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

Octavio Romano

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