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

Octavio Romano

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Future Conditional: Biology and the Politics of Air Pollution by Felipe Ortego - El Paso Writer Update - New Chicano(a) Paperbacks and Kindles, Blog Updates

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Today UTEP host it annual Border Security Conferences on how to make money deporting our people. You can see Live stream courtesy of reyes.house.gov via UTEP.edu.

The conference includes such pro-immigration advocates as Woody Hunt and Raytheon. Read El Paso Times Story.

I had a chance to sit down with Miguel Juarez and Daniel Chacon yesterday afternoon. Among those visiting this fall are Monica Perales speaking on her new book Smeltertown; Dagoberto Gilb, Cynthia Orozco author of No Mexican Women or Dogs Allowed.

El Paso Writers Update

Blog updates
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez has posted on his blog an announcement of a Flor y canto in the Bay Area marking the anniversary of El Tecolote. The reading lists a who's who in Chicano Literature who will be reading. Aside from Rafael, Francisco X. Alarcón, Lorna Dee Cervantes, , Xico González, Alejandro Murguía, Joe Navarro, Roberto Vargas, among others. See the flyer on Rafael's blog.

C.M. Mayo announced some changes to her website and her Maximilian and Carlota blogs. Check it out.

A morbid poster of a decapitated Benito Juarez on Cinco Puntos Press blog. Check it out. 

Sheryl Luna writes if social mobility really exists at her blog: Dialectical Migrations.

Pat Mora describes her recent visit to the Charlotte S. Huck Literature Festival and talks about children as creators on her Bookjoy blog.

Mario T. Garcia writes he is proud that Catholics are on the side of immigration reform on his blog on the National Catholic Reporter.

Luis J. Rodriguez blogs about him going to visit his son who was recently released from 13 years of incarceration. Read blog.

Daniel Chacon's posted some new photos to his blog. Check it out

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L.A. County Sheriff and Records on Salazar

The LA County sheriff refused a request by the LA Times for the Sheriff's office to release their records on Ruben Salazar: "Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said through a spokesman Monday that he was refusing to release eight boxes of records regarding former Times columnist and KMEX-TV News Director Ruben Salazar, who was killed by a deputy in 1970." SEE FULL STORY.

Then, the Sheriff's office reversed itself: "Reversing his previous decision, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday that he was directing his staff to determine what records might be released regarding former Times columnist and KMEX-TV News Director Ruben Salazar, who was slain by a deputy in 1970." READ MORE.

The story states, "Other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department, have previously released records to The Times. Among other details, those documents showed that an informant inside The Times passed information to the LAPD describing Salazar as a "slanted, left-wing-oriented reporter." Interesting but not surprising.

In El Paso Times column Tales from the Morgue, a piece is posted about Ruben Salazar: "Ruben’s mom was a little skeptical. Her son, rookie El Paso Herald-Post reporter Ruben Salazar – usually a meticulous dresser – was wearing rags on that evening in 1955. He had told his mother that he wouldn’t be coming home because he was going to a hobo party with his friends and they would probably camp out." The column describes Salazar dressing up as a vagrant to get himself arrested and booked into the El Paso County Jail. READ MORE.

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Reviews of C.M. Mayo, Pat Mora, Acosta books

See a review of C.M. Mayo's Last Price of the Mexican Empire at the Reading Life Blog: "On recommendation from friends, I picked up C.M. Mayo's The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. It was fascinating!" READ MORE.

Suzy Q's Reading Spot posted a small review of Pat Mora's Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems of Love. Check it out now.

The Imagined Icebergs Blog posted a negative review of Oscar Zeta Acosta's Revolt of the Cockroach People focusing a lot on the homophobia and sexism of the book: "Everyone opposing his cause is a fag — justifiable class resentment is conflated with unjustifiable homophobia at every moment.  Every woman exists to be fucked (and, he lets us know, isn’t really a woman until she is fucked) and, of course, finds him irresistible." READ MORE.

New Dagobarto Gilb short story online

A posting online of one of Dagoberto Gilb's stories is always exciting. Check out his story "Shout" on the Barcelona Review: 
"He beat on the screen door. “Will somebody open this?!” Unlike most men, he didn’t leave his hard hat in his truck, took it inside his home, and he had it in his hand. His body was dry now, at least it wasn’t like it was two hours ago at work, when he wrung his T-shirt of sweat, made it drool between the fingers of his fist, he and his partner making as much of a joke out of it as they could." READ MORE.

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New Chicano(a) Books, 
Paperbacks and Kindles

Amigoland: A Novel
Back Bay Books (August 23, 2010)
ISBN-10: 031601883X
Oscar Casares (Author)

In a small town on the Mexican border live two brothers, Don Fidencio and Don Celestino. Stubborn and independent, they now must face the facts: they are old, and they have let a family argument stand between them for too long. Don Celestino's good-natured housekeeper encourages him to make amends - while he still can.

They secretly liberate Don Fidencio from his nursing home and travel into Mexico to solve the mystery at the heart of their dispute: the family legend of their grandfather's kidnapping. As the unlikely trio travels, the brothers learn it's never too late for a new beginning. With winsome prose and heartfelt humor, Oscar Casares's debut novel of family lost and found radiates with generosity and grace and confirms the arrival of a uniquely talented new writer.

(Kindle Edition)
File Size: 5 KB
Print Length: 368 pages
Harper Collins, Inc. (August 24, 2010)
Maya Murray, Yxta
There is a legend of the New World that has endured for centuries: the strange, tragic tale of a King, a Witch . . . and a blue gem of intoxicating beauty said to grant extraordinary power to whoever possesses it.

Archaeologist Juana Sanchez, convinced that she's discovered the key to unlocking the mystery of the fabled Queen Jade, ventures into the Central American jungle alone — just ahead of the relentless pounding fury of Hurricane Mitch.

When the terrible storm is over, Juana is gone, and an ancient, long-buried jade mine has been uncovered in the mountains of Guatemala, giving new hope to all obsessed seekers of the legendary stone.

But it is a different obsession that plunges Juana's daughter — scholar and bookseller Lola Sanchez — into the remarkable adventure of a lifetime. For only by following the Queen Jade's perilous, cursed trail can Lola hope to find her vanished mother . . . if it isn't already too late.



Aztlan Libre Press ISBN-13: 978-0-9844415-0-1
October 2010

Tunaluna is classic alurista: passionate, sensuous, and political. alurista’s tenth book of poetry is a collection of 52 poems that takes us on a time trip through the first decade of the 21st century where he bears witness to the “Dubya” wars, terrorism, oil and $4 gallons of gas, slavery, and ultimately spiritual transformation and salvation. 

The “Word Wizard of Aztlan” is at his razor-sharp best, playing with his palabras as well as with our senses and sensibilities. alurista is a Xicano poet for the ages and a chronicler of la Nueva Raza Cózmica. 

With Tunaluna he trumpets the return of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent of Aztec and Mayan prophecy, and helps to lead us out of war and into the dawn of a new consciousness and sun, el Sexto Sol, nahuicoatl, cuatro serpiente, the sun of justice.
“alurista experiments on the edge, thickly layers multiple meanings onto each cryptic line through language play, brilliant code-switching (‘tu mellow dia’) and love songs to la raza. 

A statement of survival, he confronts the politics and the hypocrisy of ‘the estados undidos de angloamérica’ with an irrepressible rhythm, with the ‘slingshots in our hands’ of pre-Columbian truths, and with the ability to craft real words from our unreal world of avarice and oppression. alurista’s tenth book holds many spirit treasures calling out to us from between the lines. Con razón k he hears the haunting spirits beneath the surface—‘ayer paré x tu casa/y me ladra/ron/los libros.’”
(Carmen Tafolla, Ph.D., Doctor of Philosophy, poet and Visiting Faculty, University of Texas at San Antonio)

Tunaluna is a work of hope, humor, outrage, and beauty by one of our most notable Chicano bards. alurista reminds his readers of the political possibilities of the poetic; in his poems, we hear the song of a people.”
(Cristina Beltrán, Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College and author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity)

Also, please see last Sunday's Press Spotlight on University of Arizona Press in which we mentioned new books by Valarie Martinez (Each of Her) and Carmen Gimenez Smith (Bring Down the Little Birds), both being published this month.

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We have another guest blog post by Felipe Ortego, this one a retro environmental article from Ecology Today, 1971, but can be read like it's current headlines.

Biology and Politics of Air Pollution
From Ecology Today, November 1971

By Philip D. Ortego (Felipe de Ortego y Gasca) and Joe (José) M. Piñon

Dr. Ortego is Assistant Professor of English and Founding Director of the Chicano Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Mr. Piñon is a pharmacist and owner of Piñon Pharmacy in El Paso, Texas. He is Chair of the Community Advisory Board for the Chicano Studies Program.
It is indeed a striking contradiction, as Michel Batisse, head of the Division of Natural Resources of UNESCO's Department for the Advancement of Science, has pointed out, that "for more than 40,000 years, homo sapiens has applied himself, patiently, laboriously, unremittingly, to the tasks of conquering his planet, extending his dominion over all other creatures and taming the vast forces of nature" only to find himself toward the end of the 20th century not only in the process of destroying the nature he has overcome but in the process of destroying himself as well. 

As Batisse suggests, "In freeing himself from the forces of nature by his ingenuity and skills, man has become his own worse enemy, the greatest threat to his own survival.

As early as 1930 air pollution from industrial smokestacks was already exacting a toll of human life in "prosperous" American cities. But the deterioration of our planetary environment and the myiad hazards to human health in the biosphere as a consequence of air pollution have already been cri-tically articulated by environmental scientists, eco-logists who have alerted us to the fact that the pollution bell may already by tolling our demise. 

Everything certainly points to the cruciality of the pollution problem not only in our major cities and industrial areas and complexes but in smaller urban environments.

In towns and villages the degree of criticality may certainly be less than in larger and more industrialized areas in terms of industrial waste, but the hazards of air pollution are no less ominous or threatening to the well-being–and perhaps to the continuation–of life. 

To ascertain that the question of air pollution is not just problematical but very real, one need talk only to the asthmatics, emphysemics, sufferers of chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, and allergies. As we know today from recent scientific investigations chemical ozone has been very closely linked with emphysema.

But it should be noted that in most cities, no doubt, the problem of air pollution has substantial political, social, economic and biological ramifications–aspects, and even reverberations one might say. For our purposes, however, there is no need to explore the more technical facets of the problem of our "sick" biosphere. Suffice to say they exist. 

Besides, the physical and meteorological aspects of the problem of air pollution are probably well understood by most people concerned with the problem. It is probably safe to say that perhaps most Americans are seriously concerned with the question of our "sick" biosphere. A recent Gallup Poll on pollution substantiates this concern. Fifty-one percent of the respondents expressed "deep concern" about the pollution of our environment. And 75 percent of those polled indicated a willingness to pay more taxes to stop such pollution.

That the mounting problem of air pollution has reached national proportions is attested to by the fact that, increasingly, more and more of the national news media are devoting additional time and space to the coverage of what may indeed be the single most growing problem of the human condition not only in the United States but in the world. 

However, the two aspects which somehow always seem relegated to the tail end of "pollution" discussions–and which consequently get only lip service, if any, or always saved by the clock in seminar discussions of the problem–are the political and biological aspects of air pollution.
Yet the biology and politics of air pollution are no less important than the other aspects of the problem, that is, the social and economic aspects, for instance. 

Therefore, it behooves us to shed some light on these two relatively neglected aspects of the air pollution problem. In the final analysis, they may be the critical factors necessary in activating the required socioeconomic forces in- to play which could conceivably offer us an approach toward solving the critical common problem confronting us.

Let us first consider that "environmental pollution is the result of a horrible kind of conflict of interest between individuals and the state," as John Lombardi recently pointed out in an article in Moderator. The fault, he suggests, is the "mindless rapaciousness on the part of technological specialists with no sense of ecology or the balance of nature."

At  an Air Pollution Symposium heavily attended by El Paso community leaders and the public at the University of Texas at El Paso late last year a "birth announcement" card was circulated surreptitiously among the participants. It read:

Born in 1955

Rosemary's Baby
(Industrial Betterment Council)


El Paso City Government

El Paso Industry

The apparent conflict of interest suggested by the "announcement" is both economic and political, though the latter more specifically engenders the former, no doubt. But the consequence of such political chicanery has been a significant disenchantment by the public evidenced by declining college enrollments in the technical disciplines. 

Indeed, as the ecologist Barry Commoner contends, "the age of innocent faith in science and technology may be over." Certainly that innocence must give way in the face of experiences, for example, which led to the tragedies of Donora, Pennsylvania, and the Meuse River Valley of Belgium not to mention the London fog episode of 1952 in which over 4,000 people perished.

We know there is a definite link between the production of carbon dioxide and the consumption of oxygen. Moreover, we know that the carbon dioxide content of the biosphere is increasing daily and that such a rise may lead to a host of awesome perils, all of which pose critical hazards to mankind. 

It is worth noting at this point that not one of the panel members of the U.T. El Paso Symposium volunteered to give any comparative figures showing just how El Paso stacked up against the criteria developed by the Texas Air Control Board. 

Of course we all know that air pollution is simply a matter of degree. The question is: How much dust? How much sulfur dioxide? How much carbon monoxide? How much total hydrocarbons?

Where indeed does our biosphere stand in relation to the safety limits worked out by our health departments? But to entertain intelligent appraisals of where we stand, we need to know the answers to the above mentioned questions. 

Let us consider the case of air pollution in the El Paso-Las Cruces metropolitan area. It is significant that Kenneth W. Nelson, air pollution "expert" with the American Smelting and Refining Company ASARCO) and panelist at the UTEP Air Pollution symposium suggested that according to medical authorities there is no direct link between air pollution and disease. 

This is particularly telling in view of the fact that Dr. John Abersold – one of the founders of the Industrial Betterment Council and Mr. Nelson's predecessor at ASARCO – made the identical statement several years ago at an air pollution forum sponsored by the Unitarian Church of El Paso. I

mpressively, Dr. Abersold had a stack of books from which he quoted. In the audience a pathologist responded (some suggest he was planted) to corroborate Dr. Abersold's quotations and pronouncements.

It was disappointing, however, that not one of the panelists at the UTEP Symposium on Air Pollution commented on the following pertinent questions: To what degree has air pollution in the El Paso-Las Cruces area worsened in the last few years? To what degree have things become worse since the U.S. Public Health Service Study in 1956 -58? How many dollars have been spent by the area industry toward the specific task of attempting to clean up the air? (A few months ago Dr. Abersold commented that 2.4 million dollars had been spent thus far. To date this figure has not be adequately substantiated). 

The answers to these questions are certainly germane in addressing the sincerity of industries which pollute the biosphere when they tell us of their desire to be good neighbors. And of course the answers to such questions enable us to determine whether the efforts of our city fathers to protect the health and well-being of their constituents are genuine or not.

It would be advantageous to review some of the findings of the Air Quality Survey conducted in the El Paso metropolitan area by the Texas Department of Health on October 15 through No-vember 15, 1968. 

 Naturally, the conclusion of the survey was that El Paso had an air pollution problem, which we well knew. However, the survey did not indicate just how serious a problem it was. What we did learn from the survey, though, which we already knew, was that the major air pollutants were "particulate matter", "sulfur dioxide", "hydro-carbons", and "carbon monoxide"–information of inestimable value to us, the surveyors no doubt thought. In reexamining some of the findings of the survey, we should keep in mind that the Texas Air Control Board has established certain safety levels for most pollutants. 

Generally, 123 micrograms of pollutants per cubic meter of air is the standard. Findings of the survey showed that out of 608 samples, 30 percent of them exceed the standard, and 28 percent of all samples were almost double the established pollution level allowable. It should be noted that unless there is a misstatement in the Air Quality Survey the suspended particulates do not even account for common dust or particles of 50 microns or larger.

Of course we all know how plentiful dust is in this part of the country. God-made and quarry-made dust of the El Paso-Las Cruces area exceeds that of the three most air polluted cities in the United States (Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles) by 2 to 5 times. All the figures are high. 

The question remains: Are they dangerously high in the face of health? We can hope that in this mater the lives of El Pasoans and Las Crucens will not be our yardstick, that too little will not be applied too late. Yet, as has been pointed out, ASARCO air pollution experts have continued to preach since 1959 that there is no direct link between air pollution and disease. Yet in Los Angeles the emphysemic death rate doubles every 5 years.

In 1963, according to the American Thoracic Society, 80,000 deaths were caused directly or indirectly by chronic chest diseases, mostly chronic bronchitis or emphysema. And to substantiate the fact that there is a direct link between pollution and disease, contrary to the ASARCO contention, Dr. Ernest Wynder of the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research has produced cancer in animals by painting them with material remains from filters exposed to New York air. 

Furthermore, sensitive physiological tests have been devised for detecting the effect of sulfur dioxide and other similar irritants on the resistance to air low in and out of animal and human lungs. All the findings thus far lead to the hypothesis that for normal populations realistic levels of air pollutants – and in particular combination of pollution – may cause an increase in airway resistance.

Such an increase must necessarily be associated with an increase in the effort of breathing. With the increasing accumulation of medical evidence since 1959, as parents, teachers, sociologists, scientists, medical specialists, and civic leaders, we should denounce any attempt to whitewash the problem of air pollution whether it be by industry or whoever else may conspire to deceive us. 

Variances (a political euphemism for permissive law-breaking) allowed by Air Control boards to such companies as ASARCO, Phelps-Dodge, Portland Cement Company, et al, should be exposed for what they are–political accommodations with industry. Our mayors need not look very far to see where the problem lies in order to petition Air Control Boards for amended regulations governing air pollution before proposing ordinances strength-ening enforcement procedures.

England had its first air pollution law in 1273 during the reign of Edward I and the first conviction for a violation of that law occurred circa 1306. Now, 698 years later some of our cities are just about ready for air pollution ordinances. One cannot be sure that any convictions for violations of the law will necessarily ensue.

Copyright ©1971 by the authors. All rights reserved.

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