"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Monday, November 21, 2005

El Plan de San Luis Potosi

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 began on November 20, 1910 when Francisco I. Madero issued his Plan de San Luis Potosi. My great-grandfather, Adalberto Mesta Cerda, fought in the revolution eventually becoming a Lt. Col in the revolutionary calvary. He died sometime during 1914 in a nameless grave. When or exactly where he died has been lost to the family and to history. Only stories and pictures exist. I wonder what type of man he was and what caused him to join the revolution. Did he join because of ideology? Was he wronged by rich hacienda owner? Que occurio? My relatives look at his photos and say he lives on through me.

Men and women like him were caught up by history and changed it. Recuerdos.

Link: English Translation of El Plan de San Luis Potosi.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

El Paso's Writers Spotlight: Theresa Melendez

I never met professora Melendez, but I've traded email with her.

I also hear good thing from the Chicano(a) student in Michagan. She currently teaches at Michagan State University in their department of English.

But most of us know her when she was tenured faculty at UTEP's English Departement. For a long time, she was the only tenured Chicana/o in that department. Not much has changed there.

But she was there as several writers passed through like Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Benjamin A. Saenz, and Manuel Velez. I'm not sure if Melendez was there when Olga Garcia passed through.

Melendez was very active at UTEP in the Chicano Faculty Association, back when Dr. Haddox, Norma Hernandez, Cesar Caballero, Oscar Martinez, among others were active in it. Melendez was always a supporter of UTEP Chicano Studies, even through its tough times.

I know she was director of MSU Chicano Studies Program. Take a look at this article: "Melendez finds history, destiny". I know she was also on the board of the local ACLU. I know she also has been taking a stand againt military recrutiers in schools. See The Blitz. Melendez attended Burgess High School in El Paso before getting her B.A. and M.A. from UTEP. She went on to get her Ph.D. at the University of California at San Diego. Currently Coordinator of Latino/Chicano Studies at Michigan State University, East Lansing.

She's co-edited several books including "Race in 21st Century America" and "Racial Liberalism and the Politics of Urban America."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Gloria Lopez-Stafford

Lopez-Stafford's book A Place in El Paso: A Mexican-American Childhood became one of the most used book in Chicano(a) lit classes across the country. Lopez-Stafford is a retired social worker. The book tells the experiences of a young girl in El Paso's Segundo Barrio and Five Point area. It contains aspects of reverse assimulation and whiticanismo. I don't know much about Lopez-Stafford and I don't know of any books that she has come out with since. I always recall the passage in her book, "When it rains in El Paso, there is the most wonderful smell in the world.”

Friday, September 23, 2005

Is Chicano(a) Literatrue becoming "Latino" Literature?

In the last few years, I have asked this question many times. I’ve sat contemplating it and its repucussions. In one way, we Chicano(a)s are so similar to our Latino brothers and sister. We have much in common. Yet, there are also many differences.

Wait a minute Ray, aren’t Chicano(a)s Latinos? Well, not to me.

People have to remember where I come from. I’m from that generation of activist Chicano(a)s, organizing in the community, in the school, and in the church. In my domain, it was not unlikely to see “Latino” and “Hispanic” within a circle and crossed out. This was not saying we didn’t like Latinos, but it was simply saying this was not us. We were Chicano(a)s. We are not immigrants.

Sure, you may say, "well Ray your parents came to the United States during the Mexican Revolution." We can say the same about others.

However, I’m one of those who follow Felipe Ortego’s scholarship. Just because they drew a border through are land, doesn’t make us immigrants. He compared it to Palestinians, their land taken away from them and then the Palestinians returning. Chicano(a)s (or before they call themselves such) are simply immigrating to back to their home.

Somehow, this has been mixed up. At the University of New Mexico, some wanted to change the name of their Chicano Studies program to Hispanic Studies, something that has happened at many universities. I heard the rumor at UT Austin that some though “Mexican American Studies” was too militant. I wonder what they thought about “Chicano Studies.” If you look back, many of the programs that chose "Mexican American" studies or some other name, as oppose to "Chicano Studies" have quickly demised.

The other thing that has happened is “Chicano Studies” being absorbed by “Latin American Studies,” two very different philosophies. Latin American Studies was historically dominated (I think even was founded) by White scholars.

Nevertheless, I’ll find Chicano(a) writers identifying themselves as “Latino.” I’m sure there is an identification question here. Of course, one may have to identify as something to sell books and do readings. But in a genre like Chicano(a) literature, Chicano(a) identification is one of the pillars. Nevertheless, this identification as “Latino” by some of our prominent Chicano(a) writers takes a stab at the foundations of Chicano(a) literature. I feel Ricardo Sanchez rolling in his grave. What is it, vato/vatona, are you Chicano or Latino? “Both” one would say…I’m still skeptical.

In editing “Pluma Fronteriza” and “Libros, Libros,” I come across this problem of identification. It’s sad to me because sometimes we don’t know who these writers are. For a long time in Chicano(a) literature, you knew who they were. Understand where I’m coming from. We started “Pluma Fronteriza” to highlight Chicana(o) writers from El Paso, Texas. However, as we went along, we knew could not tell the whole story of writers from EPT without including many of the other writers living in the area who were not Chicano(as), especially our Juarense brothers and sisters. Therefore, we included Latino(a)s in our picture. But even now, we get some corajes from some of our non-Chicano(a) writers in the tri-state region for calling them “Latino.” “Que pues Ray, why did you call me that.”

Well, back to our editing. When making a decision, it is very hard to place people into a group. Then why do it, you ask? I think it makes the reading quality better for the readers.

In addition, for our librarians and booksellers, it helps them out. Therefore, if the writer identifies as Hispanic, or the press identifies the writer as such, I place it under “Hispanic.” Most books have a section description for bookstores (e.g., “cultural studies/Hispanic,” “Chicano,” “Mexican American”), so we use that also in our decision. We sometimes place some Chicana(o) writers in the Hispanic category. Why? Well if you or your press is going to identify you or your book as such, that’s where you are going.

As for academic books, some also have a “Hispanic” identification. Most scholars I know view this with skepticism, without reading the book, “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Before one even opens the book, for most Chicano(as), we start analyzing why the author or press used “Hispanic,” something placed on us by the Nixon administration. In addition, after questioning it, read the book with one eye open.

When we categorize, Latino has some of the same qualities. If it is an academic book, we wonder who are you talking about, Latin American in Latin America? Latinos in the US? Don’t get me wrong, there are many of our Latino(a) writers that our comfortable with that identification, especially those from south of Mexico. Then again, some are not. And this is not putting down any of our brothers and sisters from countries other than the US and Mexico.

Let’s get back to our original question: Is Chicano(a) literature becoming Latino literature? Notice I don’t say “Latino(a),” because that is seldom used. Latino lit has not gone through the evolution that our Chicana writers so graciously started in the latter part of the 20th Century. Or at least, it’s not as prominent.

I’m sure many writers who are Chicano(a)s will let themselves be identified as Latinos by their publishers for the sake of selling books. But at what sacrifice? Then what happens when you are a Chicano(a) writer and a press wants to publish you, but in their “Latino series.” Umh? I cut my writing carnales(as) some slack porque the publishing world es peor y difícil, so take any chance you get. But at what sacrifice?

I really don’t have an answer, just asking questions. Definitely there is a difference from the really good Latino writers and the post-Ricky Martin Latino writers, which I call the “Localisciensia,” after Martin removed what ever flavor “la vida loca” once had (see “Always Running,” “Locas,” and “Contigo” by Los Panchos). Now “Latino Literature” seems “pop,” chiklit. Moreover, I know there is some good chiklit out there, but by far not on the level of Castillo, Cisneros, Chavez, Lorna Dee, Demetria, etc.

I remember reading some of Felipe Ortego’s article and he wrote about how US anthologies, when they did include literature by “others” (trying to include Chicano(a) or Latinos(a)), they usually included Latin American writers like Paz, Garcia Marquez, Neruda, but seldom looked inward to what was being produced in the US.

Recently, an insert called “Hispanic Literature and Storytelling” was included in various papers like the Detroit News, Kansas City Star, San Francisco Chronicle among others. It was put together by Kathy Dahlstom and Mary Icobelli. It had an introduction by Gloria Rodríguez who works for a “Hispanic”-owned public relations firm. Rodriguez writes the introduction, and though she includes Sandra Cisneros, she writes as if the writers are foreign, indeed most are. Some are not though, but she says the insert focuses on “stories of men and women who have written and in many cases continue to write in the beautiful Spanish of their native lands.” Umh? This is more of viewing the indegenous people of this land as foreigners.

The insert is terribly outdated. It does not include many new books. There is another article called “World of Book Publishing Responds to Hispanic Influence,” which should have been titled “New York Publishers Respond to Hispanic Influence” because all then mention is New York publishers, mostly Rayo/HarperCollins. They have a little snidbit about Arte Público. I guess presses like Curbstone, U of AZ, UNM, and others have not been dong anything all these years. I’m being sarcastic for those of you in Orogrande.

Here are the writers mentioned as “Writers who have made their mark”:
Isabel Allende (Chile)
Oscar Hijuelos (Cuba)
Laura Restrebo (Colombia)
Esmeralda Santiago (Puerto Rico)
Victor Villasenor (US)

Hello??? Sometimes, I do not even know what Villaseñor is. Where is Abelardo Delgado who wrote the first Chicano collection of poems, or Estela Portillo Trambly who had the first prominent collection of short stories by a Chicana? How about Sandra Cisneros who’s House on Mango Street is in every bookstore in this country? How about Gloria Anzualdua who revolutionized the literature. Then again, to misidentify these writers a “Hispanic” would not be right either.

The insert also has short articles on Yuri Morales (Mexico) and Julia Alvarez. There is an article on “Hispanic” journalist and they mention Mirta Ojita, Maria Hinojosa, Elizabeth Vargas, Jorge Ramos, Ruben Salazar (hear the roll by Zeta), and Jose Marti. There is a short article on Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes is also “Hispanic,” I guess. Another section describes “Hispanics” who have won the Nobel Prize. There is an article on some spoken word artists like Mayda del Valle. Another section focuses on novelists who also write poetry. It includes Ruben Dario (Nic.), Garcia Loca (Spain), Antono Machado (Spain), Jose Marti (Cuba), Neruda, Piñero (Puerto Rico), and Gary Soto (US).

In an article touching on memoirs, the include Judith Ortiz Cofer, Roberto Quesada (Honduras), Ernesto Galarza (US), Nicholasa Mohr (Nuyorican) and again Julia Alvarez (Dom.Rep.). It’s not until the final pages that you see “Chicano” mentioned. Gloria Velásquez and Josephina Niggli are touched upon, as well as Anaya. They mention by name only Castillo, Hinojosa-Smith, Mora, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Richard Rodriguez. They write a little about Corky Gonsales and end the article mentioning in passing: Alberto Baltazar, Alurista, Jose Montoya, Alberto Rios, Gary Soto, Carmen Tafolla, and Bernice Zamora.

I had many problems with this insert. First, it was place in newspapers that for the most part ignore Chicano(a) writers, and Latino writers at that. Yea, you may see something occasionally, but if Kirkus or Publishers Weekly is not reviewing you, these newspapers are not going to touch you or your book. Their book review audience is White. The audience is not Chicano(as), not Latino, not Latin Americans, and should I say, not even “Hispanic.” I know the insert comes with a Spanish translation, but one can tell by the content and writing style who the audience target is. If not White, upperclass Hispanics, NCLR/LULAC types.

Second, by calling it “Hispanic Literature and Story Telling,” I do not know who the hell they are talking about. Who’s Hispanic? To this insert, Cervantes and Lorna Dee Cervantes are the same. They both grew up in the same way, same experiences. What the hell does Garcia Lorca have to do with Sandra Cisneros. Yea, both are great writers. But the carnala grew up in Chicago, a Chicana. Yea, maybe some of our Latino writers, like Cisnero's parents immigrated to the US, but where do these Spanish writers come into the picture. Hispanic Magazine, Latina Magazine, Hispanic Business, do this a lot. They focus on the Spanish-speaking world, not necessarily those people indegenous to the Americas. They focus mostly on White Hispanics. Once in a while they pull someone out like Mairia Carey who has some percentage of latinaness and a whole host of others who recently discovered their "hispanicism."

Some of these Spanish writers have nothing in common with Chicanos(as) or some of the Latino writers they mention, other than that Spain conquered, raped, and pillaged the Americas.

Though some Chicano(a) writers are mentioned, in whole, they are largely ignored. The perspective to one of “other,” we are telling you about “Hispanic” writers, writers beyond our borders. It may be that Chicano(a) writers are not “Hispanic” enough. Even our Latinos may not be Hispanic enough. Remember the targeted audience. A White audience is more likely to read what New York recommends. Therefore, New York and the book reviewers are only focusing on Latin American classic writers. Writers who died long ago. Just like “Hispanic” is a name placed on us, the insert as well as others, place the label “Hispanic literature” on us. So that instead of it being our literature (like what Chicano(a)s believe), it becomes some strange pseudo-subgenre going by a name that they decide to place on us.

It also bothers me that they focus on older writers, not only “Hispanic,” Latin American, but also Chicano(a). Hardly any writers that came out in the 1990s or the 21st Century are mentioned. Valdes-Rodriguez is mention, but how about writers with more substance. Where are your Ixta Maya Murrays, your Tim Hernández, and your Dagoberto Gilbs. The insert does not touch on the more political writers: Trinidad Sánchez, Jr., Ricardo Sánchez, Martin Espada, to name a few. Moreover, some of these people have been published in New York, so I do not know what the problem is. Why give us the the hand?

No Chicana lesbian writers are mentioned, ignoring significant changes writers like Gloria Anzaldua and Cherri Moraga brought to the literature. In fact, hardly any lesbian and gay writers are mentioned, maybe not any. Where’s your Rigoberto Gonzalez? Where’s your Carla Trujillos?

There is some good stuff about this insert, but it mostly is a bad representation. Alternatively, it could be a good representation of “Hispanic” literature. Maybe its their catch all to end all, so that they can ignore Chicano(a) and Latino writers in their book review sections for the rest of the year. If their intended audience were Chicano(as) and Latinos in the US, how about a little more on writers from here. Writers from other countries are important and should be read, but they are not us.

Then how about hiring writers who are a little more up to date on the literature.

Bueno, estas son las chingaderas que canto el rey David. At UTEP, Dr LaFarrelle use to pass this out in his classes (the Crypto Jews part is not entirely correct, but for more on Hispanos see the book Language of Blood.) I think you can find the anaysis below on the web:


Are Chicanos the same as Mexicans?

Here is a "taxonomy" that may be a useful reference for this topic:
"Spanish people"This term is used frequently in the United States to refer indiscriminately to any person that speaks Spanish. As such, it is imprecise and often inappropriate in that it includes people from more than two dozen countries, spanning the entire American continent, the Caribbean, and Spain. The term does specifically apply, however, as the proper name for the native people of Spain, and for this reason, it is as incorrect to use it to refer to all Spanish-speakers as the term "English" would be to refer to citizens of New Zealand, Australia or the United States.


This term is often used to refer collectively to all Spanish-speakers. However, it specifically connotes a lineage or cultural heritage related to Spain. As many millions of people who speak Spanish are not of true Spanish descent (e.g., Native Americans and even many so-called Hispanics in the United States), and millions more live in Latin America (cf., "Latino" below) yet do not speak Spanish or claim Spanish heritage (e.g., Brazilians) this term is incorrect as a collective name for all Spanish-speakers, and may actually be cause for offense.
LatinoThis term is used to refer to people originating from, or having a heritage related to Latin America, in recognition of the fact that this set of people is actually a superset of many nationalities. Since the term "Latin" comes into use as the least common denominator for all peoples of Latin America in recognition of the fact that some romance language (Spanish, Portuguese, French) is the native tongue of the majority of Latin Americans, this term is widely accepted by most. However, the term is not appropriate for the millions of Native Americans who inhabit the region. It also assumes that Latin America ends at the U.S.-Mexico border.


Specifically, the nationality of the inhabitants of Mexico. Therefore, the term is used appropriately for Mexican citizens who visit or work in the United States, but it is insufficient to designate those people who are citizens of the United States (they were born in the US or are naturalized citizens of the US) who are of Mexican ancestry. The various terms used to properly designate such people are described below. However, it is important to explain why these people feel it is important to make such a distinction. US citizens who are troubled by this often point out that most immigrants do not distinguish themselves by point of origin first, (i.e., German-American), but simply as "Americans" (another troublesome term, but we won't get detoured by that here). Here are some reasons why many US citizens of Mexican extraction feel that it is important to make the distinction:

*Not "Americans" by choiceA scant 150 years ago, approximately 50% of what was then Mexico was appropriated by the US as spoils of war, and in a series of land "sales" that were coerced capitalizing on the US victory in that war and Mexico's weak political and economic status. A sizable number of Mexican citizens became citizens of the United States from one day to the next as a result, and the treaty declaring the peace between the two countries recognized the rights of such people to their private properties (as deeded by Mexican or Spanish colonial authorities), their own religion (Roman Catholicism) and the right to speak and receive education in their own tongue (for the majority, Spanish) [refer to the text of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo]. Therefore, the descendants of this population continue to press for such rights, and many hold that theirs is a colonized land and people in view of the fact that their territory and population was taken over by military force.

*Mexicans first, "Americans" second?Another and more numerous class of US citizens of Mexican extraction are either descendants of, or are themselves, people who conceive of themselves as temporarily displaced from Mexico by economic circumstances. As opposed to the waves of European migrants who willingly left their countries due to class and religious discrimination, and sought to make their lives anew in the "new world" and never to return to the "old land," these displaced Mexicans typically maintain strong family ties in Mexico (by visiting periodically, and by investing their incomes in homes or kin in Mexico), and usually intend to return to Mexico provided they can become economically secure. Therefore these people maintain and nurture their children in their language, religion and customs.

However, There is great tension within this population between those of Mexican birth who conceive of themselves as temporary guests in the US, and their descendants who are born in the US, are acculturated with the norms of broader US society in public schools, and are not motivated by the same ties that bind a migrant generation of Mexicans. This creates a classic "niche" of descendants of immigrants who are full-fledged US citizens, but who typically do not have access to all the rights and privileges of citizenship because of the strong cultural identity imbued in them by their upbringing and the discriminatory reaction of the majority population against a non-assimilated and easily identified subclass. This group of people feels a great need to distinguish itself from both its US milieu and its Mexican "Mother Culture," which does not typically welcome or accept "prodigals." This is truly a unique set of people, therefore, in that it endures both strong ties and strong discrimination from both US and Mexican mainstream parent cultures. The result has been the creation of a remarkable new culture that needs its own name and identity.


This term is commonly used to recognize US citizens who are descendants of Mexicans, following the pattern sometimes used to identify the extraction of other ethnic Americans (e.g., "African-American). This term is acceptable to many Mexican descendants, but for those who do not identify with a Mexican heritage, but rather with a Spanish heritage, it is unacceptable (cf., "Hispano," below). Also, for those who do not view themselves as "Americans" by choice, this term is problematic, and for others the implication that the identity of the bearer is unresolved, or in limbo, between two antipodal influences, belies their self-concept as a blend that supersedes its origins and is stronger, richer and more dynamic than either of its cultural roots.


This term is preferred by that subpopulation, located primarily in the US southwest, who identify with the Spanish settlers of the area, and not with the Mexican settlers (specifically, the Creole Spanish-Native American race). There is in fact an important number of these people located along the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and in the northern Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the same state. This group has been traditionally a very closed and conservative one, and recent evidence provides important explanations for this: they seem to be descendants of persecuted Jews who fled Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries and sought refuge in what were then the farthest reaches of the known world. They survived by minimizing their contact with outsiders and by hiding or disguising their religious and cultural identities as much as possible. Historical researchers call them "cryptic Jews."


A relatively recent term that has been appropriated by many Mexican descendants as unique and therefore reflective of their unique culture, though its first usage seems to have been discriminatory. The most likely source of the word is traced to the 1930 and 40s period, when poor, rural Mexicans, often native Americans, were imported to the US to provide cheap field labor, under an agreement of the governments of both countries. The term seems to have come into first use in the fields of California in derision of the inability of native Nahuatl speakers from Morelos state to refer to themselves as "Mexicanos," and instead spoke of themselves as "Mesheecanos," in accordance with the pronunciation rules of their language (for additional details, refer to the file MEXICO on this same subdirectory). An equivocal factor is that in vulgar Spanish it is common for Mexicans to use the "CH" conjunction in place of certain consonants in order to create a term of endearment. Whatever its origin, it was at first insulting to be identified by this name. The term was appropriated by Mexican-American activists who took part in the Brown Power movement of the 60s and 70s in the US southwest, and has now come into widespread usage. Among more "assimilated" Mexican-Americans, the term still retains an unsavory connotation, particularly because it is preferred by political activists and by those who seek to create a new and fresh identity for their culture rather than to subsume it blandly under the guise of any mainstream culture.

The link I share with you today is Mariachi Cobre’s website:


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Whose got the best chili?

Chili pepper report (4:00)Mexico's farmers are fuming over its country's prided chili peppers. Peppers are the everyday spice of Mexican cuisine. But increasingly, Mexico's hot peppers are being grown in China. The World's Franc Contreras reports.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mujer Spotlight: Norma Hernandez

Norma G. Hernández (educator, educational psychology, writer, activist), (B.A. University of Texas at El Paso, M.S., Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) was one of the first Chicanas to recieve a professorship in the University of Texas system, probably in Texas! She was a long-time supporter of Chicano Studies at UTEP and for civil and student rights. She wrote and edited several books:

Factors Affecting the Achievement of Mexican-Americans;
Latino empowerment: Progress, Problems, and Prospects;
Latinos and Political Coalitions: Political Empowerment for the 1990’s;
Variables Affecting Achievement of Middle School Mexican-American Students.

She was involved with the Teacher Corp in the early 1970s and part of the Chicano Faculty Association. I remember her giving a passionate speech at the MEChA Alumni reunion in 1997 or 98, I forget witch year.

Former chair of the Educational Psychology Department of the College of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso (retired).

Monday, September 05, 2005

We Salute America's workers!: Review: "Labor Rights are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in 20 Century America"

"Historian's book welcome lesson in labor politics"

Review of "Labor Rights are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in 20th Century America" by Zaragosa Vargas.

To view this article on The El Paso Times Web site, go to:http://www.elpasotimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2005509040316

The link I share with you today is Justice @ Smithfield:


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Documerica: Segundo Barrio

Earlier this summer, I was searching the National Archives for information on the Santa Fe Railroad in the El Paso area during the 1920s. Turns out, most of the information was long destroyed. While reviewing the search results, the name Danny Lyon and Seguno Barrio appeared kept appearing in the search results. The search engine kept providing me search results of anything related to El Paso, most of it useless to my needs. What prompted me to click on the Segundo Barrio Lyon search results was it indicated a collection of photos from the environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records.

Intrigued, I clicked on one search result expecting images of a dirty Rio Grande or ASACRCO, instead a photo with the following caption appeared on my screen "Chicano teenager in El Paso's second ward. A classic barrio which is slowly giving way to urban renewal." In the photos, a Chicano was leaning against an unknown alley in El Segundo Barrio. The photo was taken in 1972. Another photo showed the inside of a 50s Chevy with a inspiring sticker "RAZA IS LOVE" put on the dashboard. Other photos showed buildings and streets in Segundo. All these photos captured a moment of time in El Chuco. Where is this "Chicano teenager" now?

Why was the EPA was taking pictures of Chicanos in El Segundo? According the EPA, "Documerica was a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to photographically document subjects of environmental concern in America during the 1970's. The images were made by approximately 70 well-known photographers contracted by the EPA for this project." The photographers were paid $150 per day plus film and expenses. The photographers would send the negatives to the EPA, where the staffers would select the best photos. The photographers were not limited creatively. The EPA, inspired by the photos of the Great Depression and The New Deal, wanted to record the images of 1970s America to show the impact of pollution and show America that places needed saving. Among the photographers involved in this project was Danny Lyon.

Lyon is photographer from Chicago. After attending Univ. of Chicago, he was involved with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committe (SNCC). He has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. His photos have been showed at one-man exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Apart from his impressive photos of El Segundo, his photo collection, "Conversation with the Dead" is equally impressive. In the late 1960s, he took photos at various prisons in Texas creating an insightful and revealing look at the Texas prison system. Photos titled "Prision Tatoos" "The Shakedown" and "New Arrivals from Corpus," which shows two Vatos are haunting. Apart from El Chuco, the Documerica Project sent Lyon was sent to South Texas where he took numerous pictures of gente down there.

DOCUMERICA ended its impressive goal in 1977 because of budget cuts. According to the EPA, over 80,000 photos were taken with over 20,000 photos stored with the National Archives. Numerous photos, including quite of few of the Segundo Barrio fotos, were featured in an exhibit at the National Archives, "Picturing the Century; One Hundred Years of Photography."

A great use of government funds.

Couple of links:
The National Archives
Danny Lyon Photos
Danny Lyon Biography

Thursday, September 01, 2005

El Paso Mujer Writers Spotlight: Alicia Gaspar de Alba

What can we say about Alicia Gaspar de Alba (Eastwood; B.A.1980 cum laude, M.A. 1983 University of Texas at El Paso, Ph.D. University of New Mexico 1994) except that she's been rocking lately.

Her new book Desert Blood about the Cd. Juarez, Mex woman murders has received acclaim. Alicia was born in El Paso. She first published her work in high school while at Loretto Academy. She was at UTEP when Theresa Melendez was at UTEP's English department. Alicia was co-editor of the Amphora Review while at UTEP. There she won the Tappan-Price literary award and the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association award for best poem. She also received an honorable mention in the Palabra Nueva competition. She received her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. Tey Diana Rebello was one of her professors, it think. Alicia is currently a professor at the Cesar Chavez Center for Chicano Studies at UCLA.

Alicia won Best Historical Fiction for her first novel Sor Juana's Second Dream in the Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000. She was Roderick Endowed Chair in English, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Texas at El Paso, Fall 1999. She also received the Border-Ford/Pellicer-Frost Award for Poetry, 1998; Shirley Collier Prize for Literature (UCLA English Department award), 1998; Dean's Marshal for the Social Sciences Division, UCLA, 1998; the Premio Aztlán for her book of short stories Mystery of Survival, 1994; and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship, Award in Poetry, 1989.

At UCLA, she was First Chavez Center professor to be promoted to tenure - July 1, 1999; was Associate Director of the Chicano Studies Research Center (2002-2004); and Interim Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies Program (2000-2001).

Alicia is also a well-published scholar and one fo the preeminent Chicana lesbian scholars that revolutionized the genre in the late-1980s and 1990s. Her publications can be found in many of the anthologies by Chicana scholars. Among us Chicano(a) writers, her essay "Literary Wetback" has gain great fame.

Giving back the world (M.A. Creative Writing Thesis),
Dissertation: "Mi Casa [No] Es Su Casa": The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, Exhibit. Awarded Ralph Henry Gabriel Award for Best Dissertation in American Studies, 1994.
Three Times a Woman: Chicana Poetry (Bilingual Rev/Press)
Mystery of Survival and other stories (Bilingual Press)
Chicano Art: Inside/Outside the MasterÂ’s House (Bilingual Press),
Sor JuanaÂ’s Second Dream (UNM Press)
Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities (Palgrave MacMillan ISBN: 1403960968), 2002
La Llorona on the Longfellow Bridge: Poetry Y Otras Movidas, 1985-2001, 2003
Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders (Arte Público Press 2005)

Alicia's blog

Reviews of Desert Blood
My San Antonio.com
El Paso Times
San Antonio Current

There are many more reviews of Alicia's latest novel as well as some of her other books. Google them!

The link I share with you today is:
Resistencia Bookstore

Monday, August 29, 2005

Latino imprints, separate, but equal?

It seems in the last few years since Ricky Martin made "la vida loca" enter the realm of "uncoolness," the Latino "thing" has engulfed the media of the US. I'm not talking about our Latino brothers and sisters, I'm talking about the "Latino" 'thang' the news media, publishers, music industry, and others have been using a a marketing tool. It was like they discovered that Latinos and Chicano living in the U.S. could make music. Hey vatos, take a long look back: Willie G., the Midnighters, Lalo Guerrero, Santiago Jimenez, Los Cruzados, etc. With this came the "Latino Imprints."

I've taking this with a grain of salt because I think they have their goods and their bads. The first thing when observing this is to ask ourselves what our people are really reading. If you read Carlos Cumpian's much publicized article on Chicano poetry, we do know that it is mostly whites reading our work. And that's not bad. We welcome the white brothers and sisters. The only problem is when our own people our not reading our work. Even those who identify as "Chicano" (I'm not talking about the scholars, writers, poetas, etc.) are not reading our work. Sometimes they know of early Chicano writers like Alurista and Luis Valdez, but beyond that they don't know.

Some imprints have been putting out stuff in Spanish, mostly self-help books. From Dr. Phill to Dr. Laura on how to keep your husband happy. I'm not to thrilled about all of those books, but if our people are reading them, then go for it. But if not, umh.....

Second, are imprints separate but equal? Are our Chicano writers who have been published with the main flagship publisher now going to be shewed away to the imprint. Separate???? Equal???? I'm wondering if this has happened to some of our recent big wigs. Some of our big wigs have also began publishing with the small presses. What's happening?

Then again, some of these imprints are able to print huge amounts of these books and often release the book with a Spanish translation. This will probably help open up Chicano Literature to the rest of Latin America, something we have been unable to do. The question is are they being read or put into the incinerator.

Are the imprints shewing away good Chicana writers to go for the next "Latina" getting her grove back?

Are we at the point that the book industry is just looking for 1-hit wonders like in the music industry or reality television and then go onto the next. That once 1-hit wonder is left to disappear into the moor.

Take a thought on that....

The link I share with you is:

Teatro Izcalli Sin Verguenza

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Los Minutemen

According to Fox News, El Paso is "ground zero" for illegal immigration. Last week, they were broadcasting out of Sunland Park, where the Minutemen, the anti-immigration group, was organizing to patrol the border in this area. According to the ACLU, the group has announced their intent to patrol areas along the border in New Mexico and El Paso starting in October. This group has been accused of numerous abuses against undocumented individuals in Arizona and by checking out their websites, this group has a significant number of neo-nazi, white power members.

To prevent abuses, the ACLU has organized numerous activities in the El Paso area. One is the Legal Observer program, which is comprised of volunteers that attend demonstrations, protests, and watch the Minutemans to ensure that human rights are upheld. For more information, check out their website, www.vigilantewatch.org


Regular readers of La Pluma Fronteriza may have noticed my name, Alberto Mesta, Jr., presented as a copyeditor, ideaman, and as eloquently expressed in the current issue, responsible for any mistakes or pendejadas in the issues.

As Ray expressed earlier, we've been friends close to a decade. I had a corridos website, which was powered by my UTEP email. He sought me out and a great friendship was born. Not to say our friendship has produced only good. Ray is fanatical about beer, which means his influence has had a deterimental impact on my pocketbook. I'm unable to order a Bud Light, Coors Light, or even worse Tecate because they are violating the German Purity Laws of 1516. I must order a Harp, Chimay, or some weird microbrew from Colorado. If those snobish beer are unavailable, I unhappily settle for a Budweiser. Thanks Ray....

I am honored to be a contributer to this site. I was present during the germination of La Pluma Fronteriza. I remember Ray discussing the concept of a newsletter focusing on Chicano/a authors from the El Paso borderlands while I was chairman of UTEP MEChA. My focus will be on El Paso events, such as poetry readings, book signing, and things of interest. Moreover, I will post my thoughts on newsworhty items that are occuring in the borderlands. Although the site is focused on writers from the El Paso area, I plan on reviewing and discussing general trends in literature. If you have events coming up, please email me. My email address is elchapulincolorados@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Spotlight: Toni Beatriz Fuentes, Elizabeth Flores, Elenda Rodriguez

Hi folks, here I'm focusing on some Chicana and Latina writers from EPT. I don't have a lot of info on them. Toni Beatriz Fuentes has been reading poetry in El Paso for a long time. For a while she was one of the only Latina poets you could find in El Paso. I saw her last a a reading in honor of Manuel Acosta several years ago. I know she put out a chapbook called El Canto del Girasol (2001) and she's put out some other chapbooks. Another one is Casi un cielo. She was born in El Paso and was part of an old literary group called La Voz Mestiza. Other than that I don't have a lot of info on her. You can find one of her poems on line: "La "Socrates De Mi Barrio: Historia de una Mama Loquita."

Elizabeth Flores owns a postal annex store right there in Montwood Plaza near Yarbrough and Montwood. She's email me a few times. She was writing bilingual children's books long before they became popular. One of her books is La Tortilla Hida (Donars Production). I think it was published in the 1980s.

Elena Rodríguez (novelist)(M.A., University of Texas at El Paso) wrote the novel Peacetime which is one of the few novels that focuses on a Chicana in the military. Chusma House Press published it. I caught her a reading in 1997. She's one of the few Chicana veterans writing.

The link I share with you today is:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Back in the home town - Alberto Mesta

Well. I was back in the home town last week. It's changing everyday. They closed up Montwood Street from Yarbrough to McRae, so that was a hassle for my part of town.

I was sad to see that they tore down Eastwood Middle School. They are building another, well, building. Apparently the old building was sinking as are many of the houses in the area of the school. The foundations are cracking. It wasn't sad to me like they were tearing down La Bowie or something, just Eastwood Middle was where I was the most travieso and had most of my fun as a teen.

I was able to do some good research on some of my projects, met with friends, and colleagues.

One thing of interest is that El Diario has finally began publishing in El Paso. They have their paper holders everywhere in the city, right next to the El Paso Times. It's a full fledged Spanish daily newspaper. I notice the results right away. Both El Diario and the El Paso Times are running large headlines and getting more aggressive, I hear, on the quality of their stories.

While I was in EPT, there want a lot of pollution. They skies, when it wasn't cloudy, were very clear and you can see the mountains (even those in Cd. Juarez) .

I dropped by the Chase building to try the legendary tortilla soup at the Tres Colores restaurant there in the building. It was not as good as I remembered it.

In may part of town, you never saw many of the things you saw in the old Barrios around town. You never had a Nachitas on Alameda or a San Juan Grocery. It was always Skaggs or Safeway, later Big 8. There was one torterilla that opened up near Wedgewood and Montana. I don't think it lasted very long. Much has changed. At both the Walmart in Ruidoso and the Big 8 near my house they were roasting the green chiles in the thing-a-magic that looks like a lottery ticket spinner. You can smell the chiles as you parked your car. There was also a torterilla across from Big 8. That wound not have been there 20 years ago. Actually, the rousting to chiles is not new at Big 8, so I don't know what I'm talking about, but you only see that in El Paso and other places in the Southwest.

Bueno, I'm glad to announce that my friend and fellow passim, Alberto misty, Jr., has joined me on the plume frontier's bloc. Albert has long been a partner in crime with me through our times with UTEP MEChA and ChPLS (Chicano Pre-Law Society). Alberto received his law degree from UT and his BA from la UTEP. He currently practices in EPT.

Look ahead for some news post. We have to catch up since we skipped all last week. Take care everyone.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Spotlight: Cynthia Bejerano

Cynthia Bejerano was getting her doctorate at the same time my sister was getting her law degree at ASU. She is one of the founders of Amigos de Las Mujeres de Cd. Juarez. I'm alway forgetting if she is from Gaston or from Anthony. For those of you not from the tri-state region. Going up Interstate 10 from El Paso there are many small towns between El Paso and Las Cruces. Gaston and Anthony are two of these.

Text below is from the New Mexico State University website:
Dr. Bejarano received her Ph.D. from the School of Justice Studies at Arizona State University in 2001 and her Master of Criminal Justice from New Mexico State University in 1997. Dr. Bejarano joined the faculty at New Mexico State University in 2001. Her research interests include youth and justice, U.S. border studies and violence, and race, class, and gender issues within the criminal justice system. Dr. Bejarano was involved with community-based groups in the metropolitan Phoenix area and hopes to continue strong community advocacy in the New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua tri-state area.

Cynthia also directs a federal program assisting migrant and seasonal farmworker children to attend the university.

Here's the info on her forthcoming book on University of Arizona Press:

To be published in October 2005.
“This is the only book that deals with both Chicana/o and Mexican youth, with a sophisticated theoretical perspective: border theory, cultural citizenship, and internal colonialism. . . . An innovative approach to the field.” —C. Alejandra Elenes, Arizona State University

Angel was born in Arizona and is part of the in-crowd. She likes clubbing, dancing, and going to car shows. Betzayra is from Mexico City and, despite polio-related disabilities, is the confident group leader of the Mexican girls. Arturo is also from Mexico City; he dresses more fashionably than most other boys and is taunted by the Chicanos. Evelyn was born in Arizona, but her mother was from Mexico and she hangs out with Mexican kids because she thinks they’re nicer than Chicanos. How these and some two dozen other young Latinas and Latinos interact forms the basis of a penetrating new study of identity formation among Mexican-origin border youths, taking readers directly into their world to reveal the labyrinth they navigate to shape their identities.

For Latina/o adolescents who already find life challenging, the borderland is a place that presents continual affirmations of and contradictions about identity—questions of who is more Mexican than American or vice versa. This book analyzes the construction of Mexicana/o and Chicana/o identities through a four-year ethnographic study in a representative American high school. It reveals how identity politics impacts young people’s forms of communication and the cultural spaces they occupy in the school setting. By showing how identities are created and directly influenced by the complexities of geopolitics and sociocultural influences, it stresses the largely unexplored divisions among youths whose identities are located along a wide continuum of “Mexicanness.”
Through in-depth interviews and focus groups with both Mexicana/o and Chicana/o students, Cynthia Bejarano explores such topics as the creation of distinct styles that reinforce differences between the two groups; the use of language to further distinguish themselves from one another; and social stratification perpetuated by internal colonialism and the “Othering” process. These and other issues are shown to complicate how Latinas/os ethnically identify as Mexicanas/os or Chicanas/os and help explain how they get to this point.

In contrast to research that views identity as a reflection of immigration or educational experiences, this study embraces border theory to frame the complex and conflicted relations of adolescents as a result of their identity-making processes. This intimate glimpse into their lives provides valuable information about the diversity among youths and their constant efforts to create, define, and shape their identities according to cultural and social structures.


The link we share with you today is:

Chusma House Press

Thursday, August 04, 2005

El Paso Mujer Spotlight: Diana Washtington Valdez

Hello folks, we continue our focus on El Paso's mujer writers. This turn in focused on Diana Washington Valdez who's new book Cosecha de Mujeres is raising a storm in Mexico. We republish an article by Noemi Herrera:
El Paso’s Newest Chicana Writer
Published in Pluma Fronteriza, Summer 2002

“I wanted to
be a poet. I
wanted to be
writer. I can’t
imagine not

A true hermana of the written word, we know Diana Washington Valdez best as El Paso Times border affairs reporter, but we can soon add
her to our roster of Chicana authors.

Expect her first book, Harvest of Women (proposed title), to hit shelves early next year. Estimated at 200 pages and roughly 10 chapters, the book promises to give readers a revealing account of the Cd. Juárez women murders from an insider’s perspective. Diana has been the lead reporter on the Juárez murders since it attracted national attention about two years ago. About six months into her investigative reporting, she realized there was a lot of information that would fall on the cutting-room floor, never to be seen by readers.

“So I had the idea for the book,” Diana said. “I thought I had wrapped (the book) up last year in the summer, until the eight bodies in November were discovered. Then I realized I had to go back and do some updates.”

It was during the process of updating, and shortly before the eight bodies were found, that official sources revealed to Diana the identities of several of the alleged killers, information Diana discloses in a special El Paso Times two-part report, June 23-24. But she assures us her book will have more details.
“(The book) will be told from a personal account, basically for literary purposes, to be able to tell a story. This is a result of my asking several people in journalism and other areas about what kind of book they would prefer to read: an academic book, a 200-page newspaper-like report or something that’s more personal. They said they definitely want to know the personal stuff.”

Now nearing completion, several big-name publishers are wooing Diana for rights to publish and market the book. Expected to attract wide attention, the book may be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in the category of new authors.

La periodista internacional
Until she retires to pursue a full-time book-writing career, Diana will continue to hold one of the most coveted beats, border affairs. It’s a beat highly sought after by aspiring reporters because of its enviable travel opportunities, world perspective, and wide-ranging news topic possibilities.

As border affairs reporter, Diana has covered the gamut of topics: crime, social injustice, environmental woes, NAFTA, various U.S. government agencies, corruption, political elections, drug busts, immigrants, the economy.

On the other hand, there is a sobering reality that comes with reporting on a country known for its crooked police, corrupt government officials, and ruthless drug lords. In fact, in all her years of reporting, drug trafficking and the Juárez women murders are two subjects Diana considers most challenging.

“It’s not easy to go to a country where you don’t have access to public documents,” Diana said. “You have to use many different ways of getting information. It can be dangerous sometimes. It’s like being a war correspondent without going off to a formally declared war.”

Diana accepts that fear may come with the territory; but looks at it with clear eyes, citing a philosophy that cuts to the chase: don’t base your life on fear and don’t be afraid of evil people.

“No matter how shady (people) are or what their reputations are, they really are just human beings. They are no less immortal than we are,” she said.

On the topic of Sept. 11, the day many say changed the world, Diana offers this observation on how the border changed. “One of the ways it’s affected us most visibly is the long lines at the bridges and how it’s hurt the economy on both sides of the border. It’s consequently affected our quality of life. We spend a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of resources paying attention to one area of
our national security to the neglect of others.”

La mujer detras la periodista

Born in Cuernavaca, Mexico, El Paso is home for Diana. From infancy, she grew up in East Central El Paso, graduated from Bel Air High School, and received her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in political science from UTEP. Having grown up in a military family and having retired from the National Guard herself, she’s lived in Europe and on the U.S. west and east coasts.

People can find her early bylines in the Prospector where her investigative talent first reared its head when, in a UTEP restroom, she cornered an evasive Diana Natalicio, who later was being considered for the university’s presidency.
After college, she took her first daily newspaper job with the Las Cruces Sun News. Later, she worked in northern California for The Modesto Bee, followed by a stint in Palm Springs, California, writing for The Desert Sun.

She’s received numerous journalism awards over the years, the most recent being the UTEP Communication Department Hicks-Middagh Award for outstanding ex.

It’s not many who can say they are living their childhood dream successfully. For Diana, the dream was always writing.

“I remember in sixth grade doing a short story for one of my classes and realizing that was one of the things I really wanted to do in life,” she said.

“I didn’t devote myself as much to writing as an artistic style, as much as I did to journalism.”

But that’s something she plans to change. With dreams of becoming a full-time book writer, Diana hopes to publish a couple of nonfiction novels before dabbling with fiction.

Although she cannot imagine not writing, other professions that interest her stay in the realm of global affairs, including teaching, human rights advocacy, work with the International Red Cross, involvement with community development programs for the United Nations.

To read more of Diana’s writings, “Google” her online.


The link we share with you today is:

Alberto Rios' website:

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Some links El Pasoans, Juarenses, Lascrusonians should know about

The Border Book Festival Webstite

The Newspaper Tree

Joe Olvera's column in the Eastside Reporter

El Paso's Murals (murals by Carlos Callerjo, Carlos Flores, and students)

Queso's blurp (said his parents were from Barrio Diablo):

El Paso muralist Ernesto Martinez' WWII Experience (Martinez liberated a concentration camp)

Ysleta Mission Valley Organization

Read Raza Website

Texas Authors List (make sure you're on this)

BorderSenses website

Another El Paso Mural's website

Monday, August 01, 2005

One of my picks for "best of the 1990s" in Chicano Poetry

I'm happy to announce that one of my picks for "best of the best" of Chicano poetry in the 1990s has been translated into Spanish. Tino Villanueva's Scene from the Movie GIANT (Curbstone Press) has been translated by Rafael Cabaña Alamán and published by Editorial Catriel of Spain: Escena de la película GIGANTE.

In actuality the book is a bilingual edition and included a bibliography of acedemic works that have focused upon the book.

Scene from the movie GIANT won the 1994 American Book Award.

I don't know exactly when this edition will be out in the United States and I don't think ordering info is posted yet on the Editorial Catriel website, but you can email Tino at tvillan@bu.edu. He has a few copies and he still teaches at Boston University. I'd recommend this book for your Chicano or Latino Lit class. It's a bilingual edition, so it's good for your pochitos(as) and it is also in Spanish if you want to focus on Chicano lit written in Spanish.

There is also an HTML a piece available by the translator focusing on the book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00082M9VI/qid=1122932574/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/102-9917076-6604927?v=glance&s=books

The following review was published in the El Paso Times on June 1, 2003 upon the reissue of the movie "Giant" and viewing in Marfa, Texas where the movie was filmed. Ramon Renteria, the paper's book editor, who is from Marfa and says he was an extra in a deleted scene, wrote a companion article. I can't find it on the web and I don't want to copyright infringe so I can't post it.

"Inspired by film, poet recounts Texas bigotry"
Raymundo Eli Rojas
Special to the Times

The diner scene from the classic film "Giant" inspired the book-length poem by Tino Villanueva.

Before a great movie gets to the screen, it is taken from written form. This moves the reader from literacy into what communication theorists call a new consciousness.

Such was the case with the movie "Giant," starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, based on the novel by Edna Ferber.

However, not content to lie on film, a motion picture can produce a thousand words in the souls of poets like Tino Villanueva, who viewed "Giant" as a 14-year-old and was particularly struck by one scene in which he saw a Mexican family refused service in a West Texas cafe.

Years later, he transformed the film's scene into a literal masterpiece in the book-length poem "Scene from the Movie Giant" (Curbstone Press, $10.95 paperback).

The poet sits in a theater and sees the scene from "Giant," realizing that, like the ejected family, he too, is brown:

"How in the beginning I experienced almost nothing to
Say and now wonder if I can ever live enough to tell
The after-tale, I remember this and I remember myself
Locked into a back-row seat ..."

The 1956 film interplays the several generations of a Texas ranching family. Underlying the film is the treatment of Chicanos -- Mexican-Americans -- Tejanos, in a not-so-kind era: "Some were swept up by power and prejudice. Toward neighbors different from themselves."
The movie ages with Villanueva, and readers ride along with the poet as he views the 1956 classic repeatedly throughout his life. He delves into the minds of all the characters in that one scene.

The poet describes Sarge, the cafe owner, whose voice never leaves the ears of the poet: "the voice ... Echoes through the cafe walls ... into the Holiday Theater where I sit ... 'Your money is no good here' Sarge tells the Mexican family."

In a simple drive through Texas, in a simple stop for food, the poet's mind is pried opened to the world's realities and prejudices.
Throughout "Giant," Rock Hudson, playing the main character, changes his views on treatment of "those people." After his son marries a Mexican-American woman, his grandson, as the movie states -- "looking like a little wetback" -- and many more eye-opening experiences, Hudson demands the cafe serve the Mexican-American family.

A fistfight ensues, "a right upper-cut to Sarge and a jab ... engaged in a struggle fought in the air and time of long ago." Hudson loses: "Can two fighters/ Bring out a third? To live."

Villanueva is one of those writers, who like Sabine Ulibarri, Abelardo B. Delgado, John Rechy, and Josephina Niggli, were publishing before the Chicano Renaissance of the late 1960s. From San Marcos, Texas, Villanueva teaches at Boston University.

Through his eyes, Villanueva puts into writing the thoughts and experiences of many generations of Anglos and Chicanos in Texas. He takes us from experience to writing, from writing to the screen, then to the poet's page, and returns to experience.

He inscribes the thoughts of many Mexican-American young men and women, who once upon a time wondered why their mothers packed so much food for a simple drive through Texas. It was not because of lack of eateries along the way, but because finding one that served people of color was an impossibility.

Raymundo Eli Rojas is the editor of Pluma Fronteriza (plumafronterizamsn.com), a publication dedicated to Latino and Chicano writers in the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces region.


Our late fronterizo, Ricardo Aguilar said: "Tino Villanueva is part of the Chicano Renaissance... he has striven to achieve universality in his verse, yet has never ceased to address the burning questions...which continue to affect Chicanos in the United States." -- Ricardo Aguilar, Hispania


Martin Espada says:
"As a Texas Chicano, Villanueva has known Sarge all his life. The brilliance of the metaphor is that it makes an abstraction like "racism" vividly concrete, and fully justifies the poet's anger. Ultimately, the poet is healed in the telling of his truth, "uproaring in shadow and light." - MELUS

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Recent acquisition, Press Spotlight, and other news

New books by Pasenenos

We recently were informed about two new books by Pasenos that you need to look at. We don't release our next Pluma Fronteriza until the fall, so here is a heads up:

One of our most preeminent Chicano historians, Mario T. Garcia, has released a new book, Padre: The Spiritual Journey of Father Virgil Cordano . The descriptions says, "The story of a priest's tumultuous, challenging journey toward his place in the church. This is a biography of Father Virgil Cordano, now the spiritual and administrative head of Santa Barbara's Old Mission. His poignant journey and personal and spiritual issues mirror the tumultous times for his beloved Catholic Church. Father Virgil, through all his tests, is committed to his religion, his family, and his community. Includes discussion of the emerging freedom of the Catholic lay community, the shifting winds of change within the church, and the agonizing effects of the sexual abuse crisis."

Mario T. Garcia graduated from La Cate and UTEP and currently teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbera. He is Professor of History and teacher in the Department of Religious Studies. He is the author of numerous books, including Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso,1880-1920; Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona;Border Correspondent: Selected Writings, 1955-1970; Migrant Daughter: Coming of Age As a Mexican American Woman ; Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings editor w/ Alma M. Garcia; Luis Leal: An Auto/Biography; The Making of a Mexican American Mayor: Raymond L. Telles of El Paso ; Mexican Americans: Leadership, ideology; and identity, 1930-1960; and is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.


The other book we got our hands on is Child of Many Rivers: Journeys to and From the Rio Grande (Texas Tech University Press ISBN 0896725561) by Lucy Fischer-West, with forward by Denise Chavez. It has blurbs by Daniel Chacon. Here's the press' description:

Lucy Fischer-West knows the power of birthplace and of borders and rivers. Her memoir begins with the story of her parents, one reared in Germany, the other in Mexico, and how they found each other on the Texas-Mexico border. Fischer-West's own journeys take her from her birth in the Hudson River Valley; to her upbringing on both sides of the Rio Grande; across the Atlantic to Scotland and then France; and finally to India's River Ganges, halfway around the world from the El Paso barrio where she grew up. Hers is an ordinary life made extraordinary by its path and by the people who, having touched and enriched her life, stay with her, as nurturing to her spirit as the rivers that help her mark time.
By focusing not on the conflicts of border life but rather on everyday experiences made rich by her appreciation of them, Fischer-West honors her rivers and the people who travel them, cross them, live on their banks, and bathe in their waters. Her story touches on the emotions that bind us to others: anger, sorrow, equanimity, exuberance, and serenity.



The press I share with you today is Heyday Books. Here's a little history of Heyday books: "Last year, Heyday Books celebrated thirty years of deepening appreciation for the culture and history of California through its publications. Marking this anniversary was a great change for Heyday Books: the independent publisher has merged with its nonprofit wing, the Clapperstick Institute.

Malcolm Margolin founded Heyday Books in 1974 when he wrote, typeset, designed, and distributed East Bay Out, a quirky, personal, affectionate guide to the natural history of the hills and bay shore around Berkeley and Oakland.

Today, Heyday's fifteen employees work with zest, creativity, integrity, and a sense of adventure to produce about two dozen books a year. In these past thirty years, Heyday has published over one hundred books and two successful magazines, News from Native California and Bay Nature, and the company has taken a lead role in dozens of prominent public education programs throughout the state.

Heyday Books covers a wide range of other topics with the same kind of thoroughness and commitment to quality that it invests in California Indian subjects. Anthologies of poetry, literature, and nonfiction writing encourage a variety of California voices to tell the state's fascinating story. Examples of such collections are California Poetry and Under the Fifth Sun.

Some of their recent books by Chicano(a)s and Latino(a)s are:
Farmworker''s Daughter:Growing Up Mexican in America by Rose Castillo Guilbault.

Skin Tax
Tim Z. Hernandez w/ Foreword by Juan Felipe Herrera. My review of Skin Tax will be coming out on Xixpas.com very soon.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Out of El Paso Spotlight: Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez is from the Bay Area of Califas. He recently came out with his book of poetry called Warrior Poet of the Fifth Sun. Carlos Ortega reviewed the book for the El Paso Times.

Lopez' website says "In his lifetime he as been a musician, a songwriter, a businessman, a technology leader, a father and a friend. Today he is The Warrior-Poet of the Fifth Sun and you'll be pleased that this is so. In these pages López has tapped into a clarity and vision rarely seen in today's poetry. These powerful poems call to mind the revolutionary times of the 60's and 70's while fortifying the path being set by today's poetry giants."

Like several poets who have come out recently following the angry poets of the 1960 and 1970s. There are some other ones. I'll mention them later. Take care.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

EL Paso Mujer Writer Spotlight: Tanya Maria Barrientos

We continue looking at our El Paso Chicano(a) and Latino(a) writers, beginning with the mujeres.

Tanya Mari­a Barrientos is a journalist and novelist. Born in Guatemala and raised in El Paso, she currently lives in Philadelphia where she writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written two books: Family Resemblance (Family Resemblance New American Library ISBN: 0451208722) and Frontera Street (Penguin ISBN 451-20635-5).

Barrientos graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1982 and worked at the Dallas Times Herald. She relocated to Philadelphia area in 1986. She's been a journalist for more than 20 years. 2001 fellowship by the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and the 2001 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. The American Press Institute has a more critical look at her journalistic writing.

Review of Familyresemblancess by Jennifer Vilches.
Review of by Bookreporter.com.
Review of Familyresemblancess byPhiladelphiaa Inquirer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mayhem Was Our Business by Sabine R. Ulibarri

Note at the time of the writing of this review Among the Valient had not be republished. Mayhem was already an older book at the time of this review. I wrote it upon the passing of Ulibarri.


Book Review: Mayhem Was Our Business
By Raymundo Elí Rojas

Memorias de un veterano
Author: Sabine R. Ulibarrí

More than 50 years ago, something out of the ordinary happen to a group of people. Actor Tom Hanks said, "they did nothing less than save the free world." He spoke of the young men and women who went to fight in World War II.

However, another thing happened to many Mexican Americans, many who had never before left their cities and hometowns. Suddenly, 18-year-old boys from the Segundo Barrio of El Paso found themselves on the beaches of Normandy. Mexican American men from the Argentine barrio of Kansas City, were suddenly in the previously unknown island of Guadalcanal, and in Sabine R. Ulibarrí's case, young men from the Tierra Amarilla of Northern New Mexico were flying bombing missions over Europe.

So are the tales in Mayhem Was Our Business: Memorias de un veterano (Bilingual Press ISBN 0927534649) by Sabine R. Ulibarrí. Like Abelardo Delgado, Felipe Ortego, Americo Paredes, Josephina Niggli, and other Mexican Americans, Ulibarrí was publishing way before the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s caught up with them.

Ulibarrí attended Georgetown University, but when he could no longer afford it, he withdrew and volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Force.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. "The following morning," Ulibarrí says, "there were long lines of young men at the Tierra Amarilla draft board. The Hispanos came out of the mountains, out of the valleys, from all surrounding villages to volunteer. What we were ready to fight for, suffer for, die for, was our Hispanic way of life."

Ulibarrí passed the test to become a pilot, but after the Air Force found his hands shook too much, he was sent to gunnery school.

Soon the author rushed home to marry his girlfriend and then found himself on his way to the war. "We assumed we were going to the Pacific, but once up in the air in the bomber, the pilot opened our orders and it was to Europe." Like many American G.I.s, Ulibarrí enjoyed himself in the streets of London, England.

One of the most touching stories about his stay in England is "The English woman," where he describes the plutonic relationship he developed with a woman. Meeting her in a lonely bar, the woman showed him the many parts of London. The two would write to each other over the years.

His squadron flew daily bombing missions over Europe. "They (Germans) shot cannons at us that fired metal projectiles that exploded in the air at the altitude determined by them and filled the sky with thousands of pieces of murderous metal . . . I felt a blow on my side.

A piece of shrapnel, the ize of my fist, hit the parachute I carried on my left side with uch force hat it knocked me out."

"It was a time of dying," Ullibarrí describes. "A river of corpses flooded the cemeteries and other unknown graves . . . "

Ulibarrí's memoir is one of the few narratives coming from the Mexican Americans veterans of the Greatest Generation.

The other, Among the valiant: Mexican-Americans in WWII and Korea by Raul Morin is yet to be republished. Morin published that book with the help of the American G.I. Forum, the organization that Mexican Americans created when many returning Mexican American veterans found that because they were Mexican American, and though they risked their lives for their country, they were denied membership to the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW).

Families found that many of their sons, who had given their lives, could not be buried in the local cemeteries because they were brown. This was a darker side of the Greatest Generation.

Nonetheless, WWII was a liberating event. "The G.I. Bill was the Emancipation Proclamation for the Hispano," Ullibarrí says, describing how the bill let many Mexican Americans and other Latinos go to college.

Born in Tierra Amarilla, N.M., in 1919, into the 21st Century, Ullibarrí was one of the few Mexican American writers who still published in Spanish. Teaching at the University of New Mexico for many years, Ullibarrí won many literary awards, not to mention the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

Ulibarrí passed away, January 2002. Dennis Bixler-Marquez, director of Chicano Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso said he was "a teacher to some and friend to many others."

Raymundo Elí Rojas is the editor of Pluma Fronteriza (plumafronteriza@msn.com), a publication dedicated to Latino and Chicano writers in the El Paso/Cd. Juarez/Las Cruces region. He is currently studying law at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
(c) Raymundo Elí Rojas 2003. This is copyrighted and property of Raymundo Elí Rojas. This book review may not be published without his consent.

Jaime F. Torres "Return to Aztlan"

Hi everybody. I'm poking my head out from studying. I'm posting the link to the El Paso Times review of Jaime F. Torres' book "Return to Aztlan." Torres attended La Bowie.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


I'm on break from studying, so I'm giving my 1/2 or hr to you all. As some of you know, my alma mater UTEP has one of the only bilingual MFA programs in the nation. When I was at UTEP, the program was either/or, but it may have changed since then. But since I left, I think it's become its own department -- Creative Writing Department.

It's gained notoriety because of many of the writers that have gone through there. Check out the 2002 Austin Chronicle story: University of Texas.

Ben Saenz (Sammy and Juluiana in Hollywood) and Daniel Chacon (dibs on most creative web page name "soychacon.com") teach there. I think Emmy Perez is still lecturing. Leslie Ullman is there. Luis Arturo Ramos (Rainbows at Seven Eleven, Violeta Peru), one of Mexico's most famous contemporary authors, also teaches there.

I think Saenz and Alicia Gaspar del Alba (Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders) when through the previous incarnation of the program when it was an M.A. in Creative Writing or something like that. But I'm not sure if it was a real predecessor program or not.

Among the writers that have come out include Manuel Velez (Bus stops), the award-winning tatiana de la tierra (For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las duras: Una fenomenologia lesbiana), the award-winning Sheryl Luna (Pity the Drowned Horses), Guadalupe Garcia Montano, Yuri Herrera (Trabajos Del Reino - Concuros Nacional de Novela Joven de Mexico), Gabriela Aguierre (Premio Nacional de Poesía Joven "Elias Nandino"), award-winning Veronica Reyes, Olga Garcia Echeverria (When Skin Peals), and more. I'm not sure if Rosario Sanmiguel went through the program, but she's another good writer that came out of UTEP to keep your eyes and ears open for. I've lost touch with her.

We are not saying all these writers owe there talent to this program, and as some will tell you it was either beneficial or detrimental. But anyway, check out the UTEP MFA Student Organization website and the UTEP Creative Writing website. I think most of the people that run the literary journal BorderSenses come out of this program or somehow related to the English Dept there at the old school. Take care vatos.

Monday, July 18, 2005

El Paso author's spotlight: Martha P. Cotera

Well, is early Tuesday morning and I had to take a break from studying. For these next few spotlights we will be looking at Chicana and Latina writers from the tri-state border region, and for this one we look at famed activist and scholar: Martha P. Cotera. Every time I look up Cotera, she seems to be up to trouble, fighting for our people's rights. Check out: "Police methods in East Austin under fire"

Active in organizing the Crystal City High School walkouts to organizing neighborhood associations, Cotera is always organizing. I forgot which Chicana wrote this essay about when she first got to Austin, somebody invited her to a party where all the Chicano writers and activists in Austin would be. She attended excitedly hoping to meet Cotera, but it turned out all the activists and writers were all men. She left very disappointed. That writer might have been Carmen Tafoya, but I'm not sure.

As for Cotera, she was born in Nuevo Casa Grande, Chihuahua, but her family moved to El Paso in 1946. From what I know she was here through college attending Texas Western College (now UTEP). She then went to Ohio for her master's. She returned to Texas going to Austin for more graduate work. I know during the 1950s she worked as a librarian in both El Paso and Austin. She was in and out of Texas a few times. She became active in Raza Unida and even ran for office. She helped organize the Crystal City walkouts.

She was included in the book 100 Hispanic-Americans Who Shaped American History. Among the books shes written are Chicana Feminist, Diosa y hembra: The history and heritage of Chicanas in the U.S., Mujeres Celebres a Biographical Encyclopedia of Hispanic Women (Editor), and more.

Other books she's written are Chicanas in Politics and Public Life, Dona Doormat No Esta Aqui: An Assertiveness and Communications Skills Manuel for Hispanic Women. She's contributed to many publications.

Well, I better get back to the books, but Google Cotera online and learn!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Recent Reviews of El Paso Chicano and Chicana authors

Music of the Mill by Luis J. Rodriguez

Pity the Drowned Horses Sheryl Luna. Reviewed by Daniel Olivas:

Desert Blood by Alicia Gaspar de Alba reviewed by Rigoberto Gonzalez:

Beneath the Skin: The Collected Essays by John Rechy by John Rechy. Reviewed by Rigoberto Gonzalez:

Sheryl Luna's first book

Check out this review by Rigoberto Gonzalez of El Pasoan Sheryl Luna's new book Pity the Drowned Horses:

Saturday, July 16, 2005

To my surprise

As many of you know, I write book reviews for many publications across the nation, most of them for the El Paso Times. To my surprise, I found that some reviews of books I sent out long ago had been published. Note, these are not new books, but hey, still worth a sentada en la sofa.

From The Newspaper Tree: http://www.newspapertree.com/view_article.sstg?c=abe2774fd3d54dda&mc=3fdc2b9252a94b91

Book Review: Devil's WorkshopBy Raymundo Elí Rojas
Books Reviewed: Devil's Workshop, Poems by Demetria Martinez

The literature of Latinos exploded in the 1990s. No longer were critics limiting the genre to simple just a few authors, making them representatives of an entire literature. Within the literary output of Latinos are the writings of Mexican American writers. Scholars referred to this genre as "Chicano Literature." And within this space, Chicanas have been making the farthest steps.

Picking up Demetria Martinez's new book of poetry, The Devil's
Workshop (U of AZ Press), I could not stop flipping the pages. The Chicana poet's verses spoke directly to me, becoming like a solitary voice in a crowded room.

This award-winning Chicana writer was born in Albuquerque, NM and gained fame due to a federal indictment against her concerning refugee smuggling, a charge that carries a 25-year sentence.

As a journalist, she accompanied several refugees as they crossed illegally into the United States. She was tried and acquitted on First Amendment grounds.

The author currently is an activist with the Arizona Border Rights Project and a regular columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.Aside from the repute she received in the case, Martinez is a great writer.

The Devil's Workshop provides us with politically charged stanzas, but is also intermingled with personal regrets and turmoil.

The poet shows how love also has its burdens and hurts protruding into loneliness: I went everywhere, passed from lap to lap/Of women who kept their loneliness secret/Until it happened to me, like the day of my first bleeding.

As the poet grows, she realizes her and her loved ones' mortality and thinks anew.

"At this age you start to wonder which proverbs apply," states the Chicana author. In the poem "Final Exams" she tells,
"Now it's our parents handing usReport Cards: mom and dad passTheir first biopsies, with extraCredit for lower cholesterol."

In "Upon Waking" she protests the death of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by New York City police officers when he reached for his wallet. "La promesa" gives us the first and last day of a newly born baby.
Martinez's poems are reflections on middle age, children, spouses, and social issues that were supposed to amend themselves long ago. Her lines are littered with indigenous Southwest themes from Anazazi pots to the Sandia Mountains of Arizona.

The author has written several poetry collections, which are Breathing Between the Lines (U of AZ Press) and Turning, which appears in the book Three Times a Woman (Bilingual Press). Ballantine published her novel, Mother Tongue, which told of her judicial troubles.

For those who have not delved into poetry by Chicanas, Martinez's work will compel your eyes and fingers to the next page of life.

Those who have read Chicana literature and other writings by Martinez, her poetic shouts and whispers will have you looking back on life nostalgically as in her drive in the dark to Albuquerque in the poem "Interlude #2":"Each telephone pole/A crucifixion?"

Raymundo Elí Rojas, from El Paso, Texas, is the editor of Pluma Fronteriza, a publication dedicated to Chicano Literature. He is currently studying law at the University of Kansas.
© Raymundo Elí Rojas 2003. This book review may not be published without the consent of it's author.