o Xicana Travelogues o The True Life Story of Chef Rossi o Racism in Special Education o Remembering Francisco X. Alarcรณn
Promoting the Advancement of a World Without Borders and Censorship
Publisher & Editor-in-chief Ana Castillo Director of Design L. Justine Hernรกndez Toltecas David Bowles, Muerta Paz Con-Corazรณn Sin-Guerra, and Octavio Quintanilla Photography La Tolteca Zine
La Tolteca Zine will be on hiatus throughout 2016. We will announce its return on our Facebook Page,
At this time, we are not currently accepting submissions.
Editor’s Page 5 Favorite Book Picks for Summer 34 EN MEMORIAM El Poeta del Pueblo y Mi Corazón: Remembering Francisco X. Alarcón By Nancy Aidé González 6 POETRY SanTana By Sylvia L. Chávez 10 You’re tired of your life By Octavio Quintanilla 12 [We leave our homes and wish] By Octavio Quintanilla 14 Ancestry.com By Shy Pacheco Hamilton 16 Birth By Shy Pacheco Hamilton 17 MEMOIR Xicana Travelogues: Corporate U.S.A. By Sarah Rafael García 18
JOURNEYS Jewish Migration: Excerpts from The Raging Skillet By Chef Rossi 22 Where is Thumbkin? Racism in Special Education By Natashia López-Gómez 26 My Feet Were Made for Cobblestones By Patricia Crisafulli 30 Tempting Much: Excerpts from Knitting The Fog By Claudia D. Hernández 32
La Tolteca Zine 2016
he theme for the current issue is Journeys. We tend to think of a journey as linear travel, whether by land, air or sea. It is at your destination point where you tend to think that there will lay the possibility of transformation. We will no longer be the “old” us, the people of daily routines and maybe, even in ruts. At the port or station, we inhale what is surely different air. We will be renewed and perhaps improved with an opportunity to re-invent ourselves and find unexpected opportunities. The idea of a journey in this issue, however, has been to examine the journey itself and understand how the experience itself renders change in us. We travel linearly, yes, by car or kayak. But journeys may also take us in circles and zigzags and over rocky terrain. They have us questioning everything all the while. When do you arrive at your destination point? Perhaps it is only a respite, a pause for regrouping. It is possible that may be what a life is, ultimately, an ongoing series of overlapping journeys at many levels of the lived experience. There are also the internal journeys we take from earliest memory. Within, too, we have points of arrival, even while our beliefs seem to be formed once and for all. Something happens: “conflict,” and “crisis” follow. A resolution is sought and found. We may look the same, carry on the same, but we have changed. In this issue of La Tolteca, we have gathered some of these stories through non-fiction and poetry in the following pages. Self-examination is never easy. Once again, I am pleased and proud that writers who’ve attended my workshops were willing to take the editor and writer journey with me. Altogether, I think, we have produced another delightful issue. When I started my own journey developing La Tolteca Zine as an offshoot of the writing workshops I’ve offered, my intention was to give a platform to any of the many creative participants to feature their work. Soon, I added into the mix established artists and writers. It has been, thus far, a privilege to work with so many in this country and elsewhere. La Tolteca Zine 2016
Our presence remains for back issue viewing and referencing. Back copies are available for viewing at issuu.com/latolteca and on the Official La Tolteca Zine page on Facebook. At the end of this fifth year, my own journey as editor-in-chief of La Tolteca Zine has reached the station. We are not announcing an end to what we humbly have considered a significant endeavor and service to current arts and letters, but are announcing a happy break. The time off will allow me and the other volunteers to develop our own writing projects. I want to heartily thank the handful of creative individuals who gave of their time and talent to help produce our issues over the last six years. I wish each continued success in her/his writing. We are proud and joyful of the numerous workshop participants who have had books published, received advanced degrees and launched exciting careers in the past recent years. We are so proud to have been part of their journeys. I, too, continue with my own. Two book publications are being released this year. The Official The La Tolteca Zine Page on FB will remain in place and our readers may peruse all our past issues on issuu.com by going to: https://issuu.com/latolteca and https://www.facebook.com/The-Official-La-Tolteca-Zine-356989327735527/?ref=hl We hope you enjoy our (not) last issue but last for now as much as we have enjoyed putting it together to showcase what we often saw as unsung talent amongst us.
Editor-in-chief and Publisher
EL POETA DEL PUEBLO Y MI CORAZÓN: REMEMBERING FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN
By Nancy Aidé Gonzalez
rancisco X. Alarcón’s life was poetry in constant motion. He never used punctuation in his poetry. Each line of his vida was a lyrical verse, un canto. His poetry is accessible to the young and old, the gay and straight, workers and scholars. He believed that palabras could transform, transcend, and heal. Francisco was a poet who celebrated his indigenous and Mexican/Chicano roots, a poet of daily life, a poet of social conscience, and un poeta del pueblo. His tremendous body of award winning work written in Spanish, Náhuatl and English will continue to enliven the Chicano literary community for decades. Not only was Francisco X. Alarcón an inspiring writer, he was a friend and mentor to me. I met him six years ago at my first Escritores del Nuevo Sol meeting. I read my poetry to the group in a soft voice. After the meeting he said, “You have a strong voice. You have talent.” I joined Escritores del Nuevo Sol, which Francisco co-founded with Arturo Mantecón in 1993. The escritores became a second family to me. Francisco believed in lifting others up. Like his mentor at Stanford, Fernando Alegría—a Chilean poet, novelist and literary critic—he believed in mentorship. Francisco inspired me. He recognized my leadership, organizational, and artistic abilities. He pushed me to learn new things and challenge myself. We began organizing reading for Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol together. He asked me to create posters and publicize events. He once told me, ”Your gifts will propel you forward.” He encouraged me to submit my work to literary 6
journals and anthologies. Soon, I was a published poet traveling across California sharing my poetry. His support helped me grow as an individual. I joined the Sacramento Poetry Center’s board of directors and became a host of Mosaic of Voices reading series, welcoming multicultural poets from as far as India. Francisco’s impact on my life is immeasurable. Before he passed away, I promised him that I would publish a book of poetry. I intend to fulfill my promise. He helped me become who I am at this point in my life. Francisco was an activist who believed in human and civil rights. In 1985, he founded Las Cuatro Espinas, the first gay Chicano poetry collective. The group was groundbreaking and published Ya Vas Carnal, which propelled Chicano gay activism and literature forward. He also founded Poet’s Responding to SB1070 in 2010. He was emotionally moved when he saw nine Chicano students who had chained themselves to the State Capitol building in Arizona to protest the removal of Latino literature from the high school curriculum. This propelled him to use social media as a forum for justice and resistance. Poets from all over the world, including myself, posted poetry on the Poets Responding to SB1070 Facebook page. Our poems called for tolerance, reflection, peace, and healing. As a result, he and Odilia Galván Rodriguez co-edited Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, which will be released this year. I spent a lot of time with Francisco X. Alarcón while organizing the PINTURA: PALABRA workshop. We worked with Francisco Aragón, director of Letras Latinas at Notre Dame, to make the workshop
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possible. The two-day workshop was held at the Crocker Art Museum on October 11-12, 2015 in coordination with the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit, “Our America: The Latino presence in American Art.” Francisco led a workshop in which seventeen Latino poets wrote ekphrastic poetry inspired by art at the museum. He made a lasting impression on everyone with his impressive knowledge and deep insights. Once, while planning the workshop at his house outside on his patio, Francisco told me poetry was magical. He quoted Tomás Rivera and said that Chicano poetry served three main purposes: recuerdo (remembrance), resistencia (resistance),
and recreación (reinvention). Recuerdo, resistancia, and recreación are all, of course, in Francisco’s own work. He would stay up all night writing poetry. He was inspired by the world and lived life to the fullest. He was dedicated to uniting people. Francisco was proud of our cultura. Each time he had a reading or presentation, he would honor the four directions or the four cardinal points in the tradition of Native cultures. He burned sage, which danced in the air as it rose. He’d ask everyone to rise and we’d call, “Tahui! Tahui! Tahui!” to the North (the directions of the ancestors), East (the direction of fire, what poetry was all about, he’d
say), South (the direction of water), and West (the direction of the wind). Then he had us call to the fifth direction, which he believed to be the person next to us. Francisco said that the word Tahui was a sacred term that means In Lak’Ech. In the Maya culture In Lak’Ech means “Eres mi otro yo.” On several occasions, we called the sacred word to each other. He often looked deep into my eyes; it felt as if he saw into my soul and we smiled at each other. His smile always emanated love and acceptance. During these special times, I felt close to him. Our spirits seemed to recognize each other. It was as if we could glimpse into each other’s hearts. Francisco practiced the idea of In Lak’Ech every day. He was constantly giving to others and the community. Francisco had faith that he could make the Earth a better place. He gave voice to those who did not have a voice. Francisco X. Alarcón was one of the greatest men I have ever known, and his words will continue to give us hope in this tumultuous world. The last month of his life, Francisco’s motto was “Viva la vida!” I visited him several times at the U.C. Davis Medical Center. Even in his hospital gown, in pain from type 4 stomach and liver cancer that he was suddenly diagnosed with, Francisco remained positive. He excitedly shared his ideas for projects. His husband, Javier Pinzón, was always at his side. Francisco always expressed his appreciation and love for Javier.
On January 10, 2016, the celebrated Salvadoran poet and writer, Jorge Tetl Argueta organized an event with several close friends to celebrate Francisco’s life at Café la Boheme in San Francisco. The words read and images we shared in his honor were like monarch butterflies crossing borders and flittering in the air. Francisco, who was able to attend, shared his poetry in a strong cadence that was uniquely his own. When he left the reading, I went to talk to him outside. My last words to him were, “I love you. I love you so much.” He smiled at me and gave me a firm hug. He said, “Goodbye, Nancy.” He passed away five days later. Francisco’s funeral was filled with incantations, chants, and songs offered by many of us who attended to honor him. Indigenous, Mexican, and Catholic traditions merged harmoniously together. Aztec drums and mariachi music reached the hearts of everyone. Aztec dancers moved in synchrony, their feathers soaring in the air. Father Carlos Alarcón, Francisco’s brother, gave a sermon that wove Biblical verse and insightful words about his brother. Jorge Tetl Argueta burned copal, blew an eagle whistle, and sang beautiful verses in Náhuatl in a sacred ceremony passed down from the ancestors. We all wore vivid colors and called to the four directions. We chanted "Viva la vida!" At his gravesite, I looked at the sky and said my final goodbye. Francisco X. Alarcón will always be el poeta de mi corazón. Nancy Aidé González (workshops with Ana Castillo in Los Angeles, 2014 and Sacramento, 2015) is a Chicana poet, educator, and community activist in the arts and letter. Her poems recently appeared in Huizache: The magazine of Latino literature. 8
La Tolteca Zine 2016
Poetry SanTana SYLVIA L. CHAVEZ
Tierra y Ternura Tu y Yo Luna y Noche Estrellas de testigos SanTana Música Menudo Y Mamá SanTana Juan Gabriel, Bukis, Y Chente, Lo que le gusta a mi gente. Música muy fuerte de puerta a esquina Un coro mezclado, le da más sabor SanTana Fruit Street Crazy Eddie Zodies Gemco And Taco Tio too Because I go waaaaayyyy back like that La Mini! La Mini Who? La Mini Street? Donde me robé mi primer dulce Ocultado en mi bolsillo Sin ninguna sospecha
La Calle Cuatro De paso a paso Camino largo después de escuela Raspados y chicharrones Silbidos y llantos de ¡Ay Mamacita Chula! Acompañada con un ademán inapropiado Sin porqué Virgen quemada Virgen sin casa Virgen que fue hogar de nuestros Domingos Recuerdos convertidos a cenizas SanTana Casa en la avenida de Eastside Casa amarilla de mi madre y padre Casa donde se construyó un nido Y volaron seis palomas morenas SanTana ¿Cadenas o raíces? ¿Historias o rencor? Recuerdos que van y vienen Como un carrusel al centro de una plaza, downtown SanTana Cuerpo nacido en otro país Pero hecho en SanTana Por medio de las memorias sembradas entre huesos SanTana.
Sylvia L. Chávez was an Artist-In-Residence at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. Her forthcoming poetry collection is Amor A Mordidas.
You’re tired of your life, OCTAVIO QUINTANILLA so you buy a small house in South Texas. Before you buy the house, you get arrested for drinking and driving. You go to jail for three days till your older brother, finally, bails you out. He tells you not to worry, that he knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. Everything will be okay. You won’t lose your driver’s license. You won’t lose your job. It’s all about knowing someone who knows more than you. Then you tell him that maybe you shouldn’t have bought the house, that you’re tired of living the way you do. Divorce was invented for a reason, he tells you, that maybe she’ll respect you a hell of a lot more knowing you had the guts to cut her loose. But you are not sure of anything. So you think of the story of your parents falling in love. (You had to come from somewhere, right?) They have three children and you’re one of them. The third one died as a baby. The two times your mother talked about it, you wondered how a person can live with such sadness and keep it all to themselves. Sadness like an unhealed bone. Like a splinter in the iris. But back then, all you wanted was to be alone, so sometimes you’d write yourself into a story as a nine-year-old boy building a tree house. You wanted to tell your parents that you were old enough to leave their town, that their appetite was not big enough to keep them all alive.
It was just a thought. You never wrote this down, and you never finished the story. The town was small like the heart of a flea. The town was dry like a scab on a knee. In the story you write years later, your older brother bails you out of jail and tells you he knows plenty of people, that it’s all about knowing someone who knows someone, for you not to worry. You won’t lose your job, he says, you’ll keep your driver’s license, keep your house. He has no way of knowing that you’re still trying to climb out of the tree house you never finish building. You’re still trying to convince yourself to leave your parents’ small town. What if you leave and there’s no way back? No one there to give you directions? No one there to remember you and point a finger to what you wanted to forgive?
[We leave our homes and wish]
We leave our homes and wish to return one day, to the same fading light we see through curtains just before our mother calls us to dinner, to the sight of lovers kissing on the street, holding each other as if the world had been nothing but kind to them, we want to return to the sound of television in the next room, to our younger sister listening to that love song we all hate because it tells us how much in love she is, we want to return fat with kindness and listen to the happy yowls of children who still have both parents, return to those who have not slashed their wrists with boredom, return to the blurry photographs that record the innocence some of us lost in one day, or that show our smiles pulsing with the promise of more youth,
endless, we think, endless this beautiful hour, in this casket of a photograph in which no one is a victim, and yet it's clear in our eyes how bad we want to climb the roofs at midnight, scream our name one last time, and without goodbye, without looking back, lock the gate behind us and never return to unlock it again.
Octavio Quintanillaâ€™s (McAllen, Texas workshop, 2009) first poetry collection, If I Go Missing, was released by Slough Press in 2014.
Ancestry.com SHY PACHECO HAMILTON
Is it too cliché to say I was never Chicana enough? Never black enough? I struggle now even as I’m grown just as I did as a little girl but now I know the history. I know mis madres were kidnapped by the Spanish forced to speak a language that wasn’t theirs forced to abandon their reverence of Thought Woman forced to be called Doña the name their mother gave to them, unknown no different than the Yeyes on my African side. Were no different Uncle Alonso killed his brothers. To protect his Keres mother staged a coup against the pope drove the Spanish from New Mexico for a few short years. Then they came back. That’s why we speak Spanish now make enchiladas now make green chile now at least I can know who my mother’s mother’s mothers’ mother’s mother was know the land she was born on know the goddess she worshipped even if mi madre’s madre’s madre is listed simply as Pueblo woman. The only African I know is me. At least I know.
Anna birthed. Anna weaved together the elements needed to survive. Anna birthed weave again. Birth again. Weave again. Birth. Then Joni weaved the elements needed to survive. Joni birthed. Shylah weaves the elements needed to to survive. Shylah birthed. Now I wait & watch, as my daughters learn to weave. They donâ€™t know yet it is how they will survive. I wait for them to learn how to perfect their strands of cloth. I wait for them to perfect the dye they use, to color the strands. They watch me and I watch them and wait for them to birth.
Shy Hamilton (Womenâ€™s Spirituality Course with Ana Castillo at the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2014) is an Afrosurrealist filmmaker and writer. Her experimental films have been featured in exhibitions worldwide.
XICANA TRAVELOGUES: CORPORATE U.S.A. By Sarah Rafael García
here have been many moments when I asked myself how I got to where I was. Sometimes it was to compliment a success, other times it was to contemplate a misfortune. In this case, I was grateful to avoid an affair with a married man because I didn’t need to add another unmentionable that would cause me to cast more shame upon myself. There were many choices that led me to a marketing position in Corporate America. But the superficiality of it all taught me how to cover-up my depression and insecurities while assimilating into new situations. Not many people knew about it back then, but I chose to have an abortion at the age of twenty-seven. It was the most difficult decision I made as a woman, simply because it went against all the social norms I grew up with as a Mexican, Catholic girl. I moved to Miami on a whim after a great New Year’s Eve trip in 2000. I spent the first six months living off savings while exploring the beaches and nightlife. Three months into the stay, I started dating a guy who I knew would be a temporary distraction. He attended a local art school and had travelled to places I had yet aspired to visit—like New York and Europe. We had practiced “safe sex” so, I didn’t think twice when the relationship ended. It wasn’t until the second month after I stopped seeing him that I missed my first period. I had not been with anyone so I was caught a bit off-guard when I found myself vomiting violently at a Sunday brunch. In midst of the torment, I joked about the possibility of being pregnant, “I should totally claim Immaculate Conception…” because that would at least be an attempt to appease my 18
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Mexican-Catholic family. A few days later, a girlfriend accompanied me through various pregnancy tests that kept affirming my worst fear. I was pregnant, single and unemployed. In my eyes, I was a cliché. At the time, I only had a week to make a decision. I chose the less intrusive abortion process. I swallowed a pill and inserted tablets to induce a miscarriage. Immediately, I broke down and cried. After having to return for a second dose a week later because the first attempt wasn’t fully effective, I vowed to change my life for the sake of justifying the one I took. China At the age of thirty, I arrived at the Beijing International Airport in late August 2004. As soon as I walked out from the baggage area, screaming taxi drivers pulled on my sleeves and wobbly luggage carrier. My two large bags
and carry-on were over-stuffed and impossible to roll on my own. I packed over ten pairs of shoes and countless name-brand outfits—all quite superficial. As I pushed through the noisy crowd, Chinese men continued to pull at me from all directions. I looked for signs I could understand but everything was displayed in Chinese characters and pinyin. “English? Do you speak English?” “How about you, do you speak English? Can you help me make a call?” And just when I was about to cry out of frustration, a young Chinese man signaled to me. The young man guided me to a pay phone and gestured with his hands for me to make a call. I gave him the number of my employer who I had yet to meet. He made the call for me since I had no idea how to use a public pay phone in China nor did I have any Chinese currency. Only forty minutes after stepping into the Beijing airport, I doubted my decision and contemplated a quick return. During the two months leading up to my departure, I gathered all the legal documents and packed my bags with much attention. The actual decision to live in China was spontaneous. Hell, I didn’t even own a passport until I got one to teach English in Beijing. Going to China raised the same argument my mother and I had about moving out of her home and going to college. Being the first born in the United States and a woman came with many cultural expectations. When I applied to teach English in China, it was simply out of frustration and exhaustion. It was my way of telling everyone, “I quit this American Dream! I quit the notion that I need a man to make my dreams come true. I quit working long hours with little time to myself.” Of course, I could only say such things to my female friends who were also single and young professionals. I presented my China escape to my family as a sabbatical from my career to explore extended
travel and writing. But my mother questioned all. “But it’s a communist country! It’s dangerous!” “¿Qué vas hacer allá?“ ”And do you even like Chinese men?” “You’re thirty, it’s about time you think about getting a husband.” I can’t say I didn’t want a husband. I spent most of my twenties dating all kinds of men—a white man who lived in Turkey for a while and was financially supported by his mother, a Cypriot who hoped to become rich in America, and a rich Persian-Jewish who broke off an almost engagement with me because his mother couldn’t accept a Mexican-Catholic as her daughter-in-law. After seventeen months and being one month away from returning to the States, I already considered myself more of a local than a foreigner. I blew soot out of my nose without being surprised, rolled up my pants before entering a public toilet to avoid absorbing the urine on the floor and bargained for everything to a fifth of price in Mandarin or, as some would call what I spoke, “Chinglish.” The terms “foreigner” and “Mexican-American” as a reference to my identity were replaced with the title of “ex-pat” and “English teacher.” I accomplished all I came to do—write a book, travel, and teach English—while exploring my sexual independence. I also extended my stay by six months, learned some Chinese and climbed the Great Wall sixteen times, all while making an average of one thousand dollars a month. Who does that? I wondered. (No one I knew then.) Before China, I never thought I could live as I lived in Beijing and be happy. Australia My trip started in Melbourne, with three months ahead of me in mid-October 2009. I had traveled with a backpack and book bag. One
contained two bottles of wine, tortillas, and favorite dresses as emergency reserves— predicting it would take me awhile to transition into a vagabond—and the second towed my writing supplies. Sadly, I’d already shared my wine with an English woman in the Blue Mountains who yearned for her boyfriend and was depressed about her upcoming birthday. Now a week later, I wished for someone to offer me a drink and a listening ear. I knew there’d be days when I’d consider ending the journey early. If not for my absent boyfriend, it would be for lack of funds. Yet I was mesmerized by the white, cockatoos roaming over my head while lost in the Blue Mountains and the gold coast views made me want to stay forever. The locals referred to their land as Oz, and within two weeks, I acquired the saying too. But I was bemused by my presence in the Land of Oz. I wasn’t quite sure what kept calling me to think of my return. A part of me wanted to want what everybody else wanted: a life partner, a house, a permanent place to call home. But that wasn’t the case, I felt like I was compromising and the
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idea of a permanent home weighed heavy like an anchor. I wanted to explore unchartered waters, I wanted more. As I took a seat to call my boyfriend back in the States, I read the first set of words off the scripted walls, “Don't Live Life Like Reading A Book. Live Like Your Writing A Book.” I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture. But I couldn’t stop there. I recorded the horizon, the dumpster diving stencil image next to that particular quote, the blob of recyclables that seemed to have grown overnight and lastly, a photo of myself in a armchair covered in writing. That was the moment my adventure began. Little did I know two weeks later my “ideal” Chicano boyfriend on the opposite side of the Pacific would end the relationship over the phone, the day after I explored the Great Barrier Reef. The sudden split left me with a longing to return to a house filled with obscure moments, just to escape the loneliness once again. It took more than a train ride or beach day to overcome my disillusion. Yet, that quote became my mantra for the remaining two months, forcing me to redefine my independence, freeing me to be more
Sarah Rafael GarcĂa 2016
EXCERPTS FROM THE RAGING SKILLET By Chef Rossi
hen summer rolled around, it was time for our Jewish migration. Bolting the camper to Dad’s pickup, loading it with kids, cutoffs, and enough canned goods to feed Des Moines, we headed down I-95 from South Jersey to North Florida My folks said the reason for our pilgrimage was to check on their “real estate,” a cluster of rinky-dink bungalows in a crappy part of town on what was then the Redneck Riviera, Panama City, Florida. The real reason we hit the road the day after school let out was neither property inspection nor wanderlust, but the need to escape being at home together all summer. I don’t know if I-95 really was one long white line leading to the Deep South like I picture it. Maybe a few twists and turns happened while I was sleeping. I was indulging in my favorite activity, daydreaming. I daydreamed from Jersey through Delaware and Maryland every June. They were the states that seemed the most forgettable to me then, and, well, now. In my daydreams, I was one of two things, a hero or a rock star. As a hero, I saved kids at school from a sniper attack by sneaking up behind the gunman and hitting him with a bottle. I was stuck on the bottle-hitting thing, but I tried it out on a sidewalk once, and they really don’t break as easily as they do in the movies.
As a rock star, I was on stage in front of my screaming, adoring fans, belting out a song that would make Janis Joplin jealous. I never dreamed about being a pudgy thirteenyear-old in the early days of puberty. Once past Virginia, I started taking reality breaks from my daydreaming. I counted the rows of tobacco in the fields, read the billboards for fireworks and pecan pie, and stayed alert for any chance to pull into a roadside diner with a Southern breakfast special. In 1977, a breakfast special at a Southern highway diner was worth the whole trip. I am talking about coffee with as many refills as you wanted, buttermilk biscuits and homemade jam, sweet creamy butter and gravy, two eggs so slick and greasy they’d slide right off the plate if you didn’t keep it completely level. Then came the grits, hash browns, and toast. All this was served to you for ninety-nine cents by a waitress in a blue uniform with a lace apron named Blanche or May or Charlene, who wore streaks of frosty green eye shadow and set her hair up into a bouffant kept in place by a white doily in the shape of a tiara. Inside the camper, my sister and I slept on the top bed, placing us in the overhang on the roof of the Ford, the most glamorous spot in the camper
during cool weather. But in the heat of summer, we coveted my brother’s spot. His single bed lay against “the hole,” the crawlway from the camper into the front seat of the Ford, where my parents blasted the air-conditioning until frost formed on the windows. They’d been too cheap to get a camper that had AC venting into it, so we all fought over the hole, and sometimes when it hit ninety or above, we would crawl through the hole and slither snakelike between my parents. However, no amount of wondrous air-conditioning was enough of a reward for being the Oreo filling to my folks. My dad pretty much spent the ride grunting, eating apples, and trying desperately to get my mother to stop talking. He’s the only person I ever met who could say, “shut up” as one syllable, “shuuuuuup!” Unfazed, Mom would babble on about a neverending abundance of things none of us gave a hoot about. She worried about the old lady she’d just had a heart-warming conversation with in the checkout line of the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. “Oh, I hope her back feels better soon!” She worried a lot about the Jews. “It can happen again, I tell you! Hitlers are born every day!” She worried about whether the collection of coupons she was hoarding in her purse had expired. She had a stream-of-consciousness style. Details of the strangers with whom she’d just become best friends gave way to a discourse about the terrible thing that was happening to the Jews this week, and that in turn led to a barrage of the twofor-one sales we were about to miss. After approximately fifteen minutes of Mom torture, we slithered from the cool front seat back to the sauna on wheels.
One would think that bedtime would be a relief from Mom’s chatter. Thankfully, she didn’t talk in her sleep, but that doesn’t mean she was quiet. Nighttime, when we parked for what was supposed to be sleep, my mother let out strange, gastric noises. In the few moments when something didn’t sound like it was erupting from her, my father snored, my sister hummed, or my brother wheezed. This almost indescribable combination of noises made up the Ross Family Symphony, and there was just no sleeping through it. The entire camper was about the size of my small bedroom at home, and in it my family of five sweltered the night away. I never slept when we parked. But on extra hot nights, my sister, brother, and I would begin our motel whine a good two hours before sleep time. “Motel, motel, motel with pool, motel,” and if it was hot enough and we whined long enough, it usually worked. Now, my dad liked a good swimming pool, color TV, and AC as much as we did. But he and my mom always held out until the last possible second, when we were almost too tired to enjoy these luxuries because of a notion they fostered that if you pulled into a motel late enough and there were still free rooms and you paid in cash, you could almost always get one at half-price. I never was able to convince them that even though this was usually true, if all you did was pass out without using the pool, the TV, or the ice machine and were too tired to even roll around on the shag rug or try ripping off the candy machine, then who cared if it was half-price? In Kidland, this was a lousy deal.
__________________________ __________________________ Eggs I’d Cook for Elvis Serves 2 to 4 mortals or 1 rock ’n’ roll legend with a hearty appetite
keep stirring (preferably with a wooden spoon) until the eggs begin to set. That’s how you get that nice, fluffy omelet look.
INGREDIENTS 6 eggs, beaten Salt and fresh ground pepper 2 heaping plops sweet butter 1 handful white onion, minced 1 handful bell pepper, diced 1 heaping handful breakfast sausage (maybe 4 links), sliced or diced
________________________________________________________ Re-printed from Feminist Press with permission from the author White Trash but Keepin’ It Kosher Tuna and Macaroni Salad Serves 2 teenagers or 4 grown-ups
Now here’s the best part: stick the whole thing in the oven at about 400 degrees, and when it puffs up and starts to brown, it’s ready! Easy and breezy like a plus-size sundress. To serve, cut into four wedges, or one (for the King).
If you’d like to remember Elvis by adding a few more calories, you can give your breakfast a nice low-rent touch by throwing some Velveeta cheese on top just before you stick the eggs in the oven. Those individually wrapped American cheese slices work, too, but if you use something fancy, like cheddar or Swiss, the eggs will taste too uptown and you’ll have to change clothes.
OPTIONAL 4 cheese slices Beat 6 eggs in a bowl and season to your liking with salt and pepper.
INGREDIENTS 1 lb. macaroni 1 coffee cup mayonnaise 1 large can tuna ½ red onion, diced 2 celery stalks, diced 1 large kosher dill pickle, chopped 1 (8 oz.) can peas 1 pinch salt and fresh ground pepper
Melt 2 heaping plops of sweet butter in an ovenproof skillet. After the butter melts and foams, add one handful of minced onion and a handful of diced bell pepper.
Cook this for a couple of minutes, then throw in a handful of any kind of sliced or diced sausage. You can try breakfast sausage, vegetarian sausage, or chicken sausage, whatever floats your boat.
Sauté your concoction until the sausage looks pretty well cooked, then turn up the heat a little and pour in the eggs. The trick at this point is to 24
Boil one box of macaroni and drain. Cool off under cold water, then drain again.
Combine mayo, tuna, red onion, celery, pickle, peas, and salt and pepper. Mix it all up and enjoy.
La Tolteca Zine 2016
WHERE IS THUMBKIN? RACISM IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
By Natashia López-Gómez, M.Ed.
oming to grips with the fact that your child is autistic is a painful experience. Throw into that mix the fact that you are Latino, and your fears and worries are doubled. Your child is now part of “the system,” the special education system. In fact, if you opt out of the system, chances are you will be labeled as a bad parent for not linking your child to needed services. Latino parents spend a lot of time and energy raising their kids to stay out of the system. I don’t allow my children to wear starter jackets
or red t-shirts for fear they will be labeled as gang members or hoodlums. Given these concerns, you can imagine the devastation I felt when I escorted our son Elijah, at the tender age of four, to his first special education evaluation. Most public school districts perform special education evaluations to determine what services your disabled child will receive as part of his education. More importantly, they are also performed to determine if your child can stay in the general education setting or if he will be placed in a Special Day Class, a class designed for the disabled. Like most parents with disabled children, we had hopes that Elijah could stay in the general education system. Based on conversations with other parents, we heard it could be a tough battle. I also knew that Latino students were often overrepresented in special education classes. Because of these reasons, I wasn’t looking forward to his assessment. I was also dreading the evaluation because of the events that led up to it. Prior to being recommended for Special Education, Elijah was in a general education kindergarten class. The teacher was aware that Elijah had a moderate level of autism. We explained our desire to have him accommodated in the general education setting. It soon became clear she was not supportive. The first day, she complained because Elijah kept sitting in her chair. (Elijah loved chairs that spun around.) Apparently every time the teacher stood up from her big leather chair, Elijah would jump into it 1
and spin the chair in circles. We requested an accommodation by asking that she lock the chair’s ability to spin. It was denied. The second day, Elijah was preoccupied with painting and refused to leave the painting easel to join in other lessons. We asked if the painting easels could be stored out of sight during non-painting times. Our request was denied. Ultimately, Elijah was suspended for “behavior” issues after he and a classmate engaged in a tug of war over a book. I was observing the class on the day of the incident. The other child involved was a tiny Asian girl with a strong grip. It was unclear who had the book first, but the book was torn in half as a result of the struggle. The teacher, a young Asian woman, looked over at me in terror and said, “That was my favorite book, and it is out of print!”2 The next day we were served with suspension papers and an Individualized Education Program meeting was scheduled immediately. During the meeting the teacher asked that Elijah be removed from her class and placed in a Special Day Class. We knew we would have a battle ahead of us over Elijah’s class placement, but we weren’t expecting a suspension to occur. However, the parents who had warned us of our impending battle were not Latino. They had disabled kids, but they were not brown kids. I suddenly felt very connected to the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and to the alarming rate of expulsions and suspensions of African American and Latino boys.3 It was with these thoughts that I had grudgingly dragged Elijah to his special education evaluation. The day of the evaluation started out poorly. Elijah had the sniffles. I was worried he was catching a cold. The space used for testing was a huge bungalow with a play kitchen in the center. I wondered how Elijah would remain seated for testing while surrounded by the temptation of toys. “What color is grass?” asked the school psychologist. “What animal makes milk?” “What finger is this?” she asked, waving her thumb in
front of Elijah’s eyes. My child was not interested. He left the testing table and headed straight for the make-believe microwave. “You can play with the toys after you work with me,” stated the psychologist. He ignored her and moved on to the play corn on the cob and rubber tomato slices. “Elijah, what color is grass?” “What animal makes milk?” She continued to repeat the questions despite Elijah’s inattention. “Can we try using a room with fewer distractions?” I suggested. She responded with a condescending tone stating, “You need to tell him that he must sit at the table and answer these questions.” I tried and was unsuccessful in getting him to do so. At some point the psychologist resorted to following Elijah as he roamed through the play area, her red test book in one hand and her pen in the other. I could see Elijah’s frustration growing as he moved around faster. He was now running from her, dropping play veggies and dishes to the ground along the way. She chased after him, bending down to repeat the questions over and over in his ear. “Elijah, what color is grass?” “Elijah, what finger is this?” Her thumb showed up in front of his face again. “Shame on me,” I thought. “Why didn’t we teach him the nursery rhyme, Where is Thumbkin?” Instead, we had hoped that he would attend the Spanish immersion school like his older sister and thus, we were still singing Spanish songs at home, “Los Pollitos” and “Al Tambor.” I intervened again, “Can you just skip the thumb question and move on to the next? I think it’s clear that he doesn’t know the answer.” She glared at me, “He doesn’t know what finger this is?” This time she waved her thumb in my direction. “That is something basic that they teach in preschool,” she added. Desperate for the session to end, I mentioned Elijah’s morning sniffles. “I think Elijah is coming down with a cold. Can we re-schedule?” Before she could respond, Elijah tried to pull the red test book from her hand, having reached his limit with being stalked. She held on tight, “This is mine!” she cried. A
struggle ensued and Elijah dug his nails into her The words “locked up” sent a fierce rage of heat wrist causing the test book to fall to the ground. through my body. Images of our adorable son, “He is not feeling sick. This is a behavior issue!” who still played in the bathtub and collected toy she proclaimed. She smoothed back her hair and trains, were now clouded with visions of him as gathered up her things. Defeated, she sat down an adult being shackled and handcuffed in a and left Elijah alone to fry silicone bacon. prison for the mentally ill. I wanted to ask for even further clarification, but I feared that The evaluator had one last request, “Before you emotions would overwhelm me. leave, please complete the autism questionnaire.” I proceeded to complete the form. The second I returned home, unable to shake the “locked up” psychologist, who was observing and taking comment from my mind. The unfortunate facts notes, joined Elijah in the play kitchen and left her ran through my head; Latino males are notebook behind. I glanced over and read the disproportionately represented in the prison words “pinching” and “scratching.” population.4 Our son has two strikes against him; he is Latino and disabled. If my child were blonde My worst fears were coming true. My son’s and blue eyed, would his behaviors be viewed in behaviors were being documented as too severe the same manner? If we were a white couple, for the general education setting. I decided to ask would professionals still judge our parenting for clarification. “So, your comment about this skills? being a behavior issue…what are you implying?” I considered making a complaint, but imagined The psychologist responded by criticizing our we would be written off as disgruntled parents parenting skills. “Last week after our meeting, I playing the “race card.” In the end, we had enough noticed your husband seemed overly concerned income and education to find the proper when Elijah kept trying to play in a patch of dirt resources for our son. We hired an attorney and outside. He kept trying to stop him. Playing in dirt secured a classroom placement on which we is not a battle worth having but pinching and agreed. Not all Latino families have the socioscratching is. Kids with disabilities have to economic means to do the same for their kids. We control their behaviors; otherwise they would all need more resources and further research that be locked up.” addresses the specific needs of disabled Latino children and their families. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. See “Achieving Equity in Special Education: History, Status, and Current Challenges” by Russell J. Skiba et al. in Exceptional Children, Spring 2008. 2. I found the book The Big Thumbkin on Amazon for about $7.00 and bought a copy for the teacher. 3. Research shows that Latino and African American boys are criminalized at an early age and are suspended from school at a much higher rate than that their white and female counterparts. See the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline Crisis” by Morna Murray in Poverty and Race, July/August 2005. 4. See the Cradle to Prison Pipeline State fact sheets at the http://childrensdefense.org.
Natashia López-Gómez (Sacramento workshop, 2015) M.Ed. is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. She teaches Latino Studies and Human Services at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA. She can be reached at email@example.com. 28
La Tolteca Zine 2016
MY FEET WERE MADE FOR COBBLESTONES
By Patricia Crisafulli n early morning and late afternoon walks along narrow, winding streets in a western Sicilian town, I gained traction. Moving confidently and even nimbly along uneven and often steep surfaces, I discovered that my feet were made for cobblestones. Perhaps my narrow feet have the right kind of flexibility or my toes and ankles have been sufficiently strengthened by twenty-plus years of running. Whatever the reason, mine became a journey over expansive history, all the way back to classic myths of the Greeks and the Trojans,1 as well as personal narrative that links me to the land from which my father’s family emigrated early in the previous century. My journey to Erice, a walled city in the mountains of western Sicily, was not by design. I was there for the Bread Loaf writers’ conference, a week of total immersion into my craft. Had the conference been held in Lausanne or Edinburgh, I would have gone there. But Erice was the destination, historic and with modest accommodations that commanded stunning views from 2,500 feet. In the early morning, Erice broods in clouds that clear to reveal postcard views of a nearby pyramidal mountain wading in sky-blue waters where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean. The sacred mountain on which Erice was founded some twenty-five centuries ago is unmistakably feminine, a prominent nipple of stone on a rounded breast of fertile soil dedicated over the centuries to Patricia Crisafulli 2016 feminine divinity. A Norman castle built around the year 1,100 conquered the ruins of a temple to the Roman goddess, Venus. Before Venus, the people worshipped Astarte. Later, as Christianity whitewashed the ancient deities, Erice’s divine feminine became the Virgin Mary, whose image dominates the town’s many ancient churches.
After the Trojan War, the Phyrgians, known as the Elymi, came to Sicily and founded Segesta, site of a stunningly preserved, yet unfinished, Greek Temple, nearby Erice.
Whatever her name or form, I imagined the creative Source seeping out of those streets of Erice. But how could I, a turista who didn’t even speak Italian, be anything but a trespasser? Did I have a right to draw inspiration from a place I viewed through foreign eyes? My answer came on our last day when I stopped in a small shop to make a purchase. The proprietor looked at my name on my Visa card and excitedly called for his wife, Maria. Neither spoke much English, and my French was little help, but I came to understand that Maria’s mother’s best friend is Carmela Crisafulli. “But no Erice,” Maria told me. “Carmela, Messina.” “Yes!” I replied. “My grandfather, father of my father, Messina.” I then named the small town in eastern Sicily I had heard my late father say so often, Casalvecchio. “Si!” Maria squealed. Carmela, it seems, lives there, too. However tangential the connection, this coincidental intersection recalled my father’s tales of his father and grandfather. But as the story continues, I am well aware that their sweat paid for the writer’s life I pursue. Because of them, I stand where I am, on feet made for cobblestones.
Patricia Crisafulli 2016
Contributor and occasional La Tolteca staff, Patricia Crisafulli (Chicago workshop, 2013) is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Northwestern University. A published author, she is also the founder of www.FaithHopeandFiction.com.
EXCERPT FROM KNITTING THE FOG By Claudia D. Hernández
amá was always running away from something, someone: her present; her past; the hunger that chased her; Papá’s drunkenness and obsessiveness; her mother’s abandonment; the heat of Mayuélas or coldness of Tactic; her beauty; her long hair. I remember when Mamá would bathe Consuelo and me together in the pila, a washbasin made out of cement. I was four and Consuelo was six. We didn’t have hot water; our pila was out in the patio surrounded by the shade of the tamarindo trees. The water came straight from the river, cold and fresh. Mamá never allowed us to drink the water. “It’s stale! You’ll grow a solitaria, a tapeworm, in your tummy!” she would say. The washbasin was filled with water. It had two sinks on each side. One sink had a ribbed surface, and it was usually used for hand-washing laundry. The other sink was for doing dishes. Its surface was smooth. Mamá would sit both Consuelo and me on the ribbed sink so that we wouldn’t slip. The pila was high from the ground. “Sindyyyy!” Mamá would yell. “Help me rinse the girls.” Sindy was my oldest sister, eight years older than I. She acted like my second mother when she babysat me and when Mamá left to El Norte for three years. There were times I hated her for that. 32
Mamá’s fingernails were always long and sharp. She scrubbed my head fast and furiously with the cola de caballo shampoo. The Mane ‘n Tail shampoo would burn my eyes. We hadn’t heard of baby shampoo in those days. Sindy’s job was to drop buckets of water on my head. I felt like I was drowning every time the water would hit the crown of my head. I always managed to breathe through my mouth as the see-through, soapy veil of water covered my face. After the bath, Mamá would dress us up in summer dresses to keep us fresh in the scalding heat of Mayuélas where the ceiba trees and mango trees bloomed with tenacity. Mamá kept us clean. She fed us every day, three times a day: huevitos tibios, soft-boiled eggs, sweet bread with a cup of milk or a Coca-Cola. Sometimes she fed us Nestle Cerelac by itself, completely dry. It was my favorite.
I remember Mamá was always moody. I didn’t I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew it know why. was wrong. Sindy got beat up many times for eating dirt. I looked around one more time before “You two better not get dirty!” she yelled after picking up a handful of mud. I was nervous. I was bathing us. terrified of Mamá. I loved playing outside with the mud. I hid my dirty hands behind my back, and before I knew it, I found myself grinding rocks with my On that summer day, the mud felt especially cold baby teeth. Two seconds later, I spat everything and refreshing on my skin. Nobody was around to out and ran to the outhouse bathroom. No one keep an eye on me. Sindy and Consuelo were saw me. I couldn’t get rid of the salty-chalky taste inside the house with Mamá doing chores. I in my mouth. decided to taste the mud. I spat and spat everywhere in the darkness of the I grew up listening to stories about how fourtoilet, all over the dirt floor, until my mouth felt year-old Sindy loved to eat clumps of dirt from dry. Eventually, I began to appreciate the Tía Zoila’s kitchen adobe walls. I was four and I petrichor scent trapped in my mouth. I finally wanted to see for myself why Sindy loved it so understood why Sindy desired clumps of dirt in much. Tía Zoila was Mamá’s aunt, but we also her mouth. It was a different type of hunger we called her Tía Zoila, aunt Zoila both had. ine ca Z e t l o La T Claudia D. Hernández was a La Tolteca Zine photography winner. She holds an MFA in creative writing and is the founder of the ongoing project, www.Todaysrevolutionarywomenofcolor.com.
Favorite Book Picks for Summer
If I Go Missing Octavio Quintanilla Slough Press, Paperback $15.95
Octavio Quintanilla measures displacement with language and grapples with the longing to begin anew, to return to what was left unsaid, undone. Redemption is not always possible in these poems, but there is always a sense of hope guided by the poet’s distinct voice.
Black Tulips: The Selected Poems of José María Hinojosa Translated by Mark Statman Uno Press, Paperback $18.95
This is the first English translation of the poetry of José María Hinojosa, a poet of Spain’s famed Generation of ’27. Hinojosa continued to write surrealist poetry until his assassination in 1936. His work disappeared from Spanish culture until the end of the 20th century. Black Tulips contains a selection of his entire body of work.
Rant, Chant, Chisme Amalia Ortiz Wings Press, Paperback $16
The debut collection of poetry features writing from the first decade of her career. This is Tex-Mex life on the border from the perspective of a young Chicana writing herself into being. It introduces a unique transcultural feminist viewpoint exploring culture, music, and place.
A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream Rick Kogan Lake Claremont Press, Paperback $10
Chicago Tribune newspaperman Rick Kogan celebrates the history and characters of the Windy City's famous Billy Goat Tavern, including historic and contemporary photographs. The story details how hard work, antics, and good fortune brought the city a still beloved tavern.
The Textual Outlaw: Reading John Rechy in the 21st Century Edited by Manuel M. Martín-Rodriguez and Beth Hernandez-Jason Universidad De Alcalá, Paperback 15€
This is the first critical volume devoted to the analysis of John Rechy, a Mexican American novelist, dramatist, and literary critic. Scholars collaborated on a collection that addresses questions such as Chicanismo, sexual identities, urban geographies, and queer subjectivities.
Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love: A Memoir of Life Under the Albuquerque Sun Anne Key Goddess Ink, Paperback $18.95
Anne invites us on a unique path of discovery to debunk and transcend the expected norms for middle-aged women. This memoir explores what occurs when the body, mind and spirit join together through the practices of yoga and burlesque. The stories and insights are inspiration for living life authentically.
Until Soon! 36
La Tolteca Zine 2016
ยกHasta la vista!
A literary arts magazine that promotes the advancement of a world without borders and censorship.