Monday, January 24, 2005


One short piece of news and one very short story -

I picked up this tidbit from The Poverty Law News, a weekly newsletter published by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Educational Achievement Reflects Family Background More Than Ethnicity or Immigration

This study by the Rand Corporation finds that the most important factors associated with the educational achievement of children are not race, ethnicity, or immigrant status. Instead, the most critical factors appear to be socioeconomic ones. These factors include parental education levels, neighborhood poverty, parental occupational status, and family income.


Kite Lesson - by Manuel Ramos
Florence, Colorado, 1955

Luis was seven when his father bought a kite and tried to teach him how to fly it.
They walked from their house to the baseball field, overgrown with weeds, and waited for the wind to gather. Luis stood in silence, away from the action.
Jesús was all business as he put together the plastic blue and red thing, attached the string and added a tail of old rags. When he finished his preparations the man chased away the dogs that sniffed at the contraption. He watched the sky for a hint of turbulence, a sign that it was time to launch the toy.
"I learned how to fly kites from my brother Danny. He knew so much about everything, son, so much. He was only nineteen when they killed him in Korea. He would've been a great man. Strong, smart. He taught me about life when I was no older than you, Luis. Lessons that a man needs to know to survive. La vida es dura."
Luis nodded but, as usual, his father lost him. He had heard the story of Danny many times. Jesús's eyes filled with sadness as he spoke of his dead brother. The boy was puzzled by the man's insistence on remembering.
The wind rose to a level that appeared to be right. Luis grabbed the kite and held it aloft, causing the wind to catch it. His father clutched the string.
"You should master this art, boy. And it is an art, after all, as well as a science. Kites show the delicate balance between security and the animal urge to let go, to live life in the clouds. Entiendes, chico?"
He jerked the string and the kite jumped.
"Let it go, Luis, let the damn thing go." He led the kite into the sky.
It was a beautiful kite. It lazily drifted upward to the full white clouds. Sunlight flashed off the plastic sheen creating red, blue and gold streaks.
Jesús reeled out yard after yard of string. The kite hungrily accepted the freedom. The man laughed and hollered and jumped among the weeds.
"There it goes, boy, there it goes! Our kite is now flying with the birds and we did it, we broke the law of gravity. My brother was right."
The boy watched the floating, tiny speck of color. He saw birds near the kite, the tail flapping crazily; and he heard his father's laugh, but Luis couldn't understand.
"Hijo, take the string, fly this baby."
Jesús offered the ball of string. He laid it in the boy's hand.
"Let it drift with the breeze. No need to give it any more slack, it's plenty high already."
Luis never held the ball. He felt it slip from his hand, saw it drag along the ground. Slowly it rose, so slowly that for years when he thought of this day it was in slow motion black and white. He ran after the string but it was above his head. Suddenly it took off with more speed than the boy had experienced in all of his short life.
Jesús jumped for the string but it was gone. He turned, looked at Luis, then shook his head. He kicked at the dirt with his boot, shrugged weary shoulders and walked back to the house.
The kite disappeared over some trees. Luis stared at the empty sky. When he looked for his father, the man was blocks away. Luis ran but he couldn't catch up to him.


A slightly different version of this story originally was published in The Upper Larimer Arts & Times.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This And That

Comics - Graphic Novels

Speaking of literature (someone was, right?) Any opinion about the illustrated mags? I like the hard-boiled and noir stuff such as 100 Bullets and American Century and just about anything my pal Gary Phillips is involved with - Angel Town, Shot Callerz and Midnight Mover, for examples. But, to keep the topic on point (or the point on topic) how about Los Bros Hernandez and their wide variety of work? LA City Beat had a recent article about Jaime Hernandez and the splendid Love and Rockets. Here's the opening paragraph:

"Cartoonist Jaime Hernandez taps barrio culture, magic realism, and punk-rock values to explore the inner lives of the feisty, goofy, maddening, stoic, impulsive girls in the acclaimed ‘Love and Rockets'".

Maggie, Ray and Hopey have aged a bit since they first appeared in 1981 in the original self-published Love and Rockets. But their ongoing changes continue to reflect the changing lifestyle of the artist and the SoCal landscape where the Locas now raise families, try to hold jobs, and, ya' know, just hang.

There was a time when I didn't write books but I sold them, through the mail. It was all Latino Lit. That was a fun gig, for a very short while until I decided I needed to spend more time creating my own books instead of selling someone else's. Anyway, my catalogs included trade paperback collections of Love and Rockets. Can you imagine that some people questioned why such things would be for sale right next to Bless Me, Ultima, The House On Mango Street, and Rain of Gold? That was several years ago - we are past that now, no?

Anyone out there with other comics, graphic novels, whatever you call them, that fit in with the overall Chicana/o theme of this blog? What is it about this art form that holds our attention long after the adolescent fantasy aspect is over? I confess to a guilty secret: I have always wanted to write one of these but never got to it. Any artist out there want to illustrate a Chicano noir tale (no superheroes and probably no redemption)?_____________________________________________________________________________Chicano Chicano Art Movement

Co-blogger Michael sent out a flash that the LA Times recently ran an article about the ever-changing Chicano art scene. The article is The New Chicano Movement and you should be able to get to it online. The author, Josh Kun, provides a good overview of the SoCal Chicana/o artist environment and the ongoing, classic dialectic between old and new, traditional and revolutionary.
Los Bravos

A reader asked about Los Bravos and the song Black is Black (1966). I think the implication of the question was that, maybe, Los Bravos was a Chicano band. I didn't really know, although I've always liked the song and it's pure, simple and catchy lyric: Black is black, I want my baby back, It's gray, it's gray, Since she went away, whoa-whoa. And then something about being blue, too. So, I did some checking. Found out:

The group was led by former Mike & the Runaways singer Michael Volker Kogel (born in Berlin, Germany, in 1944). The other four original members -- bassist Miguel Vicens Danus (born in Corunna, Spain, 1943), guitarist Tony Martinez (born in Madrid, Spain, 1944), organist Manuel Fernandez (Sevilla, Spain, 1942), and drummer Pablo Sanllehi (Barcelona, Spain, 1943) -- had all been working together previously in the Spanish group Los Sonors.

You can find out more about Los Bravos at Artist Direct.

Not a Chicano band - more like a German/Spanish band trying to crack the English Invasion.


Manuel Ramos

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bits and Pieces

A Chicano Band That Wasn't Into Chicano

This appeared on Latino LA, a good source of news, opinions, and so forth. The article provides an interesting look at the Los Angeles Mexican-American music scene in the early to mid-1960s, which has become an era fondly remembered and idealized by Chicano music aficionados.

Here are the opening lines of the article.

In the Midnite Hour
Thee Midniters never cared for ethnicity——others did
By Gustavo Arellano
Believe it or not ... there was once a time when the children of Mexican immigrants actually wanted to lose their ethnicity and be plain ol' Americans, when Jorge and Consuelo called themselves George and Connie and weren't ashamed of it. This was the early to mid-1960s, wherever there were segregated brown kids itching to shimmy. And the music? Chicano-written tracks, long ago assimilated into the American rock & roll songbook: Cannibal & the Headhunters' "Land of 1,000 Dances"; Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs' pre-adulterated "Wooly Bully"; the organ tarantella (and greatest song ever) that is "96 Tears," written by a bunch of Mexican kids from Saginaw, Wisconsin, known as ? and the Mysterians.

But towering over all these Mexican-American rockers was the original band from East Los Angeles: Thee Midniters, an untouchable eight-man, suit-wearing, mop-topped powerhouse. Spearheaded by the soulful growl of Willie García, Thee Midniters was mid-1960s rock at its pinnacle - a touch of soul, a lightning bolt of guitars and drums that could pitch over a skyscraper.

Read the rest of the article here:
Also from Latino LA: Seventy-two percent of US Hispanic children, who are 3rd generation or later, speak English exclusively. Source: Study based on 2000 Census by the State University of New York at Albany
Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado has been selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Awards Committee (Colorado). The award will be presented during a program scheduled for January 11, 2005, followed by a free concert performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in honor of Dr. King and the Award recipients. Lalo posthumously was designated as the Poet Laureate of Denver by Mayor John Hickenlooper.

That's all I need to say.
A couple of books to watch for in 2005

Jemez Spring, Rudolfo Anaya, University of New Mexico Press, March, 2005 – Anaya's spiritual private eye, Sonny Baca, returns in a case that starts with the murder of New Mexico's governor.

Music of the Mill, Luis Rodriguez, Rayo/Harper Collins, May 2005 - This book was originally scheduled for 2004 and I've seen it advertised for sale but have not seen the actual book. A publicity blurb says "From the author of Always Running: La Vida Loca comes an epic novel about three generations of an American family who have built their lives around the decaying steel industry of the late 20th Century."

Pluma Fronteriza is a gem of a newsletter put together by Raymundo Eli Rojas, a young cat I've heard described as a renaissance man. Pluma Fronteriza is published and distributed with the help of Chicano Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. The latest issue (Winter 2005 Special Extra) presents a comprehensive list of books about Chicanos and Latinos and Labor. It is an amazing 11 page list that pulls together all kinds of books that help tell the story of raza and work.

Among the more recent entries are:

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (U of CA Press, 2004), David Bacon, . Bacon "offers a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth examination of border workers published to date."

Dreaming on Sunday on the Alameda and Other Plays (U of OK Press, 2004), Carlos Monton, This collection contains Esperanza, the libretto for an opera based on the main female character in the blacklisted 1953 movie Salt of the Earth. Striking miners in a New Mexican mining town need the help of their wives, who ask for something in return. The movie was based on the true story of the strike by Local 890 of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union against the New Jersey Zinc Company in Bayard, New Mexico.

Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton U Press, 2004), Zaragosa Vargas. The springboard event is the infamous Republic Steel Mill Strike of 1937, when Mexican workers were among the strikers and supporters beaten, arrested and murdered by Chicago policemen. Vargas "embarks on the first full-scale history of the Chicano labor movement in 20th-century United States."

You can contact Raymundo and find out how to become a subscriber at

Manuel Ramos