. 

     As a descendent of Mexicans from villages, like Comala, did my ancestors, my great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles and aunts suffer revolutions, pestilence, and starvation, like the villagers in Rulfo’s novel? Did they live in towns controlled by caciques like Pedro Paramo, trapped some place between heaven and hell? Did death hang closely about them, or did they feel trapped by the laws of a church that threatened their existence in this life and the next, so they chose to celebrate death? Is that why they came north, in search of light to escape the darkness?

     Sure, Pedro Paramo is just a novel, and a good one, written to educate and to entertain; however, it leaves readers, all readers, asking so many questions about the lives we lead, where we have been, and where we are going, for that alone, it is a powerful testament to the human spirit.     

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


By Robert Casilla 


ISBN:  978-1-55885-983-8 

Publication Date:  October 31, 2023

Format:  Hardcover

Pages:  32

Imprint: Piñata Books

Ages: 5-10



The life of an acclaimed major league baseball player is recounted for kids. 


Mariano Rivera, a record-breaking major league baseball player, grew up in a small fishing village in Panama. His father had his own boat and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but Mariano didn’t want to be a fisherman. He loved baseball!  


Without money for equipment, the boy and his friends had to be creative. They improvised a mango tree limb for a bat, made gloves out of cardboard and wrapped a rock in shredded fishing nets and tape to create a ball! Even though Mariano was the smallest, he was quick and athletic, and he constantly practiced hitting, catching and throwing to improve his game.  After high school, he worked with his father, but when their boat sank, he was more convinced than ever that fishing was not for him! 


He started his baseball career as a shortstop for a local team, which made it to the national championship two years in a row. A New York Yankees scout invited Mariano to a tryout, and soon after he was hired to play for a minor league team in Tampa, Florida. He joined the New York Yankees in 1995 and went on to become a great relief pitcher and top closer, helping his team to win five World Series. He broke the record in 2011 for the most games saved as a closer, and in 2019 became the first major league player to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 100% of the votes. With engaging text and lively illustrations by acclaimed artist Robert Casilla, this book is sure to win many young fans.



ROBERT CASILLA was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, to parents from Puerto Rico. He has illustrated many children’s books, including Pat Mora’s The Remembering Day / El día de los muertos (Piñata Books, 2015) and First Day in Grapes (Lee & Low Books, 2014), which received a Pura Belpré Honor Award. He lives in New Fairfield, Connecticut, with his wife Carmen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Gluten-free Cooking and Swallowtail Aerial Dance

The Gluten-Free Chicano Cooks
Gluten-free Enchilada Pie / Foto Gallery 
Michael Sedano 

I’m happy realizing I now struggle to remember some of the hectic discontinuities of fulltime caregiving, like grocery shopping. Going to the store is a major production with challenges that often add to the hundreds of reasons you don’t go out, again. Living with Dementia's like this; when everything’s merely hectic that means you’re having a good day. 

At first, I resisted delivery. The seductive power of making a list on the computer got me. A few hours pass and someone sends you a foto of groceries at the front door. But when antoja doesn’t match what’s in the hielera, even with grub hub and delivery, let creative hunger guide your cuchillo. 

That’s where I stood, mas o menos back in ’21, when hunger and a bare cupboard inspired some creative hunger problem-solving and that became a La Bloga-Tuesday column.

A version of this recipe was published Tuesday, November 02, 2021

there’s no tortillas, I don’t eat bread 
there’s no tortillas, for my refrieds… 

That’s not exactly how Lalo Guerrero sings it, but that’s what my refrigerator sings when I begin the process of making dinner. In my life, cooking a meal is one thing that’s certain, and it’s all mine, to plan, shop, prepare, and share. There's special importance to this duty along with its inherent joy. Mealtime ought to be automatic enjoyment as the day’s one respite-- 

These days there’s always an obstacle. It’s not that there’s no tortillas, there aren’t enough. And I knew it yesterday when I moved the small can of Las Palmas enchilada sauce, picante, out to the kitchen. But I couldn’t get to the grocery store. 

Old mother Hubbard and I went to my reefer to see what’s to see: everything today is down-to-the-dregs leftover: a few slices of pork chop from stir-fry, chunks of white and yellow cheddars, a nub of fresh mozzarella, a manchego wedge. There’s cilantro and half a brown onion. 

Four torts, what to do: Quesadillas, Tacos, Tostadas, something else. More than anything, I have the antoja for enchiladas. But not to make just four. When I make enchiladas I want to make a dozen at least. Compromise: chilaquiles. 

I grew up eating rolled enchiladas de queso. When I was in the Army and overseas, my Mom taught Barbara how to make enchiladas. My gramma and my mom made onion-cheese red chile rolled enchiladas. Rolled. No other. 

One relative serves her husband a tortilla folded over the filling and baked. Barbara and I call that “no-love enchiladas” and my Mom agreed and never got over that slight. But I understand “quick & dirty”; that’s evidently how Manitos Manitas do theirs: red or green, folded.  

The past 40 years or so, I’ve routinely rolled meat and cheese inside my enchiladas. I served this variation—her sauce--to my mom when she lived with us, and she liked them, no secret disapproval of how her son gets fed. When you eat my enchiladas, you’re eating my gramma’s cooking, those are my mom’s enchiladas. 

That’s not what ran through my thoughts holding that bag of four tortillas. I am tired and worn out. Wednesday can’t come soon enough—that’s my day off. So tonight it’s gluten-free cooking, estilo quick and desperate. 

The Gluten-free Chicano’s Quick & Desperate Enchilada Pie 

Ingredients • about 85g carbohydrates total. 
4 tortillas 
4 oz meat 
½ brown onion 
1 cup grated cheese of mix varieties 
Corn starch, absolutely pure corn 
Las Palmas picante enchilada sauce. (Hot or mild red enchilada sauce (no tomato).Green enchilada sauce works equally well.
Refried frijoles 
Sour cream or Crema 
Pie pan 
No-stick spray (see the carb counter at the bottom of the page) 

Work At Your Own Pace
Spray the pie pan and set it near the work area. 

Pre-heat oven 375º. Middle or top rack. 

Wrap tortillas in a dishtowel, microwave 30 seconds. Let rest and they'll grow supple enough to use to roll enchiladas, as was my intent today. But the first tortilla I take from the towel cracks, from age, or manufacturing defect. Ni modo. I'm not rolling this tortilla. This decides my menu. Instead of rolled enchiladas. Chilaquiles for dinner. 

I tear all the tortillas into strips and divide those into pieces. Delight is in the details, in a  kitchen. I lose myself at the chopping board and I treat all ingredients with proper respect.

Mince onion, chop cilantro into the cebolla.  If I'd gotten to the store, I would have chopped in some black sliced olives. 

Grate cheeses. A food processor like Cuisineart makes grating no challenge. As a child in the 1950s, and until 1963, I was my mother's cheese grater. I went away to college and Mom replaced me with a Cuisineart.

In the Microwave oven, I reheat refrigerated beans, stir in a few splashes of water, remicro the frijoles to spreadable consistency.

I'm using leftover porkchops. You could fry up some taco ground beef or pick meat off a chicken carcass. I chop the pork and set it aside. 

Pour half the can of chile sauce into a microwaveable vessel. Stir 2 TBS corn starch into the cold chile sauce and dissolve all the lumps you see. Cover with a dish or film and micro 2 minutes. Stir and micro 1 minute. You want the chile-cornstarch more than twice as thick as straight from the can. 

Spoon a couple TBS of sauce into the bottom of the pie pan.
Put the torn corn tortillas in the pan on top of the sauce. 
Add onion-cilantro, stir together.

You have a lot of sauce still. Reserve 2 TBS sauce when you pour the warm sauce into the tortillas. 
Mix it all up. Use a fork and separate the tortilla pieces that stick together. Every dry tortilla surface needs to get wet.

Spread the wet tortilla pieces across the bottom of the pan as a base of the meat and bean layers.

Spread the ground meat across the top, forming a thin layer. 

Spoon beans around the edge of the pie pan and flatten them in a circle toward the center of the pan. Be decorative and make a ring around the pie pan. 

Slather sour cream atop the ring of refritos. 

Cover the open surface with cheeses. 
Dribble reserved red sauce across the cheese. Also spatula the red sauce out of the cooking vessel. Use all your red or green enchilada sauce.  

Place the pie pan on a flat cookie pan and Bake at 375º for 40 minutes. 

Cool for at least half an hour. 
The tortilla become completely saturated with the thickened chile sauce as it boils in the oven. As the pie cools from boiling, the tortilla custard settles and thickens. When you cut your gluten-free quick&desperate tortilla pie, the insides flow only a little if it's cooled enough. 

Serve generous scoops that you cover with an egg or two. I served a side salad of chopped lettuce with a scoop of cottage cheese and canned pear slices. 

The next day is a wonder! The refrigerated leftovers have solidified into a beautiful dish. Reheat for a minute or so in the micro, or turn on the oven to 350º and give it 10 minutes, covered. 

And if you got delivery before breakfast/lunch the next day, some sliced tomatoes and aguacate, a hot salsa on the side.

8g 4 tortillas 
0g 4 oz meat 
8g ½ brown onion 
2g 1 cup grated cheese of mix varieties 
18g Las Palmas picante enchilada sauce 
1.5g Cilantro 
14g Corn starch, absolutely pure corn 
.01g Comino 
28g Refried frijoles 
6g Sour cream or Crema 
about 85g carbohydrates in the entire meal.

Swallowtail Double Helix: The Center Holds

Turning and twisting about one another in the garden air, two Swallowtail Butterflies form a widening gyre as they rise high above tree tops. The pair of Swallowtails descends toward my lens, then rise again. Flying into an ever-tightening spiral, the butterflies touch wing-to-wing. The Swallowtails fly as one, rising dipping soaring turning and turning, not breaking apart. 

The center holds until at the apex of their flight they separate. 

Two paths diverge in the sunny sky only a moment. The Swallowtails wheel back toward one another, spinning into synchrony, pursuit, and convergence.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Day of the Dead 2023 at the Writers Place por Xánath Caraza

Day of the Dead 2023 at the Writers Place por Xánath Caraza


Este 2023 el Writers Place llevará a cabo la XIV edición de la Celebración de Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead Celebration, el viernes 3 de noviembre a las 7 p.m. CST en Zoom. Tendremos como poetas invitados a Lorna Dee Cervantes, Daniel Olivas y la que escribe. Así mismo Flor Lizbeth Cruz Longoria nos acompañará con música. El grupo de danza mexica, Calpulli Iskali, nos presentará un video. Con mi altar mostraré algunos elementos que hace esta celebración tan importante.  Ojalá nos acompañen y se registren de manera anticipada a la sesión. Gracias a Maryfrances Wagner, S. Holland, Greg Field y, por supuesto, al Writers Place por apoyarnos con la organización.


La música:

Flor Lizbeth Cruz Longoria holds a BM and BME from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, an MA in Music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory and studied Nonprofit Management and Innovation from the UMKC Bloch School. They were selected as an Emerging Artist for the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival (2013), won the TAMUK Concerto Competition (2015), was selected as first flute for the NFA Collegiate Flute Choir (2016), and was an intern for NFA (2017, 2018). Flor’s convention presentations include TMEA, MMEA, NFA, the Kansas Flute Festival, Electronic Music Midwest, the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association, and the College Music Society. They received performance and teaching fellowships from the New York Summer Music Festival (2013, 2014) and Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp (2015).

Ms. Cruz served as Adjunct Professor of Flute at TAMUK, is an Ambassador for Notes for Growth Foundation, and is a member of New Music USA’s Program Council, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for Sigma Alpha Iota International Fraternity, and NFA’s IDEA committee. Flor is the Founder of Colectiva Huēhuecoyōtl whose purpose is the advancement of People of the Global Majority in the music industry. She has performed under the batons of Steven Reineke and Joseph Silverstein and alongside Project Trio. Ms. Cruz’s principal teachers were Dr. Cristina Ballatori, Dr. Elizabeth Janzen, and Dr. Mary Posses. 


Calpulli Iskali es un grupo de danza mexica.

Los poetas:

Lorna Dee Cervantes, awarded NEA Fellowships, Pushcart Prizes, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest grant for poetry, state arts grants and best book awards, is the author of 6 books of poetry including her first, EMPLUMADA, and latest APRIL ON OLYMPIA (Finalist, Theodore Roetke Award for Best Book - Poetry in past 3 years). The former professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at CU Boulder now writes in Seattle.

Daniel A. Olivas is playwright, attorney, and the author of ten books including How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories (University of Nevada Press), and Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press). He is also the editor of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press). Olivas has written for many publications including The New York Times, Alta Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, La Bloga, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Follow him on Twitter: @olivasdan.


Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, short story writer, and translator.  She is the author of twenty books of poetry and two short story collections. She writes for La Bloga and Revista Literaria Monolito. 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 LatinoStories.com. Caraza has been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish.   

El altar:


Como cada año construiré un altar para honrar a los ancestros y dejar que lleguen a visitarnos y disfruten con tamales, pan de muerto, papel picado, poesía y música.



Thursday, October 19, 2023

Chicanonautica: Pandemic Nostalgia With Gómez-Peña’s Mex Files

by Ernest Hogan


Is it too early for pandemic nostalgia? Please excuse me if it is. I’m a sci-fi vato, a mutant for whom the future never comes soon enough. I get high on future shock. 

Also, I’m a futurista because I’m not allowed to exist in the present. Just ask whatever bureaucracy is watching over us right now.

The chaos of the last few years has had me running myself ragged keeping up with it transformations. Nothing like a global monkey-wrench smashing into everybody’s business to do that. Suddenly, the word surreal is in news reports. The pandemic did that.

Now we are under the delusion that it’s over, but Covid ain’t gone. It’s just going through some mellower mutations. Even though a lot of people want to forget it ever happened, there’s wisdom in the meme, “That which does not kill us, mutates and tries again.”

Note that you also see the word mutation in news reports these days.

Back in the thick of the lockdown, Guillermo Gómez-Peña started reporting on it on his radio show/podcast (the terms are becoming interchangeable–the internet is absorbing radio), Gómez-Peña’s Mex Files.

I tried to be a loyal listener at first but turned out I was an essential worker and ended up in a bandido bandana and an orange, glowing vest running stuff out to cars in the library parking lot instead of finishing my novel in the summer of 2020. I also learned about Zoom, thanks to Guillermo and his wife, Balitronica.

Recently, Facebook reminded me about Mex Files, so I binged what was on the website.


Not only does it deliver the Mad Mex’s harrowing, transborder Covid experiences that outweird the latest science fiction, it provides an excellent introduction to his work and the incredible world of performance art.

How can I describe it?

There are similarities with my work–Gomez-Peña and I both arrived on this planet in 1955, him in Mexico City, me in L.A.  we overlap over Chicano territory. He writes, and also performs, which takes him to interesting places. Art and politics cohabitate. It’s often funny but is more than satire. Alternate realities aren’t just described—they come to life, threaten to alter our world.

Sometimes it gets sci-fi (Chicano is a science fiction state of being) but is never restrained by the limits of the genre. 

And it adapts well to different media, live performance, gallery and museum installations, film and video, and radio. 

Sometimes it’s like bizarre comedy skits, other times it’s music that has been altered. Still other times, it’s honest accounts of fantastic experiences. 

And it’s not all nonstop dystopian bring downs. Often there are flashes of the kind of utopias we could create if we could just let La Cultura ride free on new technologies.

Where does the sci-fi end and the real life begin? Or should I say magic realism? Or is magic realism from a high tech society indistinguishable from science fiction? Is it all performance art?

Our bizarre times are masterfully captured here. I know that a lot of folks just want to forget it. Some would erase all the memory, the history. But we need this knowledge. 

You think the last few years were something? Just wait for the future. How long before 2020 is considered the good old days?

We need the wisdom of the Mad Mex to help us navigate the weirdness.

Ernest Hogan, the Father of Chicano Science Fiction has been in touch with Guillermo and Balitronica. Expect some wild stuff soon. He also highly recommends the documentary 100 Ways to Cross the Border.