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

Octavio Romano

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Retro Book Review: Un Trip Through the Mind Jail by raulrsalinas and New Books In Oct.

Night and Day, he is the one
raulrsalinas 1980 collection a classic in Chicano Literature

by Raymundo Eli Rojas

We continue our look at the "0" years with this 1980s collection by raulrsalinas. This review is of the 1980 edition.


raulrsalinas was a whimsical character. He seems to have been everywhere during the Chicano Movement. Known as one of the pinto poets, he was often listed in Ricardo Sánchez' list of “true” Chicano poets.

He also ran in jazz circles. While in Leavenworth, he was near the jazz mecca of Kansas City and he reflex this in his writing.

For many years, he was mostly known for one book, but during the late 1990s and in the 2000s, there was a revival in interest in Salinas. But before that, Salinas was still loved in the activists and activist-poet circles. Calaca Press took interest in him, along with taking interest in other “so-called” dinosaurs, doing some Spoken Word recordings. Some of Salinas final output were some of his best.

Un trip through the mind jail y otras excursions (Editorial Pocho-Che, 1980) is a bilingual “trip” through the early poetry of a Chicano activist. Were the poems to be enjoyed as a viaje or a trip in the narcotics sense of poetic stoneness? Let the reader decide. Nevertheless, Salinas first full-length collection of poetry has continued to have its fans.

Salinas was born in San Antonio, of which he talks about in the title poem Un trip. He spent time in the prison system from 1958 to 1972. Once out, he became involved in Chicano Movement activism, taught preschool and did many other gigs. He was actively involved in the American Indian Movement and prison reform.

While he was in prison he had many of his poems published. He published a chapbook off of Hellcoal Press in 1973. If I remember, the chapbook was called Un trip.

These days, it is rare that a book gives us a 10 (or more)-year evolutionary look at a Chicano(a) poet. The poems in Un Trip were written from 1958 to 1972, most while Salinas was incarcerated. It also rare to see pre-Chicano Movement work of Chicano(a) poets. Here we see it from Salinas.

Salinas mixes his poetry with jazz rhythms and thoughts on solitude. The first part of the book are Salinas poems from prison, “The Captive Years” and the second part are his “Poems of (Partial) Freedom.”

In “Lamento,” Salinas eulogizes jazz musician Charly Parker “Bird,” in fact he says to read the poem to the Cole Porter song "Night and Day":

“...you are the one,”


“only you beneath the moon
and under the sun...”




No human ear was there to heed
his sad/plaintive/WAIL..........
to rest.

SOLEDAD/ 2/17/59

The title poem is an anthem to Salinas' old barrio “La Loma” as well as other barrios across the nation inhabited by Chicanos. Like Lalo Guerrero's “Barrio viejo” and Ricardo Sánchez' musing on bygone days of El Barrio del Diablo (El Paso), Salinas barrio has been “demolished, erased forever from/the universe./You live on, captive, in the lonely/cellblocks of my mind.” It is mix in with samples of graffiti from his old barrio, embedded into the poetry that gushes out from Salinas. The book is illustrated by Jose Montoya. There is a photo of Salinas with Chicano Writers, Robert Vasquez and if my memery serves me correctly Alejandro Murguia.

In “It's been two years now,” Salinas meditates upon freedom of two years from prison:

I have:
become as one
with struggles of
world social movements
done 392 poetry readings
(most without pay),
written on my myriad lives
still have no transpiration....

Salinas, “Tapon,” greatly loved in activists as well as poetic and jazz circles, passed away in 2008, still mentoring a future generation of poets from the Resistencia Bookstore in Austin, Texas.

Un Trip Through the Mind Jail was re-published as a “classic” by Arte Public Press in 1999. UN Trip Through the Mind Jail: Y Otras Excursion (Pioneer (Arte Publico))

Other works

Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey Through Indian Country (San Val 2006 ISBN-10: 1417768339). This collection documents Raul Salinas' years spent working with the American Indian Movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

East of the Freeway: Reflections De Mi Pueblo : Poems [Hardcover] (Red Salmon Press; 1st edition August 1995 ISBN-10: 0962350605.

Red Arc: A Call for Revolucion Con Salsa Y Cool (Wings Press (TX) (1980) ASIN: B000N783ZE).

Un Trip through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions (Arte Public Press ISBN 9781558852754), (Poetry Pioneer Series 1999). Here is the long-awaited second edition of a pioneer work of Chicano literature, originally published as a collection in 1980 after individual poems by Salinas had appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies from the 1960s through the 1970s.

These fifteen years of poetry forged in the heat of the Chicano Movement (a period Salinas spent, in part, in prison) reveal the growing politicization of intelligent and talented minority convicts incarcerated at a time when their communities were marching forward. Prison bars were not strong enough to limit Salinas’s highly lyric, even rhapsodic calls for liberation — poems inspired by jazz, the Beat writers, nature, and political skirmishes.

Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey through Indian Country (Wings Press Sept 2006 ISBN-10: 0916727378).

Seeds of Struggle, Songs of Hope (El Centro de la Raza 1997 ISBN-10: 0963327526). raulrsalinas (Editor), Jennifer Shen (Editor.

Criticisms y Homenajes

Raul Salinas and the Jail Machine [Hardcover] (Center for Mexican American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin 2006 ISBN-10: 0292713282), Raul R.; Mendoza, Louis G. Salinas
Raúl Salinas is regarded as one of today's most important Chicano poets and human rights activists, but his passage to this place of distinction took him through four of the most brutal prisons in the country. 

His singular journey from individual alienation to rage to political resistance reflected the social movements occurring inside and outside of prison, making his story both personal and universal. This groundbreaking collection of Salinas' journalism and personal correspondence from his years of incarceration and following his release provides a unique perspective into his spiritual, intellectual, and political metamorphosis. The book also offers an insider's view of the prison rebellion movement and its relation to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. 

The numerous letters between Salinas and his family, friends, and potential allies illustrate his burgeoning political awareness of the cause and conditions of his and his comrades' incarceration and their link to the larger political and historical web of social relations between dominant and subaltern groups. 

These collected pieces, as well as two interviews with Salinas -- one conducted upon his release from prison in 1972, the second more than two decades later -- reveal to readers the transformation of Salinas from a street hipster to a man seeking to be a part of something larger than himself. Louis Mendoza has painstakingly compiled a body of work that is autobiographical, politically insurgent, and representative. 

Border focus

Paperback University of New Mexico Press 
October 15, 2010 ISBN-10: 0826349617
Renny Golden

In narrative poems that take us back to New Mexico during the nineteenth century, Renny Golden resurrects the spirits of native people and of those who came West. To read these poems is to hear the voices of Padre Martinez and Bishop Lamy, Geronimo and General Crook, Billy the Kid and Sister Blandina.

Amexica: War Along the Borderline 
Hardcover - Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
October 26, 2010
ISBN-10: 0374104417
Ed Vulliamy
Amexica is the harrowing story of the extraordinary terror unfolding along the U.S.-Mexico border — “a country in its own right, which belongs to both the United States and Mexico, yet neither” — as the narco-war escalates to a fever pitch there.

In 2009, after reporting from the border for many years, Ed Vulliamy traveled the frontier from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico, from Tijuana to Matamoros, a journey through a kaleidoscopic landscape of corruption and all-out civil war, but also of beauty and joy and resilience. 

He describes in revelatory detail how the narco gangs work; the smuggling of people, weapons, and drugs back and forth across the border; middle-class flight from Mexico and an American celebrity culture that is feeding the violence; the interrelated economies of drugs and the maquiladora factories; the ruthless, systematic murder of young women in Ciudad Juarez. Heroes, villains, and victims — the brave and rogue police, priests, women, and journalists fighting the violence; the gangs and their freelance killers; the dead and the devastated — all come to life in this singular book.

Amexica takes us far beyond today’s headlines. It is a street-level portrait, by turns horrific and sublime, of a place and people in a time of war as much as of the war itself. 

U.S.-mexico and Southwest Border Violence: Spillover Threats and Issues 
Hardcover- Nova Science Pub Inc October 2010
ISBN-10: 1617285110
George E. Calverton (Editor)

There has been a recent increase in the level of drug trafficking-related violence within and between the drug trafficking organisations in Mexico. This violence has generated concern among U.S. policy makers that the violence in Mexico might spill over into the United States. 

The most recent threat assessment indicates that the Mexican drug trafficking organisations pose the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States, and this threat is driven partly by U.S. demand for drugs. This book is an overview of the potential spill-over violence and related issues between the U.S. and Mexico in the ongoing drug-trafficking operations on the Southwest borders.

Desert Duty: On the Line with the U.S. Border Patrol 
Paperback - University of Texas Press October 1, 2010 
ISBN-10: 0292723202
Bill Broyles 

Publisher's Description and racist comments:
While politicians and pundits endlessly debate immigration policy, U.S. Border Patrol agents put their lives on the line to enforce immigration law. 

In a day's work, agents may catch a load of narcotics, apprehend groups of people entering the country illegally, and intercept a potential terrorist. Their days often include rescuing aliens from death by thirst or murder by border bandits, preventing neighborhood assaults and burglaries, and administering first aid to accident victims, and may involve delivering an untimely baby or helping stranded motorists. 

As Bill Broyles and Mark Haynes sum it up, "Border Patrol is a hero job," one that too often goes unrecognized by the public.

Desert Duty puts a human face on the Border Patrol. It features interviews with nineteen active-duty and retired agents who have worked at the Wellton, Arizona, station that watches over what is arguably the most perilous crossing along the border -- a sparsely populated region of the Sonoran Desert with little water and summer temperatures that routinely top 110°F. 

The agents candidly discuss the rewards and frustrations of holding the line against illegal immigrants, smugglers, and other criminals -- while often having to help the very people they are trying to thwart when they get into trouble in the desert. As one agent explains, "The thrill is tracking 'em up before they die. It's a rough ol' way to go -- run outta water in this desert."


Beyond El Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America 
Hardcover NYU Press - October 27, 2010
ISBN-10: 081479128X
Frank Guridy (Author), Adrian Burgos (Author), Gina Perez (Editor) 

Freighted with meaning, “el barrio” is both place and metaphor for Latino populations in the United States. Though it has symbolized both marginalization and robust and empowered communities, the construct of el barrio has often reproduced static understandings of Latino life; they fail to account for recent demographic shifts in urban centers such as New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles, and in areas outside of these historic communities.

Beyond El Barrio features new scholarship that critically interrogates how Latinos are portrayed in media, public policy and popular culture, as well as the material conditions in which different Latina/o groups build meaningful communities both within and across national affiliations. Drawing from history, media studies, cultural studies, and anthropology, the contributors illustrate how despite the hypervisibility of Latinos and Latin American immigrants in recent political debates and popular culture, the daily lives of America's new “majority minority” remain largely invisible and mischaracterized.

Taken together, these essays provide analysis that not only defy stubborn stereotypes, but also present novel narratives of Latina/o communities that do not fit within recognizable categories. In this way, this book helps us to move “beyond el barrio”: beyond stereotype and stigmatizing tropes, as well as nostalgic and uncritical portraits of complex and heterogeneous range of Latina/o lives. 


Paperback - Univ of Oklahoma Pr (Txt); Bilingual edition 
October 1, 2010 ISBN-10: 0806141301
James D. Sexton (Author, Editor), Fredy Rodri­guez-Mejia (Editor), Pedro Cholotio Temo (Editor), Alberto Barreno (Editor) 

In the delightful Mayan folktale The Dog Who Spoke, we learn what happens when a dog's master magically transforms into a dog-man who reasons like a man but acts like a dog. This and the other Mayan folktales in this bilingual collection brim with the enchanting creativity of rural Guatemala's oral culture. In addition to stories about ghosts and humans turning into animals, the volume also offers humorous yarns. 

Hailing from the Lake Atitlan region in the Guatemalan highlands, these tales reflect the dynamics of, and conflicts between, Guatemala's Indian, Ladino, and white cultures. The animals, humans, and supernatural forces that figure in these stories represent Mayan cultural values, social mores, and history.

James D. Sexton and Fredy Rodri­guez-Mejia allow the thirty-three stories to speak for themselves first in the original Spanish and then in English translations that maintain the meaning and rural inflection of the originals. 

Available in print for the first time, with a glossary of Indian and Spanish terms, these Guatemalan folktales represent generations of transmitted oral culture that is fast disappearing and deserves a wider audience. 

Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir 
Paperback -  Seal Press October 19, 2010
ISBN-10: 1580053343
Jessica O'Dwyer

This gripping memoir details an ordinary American woman’s quest to adopt a baby girl from Guatemala in the face of overwhelming adversity. At only 32 years old, Jessica O’Dwyer experiences early menopause, seemingly ending her chances of becoming a mother. 

Years later, married but childless, she comes across a photo of a two-month-old girl on a Guatemalan adoption website — and feels an instant connection. From the get-go, Jessica and her husband face numerous and maddening obstacles. After a year of tireless efforts, Jessica finds herself abandoned by her adoption agency; undaunted, she quits her job and moves to Antigua so she can bring her little girl to live with her and wrap up the adoption, no matter what the cost. 

Eventually, after months of disappointments, she finesses her way through the thorny adoption process and is finally able to bring her new daughter home. Mamalita is as much a story about the bond between a mother and child as it is about the lengths adoptive parents go to in their quest to bring their children home. At turns harrowing, heartbreaking, and inspiring, this is a classic story of the triumph of a mother’s love over almost insurmountable odds. 

Unsafe Motherhood: Mayan Maternal Mortality and Subjectivity in Post-war Guatemala 
(Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality Series) 
Hardcover Berghahn Books October 10, 2010
ISBN-10: 1845457528
Nicole S. Berry (Editor) 

Since 1987, when the global community first recognized the high frequency of women in developing countries dying from pregnancy-related causes, little progress has been made to combat this problem. 

This study follows the global policies that have been implemented in Solola, Guatemala in order to decrease high rates of maternal mortality among indigenous Mayan women. The author examines the diverse meanings and understandings of motherhood, pregnancy, birth and birth-related death among the biomedical personnel, village women, their families, and midwives. 

These incongruous perspectives, in conjunction with the implementation of such policies, threaten to disenfranchise clients from their own cultural understandings of self. The author investigates how these policies need to meld with the everyday lives of these women, and the failure to do so leads to a failure to decrease maternal deaths globally.

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