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Promoting the Advancement of a World Without Borders and Censorship

LA TOLTECA a単o tres/volumen tres

Photo Memoir of a Shepherdess: Teaching Wool Coops Worldwide

Festival International Granada, Nicaragua

Spring Equinox 2013

Ana Castillo Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

Ama Billi Free Digital Operations & Layout Coordinator

Samuel DuBois Managing Editor

Gloria Gabuardi Francisco de Asís Fernández Ama Billi Free Saankhu Maa El-Bey Cover Photo: Member and secretary of a Womens Agricultural Cooperative in Zoloko Mali, Africa Cover Photo Credit: Patricia Quintana © 2011 USA


Editor’s Page


For the Future of Our Children

7 Organizing Wool Production Cooperatives Worldwide: Photo Memoir of a Shepherdess Patricia L. Quintana 17 Building Our Earthship: A Young Urban Family’s Journey To Creating a Lifestyle of Self-Sustainability Ama Billi Free 20 My Journey Saankhu Maa El-Bey


Festival International - Granada, Nicaragua

14 REINO DE PALABRAS Gloria Gabuardi 15 CON MI OTRO YO 16 CORRESPONSAL DE GUERRA Francisco de Asís Fernández

WORKSHOPISTAS’ PALETTE 21 On Gossip, Grandmothers and Goddesses Sara Salazar 23 Using Photographs to Weave a Community Tapestry: Faith, Family and Following Traditions in Patricia Trujillo-Oviedo’s Chimayó Myrriah Gomez 25 Desert America Adriana Galvan

FICTION 27 Sheriff Big Ray Janine Stubbs

Editor's Page The Vernal Equinox came to us in the United States morning of March 20th. In the Northern Hemisphere the first day of spring marks the moment when the light of day and the darkness of night are equal. For Christians worldwide, soon, they will celebrate the Resurrection of their Savior. The ancient Greeks celebrated Dionysus during this season--god of the grape harvest. The native people in the U.S. call this month’s full moon, The Full Worm Moon. Spring is when the frozen earth thaws and earthworms appear. Life has returned. Likewise we devote this issue to the next seven generations. We are pleased to feature the photos of workshopista Patricia Quintana of Taos, New Mexico who has dedicated over two decades of teaching and promoting women’s self-sustainabilty worldwide through wool collectives. A new adult generation takes notice of climate change, ozone breakdown, the need for re-cycling and other signs that we must preserve our resources. “Building Our Earthship” is the testimony of such a courageous young couple who hail from Chicago and are making their lives and home for their children in the Southwestern desert with Mother Earth in mind. Poetry graces this issue by way of two Nicaraguan poets who are partners as poets, in matrimony and are also co-founders and organizers of the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada. The historic city in Nicaragua is a stunning location for the gathering of the poets that come together for the last eight years. We hope readers, poets and poetry lovers both, will be inspired to find out more about this annual event. If you haven’t been, it is a good reason to visit this country of poets. We received a wide range of images for consideration in our photo contest. La Tolteca would like to thank the owners and curators of the Hilton/Asmus Contemporary Gallery in Chicago for judging our finalists. Congratulations to the winners (please see the announcement on last page). They will be featured in the summer issue. Once again, we deliver our labor of love with the hopes that our readers will enjoy images, ideas, reviews and all around love of arts and culture that we do. Our writers often come from my memoir writing workshops and we are pleased to be their first publishers. Thank you for visting our virtual pages (we welcome all postive comments). On behalf of La Tolteca staff and contributors, we look forward to bringing you more new work on the Summer Solstice. Happy Spring and blessings in the name of all the gods that watch over our thriving planet, past, present and future.

Ana Castillo March, 2013©U.S.A.


Patricia L. Quintana is a native of Taos, New Mexico and is owner/operator of Rancho La Fina Lamb and Wool. She holds a Master’s of Agriculture and a Bachelor of Science from New Mexico State University. Her work over the past 30 years has made for a strong and multifaceted background in policy development, fundraising, and organizational management. Currently, Ms. Quintana is the Executive Director of Taos Land Trust.


For the Future of Our Children by Patricia Quintana

In 1994, six months after my grandmother passed I was contacted by Winrock International. They needed someone with a Sheep and Wool Production background to do a project in Kyrgyzstan. The Focus of the project was to help women and (men) establish a weaving cooperative (business, marketing, product development; develop a strong sheep and wool management plan (nutrition, breeding, wool, quality) and to establish a sheep and wool producers association. It was a perfect fit, since my technical background is Animal Science with a focus on reproductive physiology of sheep and goats. Within this area, fiber is my real passion. It was also a great way to begin healing the loss of my grandmother who was truly “Una Mujer de la Tierra.” Winrock International was established by Winthrop Rockefeller. It is a non-profit organization that works with people in the U.S. and around the world to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain Natural resources. They match innovative approaches in Agriculuture, natural resource management, clean energy, and leadership development with the unique needs of its partners. I have also been sponsored by USAID, the independent federal agency that manages U.S. foreign economic and humanitarian assistance programs around the world The majority of my assignments have been focused on organizational development with emphasis on empowering women in agriculture through agricultural cooperative capacity building; gender mainstreaming strategies; training cooperative leadership and membership in the duties and responsibilities of cooperative business management and leadership; and integrating women’s cooperatives into the business and market place. After that trip I was asked to do many more projects over the last twenty years. The majority of my assignments to various countries have been focused on Organizational development with emphasis on empowering women in agriculture through agricultural cooperative capacity building; gender mainstreaming strategies; training cooperative leadership and membership in the duties and responsibilities of cooperative business management and leadership; and integrating women’s cooperatives into the business and market place. The focus has always been on empowering women and their communities to be able to develop, strengthen, and give them the tools to understand they have all the skills and knowledge to move their children, elders, and community forward in health conscious ways. “For the Future of My Children,” came from SADAF, the Women’s Agricultural Business Cooperative in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The essence of the phrase has been used by in every organization that I was blessed to work with internationally and locally. Susana Vigil de Pacheco, mi abuela was ninety when she passed. She taught me everything I know about the land, caring for it, the sheep, goats and other animals more importantly takeing care of family and community. Her words to me were,” Hijita, si tu cuidas la tierra, la tierra siempre te va a cuidar a ti.” Patricia L. Quintana (Workshopista, Espaõla, NM 2011 and Taos, NM 2012) March 2013 © USA









Féstíval Poesía Nícaragua

Poetas destacados de


REINO DE PALABRAS Quiero tener un reino de palabras o un río de palabras que arrastre la desdicha humana que haga raíces en mi alma y la transformen en Argonauta Quijota de los mares de la fantasía valiente soñadora de la Libertad. Un reino de palabras que me haga trastocar el movimiento de los pájaros en sus ramas y que me transmita el color de una estrella el olor del viento la espiritualidad de la pasión de los hombres. Un reino de palabras que me haga conocer al ser humano, los mares y los astros para juntar mi alma con mi cuerpo y así complacer mi carne. Quiero un reino de palabras para mi alma como quiero una Patria inmensa para mi corazón libre como la soñamos que me seduzcan y que se desgranen entre mi lengua como laberinto de perlas en un atardecer de mi Patria. Un reino de palabras a un rio de palabras que se desborde y arrastre todo lo que encuentre que sea fuego fatuo entre mi boca pasión devoradora de mis sueños. Que me encandile los labios que me entregue las llaves de la imaginación de las islas de los colores y las especias Amboina, Banda, Ternate y Tidore con sus baúles, sus tragedias y sus aventuras en el mar del llanto de Vespuccio y Magallanes Y, que para detenerse ante mí, solo baste, que me iluminen tus ojos o el temblor del umbral de un sueño para manchar la página en blanco.

por Gloria Gabuardi March 2013 © USA


CON MI OTRO YO Hay unos pasadizos secretos entre ese desconocido del espejo y el perro rabioso que habita mi corazón y mis arrugas. Arrinconado, me hipnotiza y me despierta desgarrado por el llanto. Qué esconde su tristeza muda cuando pregunta: ¿Bailaste músicas imaginarias y no existió la felicidad de tu niñez? ¿Qué sabes de la separación de tus padres y del naufragio de tu familia? ¿Quién de los dos tiene el lado tierno y quién el lado que sale de la boca del dragón? Los peores demonios vienen en la falta de orgullo en la soledad frente al espejo. Te quitan la sangre del cuerpo, te mienten, te engañan, te traicionan, y hacen que tu corazón sea ese perro rabioso que se gana la vida abriendo muertos sin saber adónde encaja, y atraviesa el maldito infierno para averiguar que la poesía prohíbe que un día se parezca a otro. Este nuevo día me descubre que para poner a ese desconocido adentro del espejo, sustituyeron el vidrio con ladrillos de agua transparente construidos con los ripios sobrantes de los inmensos aguaceros del diluvio y los deshechos de lágrimas de las tragedias familiares.

por Francisco De Asís Fernández March 2013 © USA



A la memoria de mi gran amigo, el Poeta Alvaro Urtecho Lo que yo afirmo con mi poesía lo confirmo con mi llanto. Yo soy un corresponsal de guerra que hago en poesía los reportajes de mis heridas. En esta guerra solo si te rompen el corazón puedes entregar un pedazo creíble de ti o el secreto de una agonía personal escondido en el canto de un pájaro oculto. Esta guerra ha hecho en mi cuerpo un mapa de tatuajes: este tatuaje de rosas secas habla de mis carencias; este otro, de un parque de flores tronchadas, dibuja los abandonos y las promesas incumplidas; estos nombres que sangran, cuentan de soledades y serpientes que durmieron conmigo con el veneno que asfixió mi esperanza; aquí en éste, yo soy el cazador y esta mujer es mi presa, y no se si me gusta la cacería o me gusta la presa; en esta, estoy con una gata salvaje que baila músicas imaginarias y toca las teclas del clavicordio y las cuatro cuerdas del violin que la convierten en carne mística de mi instinto animal, me hace un perro rabioso ladrándole a la luna y una lombriz buscando su anzuelo. Aquí en éste aparezco nadando con ángeles y tiburones. Y aquí hay un texto sobre mi espalda que dice que hay mil millones de soñadores en el mundo y que pueden irse todos ellos al infierno me hace un perro rabioso ladrándole a la luna porque yo sueño con la vida después de la muerte, con la iluminación de mi casa en el firmamento, aunque no sé si desde ese lado luminoso se pueda ver el lado oscuro de la vida. Yo soy un corresponsal de guerra que tiene ya una fatigada felicidad sin ambiciones, la estrella oscura y efímera de cualquier hombre que padece la angustia de necesitar una razón, que persigue zurcir la verdad con la mentira en mi ropa vieja y que sabe que la belleza y el amor son flores carnívoras que se deshacen, juntan sus pedazos, se reproducen, mueren y vuelven a nacer. por Francisco De Asís Fernández March 2013 © USA



Ama Billi Free


y love for the southwest began in 2008 when I escorted university students from Chicago to Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico on a study abroad community service trip. The week-long observation took us to several organizations assisting migrant workers on their trek from South America and Mexico up into the U.S, El Norte. It also landed us in the middle of the Sonoran desert to follow a bit of the trail that many migrants take on the border of the Tohono O’dham nation lands, where compassionate native members leave jugs of water for their brethren under the small shade of the mesquite trees, against the will of their own tribal government. Through the myriad stories of pain, struggle and compassion I also felt the excitement at seeing my first jackrabbit run unbound through the land, the beauty of brightly painted adobe houses, the awe of a sky full of stars at night, the peace of the desert’s quiet. I felt the land’s calling. So in Fall of 2009, with this calling in my heart, after spiritual trips to the pyramids at Teotihuacan, Mexico and Cairo, Egypt and after the birth of our daughter, myself and my partner decided to move to Sedona, Arizona. After living in a conventional apartment we noticed folks out this way throwing around words and concepts like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” and not in a break-the-bank way (i.e. paying triple the price for organically farmed coffee beans in my espresso) but more in the do-it-yourself manner of passive solar water heating, composting, greywater plumbing and building homes that sustain the thermal mass of the earth thus reducing and/or eliminating heating and cooling expenses. Neither of us grew up in environments that fostered sustainability and alternative ways of living on this scale and so hearing and learning about these things not only excited us and set our hearts afire but they made all the sense in the world. This is what we wanted to do! We looked around Sedona for offers to buy land but it was very expensive. How interesting that land costs as much as it does and one really cannot “own” land, in the literal sense. Finally, a deal for a cheap plot in southwest New Mexico surfaced, albeit with no well or septic system installed. From there, we signed the paperwork and began to dream of our future. We also began to research. In spring of 2010, prior to moving out to our little plot of land, this research took us on a month long tour of the west coast, meeting with sustainable housing communities and businesses in the sustainability field (eg Colorado Yurt Company, the Taos Earthship Global Community) to learn more about the varying types of low-cost and self-sufficient structures that were being built around the country. Some individuals and organizations preferred the more futuristic route of geodesic domes, strawbale houses and rammed-earth tire homes. Others we met with paid homage to the native ancestors by building complexes of tipis and modern-style yurts (aka the Mongolian ger). Once we settled on our land, after our trip, we decided that the structure we would build with our own hands would be a nod to both the past and the future; we would build a rammed-earth tire structure in the style of the Navajo hogan. This dream expressed itself in reality as a 20-foot in diameter, one room, hoganstyle structure with a central fire pit, an overhead skylight and seating space for many.


Our hogan is constructed of about 300 tires that we solicited from our local tire shop (tires which would have cost the shop thousands of dollars to be removed by the city), thousands of bottles and cans that were collected from co-workers and local businesses that respect what we are doing and salvaged wood that we found a few miles down our road at a demolished and abandoned shack site. Not only was this mode of construction a cost saver but we, two moreno city slickers from up north, were able to build fast alliances and contribute to our new community through the ancient technique of trade and barter. For the most part it was our four hands working tirelessly to build this little structure but I think that most of the county is set in kaliche mud and concrete in that one building, and we are still not done! Weaning ourselves from modern forms of dependency that are not self-sufficient or sustainable, as adults from the city who have grown up in the “matrix,” is an ongoing therapy session but when we look at the big picture, this project is for our children. Perhaps we want to, in a way, relive a more preferable childhood through them but it fills me with joy to see them run around for hours kicking up dust in the desert without having to stop for cars crossing, bullets being fired from a gun or for weird people that might hurt them; always on alert, never with abandon. I think it is important for children to experience this type of freedom often and see the type of work that we are doing be done so that they know they do not “have” to depend on anyone or any entity to provide their basic needs of food, water, clothing, shelter and decent human community regardless of what they decide to do with their lives later on. So that, if they want, they can spend their later years traveling, creating, inventing and enjoying themselves instead of having to worry about rent/mortgages, bills, all of these little “unnecessary” annoyances. They will have the tools and experience to gain sufficiency in their own way. What we don’t get to fin Our philosophy around building this type of housing has the goal of self-sufficiency and stewardship of the planet at its heart. As part and parcel of a larger global community, we feel that it is important for us and for future generations to decrease our dependency on unstable and costly structures that will ultimately lead to destruction on many levels (i.e. GMO and Monsanto seed patents, high prices of fossil fuels in place of biodiesel fuel, utility bills, psyches disconnected from nature, etc). This experience and all of its ups and downs has been a profoundly educational journey. Our goals are far-reaching. We would like to, at the end of 10-15 years or so (maybe sooner!), be as close to 100% self-sufficient as possible in the arenas of housing, transportation and food and water sourcing. Ultimately, we want to continue to cultivate a relationship of peace with nature; to travel and visit with our friends without having the price of gas be a deal breaker because we have begun to move over to biodiesel, to pick fresh fruits and vegetables just a few feet away from our living space and to watch the sun and moon rise each day quietly and without hindrance.


My Journey

Saankhu Maa El-Bey

Saankhu Maa El-Bey is my name. Saankhu Maa means, “By living truth, I have victory” in the Nubian Egyptian language. The El-Bey derives from Old Latin and Moorish roots. I also have blood ties to the Apache cultures of the southwest. This is the background by which I define myself, not as the popularized “Black” or “African-American.” As far as color is concerned, I consider myself Brown and not Black with the understanding that black is a classification that most people of strong African descent choose to use as an identification and so the world at large does also, but I ask my three year old daughter, now learning the primary colors, what color our skin is and her response is Brown. I see the same color. So with this understanding I would like to explain how I overcame the stereotype that men of color do not live long, are most likely to end up in jail, are un- and undereducated and are absent when it comes to taking care of their families. As a youth, I grew up in the North Chicago, Rogers Park and Evanston. I never experienced any direct racial discrimination. In fact, the only people that were ever unkind to me had the same colored skin! With this realization, I was able to grow up seeing that all humans have good and bad in them, regardless of color so never having a racial chip on my shoulder was a bonus and helped me be more accepting of differences and gain a more universal understanding of the world and humanity. However, the challenge of not falling into these stereotypical roles became my drive in early adulthood. I attended Baptist church up until the time I began college and it was during my last year with the church that I had begun to realize much hypocrisy. This did not deter me from continuing my understanding of the universal being called God, Allah, Jehovah, etc. I attended college at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale but in my sophomore year I was diagnosed with a heart condition. I decided to leave SIUC and came back to the city to attend Columbia College in case I needed medical attention. During my last year of college, pursuing a Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Graphic Design, the stress level had gotten out of hand and I ended up in the hospital for a few days. After being released from the hospital I decided to take my health into my own hands; no doctors and no prescribed pills. I began a more holistic lifestyle of a vegetarian diet, yoga, meditation and relaxation. This change benefited me the most. Not only did I outlive the five years I was given to live with my condition, but I experienced success in my profession and traveled around the world (Mexico, Puerto Rico and Egypt), confirming much of what I had studied regarding the spiritual practices in other places after I journeyed from organized religion. It is often said that the most difficult of situations has the potential to springboard a person into greater realizations. I know that the totality of my life experiences and the challenges faced to not be another stereotype, some recounted here, have led me to the lifestyle choice I have now made with my family. So, from an African-American boy to a Universal-Sustainable Being has been and continues to be my journey.


On Gossip, Grandmothers, and Goddesses by Sara H. Salazar

My path to studying and teaching women’s

spirituality did not begin in a church or a classroom, nor did it have anything to do with God. It began in humid mornings spent in my grandparents home after all of the men in the family had gone to the steel mill and our mothers had gone to their respective jobs. The grandchildren, including my sister and I, were left in the care of my grandmother and the rest of the grandmothers in the neighborhood. These women gathered each morning, pulled the maroon can of Folgers from the shelf, slowly poured their brew, and situated themselves around the kitchen table to commence their chisme circle. These women wove a web of support between homes, neighborhoods, cultures, and languages, by listening to one another, worrying about each other’s families, and working to sustain community through action. These actions, planting a garden for communal use, reciting novenas after a loss, or babysitting a grandchild, were the bedrock of our family and larger community. The grandmothers showed me that spirituality was defined by the bonds between peoples, a belief in something bigger than myself, and the courage to act on behalf of community. Years later, while drowning myself in academia, I sat enveloped by silence on yet another cold marble bench, which had become a sort of oasis in the midst of chaos. That day I was feeling particularly smug about the many symbols I could point out and the number of myths and stories I could decipher within a single Italian Renaissance painting. Out of the blue, I wondered if art existed that could explain the story of my people or culture. Where were the images and stories of strong Mexican women? Tired of stories of La Virgen, I wanted to learn the symbols and myths of badass machas and Mesoamerican goddesses! In that sliver of time I felt small and alone and in one crushing wave, in the middle of the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, Italy, I began to ache for home with an intensity I never had before. As the first one in my family to attend college, my decision to study in Italy had increased the gulf between my family and I, yet suddenly, on that cold November day, the allure of new places, ideas, people, languages, and customs evaporated. I missed my family, my friends, and sitting around the kitchen table swapping chisme and eating Mexican food, I longed for hot sauce and Lupita’s tortillas! It became clear that I needed to leave Italy and travel my own cultural and spiritual path to find answers to my questions. When I returned home my curiosity about my own history bled into anger at being denied access to it and I wondered how many others had been deprived of their history. Realizing that my ability to navigate academia was only possible because of the deep cultural and spiritual roots I had outside of academia, my anger melted into a burning desire to unearth and examine the spiritual lives of Latinas.


Several years later, as the sounds and smells of Mission Street drifted up to the third floor, I sat transfixed by the women around me in this circle. This leg of my spiritual and academic journey brought allies- the Korean shaman, the Buddhist, the Yoruba priestess, and the devotee of Mago- who were travelling similar paths. I had been drawn to this evolving

Women’s Spirituality program because it encouraged the study of the spiritual lives of women, as opposed to religious, and represented an opportunity for scholarly independence. As I continued to balance between the world of academia and the rest of life, I embraced the chance to find answers to questions I had been pondering for many years. As I uncover these answers I am learning that I thrive in the intersections of worlds through the spiritual tools and practices I have inherited at kitchen tables and crafted from time spent on cold marble benches. I have discovered that my spirituality continues to be a buoy while traversing the academic world and vital to my survival overall. As my struggles shape me, they also sculpt my teaching and help me to engage my students, my community, with deeper compassion for their own struggles. Sitting in circle with them I learn again how important it is to acknowledge all of our spiritualities out of a desire to connect with one another and to honor and educate the whole person.

Sara H. Salazar (Workshopista, 2012) March 2013 Š USA


Using Photographs to Weave a Community Tapestry: Faith, Family, and Following Traditions in Patricia TrujilloOviedo’s Chimayó By Myrriah Gomez Trujillo-Oviedo, Patricia. Chimayó. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2012. 127 pps. $21.99 paper. Patricia Trujillo-Oviedo’s photographic history of Chimayó, New Mexico, offers a nostalgic look at a community that has maintained its cultural and agricultural practices over several generations. Oviedo’s book, Chimayó, is one of the newest additions to the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing. The black-and-white images, many from private, family collections, accompany Oviedo’s vignette-style documentation of the history and traditional practices in the northern New Mexican community. The village is comprised of 11 placitas, which Oviedo describes as “little neighborhoods” that are named after both local, geographical features and the names of founding families. As Oviedo’s history highlights, perhaps the most prominent feature of the landscape is the people—hardworking descendants of Indigenous Tewa-speaking people and Spanish colonists. The name Chimayó is itself a variation of the Tewa name “Tsi Mayoh,” which suggests a sacred reputation for healing earth. Although the book is divided into several sections, both the stories and the faces in the photographs in each chapter often overlap. The people, through their various cultural practices, come alive in each photographic vignette to tell the story of Chimayó— a collective history that is founded upon a devout, spiritual dedication to the earth. The residents continue to base their lifestyle on the ancient practices of their ancestors, which revolve around the holy dirt, the chile that grows in the fields, the acequias that water the chile, and the lambs that are sheared for wool to weave blankets and other garments. Although Oviedo does not call blatant attention to the tourist economy that now pervades Chimayó, she does discuss the various components that have made the village famous, namely El Santuario de Chimayó, the little church built by Bernardo Abeyta after he uncovered a crucifix in an empty field during Holy Week (33). The original chapel, completed in 1816, is now a national historic landmark and also a major tourist attraction, particularly during Holy Week and Good Friday on the Catholic calendar.


In addition to the santuario and the strong Catholic faith that Oviedo discusses, she also examines the agricultural and artistic traditions of the community. She focuses primarily on chile farming and weaving, which both eventually became local economies. Oviedo explains how chile is both food source and folk medicine in Chimayó culture. Chimayosos primarily allow the chile to turn red on the stem so that they can tie it into long strands known as ristras, which are sundried and then ground into powder to be used throughout the year. In the penultimate chapter, “Families and Elders,” Oviedo highlights the connections between the various families that are mentioned throughout the photographic history as the progenitors of the local traditions. This photographic history serves as both a window into the sacred heritage of Chimayó and a sort of family genealogy for young community members. Myrriah Gómez, (Workshopista, Chimayó, 2012) She is a Ford Pre-doctoral Fellow and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Patricia Trujillo Oveido and husband


Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New “New West” by Rubén Martínez

By Adriana Galván

The enchantment of the West has lured adventurers, city dwellers and lonewolves for centuries. Its mystery and seclusion has been a fairy tale several outsiders have yearned for including Emmy-winning journalist, poet and author, Rubén Martínez. In his latest novel, Desert America Boom and Bust in the New “New West” Martinez takes us on an illuminating and gritty trip throughout several areas of the West including Northern New Mexico, Joshua Tree in California, and the Rio Grande area of Texas. Growing up in Los Angeles, Martínez felt the pull of the West as he would stare into his grandfather’s diorama of a Western sunset framed by saguaro cacti, ocotillo and rocks glued in to represent dirt. The diorama had no human figures, “the image is intended as idyll, and these come easier without people and their messy histories.” As an adult, Martinez is lured by these images and he decides to accompany his soon-to-be wife, Angela, out West where she can write and conduct research on her dissertation which is on the “social and historical dimensions of heroin addiction.” The couple moves to northern New Mexico, where unbeknownst to him, he encounters among the community poverty, drug addiction and tense borders between the three main groups of people that inhabit most of the West: the Indians, Hispanos, and Whites. Honest in his deliverance, Martínez takes us deep into his internal struggles to connect with the land, its complex beauty and the history of its ownership; as well as his outreach to get to know the people, some of which have buried their roots in the dirt well before the Spanish conquest. Martinez is a remarkable storyteller who leaves us to ponder the characters and experiences he encounters on his journey throughout the great expansive West; its highs and lows are all a part of its intrigue and its strength. One can understand through Martinez’s words how the West is a part of the collective consciousness of all who are looking for sunsets. Adriana Galván (Workshopista, Chicago, 2009). She works as a copywriter and also writes fiction.



Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New West By Rubén Martínez Metropolitan Books; $18.48

Introduction : Snow in the Desert Long before the boom of the aughts, long before the bust, I made a pilgrimage to the desert. When I arrived, snow suffused the sand, icicles hung from yucca spikes. It was late 1997, the beginning of an El Niño winter. I’d come running from Mexico City and stopped in the Mojave because it was close to Los Angeles, my hometown, and because that’s where people from L.A.—in trouble with the law, their lovers, their creditors, themselves—go to hide out, lick their wounds, end the affair, bury the body. I went because my friend Elia was there. She, along with a small crew of L.A. expatriates, optimistic bohos, was creating a life for herself in the village of Joshua Tree, at the edge of the famous national park. Their presence unwittingly helped set the scene for a full-blown art colony and a season of wild speculation in the mid-2000s. Me, I was simply trying to save my life. I was supposed to be finishing a book. I had “completed the research,” as writers like to say to editors when they miss the deadline. I had just enough in the bank to put down the first and last month’s rent on a house down the road from my friends, in Twentynine Palms, a small town sandwiched between the iconic vistas of Joshua Tree National Park and another massive, equally iconic tract of public land: the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the largest corps training facility in the United States, whose sand dunes had served as a simulacrum of the Middle Eastern desert for the first war in Iraq and would again for the second. The rent was $275 a month; I’d talked the rental agency down from $400. There weren’t many takers at that time for shacks in the Mojave sand. My pre-boom hovel was a small, ordinary stucco A-frame with thin walls and a composition shingle roof, pale yellow with white trim. Names were etched in the cement of the patio, and a year: 1952. There was a fenced yard in the back, and a big garage empty except for a truck engine block lying on its side. Next to the house were a couple of big tamarisk trees that whooshed in the wind. The “street” I lived on (it had been paved once, but now it was mostly broken asphalt and big pools of sand) ran north-south, and the house faced west, the direction the wind blew from, pecking the living room’s picture windows with sand. A sign nearby read, “NEXT SERVICE 100 MILES.” I had never seen snow in the desert, had hardly even imagined it, but that is how the Mojave greeted me. A frigid wind blew, and thick flakes fell to efface the land I thought I knew.

By Rubén Martínez © 2012


Sheriff Big Ray By Janine Stubbs

One of the most popular people in south Texas when I was a teenager was our county sheriff. He was a friend to teenagers and watched over them and their parents. As I discovered later, the disadvantaged in the community were thankful for his protection as well. His deeds often went untold until years later when his name came up and people told their stories about him. Here is one of the stories about Sheriff Big Ray that I will tell you in my poetic version. He was six foot two from his boots to his eyes of baby blue. Or six foot five and weighed a hundred and ninety five. He postured high over everyone in a room and wielded heavy strength with his favorite weapons, his four and a half foot arms. He grabbed outlaws and troublemakers by their necks and stretched them away from his body while they kicked and thrashed but never reached him. Their resistance halted when their faces turned blue. Seldom did he use his 45 caliber six shooter he carried close to his waist. Despite his stature, he was a true gentle giant and avoided confrontation, as best he could. Ladies loved sheriff Ray and fell under his charms. He tilted his hat, opened car doors, pulled out their chairs, and kissed their cheeks. He wore a constant smile and told funny jokes. He trusted women, as he did most men. He disliked lying faces and didn’t frequent churches. The hypocrites, he recognized with little patience. Amen, they shouted with their phony voices. He was not one of them. Sheriff Ray empathized with the underprivileged and race played no role. He testified for black men when he knew they were innocent. He accompanied men home when they were in no shape to drive or found in naughty places. Not telling on them when no harm was done and there weren’t any traces.


Recently, Mr. Joe Sanches said the Sheriff did him a favor when he was a teenager in the 1950’s and worked at a local diner one summer. Young Joe worked for the cranky Mr. Jansen who owned Pappy’s Place. The owner had a reputation for being very stingy. He served only one slice of bread on a plate lunch and one better not ask for another or he/she might raise the wrath of the grumpy owner. When kids got loud, it was just like him to yell at them to leave. At the end of summer, when school was to begin, young Joe Sanches had to leave his job at the diner and return to high school. Unfortunately, the owner of the diner would not pay him for his last week’s wages. He was counting on that money to pay for his clothes and school supplies. One day, young Joe approached Sheriff Ray and told him his dilemma. Sheriff Ray said, “Okay, lets go see Mr. Jansen and pay him a visit.” The two of them got into the Sheriff ’s patrol car and drove down the small town’s main street, where everyone could see them. The Sheriff boldly parked in front of the diner and stormed in with his chest extended in his authoritative manner. Sheriff Ray confronted Mr. Jansen about his refusal to pay young Joe. When the diner owner did not cooperate, Sheriff Ray slammed his fist on the counter and shouted, “I told you to pay this young man’s wages.” Everyone in the small café looked up at the three men and waited to see what would happen next. The reluctant owner looked around and went to the cash register, pulled out the money and threw it on the floor and said, “Here.” Sheriff Ray walked closer to Jansen and screamed louder, “Pick it up.” Sanches said at that point, he picked it up himself before Mr. Jansen had a chance and ran out of the diner before the altercation escalated any further. “Sheriff Ray was some Sheriff,” said Sanches, with a big smile on his face. I agree and I’m proud that I knew him, as well.

Janine Stubbs (Workshopista, 2013)


CONGRATULATIONS La Tolteca Best Photo Contest Winners First and Third Place

Claudia HernĂĄndez Second Place

Hugo Claudin Thank you to all photographers for your stunning submissions. Winning entries will be featured in Summer Solstice Issue


would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our judges, owners and curators, Arica Hilton and Sven Asmus of Contemporary Gallery. HILTON | ASMUS CONTEMPORARY 716 N. Wells Chicago, IL 60654 312.852.8200 HILTON | A SMUS CONTEMPORARY: Located in Chicago’s River North Art District, the gallery specializes in modern and contemporary paintings, works on paper, glass art, sculpture and photography featuring Chicago-based emerging and established artists, as well as internationally known artists from Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Region such as Turkey, Greece, Italy, and the Middle East.

Año 3/Vol. 3 LA TOLTECA Late Spring Equinox Issue 2013  

Patricia L. Quintana, International Festival of Poetry in Nicaragua, Gloria Gabuardi, Francisco de Asis Fernandez, Sara Salazar, Adriana Gal...

Año 3/Vol. 3 LA TOLTECA Late Spring Equinox Issue 2013  

Patricia L. Quintana, International Festival of Poetry in Nicaragua, Gloria Gabuardi, Francisco de Asis Fernandez, Sara Salazar, Adriana Gal...