Thursday, May 24, 2018

Chicanonautica: Ugly Things From Mexico

by Ernest Hogan
Isaac Ezban’s The Similars (Los Parecidos) hit me like an electric cattle prod to the pineal gland. I was impressed, and eager for more, but not right away. Too much of this stuff can warp you, and I have a straight job that requires me to be somewhat socially acceptable. I waited awhile, found Cosas Feas on YouTube, (it’s also on Vimeo) then when I felt like I could use a proper jolt, I gave it a watch.

Before the beginning, there a listing of a lot of awards it won and festivals it was selected for. It has quite a reputation. In a few years, people will start calling it a classic.

The title, Cosas Feas, is officially translated to Nasty Stuff, though it literally means, “ugly things,” and in the twisted tradition of Spanish profanity, is used like “pieces of shit.”

All fair warning. Do not see Cosas Feas if your sensibilities or constitutions are delicate. It gets nasty, and ugly, mostly shot through a fish-eye lens.

It’s the story of 11 year-old Kriko Krankinsky. His first sex education class forces a crisis that ends up revealing  not only his sexuality, but just what kind of immigrants he and his family are. Their legal status is never mentioned, but they sure are alien.

Yeah, aliens. We’re talking stark, raving sci-fi, with a bad attitude with fake scratches to make it like an ancient flick on TV, way after midnight. It also recreates the effects such movies had on the preadolescent mind of this old, jaded guy who’s been binging on such madness for over half a century.

Cosas Feas uses scenes from the capitalist propaganda cartoon Destination Earth, and the adolescent angst exploitation classic Teenagers From Outer Space.

And I probably should mention that it has one on the most outrageous explicit sex scenes ever.

Ezban could do a great version of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. He has a real feeling for sexual anxiety, and insects. Move over Luis Buñuel, John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Guillermo Del Toro . . .

There’s also the fear of immigrants, so popular on this side of the border these days (but I don’t think we’ll be seeing a special showing at the White House, and/or an enthusiastic tweet from El Presidente).

Cosas Feas is also very Mexican. There’s a gonzo/ Felliniesque distorted realism, but also a peculiar humanity. Characters that are alien in how they act and look come off as sympathetic.

After all, the real aliens come from inside us, rather than outer space.

Ernest Hogan will be at Phoenix Comic Fest, May 24-26, helping his wife Emily Devenport publicize her new book Medusa Uploaded, as well has his own activities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Shameless Shenanigans of Míster Malo / Las terribles travesuras de Mister Malo

By Alidis Vicente

Spanish translation by Carolina Villarroel

  • ISBN: 978-1-55885-853-4
  • Bind: Paperback
  • Pages: 239

This entertaining bilingual book for intermediate readers features a fourth-grade bully avenger.

During the school day, Lance García looks like a typical fourth-grader at Oakland Elementary School. But after school, dressed in disguise—black jacket, black baseball cap and dark, cool sunglasses with tiny, rectangular mirrors so he can see who’s behind him—he checks the mailbox labeled “Malo Mail.” No one realizes that he is the infamous Mister Malo, righter of wrongs, punisher of bullies.

There’s an interesting plea for help in the mailbox. Isabella Santos spread a rumor that Madeline Wilson farted on the playground, and now everyone makes farting noises when she walks by. No one will talk to her, and a group of boys in particular are making her life miserable. Madeline offers Mister Malo a large box of tropical-flavored fruit snacks if he’ll teach Isabella a lesson. Soon Lance is busy plotting the perfect revenge. He wants to rehabilitate the bullies and help them realize how hurtful their actions are. What will be the best tactic to convince Isabella that being laughed at and picked on is no fun?

But Mister Malo’s scheme doesn’t go exactly as planned, forcing him to think outside of the box. Meanwhile, Lance has to deal with his own problem in the form of his difficult cousin, Manuel. This entertaining bilingual “flip” book will resonate with kids ages 8-12 in its examination of popularity on the school grounds and dealing with troublemakers.


“Vicente invites readers to experience the daily life of an elementary school anti-bully vigilante in this quirky bilingual tale. Lance is endearingly earnest, and Vicente does a great job of focusing on kid priorities. The educational possibilities will appeal to parents and teachers, and the hint of Greg Heffley will draw young readers in.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Humorous vignettes, realistic conflicts, and a male protagonist bent on doing the right thing make this first title in a new series stand on its own alongside other popular series for this age group.”—School Library Journal

ALIDIS VICENTE is the author of two bilingual books for intermediate readers in The Flaca Files / Los expedientes de Flaca series, The Case of the Three Kings / El caso de los Reyes Magos and The Missing Chancleta and Other Top Secret Cases / La chancleta perdida y otros casos secretos, and two picture books, The Coquí and the Iguana (Operation Outreach-USA Press, 2011) and Violet (Operation Outreach-USA Press, 2014). She received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and worked for New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services. She lives with her family in New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

La Bloga Welcome At LitFest, Banned On Face. For Mother, On-line Floricanto

La Bloga Meets Gente At Pasadena LitFest
Michael Sedano

It helps having conectas. Melinda Palacio had one of those desultory conversations that segue into business and in this case, that business manifested as a panel at Pasadena, California's annual LitFest. Getting a slot on the program is a challenge for most, so Melinda scored a coup for La Bloga and gente of Pasadena.

This year the festival, organized by the Light Bringer Project, occupied the Playhouse District. Once the go-to college for Hollywood aspirants, Pasadena Playhouse now limits itself to staging out-of-town tryouts, revivals, and original work like an upcoming Culture Clash. (link). Unlike "Old Pasadena", parking is free and available in the district. The Playhouse District is where the locals gather to avoid the tourists.

Vroman's Bookstore, one of the last free-standing independent booksellers in the San Gabriel Valley, has long stood on this isolated stretch of Colorado Boulevard. The bookstore sponsored author readings in its airy patio. Across the street from the Playhouse, al fresco poetry reading delighted boulevardiers and coffee sippers.

La Bloga: Chicanx and Latinx Community. Banned, Sometimes Buried, But Always Online took place at 530 p.m. in the living room-like space of a recently opened condo development adjacent to Vroman's.

La Bloga turns 14 this Fall and has found its way to the computer screens of over four million visitors. Yet, according the Facebook, La Bloga is a dangerous site and is blocked from the popular site. Thus the "banned" in the title.

A gratifying handful of souls found their way to The Andalucia to hear Daniel Olivas, Olga Garcia, Melinda Palacio, Rene Colato Laínez, and Michael Sedano. Despite its location at Vroman's rear entrance, the room in the Andalucia is around the corner on the other side of the building.

Only a few attending have been part of the 4 million visitors, so the panel introduced a new resource to readers. Others were familiar with the blog and shared disappointment learning how Facebook has banned La Bloga. Any friend wishing to share the words ""gets interrupted with a screen telling the user La Bloga is a dangerous site.

For Mother: On-Line Floricanto
Eréndira Santillana, Edward Vidaurre, Briana Muñoz, Nephtalí De Leon, Vanessa Caraveo, Sarah St George, Julieta Corpus, Anatalia Vallez, Odilia Galván Rodríguez

“Nantli” Por Eréndira Santillana
“The Age of Softening” By Edward Vidaurre
“Mother” By Briana Muñoz
“Mamá” By Nephtalí De Leon
“Final Reflections” By Vanessa Caraveo
“Mother” By Sarah St George
“This Constant Ache” By Julieta Corpus
“Bond” By Anatalia Vallez
“Itzpapalotl” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Por Eréndira Santillana

Yehua in xochitl,
Xiquiyehua ipan moyollo,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
ica nochi noyollo.
-"Xiquiyehua in xochitl", canción de arrullo nahua

En esta oscuridad, nantli,
abrazo la flor de tu canto
soy el niño
que se cobija en el río
y cada noche
aguardo en el recodo
para presenciar
tu amor
mover mis ondas,
vendaval ardiente
que surge
al pronunciar tu nombre.

Yehua in xochitl,
Xiquiyehua ipan moyollo,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
panpa nimiztlazohtla,
ica nochi noyollo.

El recodo está vacío, madre
tu viento no me reconoce
y entre la serpiente de agua
antes grávida, hoy tranquila,
me ahogo
en los caudales de mi padre
mi ser, atado, toca fondo
me ahogo
no puedo recordarte mujer-viento
¿y si, quizá, nunca supe tu nombre?
¿y si la canción que movía
mi manta de agua
era un sueño
como la flor caída del cielo
el grito del huracán
y las hazañas del Sol?
Me ahogo...

Guarda esta flor
guárdala en tu corazón
porque te amo
porque te amo
con todo mi corazón.

The Age of Softening/ La Edad de la Suavización
By Edward Vidaurre

I see pictures of my mother
with silver hair, the age of softening

Is in her house now. Dad has gone,
she swallows the clouds that pass

Hoping to taste his sweat one last time
Hoping to taste his tears one last time

Mom, when did we grow up and forget
your cradling hands and sweet kisses?

I want to be that child again. I want to
be held in your arms snuggling with

My face buried in your neck, and feel your
Hands pat me to sleep. When did I forget

You worked jobs that had you hunched over
for hours at a time and still came home to

Clean up our mess? How many times
did I tell you I Love you? Was it enough?

When I sleep, may my breaths
be odes of love for you.

La Edad de la Suavización
Por Edward Vidaurre

Veo fotos de mi madre
con el cabello blanco, la edad de la suavización

Ha llegado a su hogar. Papá se ha ido,
ella se traga las nubes que pasan

Esperando probar su sudor por última vez
Esperando probar sus lágrimas por última vez

Madre, ¿cuándo crecimos y olvidamos
tus manos que acunaban y tus dulces besos?

Quiero volver a ser ese niño. Quiero que vuelvas
a tenerme entre tus brazos acurrucado con

Mi rostro escondido en tu cuello, y sentir tus manos
palmeando mi cabeza para dormirme. ¿Cuándo olvidé

Que realizabas labores que te mantenían jorobada
por horas y horas y aun así regresabas a casa y

Limpiabas nuestro desorden? ¿Cuántas veces
te dije Te Amo? ¿Fueron suficientes?

Mientras duermo, que cada una de mis exhalaciones
sean odas de mi amor por ti.

By Briana Muñoz

My mother is a mystical creature
Her skinny fingers have the ability
To cure ailments
By holding a wet cloth on sweaty foreheads
Her humming fills rooms
With chirping birds
Singing songs of serenity
Rocking insomniacs to sleep
Do all mothers come from the same place?
Sculpted from hands of empathy?
I think so.
Though I realize, that some do stray from these origins
If governments were run by mothers
No child would go hungry
And homelessness would be,
Only a tale told
Around campfires
To the younger kids
My mother is a mystical creature

By Nephtalí De Leon

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro hijos.

¡Qué misterio tan profundo,
tan lejano
evoca el nombre!

Cuatro letras
en el fondo de las almas.

¿Qué misterio
germinado en tierra blanda
brota alegre
al palpitar?

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro metas.

Recorristes calles negras,
y tus manos afanosas
con la dulzura de rosas
forjaron cuatro caminos.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro espinas.

Absimaste la lectura
de gran sabios y de santos
y forjaste mi destino.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro hijos.

Con el arte de tus manos
y las rimas de tu mente
modelastes dulceménte
la vida de mis hermanos.

Cuatro letras que contienen
el misterio de mi infancia,
el eco de mis ensueños,
la inquietud de mis recuerdos.

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro letras que bendigo
en cada puerto remoto --
ya que no existe olvido
ni imaginable distancia
que nuble ni tu memoria
ni la risa de mi infancia.

Cuatro letras.

¿Qué me diste madre mía –
que cuando observo la noche
y se alumbra de luces bellas
lloro de tanta alegría?

¿Qué me has dado madre mía –
que cuando sufro una pena
y veo las blancas estrellas
radiantes en su esplendor –
silvo y canto de dolor?

Cuatro letras.
Cuatro vidas.

Cuatro vidas ya forjadas
cual piedras y joyas finas
del árbol y del vida
que se convierte en carbón;
y luego, después de duras veintenas
alumbran su forjador …

Cuatro letras de hermosura
que encierran con gran ternura …
la grandeza, la violencia,
el misterio de la vida –
y el total …
¡de toda la existencia!

Final Reflections
By Vanessa Carave

Lying next to you on the hospital bed
I know the time is coming near
I squeeze your pale thin hand once more
And touch your forehead gently with my warm hand.
We’ve been through so much together
We faced it all
When others walked away we made it.
You taught me what truly matters in life
We all have the same heart and a person’s value lies within them.
I made mistakes in life
You forgave me with your unconditional love which knows no boundaries.
When I felt I couldn’t go on
Your words uplifted me to not give up and keep fighting like a true warrior.
You sacrificed so much and always put me first
You are the epitome of true unconditional love.
I slowly lean over to give you a soft kiss on your forehead
I see a small tear form in the corner of your eye and the slightest hint of a smile
Thank you mother
Before you go please know this,
I love you
You will always live in my heart.

By Sarah St George


I am so sorry to bother you,
I know you are busy

Counting down the days to the rapture,
Arguing with empty chairs

It's just that it's a beautiful day
and I was thinking maybe we could take the kids for a walk in the park

They still ask about you
each time we drive by your place

Don't worry,
Your wine bottles and dead husband
will be exactly where you left them
when you get back home.

This Constant Ache
By Julieta Corpus

Everyday I wake up like this---
Missing you. Not much has changed
Since you left us. Ni el caudal de lágrimas,
Ni la mirada ausente de papá después
De que platica contigo en sueños. Your
Name remains hidden in the soft ridges
Of each of your children's lips. None of
Us dare to say your name out loud. We
Fear suffocating beneath grief's avalanche.

Dejamos tus cenizas entre la espuma
Del oceáno, mixing forever with salt,
Flotsam, and seaweed. By now, you have
Travelled around the world more than
A few times. I remember that day as though
It just happened. I remember Dad's hands
Hanging limply, shaking slightly. He looked
Lost and smaller, somehow---shrunken.

Our older brother waded in the water
With the rectangular blue box that contained
Your ashes. My sisters and I sang you
Into your final resting place while the seagulls
Seemed to keep a respectful distance.
The moment was both beautiful and terrible,
All at once.

Ever since, I look away from any newspaper
Advertisement or tv commercial announcing
Mother's Day. Too painful--a constant ache.
Our loss is a sparrow's injured wing, a moon-
Less August sky, a thirsty hummingbird, a
Mockingbird's plaintive call.

Everyday I wake up like this--missing you, Mamá

By Anatalia Vallez

as a fetus my mother inhaled love
it lingered in her vocal chords
then traveled to her stomach
through her umbilical chord
and into me
it now lives between my stomach and diaphragm

Perhaps that's why I exist
to exhale what was trapped in my mothers throat

Por Anatalia Vallez

cuando aun estaba en su vientre
mi mamá inspiró amor
perduro en sus cuerdas vocales
se desenvolvió en su estómago
y viajo por la cuerda umbilical
hasta llegar a mi
ahorra vive entre mi estómago y diafragma

Tal vez por eso existo
para exhalar lo que se detuvo en su garganta

By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

for my mother and all the mothers

Butterfly warrior woman
you were forged in fire
fierce in your desire
to transform yourself and
your world
from the red-orange flames
to birth and inspire
new nations without borders

Oh precious star
your beauty does not blind me
nor do the tongues of your flames
I am not frightened
to walk into your embrace
you Obsidian Flower
who like the sharpest knife
cuts through all the lies and
shapeshifts tomorrows

Meet the Poets
“Nantli” Por Eréndira Santillana
“The Age of Softening” By Edward Vidaurre
“Mother” By Briana Muñoz
“Mamá” By Nephtalí De Leon
“Final Reflections” By Vanessa Caraveo
“Mother” By Sarah St George
“This Constant Ache” By Julieta Corpus
“Bond” By Anatalia Vallez
“Itzpapalotl” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Briana Muñoz is a writer from San Marcos, California. She is a full time student and enjoys writing about what she observes around her on her free time. She writes fictional short stories, creative non-fiction and poetry. Briana is striving to publish her works some time in the near future.

Nephtali De Leon, is a poet, author, playwright, muralist painter and screenwriter. A migrant worker, he published his first book while a senior in high school, which was the last experience with formal education that he cared to be involved with. His works have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Catalan… into a total of 12 languages. He writes for all ages , from elementary to University levels, and illustrates most of his works. He has been published in USA, Mexico, France, Spain and China. His dream is to have Mexica Chicano Natives de-colonize themselves from misnomers such as “Latinos” and “Hispanics,” which he says hold us as psycho/physical hostages of ourselves in a self-colonizing perpetuity that needs the chains to be broken. His most recent book (of eight already published), will be his fourth presently being published in Valencia, Spain. The book will contain at least 5 languages of the many he has been translated into, so that issues such as the Aytozinapa’s search for justice -- goes worldwide.

Vanessa Caraveo has been avidly involved in writing throughout the years and was published in HWG’s, “Out of Many One: Celebrating Diversity,” 2017 anthology and “Boundless 2018: The Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival” anthology, both available on Amazon. She had her winning essays published for the IMIA for two consecutive years in a row (2013 and 2014) and also has various fiction, non-fiction and poems published for diverse organizations. Vanessa has been a volunteer and member of various non-profit groups and hopes to uplift the lives of others while emphasizing the importance of making a positive difference through her literary work.

Sarah St. George is a poet turning up the volume in the quiet corner of Connecticut. Since the age of twelve she has been using poetry to make exes infamous, unravel the enigmas of existence, and cope with trauma and loss. Her work covers a wide range of topics including nude Muppets, domestic violence, and the joys and challenges of motherhood. She has been featured in several anthologies and literary magazines. When not writing and sharing her poems, Sarah enjoys spending time with her son and daughter, learning, walking around town with her sloth puppet, and making jewelry. She is currently working as a an instructional assistant and hopes to one day teach creative writing at the college level.

Anatalia Vallez is a​ proud​ daughter of migrants, writer, performer & artivist passionate about using art as a tool for creating consciousness and community. ​She seeks to find intimate truths and plant seeds to change the world. Learn more at:


Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, educator, and activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, a collaboration with Texas photographer, Richard Loya, by Merced College Press 2016. Also, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, she edited the award-winning anthology: Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, University of Arizona Press, 2016. This poetry of witness anthology, the first of its kind because it came about because of the primarily on-line organizing work of Alarcón, Galván Rodriguez, and other poet-activists which began as a response to the proposal of SB 1070, the racial profiling law which was eventually passed by the Arizona State Legislature in 2010 and later that year, HB 2281which bans ethnic studies. With the advent of the Facebook page Poets Responding (to SB 1070) thousands of poems were submitted witnessing racism, xenophobia, and other social justice issues which culminated in the anthology.

Galván Rodríguez has worked as an editor for various print media such as Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She is currently, the editor of Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online; facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is director of Poets Responding, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people and encouraging people to take action. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

As an activist she worked for the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO, The East Bay Institute for Urban Arts, has served on numerous boards and commissions, and is currently active in Women’s organizations whose mission it is to educate around women’s rights, environmental justice issues and disseminate an Indigenous world view regarding the earth and people’s custodial relationship to it. Odilia Galván Rodríguez has a long and rich history of working for social justice in solidarity with activists from all ethnic groups.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Latina/o Immigrants in the Racist Era of Trump

Guest essay by Dr. Alvaro Huerta

President Donald J. Trump represents an existential threat to immigrants in the United States.

Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies consist of racist, xenophobic, enforcement-only and divisive (i.e., “us-versus-them”) political positions. Moreover, Trump’s domestic positions on immigration interconnect with his foreign diplomacy based on isolationist and unilateralist policies. While former U.S. presidents espoused (and implemented) similar anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of an estimated 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens during WW II, Trump, during his short presidency, aims to re-imagine or re-invent the country’s dark past with his racist slogan, “Make America Great Again”—which Trump originally claimed he coined. However, Trump actually stole it from the late President Ronald Reagan.

The “Hustler-in-Chief” lies so much, it must be difficult for him—along with his lackey apologists and fellow liars, like John F. Kelly, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, etc.—to keep track of all his lies. I just hope that the brave comedian Michelle Wolf returns to the White House Correspondent's dinner, so she can ridicule and rip into Kelly and Giuliani in same manner she exposed Sander’s infinite lies at this year’s memorable event.

Americans and people around the world shouldn’t be surprised by Trump’s lies, xenophobic (or anti-immigrant) rhetoric and policies. On June 16, 2015, for instance, when he delivered his “famous” presidential announcement speech (or “infamous,” depending on your political affiliation), Trump launched into a diatribe against Mexicans: “…When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists…”

In this racist speech with his immigrant wife by his side, Trump clearly connected with a significant segment of the American electorate receptive to anti-Mexicanism. In his brilliant essay, La Realidad: The Realities of Anti-Mexicanism—A Paradigm” (HuffPost, January 25, 2017), UCLA History Professor Juan Gómez-Quiñones posits that “U.S. anti-Mexicanism is a race premised set of historical and contemporary ascriptions, convictions and discriminatory practices inflicted on persons of Mexican descent, longstanding and pervasive in the United States… Anti-Mexicanism is a form of nativism practiced by colonialists and their inheritors…”

While the dark history of racism against African Americans is highly documented and well known, such as slavery, Jim Crow and police abuse, public knowledge of racist policies (historical and contemporary) against individuals of Mexican heritage—immigrants and citizens—is desperately lacking. For example, in addition to the imperialist U.S. war against Mexico during the mid-1800s (1846-1848)—where Mexico lost half of its territory—the U.S. government has implemented (to the present) racist campaigns and policies towards Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans (or Chicanas/os).

As part of the many draconian and inhumane cases against Mexicans in el norte during the 1900s, this included mass deportation campaigns of this racialized group, such as the “Mexican Repatriation” during the 1930s and “Operation Wetback” during the 1950s. In their insightful book, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, Dr. Francisco E. Balderrama and Mr. Raymond Rodríguez argue that an estimated one million individuals of Mexican heritage were deported during the Great Depression, where an estimated 60 percent consisted of U.S. citizens. In terms of “Operation Wetback,” then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the deportation of over one million individuals of Mexican heritage—immigrants and citizens.

Inspired by Eisenhower, during his presidential campaign, Trump praised “Operation Wetback.” By doing so, then-candidate Trump sent a clear signal to his white nativist base, where his anti-immigration policies will consist of enforcement-only measures, resurrecting the mass deportations of brown immigrants of the 20th Century. The underlying premise of Trump’s mass deportation fantasies (of the past) and policies (of the present) center on the eugenics ideology (or pseudoscience), from the late-1800s to the present. Coined by Francis Galton, this pseudoscience is based on the premise that to “advance” the human “race,” individuals with “good” traits/genes (“whites”) or so-called “desirable” traits/genes should reproduce with each other.

Throughout history, the eugenics ideology/movement has been used by racist individuals and groups, like the Nazi leaders in Germany or neo-Nazis in the United States, to claim that the Aryan race is genetically superior compared to other “races” or groups. Prior to the rise of Nazism, however, white Americans used this pseudoscience to argue that they were superior compared to racialized groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Mexican Americans. For instance, as a way to justify their racist policies towards African Americans throughout the late-1800s to the mid-1900s, like residential segregation and whites-only spaces (public and private), white American leaders and white citizens claimed (to the present) that whites were/are superior to blacks.

In his op-ed on the plight of undocumented youth, the award-winning writer Michael D’Antonio connects Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporary deportation relief and work permits for qualified undocumented youth, to eugenics: “There is another distinction that sets Dreamers apart, of course: Most of them are from Mexico, and they are not white. Trump's move to end DACA, therefore, must be understood within the historical context of America's exclusionary immigration policies, the bulk of which have relied on the pseudoscience of eugenics” (Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2017).

In terms of being a divisive leader, Trump has played his “us-versus-them” card throughout his presidential campaign (to the present). Be it Mexican immigrants, Muslim Americans or African American athletes (e.g., African American professional athletes who refuse to stand for the American flag due to police abuse), Trump represents the next “great-white-hope” to protect white Americans against the so-called black and brown “barbarians.” Under this context, Trump’s fetish or fantasy for a southern border wall, which Mexico will miraculously “pay for,” makes absolute sense. Instead of focusing on bridges that unite us, for instance, Trump is focusing on walls that divide us. In his superb book, Why Walls Won't Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide, Dr. Michael Dear brilliantly makes case that walls don’t work.

While Trump has solidified his racist credentials, there’s no denying the large share of American voters—almost 63 million voted for him against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 7, 2017—who bought his racist message. For example, of the millions of Trump supporters, how many of them abandoned Trump when he reportedly disparaged immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries during a White House-led meeting on January 11, 2018, where Trump reportedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (The Washington Post, January 12, 2018). To remove any doubt of his racist credentials, Trump also inquired about bringing more immigrants from countries like Norway.   

By examining Trump’s domestic immigration policies based on his racist, xenophobic, enforcement-only and divisive political positions, we can better understand or examine his foreign positions based on isolationist and unilateralist policies. For instance, while Trump insists on building his southern or U.S.-Mexico border wall, where the tax payers will eventually pay for it (not Mexico), what incentives does Mexico (as a so-called friendly nation) have to cooperate or trade with the United States, especially with other viable options, like China or European Union (EU)?

While Mexico’s ruling political party—the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)—constantly caves or bows to Trump, there’s no guarantee that if a progressive candidate like Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins the Mexican presidential election on July 1, 2018, Mexico will continue to capitulate to los gringos or the “Orange-Man-in-the-White House.”

In short, while the U.S. remains a superpower with asymmetric diplomatic relations throughout world, its leaders—Trump and the morally complicit/bankrupt Republican Party—and its citizens must decide if they want to use their enormous military and economic power for good or evil? Unless Trump gets impeached, where his entire administration resigns, including the equally dangerous Vice President Mike Pence, a significant segment of the world—especially the marginalized and oppressed—will continue to perceive the American citizen via a singular gaze: “The Ugly American.”

[Dr. Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. As a Chicano scholar-activist, he is the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm, (San Diego State University Press, 2013). Dr. Huerta holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. in urban planning and a B.A. in history—both from UCLA.]



On Thursday, I had the great pleasure of being a guest author at Professor Maceo Montoya’s Chicanx Narrative class at UC Davis.  Prof. Montoya had assigned my latest short-story collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures (University of Arizona Press), and the students came ready with great questions and insightful observations.  I was so impressed by the students…they made me proud!  And I want to thank Prof. Montoya for being so welcoming, and for the lovely dinner he and his partner, Alejandra, prepared for me and several of their friends.
Prof. Maceo Montoya in his art studio.

Prof. Montoya's students welcome me into their midst.

And on Saturday, several members of La Bloga participated in a panel discussion at LitFest Pasadena.  What a lively dialogue we had, and it proved once again the importance of this community we call La Bloga.  Mil gracias to the volunteers and sponsors who made the festival a reality, and many thanks to Melinda Palacio who did a beautiful job moderating the panel.

The panelists joined by several members of the audience who didn't mind being photographed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

When Poems Fly: Adventures in Songwriting and Bird Forgiveness

Melinda Palacio

I wrote a song. Not only did I write a song, but I came up with the chords and lyrics all on my new guitar, something that impressed me and my friends. My husband, Steve, was the only person who was not surprised by my sudden interest in all things musical. He's the one who took me guitar shopping for my birthday last November and he's the one who kept saying, 'you're a poet, you should write songs'. Every time he'd mention the songwriting idea, I simply chuckled to myself. Thinking, I can't even sing, let alone write a song.

When we went guitar shopping, I noticed there were several people who like to hang out at guitar shops and show off their skills. Then there was me; I'd pick up a guitar and play the handful of open chords I knew very well. At Jensen's in Santa Barbara, the small shop is very laidback and the owner, Chris Jensen, showed me all of their inexpensive guitars before busting out the big guns. Even before hearing the Martin Road Series, I knew it would be a guitar I would be super happy with. The beautiful rose wood had a dark red body. It was love at first strum. The guitar sounded just as rich as it deep mahogany color, like a fine wine and chocolate all rolled up in one perfected instrument. Last March, I wrote my first song on that guitar.  

Poem: What the Birds Know by Melinda Palacio

You're probably wondering just how did that magical moment happen. I had been putting the final touches on my latest poetry manuscript, Bird Forgiveness. It was a Saturday when I walked down to the Santa Barbara Roasting Company. That coffee shop always has a long wait. You could do an errand while you wait for them to pour your coffee into a paper cup, but Steve likes it. While I was reading Casa Magazine, the first lines of the chorus floated before me. I took out my pen and wrote the lines on the magazine. I had no doubt that I was writing a song, partly because I heard the melody in my head. The words were familiar to me because they were based on my poem, 'What the Birds Know' from my new book. Because the poem is now associated with the Bird Forgiveness book, the line I kept hearing was, 'because forgiveness begins with a bird, flying high, flying high, waiting for a lonely hand to say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye'.

Bird Forgiveness, the song by Melinda Palacio

I had a chorus and two versus. Now, what? Steve advised me to grab my guitar and work out the chords, something that sounded like a very tall order, but ended up working out like a charm. I chose the key of D because I was learning a Bob Dylan song in the key of D, 'Don't Think Twice'. Because I heard the song in my head and had chosen an easy key with all open chords, when I finished the song, I recorded it and wrote everything down to make sure I wouldn't forget it. Two months later, I recorded myself playing my song on my new guitar. It's a great feeling to see one of my poems turned into a song. I look forward to writing more songs. I know I will be able to write more songs because I had the same anxious feeling about writing my first poem. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to write another poem. Three books later, I can assure anyone who wants to write or learn guitar that secret is daily practice.

Special thanks to Susan and Dennis Chiavelli for hosting the location of these videos and for their hospitality. Although I'm noticing several hiccups and mistakes in both the video of the poem and the song, I'm leaving them here for viewers. How many poetry books have their own theme song?

Bird Forgiveness, new title from 3: a Taos Press

Praise for Bird Forgiveness

As a lover of birds, I am a lover of Bird Forgiveness.  As a lover of poetry, I love these poems because though beaked and winged, in pain and in joy, they also take flight out of their occasion. With a focus on birds, the world is renewed, and the poet reminds us it is we who need forgiving. Melinda Palacio's birds touch us everywhere they fly: from the drowning of a homeless woman in Audubon Park to the oil spill damage to a duck. Like the birds she loves and mourns, Melinda Palacio migrates her songs between two coasts, Gulf and West, Latino and Anglo—and she asks for the poetic freedom birds have. Sometimes the poems appear as near sonnets, sometimes in utterly free shapes, but always this is a book of fierce mourning for the birds that fall at our feet and for a grandmother who dies under her watchful care while caged birds quarrel. In the end Melinda Palacio sets all her birds free, and we remember what birds and poets have most in common—their wild song. 

—Rodger Kamenetz, To Die Next To You

How wonderful to think that Melinda Palacio is writing poems so delightfully human, so unexpected in their movements  from wit to profundity, so uncompromisingly honest. Who else would recognize a bluebird as Elvis? Who else ask birds for forgiveness? Her finest book yet, Bird Forgiveness is a work of great modesty, invention, and abiding respect for all the living world.

—Rodney Jones, Village Prodigies

Bird Forgiveness is a deeply nourishing and exquisite book about living. Melinda Palacio
masterfully explores confinement, liberation, freedom, and flight. Abundant joy and wonder run through the poems—from the harpy eagle, to a bluebird named Elvis, to instructions on how to wash a duck—and they examine human behavior and relationships with wisdom and grace. This is a delightful, unforgettable book from a marvelous talent at the top her game.

—Lee Herrick, Scar and Flower

Happy Saturday. If you are reading this today, May 19, come to the La Bloga panel at the Pasadena Lit Fest at 5:30 pm at the Andalucia, 686 E. Union St. Bring any comments or questions.