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

Octavio Romano

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Tunaluna - Alurista: Wizard of Aztlan hands more than just hearts, brains, and courage; Remembering Burciaga; New Books in October 2010 Mexico

Wizard of Aztlan hands more than just hearts, brains, and courage
After ten years, Alurista gives poetic commentary on an unjust decade
Alurista's first book in 10 years, Tunaluna (Aztlan Libre Press; $15.00) shows readers that in this last decade, Alurista has had a ton of creativity and political maneuverings pined up in his mind.

In an awing and rhythmic dose of bilingual poetry, Alurista does not shy away from the political events of the last ten years. Targets are W. Bush, Big Oil, Katrina mess ups, mortgage scandals, Wall Street greed, and much more. Alurista, the “Wizard of Aztlán,” shows us there is a lot more poetic criticism still in him.

A spiritual guru to the Chicano Movement, Alurista was born in Mexico but immigrated as a teen to the United States. It was his years a student in San Diego that he lent his philosophies to the rising Chicano(a) student and literary movement. “Alurista” is the pen name the writer has used since the late 1960s.

The list of whom Alurista lashes out is long, as in the poem “Tee Roar”:

merriam a state of words
intense fright ism
bushisms...not buddhisms?
State terrorisms?....
sí, vea ría...siberia?!!!
rak i put thee
eight ball in
the left ran
corner pocket
your money 'n' your runs
'tis b eight...ball
u loose bush!....play gulf?

Alurista uses a magic of sound and puns on names. In interviews, he as many times mentioned drums in ancient Mesoamerican poetry, and when one reads Tunaluna, one can hear the drums beats come forth from Alurista's penned words.

His poem “Hablando” focuses on the mortgage crises and the victimization of the poor, the poor losing their houses, and the greed of banks:

arabindio... “póbrecito”
b what bankerobberbaron say
“they house b
repossessed 'n' occubpied”
“póbrecita” mazárabe
b term used
claiming “thy” body
at the morgue
“póbrecito” es la palabra
que disculpa'l estado terrorista
a todos los que producen

Tunaluna is a meditation on a decade of injustices, and Alurista has sat and analyzed and over-analyzed (to our benefit) our current events. He is a scribe for the poor and downtrodden, the victims of an unjust society.

His “Meditaion Lanto” which appears handwritten on one of the last pages of the book, made me reminisce of Bob Marley's “Emancipation Song”: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery," because "None but ourselves can free our minds" which in turn are quotations from Marcus Garvey. Alurista writes:

give yourself 2 the creative intelligence that
rules our destiny. hold on 2 nothing, treasure
your heart.
hold on 2 no description of what is in order
2 see the great architect's design.
Let go of fear in order 2 experience love 'n'
remember that we matter, that we count....

Tunaluna is a much-needed injection of political mind and thought into Chicano poetry today.

Jose Antonio Burciaga
(1940 - October 7, 1996)

No roads entered our lonely desert
so we, we trudged along to pave your way
to see the other side of you
that lives on the other side of that
which flows inside us soon
when the migration is complete
and a newer sun has come to dwell
which shall be called el sexto sol.

--- "The Freeway Not Taken," Undocumented Love/Amor indocumentado 
(Chusma House Press)



New Books In October 2010:  
Topic Mexico

 (Vanderbilt Univ Press Oct 15, 2010 ISBN-13 978-0826517265),
Fernando Fabio Sanchez (Author), Stephen Clark (Translator). 

Violence as a way of life, and murder as a political tool. This philosophy is nothing new to Mexico, most recently demonstrated in the wave of assassination and indiscriminate
killing brought on by the drug war gripping the country. In Artful Assassins, author and scholar Fernando Fabio Sanchez unveils the long record of violence inspiring artistic expression in Mexico, focusing on its use and portrayal in film and literature.

 (Univ of Texas Press Oct 15, 2010 ISBN-10: 0292721846), 
Susannah Joel Glusker (Editor), Carlos Monsiváis (Foreword). 

The Mexican Revolution or that violent, inchoate, never-quite-complete break with the pastoopened a new era in Mexican art and letters now known as the "Mexican Renaissance." In Mexico City, a coterie of artists including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco & David Alfaro Siqueiros explored how art could forward revolutionary ideals and, in the process, spent countless hours talking, gossiping, arguing & partying. 

Into this milieu came Anita Brenner, in her early twenties already trying her hand as a journalist, art critic & anthropologist. Her journals of the period 1925 to 1930 vividly transport us to this vital moment in Mexico, when building a "new nation" was the goal. Brenner became a member of Rivera's inner circle & her journals provide fascinating portraits of its members, including Orozco, Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo & Jean Charlot, with whom she had an unusual loving relationship. 

She captures the major and minor players in the act of creating works for which they are now famous and records their comings and goings, alliances and feuds. Numerous images of their art brilliantly counterpoint her diary descriptions. Setting the scene for the journal is well-known Mexican cultural critic Carlos Monsiváis, who offers an illuminating discussion of the Mexican Renaissance and the circle around Diego Rivera.

 (Breaking Feminist Waves Series)
(Palgrave Macmillan Oct 2010 ISBN-10: 0230104460), Emily Hind. 

There is a large portion of young women in both U.S. and Mexican university classrooms today who do not self-identify as feminists. Hind makes steps to correct this and draws on poetry, short stories, plays, novels, photographs, personal correspondence, advertising, and interviews to make visible the anti-feminine tendencies in feminism and to imagine a feminism that will appeal to the next generation of women.

(Univ Press of Mississippi ISBN 978-1-60473-797-4)
Chris Goertzen. 

A study of the interplay between local producers and consuming tourists in a volatile state Made
in Mexico examines the aesthetic, political, and sociopolitical aspects of tourism in southern Mexico, particularly in the state of Oaxaca. 

Tourists seeking "authenticity" buy crafts and festival tickets and spend even more on travel expenses. What does a craft object or a festival moment need to look like or sound like to please both tradition bearers and tourists in terms of aesthetics? Under what conditions are transactions between these parties psychologically healthy and sustainable? What political factors can interfere with the success of this negotiation, and what happens when the process breaks down? With Subcommandante Marcos and the Zapatistas still operating in neighboring Chiapas and unrest on the rise in Oaxaca itself, these are not merely theoretical problems. 

Goertzen analyzes the nature and meaning of a single craft object, a woven pillowcase from Chiapas, thus previewing what the book will accomplish in greater depth in Oaxaca. He introduces the book's guiding concepts, especially concerning the types of aesthetic intensification that have replaced fading cultural contexts, and the tragic partnership between ethnic distinctiveness and oppressive politics. He then brings these concepts to bear on crafts in Oaxaca and on Oaxaca's Guelaguetza, the anchor for tourism in the state and a festival with an increasingly contested meaning. 

Hardcover - University of North Carolina Press October 7, 2010 ISBN-10: 0807833592
Deborah Cohen

At the beginning of World War II, the United States and Mexico launched the bracero program, a series of labor agreements that brought Mexican men to work temporarily in U.S. agricultural fields. In Braceros, historian Deborah Cohen asks why these temporary migrants provoked so much concern and anxiety in the United States and what the Mexican government expected to gain in participating in the program. 

Cohen reveals the fashioning of a U.S.-Mexican transnational world, a world created through the interactions, negotiations, and struggles of the program's principal protagonists including Mexican and U.S. state actors, labor activists, growers, and bracero migrants. Cohen argues that braceros became racialized foreigners, Mexican citizens, workers, and transnational subjects as they moved between U.S. and Mexican national spaces.

Drawing on oral histories, ethnographic fieldwork, and documentary evidence, Cohen creatively links the often unconnected themes of exploitation, development, the rise of consumer cultures, and gendered class and race formation to show why those with connections beyond the nation have historically provoked suspicion, anxiety, and retaliatory political policies. 

Paperback - Monthly Review Press (October 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1583672249
James D. Cockcroft 

Written to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the first predominantly anti-capitalist revolution in the world, Mexico’s Revolution Then and Now is the perfect introductory text and one that will also sharpen the understanding of seasoned observers. 

Cockcroft provides readers with the historical context within which the revolution occurred; explains how the revolutionary process has played out over the past ten decades; tells us how the ideals of the revolution live on in the minds of Mexico's peasants and workers; and critically examines the contours of modern Mexican society, including its ethnic and gender dimensions. Well-deserved attention is paid to the tensions between the rulers and the ruled inside the country and the connected tensions between the Mexican nation and the neighboring giant to the north.

Mexico’s Revolution Then and Now also explores the possibility of Mexico’s revolutionary history finally bearing the fruit long hoped for by the country's disenfranchised — a prospect kept alive by the unyieldingstruggle of the last one hundred years. This is the definitive introduction to one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

(Campaign and Commanders Series)
Hardcover - Univ of Oklahoma Pr (Txt) October 1, 2010
ISBN-10: 0806141409
Christopher D. Dishman 

For three days in the fall of 1846, U.S. and Mexican soldiers fought fiercely in the picturesque city of Monterrey, turning the northern Mexican town, known for its towering mountains and luxurious gardens, into one of the nineteenth century's most gruesome battlefields. 

Led by Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, graduates of the U.S. Military Academy encountered a city almost perfectly protected by mountains, a river, and a vast plain. Monterrey's ideal defensive position inspired more than one U.S. soldier to call the city a perfect Gibraltar. The first day of fighting was deadly for the Americans, especially the newly graduated West Point cadets. But they soon adjusted their tactics and began fighting building to building.

Chris D. Dishman conveys in a vivid narrative the intensity and drama of the Battle of Monterrey, which marked the first time U.S. troops engaged in prolonged urban combat. Future Civil War generals and West Point graduates fought desperately alongside rough Texan, Mississippian, and Tennessean volunteers. General Taylor engineered one of the army s first wars of maneuver at Monterrey by sending the bulk of his troops against the weakest part of the city, and embedded press reporters wrote eyewitness accounts of the action for readers back in the States. 

Dishman interweaves descriptions of troop maneuvers and clashes between units using pistols and rifles with accounts of hand-to-hand combat involving edged weapons, stones, clubs, and bare hands. He brings regular soldiers and citizen volunteers to life in personal vignettes that draw on firsthand accounts from letters, diaries, and reports written by men on both sides. An epilogue carries the narrative thread to the conclusion of the war.

Dishman has canvassed a wide range of Mexican and American sources and walked Monterrey's streets and battlefields. Accompanied by maps and period illustrations, this skillfully written history will interest scholars, history enthusiasts, and everyone who enjoys a true war story well told. 

(First Peoples New Directions in Indigenous Studies) [Hardcover]
University of Arizona Press (September 8, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0816528535
Mónica Díaz

Sometime in the 1740s, Sor Mari­a Magdalena, an indigenous noblewoman living in one of only three convents in New Spain that allowed Indians to profess as nuns, sent a letter to Father Juan de Altamirano to ask for his help in getting church prelates to exclude Creole and Spanish women from convents intended for indigenous nuns only. 

Drawing on this and other such letters -- as well as biographies, sermons, and other texts -- Monica Diaz argues that the survival of indigenous ethnic identity was effectively served by this class of noble indigenous nuns.

While colonial sources that refer to indigenous women are not scant, documents in which women emerge as agents who actively participate in shaping their own identity are rare. Looking at this minority agency -- or subaltern voice -- in various religious discourses exposes some central themes. It shows that an indigenous identity recast in Catholic terms was able to be effectively recorded and that the religious participation of these women at a time when indigenous parishes were increasingly secularized lent cohesion to that identity.

Indigenous Writings from the Convent examines ways in which indigenous women participated in one of the most prominent institutions in colonial times -- the Catholic Church -- and what they made of their experience with convent life. This book will appeal to scholars of literary criticism, women's studies, and colonial history, and to anyone interested in the ways that class, race, and gender intersected in the colonial world. 

Hardcover Yale University Press (October 26, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0300166761
Kathleen Berrin (Editor), Virginia M. Fields (Editor)

Considered the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, the Olmec developed an iconic and sophisticated artistic style as early as the second millennium B.C. This pre-Columbian civilization, which flourished in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco between 1400 and 400 B.C., is best known for the creation of colossal stone portrait heads of its rulers.  Some weighing up to 24 tons, the monumental heads are among ancient America’s most striking and beautiful masterpieces.

In the fifteen years since the last major study of the Olmec, archaeologists have made significant finds at key sites in Mexico. This sweeping project brings together the most recent scholarship, along with a diverse selection of more than 100 monuments, sculptures, adornments, masks, and vessels, many of which have never traveled beyond Mexico’s borders, that paint a rich portrait of life in the most important Olmec centers, including San Lorenzo, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of the culture, distinctive variations in the art of different city sites, and the chronology and reach of the society during its apex.

[Hardcover]Publisher: Abbeville Press 
(October 26, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0789210452
Maria Teresa Uriarte (Editor)

Pre-Columbian Architecture in Mesoamerica is destined to become a standard reference for the serious student and an intellectual delight for the interested amateur. This authoritative yet accessible study begins with an overview of the aesthetics, meanings, functions, and techniques of Mesoamerican architecture, and then proceeds to survey the historical development of the builder's art in each of the region's cultural areas. 

As readers travel from the the Maya heartland of Guatemala and the Yucatan to the Aztec stronghold of the Valley of Mexico, and all the way to the northern hinterlands of Mesoamerica, they will gain an appreciation of both the unity and the diversity of the region's architecture. The concluding chapter is devoted to the descriptions of architecture that have survived in Mayan and Aztec texts; it includes a unique and valuable glossary of the relevant glyphs.

The main text is illustrated with color photographs of the spectacular remains of pyramids, palaces, and plazas, while a scholarly appendix presents maps, plans, and drawings of the most important sites and structures.

Hardcover - Phaidon Press 
(October 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0714845701
Marta Gili

Graciela Iturbide was raised in a middle-class family in Mexico City. Educated at a Catholic boarding school, Iturbide had a conservative upbringing and was married with three children before she discovered her vocation for photography in the 1970s. In 1969 she joined the National University of Mexico's Film School and was introduced to a new cultural and political world - and to the camera through a teacher at the school, the great modern Latin American photographer, Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Iturbide's sheltered upbringing meant that she had a limited understanding of the complexity of culture in Latin America. 

However, working as the assistant to Alvarez Bravo, Iturbide began to discover her homeland through photography. In 1970, Iturbide's marriage failed, soon after the death of her six year old daughter and she began a career in photography. Her preoccupation with the religious and social rituals that surround universal human experiences in different cultures highlight the effect of this tragedy on Iturbide's images. In representing the indigenous, traditional cultures in the Americas she worked within the tradition of Mexican ethnographic photography and her images document the importance of rite and ceremony in everyday life, the relationship between nature and culture, and the tensions between tradition, modernity and identity. 

Iturbide travelled during throughout the 1970s and 80s to remote villages throughout the Americas, India and Europe and her published work includes her acclaimed series of work on the Seri Indians, Los que viven en la arena ("Those Who Live in the Sand", 1981) and on Zapotec Indian culture, Juchitan de las Mujeres ("Juchitan of Women", 1989). Major exhibitions on her work include a retrospective 'Images of the Spirit' held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania (1998) and a solo show at the Museum of Fine Art, Argentina (2000). 

Paperback- The MIT Press (October 31, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0262514966
Rubén Gallo 

In Mexican Modernity, Ruben Gallo tells the story of a second Mexican Revolution, a battle fought on the front of cultural representation. The new revolutionaries were not rebels or outlaws but artists and writers; their weapons were cameras, typewriters, radios, and other technological artifacts, and their goal was not to topple a dictator but to dethrone nineteenth-century aesthetics. 

Gallo tells the story of this other revolution by focusing on five artifacts that left a deep mark on the literature and the arts of the 1920s and 1930s: the camera and its novel techniques for seeing the modern world; the typewriter and its mechanization of literary aesthetics; radio and poetic experiments with wireless communication; cement architecture and its celebration of functional internationalism; and the stadium and its deployment as a mass medium for political spectacle.

Gallo traces the ways artists and writers, armed with these artifacts, revolutionized representation by breaking with the traditional modes of production that had dominated Mexican cultural practices: Tina Modotti rose against the conventions of "artistic" photography by promoting a radically modern photographic aesthetics; typewriting authors rejected the literary precepts of modernismo to celebrate the stridencies of mechanical writing; and young architects abandoned older building materials for the symbolic strength of reinforced concrete.

Gallo uncovers a secret history of Mexican modernity that includes a number of fascinating episodes: the pictorialist backlash against Modotti and Edward Weston; the postcolonial Remingtont typewriter; Mexican radio in the North Pole; the campaign to aestheticize cement through journals and artistic competitions; and the protofascist political spectacles held at Mexico City's National Stadium in the 1920s.

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