Monday, November 20, 2017

“Crossing the Border” gets launched at Avenue 50 Studio…and it was lovely

On Saturday, Avenue 50 Studio in collaboration with Regal House Publishing/Pact Press launched my debut poetry collection, Crossing the Border: Collected Poems. It was a lovely event curated by the talented and indefatigable Jessica Ceballos. The audience was warm and engaged (they asked great questions during the Q&A), and the setting was perfect. If you couldn’t make it, here are a few photos from the evening. Also, Avenue 50 Studio has signed copies of my book, so if you visit this wonderful cultural space, just ask. And while you’re there, spend some time enjoying the beautiful artwork on display, some of which is available for purchase.

Jessica Ceballos offering introductory remarks.


Family members offering support before the reading.

Special guests, artists Eloy Torrez and Juliane Blackmann.


Avenue 50 Studio is an arts presentation organization grounded in Latina/o culture, visual arts, and the Northeast Los Angeles Community, that seeks to bridge cultures through artistic expression, using content-driven art to educate and to stimulate intercultural understanding. Please show your support by visiting and, if you can, purchasing art and/or making a tax-deductible donation.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Guest Columnist: Antonio Solisgomez

Editor's Note: See Antonio Solisgomez' biography at the end of this column.

All Souls Procession In Tucson 2017
Antonio Solisgomez

Mexicans have always had a fascination with death, with the ghosts of those departed, never shy about talking openly on the subject, nor recounting visits from those gone to the other side and keeping the tradition alive of the velorio, the night vigil where friends and relatives gather in the mortuary parking lot to drink and swap stories of the deceased, their closest relatives returning home to insert a photograph of him or her in their family altar or later at the time of All Souls Day creating a special altar with an offering of food and flowers.

My first memories of the practice of honoring those gone to the other side are from my early childhood in El Paso in the 1940’s, where everyone spoke Spanish, where we and everyone we knew lived in tenement housing and was poor, where every weekend we would walk across the border into Juarez to spend time with my padrinos and to shop for groceries at the open air Mercado with its pungent odors of fresh fruit, flowers, spices, slabs of meat, live chickens, birds in cages.

October brings an astonishing display of items for El Dia De Los Muertos, decorated sugar skulls of all sizes and color, calacas made from thin cardboard whose arms and legs had movement or made of wood and capable of dancing on a paddle, small candies and toys shaped into skeletons, all of it mesmerizing, affirming of the stories and beliefs that were our upbringing for la pelona en bicicleta was a reality and we knew that our friends and relatives who had been whisked away to the other world would be remembered and honored.

She's taking names of deceased individuals being remembered

My classroom, in contrast, during October was decorated with colorful maple leaves, foldout paper pumpkins, witches on broomsticks and magazine photos of costumed children trick or treating, motifs foreign to us Chicanitos living in a desert environment and where the only strangers that came to knock on our door were the bill collectors and the men asking for a taquito of whatever food we could spare.

In this country Halloween, the one holiday related to the subject of death has been cleansed of its pagan origins, converted into an economic activity devoid of any semblance to the purpose of honoring those who have passed over.

Taking names that will be burned at the finale.

Some Christians attack Halloween as an event promoting satanic practices. Fortunately this is changing and we now see more and more evidence that people want to honor their deceased friends and relatives in a special way as is done during Dia De Los Muertos.

There are many reasons for this, one certainly is the greater number of Latinos in this country but also the elevating of humanity’s consciousness and a certainty that there is life after death, bolstered by the thousands of testimonies that attest to this fact and the concomitant need to honor our ancestors and loved ones.

Procession gets underway.
Here in Tucson Arizona, 28 years ago, a group of artists began a practice of dressing in costume and walking a designated route and at the end burning prayer requests.

One hundred and fifty thousand people now join this All Souls Procession, which is not a parade, not so much something to witness as a spectator, but rather a gathering of individuals walking together in remembrance of dead friends and relatives.

Some carry their own light

Many children attend

The Procession ends at a large dirt field.
Meet Antonio Solisgomez

Born in El Psao at the start of World War II my formative years were spent in the rough & tumble Duranguito Barrio where it was not unusual to have 20 or 30 playmates during the day & night speaking only in Spanish with lots of slang & lots of cuss words, playing games that came from Mexico, games that required running, chasing, hiding and no equipment whatsoever. Weekends were spent in Juraez, vising my godparents, eating at the puestecitos, going to the mercado and to the cervezeria, the beer garden, where entertainment was provided and the adults drank and sang rancheras.

It was an idylic life but my family moved to Los Angeles in 1950 where it was rumored that my stepfather could ply his carpentry trade in the housing boom taking place in the suburban areas. We left behind a mountain of unpaid bills, memories that would last a lifetime and a language that has never left me.

Lincoln Heights where we finally settled, after short stints in Bunker Hill and in Central los Angeleas, was a barrio in transition, Mexican Families moving in and Italian families moving out. But for awhile we lived as neighbors, played together at local playgrounds, at the Boys Club and later at the High School, which by then was almost 98 % Latino, most of them new immigrants from Mexico. Lincoln High School where i attended was oriented toward shop programs in wood, printing, upholstery for boys and typing, sewing, and homemaking for girls with limited classes in science, math & Literature. But I went to East Los Angeles College, later to Cal State LA where I graduated in June of 1964 & started working as a social worker for the Los Angeles County program Assistance to Families with Dependent Children(AFDC). I worked as a social worker for the next 10 years for HeadStart, International Institude & Big Brothers but switching in 1970 to working preschools and childcare.

During the late 1960, i helped start the barrio magazine Con Safos and was quite active in community affairs until 1970 when i became disillusioned with the many self-serving Chicanos that began moving into positions being created in the War on Poverty Program, individuals who were all about the rhetoric but were really out for themselves and community concerns were not a priority. I was naive to some extent but it became a crisis for me at the time and i had to search deep to find a new foundation as the Chicano Movimiento that had been my end all, eroded. I started meditating then, became a vegetarian, stopped drinking and getting high and eventually moved to Tucson where i enrolled in a Masters program to become a Spanish speaking librarian, a career that i had for the next 25 years. I retired from the W.K. Kellog Foundation in 2000, my 2nd wife and i travelled around the world for five months then first settled in Carlsbad California and eventually came to live in Tucson.

I have been actively writing since retiring and have self published two books Amen Again in 2012; Pelon on the Lam and the 2nd book The Search for the Brown Buffalo; A Con Safos Quantum Journey. I have a third finished manuscript that has a working title of Archival Murder: A Con Safos Crime Mystery. I also have a few short stories that i hope to publish some day. In addition to writing i also have taught myself cabinet making and more recently have decided to give up all my power tools and work solely by hand, which is more in keeping with my other hobby of weaving that is slow and quiet. I continue to meditate daily and my spiritual life is really my focus, all activities revolve around that and i am particulalry interested in what the Mayans discovered of a new age beginning in 2012, the old age of greed, separation, violence and war, male dominance & intolerance replaced by peace, unity, tolerance, empathy, love and a balance of masculine and feminine energies.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Saturday in L.A. Is for Poets: Two Special Events

Melinda Palacio

If you're anywhere near Los Angeles on Saturday, November 18, there are two events you won't want to miss. First, at noon, Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena celebrates its Author Walk of Fame with a dedication ceremony honoring Luis J. Rodriguez. Handprints, a signature, reception, and a conversation with Luis and Lynell George are part of the festivities to honor the literary career of Los Angeles Poet Laureate Emeritus, Luis J. Rodriguez. Saturday, November 18, 2017- 12:00 pm, Vroman's 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101. 

Later in the evening, at 8pm, not too far from Pasadena, at Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio, enjoy the book launch party for Daniel Olivas's poetry book, Crossing the Border. You might recall reading about this long-awaited poetry book last August. Finally, you can get your copies signed by La Bloga's Daniel Olivas. Read the previously published La Bloga review here. Saturday, November 18 from 8-10 pm at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Time Machines of Our Lives

    Daniel Cano                   
    I see the picture of my father. He is on the viewer's left, next to my grandfather, and my uncle David is to our right. Photos are like time machines, so are stories. They can sweep us away in an instant, into the past, back to the present, into the future, and back again. Or maybe those are just the catalysts, the engines, and our lives are the time machines.
    Here, my father strikes a friendly enough pose. I know he was already fighting the bottle, so was his brother. He told me they started young. But who wouldn't drink, carrying sixty pounds of cement on your shoulder, up narrow scaffolds, eight-hours a day, five days a week? Twenty-five years later, at the UCLA Medical Center, my uncle lost his fight. Forty years later, my dad won his fight, but not without many ugly battles.
    My grandfather places both hands on his sons' shoulders, a message for posterity, maybe for comfort, or perhaps to show he loves both sons equally, or at the very least that he acknowledges them. My dad once told me that the Chicanos of his generation, the WWII generation, hardly knew their parents. Not only did my grandfather's generation work all the time, sometimes leaving home for weeks, but they were also Mexican while my dad's generation was American.
    When I asked my father about his early days growing up in Los Angeles' west-side, he hesitated, at first, probably fearing he might reveal one family secret too many. Sitting and talking with my father was like entering a time machine. Maybe H.G. Wells' tale about time travel wasn't really about an external machine at all. Maybe, we are the real time machines. The stories that we tell move us quickly through time and space.
    I took a tape recorder and listened to my father's stories as I drove him through town, past his old elementary, junior, and high schools, passing houses marked for demolition. He could tell me the names of the families that once lived there, always followed by an engaging story, taking us both from the present to the past and back again.

    He astounded me with how much information, how many stories he retained, even into his 80s. He died at 89 years of age, on September 11th, my youngest daughter's birthday, and, well, you know the significance of that date.
    My car was our time machine. Yet, after awhile, the car mattered little, what came alive were the memories, the stories, too many to tell here. I remember asking him about the saddest incident he could remember. Not counting all of his friends who died in the war, he told me about the Melendez boys, Daniel and Ralph, brothers, whose mother sent them on an errand. "It was 1935. They lived on Pontius Avenue, right here in West L.A." he said, "behind Sanchez Market, a mom and pop store. Their mom wanted them go to the Green Spray market, on Pico, near Westwood boulevard. Groceries were cheaper there and the vegetables fresher."
     He went on to tell me that on the way home, the brothers, in their teens, along with their cousin, stopped at one of the swimming holes where the neighborhood kids used to hang out. "Their mom didn't let them out too much," my dad said. "She was protective. They were good kids. I guess, we were too rough. We all learned how to swim in those ponds. Well, not really ponds, just big holes that filled with water from the drainage pipes."
    There was no one at the swimming hole that day. Daniel decided to jump onto a raft the other kids had made for their pretend pirate battles. When Daniel reached the middle of the pond, the raft began breaking apart. Daniel leaped from the raft into the water and immediately began sinking. His brother Ralph jumped in after him. He had to have known he was sacrificing his life. Maybe, even as a young teenager, he felt it was better to drown than to stand by and do nothing. Or maybe, he didn't even think. He just acted out of love for his brother.
    He probably didn't even reach his brother. As both boys flailed about in the murky water drowning, their cousin panicked. He ran all the way home to call the boys' father. A man at a gas station, not far from the swimming hole, heard the commotion. He ran to the water's edge. Seeing the boys, he dove in a pulled them out, "But it was too late. Their father arrived, and the boys had already drowned. Maybe if their cousin had run to the gas station for help instead of going home, it might have saved time. Or if we had been there, they wouldn't have drowned."
    It hit the town hard. "We all went to school together. We knew each other. Their mother took it bad, really bad. Their dad, don Rafael, also had a hard time. The boys had three sisters. It was sad."
    Recently, a family friend, Velia Herrera, told me she still talks to the brothers' sister, Juanita, who is in her 90s. Juanita told Velia that her mother wore black for the rest of her life. Her father would go to the back of the garage to be alone and cry, probably where no one could see him.
     My dad and I rode for a while. He was silent, but grew spritely, as if happy to be leaving 1935 behind.
     I drove alongside Daniel Webster Middle School. "See that corner," my dad said, pointing to a McDonald's restaurant, at the corner of National and Sawtelle. "In 1939," our time machine had jumped four years forward, "me and the guys sat right there watching them make the Grapes of Wrath. The roads were all dirt back then. There were no buildings out here, nothing but empty fields. It was supposed to be Oklahoma, the spot where Tom Joad caught a truck after he got out of prison, the beginning of the movie."
     We passed by the park, Stoner Park, what he called the "playground", where in 1936 he and his friends would climb the fence and jump into the pool on warm summer nights, before the cops came to run them off. The old park is gone, but a new one has popped up in its place.

    Right about there, I started running out of tape. No matter, we spent many days in our time machine, he, bringing the past to life. I listened to the tapes again, as I prepared to write this short piece for La Bloga, and my dad's voice was young, strong, and clear, as if he was right there talking to me again.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017


By Lee Merrill Byrd  
Illustrated by Francisco Delgado 

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press; Bilingual edition (February 13,  2018)
  • ISBN-10: 194102680X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941026809

Birdie and Grandma are having a girls’ day! They must have had fun because Grandma’s all worn out now. Birdie has a solution: a makeover! It’ll give Grandma a chance to relax. Birdie insists that Grandma lie down because this beauty parlor has a lot of moving parts—chinny-chin-chin hair removal, long stretches of blush, slashes of lipstick, and eyeshadow. Earrings, scarves, the works! Birdie knows best: she owns this beauty parlor!

Birdie’s Beauty Parlor is the second collaboration between Lee Byrd and Francisco Delgado. Lee tells the stories of her grandchildren, but the images belong to Francisco’s kids.

Lee Merrill Byrd is the co-publisher of Cinco Puntos Press so she can, without hesitation, write and publish books about her grandchildren who—she claims—are brilliant and beautiful. Her previous picture books, Treasure on Gold Street and Juanito Counts to Ten, featured Hannah and John Andrew. Lee is the author of Riley’s Fire (Algonquin) and My Sister Disappears (SMU Press).

Francisco Delgado, a fronterizo artist, was born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua in 1974. He received his MFA from the Yale School of Art. His paintings have been on book covers, in national art exhibits, private collections and community institutions. Delgado’s picture books include ¡Si, Se Puede! and Juanito Counts to Ten. He also provided the illustrations for Out of Their Minds, by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cuba Before You Change It. The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks. Hoary November

Miller's Tales of The Special Period, And Now

ISBN 978-0-8165-3586-6

Michael Sedano

Literature in English about Cuba offers an almost-always pleasurable and perspective-enhancing experience. In the 90s a wave of detective fiction swelled with superb work by Jose Latour and Martin Cruz Smith. Leonardo Padura wrote an engrossing “colors” series in the early 2000s, a decade that includes 2007’s Tango For A Torturer from Daniel Chavarria and Achy Obejas’ Ruins in 2009. Only last month, La Bloga was pleased to recommend Robert Arellano’s in-release Havana Libre, his second novel featuring the loyal medico with a distinctive mole.

Crime stories aren’t the only absorbing narratives centered around life on the alligator. At least one nonfiction author, travel writer extraordinaire Tom Miller, matches the interest and eye-opening elements of fiction in his on-site reporting in Cuba Hot & Cold.

Miller’s been writing about hispanoparlante America for forty years. His books include Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro’s Cuba, 1992. He edited Travelers’ Tales Cuba: True Stories, 2011. In recent years, Miller and his wife, a Havana native, have conducted literary tours to the island. This writer knows Cuba.

People contemplating a visit to Cuba “before it changes,” owe themselves a reading of Cuba Hot & Cold. The blurb on the back cover says so, but that’s only partly right. Miller’s introduction to this retrospective collection argues “you are the change.” Miller spins the specter to a local resident of el Malecón filled fast food joints, glitzy tourist places, that kind of change. The local considers the horror, responds enthusiastically, “That’s precisely the change we Cubans want!”

Romantic Cuba, romanticized Cuba, demonized Cuba, lamented Cuba, lots of different Cubas, depending on whose imagination you tap, and Miller's found them all. If it looks like Miller’s rehashing popular notions about Cuban life, that’s probably because Miller’s the one who first wrote about them, in one of the seven essays reprinted here.

Old cars. Music and entertainers. Ry Cooder. Papa. Fidel Castro. Marielitos. The Victory at Playa Giron. Politics. Country gente. The Special Period. Hardship. All the colorful stuff is right there, right alongside the observer’s clearly drawn human insight that makes Miller a welcome Yuma in Cuban homes and businesses.

Playa Giron is the beachhead at the Bay of Pigs, where gusano guerillas backed by the CIA got their heads handed to them on a platter. Yuma is the word for los United Estates, derived from the bang-bang shoot ‘em up Western thriller, 3:10 to Yuma.

Miller is the fact checker to fiction’s tropes and tales of economic deprivation. Except those hardships aren’t hyperbole, it's been a world of hurt, and those hardships, they are real. Castro’s repression, the official line goes. Miller takes a deftly zurdo yet neutral stance that wins him favor, he says, from Cuban government aparatchiks who get him visas, and locals who welcome him into their confidence. A number of confidantes are his wife’s relatives, which helps one get an insider’s view.

Being a known sympatico doesn’t stop secret police from one night rousting the visiting journalist Miller and his local Virgilio, Manolo. Not that there’s anything wrong with what the pair were up to, just a few questions. There’s a chilling end to the ominous tale, Miller never again hears from Manolo.

Tourists will want a share of emotionally powerful experiences like Miller recounts. Unlikely, the writer’s access is uniquely Miller’s. No “regular” tourist is going to sit peer-to-peer with a maestro luthier and learn a traditional song just like that. A “tall foreigner,” Ry Cooder, and Miller visit. Like a scene from Ruins, the luthier tells of rummaging through trash piles, finding good wood.

When Cooder makes a return visit to the maestro, the yuma brings sheets of fine wood, resins, and glues impossible in Cuba. The luthier will fashion not only Cooder’s hand-made instrument but sufficient to craft several distinctive instruments, equivalents to those crafted hundreds of years ago in the workshops of Stradivarius or Guarneri. In Havana, one man's hands make the entire instrument. Go ahead and fret, tourists, bring money, buy a legendary voice.

Readers won’t doubt any of the more romanticized sights Miller takes us. Undoubtedly, Hemingway had an old boat captain. That the boat captain’s sought-after company brought the old guy a few drinks and some coin during the Special Period is heart-warming. Tourists might wander Hemingway's estate, wondering who still remembers? And there he is, the last direct conecta to Papa, right there on the page.

That Special Period isn’t a bizarre authoritarianism authors make up to feed a political narrative. Hardship defines Cuba, in Arellano's fictive medical clinic. In every novel, “shortage” becomes synonymous with “essential.” "Do without" is the solution to "must have." Reuse, recycle, survive colors every material aspect of urban culture. Out in the provinces, where people grow their own food and live with la tierra, food isn’t rationed and domesticity prevails. Now there's a Cuba open to readers only, unless the visitor has a cuñado in the sticks, and doesn't buy that German map.

Those dream cars, that pristine '48 convertible, all shiny and cruising el Malecón, with the waving tourists? Government-owned and operated. That's why it works and has gasoline. Órale, turista, pull down those arms. Waving, Miller remarks, is “one step away from occupiers acknowledging the occupied.” Those old wheels and hand-made refacciones? All that gearhead nostalgia is another way of supporting the embargo that caused the absence of newer vehicles and repair parts.

Miller’s not a heavy-handed joykiller; he’s informative with a purpose. He doesn’t endorse idealized notions espoused by coffee shop revolutionaries, nor does he mouthpiece for gusanos how terrible life is on the island.

Miller isn’t grinding axes. He finds—it’s not all that difficult-- indomitability, character, and bewilderment in the gente. I say “bewildered” because Miller doesn’t hear a lot of angry voices saying it’s all the United States’ fault. It is the United States’ fault, Miller makes that clear. He’s not shaking a fist but exercising the keyboard because that’s the way it is.

One chapter on Fidel Castro, Che, Raúl and the revolution introduces photographer Kordás and his famous foto of Guevara. The author gets a bargain on a signed print, a hundred dollars for a normally three hundred dollar photograph. Prices for a foto pretty much the same as in the U.S., but that visit is a one-time event. Read and yearn.

Miller cites the false autobiography of Fidel, suggesting the author expresses genuine insight into what makes the leader tick. Combined with the essay on the battleship Maine, Miller puts the politics of the revolution into useful focus. Cuba’s been changing all along.

But yes, change is speeding up. “Before it changes” starts at the top, where, for Cuba, the earth has already moved. Fidel died. With the pragmatic Raúl in power, let the bidding war between Yuan and Dollar lumber toward Havana to be born.

If you’re thinking of making the journey, read Cuba Hot & Cold. A certain type of reader might want to see if Tom Miller and his wife have a tour scheduled. Miller knows everyone over there, and when they see him coming with that bottle of rum, they open the doors wide.

If, like me, you know you’ll never visit Cuba, treat yourself to a Cuban sojourn “before it changed.” And don't be alone. Cuba Hot & Cold is one of those great stocking stuffer gifts every reader in the family will enjoy. It's not just the insight into Cuba through the years, it's Miller, too. Deftly written, keenly understood, soft-spokenly incisive, if there's one book about Cuba you read before you go, make it Cuba Hot & Cold.

Tom Miller's Cuba Hot & Cold comes from the University of Arizona Press, so distribution is not a big issue. You can order publisher-direct (link), or via your local brick & mortar bookseller.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Wild Harvest

That stand of nopales made a formidable barrier between gramma’s rear property line and the empty fields beyond. Those plants towered over the tiny boy who spent a lot of time out back, safe from whatever approached untended backyards.

There was a tina of soap back there. When the chicharrones were finished, gramma mixed lye into the left-over manteca, poured it into a tina and set it under the nopales where, over time, the mass turned into solid soap.

The boy gouged the cured surface with the curved linoleum knife that stronger hands used to carve rectangular voids into the jabon. What really held the boy’s attention were the tunas that abounded on those nopales over head.

Old growth opuntia. Red tuna.

Prickly pear, Anglos call them. The cactus grows across the U.S. Southwest. Numerous varieties give edible fruit. The only test is peel and eat one. If you like it, it's edible.

Opuntia's many varieties sprout myriad-color petals at the ends of tubular green fruit. Yellow, red, orange, magenta petals cover the rounded edges of elongated pencas. Bumble bees, honey bees, and mallates linger at the nectared crowns of prickly pears. Say, /toona/, "prickly pear" is as wrong as "alligator pear."

The Mexican market sold me four not-quite ripe tunas for under a dollar a pound. I found a white tuna nopal covered with luscious tunas but behind a cinder block wall in a Pasadena neighborhood. One penca hung over the alley, with a single fat juicy tuna. Tunas should be free.

On those stands of nopales covered with growing fruit, the green skins swell and change color. Purple-blue, red, yellow, and the best, the sweetest tuna, the white tuna. It’s not common, the other colors far more common.

Alleyway harvest. The penca will soon take root in the yard.

Colored tunas share a characteristic absent from the white tuna. Those others are grainy. La blanca actually is green. When it’s fully ripe, however, the fruit is soft to a squeeze and faintly green, hence, white. This tuna provides a fleshy, succulent bite, with not a profusion of seeds.

Eating a tuna is intuitive. Pop the whole fruit in your mouth, chew, swallow the seeds. Seeds are hard tidbits, so don’t chew them. The experience of eating a white tuna is most pleasant, smooth on the tongue with the texture of those seeds. Not so intuitive is how to get at the fruit.

Peeling a Tuna

Speaking of grandmothers, Lucha Corpi, the grandmother of Chicana Chicano detective fiction, sends along this refrain, a Spanish language corollary to those plums in the refrigerator,

"Me he de comer esa tuna, aunque me espine la mano..."

You will always get an espina when you peel tunas. That’s not fate, nor error, that’s the way it should be.

OK, wear gloves, go ahead. Novelist Liz Gonzalez burns off the outsides, an inspired idea usually applied in el monte where the tiny red tunas growing there in abundance have dense and treacherous pins and needles.

Hold the tuna between the espina clumps, the areoles and glochids, in botanical nomenclature.

Cut off both ends.

Slice a line across the tuna. Open the tuna.

Use a finger or knife to peel open the tuna.

Remove the naked fruit from the cascara. Introduce to mouth, whole or take a bite and share.

One bite short of a full tuna

Compost the cascaras or feed them to las gallinas. Careful handling the that espinosa detritus.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Six Chiles Chile Sauce

The Gluten-free Chicano made 6 Chiles Chile Sauce then went on about his business. An hour later, he absently rubbed an eye with a finger that, despite washings in the interim, burned the heck out of the insulted eye.

Rule #1 for making chile: Wash the heck out of those hands before and after.

Saving money while eating well comes with practice, bargains, and ingredients. Hot chile sauces are so inexpensively made, why lay down three or four dollars when you can make your own? The economics of commercial chile sauces are such that The Gluten-free Chicano met a fellow in Mexico who owned a bottle-making factory. The vato went into the chile sauce business just to have a market for his bottles. A couple pesos for the inside, fifty cents for the container. Fill, label, sell the sauce at two bucks and change in the EUA.

The chile varieties in the 6 Chiles Chile recipe--Arbol, Piquin, Thai Upright, Red Dragon Cayenne, Habanero, Caribbean Hot--aren’t de rigueur. Use whatever the garden provides, or buy packages of dried whole chiles in the grocery store.

What is essential in the 6 Chiles Chile recipe is good ingredients. These chiles grew in Pasadena, Van Nuys, and Altadena. All local, all sustainable, no pesticides. Non-GMO to each grower's knowledge.

These chile pods recently dried on their own, some for several weeks others The Gluten-free Chicano harvested a few days ago. When they’ve turned red on the plant they’re already beginning to dry. Make a loose pile of pods in a shallow bowl, keep that out of the sun with air circulation for several days. The chile pods will be brittle, leathery, and wrinkled when they’re ready to toast.

Heat a good pan like an old cast-iron sartén. No oil.
Scatter the chiles one layer deep, more or less.
Shake constantly until the chiles begin to pop and crackle. You’ll start to get a noseful of hot air that will drive the locals out of the kitchen. Some pods will blacken, that’s a good thing.

Empty the skillet onto a paper towel or clean dish.

One by one, break off the stem end and put the good part into a blender vessel. At this point your hands are coated with the chile so keep hands away from eyes and lips. Some might use latex gloves, that’s a good approach.

Crush the pods down against the blades. Add a splash wine vinegar or cider vinegar, some salt, some garlic powder, ½ cup water. Adjust the liquids to aroma, taste, and blendability. You want the blender to whirl liquid, not thick paste.

Pulse. Push pods into liquid. Pulse.

Blend at high speed for at least a minute. If the mix is too thick, add water.

Dip a finger into the finished work and give it a test. Good? Need salt? Less is better. Need garlic? No such thing as too much ajo. A splash more vinegar brings up flavor. Allow the sauce to sit for an hour then taste again. Flavor builds over time. Of course, you can roast garlic teeth with the pods and whiz them in.

If you're going to use a lot of fresh ingredients, consider a molcahete version of chile, using fresh chiles, see this link. You can use a molcahete instead of a blender to make dried chiles chile sauce.

The chile sauce should pour easily into a storage container. You can make a thinner sauce by adding water, salt, and vinegar to taste or diet, and storing in a bottle.

Floricanto On-line for Hoary November
Nephtalí De León, John Martinez, George Wallace, Leticia Garcia Bradford, Arnoldo García

Winter brings chilly weather and a few miserably cold days. Sidle up to the penetrating warmth, be it from nostalgia, fury, frustration, rage. Five voices sing. Relax, absorb, enjoy.

Who Cares? By Nephtalí De León
MORNING POST By John Martinez
Three in Five By Leticia Garcia Bradford
Xiricahua By Arnoldo García

Who Cares?
By Nephtalí De León

I stumble in the dark
no light, not a spark,
I look for water in my sink
there’s nothing to drink
no water in my shower
no water in my toilet my heart sinks…
seawaves all around me
but not a drop to drink

you’d think we were
in the middle
of the middle ages but it’s 2017, 21st Century,
we got no power for anything
no refrigerator, no food,
every day I wonder what
and where I’m going to eat
no gas, no stove,
no electricity,
no home

do you hear me?
and the yellow thing
that lying pervert yellow thing
that some people call
the president of the united states
says we can’t keep fema
or first respondents there
only 16 years plus
in Afghanistan to make war
never declared by congress
or anyone else...
who cares about saving lives
Puerto Rican lives

Nephtalí De León es poeta, pintor, escritor, muralista, dramaturgo, screenwriter, anteriormente trabajador migrante de campo. Su educación formal llegó hasta high school, rechazando todo estudio formal más alto como arma de colonización, y eurocéntrica. Buscó sus raíces entre los pueblos humildes y trabajadores de America (USA). Escribe para todas edades, desde niños y niñas hasta niveles universitarios, y frecuenteménte ilustra sus obras. Ha sido publicado en Mexico, Estados Unidos, Francia, España y China. Su poesía se ha traducido a 12 idiomas: Arabe, Ruso, Chino, Francés, Catalán, Vietnamés, Portugués…

Vocero, no por, sino con su pueblo, se auto-denomína, Chicano de Aztlan, nación colonizada por lo que el llama “Euro-ilegales”– alien Euro illegals. Se dice haber nacido y crecido en el exilio interno de su tierra, invadida y colonizada, nación de Aztlan.

By John Martinez

There was a time, when we were all shirtless in summer, our brown skin smooth over perfect, well-tuned muscles. We were like Salamanders; faster than fish, quicker than a snake in the water. Our world was a field, in the back of a Project home, where the Government stopped building; the line of the Bermuda, sprouted wild strands of weed, dandelion, wild palm. When we crossed that line, we fell off the Government radar, their clean pressed workers, would never find us, in a fox hole, in the center of the field, toking on "dank," the powder that was left in the empty baggy we found, in our big brother's sock drawer. And as an older man, now moving into my Salt 'n Pepper age, where everything has now become like an institution; my medical insurance, investment, pending retirement. I am on a regimen, my time guided by an iPhone calendar, even my dinner dates with Rosa...All calendared...Everything is so systematic. It has always been my belief, even as a young boy, that I would have to do this to survive. And I did. And so, I go back, to when time worked itself on us. It was sporadic, unpredictable. One day, we would shoot arrows into the air, until one of us almost got killed, and then we shot them into an old tree stump. Animals changed our days. Sometimes, we'd chase a possum that managed to travel to us by way of the wash, a shallow ditch that ran east, emptying into a reservoir, surrounded by a chain link fence. We would chase the little bastard until we got tired or until he managed to wiggle under the chain link door. I go back, because we all have a place in ourselves, that was exploding with wonder. This place, so unlike our present lives, becomes something, particularly precious, something special to us. So, like myself, I believe we all reel back, in some ways. But what I learned from this, is that I should never believe that my time is gone, and that the only thing relevant, or real, is the present. I love the present; Rosa, my children, my grandchildren, this big family of mine. If you knew me, personally, you would know, that backyard parties at my house is my specialty. Part of writing down memory and sharing it, is like blowing life back into it, recovering what was once, perfectly alive, and making it, forever. There is a great loneliness, yet liberation, when you understand that everything you do, is an attempt to bring back what you have done, as it is the only gear you possess, that will move you into the future. Our stories, our lives, our childhood, even this time, which is now the time passed, when I began this post, is essentially, that which makes us who we are, now, and in our future.

John Martinez has published poetry in several journals, including, LA WEEKLY, EL TECOLOTE, Red Trapeze. This will be his 17th poem published in LA BLOGA. Martinez studied creative writing in the early 80's at Fresno State University under former U.S., Poet Laureate Phillip Levine. For the last 30 years he has worked as an Administrator for a Los Angeles Law Firm and has recently completed his long-awaited manuscript of 60 poems entitled PLACES, which will be published by IZOTE Press.

By George Wallace

francis scott key waves his red white and blue suede shoes and sings o beautiful for spacious skies, o what a morning burning with stars and money and plenty of gunpowder

a single jaundiced eye surveys the seven seas, there is no other ocean for us, we own them all, let freedom ring, surrender dorothy this is your captain speaking

paul bunyan takes an axe and crushes everything he sees; elvis grabs a lo-jack and cruises time square in heroin dawn - you can't take that away from me no no

and trayvon had skittles and the cop had a gun

and we’re keeping the poor folk down in freedomland & you want me to salute that? look me straight in the eye, tell me straight to my face you don’t know how much you and your kind have stole

even if I love you dan'l webster and the way you put your pants on one leg at a time and outtalk the devil

even if I love you henry david thoreau and the way you won't pay for war on mexico and canoe the merrimack

even you margaret fuller boring as a cruise ship even you ralph waldo emerson holier than thou and johnny appleseed (tinpot capitalist) and oliver wendell holmes (autocrat of the breakfast table)

and walt whitman and walt whitman, chest hairs waving in the magnanimous sun, free as an elevated railway that's jumped its track, walt whitman whistling with sweat and incubating groovy ideas for a nation with no ideas of its own

this is the sweet smell of allegory in the morning, and flowers are napalm and automotive parts are rainbows, and america is a rusty shopping cart hauling veterans to the walmart parade

and miracles fall from rooftops like wall street suicides, and rich men give birth to tennis courts, and women giving birth to each other

and children will always be children and innocent in the bittersweet chapel of jarring citizenship

and an immigrant organ grinder making a lonely buck on a lonely streetcorner

organ grinding, organ grinding, organ grinding -- there, i said it three times -- a sweet, impractical, tubular, enigmatic american freedom song

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, first poet laureate of the National Beat Poetry Festival, author of 31 chapbooks of poetry and winner of the 2017 Naim Frasheri international poetry prize. A writer of celebration and witness, he has contributed his voice to human rights issues since the 1960s, when he was an outspoken generational critic of the Vietnam war. Since that time he has been active in a range of social justice issues, and interfaced with such figures as Cindy Sheehan, Germaine Greer, Martin Espada, Jesus-Papoleto Melendez and Naomi Shihab Nye. In 2016 George's poem May Day Is Not The Day was included in the SB 1070 anthology Poetry of Resistance. This is his third appearance in La Bloga.

Three in Five
By Leticia Garcia Bradford

After dinner time
Here I have something for you
In the warmth of the sleeping bag
Here I have something for you
Pink frilly baby doll pajamas
Here I have something for you
What's the stats?
One in five Two in five

Sad shock
It's three in five
Innocence taken away
With mistrust and abuse
Innocence never to be given back
Innocence it's my fault

The wall breaks down again

Drugs alcohol food sex religion
Anything to dull the pain
Of the scars left behind
The wounds that won't heal
The years pass on
The buried past
Still emerges like an earthquake
From deep beneath the surface
Still trying to make peace
Of innocence gone
Only to reemerge in unwise choices

Leticia Garcia Bradford performs her stories and poems at open mics and readings around the SF Bay Area. She founded B Street Writers Collective (BSWC) in Hayward, CA. She is published in various local and national journals. She edited BSWC’s anthology FLY WITH ME which she is, also, the publisher for MoonShine Star Co. Check out her blogs: MY NEW ADVENTURE at, and LETICIA’S BLOG at

By Arnoldo García

The prisoner of wars
Unbraids the ancestors
Unafraid of the imperial cage
She is free wherever she stands
She dreams us whenever she feels alone
She holds her left hand against her rib cage
Feels life defeat death
Feels freedom disentangle herself from the settler
She looks past us
she sees us where she will be
when the prisons and the forced marches are dust
And we rejoin her
Rebraiding horizons into her unbraided self
Prisoner of wars of liberation
Dream keeper of our struggle...

Arnoldo García is a culture-maker, community organizer and poet living in Oakland, California. He recently edited and published "Poets against War & Racism | Poetas contra la guerra y el racismo," a poetry chapbook featuring five poets writing in Spanish and English, available at:
Some of his work is available at: and

Monday, November 13, 2017

‘Sin preámbulos, Without Preamble’ published by Spartan Press

‘Sin preámbulos, Without Preamble’ published by Spartan Press

Aquí enterré mi corazón
Ulula, viento, espárceme.

Here I buried my heart.
Howl, wind, scatter me.

Prospero’s Books, in association with Spartan Press and the Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s, is proud to present the 36th book of the Prospero’s POP Poetry Series: Sin Preámbulos / Without Preamble by Xánath Caraza, translated by Sandra Kingery, Spartan Press, 2017.

What?  When?  And, where?  Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble is released on Sunday, December 3, at Prospero’s Books, 1800 W 39th St., Kansas City, MO. Doors open and sign-up for the Open-Mic begin at 5 p.m.  Soon after at 5:30, our Open-Mic begins; make plans to be there.  At 6, Xánath reads and has a book signing afterward.  A $10 cover at the door provides you with your own personal copy of this bilingual book of poetry.

Sin preámbulos

Violeta es la mañana
sin preámbulos

se filtra la luz
en las grietas

se escurre el delirio
en los pétalos

saetas de color rompen
la superficie que tocan

tiñe aurora los recuerdos
polícroma melodía

violeta fue la luz
se desvanece

con la brisa
ráfaga de fuego

tiempo violeta
delinea la partida

tic-tac, tic-tac
tic-tac, tic-tac

Without Preamble

Violet is the morning
without preamble

light filtering
through crevasses

delirium sliding
down petals

colored arrows broaching
the surfaces they touch

polychrome melody
tinting memories dawn

violet was the light
it dissipates

with the breeze
bursts of flame

violet time
delineates the departure

tick-tock, tick-tock
tick-tock, tick-tock

Xánath Caraza es viajera, educadora, poeta y narradora. Es columnista de La Bloga, Smithsonian Latino Center, Periódico de Poesía y Revista Literaria Monolito.  Sus poemarios son Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble, Lágrima roja, Le sillabe del vento, Donde la luz es violeta / Where the Light is Violet, Tinta negra / Black Ink, Ocelocíhuatl, Sílabas de viento / Syllables of Wind, Noche de colibríes, Corazón pintado, Conjuro, su libro de relatos, Lo que trae la marea / What the Tide Brings y su segunda colección de relatos, Pulsación, está en proceso.

Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet and short story writer.  She is a columnist of La Bloga, Smithsonian Latino Center, Periódico de Poesía and Revista Literaria Monolito.  Her books are Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble, Lágrima roja, Le sillabe del vento, Donde la luz es violeta / Where the Light is Violet, Tinta negra / Black Ink, Ocelocíhuatl, Sílabas de viento / Syllables of Wind, Noche de colibríes, Corazón pintado, Conjuro, her short story collection, Lo que trae la marea / What the Tide Brings and her second short story collection, Pulsación, is in progress.