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

Octavio Romano

Saturday, August 18, 2007

El Paso and WWII: On the Wings of An Angel

I don't remember how old I was, but my brother told all the kids on the block that the man living at the end of the street had said we could swim in his wading pool. My sister even questioned it, but finally we believed my brother and a few of the neighborhood kids changed into their swimming gear and walked to the end of the block and jumped in. Well, the owner of the house came home and found all these kids in his backyard and started yelling at them to get out.

My neighbor is Pete G. Flores, a graphic designer by trade, he has put out a World War II story called ON the Wings of An Angel, the story of Joe Pino, who on his seventh mission he was shot down in France, declared dead, buried in the cemetery in Willers-Cotterets, France. Through the efforts of a young boy who found a piece of the B-17 bomber aircraft, Joe Pino was found alive and well 50 years later.

Pete Flores has been a constant source for Pluma Fronteriza and my articles on El Paso's Chicano barrios.

Recently, Ken Burns completed his forthcoming documentary "The War" on WWII. It was criticism because it did not have any Chicanos or Latinos in it. Last Sunday, The El Paso Times published an article by Ramon Rentiria on how Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez a journalist and University of Texas at Austin associate professor of journalism took on PBS. Check out the article: Historian takes on Ken Burns.

In Chicano(a) Literature, there are a number of books that focus on WWII or use it as a backdrop. My favorite was one I reviewed by the late Sabine Ulibarri who served as a tail gunner in WWII, Mayhem Was Our Business.

Among the valiant: Mexican-Americans in WW II and Korea by Raul Morin was recently republished a few years ago. It has short non-fiction stories on Chicano veterans. When it came out in the 1960s, nobody would publish it until the American G.I. Forum gave their assistance.

We have stories on the homefront also. On New Mexico University Press is Coal Camp Days by Ricardo L. García describes the coalfields of northern New Mexico and the remembrances of six-year-old Matias Montaño, a fictionalized version of the author’s life in the last years of World War II.

Another homefront account is Alejandro Grattan-Domínguez' Dark Side of the Dream, which porays a Mexican family's struggles as new immigrants in Texas at the start of WWII.

For you Chicano(a) literary criticism buff, Don Luis Leal's bio/autobiography Don Luis Leal, una vida y dos culturas, has a part about his experiences in the Philippines.

Don’t Spit on My Corner by Mike Duran is a novel set in WW II-era East Los Angeles. It deals somewhat with gangs.

Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis gives us a taste of South Texas during the 1940s and 1950s showing men leaving to WWII and rumors of El Chupasangre (the blood sucker) staling the valley.

Other books worth taking a look at are Shadows & Suposses by Gloria Vado and The Valedictorian and Other Stories by S.D. Navarro.

El Paso and World War II: The Homefront

There are a few book that have World War II-era El Paso as a setting. One is the much university-used, A Place in El Paso by Gloria López-Stafford. The story tells of a girl growing up in the barrio with her father, who she never realizes is white. Arturo Islas Migrant Souls also has some of the novel as a backdrop.

My favorite though is
Letters to Louise by my hero, the late Abelardo B. Delgado. Delgado's award-winning autobiographic epistolary novel follows a young boys comming of age. In one part of the book, he describes the officials doing sweeps and arresting Mexican women in the Segundo Barrio so that they would not "spread disease" to soldiers at Fort Bliss.
Also, muralist Ernesto Martinez served in an armor division in Europe during WWII and helped liberate a concentration camp. His oral history was recorded by the
US Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project.

Chicanos and World War II

There are many other books dealing with the War and the Homefront. Some deal with the Zoot Suit Riots and others academic books deal with WWII-era labor movements. In Zaragosa Garcia's book Labor Rights are Civil Rights he describes has the more radical unions of the CIO were more inclusive of people of color but when the CIO merged with the more conservative AFL after WWII, many of those inclusive unions were thrown out.

Karen Brodkin's How Jews Became White Folks: And What that Says About Americas, tell how the GI Bill was passed more specifically to help White WWII veterans, not WWII veterans of color. Though many Chcianos would use the GI Bill to go to college, many applications of others for higher ed, housing, and more went unheeded or were lost (like the Congressional Medal of Honor recommendations).

Veteran journalist and poet, Joe Olvera, has written several articles on Company E, which was almost entirely Mexican.
Company E was part of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division saw combat in Italy and France, enduring heavy casualties during the controversial crossing of the Rapido River near Cassino, Italy.

There is also books, movies, and documentaries
U.S. Army Air Force’s 58th Fighter Group, in which heroes helped in the liberation of the main Philippine Island of Luzon in the summer of 1945. The pilots flew P-47D Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft carrying out tactical air support missions.

A Wikipedia article on Hispanics and World War II has some writing on Hispanic women service members.

On the Wings of An Angel is a wolcome addition to this literature. A book-signing event will be sponsored by the Veterans Business Association of El Paso:

On the Wings of An Angel: A World War II Story of Life, Death, and Resurrection

Book-signing Event

sponsored by the El Paso Veterans Business Association

Thursday, Aug. 23 2007

Vista Del Sol Conference Centere

11189 Rojas Av.

El Paso, Texas 79935

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Luis Jimenez lecture, El Pasoan makes dean at Cal State, El Paso Floods Photo Exhibit

“Las Platicas” EPCC Chicano Studies Program Lecture Humanities Lecture Series

“Luis Jimenez: American Dream.”

El Paso native Luis Jiménez (1940-2006) was one of the most important and influenctial Chicano sculptors and print makers. The lecture will examine issue treated in Jiménez art, such as imagination, conceptions of liberty and American mythologies

Aug. 15, 6pm

EPCC Administrative Service Center, 9050 Viscount

Lecture by Rubén C. Cordova, Ph.D. Cordova is an art historian, critic, and photographer, who is currently a Guest Professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Lecture will be facilitated by Art Professor Jackie Mitchell. Info. call (915) 831-3101 or email jmitch18@epcc.edu

New Pancho Villa Out

Cinco Puntos Press has released The Face of Pancho Villa: A History in Photographs and Words by Friedrich Katz. “There is no doubt that history is written by the victors,” spoke a eulogizer at Pancho Villa’s funeral, “but it is also true that legends are written by the people. For that reason the name of Francisco Villa has remained enshrined forever in the heart of the poor.”

This book, coupling noted historian Friedrich Katz’s text with 42 archival photographs, provides a deep insight into this revolutionary who was a hero for some, a villain for others. The scholarship of Friedrich Katz has forced Pancho Villa back into historical conversations as a pivotal and complex figure in the Mexican Revolution.

The photographs are culled from the vast Casasola Collection in the Fototeca Nacional of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in
Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico.


Cal State names librarian, dean

Cal State San Bernardino has appointed a new university librarian and dean.

Cesar Caballero, associate university librarian at Cal State Los Angeles, will now run the library. He replaces Johnnie Ann Ralph, the university librarian and dean emeritus who retired at the end of the school year.

Caballero received his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Texas at El Paso; his master's degree in library science from the University of Texas at Austin; and his doctorate in higher education administration from Texas Tech University.

The John M. Pfau Library contains more than 750,000 books, bound periodicals and other print items, according to a university statement.

Check out the El Paso Times for a story on the El Paso Floods of 06 Exhibit starting Tuesday

'Troubled Waters': Exhibit shows faces of the flood

El Paso Times senior photographer Rudy Gutierrez knows a journalism adage, "If you want a good picture, you're going to have to get wet." That certainly proved true last summer. Gutierrez and other El Paso Times photographers spent hours in rain and floodwaters ... Full story

Make plans

What: Opening reception for "Troubled Waters:"Images From the Floods of 2006."

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 6.

Where: Chamizal National Memorial's Abrazos Gallery, 800 S. San Marcial.


Check out Daniel Olivas’ review of “Dahilia Season”

Young characters hold their own in debut collection

Myriam Gurba populates her debut story collection, "Dahlia Season" (Manic D Press, paperback $14.95), with young people who are often marginalized by a society too afraid or too exhausted to respond otherwise. Full story

New Books
HE POPEDOLOGY OF AN AMBIENT LANGUAGE (Atelos 2007 ISBN: 978-1-891190-29-2), Edwin Torres Using "ambient language"--fragments, excerpts, stage directions, echoes, conversation snippets, syntactic undulation, and rigorous sonic chaos--Edwin Torres creates an alchemy of language, what he calls "electrobabble" and "algorithmictotem." Amid the fast-paced frenzy of his lyrical style, Torres finds an excited reason for hope and purpose: "one by one/ the rhythmic yuwanna/ will climb the fearist/ the murmuring yugottit/ will find the liminal/ the metronomed howboutit/ will catch the kicker." Amid such restless verbal motion, things will happen, things must happen; as order will emerge from disorder, a sense of calm gradually suffuses THE POPEDOLOGY OF AN AMBIENT LANGUAGE. "This all impossible/ But I appear it on page, so/ Becomes possible on way-through page."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

El Paso was a metal town

Growing up Chicano in El Paso deposits you in a variety of music on the border. Living here has exposed me to so much music that when I leave, I marvel how much more cultured El Paso is than other cities.

When I was young, I would hear the ump pas of banda long before it was popular. I hear it and say "turn that off." Same when for norteno and ranchera music. It just did not have a place in my Chicano world. To some, presently, I'm a sort of Mexican music export now. How ironic.

But when I was young, El Paso was a metal town. See when I first started gaining conciousness and memory as a young boy, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had just begun. But being a Baptist for sevaral generations, this was Satans music, though long after, I'd find out how far removed from Satan it was.

For those of you who don't know metal, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal included Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Def Leopard, and many more. Some say it was a reaction to the decline of metal bands like Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath. Others say it was a reaction against punk and disco. Another is that with its British origin and its idealizing of the working class, it was a protest against Margarat Thachter's regime.

I'm sure you're asking what does this have to do with El Paso. Well, when I was growing up, when you though metal, you though Ysleta High School. The Indians were just known for these metal youth bands. Even into the late 1980s as metal was declining and rap was on the advent, Ysleta still seemed to produce these rockers.

In my sisters time, the rockers were very big. It's hard to describes them now, but they were all denim and metal t-shirts. One guys I met in the late 1980s was a young Jewish guy who played the guitar. I remember him playing the licks to "Sweet Child O mine."

There was one place near Yarbrough and Alameda called the Texas Stakeout. I must have been underage when I got in. The band played covers and all nights some guys kept yelling out, "Billy Squire! Billy Squire" hoping they would cover him. So in the mix of cumbia clubs and lesbian dance clubs down Alameda, you found metal hangouts.

For some reason by the late 1980s, I got really into Oldies. Back then, Oldies meant 50s, 60s. I learned how the growing gang underworld liked this music. Back then KROD was an oldies station and often late evening you hear dedications from Happy to Sleepy. Oldies weren't popular with anyone, but I was looking for music to bring me closer to my dad. My dad was a child of the 50s and Fat Domino, Eddie Valens, and the Big Bopper are to this day still our united favorites. By far, my song was "Rip it up" by Little Richard. I had fallen in love with the Oldmobile 88, the old ones, so this song brought all that back.

Being love with music made me ignore what was going on. Though a delved in the growing gangster rap, especially at the turn of the decade and the growth of gang activity, I missed the New Wave and the coming Alternative Movement.

So, more later....