Friday, November 24, 2017

No Thank You


Hail To The Chief!

So yesterday we expressed gratitude for – well, you name it.  We gathered as families, or tribes, or volunteers, or the homeless and ate too much, joked and bitched about Trump, and generally tried to carry on with our own particular traditions against a reality where “tradition” has often come to mean the periodic Xbox or PlayStation upgrade.  And, in good conscience, even though we live in the Ice-Cap-Melt Age and the Era of Permanent War, many of us should be grateful for all we have. Rest assured, I am.


But this isn’t about that. I prefer to think that the day after Thanksgiving is the appropriate time to ponder those things for which we are not grateful.
I can’t give thanks for the guy in the White House. Oh sure, he provides hours of punch lines for comedians and other social critics, and who among us doesn’t relish learning what his latest gaff is and how, once again, he embarrassed himself and the United States?  Ironically, Trump and his co-conspirators have mobilized and united progressives and activists and there appears to be a unique solidarity on the Left that hasn’t been around since the heady days of the March on Washington or the Poor Peoples’ Campaign.  



But still …. 
The man is a dangerous menace.  Although the resistance may be strong and growing, the Far Right also has come together and geared up for what many on the right see as a race war, long predicted, fantasized about, and coveted by white supremacists who believe violence is the final solution for their many grievances.  They’re full of shit, of course, but there’s no doubt that Trump and Trumpism have unleashed dogs of hate and fear. No thank you.

“Paranoia strikes deep, and it starts when you’re always afraid.” 

I can’t be grateful for the massive changes to my hometown stirred up by myopic politicians and greedy developers.  I’ve become a stranger in the neighborhood where I’ve lived for more than thirty-five years. I'm out-of-place, looking over my shoulder, worried about unknown faces and unusual gatherings,  I get nervous about the next house that will be sold on my block and what will be built in its place when it's been scraped. Grotesque slot houses and ugly Blade Runner housing projects have replaced graceful single-family brick and frame homes.  Families with generations of connections to the community, and to each other, have been displaced by more wealthy and oblivious colonists who have no concept of the area’s rich history, or the culture that's been erased by snobbish coffee shops, over-priced foodie restaurants, and tony beer joints.  And these newcomers know what is happening and what they are part of, and many don’t care.  For example, this advertising campaign appeared this week in one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the changes. No thank you. 

The coffee chain issued a lame apology.  Protests and a boycott have been announced,









I'm Only As Old As I Feel; Some Days I Feel Ancient

Finally, and this is strictly a personal hang-up, I’m not grateful for my inability to “age gracefully," as they say.  In a few months I turn seventy – which is not as old as turning seventy in 1918, or as young as that will be in 2118, but there were days in 2017 when my body couldn’t keep up with my mind, and other days when my mind tripped all over itself.  
I know, I know, growing old is preferable to the alternative and, believe me, I strive to live as fully and completely as possible.  I’m working on a new book, which should be published in about a year.  I just had one of my short stories published and I’ve got two others in the 2018 pipeline.  I’ve made several recent presentations about my writing on college campuses and to various book clubs and at numerous literary events, and more are scheduled. Flo and I travel and socialize.  We regularly use the exercise facilities at our local rec center.  We take time out for yoga and happy hours.  We’re enjoying retirement together, and the fact that I can say I am “together” with a special person is critical to my overall satisfaction with and enjoyment of this stage in my life.  So, yeah, it’s good. 

But  still ... I turn seventy in a few months.

Later.
_________________________________________________________


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in 2016 and was a finalist for the Shamus Award in the Original Paperback category sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America.  He is hard at work on his next Chicano Noir crime novel. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Chicanonautica: Guajolote Day in Trumptopia



I’ve got Thanksgiving duty this year, so feliz Día del Guajolote, all of you on LaBlogalandia! 

May your guajolote be tasty, on this day were the EE.UU. eats native meat. 

The Aztec god Chalchuihtotolin, AKA Jade Turkey or Precious Night Turkey, should be happy. He’s the god of plagues. Would that make him the god of biological warfare? We really should keep him in a good mood. . .

What would we be eating in an unconquered Aztlán? Buffalo steak with roast grasshopper tacos on the side? Or perhaps a choice cut of a prisoner of war?

Uh-oh. Is that too extreme?

Could be why someone--or something--keeps reporting La Bloga as spam to Facebook? Whatever the motive, it reeks of malice. And it's something I am not thankful for.

After all, this is Trumptopia--may it self-destruct without taking too many of us with it. Maybe another sacrifice to Tezcatlipoca is in order . . .

I keep getting this oozing-down-a-quagmire feeling that all the social progress that I’ve seen in my lifetime could be wiped out in less than a decade of stupidity, leaving us in a New Dark Age. 

It does seem to be what some people want. What some people consider utopia is dystopia to others, and vice versa. The sad truth is, most people just want something to conform to, rules to follow . . . and enforce. Never forget that.

In glorious spite of it all, I’m thankful for a lot. I’ve had a writing career--correction, have a writing career. I still get published--and rejected, but that’s part of the deal. I didn’t think that my being a Chicano would be such a problem for the publishing world as we know it. As a “minority” (I don’t like the term, I prefer to think of myself as part of this planet’s brown majority, but that idea gets a lot of resistance) writer I was supposed be satisfied with being published once or twice and fade into obscurity. I refuse to go that pitiful way. I have allies in science fiction, academia, noncorporate publishing, and other “minorities.” My long, hard guerrilla campaign will continue . . .

But that’s my everyday struggle. Today, I’m going to enjoy the guajolote, (or huexolotl, to be truer to the original Nahuatl). I suggest you do it, too. 

Tomorrow we can get back to the madness of the age.

May Chalciuhtotolin smile upon us.

Ernest Hogan is currently working on a story set in an Aztlán that has seceded from the EE.UU., and another one about Nazis in Arizona.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Library of Dreams Visits San Jacinto Open Market



Last Saturday November 18, I went to the San Jacinto open market and read many books to children. This reading event at the open market is part of La Biblioteca de los Sueños, The Library of Dreams, efforts to promote literacy in El Salvador. It is so wonderful to give ‘mi granito de arena’ to inspire children to read, imagine and dream.



The Library of Dreams is overlooking the magnificent San Salvador volcano and right in front of the amazing San Jacinto Hill. The library serves as a literary cultural space where children can enjoy books, art and gardening activities with the assistance of local librarians, teachers and cultural workers. Children and their families can go to the library, read and enjoy in a safe learning environment.


Please consider donating Spanish or bilingual children’s books from ages 4 to 18. 

To donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/library-of-dreams or  write to 3790 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Handprints On Walk of Fame. Jesus Treviño Visits Stanford Raza. Season Season.

Chicano Poet Joins Walk of Fame
Michael Sedano


Summers from Junior High through the year I left home for college, I laid cement slabs for patios, pool edges, walkways, and the like, under tutelage of my Dad.

We checked the book he got in CCC before the war for the mix. Shovel 3-3-1sand, gravel, cement into the wheelbarrow, eyeball the water and mix to the right consistency. Haul the mezcla to the hole and pour. Work the surface with a two-by-four then trowels. A well-laid slab glistening against a setting sun is about as satisfying a sight as a worker can enjoy.

It will be there forever.


Some of that’s why I’m looking at the Mexican doing all the work while the honchos stand around and the audience bunches up chatting, awaiting Luis J. Rodriguez’ arrival to immortalize his handprints in the finely textured mezcla the essential Mexican worker packs into the sunken frame. It's a special mix and the vato has done a perfect job.

The fellow drawing the finishing trowel across the wet surface wears a necktie. I’ve never seen that before. He’s Cement Artist Sassan Shakoori. He tells me he’s done Grauman’s Chinese Theater for 40 years.

Workers packed the mix tightly against the perimeter barrier. When they've added and patted, Shakoori kneels in to finish the perimeter then smooth the surface. All now lies ready for the cement artist to work Rodriguez’ hands into and out of the mud, leaving a clean, sharp impression.



First the handprints, then the signature. There's a process. The bed of cement has a plasticity and density to push back against the embedding hands, form around the fingers and palm. The impression will fail unless the hands rise straight up.

Someone in the crowd calls out "You've done that before!" "A ten-print!" another observes, as Shakoori presses each digit into the accepting mud. "I'm familiar with the process!" Luis retorts.



A helper holds a supply of black plastic styluses. The rounded tip accumulates the sticky black cement and needs to be changed every two strokes. It's an awkward writing instrument and Luis appears to struggle to keep the depth in control and not muck up the surface with displaced cement. "Luis Rodiguez" he finishes.

Trini Rodríguez tells her husband something he doesn’t at first ‘get’ in the excitement of signing his name in cement.

“You left out the ‘r’, Luis.”

Rodriguez looks at the rough lines in the signature and sees it. Shakoori takes a trowel and wipes away the name. "Where's the c/s?" someone calls out?

Rodriguez finishes his name in a mix of cursive and block letters, whichever is most cooperative to the stylus. There's just enough space for the "J" so he adds it.

Luis looks up and jokes, "There's lots of Luis Rodriguezes, but there's only one Luis J. Rodríguez." The audience cheers in agreement.


The event rings with joy. The writer, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, emeritus, smiles in wondrous spirits on this career highlight. Vroman's is the last major independent bookseller still standing in Pasadena. Billing itself "Southern California's Oldest and Largest Independent Bookstore", the enterprise has honored Michael Connelly and Lisa See with walk of fame commemorations.

Throughout the festivities, people in the crowd call out remarks. And the poet gives it back. It's why the gente have gathered, to share in a momentous community happening. Órale, Luis' signature and handprints will be in cement forever and we were there.



Luis J. Rodríguez, family man, husband, essayist, poet, memoirist, friend, he's the man of the hour and they're here, along with a bevy of local poets, writers, and painters, including Don Newton, Laura Luisa Longoria, Mary Torregrossa, Peter J. Harris, Matt Sedillo, Irene Monica Sanchez, Luis Torres—one of The Three Louies—and wife Sandra, Roberta Martinez, Rick Ortega.



Luis and Trini
The crowd migrates from the laying of hands ceremony to Vroman's back yard, where Lynell George conducts an inspired interview with Luis Rodríguez.

They talk libraries; Luis’ career; Rodríguez’ project to eliminate incarceration; being LA Poet Laureate; Tia Chucha’s books; Luis’ tía, Chucha; a big grant Tia Chucha the bookstore and cultural center has received; Rodriguez’ writing process; mentoring; reading.

Then there was cake and selfies. Vroman's serves a delicious cake, Irene Sánchez tells The Gluten-free Chicano, adding, "I don't usually eat cake but this is delicious!"

Lynell George  and Luis J. Rodríguez
Someone at Vroman's neglected to extend the awning that nestled high overhead against the far eaves. The audience and the speakers enjoyed the full blazing benefit of a typical Southern California Fall afternoon.




The Mexican worker is kicking back in the shade between the two event sites. In the background, people stand around eating cake, snapping fotos with one another and the poet, fotos of the slab of cement freshly laid that will be there, for a long time.

We are immersed in the glow of this well-deserved honor and awareness that this slab of cement now belongs to U.S. literary history.

I ask the worker what it feels like, being a part of literary history?

He considers the question then shakes his head, “Man, I just mix the cement,” me dice. He laughs. I laugh. I remind him none of this here is possible without his labor. He turns his head laughing in modest realization. His name, he answers, is No Importa.



Stanford Book Club Meets Jesus Treviño

The quarterly gathering of The Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford Alumni Association of Southern California enjoyed  the company of an artist who's attended several earlier gatherings, but he was working--filming for Latinopia.

Sunday, November 19th, Jesus Treviño, the award-winning author, was guest of honor with his American Book Award collection, Return to Arroyo Grande (link).


Among the pleasures of the book club are the give-and-take occurring between people who read effectively, and artists who craft the stories and choose the words. The book club holds Treviño to account for his choices.

Do you have a choice? This is one of the major themes threading through Return to Arroyo Grande. Parallel dimensions, people who disappear, uneluctable destinies altered in a time bind, are some of the topics whirling around the table and extended conversation.

Lively discussion is one index of a book's success. Return to Arroyo Grande obviously has proven itself by that measure.


The junta brought new participants, a UCLA first-year English major with writing aspirations and two Stanford alums from back in the day. The crowd gave Treviño a thorough grilling, of the good kind authors get from people who enjoyed the heck out of the author's work.

All were intrigued learning of Treviño's in-process teatro project. The author combines elements from three of the sinkhole stories to make a 90-minute stage piece. The project has legs, and will get a bath of mild acid with a table read in the near future. La Bloga will have times and locations as they become scheduled.

Treviño reads a funny part that tickles Felix Gutíerrez
Bobbi Murray and husband Jesus Treviño meet Stanford University reading raza




Here Come Holiday Sales & Events

La Bloga endorses the notion of buying local, and at holidays a corollary, buy local from local artisans. A comprehensive list of coast-to-coast local artisan events would be useful--to IRS investigators bloodhounding events sniffing out uncollected taxes. La Bloga will let readers in on the events as we learn of them.

Alburquerque


The National Hispanic Cultural Center holds a free public event to open its holiday marketing season. Via email, NHCC invites gente to the December 2 5 p.m. fest:

Join us for the opening reception for the exhibition The Art of Christmas: New Mexico Style, featuring approximately 430 handmade ornaments by more than 125 New Mexican artists that have been collected by the Duran family (Matt, Jeanette, and their son Gabriel) over nearly 20 years. Matt and Jeanette began collecting Christmas ornaments in 2000 and there first tree was only 4 feet tall. Now, the ornaments are displayed on a number of trees in their home including one that is 15 feet tall. You can explore this impressive collection in the NHCC Art Museum between December 2, 2017 and January 7, 2018.

Los Angeles
Comedy Tonight - Through January 2018
Not a sale but you can't pay enough for the joys of live theatre and laughs. That's what Los Angeles Theatre Center promises in its holiday season special.


Via email:
Back by popular demand and bursting with laughs, more laughs, music and escandalo (scandal)!
You thought your holidays with the family were dramatic? Try these three hilarious, touching and
surprisingly personal Christmas stories of holidays past told by three acclaimed Latina comedians.

Written and performed by Diana Yanez ♦ Maria Russell ♦ Sandra Valls
Directed by Geoffrey Rivas

Opening Weekend 
Friday, Dec. 1 @ 8 p.m. (reception follows, RSVP when you order seats)
Saturday, Dec. 2 @ 2 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 2 @ 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 3 @ 3 p.m.

Can't make it opening weekend? Performances continue through Jan. 7:
Fridays at 8 p.m. / Saturdays at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. / Sundays at 3 p.m.

Plus: Mon., Dec. 18; Thurs., Dec. 21; Thurs., Jan. 4 - all at 8 p.m.
(dark Dec. 15, Dec. 2, Dec. 29, Dec. 30 and Dec. 31)

The Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Reyna Grande Annual Iguala Holiday Joy Fund-Raiser

The 43 remain among the missing. Since 2014. Increasingly forgotten in the EUA, their absence continues burning in the memories of devastated families and residents of Iguala, where most of the missing lived. This is Reyna Grande's hometown.

Reyna's been giving the kids of her hometown Christmas gifts for the past three years. This is the fourth year readers can join the sharing by contributing to Grande's current drive.

Via email:
I have launched my campaign to raise funds for my 4th Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway! I appreciate any support you can give me to bring some Christmas cheer to the kids in my hometown. This project is very close to my heart and I would love for you to be a part of it. Click here to donate. View the video click the arrow.




Chicago
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL 60608
 (312) 738-1503

Via email:
Start your holiday shopping at the Mercado Navideño Friday, November 24th through Sunday, November 26th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Whether you're looking for jewelry or tote bags, you'll find the perfect gift for that special someone.

Plus, Museum members save 30% on their purchases! Not a member? You can enjoy this exclusive discount by joining today.


Sylmar, the Greater San Fernando Valley
Tia Chucha Sale


Via Facebook:
Hearts and Hands Mercadito is a collaboration with Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural where we actively engage local makers in order to support the creative economy. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

“Crossing the Border” gets launched at Avenue 50 Studio…and it was lovely


On Saturday, Avenue 50 Studio in collaboration with Regal House Publishing/Pact Press launched my debut poetry collection, Crossing the Border: Collected Poems. It was a lovely event curated by the talented and indefatigable Jessica Ceballos. The audience was warm and engaged (they asked great questions during the Q&A), and the setting was perfect. If you couldn’t make it, here are a few photos from the evening. Also, Avenue 50 Studio has signed copies of my book, so if you visit this wonderful cultural space, just ask. And while you’re there, spend some time enjoying the beautiful artwork on display, some of which is available for purchase.

Jessica Ceballos offering introductory remarks.




 

Family members offering support before the reading.

Special guests, artists Eloy Torrez and Juliane Blackmann.

•••

Avenue 50 Studio is an arts presentation organization grounded in Latina/o culture, visual arts, and the Northeast Los Angeles Community, that seeks to bridge cultures through artistic expression, using content-driven art to educate and to stimulate intercultural understanding. Please show your support by visiting and, if you can, purchasing art and/or making a tax-deductible donation.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Guest Columnist: Antonio Solisgomez

Editor's Note: See Antonio Solisgomez' biography at the end of this column.

All Souls Procession In Tucson 2017
Antonio Solisgomez



Mexicans have always had a fascination with death, with the ghosts of those departed, never shy about talking openly on the subject, nor recounting visits from those gone to the other side and keeping the tradition alive of the velorio, the night vigil where friends and relatives gather in the mortuary parking lot to drink and swap stories of the deceased, their closest relatives returning home to insert a photograph of him or her in their family altar or later at the time of All Souls Day creating a special altar with an offering of food and flowers.

My first memories of the practice of honoring those gone to the other side are from my early childhood in El Paso in the 1940’s, where everyone spoke Spanish, where we and everyone we knew lived in tenement housing and was poor, where every weekend we would walk across the border into Juarez to spend time with my padrinos and to shop for groceries at the open air Mercado with its pungent odors of fresh fruit, flowers, spices, slabs of meat, live chickens, birds in cages.



October brings an astonishing display of items for El Dia De Los Muertos, decorated sugar skulls of all sizes and color, calacas made from thin cardboard whose arms and legs had movement or made of wood and capable of dancing on a paddle, small candies and toys shaped into skeletons, all of it mesmerizing, affirming of the stories and beliefs that were our upbringing for la pelona en bicicleta was a reality and we knew that our friends and relatives who had been whisked away to the other world would be remembered and honored.

She's taking names of deceased individuals being remembered

My classroom, in contrast, during October was decorated with colorful maple leaves, foldout paper pumpkins, witches on broomsticks and magazine photos of costumed children trick or treating, motifs foreign to us Chicanitos living in a desert environment and where the only strangers that came to knock on our door were the bill collectors and the men asking for a taquito of whatever food we could spare.

In this country Halloween, the one holiday related to the subject of death has been cleansed of its pagan origins, converted into an economic activity devoid of any semblance to the purpose of honoring those who have passed over.

Taking names that will be burned at the finale.

Some Christians attack Halloween as an event promoting satanic practices. Fortunately this is changing and we now see more and more evidence that people want to honor their deceased friends and relatives in a special way as is done during Dia De Los Muertos.

There are many reasons for this, one certainly is the greater number of Latinos in this country but also the elevating of humanity’s consciousness and a certainty that there is life after death, bolstered by the thousands of testimonies that attest to this fact and the concomitant need to honor our ancestors and loved ones.

Procession gets underway.
Here in Tucson Arizona, 28 years ago, a group of artists began a practice of dressing in costume and walking a designated route and at the end burning prayer requests.

One hundred and fifty thousand people now join this All Souls Procession, which is not a parade, not so much something to witness as a spectator, but rather a gathering of individuals walking together in remembrance of dead friends and relatives.

Some carry their own light

Many children attend


The Procession ends at a large dirt field.
Meet Antonio Solisgomez

Born in El Psao at the start of World War II my formative years were spent in the rough & tumble Duranguito Barrio where it was not unusual to have 20 or 30 playmates during the day & night speaking only in Spanish with lots of slang & lots of cuss words, playing games that came from Mexico, games that required running, chasing, hiding and no equipment whatsoever. Weekends were spent in Juraez, vising my godparents, eating at the puestecitos, going to the mercado and to the cervezeria, the beer garden, where entertainment was provided and the adults drank and sang rancheras.

It was an idylic life but my family moved to Los Angeles in 1950 where it was rumored that my stepfather could ply his carpentry trade in the housing boom taking place in the suburban areas. We left behind a mountain of unpaid bills, memories that would last a lifetime and a language that has never left me.

Lincoln Heights where we finally settled, after short stints in Bunker Hill and in Central los Angeleas, was a barrio in transition, Mexican Families moving in and Italian families moving out. But for awhile we lived as neighbors, played together at local playgrounds, at the Boys Club and later at the High School, which by then was almost 98 % Latino, most of them new immigrants from Mexico. Lincoln High School where i attended was oriented toward shop programs in wood, printing, upholstery for boys and typing, sewing, and homemaking for girls with limited classes in science, math & Literature. But I went to East Los Angeles College, later to Cal State LA where I graduated in June of 1964 & started working as a social worker for the Los Angeles County program Assistance to Families with Dependent Children(AFDC). I worked as a social worker for the next 10 years for HeadStart, International Institude & Big Brothers but switching in 1970 to working preschools and childcare.

During the late 1960, i helped start the barrio magazine Con Safos and was quite active in community affairs until 1970 when i became disillusioned with the many self-serving Chicanos that began moving into positions being created in the War on Poverty Program, individuals who were all about the rhetoric but were really out for themselves and community concerns were not a priority. I was naive to some extent but it became a crisis for me at the time and i had to search deep to find a new foundation as the Chicano Movimiento that had been my end all, eroded. I started meditating then, became a vegetarian, stopped drinking and getting high and eventually moved to Tucson where i enrolled in a Masters program to become a Spanish speaking librarian, a career that i had for the next 25 years. I retired from the W.K. Kellog Foundation in 2000, my 2nd wife and i travelled around the world for five months then first settled in Carlsbad California and eventually came to live in Tucson.

I have been actively writing since retiring and have self published two books Amen Again in 2012; Pelon on the Lam and the 2nd book The Search for the Brown Buffalo; A Con Safos Quantum Journey. I have a third finished manuscript that has a working title of Archival Murder: A Con Safos Crime Mystery. I also have a few short stories that i hope to publish some day. In addition to writing i also have taught myself cabinet making and more recently have decided to give up all my power tools and work solely by hand, which is more in keeping with my other hobby of weaving that is slow and quiet. I continue to meditate daily and my spiritual life is really my focus, all activities revolve around that and i am particulalry interested in what the Mayans discovered of a new age beginning in 2012, the old age of greed, separation, violence and war, male dominance & intolerance replaced by peace, unity, tolerance, empathy, love and a balance of masculine and feminine energies.