Recovery and Digital Humanities

Welcome to Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s new blog page!

The Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (aka “Recovery”) has recently been awarded  grants from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These grants will fund the Recovery’s recent initiative to create the first digital humanities program to focus on US Latina/o Studies.

Things to look for on the blog as Recovery moves forward include: bilingual posts on archival material, digital exhibitions of selected collections, digital humanities projects, collaborations across disciplines and institutions, digital humanities workshops, and more! Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @APPRecovery and like our page on Facebook.

Support Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage! Become a member. Be a donor. Make a difference. You can sign up for Membership by clicking  here.

Membership benefits include:

  • Five electronic books Recovery books
  • Latest Recovery publications
  • 20% discount on Arte Público Press books
  • Conference and special events discounts

Feminismo y antifascismo en la “Página de la mujer” en La Voz

Por Ana María Díaz Marcos

El periódico neoyorquino La voz empieza a publicarse en julio de 1937, haciendo gala desde el primer número de un rotundo compromiso antifascista. El 11 de diciembre de 1937, con el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” firmado por Lina Mares, se inicia la publicación de una “Página de la mujer” destinada a las mujeres hispanas interesadas -además de en los aspectos de hogar, crianza, moda y feminidad asociados históricamente con el sexo- en cuestiones políticas, feministas e intelectuales como la lucha de la democracia contra el fascismo, los derechos de la mujer, la educación, los conflictos bélicos y los derechos de la infancia.

La “Página de la mujer” editada por Mares se construye así en tribuna destinada a las “mujeres de mi raza y de mi lengua” que aúna la vocación política antifascista y feminista con otros elementos característicos de la prensa femenina más convencional: recetas, consejos de belleza, patrones y fotos de moda, publicidad, salud y estética. Esta convergencia del claro compromiso democrático antifascista y la voluntad feminista tiene una poderosa presencia en el periódico hasta mayo de 1938, cuando la firma de Lina Mares deja de aparecer en el encabezamiento de la “Página de la mujer” que pierde de inmediato esa orientación política. Durante esos seis primeros meses de publicación la página expone su ideario democrático y feminista a través de numerosos artículos que se dirigen a una mujer moderna interesada en un abanico amplio de propuestas: “lo mismo el consejo legal para la defensa de vuestros derechos de mujer, que la receta de cocina; el patrón de moda, que la manera de ataviaros o conservar vuestros encantos físicos. Lo mismo hallaréis el artículo relativo a la educación o el cuidado de vuestros hijos, que la noticia y el comentario oportunos sobre alguna conquista de nuestras hermanas en el campo de la ciencia, de la industria o en el aula universitaria”.

Con ese espíritu de sororidad Mares describe en el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” el papel de la mujer en la sociedad, centrándose en varios ejes fundamentales: como madre en su sentido pleno y no como “mera máquina de producir hijos”, como ciudadana y como compañera del hombre, con quien comparte los mismos derechos y deberes. No es posible establecer por qué la “Página de la mujer” perdió tan pronto su orientación política y feminista pero lo cierto es que esos primeros meses el mensaje se vincula sobre todo a las colaboraciones y el trabajo editorial de Lina Mares (de quien no se tienen más datos en este momento) y de la periodista y sufragista mexicana Margarita Robles de Mendoza que vivía en Nueva York en aquellas fechas y que contribuye activamente en ese página entre enero y abril de 1938 con artículos que reflejan su vocación desde el título: «Hermanas de España, Aquí Estamos» (La Voz, 22-I-38), «La Posición de la Mujer ante el Fascismo» (La Voz, 20-I-38) y «La Mujer en la Alemania Nazi» (La Voz, 21-III-38).

Dentro del proyecto de Recuperación del Legado Escrito Hispano se prepara una galería con los artículos publicados por Margarita Robles de Mendoza en La Voz. El objetivo es que esta galería esté disponible y en acceso libre para el verano del 2021.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Picture This: The Modesta We Never Knew

Train depot in background, black and white photograph of a woman in foreground

Tracing a relevant role model in US History

By Cecilia López

Amid the pandemic, I was invited to be a research contributor for Sarah Rafael García’s archival ethnofiction project on the life of Modesta Avila. During this time, I had moved back home after completing my first year as an undergrad student at the University of California, Berkeley. My initial reaction to Modesta Avila’s story was utter shock at how young she was when she battled for land rights. Just like Modesta, I am nineteen years old and was born in Santa Ana, California where she had familial ties and was convicted in court. As I reflect on my everyday struggles, I cannot fathom the fears and emotions that went through Modesta’s mind as she tried to sustain her livelihood. 

Photograph of Modesta featured alongside original images of the Combs House, and Cannery and Packing House. Below Avila’s photo, the inscription states: “In 1889, Modesta Avila objected to the Santa Fe railroad running through her mother’s land and hung a line of laundry across the tracks. Although she removed it before the train arrived, she was later charged and convicted of a felony, sentenced to three years in San Quentin and Died there at age 22 after serving two years of her sentence.” Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

Modesta Avila, a Mexican American a folk heroine, is known for her resistance against the Southern Pacific Railroad during the 1800s. Born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, California, Modesta lived in her family’s home that laid fifteen feet away from the railroad tracks. The many disruptions caused by the train impeded on her life and ability to engage in daily activities, such as caring for her hens. After voicing her concerns and still seeing no necessary measures being enacted or even considered by the railroad company, Modesta took matters into her own hands by placing a laundry line post across the railroad tracks. Along with this physical barrier, she attached a note: “This land belongs to me. And if the railroad wants to run here, they will have to pay me ten thousand dollars.” Shortly after performing this act of protest, Modesta was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad and would face three years of incarceration at San Quentin Prison.

Although I am frustrated by the injustice Modesta faced, I am very honored to now share her story with others. During the month of July 2020, I had the opportunity to visit and photograph Modesta’s house as a way to document her memory. Along with my parents and two younger sisters, I traveled from Santa Ana to San Juan Capistrano, California. My parents, who have lived in Santa Ana for over 40 years, were intrigued by Modesta’s poignant story, yet they questioned why no one ever spoke about her in the community. Upon arriving, my first inclination was to observe the space and walk around the area before shooting any photographs. The entrance exhibits a memorial wall that frames the trunks of the evergreen trees that wrap around Los Rios. This adorned stone wall lies near a neighborhood of native hummingbird sage, honeysuckles and prickly cactus with vibrant ruby red tunas. Centered in the middle of the memorial is a plaque with Modesta’s black and white mugshot from San Quentin Prison when she was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad. Following the memorial is a dirt path that leads toward Modesta’s home, now known as the Hummingbird Cafe or Combs House. Built in 1865, the Combs House was moved to Los Rios Street in 1878 when Forster City, south of San Clemente, failed and was later abandoned. The name pays homage to its original owner, Jack Combs, who served as an early town constable and lived on the property.

Located on 26711 Verdugo Street, Modesta Avila’s house quickly stands out as the only historical site right next to the train tracks and Metrolink station. Her house now serves as a tourist attraction that serves Greek and American food. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

After researching Modesta for months, it was fascinating to visit her home, yet troubling to be there knowing how her story would ultimately end. While walking past her brown wooden house, I paused to reimagine how this space once looked. I felt that it was crucial to fully immerse myself in the environment to visualize how Modesta’s mid 19th century home might’ve looked, as well as the other living conditions that surrounded her. Despite not being able to enter the interior of her home, I was able to explore the house quite well and witness how the train tracks were literally right outside her front porch. The whistles of the train rang in my ears while the aged wooden planks of Modesta’s house creaked and echoed like the sounds of distant cries. It felt hauntingly surreal to take each step into what felt like another realm, where Modesta was standing right beside me.

The Los Rios Street District is the oldest and continually occupied residential street in California. Californian plants, such as cactus and succulents surround the area to provide a variant of diverse colors and wildlife. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

I hope that my photographs allow the viewer to place themselves in the shoes of Modesta, as well as question the institutions or forces of power and privilege that push members of our society out to the margins. After recognizing how Modesta’s story had been sexualized, criminalized or simply forgotten, I made it my personal and visual objective to shoot as much detail as possible, thus providing multiple alternative perspectives. Unfortunately, many people in Santa Ana and the surrounding community are still unaware of Modesta’s narrative due to the lack of archived information and history that has documented her memory. Historians such as Richard Brock and his work, Modesta Again: Setting the Record Straight have countered Modesta’s narrative by criminalizing and sexualizing her . While the responsibility of a historian involves telling a more “accurate” sense of the past from an unbiased position—this is not the case. The history taught in standard US classrooms is dominated by an idealistic Westernized perspective told by the white cisgender male perspective. The counter narrative provided by Modesta reciprocates the equal oppressive and damaging behavior expressed in court that did not grant her a fair trial or the opportunity to voice her story as its authentic truth. And here I am, a nineteen year old in 2021 re-presenting history for all of us to learn more about the truths of Modesta Avila’s life.


Cecilia López is a photographer, research coordinator and literacy tutor. She is an advocate for human trafficking survivors; her creative work intersects social justice themes with photographic documentation. She is a second year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology with a focus on Chicanx Studies and Digital Humanities. Currently, she is a research contributor for the 2020-2021 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889, an archival project that documents the life of Modesta Avila, under the direction of Sarah Rafael García.  

Collecting and Re-presenting US History: Digital Storytelling as Archives

Woman standing in front of a powerpoint screen

By Sarah Rafael García

As an adjunct professor teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives at Chapman University, every semester I tell the following story on the first day of class:

In late 2019, I arrived to meet with Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura after procrastinating for months and while carrying a backpack full of books and snacks. I procrastinated to meet with her and loaded my backpack with too many things because I thought I would spend six to eight hours beating my head against my laptop. You laugh, but you should all know that I went to undergrad before the internet existed. As you can imagine, I’m not tech friendly at all. But what I learned in a couple of hours, besides how to create a virtual timeline, was that the digital humanities are also abbreviated as DH and not about elaborate techy skills. DH is about the passion to share knowledge — to provide information without the barriers of financial constraints and paywalls. Dr. Baeza Ventura became a relevant role-model — not because we are from the same generation — but because she’s a Latina passing on knowledge in order for all of us to be able to collect, preserve and re-present our own history in the US. And now I’m passing on those skills to you, I can’t wait to see what you teach others.

After a year of navigating through a pandemic and witnessing an invasion of the US Capitol by white supremacists, I find myself lacking motivation to continue creating. But as a Chicana born at la frontera and first generation everything, I also know more than ever that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities need to continue to evolve and rise through our various platforms. I started to incorporate digital humanities into literary projects in 2016. As a MFA graduate and writer who was struggling to sustain myself through employment and obtain acknowledgement as a scholar, I brainstormed on how I could fortify my work while still remaining creative, critical and countering the national headlines.

I felt it was imperative to be strategic on how I passed on research and information to my audience. I didn’t want to develop a textbook or seminar or false news. I also prioritized accessibility through the use of diverse languages (regional dialects, Spanish and non-academic) and the visual arts. This led to my first collaborative multimedia project SanTana’s Fairy Tales, which included storytelling through music, visual arts and digital archives produced via powerpoint and presented on electronic devices in a live exhibition and accessible via a website.

As a result of that experience and the impact it made in Mexican-American Studies classrooms, I couldn’t imagine completing another publication without support from documented resources or archives. It was through the University of Houston Katherine G. McGovern College for the Arts and Project Row Houses Fellowship in 2019 that I got to visit and learn from Arte Público Press’ Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program (Recovery) and US Latino Digital Humanities Program (USLDH).

With the help of Recovery/USLDH, I created my first virtual timeline for my living archival project, Reality Check 3rd Ward. It was the first fellowship program that allowed me to establish research methods to collect and preserve BIPOC history and culture while drawing parallels from regional BIPOC social justice movements to national politics. The combined mentorship also led me to design an undergraduate course. Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives is a research and writing workshop using digital humanities and creative writing to trace BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and feminist history from the 1960s to present time. The course is open to students studying history, anthropology, creative writing, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, and humanities in order to pilot how they each will interpret US history while also learning to enhance and document their research through the arts and digital humanities. Students are expected to complete a historical virtual timeline, multimedia project in one semester. Over the last two semesters, I have witnessed a new generation of students accomplish more in three months than what I accomplished in a one-year fellowship.

Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD)

Artistic rendition of Modesta Avila.
(Image credit: Carla y Patricia Zárate Suárez)

Through each past experience, I continued to research Modesta Avila. She served as muse for one of my stories in SanTana’s Fairy Tales and learning about her then taught me how to dig deeper for more unsung heroes while conducting research for Third Ward Houston. She became my research topic for the USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD).

To me, Modesta Avila has become even more relevant these last few weeks. As a Mexican American who obstructed development of the railroad system in Southern California in the late 1800s, her place in history has been perpetuated as a criminal. She is the first felon out of Orange County who was initially convicted in Santa Ana and became the first woman admitted into the San Quentin State Prison. Her mugshot has become as iconic as the Australian 19 Crimes wine labels showcasing British prisoners through augmented reality. She’s known by some but none have actually heard her story without her mugshot establishing their point of view.

The majority of the publications available before 1920 are newspaper clippings and court documents, all of which cover the points of view of city officials and court proceedings in Santa Ana. Most recently, like in the last 15-20 years, there seems to be a fascination about Modesta currently existing as an urban legend near the San Juan Capistrano train station and to many in Santa Ana she has provided inspiration as a late 1800’s youth activist fighting against development. However, the majority of her history has only been published under white scholars and some even go as far as minimizing her purpose to merely a nuisance.

Follow the #MAOD Twitter account at @ModestaAvilaOD

#MAOD is a bilingual platform for collecting and sharing relevant history with a specific focus on Latinx, women and regional narratives in English and Spanish. #MAOD builds movement culture by preserving and re-presenting history from a people of color point of view. Combined, the archives and published creative work will also present a bilingual open-source book through APP Digital that engages a broader audience through diverse language, scholarly work and the digital humanities. With the collaborative research produced alongside undergraduate student and photographer Cecilia Lopez, we will transpose Modesta Avila’s image from criminal to digital storyteller. The digital enhancement is supported in part by multi-media artist Carla Zarate Suarez and transmedia artist Reema, jointly they will create the graphic illustrations and augmented reality for digital storytelling. Most recently, Modesta Avila has resurfaced in Twitter– collectively we have reconstituted her image to demonstrate a story from an alternative perspective. Her narrative includes black and white photos as regional documentation. #MAOD is the first multi-media scholarly publication of Modesta Avila that is collected, preserved and re-presented by two Chicanas from SanTana: Sarah Rafael García and Cecilia Lopez.

And yet over the last few weeks media headlines share how white supremacists rioted and vandalized the White House. Their actions have not been held accountable as a criminal act; they continue to gain attention and live their lives. This, again, leads me back to Modesta Avila– who was convicted and sent to San Quentin State Prison for hanging up a clothesline across railroad tracks. As a woman of color and Mexican American myself, born in the US, I have experienced firsthand how I too have become a nuisance to the white hierarchical models of this nation. Tracing Modesta’s history is affirming and also provides a method to continue to teach the next BIPOC generation to tell their own history– the digital humanities is the platform that has the potential to set the record straight and elevate our work and US history virtually and globally.


Sarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator, and performance ethnographer. She’s the author of Las Niñas and SanTana’s Fairy Tales, co-editor of pariahs writing from outside the margins and the forthcoming sci-fi anthology Speculative Fiction for Dreamers as well as founder of Barrio Writers and LibroMobile. Currently, she splits her time between shipping books out to loyal readers across the nation, teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives, and developing an archival ethnofiction project for the life of Modesta Avila as a 2020 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grantee. Follow her on Twitter: @SarahRafaGarcia.

Discovering USLDH through the Story of LULAC

LULAC red, white, and blue logos

By Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez

My name is Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez and I am an undergraduate Political Science student at the University of Houston. My time with Arte Público Press begins in the Fall of 2020. I was in the process of completing a Mexican American Studies course with Dr. Lorena Gauthereau when she informed my classmates and I about an internship opportunity at Recovery. I knew little about Arte Público or Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), other than what was briefed by Dr. Gauthereau, but of course, with some research, I grew interested in the program and chose to apply. Very quickly after my interview process with Dr. Linda García Merchant, who would later become my mentor, I met the rest of the team at Recovery, who all welcomed me with open arms.

For my first project, I worked closely with Dr. García Merchant to proof and revise a digital timeline dedicated to highlighting the history of the Latino civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) timeline. In 2019, my fellow UH undergraduate and previous recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award, Katerin Zapata, began compiling research and creating the initial version of the timeline. We analyzed its contents and captions and took the steps necessary to ensure web accessibility, specifically to those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities.[1] An essential component of the timeline is its appeal to all the senses using diverse forms of technology. Users have access to a wide range of information through various types of videos, pictures and links. In addition to this, the timeline itself is easily operable to accommodate users with limited range of motion and different color combinations were explored to benefit users with visual impairments. Dr. García Merchant and I ensured the content was concise and also made available in Spanish to suit bilingual speakers. Previous to my time at Recovery, my experience in digital humanities was limited. However, this was hardly a concern because Dr. García Merchant did not hesitate to provide her guidance as needed. She ultimately laid the foundation for me to utilize various digital resources and, along the way, taught me techniques to give the reader an overall engaging learning experience. 

LULAC red, white, and blue logo
LULAC Timeline

I knew LULAC as an advocacy organization that was significant to members of the Latinx/Hispanic community, but unfortunately, this was the extent of my knowledge. I was aware of a few of the lawsuits that set critical legal precedents, such as Salvatierra v. Del Rio and Mendez v. Westminster, but only relative to other civil rights proceedings such as Brown v. Board of Education. As I worked on the timeline, I learned about the various councils located across Texas, including Council 60 in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I researched prominent figures like Tony Campos, Dolores Guerrero, Willie Velasquez, Belen Robles, and countless others who were pioneers in the advancement of the Latinx/Hispanic community in the United States. I hope that through this timeline and the many other projects at Recovery, individuals may have the opportunity to learn more about organizations like LULAC and hear about those stories in history not often told.

1970 slide on LULAC timeline

It is no doubt that the pandemic has had a considerable impact on many of our lives. In a few words, I can confidently say that this year was by far the most strenuous time of my life. I figured that my entry into the Recovery program during the pandemic would affect the quality of my experience. While I am sure that the circumstances were very different pre-COVID, I would not say that my experience was in any way worse or less than. If anything, I felt like Recovery was a positive outlet for me. 

After my first meeting with everyone, I remember having an overwhelming feeling of joy. I will never forget how much it meant to be in the same virtual room as so many incredibly accomplished men and women. I was surrounded by professors and professionals at the top of their fields, and when they spoke, it reminded me of home. I saw a bit of myself in them, and for the first time, I witnessed the language of my mother and grandmother being used in an academic workplace. Ultimately, they are who I aspire to be, not only for myself but also for my community. As a woman, a Mexican immigrant, and a first-generation college student, it is motivating to see this representation in academia. Working alongside everyone at Recovery for these past couple of weeks has been truly inspiring and a valuable learning experience that I will always carry with me.

**Stay tuned for the public release of the LULAC Timeline**

Further Reading

“English Plus Versus English Only.” League of United Latin American Citizens, https://lulac.org/advocacy/issues/english_vs_spansih/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

LULAC. lulac.org.

Olivas, Michael A. Colored Men and Hombres Aquí: Hernández V. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican-American Lawyering. Arte Público Press, 2006.

Orozco, Cynthia. Pioneer of Mexican-American Civil Rights: Alonso S. Perales. Arte Público Press, 2020.

Sánchez, Claudio. “Tougher Times For Latino Students? History Says They’ve Never Had It Easy.” National Public Radio, 15 Nov. 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/15/502011688/tougher-times-for-latino-students-history-says-theyve-never-had-it-easy. Accessed 08 Nov. 2020.


Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez is an undergraduate at the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Political Science. She is the current recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award.


Notes

USLDH Team’s Favorite E-Books

open book, green lights in background

Are you looking for fun reads for the winter break? The US Latino Digital Humanities team shares some of their favorite Arte Público Press books here, which are available in e-book and print formats! Cozy up on the chilly winter days with a cup of your preferred hot beverage and dive into one of these e-books! Arte Público Press books are available at your favorite local bookstore, online distributor, and on artepublicopress.com.

La Rebelde/The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

La Rebelde by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

Leonor Villegas de Magnón (1876-1955) was a fiery critic of dictator Porfirio Díaz and a conspirator and participant in the Mexican Revolution.  She rebelled against the ideals of her aristocratic class and against the traditional role of women in her society.  In 1910 Villegas de Magnón moved from Mexico to Laredo, Texas, where she continued supporting the revolution as a member of the Junta Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Council) and as an incisive editorialist in Laredo newspapers.  In 1913, she founded La Cruz Blanca (The White Cross), a corps of nurses for the revolutionary forces active from the border region to Mexico City.

Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the revolution.  Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women.  Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.

Spanish: [Kindle] [Nook]

English: [Kindle] [Nook]

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Silent Dancing is a personal narrative made up of Judith Ortiz Cofer’s recollections of the bilingual-bicultural childhood which forged her personality as a writer and artist. The daughter of a Navy man, Ortiz Cofer was born in Puerto Rico and spent her childhood shuttling between the small island of her birth and New Jersey. In fluid, clear, incisive prose, as well as in the poems she includes to highlight the major themes, Ortiz Cofer has added an important chapter to autobiography, Hispanic American Creativity and women’s literature.

Silent Dancing has been awarded the 1991 PEN/Martha Albrand Special Citation for Nonfiction and has been selected for The New York Public Library’s 1991 Best Books for the Teen Age.

English: [Kindle]

Spanish: [Kindle]

Nilda by Nicholasa Mohr

Nilda by Nicolasa Mohr

It’s the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water with her friends. But two police offers responding to a call about an open fire hydrant end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda’s life. She is repeatedly treated with contempt and even disgust by adults in positions of authority: teachers, nurses and social workers.

At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving–if somewhat eccentric–family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war; her stepfather’s poor health means he can’t work, causing serious financial difficulties for the family; one brother slinks off to the underworld, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend, adding two more mouths to feed to the family’s already dire situation.

Named an “Outstanding Book of the Year” by The New York Times and one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the American Library Association in 1973 when it was first published, Nicholasa Mohr’s classic novel about life as an immigrant in New York City offers a poignant look at one young girl’s experiences. Issues of race, religion and machismo are realistically and movingly depicted in this groundbreaking coming-of-age novel that was one of the first by a Latina author to be hailed by the mainstream media.

English: [Kindle] [Nook]

The Memories of Ana Calderón/Los recuerdos de Ana Calderón by Graciela Limón

The Memories of Ana Calderón by Graciela Limón

Ana is a young girl when her father decides to move his large, motherless brood to the United States. She just knows that her life will change for the better in the U.S. “My dream was beginning to come true. I didn’t know where we were going, but I felt that each step away from the palapa would lead me to the fulfillment of what I knew was my destiny.” Ana does encounter greater opportunity, but she discovers that in the U.S. too, society, family and religion scheme to hold her back.  In order to succeed, Ana must sacrifice all that she holds dear and re-make herself into a rootless and obsessed individual.  But even after accomplishing this, fate still conspires against her.

Available in English and Spanish.

English: [Kindle]

Spanish: [Kindle]

Song of the Hummingbird by Graciela Limón

Song of the Hummingbird by Graciela Limón

From Aztec princess to slave and concubine, Hummingbird – or Huitzitzilín in her native Nahuatl – recounts her life during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She experienced first-hand the wonder of gods’ arrival—those bearded, armored men who descended from their vessels on horseback—and the brutal devastation of her land and her people. She witnessed the obliteration of Tenochtitlán and suffered the loss of her identity, being forced to discard her traditional garb, to speak a language foreign to her tongue, and to forsake her ancestral gods.

Expressing a confidence and freedom that women have strived for centuries to attain, Huitzitzilín passionately relates her tale to Father Benito, the priest who seeks to confess and convert her, to offer her an absolution she neither needs nor wants. Instead, she forces him to see the conquest, for the first time, through the eyes of the conquered.

In Song of the Hummingbird, Limón pays homage to the pre-Columbian woman, celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in the face of cataclysm and mourns our collective loss of treasures more valuable than all the plundered gold.

Available in print in both English and Spanish.

English: [Kindle]

Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Gloria Damasco Mystery by Lucha Corpi

Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Gloria Damasco Mystery by Lucha Corpi

Eulogy for a Brown Angel began a new chapter in the mystery genre with the creation of the first Chicana detective in American literature. Now available for the first time in paperback, readers can discover, or rediscover, Lucha Corpi’s dynamic detective Gloria Damasco in the classic novel that started it all.

A Chicano Civil Rights March has been disrupted by the Los Angeles police, resulting in the gruesome death of a prominent reporter. The tear gas has barely settled when a small, defiled body is left on a street in Los Angeles. A feisty political activist finds the murdered child and begins an investigation that will lead her on a trail of international conspiracy and bloody vengeance. Before long, two other people are dead, and Gloria is determined to piece the mystery together, no matter how long the search may last.

Adding to the mystery is Gloria Damasco’s dark gift, a puzzling extra-sensory awareness that forces her to confront situations in which solutions demand more than reason and logic. Eulogy for a Brown Angel is a fast-paced and suspenseful novel, packed with an assortment of interesting characters. A member of the international writers’ circle Sisters in Crime, Lucha Corpi brings the intrigue to a hard-hitting conclusion in the picturesque Wine Country of Northern California.

English: [Kindle] [Nook]

Spanish: [Kindle] [Nook]

The Moths and Other Stories: Las Palomillas de la noche y otra relatos by Helena María Viramontes

The Moths and Other Stories: Las Palomillas de la noche y otra relatos by Helena María Viramontes

The adolescent protagonist of the title story, like other girls in this pioneering collection, rebels against her father, refusing to go to Mass. Instead, dressed in her black Easter shoes and carrying her missal and veil, she goes to her abuelita’s house. Her grandmother has always accepted her for who she is and has provided a safe refuge from the anger and violence at home.

The eight haunting stories included in this collection explore the social, economic and cultural impositions that shape women’s lives. Girls on the threshold of puberty rebel against their fathers, struggle to understand their sexuality and, in two stories, deal with the ramifications of pregnancy. Other women struggle against the limitations of marriage and the Catholic religion, which seek to keep them subservient to the men in their lives. Prejudice and the social and economic status of Chicanos often form the backdrop as women fight—with varying degrees of success—to break free from oppression.

Shedding light on the complex lives and experiences of Mexican-American girls and women, this bilingual edition containing the first-ever Spanish translation of Viramontes’ debut collection, The Moths and Other Stories, will make this landmark work available to a wider audience.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis

Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis

Chatita never saw “anything wrong with living on a road named for a small bloodsucking arachnid,” until her older brother explains that the road is “Garland Potter,” not Tick Road, as the kids had been calling it. “Look, little sister, just keep saying Garrapata, and see how you’ll be made fun of at school. The Americanos will really laugh at you.”

In this tender debut novel, a medley of young voices bring to life a small Mexican-American community in South Texas during the 1940s and 1950s. In this untouched world, young men depart for World War II, whispers of El Chupasangre (the bloodsucker) crawl across the countryside, a brother sacrifices the little money he has for a pastel dress for his sister, and one young girl makes a painful mistake when she disobeys her parents for a tryst with her boyfriend. Each of their lives plays out in the shadows of the world outside their small community and reflects the awakening of a generation of young Mexican Americans raised with their lives bridging two cultures.

Anne Estevis brings to life the voices of young people on the brink of change and conflict, and the coming of age of a traditional community in the modern world.

English: [Kindle] [Nook]

Secrets of the Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador

Secrets of the Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador

Sixteen-year-old Martha and her mother move constantly, never staying anywhere for long. So she knows better than to ask if they’ve been evicted again when her mom says they’re going on a “vacation” to meet the grandmother Martha didn’t know existed.

Laredo, Texas, is like no other city she has seen. Driving past businesses with Spanish names and colorfully painted houses with burnt lawns, Martha can’t imagine her mother living somewhere so … Mexican. At her grandmother’s pink house, Martha’s shocked and hurt when her mom abandons her, even though a part of her had been expecting it.

Suddenly, Martha must deal with a lifestyle that is completely foreign. Her grandmother doesn’t speak English, so communication is difficult, and she’s not particularly kind like most grandmothers. Even weirder, it turns out that her grandmother is revered as a healer, or curandera. And there are tons of cousins, aunts, and uncles all ready to embrace her!

Meanwhile, at Martha’s new school, she can’t be anonymous because everyone knows she’s Doña González’s granddaughter, and a girl named Marcella has it out for her. Why does she hate Martha so much?!? As Martha struggles to adjust to her new life, she can’t help but wonder why her mother left Laredo. No one is willing to discuss it, so she’ll have to unravel the secrets herself.

English: [Kindle] [Nook]

…y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomás Rivera

…y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomás Rivera

Adapted into the award-winning film …and the earth did not swallow him and recipient of the first award for Chicano literature, the Premio Quinto Sol, in 1970, Rivera’s masterpiece recounts the experiences of a Mexican-American community through the eyes of a young boy. Forced to leave their home in search of work, the migrants are exploited by farmers, shopkeepers, even other Mexican Americans, and the boy must forge his identity in the face of exploitation, death and disease, constant moving and conflicts with school officials.

In this new edition of a powerful novel comprised of short vignettes, Rivera writes hauntingly about alienation, love and betrayal, man and nature, death and resurrection and the search for community.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

Children’s picture books

The Runaway Piggy/El cochinito fugitivo by James Luna

The Runaway Piggy/El cochinito fugitivo by James Luna

The sun shines through the windows of Martha’s Panadería onto the shelves of freshly baked treats. The bakery holds tray after tray of hot Mexican sweet bread—conchas, orejas, cuernitos, empanadas, and cochinitos—all ready for hungry customers.

In the classic tradition of The Gingerbread Man, James Luna’s piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio, past Lorenzo’s Auto Shop, Nita’s Beauty Salon, Leti’s Flower Shop, and Juana’s Thrift Shop.

The telephone repairman, the bus driver … each person the piggy encounters is greeted by his laugh and the repeated refrain: “Chase me! Chase me down the street! But this is one piggy you won’t get to eat! I ran away from the others and I’ll run away from you!” The cochinito fugitivo avoids being eaten by the long line of people chasing him through the neighborhood streets … until he meets a crafty little girl named Rosa!

Children—and adults too—will delight in the clever piggy’s escape from Martha’s Panadería in this entertaining re-telling of a familiar story set in a colorful Latino neighborhood. A recipe to make Mexican gingerbread pig cookies is included in both English and Spanish.

Bilingual: [Kindle]

Pepita Talks Twice/Pepita habla dos veces by Ofelia Duma Lachtman

Pepita Talks Twice/Pepita habla dos veces by Ofelia Duma Lachtman

Frustrated at constantly being stopped to translate, Pepita decides to stop speaking Spanish, not realizing that this means she can’t talk to her grandmother, sing with her friends, and worst of all, her dog Lobo won’t come to her when she calls him Wolf. This colorfully illustrated picture book charmingly explores the joys and benefits of bilingualism through the experiences of a little girl at the crossroads of the English and Spanish-speaking worlds.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

The Gift of the Poinsettia/El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena by Pat Mora

The Gift of the Poinsettia/El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena by Pat Mora

A beautifully illustrated picture book that depicts a poor Mexican boy’ search for a special gift for the Baby Jesus, The Gift of the Poinsettia / El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena focuses on the Mexican tradition of las posadas in which villagers reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter for nine nights.

Traveling from house to house, night after night, Carlos worries each day about the gift he cannot afford to give the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. Following each evening of the posada, Carlos excitedly tells his aunt of the sounds, tastes, and songs of Christmas that he witnesses, but his joy is shadowed by his concerns. Following the advice of his beloved Tía Nina, Carlos decides upon a magical gift that stems from the love in his heart and blossoms through the strength of his love.

Written by acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora, with Charles Ramírez Berg, and with illustrations by Daniel Lechón, this book is sure to warm children’s hearts while demonstrating the importance of love over material things. In addition to depicting the traditional Mexican custom of las posadas, the book also illustrates other Mexican traditions such as papel picado, cascarones, and piñatas.The book also includes the text and musical annotation for the traditional songs of las posadasThe Gift of the Poinsettia will delight both English and Spanish-speaking children.

Bilingual: [Kindle]

Zulema and the Witch Owl/Zulema y la Bruja Lechuza by Xavier Garza

Zulema and the Witch Owl/Zulema y la Bruja Lechuza by Xavier Garza

Zulema Ortiz is the meanest little girl in the whole wide world.  She doesn’t have any friends, animals run away from her in fear, and her mom doesn’t know what to do with her.  But maybe, just maybe, her almost ninety-year-old Grandma Sabina does.

When Grandma Sabina comes to live with the family, the first thing Zulema says to her is, “You sure look old and ugly.”  Grandma Sabina calmly warns her rude granddaughter about the Witch Owl who prowls the night looking for mean little children, but Zulema just laughs defiantly at such a preposterous story.  Nothing scares her because she’s the meanest child in the world!

So when she gets into bed one night and something begins to tap at her window, Zulema isn’t afraid at first. She’s mad.  “Nobody plays tricks on me.  Only can play tricks!” But as the noise at her window continues, the insolent little girl begins to lose her bravado.  And when a huge owl with glowing red eyes smashes through the window and swoops into her room, Zulema is ready to agree to its demands—even if it means promising to be nice!

In this exciting story about the consequences of being mean to others, Zulema learns something about herself and possibly her grandmother too. The imagination of children ages 4-9 will soar with this fun, suspenseful story by acclaimed author and artist Xavier Garza, whose knack for storytelling and creating lively illustrations captures the spirit of naughty Zulema.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

Chapter books for middle readers

Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Chupacabras/Vincent Ventura y el misterio del chupacabras by Xavier Garza

Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Chupacabras/Vincent Ventura y el misterio del chupacabras by Xavier Garza

When stray dogs start disappearing from the neighborhood, Vincent’s dad thinks that maybe the Animal Control Department is finally doing its job. But then, Mrs. Rangel’s celebrity chihuahua Chato, who appeared in television commercials promoting tacos, disappears. And Mrs. García’s weiner dog and Mrs. West’s poodle go missing. Everyone in the neighborhood is puzzled, but Vincent Ventura has a theory.

The disappearances started when Mr. Calaveras moved into the house at 666 Duende Street, which is rumored to be haunted. Vincent knows he’s not the harmless but grumpy guy that everyone else sees. He’s convinced the old man is behind the rash of missing dogs. In fact, Vincent is sure he’s a monster, a blood-sucking beast known as el chupacabras!

Vincent enlists the aid of his cousin Michelle, the smartest student at their school, and her twin brother Bobby to spy on the suspected killer. Vincent Ventura, monster fighter extraordinaire, is determined to catch him in the act, even if it puts them all in danger! Accompanied by the author’s dramatic black and white illustrations, this exciting short novel for ages 8 – 12 will introduce Latino creepy creatures to a new generation of readers.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

The Case of the Three Kings: The Flaca Files/El Caso de los reyes magos: Los expedientes de Flaca by Alidis Vicente

The Case of the Three Kings: The Flaca Files/El Caso de los reyes magos: Los expedientes de Flaca by Alidis Vicente

Flaca, or Detective Flaca as she prefers to be called, is pleased with her Christmas gifts. Finally, she has the tools needed to do her job: a fingerprint-taking kit, a police-quality mini flashlight, and most exciting of all, police tape to block off crime scenes! However, she is not at all pleased with the airline tickets to Puerto Rico she and her sister La Bruja are given. She has case deadlines to meet! La Bruja isn’t very happy either since their grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, cable TV or Wi-Fi.

Their parents are sure the girls will enjoy celebrating Three Kings Day, a huge holiday in Latin America that takes place on January 6 and involves putting grass in a box under the bed for the wise men’s camels. Three men on flying camels sounds very suspicious to Detective Flaca, who once again is faced with a case begging to be solved. Where do the Three Kings get the gifts to put in the boxes? Do they steal presents from Santa Claus? Or do they take them from under Christmas trees around the world?

The skinny second grader first introduced in The Case of the Missing Chancleta and Other Top-Secret Cases / La chancleta perdida y otros casos secretos is back on the case in the second installment of the bilingual series, The Flaca Files / Los expedientes de Flaca. Narrated by Detective Flaca in hard-boiled detective style, this short, bilingual novel for intermediate readers will appeal to seasoned and reluctant readers alike.

Bilingual: [Kindle] [Nook]

Acción de Gracias 2020

Photo of coffee cup, blanket, pumpkin, and fall leaves

Por Elías David Navarro

Sin duda que algunas tradiciones contienen elementos debatibles en sus orígenes. Como latinas y latinos, no podemos dejar de notar que el Día de Acción de Gracias ha involucrado muchas cosas no siempre favorables para todos. Por ello, estas celebraciones nos desafían a repensar en cómo celebrarlas y, en cierta forma, resignificarlas personalmente.

Es en el Día de Acción de Gracias donde los latinos nos unimos con una actitud agradecida por nuestras raíces. Voltear a ver a todos aquellos y todas aquellas que han estado aquí antes que nosotros.

Agradecer el esfuerzo en el campo, en los comercios, en la industria de servicios. Pero también en los trabajos por visibilizar una cultura, una comunidad y una identidad que forman parte de un plano mucho más grande, el alma de este país. Mostrar cómo somos vertebras de una sociedad que inició con migrantes.

Jovita Idár (1885-1946)

Como Research Assistant en Arte Publico Press, he tenido la oportunidad de conocer algunos de las obras con las que los latinos han contribuido en Estados Unidos. No son pocos, pero tampoco son solamente aquellos que se conocen. A través de la investigación, hemos encontrado historias de latinas/os que han influido en el fortalecimiento de la cultura estadounidense en todos los ámbitos. Mujeres, como Jovita Idár, que fue punta de lanza para que el sufragio femenino fuera una realidad en este país. Ingenieros, científicas, intelectuales, maestras, un sinfín de profesiones que muestran que todo lo bueno de este país ha sido forjado por manos de todos los colores, de creencias variadas y con tradiciones que representan a todas las culturas que aquí cohabitan.

Es esta una razón por la que agradecer, el camino arduo que latinas y latinos han ido abriendo para que los que estamos y los que vienen, transitemos sendas más accesibles, con más oportunidades para todas y todos. Dar las gracias porque, de no haber sido por quienes estuvieron antes que nosotros, no tendríamos la posibilidad de acceder a oportunidades cada vez mejores y a ámbitos cada vez más diversos.

Nos queda la tarea de dar significados más justos y plurales a todas las tradiciones que aquí confluyen. A vivir en esta cultura hecha de culturas.

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias para todas, todos, todes.


Elías David Navarro estudia el Doctorado de Escritura Creativa en la University of Houston y es Asistente de investigación (Research Assistant) en Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Es poeta y escritor. También es editor y miembro fundador de la editorial Suburbano. Sus intereses incluyen a la literatura fractal y su capacidad de abordar distintos temas desde esta característica literaria. Su trabajo poético puede verse en el libro Instantes (Alja Ediciones, 2017) y en la revista https://suburbano.net/author/dcampos/.

Calavera para el Profesor Kanellos y Recovery

por Gabriela Baeza Ventura

La calaca pronta viene
en busca de un señor,
chiquito y nuyorriqueño
que trabaja con devoción
en un proyecto de estudio
en la Universidad de Jiustón.

“Kanellos” el apellido
de ese hombre se dice ser,
pero tiene pinta de Hernández,
o González tal vez.
Pero su herencia de padre
dice que griego es.

Es un hombre que hace tiempo
con mucha dedicación
inició un proyecto
en el que busca, se dice,
explicar de corazón,
¿de dónde vienen, quiénes son?
Esos infames hispanos
que invaden nuestra nación.

Con el proyecto quiere darle
a todo mundo saber
que los hispanos a América,
llegaron mucho antes que anteayer.
Quiere en periódicos encontrar,
todo lo que de los hispanos,
el mundo nunca sabrá.
Por ejemplo que hace años
a los Estados Unidos
la imprenta trajeron
pero que a la historia pasaron
como merititos braceros.

Kanellos ya ha viajado
por toda esta ciudá,
por campos y las uropas,
pregonando esta verdá.
Muy enojado le cuenta
a todo el que lo ve,
“¿es que no se dan cuenta
qué hay que estudiar todo bien?
Algunos sólo imaginan
que los hispanos chicano son,
y ni siquiera se enteran
que vienen de otra nación.”

Muy enojado el profe,
entra muy pronto en acción,
para que todos aprendan
y no olviden su lección.
Recomienda ya cansado
de tanta explicación:
“El que no quiera saberlo
recibirá un coscorrón
que propiciaré contento
a todo gran cabezón
que no comprenda
o no entienda
esta importante lección
de los hispanos en Houston
y el resto de la nación.”

Por eso es que la calaca
a Kanellos quiere ya
para que inicie un proyecto
en las tierras del más allá.

La calaca está cansada
de la mala reputación
que todo mundo le achaca
con muy mala intención.

Piensa que el profe Kanellos
su imagen limpiar podrá.
Confía que encontrará
baúles y archivos repletos
de papeles y demás
con los que compondrá un libro
sin mucha dificultad
en donde la calaca figure
como dama de sociedá.
De la mano de Pantoja
y de todas las demás
que por pelonas o Evas
nadie quiere mencionar
y que en el proyecto Recovery
sí se tienen que estudiar.

Ya se aleja la calaca
contenta porque logrado ha
que el profe Kanellos
se haya puesto a contratar
editores y estudiantes
que enciclopedia harán
de todos los logros y actos
de este ser no terrenal
y así limpiarán su nombre
en este mundo y el más allá.


Recursos de Arte Público Press/Recovery

Altar digital

Día de los muertos: Altar digital. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. https://arcg.is/CyyPz. 

Blog

Bañuelos, Roselia. “La Pelona and Other Names for Death: An Introduction to Día de muertos.” 23 de octubre 2020.

Navarro, Elías David. “Calaveras literarias: breve semblanza y guía.” 3 de noviembre 2020.

Libros infantiles

De Alvarado, Aracely. “La divina Catrina/Oh, Divine Catrina.” Arte Público Press, 2020.

Garza, Xavier. “Just One Itsy Bitsy Bite/Sólo una mordidita chiquitita.” Arte Público Press, 2018.

Mora, Pat. “The Remembering Day/El día de los muertos.” Arte Público Press, 2015.


Gabriela Baeza Ventura, PhD, es profesora asociada de literatura latina de los Estados Unidos en la Universidad de Houston y co-fundadora del programa de Humanidades Digitales Latinas/os de EEUU (US Latino DH). También es editora ejecutiva de Arte Público Press en donde supervisa al año la producción de treinta libros infantiles, juveniles y para adultos tanto en inglés como español y bilingües. La Dra. Baeza Ventura ha publicado sobre distintos temas de la literatura latina de los Estados Unidos, entre ellos, mujeres, inmigración, idioma, literatura recuperada y literatura infantil.

Calaveras literarias: breve semblanza y guía

Photo of colorful Día de muertos skulls

Por Elías David Navarro

Las calaveras literarias nacieron como una respuesta burlona por parte del pueblo ante los epitafios tan ceremoniosos de la clase alta mexicana desde la época virreinal. Poco a poco, por su gracia, fue ganando popularidad hasta volverse una tradición. No se debe olvidar que era una lucha de clases, por lo que la crítica social, en aquel entonces, también estaba implícita.

‘La Calavera de la Catrina’, 1913 por José Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913); 12×16 cm; colección privada

En la actualidad, si bien puede continuarse esta crítica ante las injusticias de las clases sociales, también es posible hacerlo de manera simplemente jocosa. Cuando se hace entre amigos o compañeros de trabajo, es una forma de demostrar aprecio. La intención es tomar con gracia o serenidad la idea de que vamos a morir algún día. Pero en ninguna circunstancia esto significa que, al hacerle la calaverita a alguien, uno le desea la muerte, es solamente para hacer un homenaje a la vida, una celebración de que seguimos vivos sin olvidar nuestra condición humana.

Si bien las calaveritas no tienen una estructura fija, normalmente se hacen con una estructura de 8 sílabas por verso1, y la rima es A-B-A-B o A-B-B-A, y puede tener más de una estrofa. Se puede hacer una historia de cómo la “muerte” vino a llevarse a alguien por algún detalle curioso, puede ser una virtud o una característica de la persona en cuestión.

Para empezar, podemos partir de palabras conocidas con las que podemos encontrar fácilmente la rima con vocabulario habitual y conectarlo con el que tenga que ver con el día de muertos, por ejemplo: canción-corazón-panteón, calaca-flaca-estaca-matraca, muerte-suerte-fuerte, muerto-puerto-tuerto, calavera-primavera-balacera-corredera, etcétera.

Calavera. “Calaveras Vaciladoras.” Amigos, 1 Nov. 1975, p. 3. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

Un inicio básico sería:

Volando vino la muerte

Desde allá de su panteón

Vino probando la suerte

Vino cantando canción.

Otro inicio puede referirse a dónde estaba la persona o qué hacía la persona a la que se le hace la calavera en el momento en el que la muerte viene por ella:

En –A-P-P- se en-con-tra-ba

Tra-ba-jan-do E-lías- Da-vid

Cuan-do- la- muer-te- pa-sa-ba

Y-le es2-tor-nu-dó- CO-VID.

Espero que esto les sirva para hacer calaveritas.

Ya con esta me despido

Porque yo salgo a la una

Y aunque la muerte no vino

Huiré, por si las dudas.


Recursos de Arte Público Press/Recovery

Altar digital

Día de los muertos: Altar digital. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. https://arcg.is/CyyPz. 

Blog

Baeza Ventura, Gabriela. “Calavera para el Profesor Kanellos y Recovery.” 18 de noviembre 2020.

Bañuelos, Roselia. “La Pelona and Other Names for Death: An Introduction to Día de muertos.” 23 de octubre 2020.


Elías David Navarro estudia el Doctorado de Escritura Creativa en la University of Houston y es Asistente de investigación (Research Assistant) en Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Es poeta y escritor. También es editor y miembro fundador de la editorial Suburbano. Sus intereses incluyen a la literatura fractal y su capacidad de abordar distintos temas desde esta característica literaria. Su trabajo poético puede verse en el libro Instantes (Alja Ediciones, 2017) y en la revista https://suburbano.net/author/dcampos/.


[1] No olvidar que, si tu verso termina en palabra grave, se cuentan normal, si tu verso termina en palabra aguda, deben ser 7 sílabas porque con la sílaba tónica aguda se le suma una sílaba más.

[2] Cuando la letra de la sílaba anterior es una vocal y la siguiente es una vocal, se junta la sílaba.

La Pelona and Other Names for Death: An Introduction to Día de muertos

By Roselia Bañuelos

TRADITION :

  1. the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.                  
  2. a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures
Posada, Jose Guadalupe. “La Calavera de la Catrina.” 1912 (zinc etching) ; 12×16 cm; Private Collection

From October 31st to November 2nd, many Mexicans will partake in the celebration of Dia de Muertos ( in Mexico, it is known as “Día de Muertos” and in the US, as “Día de Los Muertos.”). The celebrants can be distinguished by their assorted representations of La Catrina (skeleton face costumes seen around this time ).  As we unpack this enthralling tradition, we discover the everchanging quality of the representation and honoring of death. Foremost, death has many names. The first to conceptualize her for Mexicans was artist Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1912, under the name La Calavera Garbancera (The Yucatan Times). Famed artist Diego Rivera later named and completed what we’ve come to recognize as La Catrina.

Rivera, Diego. “Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central.” 1947. Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Mexico City, Mexico.

Other names include: La Santa Muerte, Mi Niña Blanca, La Madrina, La Doña, La Jefa, La Santa Niña, La Señora, La Flaca, La Flaquita, La Huesuda, La Calaca, La Dama Poderosa, La Comadre, Santisima Muerte, La Santita, Mi Rosa Maravillosa, La Hermana Blanca, Mi Niña Guapa, La Santita, El Angel de la Muerte and La Pelona (Oleszkiewicz-Peralba 3) .

Tradition is beautifully transcendent, in my own definition of self, I too found the need to pay homage to La Pelona. I was born in Mexico and raised Catholic, but oddly enough my family didn’t celebrate Dia de Muertos until 2019. “Día de los Muertos has its roots in Pre-Columbian cultures and beliefs. Before the Spanish arrived in what is today Mexico, the Aztec gave offerings to their deceased ancestors as part of their death rituals. After the Spanish came, the celebration morphed to incorporate Catholic beliefs and practices, creating this deeply religious, syncretic tradition” (NPR).

On October 31, 2019 my father crossed over. I had a strange yet curious premonition all year about it being the first year I would be setting up an ofrenda.


Ofrenda. Film still from Disney’s Coco (2017).
Ofrenda. 2020. Arte Público Press, Houston, Texas.

Now, how does one set up an ofrenda? Even within Mexico, different towns celebrate differently.  “Most El Dia De Los Muertos altars require certain elements that are solely used and sold during the holiday and are significant items for El Dia De Los Muertos altars. These items include: papel picado (paper hangings), calacas (skeletons), calaveras (skulls), cempazuchitl (marigold), copalli/copal (incense), pan de muertos (bread of the dead), candles, statues and pictures of religious saints, and the favorite items of the honored soul(s).” (Garcia 30).

Setting up an ofrenda can be done to the liking of the family and community. I feel that bringing an ofrenda to life includes the following: honoring the elements { Earth (flowers- cempazuchitl ), Air (papel picado and incense), Fire (candles), Water (in a glass or small fountain)}, depiction of the four directions (circle of life or candles in a cross), photos of the deceased with accompanying sugar skull and candle, any religious imagery, and the favorite food, items, and drink of the deceased. Remember, this is a celebration, it’s ok to take a shot of that tequila your loved one use to enjoy, to sing his or her favorite songs, and remember what contributions they’ve left for those still alive.

In Mayan mythology Day of the Dead is known as “Hanal Pixan,” which translates as “food of the souls.” The contemporary celebration of the dead is a hybrid of Mayan and Catholic religions:

“As the Maya tradition started mixing up with the Catholic religion, the 13 heavens and 9 underworlds simply became heaven and hell. And the stepped altars became more popular. However, certain elements that are unique to their culture have remained. During the Hanal Pixán offerings, a green cross is placed to represent the sacred ceiba tree; Gourds of Atole, representing the 4 cardinal points, and 22 offerings of food to the gods of both the 13 heavens and 9 underworlds.” ( Altournative)

Now is the perfect time to gather what may be needed to have your own ofrenda. The tradition isn’t meant to make fun of La Catrina but to recognize her in her duty to this space we call reality. From personal experience, this tradition has served to come to terms with the fact that this body we inhabit will one day cease to function. In this realization, I remember to honor those who came before me, those who have been lost and forgotten, and all those we have lost in the pandemic we are currently facing. Most of all, this tradition allowed me to become intimately aware of the grief I held onto knowing that one day cancer would defeat my father. Now, every year I make space for my grief and my father’s memories as I dress up as La Catrina and indulge in the release of celebrating the fact that we will all cease to exist in this world as we know it.

We celebrate the following on these dates:

  • October 31st  – Children
  • November 1st – Adults
  • November 2nd – All Souls Day of the Dead was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (El Universal)

Day of the Dead was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (El Universal).

Catrinas in a Día de Muertos celebration. National Geographic, 2013.

Works cited

Alltournative. “Hanal Pixán: When the Underworld Joins Us to Celebrate.” Alltournative, alltournative.com/blogs/news/hanal-pixan-underworld. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Dobrin, Isabel. Día De Los Muertos Comes To Life Across The Mexican Diaspora. 2 Nov. 2017, npr.org/2017/11/02/561527322/mexicos-celebrated-d-a-de-los-muertos-evolves-in-the-u-s. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Garcia, Belinda. “The Role of El Dia De Los Muertos in the Cultural Identity of The Latino Community.” University of Houston – Clear Lake , ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2005, pp. 30–30. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

“The Mexican Catrina – an Evolving Tradition.” El Universal, 1 Nov. 2019, eluniversal.com.mx/english/mexican-catrina-evolving-tradition. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

National Geographic Society. “Catrinas.” National Geographic Society, 9 Apr. 2013, nationalgeographic.org/photo/ddm-catrinas/. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Oleszkiewicz-Peralba, Malgorzata. “Representations of Death in Mexico: La Santa Muerte.” Repository Home, 1 Jan. 1970, uh-ir.tdl.org/handle/10657/3007. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Says, Aj. “‘La Catrina:” Mexican Representation of Death.” The Yucatan Times, 8 Dec. 2017, theyucatantimes.com/2017/10/la-catrina-mexican-representation-of-death/. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Arte Público Resources

Digital Altar

Día de los muertos: Altar digital. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. https://arcg.is/CyyPz. 

Children’s Books

De Alvarado, Aracely. “La Divina Catrina/The Divine Catrina.” Arte Público Press, 2020.

Garza, Xavier. “Just One Itsy Bitsy Little Bite/Sólo una mordidita chiquitita.” Arte Público Press, 2018.

Mora, Pat. “The Remembering Day/El Día de los muertos.” Arte Público Press, 2015.

Blog Posts

Baeza Ventura, Gabriela. “Calavera para el Profesor Kanellos y Recovery.” 18 de noviembre 2020.

Navarro, Elías David. “Calaveras literarias: breve semblanza y guía.” 3 de noviembre 2020.


Roselia Bañuelos is a MSW/PhD student at the Graduate School of Social Work. She is also a Research Assistant at Recovery. Bañuelos’ research interests include rites of passage, human trafficking and children and women’s rights.

Working at Recovery: An Undergrad’s Perspective

By Katerin Zapata

Hi, my name is Katerin Zapata and I’m a Liberal Studies Major with minors in Creative Writing, Sociology, and Spanish. This is my second year as an undergraduate student at the University of Houston (UH) and I expect to graduate in 2021. Shortly after graduating from high school, I interned with Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage thanks to SERJobs for Progress’s summer internship program in 2019.  SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that offers education and training opportunities.

In the summer of 2019, I assisted graduate student researchers in the creation of a Visual Bibliography of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, a digital mapping project that visualizes the publication of Hispanic newspapers in the US dating from colonial times to the 1960s. My first day in the office was a culture shock, as I had never been in a place among professors, doctors, and scholars who spoke more Spanish than English. I had never been in an academic space in which I didn’t have to anglicize or shorten my name. I didn’t even know a center dedicated to the recovery of Hispanic newspapers, books, and academic work existed, much less only 5 minutes away from the neighborhood I’d grown up in.

Thanks to Dr. Carolina Villarroel and LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens), the following spring (2020), I was awarded a scholarship to work on digital projects related to Latino history. I gained an immense amount of experience using digital tools, such as Timeline JS, and doing research. In February 2020, I attended the Recovery Conference, my first academic conference. There, I presented my digital timeline project on the history of LULAC and met scholars of all disciplines. I even met LULAC historian, Dr. Cynthia Orozco. It was inspiring to meet her and many scholars like her who have been doing the work of digitizing and recovering history for a long time. 

President of the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce, Frances Castañeda Dyess (right), awards Katerin Zapata (center) a LULAC Scholarship at the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Conference as Arte Público Press Executive Editor, Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura (left) announces the award. (February 21, 2020, University of Houston Downtown.)

My experiences at Arte Público have changed the course of my studies. I started as a sociology major but Arte Público exposed me to different fields of study and helped me realize I could accomplish more than I dreamed. Another reason I love working at Arte Público and with the Recovery Program is because of the strong women who work there and mentor me; they are a powerhouse and have continuously supported my academic journey. There is no place like Arte Público and if you are interested in any humanities field and/or Hispanic recovery work then don’t hesitate to reach out, even as an undergraduate student. Though I am often the youngest person in the room and the least experienced, my ideas are valued, I am seen, and I am encouraged. 

I want to continue working with Recovery because, as a Salvadoran first-generation student, I realize the importance of uplifting voices that need to be heard. My hope is that through the support of the incredible staff and researchers at APP, I can develop as a writer, transform into a confident scholar in the digital humanities, and continue growing as a human being.

Further reading

For more information on SERJobs opportunities for young adults, please visit: https://serhouston.org/programs-and-services/youth/

Visual Bibliography of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. https://recoveryapp.github.io/index.html.


Katerin Zapata is an undergraduate at the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Liberal Studies and minoring in Creative Writing, Sociology, and Spanish. She is the 2020 Media History Digital Library intern at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), funded by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). In 2019, she was the recipient of the LULAC Scholarship that funded her research and training at Recovery.