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LAND OF ENCHANTMENT: LIBROTRAFICANTE ROAD REPORT #4

Submitted by SuperbHerb on April 9, 2012 – 8:30 pmNo Comment
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This is the fourth FPH Librotraficante road report.  For background, check out my previous articles: Books Are A Gateway Drug, Remember the Alamo, Revenge of the Nerds and Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso.  This picks up where the last post left off.

Following a late night at the hotel bar with painter Cesar Martinez, photographer Diana Molina, and bloggers Michael Sedano of La Bloga and Jesus Trevino of Latinopia, we are off again.  Leaving El Paso, we are treated to a view of the border wall.

The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is little more than a dry stone gully here; Mexico is close enough to touch—you have to be careful lest your cell phone jump to a signal from one of their towers and you get slammed not just with roaming charges but international rates to boot!

This is the easiest traveling day, and we’re only on the road for about an hour before we roll into Mesilla, NM, where poet/playwright/novelist Denise Chavez welcomes us into her little book store for a breakfast feast.

The bookstore, which is has been home to Chavez’s Border Book Festival for 17 years, is housed in what used to be a grocery store that was built by a German immigrant named Mr. Fritz in the 1840s.  I grab a quick bite and go wandering around the quaint little town of about 2,000 which has a rich history—it was the former capital of Arizona/New Mexico and is the site of Billy the Kid’s demise.

Dagoberto Gilb, Denise Chavez, and El Librotraficante Tony Diaz seated before members of the caravan.

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Having eaten, taken the obligatory photographs, dropped off banned books for the “underground library” at Ms. Chavez’s bookstore, we set off for Albuquerque, where the godfather of Chicano fiction, Rudolfo Anaya himself was going to bless our caravan and it’s payload of mind-altering prose.

Anaya meets us at the driveway and escorts us into his humble home perched on a hill overlooking the city.  Inside, we take a shot of tequila and feast on pozole, a pre-Columbian corn and meat stew.

Anaya is a gracious, generous host as we spread out over his home looking for outlets to plug in our waning cell phones.  He holds court at his kitchen table and signs books amid peals of laughter from all about.  One of the organizers from Nuestra Palabra, Laura Razo, is sad to have forgotten her first copy of Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima at home, which still bears a stain from the tear she shed during a particularly sad moment in the book, but she is happy to have a signed new copy, nonetheless.

Librotraficante Rebelene (Zelene Sulchit, a once-undocumented immigrant, former Houstonian, and former Nuestra Palabra student who is currently an immigrant rights advocate in New York City) asks if Anaya will take a photo with her and he says of course, then suggests she sit in his lap for the best composition.

We leave Anaya’s sated and happy and make our way to Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center, which is huge, I mean HUGE.  There, a line-up of fine local authors joins with our caravan for another Banned Book Bash with a standing-room-only audience of 500+ that not only rocks the house, but also raises thousands of dollars for books and libraries.

Since I announced in my second post that I would be playing up cross-cultural intersections, I’m happy to say that the Albuquerque Banned Book Bash featured the most diverse cast of readers on stage.

I’ll start with Mary Oishi’s “Rules of White Supremacy.”  Oishi was raised by overt white supremacists (think KKK) in Appalachia, yet her mother was a Japanese “war bride.” YouTube Preview Image

San Francisco’s Cathy Arrellano read her hilarious poem about gentrification:  YouTube Preview Image

followed by her “End of an Affair,” a break-up poem to the United States:  YouTube Preview Image

Local Albuquerque poet Andrea Serrano read her “Lament” for Arizona:  YouTube Preview Image

and Librotraficante Poncho Flopez (a young college student named Adam Lopez from Illinois) read his “Food Desert in the Desert,” which features some brilliant turns of phrase.

Local teacher Bill Nevins, who identifies as Irish-American, opened with a St. Patrick’s Day greeting before reading his prose piece about getting fired after the poetry slam team that he sponsored ruffled some feathers by performing anti-war poems.  I regret that we don’t have video of that, but here is a trailer for the film on that episode in his life:  YouTube Preview Image

And here is award-winning slam poet Hakim Bellamy:  YouTube Preview Image

Afterwards, before the dance party, I am happy to talk to Bill Nevins about one of my favorite plays, “Translations,” by the Irish playwright Brian Friel.  “Translations” provides a great analogy for what’s going down in Arizona right now—it’s about British colonialism in Ireland during the mid-19th century, when British soldiers and mapmakers were Anglicizing the Emerald Isle by renaming the towns and villages and hills and streams.  They were literally colonizing the Irish mind by erasing history/memory (which is attached to specific places) and forcing the locals not just to learn a new language but to detach place-names from the stories behind them.  Since we think in words, our language has the power to broaden or limit what we can even potentially conceive of.  This was followed by music and ass-shaking, which, of course, transcends words.

Big ups to Liana Lopez for sharing her photos in this and previous posts, and also, of course, to the High Tech Aztec, Bryan Parras, for most of the above videos.  Check out his YouTube Channel for more Librotraficante stuff in the coming weeks and months.

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