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

Octavio Romano

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.