Monday, July 15, 2024

“Escojo la luz” por Xánath Caraza

“Escojo la luz” por Xánath Caraza

 


Las lágrimas no dejan ver el mundo. Distorsionadas imágenes. El agua cambia la nitidez por borrosos espectros. La guerra no se ve con claridad, los filtros del agua impiden distinguir los detalles dolorosos. Monstruos en el rabillo del ojo acechan los paisajes perdidos en el glóbulo ocular. Ópticas difusas acompañadas de gemidos suplicantes. Los colores del mundo se expanden en la mente del lector. Escojo la luz.

 

El mundo

cambia

los detalles dolorosos.

En el glóbulo ocular

ópticas difusas

del lector.

 

 

Imagen de Lissette Solorzano

de la serie “El gran jardín”, 2021-2024

Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba

 

Traducido al griego por Natasa Lambrou, Dra. UMU

Ciudad de Atenas, Grecia

 

Este poema es parte del manuscrito Escojo la luz que ha sido parcialmente apoyado por la Universidad de Missouri-Kansas City y la Facultad de Lenguas y Culturas Mundiales de UMKC.

 


Διαλέγω το φως από την Σάναθ Καράσα

 

Ο κόσμος από τα δάκρυα δεν φαίνεται. Εικόνες παραμορφωμένες. Το νερό αλλάζει την ευκρίνεια με φάσματα θολά. Ο πόλεμος δεν φαίνεται καθαρά, τα φίλτρα του νερού μας εμποδίζουν να διακρίνουμε τις οδυνηρές λεπτομέρειες. Τέρατα στη γωνία του ματιού παραφυλάνε  τα τοπία που χάνονται στο βολβό του ματιού. Οπτικές διάχυτες που συνοδεύονται από βογγητά ικεσίας. Τα χρώματα του κόσμου εξαπλώνονται στο μυαλό του αναγνώστη. Διαλέγω το φως.

 

   Ο κόσμος

    αλλάζει

τις οδυνηρές λεπτομέρειες.

      Στο βολβό του ματιού

οπτικές διάχυτες

του αναγνώστη.

 

Εικόνα της Lissette Solorzano

από την σειρά «Ο μεγάλος κήπος», 2021-2024

Λα Αβάνα, Κούβα

 

Μετάφραση στα Ελληνικά από την Δρ. Νατάσα Λάμπρου

Πόλη των Αθηνών, Ελλάδα
Ιούλιος του 2024

 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Photo Album: Ramas y Raices

The Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA) launched its anthology Ramas y Raices:  The Best of CALMA, on June 29.  The anthology editor, Mario Acevedo, selected twenty-three pieces for the anthology that reflect the diversity and broad talent of the CALMA membership. The launch featured readings by fourteen of the contributors.  The launch was a jubilant affair with poetry, fiction, essays, and opinion pieces flying through the Saturday afternoon, cheered on by the celebrating audience.  It was easy to conclude that CALMA had presented its first Floricanto.  Here are a few photos of the event taken by Victoria Montoya, who also read for her mother Beatrice Apodaca-Montoya.  













Mario Acevedo, Editor















                                                                                        Anita Jepson-Gilbert















Ramon Del Castillo


















                                                                                                    José Aguayo
















Kimberley Sánchez














            

                                                                                    Maria A. Ramirez





















                                                                                    Ricardo J. Bogaert-Alvarez















Jo Elizabeth Pinto















                                                                                                         Karen D. Gonzales















Elena Guerrero Townsend








                                                    Manuel Ramos


Sorry, no photographs of readers Ricardo LaForeCharlene Garcia Simms.


Later.

___________________________

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



Thursday, July 11, 2024

Chicanonautica: The Wild, Wild Border

by Ernest Hogan

 

There was this TV series back in my antediluvian 1960s childhood, The Wild, Wild West. There really hasn’t been anything else like it, since. Now it’s being rediscovered as early steampunk. It provides interesting material for rethinking the western genre, and different takes on history. Yeah, it ain’t so politically correct, but this was over half a century ago.


It came out of the James Bond-inspired secret agent genre. For a few years, spies armed with gadgets that bordered on sci-fi were everywhere, movies, TV shows, sleazy paperbacks, and people ate it up.


I imagine the idea had the network seeing dollar signs: James Bond in the Old West! And back then Hollywood still had western sets, props and costumes. 


The problem is, the genre was all about the Cold War. How do they come up with Bond villains in the post-Civil War Southwest? That’s where it gets Chicanonautical. It seems that back then the Border was an issue . . .

 

I caught the first three episodes—you can watch them for free on Pluto TV—as suggested with the cartoon James West karate-chopping a bandito in the credits sequence, and they were dead on. 


The pilot goes right to heart of the matter: A renegade Mexican general is taking land and towns and is planning on taking back the former Mexican territories. Aztlán! 


If that weren’t enough, turns out the general is being financed by an opium-smoking Chinese merchant (he offers the hero some) played by Victor Buono—King Tut from the Sixties Batman, who also was a similar yellowface villain in the Dean Martin/Matt Helm film The Silencers.


But wait! Turns out he’s actually a Mexican in disguise. A Chicano identity crisis! 


There are no Mexicans, or even Latinos in the cast! All the guys with sombreros and accents are Anglos, including Ross Martin, the master of disguise/sidekick.


We go from that to another border crisis: A French man, still in Mexico after the French occupation—Emperor Maximilian, the Battle of Puebla/Cinco de Mayo, and why lots of Mexicans have French names—wants to be the Napoleon of Norteamerica, has developed a secret weapon to destroy the railroads.  A “Latin” America, ruled by Francophones would become a reality. Lots of people in the areas nabbed in the Louisiana Purchase already spoke French—this includes some Indian tribes. Imagine a non-Anglo Midwest . . . Alternate universes keep popping up.


The third menace introduces the recurring villain, Dr. Miguelito Loveless, a mad scientist from a wealthy Spanish–Hispanic rather than Latino–family who once owned most of California. He wants it back and threatens to blow up San Francisco with his new explosive. 


For some reason, the name of the city is never spoken. Did the network think it was a bad idea to suggest such a diabolical plan with all that radical dissent going on across the bay in Berkeley? 


Another thing not mentioned is the fact that Loveless was a dwarf. Maybe this wasn’t part of the script, but the serendipitous casting was of Michael Dunn.


All these threats on the Anglo-American identity of Aztlán . . . or should I say in this case, the Southwest?


The villains are all non-Anglo. Somehow, I can relate to them better than the “white” heroes.


And now that a presidential candidate is threatening to seal off the border, defend it with the military, and round up people without the right documentation in a reboot of Eisenhower’s Operation Wetback–though for some reason avoiding that politically incorrect name–these fantasies from the past can be enlightening.


Is this the way the Anglos really see us?


Ernest Hogan was born in East L.A., Aztlán. All his life his citizenship has been questioned. His latest book is Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song: 15 Gonzo Science Fiction.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Vampirita and the Angry Mob - Vampirita y la turba enfurecida


By Mariana Llanos and illustrated by Laura Brenlla.

 

 

Publisher: Reycraft Books 

Language: English

Paperback: 136 pages

ISBN-10: 1478880570

ISBN-13: 978-1478880578

Reading age: 7 - 12 years

 

Embark on a fang-tastic adventure with "Vampirita and the Angry Mob (Book 1)" by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Laura Brenlla. Vampirita's life takes an unexpected turn when she swaps Lima, Peru, for Sunny City, California. In this whimsical tale, join her in navigating the challenges of fitting into a town that's a far cry from her eerie hometown. Will Vampirita's mischievous plan to bring spooky back succeed, or will she discover unexpected enchantment in the seemingly mundane?

 

Gothic Humor Unleashed: Experience the humor as Vampirita finds herself in a not-so-spooky environment, attempting to inject a dose of the macabre into her life in Sunny City, California.

Navigating New Norms: Witness Vampirita's attempts to adapt to her new surroundings as she contends with the challenges of being caught between her eerie upbringing and the mundane reality of her new life, all while balancing the complexities of her divorced parents' differing expectations.

 

Cultural Clashes: Follow Vampirita's hilarious escapades as she grapples with the cultural differences between her vibrant hometown of Lima, Peru, and the seemingly ordinary Sunny City. Cricket and worm empanadas? Not here!

 

Mischievous Machinations: Join Vampirita and her reluctant friends as they cook up a mischievous plan to shake up the monotony and get her family chased out of town—pitchforks and torches included!

 

Annoyingly Nice Neighbors: Discover the quirks of Vampirita's next-door neighbors, August and Molly, who prove to be more sweet than spooky. Will their kindness thwart Vampirita's plans, or is there more to Sunny City than meets the eye?

 

Spooky Surprises: Will Vampirita's scheme to bring spookiness back to her life succeed, or will she uncover unexpected enchantment in Sunny City?

 

Dive into this enchanting tale of mischief, friendship, and discovering the magic within the ordinary.

 

 


 


Embárcate en una aventura fantástica con "Vampirita y la turba enfurecida (Libro 1)" de Mariana Llanos, ilustrado por Laura Brenlla. La vida de Vampirita da un giro inesperado cuando cambia Lima, Perú, por Sunny City, California. Acompáñala en esta divertida aventura mientras navega los desafíos de encajar en una ciudad que está muy lejos de su tenebroso hogar. ¿Dará resultado su travieso plan de volver a su espeluznante ciudad, o descubrirá un encanto inesperado en lo aparentemente mundano?

 

Humor Gótico Desatado: Experimenta las hilarantes situaciones que desencadena Vampirita al tratar de inyectar una dosis de lo macabro a su vida en Sunny City, California.

Navegando Nuevas Normas: Sé testigo de los intentos de Vampirita por adaptarse a su nuevo entorno mientras lidia con el desafío de estar atrapada entre su educación tenebrosa y la realidad mundana de su nueva vida, todo mientras equilibra las complejidades de las expectativas de sus padres divorciados.

 

Choques Culturales: Sigue las divertidas peripecias de Vampirita mientras lucha con las diferencias culturales entre su vibrante ciudad natal de Lima, Perú, y la aparentemente ordinaria Sunny City. ¿Empanadas de grillos y gusanos? ¡Aquí no hay!

Maquinaciones Traviesas: Únete a Vampirita y a sus amigos mientras traman un plan travieso para sacudir la monotonía y hacer que su familia sea perseguida fuera de la ciudad, ¡con horcas y antorchas incluidas!

 

Vecinos Irritablemente Amables: Descubre las peculiaridades de los vecinos de Vampirita, August y Molly, quienes resultan ser más dulces que espeluznantes. ¿Su amabilidad frustrará los planes de Vampirita, o hay más en Sunny City de lo que parece?

 

Sorpresas Espeluznantes: ¿Tendrá éxito el plan de Vampirita para atraer lo espeluznante de vuelta a su vida, o descubrirá un encanto inesperado en Sunny City?

 

Sumérgete en este cuento encantador lleno de travesuras, amistad y descubrimiento de la magia que hay dentro de lo ordinario.

 

 

Mariana Llanos is not a vampire, but just like Vampirita, she’s from Lima, Perú. She lives in Oklahoma where she writes books in both English and Spanish. She is a Pura Belpre Honor winning author for her book Benita y las criaturas nocturnas/Benita and the Night Creatures. Some of her other work include Run Little Chaski! (Oklahoma Book Award winner), Luca's Bridge/El puente de Luca (ALSC Notable Book) and more. Mariana loves visiting schools to spread her joy for reading and writing. Vampirita is Mariana’s first chapter book series. Just like Vampirita, she misses the gray and cloudy skies of Lima, but she has learned to love her new home.

 

 

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me I Have to Wait

Review: Tim Z. Hernandez. They Call You Back. Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 2024

Michael Sedano

I happily began reading They Call You Back by Tim Z. Hernandez. I don’t remember how many days into reading that I looked at the cover and noticed the publisher's bug next to the title. “Advance Reading Copy” it reads. The back cover says publication date of They Call You Back will be September 17, 2024. 


I'm not jumping the gun with this brief review. The book demands attention. Gente, waiting it out is all you can do. When the book hits the market, They Call You Back will be a literary sensation, for its stories, for the writing, for the book's necessity. 

 

They Call You Back is a necessary book at a necessary time. As the nation descends into divisive chaos, only unity can bring it back from the brink.  Tim Z Hernandez has a mission, it's been at the forefront of his work: make visible the invisible. Specifically, bring back from contemptuous disregard the Mexicanos and one Mexicana who were buried known only as "deportee".

 

Hernandez won the 2011 Premio Aztlán for the novel Breathing, In Dust. His 2013 novel is the first "discovery" book: Mañana Means Heaven, earns accolades for the Chicano writer’s uncovering the Mexican woman fictionalized in the beatnik classic, On The Road. Next, this author causes a sensation with publication of his 2018 investigative report All They Will Call You, that “finds” families of braceros killed in the worst airplane crash in history.

 

They Call You Back recounts the birth and growth of the author's mission--perhaps despite himself--to find missing souls. It's not just the deportees, nor Kerouac's lover. Hernandez reveals generational searches for lost graves and lost, missing, or disappeared, relatives. 

 

Asked by historians about his "method," Hernandez can point to dogged legwork but mostly to the lost themselves. A person doesn't need to be spiritual to be influenced by spirits, and that's Hernandez. The author discloses a yearning to be free of his quest, but when he's ready to leave behind the old work, a new story finds him when a relative contacts him. "I think I'm related to..." Skeptical of any claim, the author resists, but they--the spirits--call him back into the search.

 

Writers will devour They Call You Back as an avatar of good memoir writing. Every now and then, Hernandez pulls back the biography curtain to disclose a personal fact--a divorce, alcohol dependence--but his quests always compel the storyteller to get back to the next fact, the next connection between disparate events that, with hindsight, are prophetic. This is the difference between "memoir" and "autobiography," the author's dedication to writing about writing his stuff. The book's the thing whereby the author catches the conscience of a readership.


The author's use of time and location-based incidents will captivate readers and writers alike.  

There's a fly, and a butterfly, that attend a family crisis. The reader notes it, and the writer moves along. Some years afterward, another crisis looms and the author sees another fly, perceives the influence of another butterfly rebounding through family history. Readers recognize matters are not coincidental, but the author remains unable to pin down a concrete connection. In fact, he avers a feeling of being prisoner of demanding spirits that need to be written about.

 

With one glaring exception, the spirits and families seek identification with consequent closure. Because I have an uncorrected proof, there's a possibility editors will eliminate the one chapter filled with black boxes emending the name of one of the deportees. A family, after engaging Hernandez' efforts to find the story of a dead relative, demurs. They pull back permission to name the relative and the author is left helplessly sharing words and grammar--product of years of work-- that build to a name, and instead the name is covered with a black box. It's disconcerting to readers, given the ethos Hernandez builds as a sincere discoverer and sharer of light, to see the story marked up like a mural tagged and ruined beyond recognition by marker-wielding vandals. In this case, the vandal is the author himself.

 

For the author, as for readers, the search for the missing lives comes with powerful emotions. One of the most emotional moments for readers, as for the writer and his children, comes when the California State Assembly fetes the author and book, All They Will Call You. 

 

There's a powerful backstage moment when Joan Baez sings Woody Guthrie's "Deportee" song to Hernandez and three families of the discovered. It's the only time Baez or anyone, has sung the words for members of the families of the Los Gatos plane crash.

 

More powerful, when the State Senator begins to call the names of the dead, Hernandez' son takes up the ritual when raza roll call the absent: "Presente!" the boy mumbles at first to himself. Then, as the roll grows, the boy's voice grows in power and others join him. It's a magnificent piece of writing here. As California government calls out names, the boy's voice draws the elected members of government to their feet. As each name is pronounced--all they will call you is 'deportee'-- the government finally acknowledges its shamefulness; the power of cultura brings back those lives once and for all.

 

Presente!


Link to UofA Press: https://uapress.arizona.edu/book/they-call-you-back

 

 

Friday, July 05, 2024

Summertime Blues at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference

 Melinda Palacio

 

After more than two years of rebuilding life after the pandemic lockdown, it seems as if covid is not done with us. The virus still lingers and thanks to vaccines and hygiene protocols, the corona virus presents itself as a mild cold at best in most cases. As Poet Laureate, I have had a year of public engagement and have been lucky not to have another bout of covid. Local events didn’t seem as risky for me. Although no event or venue is safe from Covid, I was nervous about going to Disneyland last month and being exposed to people from around the globe. 

 

I imagined the happiest place on earth to also be the most welcoming germ exchange. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the park and handwashing encouraged. I didn’t notice anybody coughing. I had taken the precaution of adding zinc to my regiment of vitamins and supplements. I also didn’t want to jeopardize my upcoming schedule at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference (SBWC), which started the next day. At the SBWC, I had a full week from helping with registration and agents’ day, teaching a marketing workshop with Lida Sideris to appearing on two panels. 

 

The week was off to a wonderful start, greeting old friends, conference regulars and new attendees. The first panel of the conference was an all Poet Laureate Panel that Perie Longo moderated. In my duties as Poet Laureate, I often encounter people who do not realize that Santa Barbara has had ten poets laureate. We’ve lost our first Poet Laureate, Barry Spacks and our most recognized laureate, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. 

 

I hope that the panel was as interesting for folks attending the conference as it was for me. I certainly learned much about our past poets. It’s wonderful to see how we each have brought something different to the honorary position. I learned something new about each of our laureates, but have to say I was super impressed with David Starkey who has retired as a poetry professor at Santa Barbara City College and continues to write poetry and academic books, plays in band, hosts a local television show, writes for the Independent; and he has written his first novel, Poor Ghost, a fictional account of a band that crashes their plane in the backyard of a character who lives in Goleta. The clever novel mines Starkey’s own poetry for song titles and motifs, leaving the reader with the feeling of having followed the band’s music for years. I can almost hear their songs. The novel represents Starkey’s pandemic lockdown project. It also helps that he is an accomplished musician. If you’re looking for a book to take to the beach or if you enjoyed Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, try Poor Ghost by David Starkey.

 

Unfortunately, my SBWC activities were cut short due to Covid reaching my household. Although, I personally never got Covid and kept testing negative, I was exposed to the virus and out of an acute precaution stayed away from the remainder of the conference, Tuesday-Friday. I was sad to miss connecting with so many people, especially after receiving messages from friends who I only know from the conference who were looking for me at the cocktail party and the panels I was scheduled on.  I hope to see some familiar faces at the Goleta Valley Library August 4 at 2pm. I am looking forward to meeting our new youth Poet Laureate, Jasmine Guerrero Sevilla; join us at the Goleta Valley library next month. 

 

If you are in New Orleans this weekend, I will be at the Music & Poetry Summer Fest at the Domino, Sunday July 7, 12-5pm, 3044 St. Claude Ave, New Orleans. 


*An earlier version of this column appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Through American Eyes

                                                                                         

                                                                             

Jesus "Chuy" Gonzales, circa 1930, Santa Monica, CA

     When I think of the 4th of July, of course I think about U.S. independence from England, starting with everything I learned in school, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, about Washington crossing the Delaware River, the street battles in Boston, up on Bunker Hill, through Virginia, and rural New York; then, the end of the war with England in 1812.

     With other Americans, I celebrate U.S. independence. As an army veteran, having served in combat, I feel a deep sense of my “American-ness,” not necessarily patriotic, more abstract, a certain sense of “being,” maybe because when one has faced the possibility of dying on foreign shores for a country’s independence, it’s different than just learning about it in history books, shouting “USA!” “USA!” “USA!” or celebrating with fireworks and barbecues. Maybe it's historical. My roots on this land, which was once Mexico, go back generations.

     As a descendent of Mexicans, my other homeland, just two hours to the south, much closer, physically and mentally, than say Europe, Africa, or Asia, so I'm aware of my family’s history, especially, when my home state, California, in 1776, was still part of Spain, and the first Spanish-Mexican-Indian-Afro settlers were arriving and founding missions and settlements at San Diego and San Gabriel, all the way up the coast to San Francisco. It 1820, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and this land was then Mexican territory, Alta California.

     That too is my history, much like the history of Americans whose roots go back to Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, all of us coming from somewhere else, that is, except for native Americans, whose roots go deeper than all others.

     In some ways, for Mexicans, like native Americans, it’s difficult to reconcile our immigrant status, since our history has us on this land before it became the U.S. For us, the border is an artificial line, one our ancestors have been crossing for generations, and it's hard seeing ourselves as immigrants.

     Maybe, that is what it means to be an American, dualities, hyphenated social beings, whether we accept it or not. What is it to be an American? Few can define it. It’s too complex. It isn’t a piece of paper, alone. It’s metaphysical. Cosnider a Mayan whose ancestors on this American continent go back 2,000 years. Isn’t he or she even more American than the first Europeans whose grandparents arrived on Ellis Island in 1920?

    I remembered this when I interviewed my uncle back in 2001, after the Trade Center fell, Americans were on a war-footing, not really sure why, or with whom, but questioning what it was to be an American. I’d venture to say, my uncle was as American as any other American. Read and see for yourself.

                                                                                      

Chuy and Lupe Gonzales, Nine Decades an American

                                                          Jesus "Chuy" Villalobos Gonzales

                                                                 Santa Monica/Venice, CA

      "At Grant School in Santa Monica, I was a good baseball player, first base. Oh, I used to stretch to get that ball. One day Mrs. Stratman, my teacher, who was head of the team, told me, 'Jesus, you got to bring shoes to school.' I said, 'Mrs. Stratman, you're gonna punish me by making me wear shoes. Okay, I won't play [baseball].' She thought about it and let me go barefoot."

                                                                       1.

     I spoke to my uncle, Jesus “Chuy” Gonzales, my mother’s second oldest sibling, at his home in Venice, just off busy Lincoln Boulevard, a mile or so from Venice Beach, where he pruchased his first properties in the 1950s, after working as a dispatcher in Oregon during the war.

     I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, and he was elated when I called to tell him about my project interviewing elders of the WWII generation and asked about coming over to talk to him. He was the only Gonzales sibling who, in his teens, returned to Mexico to live on the family ranch, temporarily, in Jalisco, and he’d always enjoyed talking about his memories. 

     He's passed now, but at 92 years of age, when this interview took place, he still looked spritely and told me his kids, my cousins, were annoyed with him for climbing up on the roof, recently, to clean the gutters. He also said, proudly, the California Department of Motor Vehicles had granted him a driver’s license for another year, but he admitted, he rarely got behind the wheel. He trusted his own driving skills. It was others he worried about

     Like his father, Nicolas, he was short, trim, and darker skin, but he always looked much taller, dignity, I think it was. He wore casual slacks, a dressy short sleeve shirt with a white t-shirt underneath. He spoke English, not with a Spanish accent but more of a sing-song working-class American intonation. He slipped into Spanish, usually to make a point or quote somebody. 

     He told me he arrived in the states as a child, in 1920, about six or seven years old, the second oldest child of the seven who left their rancho, Mitic (pronounced Mee-teek), during the Mexican revolution, to settle in the U.S., along with hundreds of thousands of Mexican regugees. His mother Eusebia was from another rancho, Las Palmas. I told him I’d recently chatted with a man I knew as Andy, whose wife’s family owned La Talpa, a popular restaurant in West L.A. I told Andy my family was from Mitic, my grandmother's side from Las Palmas, which is now gone. Andy said he’d come to the states from San Gaspar de Los Reyes, a town neighboring Mitic. He said he knew Mitic well, and even remembered Las Palmas, my grandmother’s village and thought it was still there.

     My uncle was surprised. He said he’d also heard his mother’s village no longer existed, then said he hadn’t visited the area in many years.

     There had always been some question as to the name of his father’s ranch, my older aunts called it Mi-tic, two syllables, but my mother and the younger aunts called it Mi-ti-que, three syllables.

     He said he’d heard both but heard Mitic was the more formal name.

     I recently found in the book Beyond the Codices: The Nahua View of Colonial Mexico, edited by Arthur Anderson and James Lockhart, an Indian, Miguel Lopez, wrote a letter to the king of Spain, in 1611. Lopez, a colonized Indian from the province of Jalostotitlan, petitioned the king to remove a local Spanish priest, the vicar, Francisco Munoz, who, Lopez claimed, beat the Indians, took their food, and had a lady for his personal use.

     Lopez identified the village where this occurred as Mizquictlaca, a Nahuatl word, which the Spaniards, possibly, shortened to Mizquitic, one of the original seven indigenous villages in the province of Jalostotitlan. Later in the letter, Lopez uses the name “Mitique" and "Mitic,” which was a second village of the seven original Texcuexe settlements.

     Whatever name the settlement used, one thing is clear, Mitic dates back to the early seventeenth century. It must have been a well-established community in 1611 to have a church and a vicar, unless the Vicar was visiting from Jalos, the largest town in the province.

     My uncle’s paternal grandparents, Juan Gonzales and Micaela de Los Santos, had deep roots in Mitic. Their parents, my uncle's great-grandparents, Perfecto Gonzales (born February of 1830) and Catalina Gonzales, are identified as “Spanish,” while Micaela’s parents, Salvador de Los Santos and Vicenta Villanueva de Los Santos, are identified as “Mexican,” making their descendants the first "Gonzales" mestizos.

     He said, "You know, it was just a little rancho [when I lived there] back then, but there were stores and businesses.” He added, as an afterthought, “I heard they [he wasn’t sure whom] changed our name from Calero to Gonzales, I think…or some name like that."

     "I had never heard that. Why?" I asked.

     He shrugged. "It wasn't unusual in those days," he said.

     "So, all this time the family thinks they are really Gonzales but could have been Calero?"

     “It might have been a long time ago.”

     Before the Revolution of 1910, by all accounts, the Gonzales family of Mitic had lived relatively well, ranchers and farmers, owners of large tracts of land, a sign of wealth in rural Mexico. He said, “Today, it’s almost all gone, just a few ranches.”

     I reminded him of the time I called him in 1992, from San Juan de Los Lagos, asking the location of the family ranch, thinking it was a neighborhood of San Juan. “No, Viejo,” he’d said, “it’s far from San Juan, closer to San Gaspar, maybe 45 minutes in a taxi. Our cousin, Franciso, and his family, should still be there.”

     I hopped into a taxi and headed for San Gaspar. From there, the driver, who had never driven to Mitic, asked for directions. After a grueling half-hour ride on a bumpy dirt road, I found Mitic and Francico Gonzales working and operating the ranch. It wasn’t much of a ranch back then, mostly adobe and brick houses.

     I returned, again, in 2002, a few months after I’d interviewed my uncle. Franciso had remodeled his home, added a long veranda and shaded front porch. Adjacent to the house was a new barn, corrugated steel, large enough for trucks, tractors, and farm equipment. All around me I heard the hum of automatic milking machines. A row of cows stood under shaded stalls. A tractor was parked at the edge of a field. Francisco’s teenage-daughter kept watch over the cows. 

     A handsome man, probably in his early sixties, at the time, light skin bronze from the sun, and friendly eyes, he wore a cowboy hat and jeans. He said, “No one from the north has visited us in many years.”

     He remembered visiting Santa Monica, and the American Gonzalez clan, maybe around 1965. He worked with my uncle, Joe, who supervised a maintenance crew in a large apartment complex in Venice, near Penmar Park. I looked over at a crumbling adobe, right above where a small river passed. He said he kept it as a reminder of the old ranch. It was difficult for me to imagine what life must have been like when my grandparents, uncles, and aunts lived there.

     He showed me around the property, pointing out the property lines, a vast amount of land, lush from the recent rains. I told him how calm and beautiful the ranch appeared. After, we retired inside and talked for a while. When it was time to leave, he removed his hat, wiped his brow, and told me how, a few months earlier, his teenage daughter had been kidnapped.

     “By whom?”

     “Strangers. I guess one of them had had his eyes on her all along.”.

     He said he made a few, timely, telephone calls to some very important people in San Juan de Los Lagos. It didn’t take long before the police set up roadblocks, apprehended the kidnappers at the state-line, and returned his daughter.

     The irony wasn’t lost on me. I asked, "Didn't my grandfather kidnap my grandmother?"

     "Yes, yes I think I did hear it told that way," he said, “down there in the river.” He pointed to the river beyond his home.

     Strange how, even though there is much change in rural Mexico, some things never change.

     Before I left my uncle Chuy's house, I could tell by the tone of his voice he was pleased with my visit. He said he was glad someone in the family was still interested in the past and how much our family had sacrificed, and suffered, to start again in the U.S.