THIS IS HOW WE MOVE: An Open Letter to Houston

Good morning mi gente, 

Its funny (not funny) that the last time I touched this blog, it was another open letter - to the poetry community, retooling my investments in the culture of the city I care for very much. Read that letter HERE

Its been a blessing to work as an artist in the city. But I find myself in a struggle. I am trying to balance all things. Artist, Husband, Teacher, Mentor, Writer, Activist. I know I can't do it all, and i can't do it all, all of the time. So I pick and choose my "battles" and lend my action and my voice where I think I can do the most good. But more times than not, (I feel this is the same for many of my fam from across this country and beyond) I am always in defense mode. I am always at the beckon call when something unjust is happening. When we lose the life of a fellow citizen (undocumented or otherwise) or a student. 

If you are wondering why I haven't blogged about this more - simply put, I've been teaching a decolonizing literature. I've been protesting against the senseless deaths of young people. I've been to vigils. I've had to help host "know your rights" events for the undocumented parents of my students. I've had to write poems and get them published when a racist thing happens. I've had to console my students who now, (because of inhumane thoughts are making their way to the light), live in fear of either their parents or they themselves getting deported. I've had to go to velorios. I've had to testify on senate bills and racist textbooks and I am tired. I am not tired of the actions I have had to take, but I am tired of the inaction I see. 

If you see my Facebook and my Twitter, I look like a crazy man. To some, I look like I am on fire and waving my hands around yelling "do you see the crazy hot mess happening here?!?" and they quickly click away from my posts - bemoaning me as too dramatic, or too sensitive or too out there.  To others, I probably seem like I am on point. I really stopped caring. I stopped caring the morning after the election.

Say what you will about the latest election for the office of the president of the united states, but it had an affect. I saw it the next day. We've constantly seen the unfiltered hate and racism out in the open. 

I looked at my students faces. My wife did do. She came to read poetry to them as the end of a unit in my class on Afro-Latino literature. It was the most celebratory thing I could think of to do. I had students in my room crying. I had students enamored with my wife and her words. But at the end of the day, even though it was the best damn thing to offer, I still had over 30+ kids in my room in fear. 

Throughout that day and the weeks that followed, I had students come into my classroom afraid for their lives, afraid for their parents lives. I had students contemplating what they would have to do if their parents were deported, or killed or I don't know what. I had students use me as a sounding board for their feelings, as a co-planner on life plans, as a shoulder to cry on when the world was too much. I've had to walk my kids back into the building when the day and the world was too much for them. I've had to continuously talk some of my kids back into finishing school - because for some of them "what's the point? If my apa gets deported, I won't be able to go to college, who's gonna look after my fucking brother, mister? Who's gonna make sure nobody fucks with them?" And what do I do? What can a writer who is a teacher or a teacher who is a writer do for a kid?  I listened and hugged. I cried with and for them. But I have not written on all these things. (well, I have a little.)  I can't right now. I think this year, I have died a little.

The words have not come as they used to. Perhaps its because I am older, perhaps its because I am living with this now more than ever.  Perhaps because I heard myself say the very same thing I was told 22 years ago. 22 years ago, my government & economics/ track coach told a group of brown and black students in a small group "don't travel alone at night. Get IDs, all of you. Be kind and don't raise your voice to anybody with a badge. I want to see your face tomorrow and everyday after."  I fucking said those words this year. And I cried when I said them. 

I thought back to being an 17 year old me at the start of my senior year when my coach told us this. I always knew the fact, but to have him say it, it was a good reminder of the world we lived in. But now, 22 years later, I hated to have to say it to MY kids. At first, some of the kids didn't get it. Why would they? The world they have grown up in is slightly different than mine. Hell, I teach in a school that is all brown and black. They don't know exactly what it looks like, the full face of ugly racism, of classism. Some of them haven't been hit or cut or shot with it. But they understood. 

First came the executive orders. Then came Texas. 

Gov. Greg Abbot and #SB4. are a wildfire. He and his cronies (yes, I am looking at you Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and the rest, but especially the gentleman from Irving, excuse me Connecticut, Matt Rinaldi.) They have left the youngest of us, the oldest of us, the females of us, the brown and black of us, naked and without protection. They have left us in favor of some image of "Americana" that doesn't include the poor. They sleep on marble I guess. They eat with gusto and warm themselves with their own words. They aren't shy about telling you they are christian and for families, but I don't know which families or which christians they are thinking of, and I have no fucks left to give. They have led the way for laws and executive orders to come in and upend the lives in my community. And they don't care about the capitol. They are bold, but so am I. So are we. So are the kids I teach. We are smart and ratchet. We are black, brown and we cite things. We work in your kitchens and intern in your energy companies. We stick and move. We listen/read/eat Kap G, Travis Scott, Voz de Mando, Elizabeth Acevedo, Chen Chen, and Tracy K. Smith.  We are young. We'll outlast them. THIS IS HOW WE MOVE. 

I will continue to fight them up at the capitol and on as many fronts as I can. I will teach, and I will write. I used to worry about if I was a teacher who is writes or a writer who teaches, but that is a luxury I can no longer afford. I can't fuck with that right now. I gotta do the damn thing, all things. Write all things, teach all the words and cast as wide a net, cast as big a spell and call up all the spirits to protect the two things I know are important: these kids and these books. These are our treasures. THIS IS HOW WE MOVE.

This is I can protect/provide/defend/nourish.  

 If you don't know anything about either the executive orders or SB4, then you are part of the problem. I'm sorry, but you are. And if you haven't gotten up to advocate for students and families who can be affected by this - in any way, then YOU are part of the problem. Don't let the silence be you. Don't freeze and think things will be ok. I have 30+ kids that can tell you otherwise. 

I have one kid who ended up questioned by La Porte, TX police on his citizenship, just for being in a parked car at a park on a Saturday night. He messaged me on Sunday "hey mister, you won't joking around about SB4. The cops asked me if I was illegal."  He came back to school on Monday. It was May. He told my class. It was 2nd Period. SB4 doesn't go into effect until Sept. 1st. The kids asked "but mister, if this doesn't go into effect until September, why can cops do this now?"  

The Executive Order on Enhancing Safety on the Interior of the United States, dated January 25th, 2017, was all I could tell them. 

I have another student who I will mention by name, Karen Rodriguez (she and her family are the point of this letter to you, Houston). She just graduated from the high school where I teach and she has to spend the start of her summer waiting to see if her father gets deported. Its one of over 1,000 stories playing out in the US. Karen and her family are a typical family. She is an outstanding student. The most American thing this guy, Juan Rodriguez has done is put his girls through CATHOLIC SCHOOL. Karen was supposed to go to Sam Houston State University. She's got the goods. She's articulate and brilliant and as positive as she can be. She's a fighter. Just like her pops. I need him here. WHY? Because if he leaves, if this state and this country manage to put this man out of this place he has called home for over a decade, without even so much as driving around with a busted tail light (which someone already got deported for), then its failing to honor its citizens. We are allowing the support system to a group of beautiful young ladies to be put out. We risk the future by taking apart the family though "law and order". 

You've heard this before I know. Some you don't care. Some of you aren't even affected by this or my words, but you will be. You or someone you know or love will be stopped and questions about their citizenship, or shot at or detained wrongly by the police, or have a family member about to be deported. And I envy and worry about this comfort all at once. For I will never know it.

And if you can live with seeing families split up and if you can live with the idea that a law can be immoral and still follow it, then we probably don't need to interact much. You do not have the heart I thought you did. You, Houston, you make me angry. You watch this revolting mess happen nightly on the news. You see it in our city streets. You don't vote when it makes sense to. You hide behind the old history of the space. You don't respond when I call. I am glad I only call when its important. 

But I will make one last plea, like I did with Houston City Council two weeks ago. KEEP JUAN RODRIGUEZ HERE. He belongs with his family in Houston.  He's no criminal. AND EVEN IF HE WAS - keep his ass here. This is his home. This is where his girls are. This is where his wife is. This is where his life is. This is where his job is. THIS IS THE PLACE HE CALLS HOME JUST AS MUCH AS YOU OR I. 

There is a petition that needs 10,000 signatures. As of this morning, it is at 3,652. I need you to sign this petition. (the petition is in the link) Signing it shows the government that we believe in him and his ability to take care of his family. 

Be good neighbors. Show the city that you care about its families. Its what I asked City Council to do and so far, as of last week even, not a one of them have signed it. Today, I will go to speak to them about that

Don't let me down Houston. We rise when the occasion asks for it. We rise when a death occurs. We rise to celebrate with PRIDE. Why not rise to keep our families together? Why not rise to keep awful laws that tear our families apart? 


THEN, ask City Council to join the lawsuit against the State of Texas, so no more families are affected by immoral laws. Existing and earning a living isn't an illegal act. Surviving is not an illegal act. Moving to keep alive is not an illegal act. And if you think so and you think a man like Juan Rodriguez, Karen's father, is evil and a risk to the safety of the nation - then you are blind. We are living in what Gil Scott Heron calls "a turn around world". There are other people worthy of being labeled a risk to safety. And we have already allowed the deportation of so many fathers whose families need them. (Rose and Jose Escobar, you are in my prayers). Don't let this keep happening.  Ask the family of the late John Hernandez. They can tell you first hand. They don't fear or are angry at an undocumented father with 3 girls. No, the problem they face right now is all too American. 

Awaiting your next move Houston, 

Lupe Mendez

An Open Letter to the Houston Poetry Scene


Mi gente, 

                I hope this letter finds you in good spirits and writing and reading or doing the things you love. I write this letter as a way to voice a bit of frustration with you, and maybe more so, to voice frustration with myself.  I will be honest. I am feeling a bit lost with you, a bit defeated too. As the new year has already started, there are already some shifts happening. We lost Zin.  NotsuoH's had its last show in the last few weeks. It was a staple of your scene. And I? Well,  I am leaving the Word Around Town Poetry Tour.  

               I leave the planning, organizing and curating of the tour to focus on archiving what has been achieved in 10 years:  a solidarity that branched out and helped some poets find commonality across the city. I will work with the Houston Metropolitan Research Center to archive the work of this bad ass movement. After that, I will say adios to the planning and organizing. 

           I would stay longer, but its not my baby.  I did not birth this concept and I can not in good conscience make it move forward without its founders.  It breaks my heart to leave it.  The work is amazing, the production is one of the best in the city and I will defend it as such.  I know. I helped move this thing to where it is now.  We went from asking poets to be a part of it and getting the response " Word around wha?" to,  in later years, getting screamed at with "Why the F**K am I not on this tour?" 

                 But something jarred me the last two - three years of the tour - it began actually at the end of the tour two years ago.  Trademark, an amazing poet in her own right, made a statement to Stephen Gros "the tour doesn't have enough black poets".  Stephen, stunned,  with Trademark in hand asked her to tell me what she said to him. She did.  No one laughed. We took it seriously. I respected her comment and stated that in actuality, the tour started very Latino heavy from day one and the diversity of the tour grew.  Joe B overheard the conversation and pulled Trademark over to him and explained to her the history of the tour up until her inclusion in the tour line-up.  Lots of love and head nodding that night. An error corrected and we celebrated year 8.  But it made me realize one thing.  We didn't have a lot of Latino/Brown/Indigenous poets that auditioned for that year. We had one.  The next year, for year 9, we didn't have any.  For year 10, we had 3 Latino poets draft and only one of them made the tour.  

              But the question sprang up -  Where are all the brown poets at?  I know a few in the Galveston-Houston area.  I read with many of them. I know the ones who are out and about. Those that are performance ready and those that are published. I know those that are degreed and those who edit. I know the professional and the hustler.  I know the traditional and the curator. I know the DJ and the B-Boy. I know the advocate and the activista.  I know the younger ones and the older ones.  In all, I wracked my brain and I came up with a list of the ones I know that if I called up today to do a damn good show, they would come running (mostly).  These are the ones I know: 

22 poets.  

            That's it. And we've never all been in the same room. Mas triste. Why?  Because as big as Houston is, and for having lived in this town for over 20 years, I can only count 22 brown poets.  There should be more. 

    I know the work that my wife, Jasminne is doing, though WITS and Alley Theatre along with Marlon Lizama and his work with Iconoclast. They help to cultivate the younger breed of poet - the ones that can and might become our future poets, but in truth, I can't expect those kids to stay.  They are high schoolers and I would expect for them to leave town in search of an education, in search of a job and in search for new muses.  So my question still remains:  WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE BROWN POETS?   

           I am frustrated with you poetry scene. When the Word Around Town Poetry Tour started, it was for survival.  It was 10 poets who were tired of all the cliques and the segregation that was rampant in the scene.  There were few spots to read back then. The Mausoleum (where NotsuoH's was originally),  The Inprint House (FIrst Friday readings) and Mahogany Cafe.  Not many poets branched out from their comfort zones.   But for the roughly 10 of us who did, we got lots of stank face, lots of side eye for entering these space. We were bold, we surprised audiences and readers.  We didn't care. We wanted to see what was happening with poetry in OUR city. 

And now 10 years later it feels like we are right back to this. Minus one space. (HINT: we haven't had a stable Nuestra Palabra Showcase in a while and the reason?  We started putting the biggest book festivals in Texas, then Librotraficante Nation building by actively fighting against oppressive government laws that would tear down Ethnic Studies teaching in the U.S. Southwest.. and if you didn't know - we got a 15 year old radio show on KPFT.  Wacha got?)

           Thank you to Stephen Gros, Joe B and Zelene Pineda for doing the damn thing - for creating the Word Around Town Poetry Tour.  This survival tactic, this  "fuck your" statement was brilliant. But I must push back from the table. I have work to do.  

          I see that all the work done by Houston VIPWrite About Now, First Friday's, Poetry Lounge and Write Space is important.  It is broad work.  But I must question you. (And I already know two spots that will say yes). Do you make it a point to support each other's venues?  Do you make it a point to ask poets/audience members to check out these other spaces?  Do you even announce when another space is hosting a reading or when a writer is coming to town? Do you as hosts, as poets, as artists take the time to go and hear/read other poets from this city? I know some of you don't. You are ok with staying in your comfort zone. You don't give a shit and I can respect that. But what I won't forgive is the ignorance.  Don't tout yourself or your space as the best if you haven't opened up to share words or nights with other writers you barely know. 

        For a decade, I have worked to break that up. I've worked to show the city, the writers, the writing programs that all its writing artists can be unified.  But I can't any more.  On my watch, I have let my own community down.  I don't know who the younger writers are.  I don't know where Latinos in the city read. I know we don't have a space of our own.  I get phone calls from folks asking me about where there are Latino based readings and I have to wince.  I've even been called the expert in Latino Poetry in Houston.  I am humbled... and alarmed.  I can't be the guru.  I am still a growing poet. 

       But I know what I have to do now.  I have to take a step back and create the spaces that don't exist. This is my survival tactic.  I will find a way to provide for space to write, to workshop and to speak words.  It was the basis of the old Nuestra Palabra Showcases - to place both new writers and established writers on the same stage.   

        I know how to put workshops and lit events together.  I can do this for a Latino community.  I can provide a space that allows all the city's writers to come on up and read, come and write. I can help provide the space for folks who don't fit the Slam or the Traditional settings.   We need a bilingual/bicultural space.  I have the blessing of many of the poets and writers I respect to do this.  So be ready.  Be on guard, because I will keep asking these questions of you.  

 WriteSpace, I am also looking at you as well.  You put on a writing festival, but you didn't bother to ask any of the hosts of venues, any of the many writers of color of this city to collaborate with you. You didn't reach out to Nuestra Palabra, you didn't reach out to Write About Now, to Houston VIP to create your sessions.  You only worked to create something for the publishing world, as if it is the only place that counts.  I know you just started. I congratulate you on the work, but be ready.  I expect answers.  I demand to be heard and for you to see the poets and the writers of this city the way I do. 

In the meantime, I'll work to create a new space. A space for people akin to my poetics and asethics.  I tried this before with several other writers and it didn't work out to well.  BUT I don't take no for answer.   

Be ready Houston,  Tintero Projects will come along soon. Ponte ropa buena, agarra algo para escribir. ¡Listo! 

If you read this and don't recognize the poets in the photo, if you got offended at my questions, and if you only go to one venue and no other, then you need to come talk to me.  I might not be an expert, but I sure as hell want to learn with you and from you.   Adelante, mi gente.  

See you soon.

Lupe Mendez

Writers Must Provide Space for Writers

¡Hey Mi Gente! Time we got started (I know I am like 2 weeks late, but well, its only two weeks) on this week's blog post.  Slowly reformatting, so if you like what you are reading, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.  I think at this point, I might have like 4 people that read this!  Ja ja ja!    Maybe I should be more consistent... 


So this past Friday night, I did something I had never done before:  I organized a poetry reading for teens. I organized a poetry reading for kids I am directly involved with.  I organized a reading for kids I teach.  I've always been a part of teen readings in one way or another, but I don't think I have ever tried to put one together - I guess I never thought of it before.  I think I was always trying to keep my poetic life and my work life separate, but now, well. I don't know if I can do that.   There is too much need for this. 

I currently work at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Prep in Houston, TX.  Its a damn good job.  I teach college readiness for 10th grade and one class for Seniors, an "Authors of Color" class for English IV.   Its a beautiful course. Its a human course.  Its an opportunity to engage my student population with material that is all too relevant to their lives.  The majority of the kids are responsive as hell all the time and those that aren't too too engaged become engaged at peak moments.  They write short stories. They write pantoums,. They read. They discuss. They ask visiting authors questions about their lives and their work and their struggle.  They make me proud.  

At the beginning of the year, I gave them a survey.  I had guessed correctly about their lack of experience in reading AOC (Authors of Color) and added in two questions - I essentially asked if they had ever been to a poetry reading and if I could get them to one, would they be interested.  100% of them said no, they had never been to a reading  and 100% of them said they were interested.   So, knowing I couldn't take them to a poetry reading in the city, I decided, let me bring the reading to them.  It worked.  It worked ¡como una chulada!  Seriously. I figured its a Friday night, after a long week, I wouldn't get more than 20 kids and maybe 3 teachers.  BOY WAS I WRONG.  

There were over 50 kids. There were over 10 teacher and staff and we had guests from outside the school. We had parents.  We had poets.  We had my dear friends in a new space sharing their words with children who hung on their words with awe.  We had a crowd who actually engaged in the words (I think).  Not many left.  We had an amazing DJ who did the damn thing in  amazing form.  We had a student journalist who took photos, who introduced himself to the poets. We had a beautiful space.   And I? I finally did something I have never done in my life. I opened the door to all the spaces between me the teacher and me the writer.  I amalgamated my roles, as host, as organizer, as teacher, as activist, as writer, as workshop host.  I don't think I could have done this any better.  I don't think the kids or even the other poets know what having them all there in one space meant for me.  

Somebody pinch me.  I'm dreaming.  I won't take it for granted.  I got to hear the amazing words of colleagues and their stories and at the same time, hear questions from my students asked to us, about our craft, about how we got our starts, about how we find the reason to write (muse).   I only hope these kids, these parents, these teachers go and tell the rest of this community why this needs to be a thing.  I envision a reading now, instead of one with 6 poets from the city, maybe two and then turn the mic over to the students.   My hat goes off to Jasminne, to Marlon, to Dulcie, to DEEP, because they are years ahead of me in working with teens and giving them space to write and create and share.  Yes I am slow, but we all gotta start somewhere right?  Go Lions! 

All that's left to do is change gears. Continue this work and build other things... 


St. Paul's Methodist and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston host "THEY SAY" in celebration of the poetry collection edited by Dr. Mathew Russell and my boy, Marlon Lizama.  - March 4th @ 7pm.   

U of H, Feb. 25th, Thursday at 5PM

The HOUSTON VIP - "GRAND SLAM"  Feb. 27th @ 7:30 - Brazilian Arts Foundation

So that's it.  Let me know what you think!! 
Now for the tease... 

A Writer is Just Around the Corner...

Hey mi gente!  

Hope the week turned out good for you.  It's been busy on this side and lots of new prospects coming up.  Officially though, I have to note a fact.  Some of you are quite aware of this, but others not so much.   Failure happens most times.  I think I point this out because as a part of the day job as a teacher, I end up being a sort of support system whenever something becomes an obstacle.  Sometimes, my students who happen to be having a tough time of it, tend to become easily discouraged.  I hope I am doing a good job when I tell them that even adults fail at things.   Then they give me side eye and try to brush off my comment as if I don't get what they mean, but I do.  I really do.  So on Monday, when a kid tells me something didn't work out, I will probably mention my latest rejection letter.   Yep, I got a rejection from "SPLIT THIS ROCK" this time around (click here to get more info) for their poetry contest.  This year the winner was selected by Rigoberto Gonzalez, and well, I got a nice rejection letter out of it.  HA!  In truth, the me 10 years ago would have been a bit more hurt,  But I know all too well, it wasn't my time.  It didn't work out for whatever reason and so I have to move on.  I have to move on fast.   There are many other things to accomplish and I can not waste a single moment dwelling on the negative.  I can analyze later if what I sent it was the best for this contest (which in all honesty, I thought it was).   When I look at it again, I can see if there is something I can improve for a second go around.   
                 I don't know if my students will get the point, but perhaps when they see that even what I plan for doesn't work out, maybe they can stop being so hard on themselves.  They work hard (and the ones that don't know who they are) and they can analyze how to improve for the NEXT go around - and that is the key - knowing that there has to be a next time.   La wifey and I have the same attitude about the things that don't work out - ¡ANIMO! If it didn't work out the first time, laugh, enjoy the moment of failure as the experience it is, and get ready for next go at it.  Then laugh again.  


Ok, so I have another confession to make - I am always in awe of other writers/poets/activists/bloggers/novelists/community leaders, etc., because they seem to have their work and their craft so tightly put together!  I am always taking notes.  I am always wondering if perhaps I am missing something.  Yes, its a comparison, but let's face it, I wouldn't be human if I didn't do a little bit of that. I think I do this in healthy doses though.   I look at the work of my compamadrexes and I am elated/surprised/impressed/ at what they come up with.  If I am at a public event, I am in thought "Man, why didn't I think of this?" or "Holy hell, they know things I barely am just finding out about!".  Its like going back to school -crash course style.  Its an amazing feeling to hear people, to ask questions about the focus of their work.  If it is something I am reading up on a book/article/blog, I have the same questions in my head and if I get the gumption to do it, I email or message out questions.   In all cases, I am supportive.  In the end, I use these moments to truly check myself - Am I doing all I can to move this craft along?  I am doing what I can for community (literary or otherwise)?  In the end, it serves to reassure my self doubting ass, that yes, I am doing something.  Is it the most significant thing? The most effective thing?  Time will tell.  The main point is to support and keep at it.     
           So with that said, I wanted to bring up several writers I have had the pleasure of getting to know.  These men and women have added their distinctive voices to sites and conversations about themes that are important in society, in the literary community at large and are just beautifully insightful.   All of these individuals I have met through my time at CANTOMUNDO, and I consider them familia.   I am proud of the work they are doing and think you should read upon their work as well as these entries.   You will be better for it. 

Rosebud Ben-Oni  - Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a graduate of the Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theater in NYC. She is the author ofSOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013) and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her work appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review

Facebook / Twitter 

If you click on her name, you end up at her site (check. it. out. )  and if you click on THE KENYON REVIEW, you are taken to the very pages of her weekly blog.  She is remarkable.  Her energy is fierce.  She is leona.  She is poignant and mi hermana.   She makes my head hurt, she's so smart.  Check out both her site and the entires on the Kenyon Review page.   

Natalie Scenters-Zapico - is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of The Verging Cities, which won the 2016 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas FOCO Award, was featured as a top ten debut of 2015 byPoets and Writers, and named a Must-Read Debut by LitHub (Center For Literary Publishing, 2015). A CantoMundo fellow, her poems have appeared in American Poets, The Believer,  Prairie Schooner, West Branch,Best American Poetry 2015 and more. Natalie lives with her husband, border rhetorics scholar José Ángel Maldonado, in Salt Lake City. 

You can reach her at nascenters at gmail dot com or follow her on twitter @nascenters 
Now, this hermana is bad ass in her own right.  We just had the pleasure of meeting this past year at CANTOMUNDO and I learned that she attended UTEP  in her undergrad career!  It feels good to know somebody else associated with the creative writing program there. #Bonding  
So, Natalie's work was included in the Best American Poetry 2015, a beast of an honor (and well deserved) and then later, on the Best American Poetry's blog site, she was given space to writer about Latin@ poetics. She does a bang up job with it and then goes and invites several more poets to talk about their own experiences. 

To read Natalie's blog on BAP, go here and then hit up these conversations as well: 

interview with Javier Zamora 

Interview with Erika L. Sánchez  

Interview with Marcelo Hernandez Castillo 

interview with Carolina Ebeid

Most recently , Javier Zamora had a splendid go at writing up blog entries (powerful entries might I add) on the same BAP site.  These are listed below as well:


Javier ZamoraJavier was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US when he was nine. He holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, MacDowell, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Yaddo. The recipient of the 2016 Barnes and Noble Writer for Writer’s Award, his poems appear or are forthcoming inAPR, Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, The Kenyon Review,and elsewhere. His first full-length book is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Follow Javier on twitter at  or @jzsalvipoet and on instagram : @jzsalvipoet

BAP Blog entry - Recuerdo   

Place, Origin, and Stalks of Corn [by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo]  

The Story of Someone We Love (Part 1)   

The Story of Someone We Love (Part 2) 

BAP Blog entry - Recommended Reading/Viewing   

Enjoy the read, its well worth it!  



THIS is a brilliant opportunity to learn and meet with Chicano based scholars working in all sorts of arenas working to support Chicanx identity.   I will probably be reporting on this for the next two blog posts, schedule and all.   if you want better details - hit up my UPCOMING EVENTS page on this site and then take a good look at the flyer below: 



No, really, so the Woman of the World Qualifier in Slam poetry happened this past weekend - and several of #HTX's best female poets competed and the winner - reppin'  HOUSTON VIP Poetry Slam team is none other than DEEP!!  Congrats to you!!  I heard it was successful event and I wish DEEP luck as she will travel to NYC (I THINK) to compete.  Exciting stuff!   (CLICK on "HOUSTON VIP" to learn more about them) 

OK, mi gente, its late and I still have to get clothes together for work and do some editing on a manuscript.   So, hit me up if you have any questions or suggest this blog to other people.   

And, as always, I leave you with the teaser... 


"We Have To Stop Meeting Like This" - Said the Writer...

Seriously.  As an efficient blogger, I suck.  No, really.  In all of 4 years of having this site and the blog, I have done an incredibly crap job of keeping up with the blog.  So for those of you that are new to this site and the blog itself, welcome to hearing my voice in your head.  I will try to be a bit professional and give you the deets on how I work this blog. SO here goes, mi gente: 

is created with the sole purpose of highlighting as much art, poetry, education and social issue as can described within. Sometimes, this might also include some of the work I am doing, but most times ONLY focus on the work others are doing.  I thing supporting other causes and art is important in order to sustain positive change. Call me crazy.

each blog post will highlight 3 events/concepts/movements/issues that are current or upcoming.

(Here is the part I suck at) THIS BLOG WILL SEE A NEW POST EVERY SUNDAY EVENING.  There I have said it.  I've tried for Monday, I've tried for Wednesday, but its too crazy of a week to try to get that done, so SUNDAYS it is!!

OK, Mi Gente,   with that said,  consider this the first blog post of the new year!!  YAY!!  Let's get started.   Its nice to see you again.  If you were at my house, I would invite you in for posole, or machacado or ham and eggs or criossants and peach jam.  Those are some of my favorites.  If you drink beer or wine this early, then I would also ask you sip on some tequllita with me (it's 11 am, chill out haters).   I will do my best to catch you up to spead on what's been going on since the last post.    (**NOTE, I THINK MY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS LOOK AT MY BLOG AS WELL, AF) 

So if you look at the last blog post (click here) I have been busy (I know, I know, who the hell isn't, right?) - Its been exactly 1 year, 3 months and 16 days.  I have some 'splaining to do.  I get it.  So let me give you a nice list for you to see why this indio didn't make this blog a priority.


2) WIFEY has LUPUS (that shit is no joke- if hospitals had that punch card like Smoothie King does, shiiiiiiiiiit, we'd have a "free room in the ER" as a reward for frequent visits at least like 4 times already). She good though.  Some days are good, some days are rough, but she smiles at me and yells and complains and aches and we laugh and we work on it.  This is my life. I got no complaints.  She a champ. If you are curious about her and what she does, she has two sites (click on the listed items below) : 
(b) Chromic Brevity

3) I TEACH.  (and if you teach and you got "free time" a lot of the time, then you ain't doing your damn job well)

4) I COACH.  Yes, I coach.  For real. Ask my soccer boys.  I might not be the best coach, but well, we won district  (co-champs) last year and so far we have a 10- 0 season.  So what if I only am the Asst. Coach?  It counts, right?   

5) I HAVE ELDERY PARENTS.  Seriously - you try keeping up with an 81 (mom) and a 71 (pop) year old. That ain't no joke.  Like today.  I call my folks today and they don't do long 30 minute to an hour conversations.  No most times its like this: 
Me: Hi ama
Ama:  hi mi'jo, what are you doing?
Me: Nothing much, I just called to see if you are ok and if you or dad needed anything. Esta el viejo por ahi? Pasamelo. 
Ama:  No, mi'jo we are good.  I am watching the Texas game on the T.V.  and I got on my computer and played Solitare and looked at the internets.  We are good.  Tu papa esta fuera haciendo quien sabe que. 
Me: Ok, well, we will be by during the week. Is that ok?
Ama: Yes mi'jo that's fine.  Have a good day mi'jo.  *CLICK
and that's it, short and to the point.  So you can imagine my surprise when my mom tells me TODAY, when I call that she tells me she fell down -it was "nothing".  She was walking around the house (now that she has a cane, the doctor wants her to walk more often to get her muscles in better motion) and under doctors orders she has to walk sideways and even backwards. Well she fell down walking backwards.  (She is fine.) She tells me like it's no big thing and says she tried to get my dad's attention to come and help her, but she couldn't stop laughing to yell for him.  She was laughing at the fact that she fell from walking backward and thought it was funny to have to explain to the doctor and my dad that it was not from doing something risky, just walking backwards. "Mi'jo, I felt so silly wiggling on the floor and that was funny, but I am fine. I even got up on my own.  Your father got me a chair and I got myself up!"    So, to confirm that it was just a fall and nothing serious, I asked my apa and he said, he heard her laughing and want to go see what was so funny and he found her on the floor laughing "como una loca. Mi'jo, parecia como un gusano, moviendose, tratando de levanarse, la hubieras visto!"   Sometimes they go fishing.  Sometimes, my mom is good and practices Tae Kwon Do at the house.  Sometimes they are donating time or materials to the needy or volunteering time for fundraisers to help abused moms and kids.  But they busy and since I have no siblings, I am busy looking in on them. 

(1) sending off my manuscript to get it published into a book (I can finally say I have a manuscript, yay!) 
(2) researching/ interviewing people about "THE HUELGA SCHOOLS OF HOUSTON" this was once a class for the MFA, but it has taken a life of its own and I think eventually (like in the next 3 years) this will be the follow up book to my first book.
(3) Creating a workshop retreat.  That's all I can say, really.  Its top secret. Let's just say the wifey and I have big plans for Texas writers. 
(4) Creating a teen version of a writer's retreat
(5) Creating a workshop space for Latino writers
(6) sending off poems for poetry prizes and publication opportunities

I say all this as a way to lead into a heartfelt apology.  I COULD HAVE DONE BETTER.  I didn't have to leave this blog.  I should have been around even just a little, to promote the amazing work of the people I know who are doing amazing things.  Advocacy is a necessity. If we do not push to promote one another, to support one another, to advocate for one another, we devalue our individual works.  I am sorry I wasn't around. I am sorry I didn't help get word out on brilliant issues and current art events.  But with a new year, we get more chances, right?  So I intend to make the best of it.   Tag alone and let's see what happens.  


I am a little sad, as of the beginning of this year.  I am a bit heart broken.  I lost two idols. We lost two heroes in the poetry community.  #QEPD (Que En Paz Descanse)  Anthony "ZIN" Mills and Francisco X. Alarcon.   

Both of these men were larger than life for me.  

ZIN gave me my first taste of a stage and the power of poetry.  The very first open mic stage I ever read at was at a venue, the former "Mahogany Cafe".  I was 20.  I am 39 now.  I owe that man alot.  For being willing to tell a Mexican poet who walked into a primarily black open mic that he should come back because "your words are important and impressive and this crowd needs to hear you".  

FXA though we only had a few emails back and forth - was an inspiration. His poetry has always picked me up when I didn't know if I should keep going.   He was a hero for me because his heart for me was Jalisciense.  He is a tapatio, a brother from the very state, the very city, Guadalajara, Jalisco that gives me some of my poetics.   In every photo, in every video, in every message there is heart.  I hope I carry that energy he put out there.  

Both of these men are presente. Se vive y se ven entre nosotros.   Thank you for all you have been and all you are.  We are all better for having known you. 

A poem then, from FXA - 

from Of Dark Love




once again I look out your window

and the world looks oddly different,

maybe the fields have blossomed,

or perhaps more stars have been born


delirious waves caress my feet,

something new, unknown,

sunsets whisper in my ear as well,

everywhere I find your odor, your shape


you are among old-growth pines,

in the fog along the coastal rocks,

around the most somber of afternoons


impossible to wipe away your job

from my eyes, from my sad mouth—

you are the universe made flesh



So you need to get this new anthology!!  It is community, it is our youth and it is new. 

The four students in the video above are among more than 175 from a total of five Houston public schools and two Harris County juvenile detention centers learning to write poetry in a program called Iconoclast.

The program is supported by nearby St. Paul’s Methodist Church, in partnership with other donors and community members. But Iconoclast, which was launched in October 2014, is a secular poetry program without any religious content or teaching.  Its current curator/instructor/founder is fellow poet, and dear hermano, Marlon Lizama (Click on his name to go to his site).  Marlon is a beast on this project.  He is beast of a B-Boy, a father, a husband and an author of his own collection of poetry.  He is the winner of the 2015 John. P McGovern Award for his dedication to arts and humanity and damn good writer.   

This collection of poetry is entitled "They Say" and it is the first (of many) poetry collections to come from the very communities Marlon works with.  If you can, support the project and get a copy of the book.  To my knowledge, all proceeds go to creating a scholarship fund to help the very students from the anthology pursue more writing and academic goals . Get it while its hot!  Way to go Iconoclast!  En hora buena! 

Here is the link for you to get your copy!!  (CLICK HERE) 

Ok gente, with that, me despido.   Thanks for showing up and keep reading.   If you can, help spread the word and tell folks to comment.   See you next week.   And now, I leave you with the teaser for next week... 


Listen, Then Write

Hey gente!  Espero que estén bien. Its been a week, so let's do this thang. Much to review, both sad and new. 

#AyotzinapaNoSeOlvida (An update) 

If you didn't get a chance to read up on last week's blog post, take a moment to do so, I will wait. 

 . . . 

Ok, so here is the update.  Officially as has finally hit the international news outlets - there has been a discovery - the bodies of over 40 individuals in two separate pits have been discovered by the authorities right outside the city of Iguala, Guerrero.  Though no official word has been given, and the tests are still being run, there is heavy speculation that the bodies that have been found are the missing students from Escuela Normal Ayotzinapa.  

What's just as interesting is that 22 police officers from Iguala have been questioned in regards to the shootings from that Sept. 27th night. In addition - apparently the mayor of Iguala has also gone missing. 

In response to the missing number of students (officially 43 in total), the remaining students of Ayotzinapa have now blocked one of the main road ways - Autopista del Sol, in order to bring attention to the situation and to call for the government to act- a prosecution of those guilty must be enacted. Here is audio recording, calling for action from the community. 

So far and according to several news outlets - an arrest warrant has been issued on 22 police officers (who are still detained), and they are joined by another 8 gang members in connection to the shooting on Sept. 27th.  One last arrest warrant has been issued - to the Mayor, but, since he is missing (conveniently) then, it can not be served.    

Tomorrow then, in a show of solidarity, a demonstration is in order -

Call to action for October 8th, 2014

Call to action for October 8th, 2014

And just to you get a sense of how far reaching this news is (remember, if this found to be true, that the 43 missing students are found to be in the pits outside of Iguala, then it would be the one of the worst slaughters in Mexican history) tomorrow, becomes an international day of action - so far, here are the places around the globe where people are rallying to the issue -

1.- BERLÍN, Alemania, MANIFESTACIÓN FRENTE A LA EMBAJADA MEXICANA 8 de octubre 2014 / 19.00
2.- BUENOS AIRES, Argentina concentración frente a la embajada de México en Argentina (Arcos 1650, Belgrano, Buenos Aires) 8 de octubre, 11am
3.- CHILPANCINGO, 10 am MPG concentración en el monumento a Nicolás bravo (el caballito), cnte-Ceteg marcha plantón.
4.- CHIHUAHUA, 8 oct, 10 am, Facultad de Derecho, UACH
5.- LÁZARO CÁRDENAS, MICHOACÁN toma del puerto de Lazaro Cardenas.
6.- GUADALAJARA, 6 pm afuera de la normal básica y rumbo a palacio de gobierno
7.- SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, 4:30 pm Plazuela de San Diego Marcha mitin
8.- GUADALAJARA, Sede de la PGR en Jalisco (Av. 16 de septiembre No. 591, casi esq. con La Paz) 16:00
GUADALAJARA , 2a convocatoria Concentración, 16:00 PGR en Jalisco (Av. 16 de septiembre No. 591, casi esq. con La Paz)
9.- MÉRIDA, 6 pm Mérida, frente al Palacio de Gobierno (misma plaza, otra cara calle).
2a convocatoria MËRIDA, 7 pm Remate de Paseo de Monejo
11.- QUERÉTARO, 17 hrs. Rectoria UAQ
12.- CIUDAD JUÁREZ, miércoles, 8 de octubre a la(s) 19:00 en MDT
Parque Borunda
13.- DF, miércoles, 16 hrs, Ángel-Zócalo
14.- ZACATECAS, concentración Mítin en Plaza de Armas. 17:00 hrs
15.- TLAXCALA, Plaza de la Constitución, 8, 5 pm
16.- OAXACA, Oax / 5 pm / Parque el Llano
17.- PLAYA DEL CARMEN , 18:00 en Plaza 28 de Julio
18.- TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, 16:00 hrs, 3 SALIDAS: 5 de mayo, Lado poniente, y Parque de la Juventud
20.- TIJUANA, glorieta Cuauhtémoc a las 6:00 pm.
21.- MONTERREY: Palacio de gobierno de Monterrey, 5 PM
-2a convocatoria MONTERREY Paza de los Desaparecidos, 6 PM Calles Washington y Zaragoza
-3A convocatoria MONTERREY, 7 PM Plaza Colegio Civil
22.- CUERNAVACA, 17 hrs afuera de la Secundaria 4, Chipitlán al Zócalo
23.- SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, 8 oct. 17 hrs Frente a Soriana
24.- LEÓN, Gto , 6 pm Arco de la Calzada
25.- SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 11: 00 am en el consulado
26.- GUANAJUATO capital, Escalinatas de la Universidad, 5 pm. Llevar velas blancas.
GUANAJUATO 2a convocatoria 5 pm Congreso local
27.- BARCELONA, plaza Sant Jaume a las 19:00 hrs
28.- VILLAHERMOSA, Tabasco 16:00 Plaza De Armas
29.- SALINA CRUZ, MOVILIZACION REGIONAL MASIVA, 8:00 AM A 18:00 HRS. Refinería de Salina Cruz.
30.- AGUASCALIENTES, 5pm. Normalistas de Caniada Honda de la Centro comercial Altaria , hacia el Centro de Ags
31.- XALAPA, Ver. 16 hrs. Escuela Normal Veracruzana "Enrique C. Rébsamen"
32.- MORELIA, Michoacán, a las 4 pm saliendo de Xangari, salida patzcuaro
33.- VALLADOLID, Yucatán 6 pm, Parque Candelaria, del teatro Estelar la aurora al palacio municipal
34.- TORREÓN, Coahuila. Miércoles 8 de octubre. 5 pm Plaza de Armas
35.- TECPAN DE GALEANA, Guerrero 19:00, del panteon al zocalo hay que ir vestidos de negro.
36.- TUXPAN, Veracruz Miércoles, 6 pm. del Monumento a los niños héroes Se portará moño negro y una veladora.
37.- CANCÚN, 16 hrs, Kiosco del Crucero
38.- PUEBLA, 10:00 A. M. Ciudad niversitaria
-Puebla, 2:30pm Gallito
-PUEBLA 11 am Parque Juárez
39.- MAZATLÁN, 7 pm, Plazuela República
40.- CHICAGO miércoles, 8 de oct,16:30 Mexican Consulate in Chicago, 204 S Ashland Ave.
41.- MADRID.- 18 hrs, Callao a Puerta del Sol
42.- DURANGO, Plaza de Armas, 18 hrs
43.- SAN LUIS POTOSÍ, Plaza de Armas 18:30 hrs
45.- LONDRES, 5:3 hrs0 Embajada de México
46.- PACHUCA, 16:30, De Plaza Juárez a Reloj Monumental
47.- CHIHUAHUA, 07:00 pm Marcha del silencio, Normal Saucillo
48.- HERMOSILLO, Sonora, 17 hrs. Plaza Zulbeldía
49.- TEHUACÁN, Puebla 18 hrs. de Aurrerá al Parque Juárez
50.- CULIACÁN 4:30 pm La Lomita
51.- NUEVA YORK, de 17:00 a 19:00 Consulado Mexicano. 39th St. New York, NY. (Entre Madison y Park Avenue)
52.- IRAPUATO, Fuanajuato, 7 pm Jardin Principal
53.- POZA RICA, Veracruz, 16hrs parque Benito Juárez García
54.- CHETUMAL 18 horas, punto de reunion museo de la cultura maya
55.- ACAPULCO, 18 hrs. Diana Cazadora
56.- LA PAZ, Baja California Sur, Parque Morelos, en 5 de febrero y Forjadores a las 5:30 pm el miércoles 8 de octubre
57.- TEPIC 17:00 Plaza Principal Tepic
57.- LOS ANGELES, CA 11 am Consulado de México
58.- MONTREAL, CANADÁ: 17hrs Consulado mexicano, 2055 Rue Peel
60. comité ejecutivo estudiantil y el Sindicato de académicos de chapingo marchamos,
salimos a las dos pm para el ángel

El pueblo unido, ... 

El pueblo unido, ... 

From here in Houston, I haven't heard anything set for tomorrow - so during the day, expect me to do a little something - out of a show of solidarity.  I won't be able to attend a rally at the Mexican Consulate (I would have liked to help organize that, but I just found out about this, this morning), but I will enact something symbolic. If you can, so the same - light a candle, say a prayer, send a message. Be heard.  #Ayotzin43 #AyotzinapaNoSeOlvida

#UPDATE!!!  From a FACEBOOK post, today at 11 am this morning!

Monica Villarreal posted :

The local branch of Yo Soy 132 are calling to show your support with the students of Ayotzinaoa, Guerrero in Mexico. Sam Houston Statue in Montrose and Main, 6:00 PM tonight." 

Yo Soy 132 - Media Houston  has also posted:

"Mañana Octubre 8, estaremos en la glorieta de Sam Houston en Montrose y Main, para solidarizarnos con la marcha nacional por los mártires de Ayotzinapa. Vamos a tomar fotografías para mostrar que los mexicanos en Houston estamos del lado de los estudiantes. Los esperamos a las 6:00 pm Gracias #Yosoy132-Houston" 

Join them if you can!!  

Here are the faces and identities of the missing students, with a little detail about each one. 

Iguala: 43 desaparecidos, 43 historias (primera parte)

Iguala: 43 desaparecidos, 43 historias (segunda parte)


So last week - I was able to catch an amazing show - directed and produced by an amazing friend of mine - the astounding TAMMY GOMEZ.  The show itself?  PALABRA: THE WRITTEN WORD SPOKEN.  Believe the hype. It is an splendid amalgam of music and visual art, poetry and stage production and it is deeply literary. It is a journey through the ins and outs of Latinidad and Latino Poetics and it is historical. 

The poets/actors/performers/dancers - take several poets and their work and breathe brimstone and ember into their work. Poets (some of my favorites, actually) like Roque Dalton (El Salvador), Mario Benedetti (Uruguay), Otto Rene Castillo, Miguel Piñero, Blanca Varela, etc., they are well represented - as the artists render the poems in new ways - they take them from page turners to memory burners.  They have done a blessing of a job to the work. 

A Q & A after the show, this past week at HCC Southeast Campus!

A Q & A after the show, this past week at HCC Southeast Campus!

This amazing show was here in Houston for one night only - and the cast did amazingly. If you are ever in the Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth area, I suggest you look this show up. It pulls at all the strings that make you love art and music, poetry and soul.  The show was part of HCC Southeast's (way to go Stalina!!) Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in conjunction with the school's Mexican American Studies Program.  



So for this week, I will give you a tidbit of what I am working on this semester - 

As Tim Z. Hernandez, author of “Mañana Means Tomorrow” states – Anthropoesia or Anthropoetry, is “a poetry which utilizes the tools and techniques of the ethnographer as a means of generating a ‘poetry that is centrally about the human condition.’ Just as documentary poetics is a research-based approach to poetry, which relies heavily on the gathering of external information, Antropoesia hones in on a field of study related to a specific community or ethnic group.”

I am working in terms of "Poet as researcher" - namely working with an important chapter in Mexican American history from here in Houston - the rise of the "Huelga Schools". The Huelga Schools movement was a direct response to Houston Independent School District's crazy attempt to "integrate" public schools in the late 1960's.  In truth the plan didn't actually go into effect until the 1970 - 71 school year.  The districts goal - to integrate brown and black schools - pairing up the schools and zoning brown students (who the district labeled as white) to predominately black schools. In some cases - the district didn't provide students with adequate transportation to get to their new schools - which might be 5 or more miles away from their homes (when they could previously attend a school a block away from their homes) and place them in schools where the district didn't provide additional materials to teach the new populations in the predominately black schools. So, the Mexican American community decided that enough was enough - they would take the educating of their children into their own hands - and the Huelga Schools were born. 

Tons of research has already been done - especially by Dr. Guadalupe (my tocayo!!) San Miguel jr., history professor at the University of Houston. He published a book entitled "Brown, Not White" (click on the book title to see the link) which breaks apart the entire history of the building of the Huelga Schools, the laws that proved later to be unconstitutional, who were the key players that make this work, etc,. 

My goal for this project is to be able to create a series of poems based on my research and oral history interviews about the day to day lives of the teachers, the organizers and the students who took part in such an important part in Houston Chicano History.  

Here are some small parts to what I have been able to get a hold of thus far. 

1) An interview with several teachers and one principal from two different Huelga Schools - the Denver Harbor Huelga School and the St. Steven's Huelga School. 

2) Photographs from original content (class rosters, class photos, news clippings) from some of the participants of the Huelga Schools

3) Archival collections (thanks HMRC and Mika!!) and copies of reports and data from HISD about population breakdown and estimated/actual numbers of students in attendance at schools (per ethnic listing). 

I would go into more, but it would give away my research!!  Stay tuned! 

So, for now, hope you had a good read and i will see you guys next week.  I leave you with  . . . 


A writer writes para prestar su voz a todo el mundo

Hey mi gente,  hope you are doing well on your side of the screen. Let's get going straight up with what was and what is new. Hope you are ready. 


HOLY. HELL. So from the last time you saw a blog post from me (check them out, if you are new to my blog!) I was finishing up my blog in relation to my Summer I MFA class - "The Creative Experience", all the travel writing and the intensity of creating +10 poems from that class was a cool trip. On the plus side, I got to hang out with some amazing writers and our profe, Daniel Chacon (not to mention hanging out with some cool undergraduates!!) THEN, I entered the gauntlet of poetry production and film/book relations with two more classes in Summer II - "Advanced Poetry Writing" & "Storytelling in FIlm & Literature. It was a massive summer. ON top of that, I was able to take part in a life changing opportunity - CANTOMUNDO. I can't speak enough about it. It was a beautiful gathering of like minded writers. It was a space to let it all hang out and speak about craft, about performance, about the ins and outs of publishing and the future of Latino Poetics. I am humbled to have been chosen and then grateful for the newest friends I have made. 

As if that wasn't enough, I came back home, hung out with the wifey for a bit, made a quick trip to Anaheim, got some publications out (major thanks to Rosebud Ben-Oni, Glassworks, Luna Luna Magazine and Maggie Galehouse) and had time to put on a reading for Natalia Treviño's new book - "LAVANDO LA DIRTY LAUNDRY". Then after that - made some time to help put on  an amazing WORD AROUND TOWN POETRY TOUR - 2014! (Click on the bold to see links)

OH, and I got three A's from the summer.  What did you do? ( - In truth, I almost feel foolish staring the blog off with this news, for the next details are a bit rough, forgive the harshness)


There is a lot going on today. Next week's blog will focus a bit on what I have been working on these past few weeks, as the fall semester treks on. For now though, I want to shift the focus bit. 

There are moments too valuable to let a matter of truth slip by, unreviewed. This then, is one of them. 


Sad news from the state of Guerrero, México. 
First,  the Official Report as told by UNAM's La Jornada.  

Policías balean a normalistas de Ayotzinapa en Iguala; 5 muertos
Police shoot "Normalistas" from Ayotzinapa in Iguala; 5 dead
(Click on the article title to view)

Headline for La Jornada, September 28th, 2014

Headline for La Jornada, September 28th, 2014


Sergio Ocampo Arista 
La Jornada 
Sunday, 28 September 2014, p. 5 
Iguala, Gro., September 27. 

Armed attacks from municipal police and alleged gunmen were launched Friday night against students of the Normal School Rural Ayotzinapa which left five dead, 25 wounded, one brain dead . 25 others are still missing, the student witnesses reported. 

The attack, which continued the early hours of Saturday, was aimed at anyone who looked like a student. Gunmen fired at a bus filled with  traveling soccer team players, theHornets, the senior professional division soccer team,while on the federal highway Iguala-Chilpancingo . The vehicle fell off a cliff. The bus driver and one player were found dead. 

The students had come to meet Friday afternoon on four buses to engage in a fundraising event, at 6 pm. After the event concluded, the students took three buses to get out of Iguala, which apparently led the chase for more than two hours by municipal, state and federal police. 

At a press conference this afternoon at the school, Normal Ayotzinapa, parents and student leaders reported that several students were executed extra judicially -  students included, Daniel Solis Gallardo, a native of Zihuatanejo, in the first attackw which happened after 8 pm on Friday; then  Yosivani Guerrero, Omeapa village, municipality of Tixtla was also killed; while Aldo Solano Gutiérrez, born in Ayutla de los Libres, has been ruled brain dead. 

Of the 25 injured students, five are by gunfire, including Gutiérrez Solano, 25 others missing and an equal number are arrested. 

Photo taken about an hour after the shootings occurred. 

Photo taken about an hour after the shootings occurred. 

This morning, near where students were killed in Iguala on the downtown corner of Juan Alvarez St. , the body of a young man was found, who showed signs of torture and a skinned face. It is unknown if he was a student of the normal school. The Attorney General of the State (PGJE) counts the fatality as number six. 

The students demanded impeachment and dismissal of Mayor Jose Luis Abarca Velázquez and Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero, and the removal of the Secretary of Public Safety Iguala, Felipe Flores Velázquez. 

In a separate attack, gunmen and police fired on the bus of Chilpancingo's Hornets football (soccer) team in the Iguala-Acapulco highway. The vehicle, Castro Tours company, had been run off the road and the driver, Victor Manuel Lugo Ortiz, and one studentand footballer David Evangelista Joshua Garcia, 14 years old  were killed . A taxi driver who was passing by was injured and his passenger, Blanca Sánchez Montiel died. Four people in total have minor injuries. 

Almost simultaneously, a delegation from the Union of Workers of the College of Bachelors was attacked with bullets leaving two people injured, including its leader Alfredo Ramírez García, who later had surgery to remove a bullet from his shoulder. 

Scenes of desperation 

Mr. Jose Ma. Memije Rodriguez reached that point, near the town Santa Teresa." I come to get my son, but I am told that he was taken to the Public Ministry of Iguala", he said distressed aside Castro Tours truck-where his boy was traveling with other athletes - the bus involved has been found in the canyon, still, with broken windows along the left side. 

"My son's name is Christian David Memije Meza, and he came to referee the game against the Hornets, the selection of Iguala. I said (on the phone) I was hurt and that the truck was going all over the place on the road and we do not know why - but I made a call to the authorities see about these as criminal acts against athletes from Chilpancingo.  We are promoting the sport and its not right that this happens to them."

Concentrated police 

Iñaki Cabrera Cabrera, head of the state prosecutor's office, went to meet early today, but refused to make statements to the few details that were in the regional prosecutor's office; by the afternoon, it was announced that six people were killed and 17 were injured; the prosecutor initiated investigations. 

He stressed to clarify the facts, "the Public Ministry concentrated all municipal personnel, security personal, weapons and vehicle units as far as assigned for the performance of their duties in order to practice the respective expertise as warranted." 

The statement explained that "because of the fact that the normal school took three trucks to the bus station to go to school", police fired their weapons on vehicles. Elsewhere in the city, he says, officers located "Three buses -two Coast Line bus line and one of the company Star Oro- five vehicles and a motorcycle, all with laden with gunshot fire, apparently caliber .223 (AR-15). "

The State Coordinator of Education Workers (CETEG) condemned the attack and announced  a plan of action against education reform, and it will include a requirement to punish those responsible for the death of the two normal school students. 

Peter David García López, representative of the Student Executive Committee Ayotzinapa said: "as we were asking for fundraising assistance" as It was, he spoke to the truck drivers and "they agreed to do us a favor, it was not an abduction or threat to a driver, we were going to do, because we are students. We proceeded to the buses from the center to the plaza, here, to move on to the normal school. The bus had already dropped its passengers", he said. 

Family members in Iguala grieving. 

Family members in Iguala grieving. 

"Peers have videos that show that it was the (police) state and federal who were there. At that time the police started shooting at three buses and that's when a classmate got hit and fell. "

On December 12, 2012, along the Autopista del Sol, in Chilpancingo, two students were killed. And on January 7 on Atoyac two other youths were hit, while they were engaged in fundraising activites along the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway. 

Reports of wounded 

The state Health Secretary Lazaro Mazon Alonso, reported that 18 people were reported injured in the violence in Iguala, 14 were hospitalized and cared for by health sector personnel in the same locality; two more in the ISSSTE, IMSS Acapulco -one with a bullet in the eye, and another in a private hospital, he said. He said that of the 14 wounded under his responsibility, five were discharged, one died at 5 in the morning and one underwent surgery. One was moved to Mexico City and another remains in intensive care. The rest continue to live in Iguala. 

Meanwhile, state police in coordination with the Army, Federal Police and judicial police took control of the safety of Iguala. This was announced by the State Secretary of Public Security, Leonardo Vazquez. He said that from Saturday take control in Igualan municipality until it is deemed necessary. 



Ahora, los detalles así comunicados a mi, departe de una compañera ahí en la zona. Lo que se reporta departe de los periodistas no es todo la historia completa - in truth, though some of the details are correct, some parts haven't been reported out- and thanks to Bryan Parras and a mutual friend, we are able to get the whole story. 

The whole picture is this - the "students" in this horrific event are adult students currently attending a teacher college in the rural outskirts of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero (Gro), a small town located about an hour and a half from Iguala. The school is unique a it is dedicated to serving a mostly indigenous population. Originally founded in 1926, La Escuela Normal Rural - Raúl Isidro Burgos, (click the bold words for the school) better known as Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa, is dedicated to producing creative, honest teachers from - "una institución formada de hombres libres, íntegros, de profesionistas que sean dignos representantes de la carrera magisterial; hombres concretos, desarrollándose en situaciones concretas".  

Students in protest. 

Students in protest. 

Sin duda, estos jovenes son hechos de concreto. There are over 300 students, a majority of them from rural tribus, ranchos, y el mismo pueblo de Ayotzinapa. They are bilingual students who speak Spanish and either Nahuatl or Mixteco. Their only goal? TO BECOME TEACHERS. They want to live some crazy dream of being teachers and get jobs and go back into the very tribes they are from and TEACH THE CHILDREN OF THEIR TRIBES.  

As both Bryan and I got to listen to the frantic revelations from that Friday/Saturday nightmare, our source was able to tell us about these young men and women - they come from high up in the hills and the mountains in the area just to attend school. They travel on foot at least an hour to go to school, a school that up until 30 years ago had been funded by the government. But is no longer the case. But they still come and they still graduate, they are students and fundraisers. They are a thorn in the side of the police and the city officials in Iguala to be sure.

After all, who wants to be reminded that you are overlooking the indigenous populations of your state?  

In truth, the night of Sept. 27th isn't the first time the students have had their run in with police forces in Iguala. 

On December 12th (Día de La Virgen de Guadalupe), 2011, two "Normalistas" - as the students are called, were killed by police forces. Ayotzinapa Normalistas Gabriel Echeverría de Jesus and Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino were shot just outside the capital city of Guerrero, Chilpancingo. The students bodies were found along the Autopista del Sol. 

Two years after the fact, the rest of the "Normalistas" post a message in commemoration to their fallen schoolmates - photo taken in December of 2013. 

Two years after the fact, the rest of the "Normalistas" post a message in commemoration to their fallen schoolmates - photo taken in December of 2013. 

You might wonder why the police would think these students are a threat. Right now, we don't have reasonable answer.  Aside from the fact that the Mexican government has slowly stopped funding "Escuelas Normales Rurales" and that these students keep refusing to end educational pursuits, it could be they don't want any dissenters.   These students are asking for change and reform for their school and their community and for some, this has proven to be a point of combat. But the "Normalistas" press on.  How? 

Let's go back to Friday, Sept. 27th. Several news sources quote the police and make reference to police reports that the students were pursued because they were trying to hijack city buses that night.  The truth of it was that they were trying to head home after a day of organized fundraising - and what were they fundraising for?  An already planned trip to el Distrito Federal (DF), the capitol of México, in order to take part in the 46th anniversary events of el 2 de Octubre.   They were students, planning a field trip to attend a protest, or a rally or a memorial service. The bottom line is they were students being students, doing college student things.  Getting shot was not a part of the experience.  

But sadly, this isn't the end of the issue.  Since the E.N.R. de Ayotiznapa currently has a student body of 300 students, about 200 of them had gone to the fundraising event in Iguala on the night of Sept. 27th. Of the 200, 4 have been killed, 4 have been injured, 1 has been in a vegetative state (if he has not already unplugged from his breathing machines) and another 67 have gone missing. Entirely missing. The students loaded up on three buses - all heading out of town, heading back to Ayotiznapa. But they never got to town. Two of the buses are completely unaccounted for and the last bus was later found on Sunday, full of bullet holes and shredded tires. No students or remains have been found.    

Currently, a multitude of family members have gone back into Iguala looking for any clues- literally going door to door inquiring about the whereabouts to their children.  The word on the street is that the cartels in the area were working with the police against the "Normalistas" - (witnesses on the road near the bus full of high school soccer players, said they saw an unmarked car firing into the bus as well as the cops). The fear is that either the police or the cartels have the remaining 67 "Normalistas".  Right now that is the question: Where have the 67 gone?

Press conference in Iguala after parents arrive to search for missing students. 

Press conference in Iguala after parents arrive to search for missing students. 

This hasn't made the news here in the U.S - you won't catch it on CBS or NBC or any of the American news stations. You have to read about it, and even then, some of the details might be a little off. Just read, and read and pray and read. 


If you are connected to news sources or know of media (both corporate and independent), then tell them about the story. This was an event that did away with almost 1/3 of a school population. It is a massive F*CKUP on the part of the governance and the police of the city of Iguala.  Show them this link - Acción Urgente    The global community has to know what is taking place in Guerrero. The Center for Human Rights in the Mountains - Tlachinollan or Centro de derechos humanos de la montaña is one of the groups that is calling for attention to be called forth upon the mayor's office in Iguala, and the governor's office as well. The more international pressure is placed on the adminstradores en Guerrero, es posible que les llame la atención y actuen para encontrar los desaparecidos.  Esperamos que si.  Press on, gente, press on.  

Spread the word. Keep up with the news. Understand that militarized police action against students isn't just an American issue, its a global issue.  I hope that certain detractors (those that name the women and children coming across the "southern border", as a negative event, not a humanitarian crisis), see this as well. If we ask, why is it that some people are willing to risk their lives to cross over, those detractors haven't seen the major issues plaguing people in their own lands. No one who is searching for education should be terrorized.  

* Many thanks to Bryan Parras and our contact in Iguala, Gro, MEX. 

And now, the tease: 


Walk About Town and Write On VII

Hey Gente, 

Sorry for the delay, finally back stateside and am using the time to get my bearings: new poetry events, new poems and new job functions in the works- not to mention some quality time with the wifey!  

Ok, so if you are ready, then let's get started: 


The street I lived on while in Madrid - Calle Gurtubay 4, Iqz 4o , Madrid, SP

The street I lived on while in Madrid - Calle Gurtubay 4, Iqz 4o , Madrid, SP

The third to last night of the trip, we watched an amazing rendition of Moliere's "MISANTHROPE" - here is the synopses of the original French play: 

"Much to the horror of his friends and companions, Alceste rejects la politesse, the social conventions of the seventeenth century French salon. His refusal to "make nice" makes him tremendously unpopular and he laments his isolation in a world he sees as superficial and base, saying early in Act I, "... Mankind has grown so base, / I mean to break with the whole human race.”

Despite his convictions, however, Alceste cannot help but love the flighty and vivacious Célimène, a consummate flirt whose wit and frivolity epitomize the courtly manners that Alceste despises. Though he constantly reprimands her, Célimène refuses to change, charging Alceste with being unfit for society.

Despite his sour reputation as "the misanthrope," Alceste does have women pining for him, particularly the moralistic Arsinoé and the honest Eliante. Though he acknowledges their superior virtues, his heart still lies with Célimène. His deep feelings for her primarily serve to counter his negative expressions about mankind, since the fact that he has such feelings includes him amongst those he so fiercely criticizes.

When Alceste insults a sonnet written by the powerful noble, Oronte, he is called to stand trial. Refusing to dole out false compliments, he is charged and humiliated, and resolves on self-imposed exile.

His friends forsake him, and upon meeting them, he discovers that Célimène has been leading him on. She has written identical love letters to numerous suitors and broken her vow to favor him above all others. He gives her an ultimatum: he will forgive her and marry her if she runs away with him to exile. Célimène refuses, believing herself too young and beautiful to leave society and all her suitors behind. Philinte, for his part, becomes betrothed to Eliante. Alceste then decides to exile himself from society, and the play ends with Philinte and Eliante running off to convince him to return."

Playbill for "MIsantropo" 

Playbill for "MIsantropo" 

       So the Spanish version changes up a few things and gives it a much more contemporary feel - the backdrop of the play is a single night at a nightclub. The characters are somewhat the same, but they come and go in and out of the club - partaking of drugs, fiddling with cell phones, taking a piss in the alley way - the lines are the same, the energy is the same, but the motifs used to deliver the action are modern day devices - messages in letter are now texts and posts on cell phones - Oronte's sonnet is not a sonnet, but a song, and he is now a up and coming music celebrity.

          The play, overall, was a smooth ride. There are moments when Alceste breaks the "4th wall" sortaspeak - he is aware of something else around him- there were moments when the action goes into slow motion around him or things so silent around him - each of the players actually slows down movements and goes silent as the lighting bleeds out in a bright white light around Alceste as he takes notice of something, a thought, a brief moment of fatigue or an idea that strikes him, and then just like that, the moment is over and he comes out of it, in a daze.  Here, its as if his exile is already starting to become much more self-imposing from the get go. It was a pretty neat play!

The next night, we watching a  Zarzuela -

            A zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. As such, it was my first time seeing one and to tell the truth, I didn't know what the hell was going on. In this case - it would best be seen by someone who understands the very nature and lifestyle of the Spanish people. It was a cool show, but most of the jokes and the critiques fell flat for me, but the rest of the crowd were well entertained.  

       The fun for the group started later on that night, as we walked away from the theatre and made our way down back to la Plaza de Santa Ana - and slowly walked around. As we walked down the street - I can't tell you the one, for the life of me, we ran into a bar - the "PopulArt Jazz Bar" - and out of it rang the most amazing jazz music - like this: 

It was an amazing moment. It was exactly what the night called for.

On the next  and final day, we went to check out the Prado and I found several pieces of art that would make for a good ekphrastic poem (or 3)  - 

From there, we had a free day, until that night. I spent the day running around the park and absorbing the last of Madrid in el Parque del Retiro. It was a nice day and an amazing evening, as we had the chance to check out an amazing dinner and a Flamenco show: 

It was a marvelous way to end an amazing night in Madrid.  Of course, once we were done with dinner and the Flamenco show WE HAD TO GET DOWN TO BUSINESS: 

And with that, so ended my trip to the UK and Spain. It was an amazing opportunity and I loved getting to travel with classmates, with writers and getting to know their thoughts about writing and the process of creating art. I already miss the spaces and the night time... 

Thank you, Profe - and to you my MFAers and the rest of the Miners for making this a special trip!!! 

NEXT WEEK!! - back to the blog at hand!!


Walk About Town and Write On VI

What up, gente!?!?  

So, I finally was able to get a little rest, as well as roam around the city a bit more yesterday. It was our "day off" but writers don't get days off - we just write more or think of what to write about, or edit, or read, or panic or imagine. In other words - it is never a dull moment when you have art on the brain. If you are ready and in the mood to read a bit more about these adventures, then let's do the damn thing!!

Inside the Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. 

Inside the Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. 

The trip Thursday, (JUNE 19th) took us to two places - Alcalá de Henares and Aranjuez. Although to be honest, the trip to Alcalá was much more interesting. So, I will post mostly on that adventure.  We took the day in Alcalá and had the opportunity to visit the University. It is a sight to see. Historically, The University of Alcalá (this part is taken from a google search) is especially renowned in the Spanish-speaking world for its annual presentation of the highly prestigious Cervantes Prize.  (CLICK on the BOLD to get more info) The University currently enrolls 28,336 students, 17,252 of whom are studying undergraduate degrees which are taught by a teaching staff of 2,608 professors, lecturers and researchers belonging to 24 departments. 

What I thought was most impressive, was the fact that the central portion of the campus is the oldest - they still use the building. Originally the campus was founded in 1293. YES, you read that right. 1293 - originally founded as the STUDY of GENERAL SCHOOLS in ALCALA under decree of then King Sancho IV of Spain. By 1499, it was an official university. There is history in the halls and the courts of this place. 

So with that small tour, we got to check out the school and found an amazing amount of points of interest - but there is one that for me is a good omen: 

One of the many students of the University of Alcalá and the founder of Jesuit Order 

One of the many students of the University of Alcalá and the founder of Jesuit Order 

I found this seal in the wall - San Ignacio de Loyola.  I smiled at the sight of this - don't know why- perhaps a connection between the past and the present and the future. Perhaps an understanding that all people are connected. Perhaps all of it - but it was a neat "discovery", especially since I will be teaching at a Jesuit school in the coming weeks. I had no idea behind the history of the Jesuits, except for what I studied in my undergraduate degree in conjunction with the history of the Basilian Fathers at the University Of St. Thomas (HOUSTON) - and even then it was little. Just like the Basilian Fathers, Jesuits pursue education and faith. I find this connection to my past and my future employment as a positive.  OK, so if you are at Cristo Rey Jesuit back home and are reading this - get ready - I'M COMING FOR YOU!!  I give you this gift, an image that represents one of the founders of the Jesuits. You are most welcome. ;) 

NOW, back to the trip.

SO, our next stop was to visit the childhood home of Cervantes, the writer - it was a cute cottage, but we couldn't take any pictures and we didn't have a guide to help put things in context - BUT what we did after was more important - Thanks to Daniel Chacón (our profe), he was able to get us an amazing hook up with a poet who is currently working on her residency/fellowship there in Alcalá!!  We were joined by XÁNATH CARAZA (CLICK ON HER NAME TO GET MORE INFO). 

It was amazing experience - getting the chance to meet with a poet and writer whom I had only been able to meet exclusively thought TWITTER. We follow each other and it was great getting to put comments to face. 

          It was extraordinary experience getting to talk to her. I took the opportunity to ask as many different questions about craft and habits of writing and translations and language as I could think of.  It was a good conversation. She is a mystical writer- her use of language and image, her depth and her sincerity are all right there on the page.

          She talked to us about what poetry means to her, how she got her start writing as a teen and working on a column for a local newspaper and realizing she had a skill for writing. I was able to ask her about the themes she feels are always present in her work and she told us about women issues, the feminine identity is always there. She said her work always pushes the envelope. I asked if she still feels if it is difficult to write poetry and try to keep the language important or does the soap box element sneak in and she said something comforting -"it is always there"- and that makes me feel good, to know that someone struggles with this. It means I am doing it right. 

        Xánath is warm soul. She read us two poems (dos poemas mas chingones) and listened to us as we read poems to her. It was intimate, it was very real - and all the while, we sat eating and sharing, drinking and talking right in front of Cervantes' home. Quijote and Panza watched us the entire time.  This is a moment I will not forget. It was good to amongst writers, talking about writing, finding out what other writers do with their work and what it means for them to write. 

From there, we took a small tour of the city- Xánath was willing to walk with us - pointing out the things she found fascinating about Alcalá. We walked in the sun and the breeze, under the darting golondrinas (swallows) and the storks (cigüeñas) - the emblem bird of the city of Alcalá. It was an energizing day. 

       You should check out her work.   She has a series of books out, but the two that I am most familiar with are (Click on each title and check out each book!!) :


Noche de Colibríes

Lo que trae la marea - What the Tide Brings  

From there, we said our goodbyes and made our way to Aranjuez and checked out an old palace, once the residence of Queen Isabelle II: 

The back courtyard at Aranjuez. 

The back courtyard at Aranjuez. 

And that folks, was all she wrote...  I wish I could tell you more about the palace, but we didn't have a guide and we couldn't take pictures. It was really regal though. A shit load of gold and tapestries. 

For now, this closes out this blog post - I think I should have one more to post here from Madrid the day after tomorrow. It has been a fun trip. The adventure continues... 


Walk About Town and Write on V

¿Que hay de nuevo, mi gente?  Hope you are doing well. So - to catch you up -I have had a day and a half here in Spain (Madrid) and all the sights and the sounds have come back to me so quickly. Last I was here, was the summer of 07' and the summer of 08'  - backpacked around and loved every minute of it. 

In a nut shell, this is what I was able to do: 

-Reorient myself to the space and the people and the energy of the city. It is exciting to be here as a writer, amongst other writers.  

-Have a few tapas and a few drinks

-Walk from my host house - at a half block from the Metro stop (Retiro) at the top of EL PARQUE DEL RETIRO, all the way down, past la PUERTA DE ALCALA, all the way down la Calle de Alcala, and see PLAZA MAYOR and PUERTA DEL SOL. 

All the ONLINE MFAers and our prof. Daniel Chacón were able to share and celebrate the next portion of the trip.  

That was last night - I am still processing what we were able to do today. I will have that ready for you soon. In the meantime, enjoy the pics...