Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alienation: Science Fiction as Xicana/o State of Being

A couple of years ago, I posted a reference to a La Bloga piece by Ernesto Hogan in which he muses satirically on the futurism of 2013, post-Maya-2012. His claim in that piece that "Chicano is a sci-fi state of being" captured my attention, at least in part, because I had only recently finished the remade Battlestar Galactica (2004) series, featuring Edward James Olmos as Captain/Commander Bill Adama, and I was very taken with the idea of doing a Xicanoized/Indigenized reading of that sci-fi series. I still am.

While my ideas on the topic are not fully fleshed out yet, I hope to use these next few blog posts to get a bit closer. In this post, BSG kinda gets lost as I try to sort through some of the ideas of alienness, alienation, futurity, and science fiction that come to bear on the idea that, actually, the converse of Hogan's claim is more accurate: science fiction is a Xican@, or better, Borderlands state of being.

Hogan's 2013 post references an earlier essay on Mondo Ernesto  in which he explains the claim that "Chicano is a Science Fiction State of Being" in greater detail. While he gets pretty loose with some of his claims--the Chicano Movement is "in imitation of the Black Power Movement"?!--he concludes that
Here in the Twenty-First Century, globalization is making Chicanos of us all. The interface between you and your world is volatile and unstable -- a recombocultural witch's brew out of which bubbles brave new mutations and abominations. If you want an example, just look into a mirror. (2009)
Hogan suggests that a recognition of "Chicano" as a mixture of cultures might be best understood not as a "melting pot" or even a bicultural mestizaje, but rather through the science fiction lens of technological mutation, hybridization, cybernetics, and, of course, alienness. Xican@s know, however, that this lens, while perhaps questioning what the future will bring, emerges from our past and present. Our daily encounters with colonization--the subtext for much if not all science fiction--have colored our frames of mind and modes of consciousness.

Indeed, in her "Preface to the First Edition" of Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza Consciousness, Gloria AnzaldĂșa writes, complementing Hogan,
Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one's shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an "alien" element. There is an exhilaration in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being "worked" on. I have the sense that certain "faculties"--not just in me but in every border resident, colored or non-colored--and dormant areas of consciousness are being activated, awakened. Strange, huh? And yes, the "alien" element has become familiar--never comfortable, not with society's clamor to uphold the old, to rejoin the flock, to go with the herd. No, not comfortable but home. (19, 1987/1999)
Developing la facultad results in a heightened critical perception of matrices of power as they interface with networks of difference and otherness/Otherness. At the same time, la facultad, or what Chela Sandoval (2000) calls "differential consciousness," is sustained by an embrace of mystery, of the alien element. In other words, the "faculties" Anzaldua describes here result from an inherited experience: that of living through multiple colonizations, occupations, competing nationalisms, and alien economies that have given rise to a surreal situation in which the indigenous heirs of the Americas are referred to as "aliens" and "illegal."

Science fiction as a genre is similarly preoccupied with the kinds of psychological states that arise out of these same experiences. Yet sci-fi also maintains a certain "attitude" toward these trends that, according to Bruce F. Kawin, distinguishes sci-fi as a genre from horror. In "Children of the Light" Kawin explains that even though horror and sci-fi contain many of the same semantic elements--e.g., aliens, monsters, cyborgs, etc.--the difference between the genres is in their syntactic approach to the representation of each shared element. Specifically, the fear of the alien or non-human elements in horror emerges from its orientation "toward the restoration of the status quo rather than toward any permanent opening" (335). Sci-fi, as opposed to horror at least, tends to be more open to the possibility of how difference and alienness can open up to new future possibilities. Kawin concludes that
[h]orror and science fiction, then, are different because of their attitudes toward curiosity and the openness of systems, and comparable in that both tend to organize themselves around some confrontation between an unknown and a would-be knower. (335)
Extending this idea to a conception of historicity, horror as a genre sees history as an accretion of incidents "from which," in the words of Paolo Freire, "the present should emerge normalized and 'well-behaved'" (92). In order to maintain the norms and behaviors of today, any alienness must be overcome. Science fiction, by contrast, views and listens for history in the making, recognizing the power of dissolving and transgressing borders to increase understanding of another/an Other as a way of co-creating a future together.

This orientation toward openness and possibility does not preclude struggle; indeed, it is founded on the idea that collective will, imagination, and reflection will always entail some form of labor and conflict. This science fiction foundation is what, to my mind, opens BSG to a Xicanoized reading: throughout there is a sense of receptiveness to how the future may be co-created between Human and Cylon for mutual survival. This sense of critical awareness of possibility, this open orientation to the labor of co-creation of culture similarly emerges from Borderlands spaces and psychological borderlands, borderlands of consciousness. Thus, sci-fi represents a Xican@ state of being.

More on BSG and Xican@s/Latin@s/Hispanics in countercultures to come. This is pretty fun.

Postscript: I realize that writing about science fiction as a Xican@ state of being might lead some to conclude that my argument sympathizes with those of, for instance, the A&E program Ancient Aliens. However, the philosophy that our antepasados, our ancestors, may have been aliens or may have been in contact with aliens doesn't accurately reflect the kind of consciousness I'm referring to: extraterrestrials, in their readings of much ancient cosmology, eliminate mystery. Aliens become the transparent answer to deeply mysterious spiritual questions and sacred practices, the power of which exists in their mainstream opacity.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Costs of "Postponing" Ethnic Studies in Texas

In my last post, I included some actions people could take to encourage members of the State Board of Education to vote to approve a Mexican American Studies course and curriculum for the elementary and secondary levels in Texas. In April 2014, the board compromised by passing a proclamation, Proclamation 2016, that would support the development of ethnic studies topics courses in social studies as well as the development of textbooks and materials for African American, Native American, Asian American, and Mexican American studies courses.

This week, the board has pulled a fast one by voting in favor of an amendment proposed by member Thomas Ratliffe to "postpone" development of those materials, a major blow and what many among those who organized in support of enriching education in Tejas saw as sabotage of the original proclamation and vote. As mi colega, Tony "El Librotraficante" Diaz has phrased it, the State Board is "pulling the rug" out from under Texas students. And many are comparing the acts of the board to the ethnocentrism at work in Arizona in its banning of ethnic studies in 2011.

Indeed, for me personally it's hard to divorce this decision from racially-tinged ideological motives at work in the state. But I'm also an impassioned Chicana advocate of Chican@ studies, with ethnically- and racially-tinged ideological motives of my own. Pues, a veces la verdad duele.  So, I started to ask the question: what are the actual costs to Texas and Texans of failing to provide a culturally relevant elementary and secondary education to our students? I found many answers in a 2008 Workforce Report from Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs.

After a careful analysis of, by now well-known, demographic trends in Texas, the report analyzes the impact of the absence of culturally relevant education for young Texans, especially Latin@s and African Americans, who tend to drop out of high school at higher rates. The report finds:

 . . . The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reported that Hispanics and blacks accounted for about 54 percent of the population aged 15 to 34 in Texas in 2007, but on 39 percent of the state's higher education students in Fall 2007. One way to increase overall educational attainment in Texas is to raise participation among Hispanic and black students in postsecondary education, in both two-year and four-year institutions.  ("Demographic Change and Education" 13)
Indeed, these findings motivated the Closing the Gaps and Achieving the Dream initiatives in the THECB, but the 2008 workforce report goes on to remind readers that programs in higher education can only go so far when those students needed to close achievement gaps and become skilled members of the Texas workforce aren't even graduating from high school. Although the report predicts that "[i]f the State Data Center's 'high-growth' scenario plays out," which it has continued to do at an even faster pace than predicted, "Hispanics will make up 58.7 percent of the state work force in 2040, more than twice their share in 2000" (14). Thus,
Because this portion of the state's population is growing rapidly, a larger percentage of the Texas workforce -- 30.1 percent -- will have no high school diploma by 2040, compared to 18.8 percent in 2000, if current trends continue. The State Data Center also expects the percentage of high school graduates in Texas to fall slightly, from 29 percent in 2000 to 28.7 percent by 2040. (14)
And here's the kicker, the part the SBOE should really be paying attention to, the part that needs more attention and media coverage by Texans, regardless of ideological motivation:

 And if policy in Texas limits high school educational options, it could exacerbate these trends, causing more students to lose interest and drop out of school. (14, emphasis mine)

 As we know, policy in Texas, with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, reducing funding for schools while enlarging budgets for publishing compaines and test-making factories, and diluting the cultural relevance of the curriculum, has continued to limit high school options. But again, what are the stakes of these policy/political moves? To understand that, we have to recognize that all policy implications have a human face and human desires. Thus, the report continues,
While students drop out for many different reasons, a recent survey for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that nearly half of dropouts surveyed (47 percent) said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting. (15, emphasis mine)
Educators in Mexican American Studies know this first-hand because we hear time and again in our classes that students never knew of the contributions of our people to American history, to Tejas history, to the arts, to the medical professions, to the rich history of entrepreneurs in this country. Once they see their lives reflected in our classes, they become not just interested but invested. Why would the school board want to delay such an important investment, which is not just a human investment but an economic one? Once again, the 2008 Workforce report clarifies the impact that an impoverished education will have on the future of Texas:
Unless Texas increases the average educational attainment levels of its non-Anglo populations, our future labor force will be less educated than today's. This means that workers will earn less and have fewer skills, and business will find it increasingly difficult to hire and retain qualified applicants. If the Texas economy is to continue to thrive, this downward spiral of decreasing educational levels, a less educated work force and fewer skilled job seekers must be reversed. (15-16)
Those of you who access the report and read it more fully will clearly see that the calls in this report are for the strengthening of workforce and career training programs, which may make it appear as though I'm cherry-picking data. Quite the contrary. Although I am one of those acknowledged in the report as an advocate for academic programs in higher education in order to sustain the civil society that undergirds and parallels the political economy, what the report demonstrates through this data is that it really doesn't matter whether students seek a workforce or academic route in post-secondary education if they're not even receiving an enriching and culturally relevant elementary and secondary education.

The question that the Texas electorate needs to be asking of SBOE members and policymakers at large is: why wouldn't we want to implement--and even fast-track--a culturally-relevant curriculum for Texas students?

As frequently happens in political decisions motivated by ideology and ethnocentrism, cost was identified as the biggest factor in the decision to postpone the approved ethnic studies materials. But we should all be asking ourselves and our legislators, what are the bigger costs, not just to students but to all tax-paying and voting Texans, of continuing to impoverish our students' education?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Focando 2014: MAS y MAS y Mas

NACCS-Tejas 2014 @ Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas
The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco conference always leaves me regenerated intellectually, politically, and spiritually, and this year's conference even more-so than in previous years.

This year, much of the work of the conference focused on the gains that Mexican American Studies has made in Texas and the progress we have yet to make. In particular, although Mexican American Studies seems to be surviving budget cuts, threats of program termination, and frequent misunderstanding of the nature of the field in higher education, there is a growing recognition of the grave need for MAS courses in K-12 public education in a state with a Latino population of almost 40%. The rewards of the continued struggle for Chicano Studies in Texas can be seen in the success of programs like UTPA's revamped Mexican American Studies degree programs and the recognition of UT-Austin's and University of Houston's centers for Mexican American Studies as national leaders in the field as well as the growth of MAS programs in 2-year colleges across the state (e.g., South Texas College in McAllen, Palo Alto College in San Anto, and HCC in Houston). In addition to continuing to grow these programs, a fundamental part of la lucha is expanding the reach of Chicano Studies into K-12 public education.

Que Podemos Hacer Ahorita? / What Can We Do Now?

The approach discussed at the conference is multi-pronged. One effort, widely publicized by mi colega en Houston, Tony "El Librotraficante" Diaz, has been to turn to the state legislature and the Texas State Board of Education to get a Mexican American Studies course as an optional offering at the K-12 level. To move this forward, we need to pressure the Chair of the SBOE, Barbara Cargill (R-Woodlands), to move MAS from a "Discussion Item" to an "Action Item" for their next board meeting on April 9th, 2014.

Right Now, You Can . . .

Call and email your SBOE representatives and Barbara Cargill herself to move MAS to an "Action Item." The NACCS Tejas Foco Committee for Mexican American Studies Pre-K to 12 has initiated a two-week "E-mail and Call-In Campaign" that began on March 17th and lasts until March 31st. Feel free to contact me if you want the name and contact info for your SBOE rep. Then, on Monday, April 7th, we're having a "Day of Action," in which we ask that everyone call and email their individual SBOE reps and email all 15 representatives at sboesupport at tea dot state dot tx dot us. Now and on April 7th, you can use this address and type "To All Texas State Board of Education Members" in the body of the email so that they will all receive it.

Finally, if you want to testify at the April 9th SBOE meeting in Austin, individuals may register on the website or by fax between 8am on Friday through 5pm on Monday prior to the board meeting; or, in person or by telephone between 8am and 5pm Friday or Monday with the appropriate agency office. Register at:   http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=25769804082

You can also sign this Change.org petition in support of Mexican American Studies.

Unsure what to say?

You can adapt language such as this to your own circumstances:
My name is Lydia French, and I am Director of Mexican American/Latino Studies and instructor of English at Houston Community College - Central in Houston, Texas. I am calling/writing to let you know that I support the integration of Mexican American Studies in Texas schools from Pre-K to 12th grade, and I am asking you to urge Barbara Cargill to move Mexican American Studies from a Discussion Item to an Action Item at the April 9th SBOE meeting so that Texas can begin developing a curriculum for a high school course in Mexican American Studies. Thank you.
(Gracias a Juan Tejeda of Palo Alto College for this language.)

If you're a parent or a student, you should definitely include your own experiences and understandings of the benefits such a course would offer. If you're in Houston Independent School District in particular, you should also feel free to use some of the following statistics:

  • Houston ISD is the largest school district in the state, and it has a 61.9% Hispanic student population.
  • Standardized test results show HISD consistently below state averages
  • Scores and retention rates of Hispanic students are consistently lower than those of other ethnicities and generally at about the same rate as those of economically disadvantaged students of any ethnicity
These data suggest that our Latino/Chicano students are experiencing an impoverishment of education. But our students' educational experiences can be enriched through the incorporation of MAS into the K-12 curriculum.

Myself, Dr. Grisel Cano of HCC Southeast, Tony Diaz of Lone Star College North Harris, Stalina Villarreal of HCC SE and Lorenzo Cano of University of Houston

Y Mas . . .

Now, despite the numbers we all know what we're up against in this fight to get a vote on MAS in K-12. But there is work that we, and specifically, I can do now to work on getting Mexican American/Latino Studies into the high schools. My own lucha at home has been to work with the high schools with which Central is affiliated to get dual credit students into our MAS courses (including MA History, MA Literature, Intro to MAS, and other courses). Of the high schools that work with Central, the statistics reflect the need for students to be more engaged and to see themselves more reflected in their coursework, which is one of the aspects of ethnic studies that makes it so successful.

Mi colega, Grisel Cano at HCC Southeast, has already successfully established MAS in some of the schools affiliated with her college, and she and I are sharing resources to expand the scope of our dual credit offerings. I'll update more on the struggle and (hopefully) successes of the dual credit project as I can. Currently, I'm in the early stages of working through the various levels of any kind of work dealing with multiple bureaucracies, but my goal is to enroll more dual credit students into our courses by Fall 2014.


Monday, September 16, 2013

El Mes de la Herencia Latina 2013

My, what a difference a year makes. Just last year at this time, I felt afloat and bewildered in the vast Houston Chican@ landscape. This year, by contrast, though certainly still finding my way and making connections poco a poco I am much more at home in both the Houston and HCC Chican@ culture-scapes as evidenced by my organizing role in Central's Hispanic Heritage Month events.

One significant difference, of course, is that we have now officially launched our Mexican American/Latino Studies program. The courses are off to a strong start, and we're building student and faculty interest. That the program's launch dovetails with Hispanic Heritage Month right at the beginning of the fall semester helps to publicize both the program and our celebration of Latina/o culture. 

First, we already kicked off the month early with Zumba in the Street at Central's club day--it was awesome! Here's just a little taste:

I was definitely gettin' in there and dancing while "working" the Mexican American/Latino Students' Association table. I'm hooked on zumba now; one of the dancers/instructors at Zumba in the Street offers a free weekly zumba lesson that I will definitely be taking advantage of from now on!

Tomorrow, September 17th, we're thrilled to present the musical stylings of Alex Cuba, who's kicking off his US tour at Central! To start the program off, we're also excited to award the Eagle Award to MECA-Houston, marking the first time that an Eagle Award has been given to a Latina/o community organization. MECA does amazing work in Sixth Ward and throughout Houston, really, as it offers arts and music classes and counseling to youth of the Houston community. My older son attended the MECA summer day camp this summer, and he absolutely fell in love with it. Sometimes when he's standing in line or waiting for the bus, I'll catch him practicing his ballet folklorico moves from the summer.

Later in the month, we're hosting a unique panel of "Houston's Finest," Latina/o first responders who have documented their experiences in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction formats. The panel will feature Houston poet and police officer, Sarah Cortez as well as Hipolito Acosta, who has written about his experiences in the INS, border patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security in his new book Shadow Catcher: A U.S. Agent Infiltrates Mexico's Deadly Crime Cartels, and recently-published novelist, Chris Hernandez, a 19-year police officer and 24-year veteran of the Marine Reserve and Army National Guard. I think this panel offers great opportunities for our students, but I'm more eager to hear what each of these speakers thinks of our program in Mexican American/Latino Studies and, perhaps, about MAS programs in general.

We may have other events in the works for later in the semester, but currently our last event is one that I'm really excited about. We've partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to take a tour of their exhibit of José Guadalupe Posada's calaveras prints and participate in a papel picado activity! Special thanks to the folks at MFAH, who really went out of their way to make this event possible.

I'll end here with an image from last year's HH post, when the fam and I only found one local event, a small celebration at the Houston Public Library. Doy gracias a tod@s aqui en Houston quienes me han ayudada y apoyada. ¡Adelante!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Reading

For many academics, our breaks--winter break, spring break, summer break--are sacred reading times. We finally get to remove ourselves from grading, course reading, and committee work (sometimes) and read for pleasure or research, which for me is frequently the same thing.

This winter break, I first picked up William Germano's From Dissertation to Book, which I loved. I flew through it, finishing it in about a day, mostly because I recognized myself in its pages, which was heartening. Germano's book motivated me to set up a revision schedule, but it also got me thinking about my manuscript in really productive ways.

With the new project on my mind, I then picked up The Popul Vuh (Dennis Tedlock's revised and updated edition, 1996) and a book I'd been wanting/needing to read for a while, Pat Mora's House of Houses (1997). I suspect that sometimes the universe and our antepasados speak to us through books; the combination of these two books confirms my suspicions.

I have to admit that I found House of Houses a bit slow at first. I tried really hard to relate to the details of Mora's family history, but I found myself wanting more from my precious winter break reading. After I picked up (and couldn't put down) The Popul Vuh, I realized an important connection between the two texts: both trace spiritual and familial lineages. By writing her family's history as she does--weaving together, over the course of a solar year, the different lineages and events that form each generation and especially by privileging saints' days--Mora continues a centuries-old indigenous Mexican written tradition. In precolonial and colonial Mixtec, Mayan, and Aztec-Mexica amoxtli (books, codices), deeds and lineages were written to celebrate powerful families and important historical and spiritual events. Continuing this indigenous American literary tradition, Mora thus elevates her ancianos y antepasados to the level of the sacred.

Fascinating. I'm grateful that The Popul Vuh could light my way to a better understanding of and interest in Mora's work.

Part of my own project is in tracing these kinds of continuities between early indigenous Mexican writing traditions and contemporary Native and Chican@ writing. But that focus is coupled with an emphasis on the representations of sound and listening in literature, both ancient and contemporary. Thus, I was really drawn to Mora's incorporation (in the sense of bringing into the text as well as in the sense of embodiment) of sound and listening in House of Houses. For Mora, memories of songs sung, whistled, and hummed by her tias y abuelos combine with her own efforts to listen intently to her ancestors. She writes, for instance:
Voices weave through bare branches. I write what I hear, my inheritance a luxury, the generation with time to record the musings of turtles, the poetics of cactus, the stoicism of stones, the voices from the interior of this family house, la casa de casas (45).
For Mora, listening is creative in the most literal sense of that word. Listening enables her to reconstitute the lives of her ancestors, some generations removed from her life and memory. Listening in this sense is thus not necessarily material, though sometimes it is motivated by material artifacts like songs and letters, missals and flowers. Rather, listening is spiritual here. In listening to/for her ancestors, she re-embodies them in the text. She gives them a new literary life; they are born again in her words.

This may be another connection between House of Houses and the Popul Vuh, though it's one not yet fully fledged in my thinking.

In the Popul Vuh, I was disappointed to find few references to sound or listening. Most of the metaphors are visual, relating sight to knowledge and wisdom. Thus, the creators and the first humans are said to be able to see "everything under the sky perfectly." When the humans are made, then, the Book says, "They understood everything perfectly, they sighted the four sides, the four corners in the sky, on the earth" (147). This becomes a problem because the humans cannot, like their creators, have perfect knowledge, which is what these sight metaphors mean. Eventually the creators dim their vision so that humans can only see near rather than "near and far."

However, there is one reference to the ear that I find fascinating, though, again, what follows is merely speculative. At one point, Tohil, the god of the first Quiche men--Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar--tells them:
"It remains for you to give thanks, since you have yet to take care of your bleeding ears, yet to take stitches in your elbows. You must worship. This is your way of giving thanks before your god."
Dennis Tedlock clarifies that this reference to ears and elbows is punning on the words xikin (ear) and tz'ikin (bird, but also slang for penis) as well as ch'uk (elbow) and  ch'uq (breechcloth). In other words, penitence and praising would come in the form of bleeding one's penis. What I wonder, though, is about this pun on ear and penis. I have a hypothesis that it may suggest a relationship between listening and masculinity that comes to bear on an important and dynamic philosophy at the heart of the Popul Vuh: the sowing and the dawning.

I won't pretend that I fully understand the metaphor of the sowing and the dawning; instead, I'll let Dennis Tedlock explain how it links cosmic creation and the daily creation of the sun with human development and birth as well as the planting and flowering of crops. Tedlock has this to say in his introduction:
These two groups [gods of the primordial sea and gods of the primordial sky] engage in a dialogue, and in the course of it they conceive the emergence of the earth from the water and the growth of plants and people on its surface. They wish to set in motion a process they call the "sowing" and "dawning," by which they mean several different things at once. There is the sowing of seeds in the earth, whose sprouting will be their dawning, and there is the sowing of the sun, moon, and stars, whose difficult passage beneath the earth will be followed by their own dawning. Then there is the matter of human beings, whose sowing in the womb will be followed by their emergence into the light at birth, and whose sowing in the earth at death will be followed by dawning when their souls become sparks of light in the darkness.
 Given the role of the male sex organ in the sowing of human life in the womb and the linguistic relationship--pun--between ear and penis, I wonder if there is, in Quiche Mayan understandings, a relationship between listening as a kind of sowing that then dawns in thought, which, for the Quiche, is inherently productive/creative/generative.

Again, this hypothesis is entirely speculative, but it works in a deconstructive, intertextual kind of way, particularly in light of (pun intended) the use to which Pat Mora puts listening in House of Houses. Listening for the ancestors as a means of bringing them to the light of the text.

I'm not sure yet whether either of these two readings will make it into the manuscript, but both have been really influential on my thinking and approach to the diss revisions I'm now undertaking. I'm using this spring semester to slog through the dissertation revisions so that I can then begin the exciting work of writing new material in the summer. So keep on the lookout for the spring break and summer reading installments!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Magical Realism In/And Historical Fiction

This weekend I got to see one of my favorite authors, Luis Alberto Urrea, who's on tour promoting the paperback edition of his novel Queen of America, the sequel to The Hummingbird's Daughter. I've seen Urrea a few times before in Austin; he's an amazing speaker and consummate storyteller. Each time I hear him, he tells a story that sends chills down my spine and/or raises goosebumps on my arms.

Luis y yo at Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

This time, speaking at the Brazos Bookstore in Houston, he said something about magical realism that I just have to share. First, a little background: The Hummingbird's Daughter and Queen of America are both about Urrea's tia, Teresita, the Saint of Cabora. For those unfamiliar with the novels or with la santa, Teresita was/is una curandera, a healer. In The Hummingbird's Daughter, Teresita apprentices as a midwife and learns to "fly" across space and time; she dies and is resurrected; and she heals all manner of debilitating illnesses with a simple touch. She also preaches a gospel of love that launches an indigenous revolution which feeds into the Mexican Revolution.

While Hummingbird's Daughter focuses on the life of young Teresita in Mexico, Queen of America is about her life in exile in the United States. Both are what you might call "historical fiction." As Urrea related on Saturday, this designation of historical fiction threatened the depiction of Teresita's milagros when, during the editorial process, many of those depictions were being cut on the basis that they were so much "magical realism."

Urrea's response was what really got me. He said that really things like what kind of clothes the characters wore or what a house or room looked like were the magical realism; those are the things he had to make up, to imaginatively invent.

The miracles and the healing--those, he said, are the real history. The miracles and "magic" stayed in. Way to go, homes!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

La Bloga: Chicanonautica: A Chicano Writer in Arizona, 2013 ...

La Bloga: Chicanonautica: A Chicano Writer in Arizona, 2013 ...: by Ernest Hogan Here we are, the year 2013. Are we futuristic yet? What’s a Chicano writer to do in this new spacetime configuration...

Best line is: "I still say Chicano is a sci-fi state of being"! Orale, Ernest.