Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Whelmed By PST:LA/LA. Hurry Up, Please, There's Time To See A Lot



Magulandia Stops Time in Pacific Standard Time Exhibition
Michael Sedano

I wish I knew what Southern California did to deserve PST:LA/LA (link), so we could do more of it. Some possible answers: Maybe it’s a reward for being a sensible electorate. Maybe it’s global warming. Maybe it’s beyond fathoming.

Ni modo. The Getty Foundation, among the world’s richest-endowed museums, recognized it didn’t want to continue being an outpost of European civilization planted on the American west coast. Located in the heart of a region whose aesthetic character is sharply defined by its Latino and Latin American culturas, except in the fine arts, the Getty decided to open big doors to raza arte.

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA represents a multimillion dollar investment into the local art community. With PST:LA/LA Getty offers its Los Angeles regional audience a spiritedly intensive survey of Latin American arte with emphasis on Chicanarte.

Per the Getty’s P.R. for PST:LA/LA:
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (PST: LA/LA) is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, which takes place from Sept. 2017 through Jan. 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America. 

You can see a list of all the grants awarded to LA/LA by the Getty Foundation at the organization’s website at this link.

Vitrine at Magulandia
With Fall a season of plenty, PST:LA/LA fits right in. From Ventura to Irvine, from the Westside to the East Side, PST:LA/LA’s cup runs over with some of the best events ever to happen for Chicana and Chicano artists, among numerous artists from both Americas. Dozens of Chicana and Chicano artists will find not only deserving audiences but also access to established art marketplaces, where museums and collectors go when they acquire work. Chacun à son goût and budget time, gente.

So many events, so little time. The first week of PST:LA/LA I was able to join two widely dispersed events. The week started down in Orange County. There was no way I would not attend the opening reception at UC Irvine for Aztlán to Magulandia: the Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert ‘Magu’ Luján.  Magu is a good friend and I miss him, qepd.

In a different way, there are lots of reasons to attend the opening reception in Camarillo, California up in Ventura County of El Museo de Historia, Arte Y Cultura Latina Revistado (1995-2000), featuring work by Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Oscar Castillo, and Leo Limón. And that was it for me and my camera the first week of PST:LA/LA.

These, plus all the events I missed last week and am going to miss next week, have continuous runs, so visitors can plan leisurely visits strolling galleries, taking time as each piece deserves. Many are near enough to one another that visiting several can be an all day art holiday for familia or a group of compañeras and compañeros.

Vitrines and walls at UCI Magulandia

A reception is a time to become the audience the artists painted for. Taking in a work that resonates brings a reaffirmation of one’s sense of cultural space. By triangulating the spirit of the event with the arte and one’s own spirit, the experience renews while it excites the soul. The wine and gluten-filled foods offer a measure of value, too. It is “A” list treats for Getty-granted events.


The artist’s spirit attended. Magu totally dug the excitement, the energy, all his friends who showed up, and the attention to detail UCI devotes to his career retrospective.
Cameras are ubiquitous, as are reminiscing people, laughing up a storm while others concentrate on a work.

UCI's marketing materials are deluxe. A postcard, a full-color 8-page gallery guide, a button saying “There will be an orange dog hugging a man,” a top-notch web page, a detailed lList of Works. The curators, Hal Glicksman and Rhea Anastas, published a scholarly book to serve as a catalog to the exhibition, documenting curatorial energies and Magu’s life and career. Magu took his MFA at UCI, and worked with Glicksman.

The Clare Trevor School of the Arts opened two generous spaces for Magulandia. The gallery’s P.R. believes its goal that viewers forge a link between movimiento concepts and history, results from its:

focus on creativity and invention in Luján’s work in a myriad of sketches and drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Luján combined two world-making concepts, Aztlán, the mythic northern ancestral home of the indigenous Mexican Aztecs that became a charged symbol of Chicano activism; and Magulandia, the term Luján coined for the space in which he lived and produced his work, and for his work as a whole.

In this heady academic setting the opening was good times and old home week. Magu’s friends told stories about the artist, recalling him working on one or another sculpture on exhibit, laughing about times they pushed aside a particular monumental sculpture so they could gather in his cramped living room, commenting on their own original Magu at home. One couple at the opening own Magu's final paint-spotted easel, but it isn't in the exhibit.

Engaged people, Sergio Hernandez, Mario Guerrero, Barbara Carrasco

Photographer Gil Ortiz reminisced about staging a portrait of Magu seated with companions at a Mental Menudo in Mario Trillo’s garage. Ortiz is tickled that people call it “the last supper” without irony. It is a fabulous portrait with an inescapable echo of Da Vinci’s pose and the rich tonality of a Gilbert Ortiz photograph. It's not a Magu, so it's not in the UCI gallery.

Sculpture display U-line

The sculpture hall layout reflected ingenuity. To display a dozen individual small scupltures  could eat lots of floor space and create navigation hazards. The curators created a U-shaped table that encourages visitors to stroll along the outside for one perspective, then back through the inside for a second.

There’s a frustrating yet encouraging detail in the explanatory note on the show listing of the 90 works:

All works courtesy the Estate of Gilbert “Magu” Lujan. When no collection appears on the final line of a work entry, the work is loaned by the Lujan Estate. Works in this exhibition are also loaned courtesy Robert Berman Gallery, Rob Biniaz, Therese Hernandez-Cano, Barbara and Zach Horowitz, Mardi Luján, Cheech Marin, Dennis Lisinsky Montoya, Pablo and Mary De La Rosa, Roger and Susan Rousset, and The Los Angeles Metro.

Frustration arises that many of the works on display remained unsold in Magu’s studio, and how he could have used the money. Encouragement arises from Estate ownership of so many beautiful examples of the spirit of Magulandia. This means some of the works at UCI are available to hang on your walls or place on a horizontal surface where you can touch it. Inquire via magulandia.com.

Exhibition postcard and souvenir button


Channel Islands Puts On Gala In Opening Reception for El Museo de Historia, Arte Y Cultura Latina Revistado (1995-2000), The Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture.

Normally I avoid appositional translation as above, but consecutive translation was the order of the day at California State University Channel Islands, where the U’s picturesque setting against ten- million-year old volcanic mounds makes a dramatic setting for a ceremony.



Permanence occupies the plans of a majority of students here. They are farmworker kids, a montón sin papeles. I learned the students don’t want to be called “dreamers” They are sick and tired of dreaming. They want their rights now.

CSUCI has a stunning campus. A retrofitted state hospital for mentally disabled and psychologically impaired people, spacious patios and a gorgeous central promenade cut through white stucco red-tiled buildings that now serve as classrooms, laboratories, studios, and galleries.

The opening of the Latino Museum show filled the entry terrace of Broome Library. The PST:LA/LA event is underwritten by local berry grower, Reiter Affiliated Companies (link), whose president was speaking as I arrived. Not CPT. CSUCI is a long way from Camarillo city where I rented a room, and once at the campus, finding parking can be bedlam. But find it we did, within sight of Broome Library.

My wife and I missed the opening speeches by Denise Lugo and campus leaders. I am especially dismayed to miss student performances by a string quartet and folkorico.

Lugo introduced artists Oscar Castillo and Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin and Leo Limón, who didn’t attend. The trio were featured in exhibits at the defunct downtown LA Latino museo. Aparicio-Chamberlin read a poem that I can share here, along with a portrait of her father, Elias Aparicio, done in Polaroid transfer, hand stamps and xerography.

Vibiana's multi-talented arte on display included paintings, altar constructions, and her book,

This Latino Museum exhibit draws from Broome Library’s holdings of historic materials. I was especially interested to talk to Associate Curator Julianne Gavino. Professor Gavino is the mind behind the media. She works with students and digital materials; together they make rare documents universally available.

Associate Curator Julianne Gavino
CSUCI holds extensive materials from the historic movimiento magazine, Con Safos, along with numerous special collections (link). Perhaps one day, digital media will make “rare” a little-used word among book users. In the meantime, a visit to Camarillo for hands-on research will reward the scholar with genuinely rare materials, like a nearly-complete collection of C/S magazine.

Professor Gavino has been nurturing the C/S collection in the best academic fashion. She plans for long-term development across several generations of students. Her goals for students include innovation. For example, she works with three students in the process of developing a present-day Con Safos magazine. This generation, or perhaps a future team of students, will bring back C/S.

I referred to the students as "kids" and Professor Gavino noted that CSUCI welcomes the "nontraditional" student. Some of her "kids" are 30+ years old. In my eyes, that's quite young. In the student eyes, they're taking advantage of opportunity and taking as long as it takes. Slow but steady wins that degree.


Elias Aparicio by Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin. Polaroid transfer, hand stamps and xerography. 

Con Ciega Pasión
Poetry by Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

Dicen que los muertos se refugian en calma.
Que no hay sufrimiento en la otra mansión.
Que si el cuerpo muera,
Jamás muera la alma.
Y ella es la que te ama,
Con ciega pasión.
Prayer by Abuela Emilia Rodríguez Aparicio

They say that the dead find refuge in calm.
That there is no suffering in the other mansion.
That if the body dies,
never will the soul.
And it is with my soul that I love you
with blind passion.

And so I dream.
I dream that I will be with you while I breathe,
while I am losing my breath,
while I have but a bit of breath
in a breathless place which is the today,
the yesterday, the tomorrow and the
always of our souls’ together place
beyond
the yearning touch,
the desperate touch,
the barely touch,
the tender touch.

I dream that I will be with you in the bodiless,
painless, yearnless,
spaceless place.
In the place of dreams, where all dreams
are so full of the eternal love of the souls
who love with blind passion.

Con ciega pasión.
I will be one of the souls who love in
a fleshless place.
Who love eternally in
the breathless place.


This Profesora organizes student danzantes as elements of their study in Chicano Studies. She explains her work and objectives in English and Spanish. The IT staff were so anxious to wrap they pulled the plug and la profa had to shout her barely audible inspirational message to the front row's honored guests of farmworkers.

After the dance teacher's remarks, the danzantes wrap the program in a procession across campus to the Napa Gallery, where Aparacio-Chamberlin, Castillo, and Limón show their work.






Napa Gallery thunders with danzante drumming and Chachayotes rattles as danzantes inaugurate the PST:LA/LA sponsored exhibit of sculpture, painting, drawing, and photography. Oscar Castillo, center, and Vibiana Aparacio-Chamberlin, fourth from right, enjoy the spectacle. 

Leo Limón's walls display the spirit of his work. Good that each invites a conversation with it, the artist is unable to attend.

Oscar Castillo exhibits family photographs and a selection of fine art fotos, including a copy of his Smithsonian-collected '47 Chevy in Wilmington, California

Enjoying art as the artist narrates its creation and spirit is why people attend art openings. Lavish treatment of guests is not the only other reason to attend.


Below, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, left center, Jose Antonio Aguirre, right. Aguirre is nearing completion of a mosaic mural at the Azusa Gold Line surface rail station.

Outside the Napa studio gallery, the patio was alive with student performers and a happy audience snacking on sugar beverages and snacks.



Technical glitches cut off their music, but unfazed, CSUCI's folklorico dancers knew the steps and whirled and clacked their heels in synchrony with unheard music. The silence enhanced the beauty of their performance.

No visit to Camarillo is complete without at least a cursory visit to the huge outlet mall conveniently just off the 101 Freeway at the edge of town. My wife dashed in and out at my insistence and scored a couple of bargains and a bunch of no thanks. Stuff in the outlet is here because no one bought it in the retail world, either.

Our spirits continued soaring as we wrapped up a week’s worth of art--Tuesday in Irvine, Thursday in Camarillo--- and drove east toward home. Even the horrendous congestion in the Valley couldn’t dampen spirits nourished by friends, art, the youth and future of the gente at CSUCI, and the ongoing wonders of PST:LA/LA.

Monday, September 18, 2017

International Latino Book Awards, 2017: Cuatro Award Winning Books


International Latino Book Awards, 2017: Cuatro Award Winning Books

By Xánath Caraza




Cuatro Award Winning Books of the 2017 International Latino Book Awards are on La Bloga today, dear reader:

·      Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice,

·      Corazón y una lengua peregrina: poesía y narrativa,

·      Diáspora: narrativa breve en español de Estados Unidos, and

·      Tinta negra / Black Ink. 

Together, let’s celebrate these accomplishments and the many authors in these libros de poesía y narrativa.







Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, edited by Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez, foreword by Juan Felipe Herrera (University of Arizona Press, 2016).


“Our Anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice has won Best Poetry Book—Multi—Author, at the 2017 International Latino Book Awards.  Thanks to Maestro Francisco X. Alarcón and all the poets who contributed to this timeless work”.  –Odilia Galván Rodríguez






Corazón y una lengua peregrina: poesía y narrativa by the Latino Writers Collective, selección y edición: Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Ph.D. (39 West Press, 2016).


Esta antología es un nuevo mar de voces hondas, energías de Rosario Castellanos, Neruda y Borges—añoranzas, micro-historias que nos iluminan.  Celebremos estos poetas de infinitos horizontes.” –Juan Felipe Herrera






Diáspora: narrativa breve en español de Estados Unidos, edición de Gerardo Cárdenas (Vaso Roto Ediciones, colección Umbrales, 2017).


“Hablar de la literatura en español que se produce dentro de los Estados Unidos es hablar de una criatura híbrida, en permanente proceso de cambio, de pasado ambiguo y futuro desconocido.  Es intentar asir la constante metamorfosis de una comunidad que, por número, constituye la minoría más numerosa de Estados Unidos y es integrante y descendiente de su mayor ola migratoria y que, desde la lengua, tiene los pies puestos a ambos lados de fronteras geográficas y culturales.  Es un reto constante para la propia crítica literaria estadounidense, tan amiga de ponerlo todo en cajas y de ordenar estas en ficheros y anaqueles inmutables.”

–Gerardo Cárdenas






Tinta negra / Black Ink by Xánath Caraza, translated by Sandra Kingery (Lobo Estepario Press, 2016)


‘¿Qué es una frontera? Límites creados / culturas forzadas a darse la espalda’.  In her own Leaves of Grass Xánath Caraza assigns aromas to all living things.  Her purposefully titleless poems in the Tinta negra / Black Ink collection, hit the target, which is our sensibility to beauty, nature reinterpreted, and emotion.  These poems, translated into English by Sandra Kingery, prove to stimulate both the monolingual and the bilingual reader.  I find Pablo Neruda in Caraza’s poems.”  —Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs










Sunday, September 17, 2017

Slaughtered Chivo Acá y Allá and The Photographic Life of Graciela Iturbide

Olga García Echeverría

Yesterday, somewhere in Arcadia, beneath the dappled shade of trees that I don't know the names of and large colorful dangling flores de papel, I ate hotdogs and tacos and drank lots of alcohol. It was Saturday, after all, and Lillian, who was sitting to my right, took it upon herself to become the bartender at our table. She's good. Armed with only Styrofoam cups filled with ice cubes, agua de piña, and Vodka, she whipped up (rasquache style) “fancy” mixed drinks on the spot, passing them along to anyone at the table who gestured for more – mostly me.

We were at a baby shower. Eva, the mother to be, looked very pregnant and beautiful in her light blue dress as she mingled with guests. I kept thinking that if I were that pregnant, I'd be in bed all greñuda, using my belly to coerce people to bring me things. Rumor had it that Eva stayed up till 3:00 AM the day before making some of the lovely decorations for the party herself. Hijole, where do pregnant women get all the energy?

There were kids running around, an all-you-can-eat candy table, cute newborn onesies hanging from a string, and some baby shower games that I completely blocked out due to both the Vodka and the conversation at our table that moved fluidly from issues of immigration, vile politicians we all despise, battles between Denisse and Sandra over what constitutes “authentic” chilaquiles, discussions about egg yolks and how very few places get "over medium" right, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Hills and Chino (they're supposedly adjacent, but two different places).

As soon as Chino was mentioned, La Judy, who was sitting to my left, said she had a story about Chino and a chivo. This really perked my interest because although I didn't mention it to anyone at the table, I have had goats on my mind a lot lately. I blame my current fixation on goats on Graciela Iturbide, whose work is currently being displayed at the ROSEGALLERY in Santa Monica in an exhibit titled: PhotoGRAPHIC: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. You can see the exhibit from now until October 21st.

I visited the gallery last week both because I am a huge fan of Iturbide's photographs and also because the Getty Museum recently published a beautiful graphic biography on Graciela Iturbide (with the same title as the featured exhibit). I wanted to get my copy of Photographic and have the author and artist sign it.



In a mixture of prose, poetry, photography, and very cool graphic dibujos, award-winning author Isabel Quintero and illustrator Zeke Peña guide us in and out of iconic Iturbide photographs and defining moments in Iturbide's life. As readers, we are able to see how loss, passion, and search for self intertwine with art and Iturbide's lens. Lilliam Rivera, author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, writes about this new book, “It is a rare feat when a writer and illustrator are able to capture the creative magnitude of an iconic photographer...Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide will guide readers through a compelling visionary journey.” This is a wonderful book for both YA and adult readers alike. You can learn more about and purchase the book at: https://shop.getty.edu/products/photographic-the-life-of-graciela-iturbide-978-1947440005.

Here's just one example of how the talents of Quintero, Peña, and Iturbide come together on the page. This is a blurry shot (disculpas), but you get the picture.



Each of Iturbide's photographs featured in the book is evocative in its own right. Whether she is photographing the Seris in the Sonora desert, the women and muxes of Juchitán, cholas and cholos from White Fence in East LA, birds and burials in Guanajuato, cotton fields in Texas, or Frida Kahlo's prosthetic pierna in a bathtub, Iturbide is forever capturing glimpses of a rich and textured América and beyond, as Iturbide's photography is international and ultimately sin fronteras. Isn't that what makes great art great? The removal of borders. The challenging or questioning of borders. Iturbides' work is great in its everydayness. Great in its ability to offer us a mirror, a reflection of a place or a people or simply a moment. This brings me to goats and the one picture in Iturbide's exhibit that keeps haunting me.



This picture captures a woman in La Mixteca region in Oaxaca, Mexico during an annual goat-killing ritual, La Matanza. I'm awed by the raw strength of this woman's barefooted, knife-clenched-between-the-teeth fierceness. I'm also a little frightened by it. There's blood on her skirt and I can only imagine the stench of fresh slaughter. I wouldn't want to cross this woman the wrong way. I wouldn't want to be that poor goat. At the same time it makes me thinks of things I'd like to slaughter with this type of brutal force. I do not consider myself a violent person, but the picture evoked (awakened?) in me a silent violence. As I took pictures of this picture with my Iphone, I kept thinking that this is what I'd like to do to White Supremacy and xenophobic bullshit in our country: slaughter the goat of hate with this level of intention. But these are thoughts warped by my filtered lens. I've never killed a goat or a chicken or any animal that I have ever eaten for that matter. At the core of what I may see or interpret as "brutal force" is just food and survival and ancient ritual. This is simply a woman in an indigenous town in Mexico killing a goat. I love me a good birria too, so why am I tripping? Which brings me full circle to Judy's goat story at yesterday's baby shower, which I loved so much that I asked for her permission to record it for this blog. "Yes, of course, mija! Do whatever you want with it." Below is a transcription of Judy's chivo story, including comments that people at our table interjected while she told it (because you know Latinos like to be interjecting). Enjoy, ponder goat (please share any goat insights with me), check out Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña's new awesome graphic biography, and if you get a chance, visit the ROSEGALLERY to see some of Itrubide's fantastic photos up close.

Lovely Goat by Zeke Peña 

Judy Perez' Goat Story

In the 1980's my parents, as all good Mexicans in LA did back then, went to Chino to buy goat for birria because if you wanted fresh goat meat you weren't about to go to the local carneceria. Whenever we had a bautismo or a party, our family would go to Chino to get our chivo. It was going to be my First Communion and my parents worked all the time, so we couldn't buy the chivo on the actual day of the ceremony, so they got it the week before, brought it home, and we had it there in our yard. 

“Not all Mexicans could afford to go to Chino and get fresh goat, you know.” 

Yes, true. I was very fortunate that my parents had a car to drive to Chino and that they could afford to buy a fresh goat. I know not everyone could do this. The chivo cost about $150.00 bucks back then. That was a lot of money. This was in 1985. My sister and I got really attached to the chivo in that one week. We treated it as if it was our pet and we kinda knew it was going to die, but we didn't really think about that. The day before my communion, we heard the neighbor yelling outside, “Señora, su chivo! Su chivo!” We ran outside and we saw that the goat, who had been tied to a rope by the neck had hopped the fence and was now hanging on the other side, choking itself. My dad was like, shit, we gotta make birria tomorrow and perserve this goat! 

“When you have stressed goat, the meat doesn't taste the same.” 

Exactly! My father ran over there and picked up the goat so it wouldn't suffocate or choke to death. He picked it up and was carrying it in his arms, but the goat was still tied to the rope and basically stuck. He called out to my mom, “Pancha! Cuándo yo te diga que le sueltes la rienda, la sueltas!” My mom was like, “Okay!” and she ran over there and there was some kind of miscommunication because my dad wanted my mom to untie the rope and hand it to him. 

“Why didn't he take scissors?”

He didn't take scissors. It was an emergency. The only thing he could do was throw the goat back over the fence and into our yard again or my mom could untie the rope and throw it over to my dad so my dad could then walk it back over like on a leash. But it happened very fast and instead of waiting for my dad to tell her when, my mom unleashed the goat prematurely and threw the rienda over to my father, who wasn't ready for it. So the fucking goat takes off and he runs for his dear life down Raver Street, makes a left on Avenue 56, keeps running down to Figueroa and makes a right on Figueroa. 

“If there were White people around they'd be saying, 'Oh my god!' That was before all the gentrification? Before White people in Highland Park?”

Oh yeah, yeah, in 1985, way before that. My dad played soccer at that time and he was very agile, so he chased down the goat until it tired and he finally caught it. He called my mom from a public phone collect, “Ven por mí. Estoy en la Figueroa y la Avenida 60.”

“Tengo el chivo!”

Yes, “Tengo el chivo! Ven por mi.” They brought it back in the car in the back of the station wagon, which they don't make anymore, huh? They don't make station wagons anymore.

“They make SUVs now, baby.” 

Yeah, it was not an SUV. It was a station wagon. Una Chevy. A Chevy station wagon. So they brought back the goat and the next day I had my First Communion and we had birria de chivo and everyone ate, including myself. I was kinda sad about the whole thing, but you know...

“It was delicious?”

Yeah, it was delicious and that was my story of my First Communion chivo that ran away. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Stories


This week, two items of business: 

First, a reminder that Daniel Olivas launches his latest collection of short fiction tomorrow.  The flyer, below, has all the details.  I am reading these tales, savoring each one, taking my time, re-reading parts that have amazed, amused, surprised.  Daniel is a master story-teller and The King of Lighting Fixtures is loaded with fine examples of a master at work.  The stories, many in the flash-fiction mode, are relentless in the impact they produce in a reader.  Three adjectives quickly came to me as I read this collection. Quirky, magical, intimate. A good short story offers nothing less than a passionate glimpse into the human heart.  The King of Lighting Fixtures  offers that passion and then doubles down.  Highly recommended.

Second, taking inspiration from Daniel, I present a short story I recently committed to the printed page. Hope you like it
.












______________________________________________________




THE NAIL

Manuel Ramos


©2017


The Parkinson’s could be fought with exercise. Sergio believed that. He walked at least thirty minutes each day and he often ended up at the Senior Center where he used a squeaky treadmill and an outdated cycling machine. The symptoms worsened with each week but it was a gradual decline. He still had his mind. The exercise always made him feel better.

His walks took him through the rapidly changing neighborhood. He had trouble recognizing some of the buildings because so much had been torn down and replaced with sterile boxes and ugly towers. He never saw anyone he knew. Young people crowded him as he walked. The sidewalks were a mad mix of dogs and baby carriages and cell phones. But they could not be avoided. He’d come to the conclusion that he hated what was happening to his hometown. There was nothing he could do about it.

One morning on his way home he walked in front of yet another construction project. The brick house where the Sandovals lived for more than fifty years had been smashed into oblivion. He stood at the orange plastic fence surrounding the project and imagined what the new building would look like when it was finished. Ugly. Not welcoming. An intrusion into the peace that his walks once had produced.

On the dirt near the fence he saw a large steel nail, at least four inches long. From his past life as a proud member of the International Laborers’ and Hod Carriers’ Union he knew the nail was used in concrete.

He picked up the nail and stuck it in the pocket of his baggy sweatpants. Sergio told himself that he would throw it in a dumpster to ensure that no one suffered a flat tire. He reasoned that he drove on this street several times each week so he was actually helping himself. Maybe not several times each week. But at least a few times each month. Sergio drove less and less.

The nail rubbed against his leg as he walked. After five minutes he realized that his thigh hurt.

“I’m such a weakling these days,” he thought.

A young man with a long beard and two large mean-looking dogs on leashes emerged from the garage of a recently completed and quickly sold condo. The man cursed the dogs and pulled on the leashes with such force that the animals whimpered. All three rushed down the driveway onto the sidewalk. They didn’t see Sergio or they didn’t care that he stood in their path. The dogs bumped into his legs and pushed him aside with growls and snapping jaws.

Sergio lost his footing and fell on his ass. The bearded man looked back at him and said, “Sorry.” The man and his dogs trudged on.

Sergio pulled the nail from his pocket. He’d felt the prick of the point when he stumbled. No blood on his pants so the skin had not been broken. He walked to the curb and carefully placed the nail precisely where any car leaving the garage would have to cross. He enjoyed the rest of his walk.

He experienced another sleepless night. Sergio tried various tricks for dozing off but his mind wouldn’t catch the sleep signal. His thoughts returned, again and again, to the nail he’d left in the street. He realized he was being silly, obsessive even, but the harder he closed his eyes, the more it bothered him. 


He put on a jacket over his pajamas, squeezed his feet into his walking shoes and grabbed one of his many small flashlights. 

The tremor in his left leg interfered with his thinking. Sergio was off-balance, more than usual. His weak eyes wouldn’t focus on anything specific.

He did not dwell on how he must look to anyone else, yet he worried that all the newcomers would still be awake, partying or walking dogs or feeding their babies or whatever they did at three in the morning. He imagined the bearded man and his dogs waited for him in the garage, sitting in the expensive car that must surely occupy the garage – the car with expensive tires, expensive wheel locks and expensive repair bills.

Sergio shuffled to the curb where he’d left the nail. His light exposed the stretch of street where the nail should have waited. Nothing. He moved the beam up and down the curb. Nothing. Maybe the nail had already done its work. Maybe the car had a flat?

He walked up the driveway. The door had a row of decorative windows near the top. Sergio was too short to see into the garage. He looked around the small but neat front yard. A large rock sat near the fence gate.
A small boulder, really.

Sergio strained against the rock.  If he could move it he might be able to stand on it and look into the garage. He got on his hands and knees and pushed and shoved. He grunted. The flashlight rolled out of his jacket pocket and clanged against the fence.
 

Light flooded Sergio.  The front door of the condo slammed open. He heard the bearded man cuss and the dogs bark. He saw the first dog leap through the open doorway and turn towards him.


______________________________________________________

Later.


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in 2016 and is a finalist for the Shamus Award in the Original Paperback category sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chicanonautica: Aztlán Zombie Massacre




I don’t usually like the zombie apocalypse subgenre. Zombies are uninteresting non-characters. The mindless carnage gets tedious, even boring. It's usually an excuse for sliding into the paranoid/schizophrenic mind set of seeing other people as disgusting nonhumans, so better crank up on the firepower and blast them into smoldering roadkill—very close to racism, depending on how you fine-tune it.

Don't shoot until you see their decaying faces. Though you'd probably literally smell them a mile off. They'd make you gag long before you could see them. Better get a gas mask while you're at it.

And what are you going to do when the ammo runs out?

I’m familiar with the subgenre since its birth with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. For years it was an obscure cult film with an underground reputation (this was the Vietnam/Nixon era). It wasn't until it started appearing on the late night horror movie circuit, and the advent of video cassettes that it infiltrated mainstream pop culture. Now you have to staple your eyes shut to avoid all the manifestations of the living dead.

A lot of young people think that the zombie apocalypse is inevitable, the way my generation thought about nuclear holocaust. It's actually impossible—going against the laws of thermodynamics, zombies kick out way more energy than they take in, like biological perpetual motion machines. If they did exist, scientists would be studying them to find out how they work the opposite of the way the rest of the universe does, and harness this limitless energy source.

But now and then something comes up that that’s worthy of my praise, and this one is LaBloga/Chicanonautica material.

It's called Savageland. That's what local Anglos who can't deal with Spanish call the Arizona town, Sangre de Christo (it is never mentioned that it means Blood of Christ). One night, all inhabitants are killed. Except for one unemployed, undocumented Mexicano.

It's a faux documentary and an ingenious take on the found footage story. And it steps out of the usual white people's pop culture viewpoint early on when onscreen African American filmmakers start giving editorial comments.

The one survivor is accused of being the most horrific serial killer of all time, but he left some evidence--photographs he took during the incident. Bad news for gorehounds, there's no onscreen splatter scenes, just still photos of blurred mayhem. It's mostly unsettling interviews, still images, and animated computer diagrams, that make it all seem very real, plausible, like a grisly true crime show.

Sheriff Joe and Rush Limbaugh-style law enforcement and radio pundits are both stereotypical and dead on. Their rhetoric has gotten people elected in Arizona, even put a guy in the White House. They argue that the bad hombre is what Americans need to protect themselves from.

The filmmakers argue that the suspect couldn't have been in all the places he needed to be to kill everyone who was killed, and that this was a genocidal race riot.

The whole zombie issue in never brought up directly. The z-word in never used. “Just the facts, ma'am,” as Sergeant Joe Friday would say on Dragnet.

No, I won't reveal the ending

And if this show's on cable where people can surf into it without knowing what they’re watching, they may think it’s a real documentary--there’s a strong possibility of hysterical reactions as in Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of War of the Worlds.

Mind-blowing, gut-wrenching entertainment for post-Charlottesville America.

Ernest Hogan is the author of High Aztech and is trying not to confuse bizarre fantasies with grotesque realities.