President Obama just awarded National Medals of Arts and Humanities for the last time, and he’s picked out a number of Chicano legends that we at Huizache have celebrated for years: playwright Luis Valdez, writers (and Huizache contributors!) Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya (pictured above), and conjunto accordionist Santiago Jiménez, Jr. Continue reading →
Juan Gabriel has died at the age of 66. The New York Times has an obit that’ll remind you of his six Grammy nominations and a hundred million album sales, the Guardian gives a little bit more about his life, and People has some wonderful photos of the man over the years. For those as curious about his death as his life, you can read about his cremation in Anaheim and about his last trip through El Paso on the way to his final resting place in Ciudad Juárez. But best is to celebrate his music even while mourning. Gustavo Arellano gives us a list of his twenty greatest performances and compositions, leading up to that most eternal of love songs “Amor Eterno.” I can’t help putting in my vote for his Creedence cover (Arellano’s got it at number 20), as much for the sunglasses he wears in the video as anything else. ¡Viva Juan Gabriel!
I love watching baseball and I love listening to baseball announcers, but I hate hearing every Latin American baseball player have his name constantly mangled, as though there’s no way for them to find out how Spanish pronunciation works–as though there’s no one in the crew, no one in the office, no one in the entire friggin’ media empire that covers Major League Baseball, and no one ON THE FIELD, even, that speaks Spanish?!? But I’ll put my rant aside for a moment to say that it made me very happy to read a story in the NY Times about baseball players fighting for written accents on their jerseys. The mispronunciations of a few baseball announcers are of course just one example of a too-common American disdain for “un-American” pronunciation (think shaVEZ and pe-REZ and aVEEla), so I’d like to think of these players as being the frontline of a very important fight, with its own slogans. Save the vowels! Save the accents! I wish these guys the best of luck and hope they’re just a first step in a good direction.
Feliz 4th, Huizache readers! If you’re looking for music to play while you get your carne asada and firecrackers ready, The Nation has one for you. It’s a list of ten songs that “make clear both what’s great about the US and what still needs critical attention.” At the top of its list is a song that from the “what’s great” category, featuring one of Huizache‘s favorite bands, Los Lobos:
1. Los Lobos with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir,This Land is Your Land
This rambling version of the iconic Woody Guthrie song was performed July 22, 1989 backstage at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin between sets on that summer’s Los Lobos/Grateful Dead tour.
I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without hearing such an incredibly great version of this tune. Props to The Nation for putting it out there! There are some other good ones in there, including one by the El Paso-born (!) songwriter Phil Ochs.
The New Republic has a story out about a collaboration between photographer Richard Misrach and composer Guillermo Galindo: “Their images, music, and sculptures give voice to the millions of border-crossers for whom the journey signifies the difference between money and poverty, safety and death.” As they traveled the length of the border between Mexico and the United States, Misrach took photos and Galindo collected artifacts that he used to create music and even musical instruments. I worry about this travel-the-border-while-having-very-deep-thoughts journey becoming a cliché (which is not to say I haven’t walked along the fence in El Paso thinking deeply and taking photographs!), but the beauty of Misrach’s photos (and their clear superiority over mine!) won me over at least this one time. The one above is from Brownsville, but it reminds me of an admittedly less-green part of San Elizario, where the fence runs right up against people’s yards. It’s also a good reminder of one of the scary aspects of the fence, which is the fact that it hides the Rio Grande from towns like Brownsville or El Paso which only exist of it. So maybe they’re nothing to be too cheery about, but enjoy the great photos anyway!
It’s not often that any Chicano politics, make it into the international press, so it’s pretty cool to see a good profile of the most famous daughter of Corpus Christi in 1843 Magazine, a recent offshoot of the UK-based Economist. (On the other hand, maybe it’s sad that articles like this have to come from the United Kingdom?). Eva Longoria has long been active in the Chicano community and in 2013 even went to CSU Northridge and got herself a Master’s degree in political science and Chicano studies with a thesis on “the obstacles that keep young Latina women from studying science, mathematics and engineering”. And what’s more:
Her volumes of anthropology, immigration policy, Chicano poetry and Latino politics bristle with colour-coded Post-it bookmarks, and their pages are dense with highlighter pen notes.
For many El Pasoans like myself, Juárez has always felt partly like a neighbor and largely like an exotic land on another planet. The big crime waves of the last decades–first all the maquila violence of the 90s and then the cartel wars of the 00s–heightened that sense of Juárez’ other-worldliness, even while it brought many people and businesses from Juárez into El Paso. So, for those of us who dream that the two cities will get closer in the future, that the border will get de-militarized, and even that the Río Grande can be cleared of enough Border Patrol cars and fences and barbed wire to once again look like a Río, articles like this one are cause for happiness.
Quinõnes has always done fantastic reporting on cultural crossings between the US and Mexico, both along the physical border and far from it. His book Dreamland recently won the National Book Critics Circle Award. And even more significantly (well, maybe not) than winning one of the biggest nonfiction prizes in the country, it was reviewed by yours truly in the Texas Observer a few months back.
The news is sad, but the fact that this made the news is good. Great that Emilio Navaira, who was born in San Anto and studied music and Texas State, achieved such success making Tejano music and helped bring some attention to the cultura of Tejas. According to the article, Navaira
disputed the idea that a Spanish-language artist like him could not find mainstream success in the United States. “Hey, man,” he said. “I was born in America, too.”
Send love to the family down in South Texas, and enjoy the videos in the articles.
Marlon James, whose most recent novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, is winning every prize a novel can win, shows he’s not just a great writing talent but a man of impeccable taste in literature. In this little piece for the NY Times about “the titles he’d most want with him on a desert island” (a side note–I can’t help thinking it’d make more sense to ask a Jamaicans books he’d take to the mainland), he writes:
I sometimes wonder if I’m the only person to realize that the collected Palomar stories, from one half of Los Bros Hernandez, adds up to the finest American novel of the past 30 years?
He’s probably not the only person that loves Gilbert Hernandez’ Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, but there are certainly not enough others. Read the whole thing at the NYT site: My 10 Favorite Books: Marlon James.
Over the last few months a lot of people around the country have been discovering Austin-based singer Gina Chavez. Her album Up.Rooted, which also has the sounds of Austin legends Grupo Fantasma, sounds great, and she was recently featured on NPR’s show/podcast alt.latino. Even more importantly she did one of those wonderful NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. This seemed a good time to encourage everyone to check her out since she just did a couple of shows out here in East Texas (in Austin and Houston). Wherever you are, I hope you get to make it to one of her shows!