Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Génisis Chihuahuense

Conmemorando el Centenario de la Revolución Mexicana, por la cual la familia de mi padre se arraigó al Ejido San Gregorio. Vivo de luto por la guerra que arrasa la tierra por la que tantas y tantos han dado su vida. Mientras la guerra continúa satisfaciendo la gula Americana, recuerdo con ternura y melancolía, mi Estado Grande.

Génisis Chihuahuense 

aquí Tata Dios usó el adobe
pa’l cuero de su gente
pa’ ojos sembró elotes
pa’ venas varas de mesquite

pa’ piernas roca minera
pa’ manos raíces nopaleras
pa’ brazos soga ganadera
pa’ lomo arpilla cebollera

aquí no hay quien se atore
pa’ alma tenemos caliche
pa’ sangre sotol y agua ardiente
pa’ lengua silvestres quelites

pa’ hueso troncos de nogales
pa’ voz canto de chonte
pa’ suerte pata de liebre
pa’ corazón leña del monte

bendito seas pueblo chihuahuense
gente que suda chacales y asadero
no te dejes de quien no sabe
que pa’l orgullo no hay dinero

aquí Dios creó a la mujer y al hombre
con la fuerza del sol del norte
aquí se escurren los cascabeles
por nuestro cabello azabache

Chihuahua, no más no te rajes
por más que se acerquen los buitres
que aquí Dios usa pa’l coraje
un pueblo unido con ixtle

[Este poema forma parte de una colección titulada Agolondrinado: Poemas Norteños]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Risky reading: Emotions, communities, even languages pair for gay poet

Award-winning writer, Rigoberto González, reviewed my book Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen, for the El Pasto Times in 2006. As part of the 5 year anniversary, I am posting Gonzalez' review:

El Paso Times
Living Sunday, March 5, 2006

Risky reading
Emotions, communities, even languages pair for gay poet

Rigoberto González
Special to the Times
Sunday, March 5, 2006

"Would you forgive me if I spoke of those things not meant to be said," reads the opening lines of Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano's collection "Santo de la Pata Alzada" (Evelyn Street Press, $14 paperback), like a caveat. Expression can come in no other form for a book subtitled "poems from the queer/xicano/positive pen."

Poems in this collection are written in either English or Spanish, and a few entries navigate the two. This strategy mirrors the tones in the poems themselves. Herrera y Lozano moves between extremes, usually love and rage, which are -- like his languages -- not mutually exclusive but partners in passion. "I am the incarnation of filth and purity," he declares.

On a personal journey retold in poetry, the speaker traces the ache of familial rejection, the loss of faith, and the triumphs and failures of same-sex relationships. Religious imagery, however, is what gives these experiences language, as in the poems "Last Prayer: My Farewell to the United Pentecostal Church International," "Altar Boys" and "Three Queens":

tonight is la virgen

yourself and I ...

men that

could have been machos


somos hombres who love men

queens who love

como lo hace ella

And interspersed throughout are the testimonies and "cartas anónimas" that read more like revelations at the confessional -- a combination of exhibitionism and catharsis that juggles yet another binary pair, pleasure and guilt:

for my love is a sin

my sin as ample and

joyful as a kindergarten


Playful, irreverent and homoerotic, Herrera y Lozano's verse is attitude personified, perhaps owning up to the mentorship expressed in the poem "Raised By Drag Queens." In a follow-up poem, drag queen Marlene tells it like it should be:


we are divas

we are fabulous

and we die fabulous

no seas bruta

But underneath this empowerment is the pain of survival and struggle in a homophobic world. "May my cries hover," says the speaker, "so truth can feel the air."

And in the final stanza of the tour de force that closes the collection, "Ode to the Men I Love/ Loved/ Never Did and the Handful the Love/ Loved/ Never Did Me," the poet makes the long-awaited dedication: "to the queer men left to die under the shadow of a flag and their/ our families' backs/ to you/ for you this book."

"Santo de la Pata Alzada," with its brazen title, risk-taking subject matter and colorful vocabulary, is in fact a touching book -- a young poet's story of his exile from home and church, and his arrival to a family and faith in a community no less valuable or valid than the one he lost.

Rigoberto González is an award-winning writer and associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His Web site is at www.rigobertogonzalez.com, and he may be reached at Rigoberto70@aol.com.http://www.amazon.com/Santo-Pata-Alzada-Xicano-Positive/dp/0972391010/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291833196&sr=8-1

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A shout out on the Mexican blog: Tengo un crush con Nuevallorrrr

My (relatively) new homeboy, Enrique Torre-Molina, a Twitterist and Blogosphere tycoon, posted a shout out to the 5th year anniversary of my book, Santo de la Pata Alzada. The post also includes my poem, "Hairpray and Fideo: My Brown Growing Pains," which is where the title of my blog comes from.

Tengo un crush con Nuevallorrrr is part of my daily reads.

Chécalo here:

Santo de la pata alzada

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview for the Spanish-language Journal Pterodáctilo

Joseph M. Pierce recently interviewed me for Pterodáctilo, a journal of the University of Texas-Austin's Department of Spanish and Portuguese. The interview includes selections of my all-Spanish manuscript, Promesas y Amenazas: Poemas de Amor y sus Inconveniencias. All but one of these poems have never been made public. Check it out and catch a sneak peak of my upcoming collection of poetry!

Hyperlink below:

Entrevista a Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

Friday, December 3, 2010

5 Year Anniversary of Santo de la Pata Alzada

This month marks the 5th year publishing anniversary of my book, Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen. To celebrate, I decided to read it all over again, and recount the memories, stories, trauma and beautiful moments of love, desire and hope that are embedded in its pages. 

I am reminded of the love and support I received during the process of birthing this book. I am reminded of the gentle and assertive mentorship of Sharon Bridgforth, the fierce editorial eye of Jennifer Margulies, and the brilliant publishing touch of Dr. T. Jackie Cuevas. I am reminded of my compañero, who inspired most of the love poems. I am reminded of my writing family in Austin, those fierce queer writers (even the straight ones were queer) of color, as well as our strong allies. I am reminded of home, of Chihuahua, of that little town of 300 people, of the desert, of the full moon, and of the men who helped shape my desire. Lastly, I am reminded of the nightmare of Pentecost, the vicious and loveless years forcing me to conform into a man less queer and less brown.

Five years later, I am elated to recognize I am still here. I am back in California, still writing, finishing manuscripts and editing what will be the most important book I ever lay hands on, Joto: An Anthology of Queer Ch/Xicano Poetry. The Universe has been good to me. I hope to some day learn how to return the love.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Xénesis (Chapter 1, Verses 1 - 25): A Story of Lesbianas, Love y Revolución

[Written for and performed at the opening weekend of Queer Xicana Indígena performance artist, Adelina Anthony's groundbreaking tryptic La Hocicona Series.]

(1) In the beginning God created the Cochina and the Perv. (2) Now the Perv was intellectual and cocky, lust was over the surface of her fingertips, and the Spirit of God was hovering over her belly.

(3) And God said, “Let there be lube,” and there was lube. (4) God saw that the lube was good (silicon base), and she separated the flavored from the unscented. (5) God called the lube “AY,” the codeword for more. And there was the Pervertida and her perversionsthe first day.

(6) And God said, “Let there be dental dams, even if just for pretend, so la date will think she’s prepared.” (7) So God made the Pervertida and the expectation of a multi-mujer loving dyke. And it was so. (8) God called the dental dams “¡no mames!” And there was lube, and there were dental dams—the second day.

(9) And God said, “Let the Pervertida hover over a Cochina’s face, and let dry lips dampen.” And it was so. (10) God called this act “Love,” and the gathered waters she called “.” And God saw that it was good.

(11) Then God said, “Let the Cochina expect reciprocation: let the pillow-queen Pervertida work, let her worship mujer of the same image, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. (12) Las mujeres produced vegetation: orgasmos bearing raindrops according to their kinds and a u-Haul bearing furniture, expectations, and cats in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (13) And there was la Cochina, and there was la Pervertida—the third day.

(14) And God said, “Let the lesbianas move-in, separate from the girls on the prowl, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days, and years, and years, and years, (15) and let them process, garden and volunteer to give light on the earth.” And it was so. (16) God made two great lesbianas—the greater Pervertida to govern her own body and the greater Cochina to govern hers. She also made the straights. (17) God set them in the sea of heteros to give light on the earth, (18) to learn to love freely, defiantly in the day and in the night, and to separate love from the State. And God saw that it was good.

(19) And there were lesbianas, and there were heteros—the fourth day. (20) And God said, “Let the jotas gather and form collectives, and let them ponder on matters of revolution, let them raise banners and paint the sky.” (21) So they created the great movimientos of lesbianería and every living being with which the queerness teems and that moves about in them, according to their kinds, and every tortillera and marimacha according to their own kind. And God saw that it was good. (22) God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, and fill the co-ops with patchouli, and let your gatos be neutered for this is right.” (23) And there were tortilleras, and there were gatos —the fifth day.

(24) And God said, “Let the land witness living creatures according to their fluid kinds: the butchas, the high femmes who move along in tacones, and the resistors of butch and femme, each according to their kind.” And it was so. (25) God made the multitude of lesbianas according to their fluid kinds, the butchas who mostly bottom, the high femmes who always top, las otras who are greedy. And God saw that it was bien good.

Note: La Pervertida is inspired by a talk-back of Cherríe Moraga in Santa Ana this summer, La Cochina, pues, from La Educated Cochina. May we all retain or reclaim la pervertida y la cochina in us. Amén.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Ones They Waited For: A Reflection on Día de los Muertos

I once detested the ignorant comparison of Halloween and Día de los Muertos— as if sugar skulls were synonymous with jack-o’-lanterns, and altar cloths were the same as ghost sheets. As with other traditions, the honoring of our dead needed to be described through the lens of Americanism, translated into a coding of consumption. This morning, I found myself longing for such days of ignorance.

Today, sugar skulls carry barcodes where the names of our ancestors were once etched between pink and purple swirls. Calaveras are mass-produced as if to match the rate at which we die. Do-It-Yourself Papel Picado kits sit in market aisles, as if to ensure centuries-old traditions of elder teaching remain in our history, vaccinating our bodies against the threat of memory.

Caught between Altar-In-The-Box marketing ploys and those who will never know the name of José Guadalupe Posada, I walk passed buckets of zempasuchil and remember my abuela’s garden of crisantemos in Chihuahua. I remember the yearly ritual of racing against the sun to harvest the bushy flowers before dawn. I remember la viejita insisting they be cut before they wake to welcome the morning rays. As if moved by the rhythms of early morning rooster choirs, we rushed to place the flowers in old buckets, covered them with recycled fertilizer bags and waited to greet the sun.

Piled between old brooms, shovels and buckets of flowers, the procession of trucks made its way from Estación Adela to Valle de Allende, the head of the municipio and meeting place for our dead and our living. In the silent celebration of memory, we fervently brushed, swept and watered tombs that held more than our ancestros’ remains. We were there to unclutter and revive memory, to resurrect the proof that we once were, and awaken the hope that we continue to be.

It is today, years and miles away from the mute celebration of the life that dances around, weaves throughout and breathes within the flesh of our spirits, that I realize why I call this the most sacred of holidays. To have been robbed of land, of identity, of water, of ancestral spiritualities, of healthy food and of life, death would not be stolen as well. It was in the zigzagging of brooms and tears that we claimed, laid hands on, and conjured the spirits who led the way— as if knowing they hold artifacts of our truths.

Para mí, el día de los muertos is more than a fiesta of calavera-painted faces and non-organic Chocolate Abuelita. It is the opportunity to caress the spirits of those I love, those who have transitioned yet continue to guide me, walk with me, and hold me through the coldest of nights. Despite the annoyance of celebrating a hyper-commercialized holiday, I am reminded of the opportunity that is life, the sanctity that is death and the blessing that is possibility.

Today, I honor, remember, hold close and slip into the arms of my muertos. They were the ones they waited for; perhaps I am the one who follows.

[Photo: Altar I co-built with Saúl González, a founder of allgo, a statewide queer people of color organization in Texas. The altar was dedicated to the many people who were a part of the founding and building of allgo, which, at 30 years old, is one of the longest standing queer people of color organizations in the U.S.]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Literary Vandalism, or when hate comes knocking on the door

The first time I visited Austin, I remember walking down South Congress holding my then boyfriend’s (my compañero) hand and hearing the words “fags” come shooting out of a passing car. That was the first and only time I have been maliciously attacked verbally with the word “fag.”

Today I woke up to sad news. A dear friend had ordered my book through Amazon and, upon receiving it and opening the package in his home, he discovered someone had written “FAG” on one of the pages. The book was new. 

As queer youth have continued to find no other option but to cease to live, such acts of vandalism are a cruel reminder of how far we are from it getting better. I am saddened by the constant reminder of a world where hatred is so deeply embedded and structurally sustained by a fear of people who love and are loved. I am devastated to know a dear friend had to endure this experience in his home. My heart is broken.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

the preventable, the unsalvageable, and the innocent.

I recently read a post on Colorlines.com entitled Oprah Gets Schools on HIV and Has Her Own Aha! Moment. The article does a great job of surfacing how ignorance prevails when it comes to HIV/AIDS, particularly among people of color. However, the clip itself disturbed me in that there is no context surrounding it to help the viewer get the whole picture regarding what it means to be living with HIV.

While the clip and the accompanying write-up are good for developing a race analysis, it also runs the danger of perpetuating apocalyptic ideas about what it means to live with HIV. My concerns stem from the fact that Bridget, the person calling Oprah on her ignorance, is describing the devastating realities of people living with HIV, without recognizing Oprah's assertions that some people do live healthy and fulfilling lives. And while what Bridget describes is definitely a real experience, without proper context and truly informed messaging, the sensationalism of the clip only adds to the already difficult experience of being diagnosed with HIV. 

I do not mean to sugarcoat the experience of living with HIV, nor do I believe anything Bridget says is untrue. However, the absence of nuance is troubling. Even more alarming is the ongoing desire to continue or revive a sense of urgency on the backs of those living with HIV.

Prevention programs, public health officials and the media strive to put an end to HIV infection, but at what cost? It seems those living with HIV are disposable or unsalvageable, and as such, their experiences must be described in horrific ways -only- so as to terrify the negative (also thought of as the innocent) to the point of either wrapping themselves in saran wrap to shake someone's hand or to avoid having sex altogether.

Yes, living with HIV is a serious experience. It is a chronic condition and one that comes with serious challenges. It is also true that not all people have access to health care or medications, that the medications have their side-effects, and that people still die due to complications to HIV/AIDS. Still, there must be more effective and humane ways to work toward preventing further infections while also honoring and supporting those living with HIV to live fulfilling and healthy lives. 

It seems the socially accepted difference between those living with HIV and those living with other non-sexually transmitted diseases is that faggots simply deserve what they get. After all, wasn't this the point of the Reagan-era "Gay Cancer" myth?

Sadly, it seems this mentality has seeped into queer thinking about sex and sexuality, and ultimately contributed to the moralizing and normalizing of what was once a door toward sexual liberation. What if HIV prevention messaging were centered on supporting people to make informed decisions? What if we lived in a world where all queer men recognized their own agency and manifested their desire toward each other within mutually consensual, informed and freeing relationships that are completely autonomous and uninfected by social mores?

One can only dream... 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Recent interview on identity, poetry and the role queer chicano legacies of survival

Recent interview with Sean Parris for a podcast series that Sharon Bridgforth, DePaul University Theatre School's Visiting Multicultural Faculty Member, is curating. For more go to: Theatrical Jazz Podcast Series

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Occasion of the Mexican Bicentennial

I am tempted to write as a Mexican in the diaspora about Mexicans in the diaspora. Though the truth is, those of us living in what is today called the southwestern part of the United States are not in the diaspora. And while political and economic forces wield their power through military and ideological enforcement to secure the occupation of our home, we do not forget.

I say this, neither to evoke anti-American sentiments nor to pander Mexican nationalist politics. I say this as a fact. We are not in diaspora.

Yet, however strong our roots to this land, I cannot dismiss the fact that the artificial border that cuts through it, also cuts through our sense of belonging, our sense of memory and our sense of truth. On the two hundred year anniversary of Mexican Independence, I offer this, a non-comprehensive, senseless beading of longing, of resistance and of hope:

As I prepare to participate in celebrations and commemorations of Mexican Independence, I am reminded of the complexities and visceral silliness of it all. It would appear nonsensical to celebrate the independence of a people who have yet to experience freedom, much less liberation.

I am reminded of those of us living on this side of the make-believe line drawn across the desert. I am reminded of those of us who cannot return out of fear of not being able to cross again. I am reminded of those who are trapped on that side, navigating the pain of a country ravaged by global imperialism.

I am reminded of the “Drug War” incessantly competing to rival the death toll of the U.S. war on Afghanistan. I am reminded of the relentless starvation of U.S. consumerism that feeds off narcotics and bodies alike. I am reminded of the oblivious and self-serving manner in which the all-consuming American dares call this a “Mexican problem.”

I am reminded of the undocumented workers who died in the World Trade Center and who will never be accounted for. Those who this country will never recognize for its immigration policies establish them as nonexistent. I am reminded of the nation-states from which they come also rejecting their existence.

I am reminded of the women of Juárez, those whose lives are capitalized on even by the best intentioned of Chicana and Chicano scholars. Of a bloodthirsty MAC Cosmetics attempting to capture a wider market by capitalizing on the fatalities of these mujeres.

I am reminded of families who are forced daily to leave their children at the mercy of a vicious public education system that systematically beats the language, memory and values out of them. I am reminded of Ms. Nelson and the pedagogical whip with which she attempted to eradicate my own language, my memory, and my values.

I am reminded of those who risk everything in search of a basic sense of survival for their children and elders. Those who do not seek the farce of the “American Dream,” only the opportunity to provide for their families and communities. Those who are hunted by grotesque vigilantes whose sick audacity justifies their own existence on a land that never welcomed them.

I am reminded of students who are left in limbo, in a purgatory forged by U.S. immigration policies. I am reminded of how privileged my life has been, that I have attended multiple universities without immigration status standing in my way. I am reminded of the need to meditate on how my access is built on my sistren being unable to attend a university of their choice, to access financial aid, to pay in-state tuition, to graduate, to secure a job upon graduation.

I am reminded of how easily we forget our own indigeneity and the wisdom that what roots our memory and our bodies to this land, is not of Spanish origin. I am reminded of the insistence that our belonging is tied to our “Hispanicism,” forgetting that this was the genesis of our loss of memory.

I am reminded of political candidates boasting over the fact that their children do not look like us.

I am reminded of Hernán Cortez, James K. Polk, Janice Kay Brewer and countless merciless leaders who pander to the deepest, most vulgar and inhumane of their followers’ fear. I am reminded of how anti-Mexicanism is an ancient tradition. I am reminded of Cortez’ landing, la Revolución Mexicana, la Batalla de Puebla, the Treaty of Miguel Hidalgo, the Gadsden Purchase, Manifest Destiny, Prop 187, Prop 227, SB 1070, HB 2281. I am reminded of the anti-Mexican movements waiting on the horizon.

On the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence, I am reminded that we are still here. I am reminded that despite the infectious white supremacy that permeates both the U.S. and México, we shall overcome. I am reminded that this is not the beginning, nor the continuation of a two hundred year old shout in Dolores, Hidalgo. I am reminded that freedom and liberation is not what we leave for the next generations to find, but what we must begin to embody today.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Of Ethics, Mores & Privilege of Poets & Poetry

I was recently made aware of a heated debate that is taking place on two related essays featured on PoetryFoundation.org.

The first essay, The Voices of Hurricane Katrina, Part I: What are the ethics of poetic appropriation? by Abe Louise Young, is a critique of Raymond McDaniel’s un-credited appropriation of personal stories documented on Alive in Truth: The New Orleans Disaster Oral History & Memory Project.

The second essay, The Voices of Hurricane Katrina, Part II: Reflections on found poetry and the creative process by Raymond McDaniel, is a response to the aforementioned critique and an explanation of McDaniel’s process of pulling from Alive in Truth to construct Convention Centers of the New World, a poem in the author’s recently published collection Saltwater Empire.

Below is my contribution to said debate:

Having spent years in graduate school studying ethics and the application of this science to various scenarios, I never ran across poetry as a potential circumstance. In fact, I never ran across any scenario that applied the science of ethics to questions of privilege either. Instead, the entire program focused on law, policy and moral imperatives.

Rather than insist students critique the relationship between law/policy/morality and ethics, there was an underlying assumption that these terms and their practice were unquestionably synonymous. As a queer person of color living in the occupied region known as the Southwestern United States, consideration of synonymity of these terms and practices debilitated the importance and applicability of ethics as a whole.

For instance, to say that law equals ethics would mean that the presence of my family in the United States is inherently unethical given that the first to relocate here did so without legal consent from the United States government. Although born in the United States, applying this framework could deem my presence here unethical because of the manner in which I came to be born within the confines of this nationstate. Lately, conservatives have attempted to resurrect such thinking and intend to challenge the legality of birthright citizenship for those born to parents who have “illegally” or, in the case of synonymous terminology, “unethically” “entered” this country.

Perhaps this argument makes sense from the simple Right/Wrong, Law = Ethics framework. Yet, if one were to turn to the very words considered synonymous with ethical matters and questioned the integrity of such words, would ethics lose their intrinsic and seemingly sacred value? Arguing against undocumented immigration makes sense only in the amnesic consciousness of a country that has legally practiced slavery, genocide, displacement and occupation from its genesis and beyond. It is because of the historically inhumane founding of this country that my family practiced the undocumented crossing of a border built to uphold the immorality of white supremacy.

If morality is synonymous to ethics, the very existence of the United States is unethical. At which point, one must adjust the notion of law/policy/morality being synonymous to ethics in order to apply ethical criteria circumstantially and whimsically-adjusted to our personal and/or collective moral imperatives.

It appears the thread of comments arguing for and against ethical application to Convention Centers of the New World are wandering the surfaces of definition.

Abe Louise Young has brilliantly executed an argument that applies the rule of ethics through a lens critically examining poetic acts of privilege and racism. As someone who agrees with the assertion that anti-racism is a moral imperative, I recognize that the ethical criterion applied to this poem is based on a particular definition of morality. In a world void of context, Abe’s question of ethics in relation to the aforementioned poem could be contested through other definitions of morality.

In reading Raymond McDaniel’s essay, I perceive him as a poet attempting to draw light onto the experiences of “those for whom justice has always been in short supply.” If I were to make truth of my assumption and take it a step further to consider McDaniel a poet committed to social justice ideology, I would unquestionably apply a social justice morality to the discussion of Saltwater Empire. Said notions of morality, then, would inform my ethical lens in relation to the poet’s intention and its resulting products.

Because we live in a world replete with complex, layered and interwoven contexts, I concur with Abe’s asservation that McDaniel plagiarized and appropriated the stories of others. In McDaniel’s defense, the poet states: “I assumed that the records were public, that they existed to be public.” Not so simple.

People of privilege enter dangerous territory when they engage in the extremely difficult and slippery act of writing about or “for” those on whom one’s own privilege is built upon. In this particular case, Abe Louise Young, a white, anti-racist, activist and poet, is putting the white poet to task. For many folks of color, this is what we understand to be one of the many critical roles white allies play in our shared efforts to dismantle and eradicate white supremacy.

Any poet attempting to write in the name of justice must (yes, I said “must”) critically and harshly self-examine their intention, practice and product. Privilege is built on the most pervasive of human atrocities. As such, poetry written to evoke a just consciousness inevitably fails if it itself lacks consciousness of privilege, the history on which it is built, and the structures that sustain it.

From the place of academic and literary integrity, the expropriation of others’ words without proper credit is plagiarism. From the place of social justice movements and values, the appropriation of others’ stories is an act of injustice.

Let us not forget that just as the “isolated phrases, sentences and clusters of sentences” were allegedly found, so to were the land, the people, the stories and the spirits that for centuries have called home what many now call the United States of America.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is it possible to overanalyze something?

Below is a brief analysis contributed to a comments thread on one of Change.org's Gay Rights articles. In the thread, readers were complaining over the fact that the article was overanalyzing, being over critical and making a fuss over nothing. I am posting the comment because the discussion got me thinking about the ways in which dialogue gets shut down when someone is unable to engage in a deep exchange. The person then cuts the conversation off by claiming the other side is being too politically correct or hypersensitive. These accusations are typical in race conversations, so I found it interesting to see them within a race-neutral queer space.

Below is the link to the article:

And here are some thoughts I contributed to the discussion:

It is troubling to read that this article "goes too deep." Is that not the purpose of analysis and intellectual debate? It would be one thing to disagree with the analysis. It is completely different to disagree with the fact that the analysis even took place. Depth of analysis is relative to our individual sets of values, ideologies and consciousness. If you disagree with the existence of a topic, why engage?  

I find it both fascinating and critical that we engage in conversations that push our values, ideologies and consciousness. If over analyzing a topic, issue, theory or moment is unnecessary, why are doctoral programs considered among the highest academic achievements in this country? After all, all we do there is analyze our analysis.

As someone living in a "democratic society," I am deeply troubled by the idea that someone might not want to think deeper. I much prefer someone spend days lost in the rabbit hole of theoretical possibilities, than for this person to not apply any intellectual effort at all. After all, this might be the same person that turns around and goes to the ballot booth to weigh their opinion on reproductive health, queer, anti-violence and poverty measures (to name a few). It is our collective responsibility to over-analyze and be critical of the critical. Contributing to a debate by saying it should not be taking place in the first place is hardly a practice of intellectual engagement. 

Lastly, that children laugh at the sight of Ken wearing red heels is alarming. Children might not understand the repercussions of their laughter, but they do know that boys in girls clothes is bad. Misogyny is pervasive. The hatred of the feminine is integrated into and informing the cultural mores, institutions and practices in our society (yes, in other countries too, but I'm talking U.S.). "Boys" lines and "Girls" lines are excellent ways to enforce early on that there is a clear-cut division between "two" genders, and that crossing this line is not tolerated.

What of the little boy who longs to wear his mother's heels? What is this child to feel/think/experience when sitting in an audience that laughs hysterically at the sight of a man in heels?

Am I overanalyzing? Damn right I am.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Call for submissions: An Anthology of Queer Chicano Poetry

Recognizing the critical need for Queer Chicano men to document their stories, break bread with one another and create artifacts for generations to come, this fall Kórima Press will be releasing its first anthology: joto (ho-toh) v. 

Embodying a complex and ever-evolving identity, Queer Chicanos hold stories that emanate from the intersections that permeate, constitute and surround our bodies. This anthology seeks to live as a codex of such stories.

Kórima Press seeks poetry submissions from Queer Chicano men writing from and about the spaces of (un)documented desires, racialized nation-states, contested and reclaimed tongues, and overcrowded kitchen tables. Imagined as an amalgamation of Polaroid snapshots, all poetry written from, about, resisting and/or reacting to Queer Chicanismo are welcome. Submissions of any language and combination thereof are accepted. 

Submission: Please e-mail submissions@korimapress.com with a single Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf) attachment containing the following:

- Contact information
- 150 - 300 word bio
- A high resolution photograph
- List of pieces submitted
- Up to 10 poems

Please be sure to write the following in the subject line of the email: “Joto Submission: YourLastName”

Deadline: September 30, 2010

Compensation: As a small press, Kórima is unable to provide monetary compensation for submissions. Contributors will receive 3 copies of the anthology and will be able to purchase additional copies at-cost. 

NOTE: At-cost amount to be determined upon completion of publication as this is determined by the final dimensions of the anthology.

For more about Kórima Press, visit: korimapress.com

Friday, August 6, 2010

to marry or not to marry

A good friend recently responded to a post I wrote for Change.org regarding the complexities of marriage equality, the marriage equality movement and lgbt communities of color. The comment was related to the problems of queer folks of color fighting for marriage as if it were equally as important and/or transformative for us as it might be perceived for white gay men. Below are some thoughts...

I think we tread dangerous waters in looking to marriage as the pinnacle of our rights (or the pinnacle of anything for that matter). The stories of women of color, in particular, should be enough for us to know better than to think it is an institution that supports, affirms and honors self-determination or other forms of liberated consciousness and being.

That said, I think it's important to not overlook the basic benefits that come with marriage, which poor and working class folks of color might not have access to. For instance, hospital visitation rights can be secured through certain legal processes, but these require access to resources and information. Of course, this assumes folks can even get into the hospital for care to begin with.

I agree and have written about the ways in which the LGBT movement seems intent on reinstating the privileges that white gay men lost by virtue of being gay. People of color, then, become the conduits and obstacles to, and occasionally unintentional beneficiaries of what rights (and privileges) are secured.

With all that.. would I get married? Yup.

Here's the post we were originally reacting to:
What the Marriage Equality Movement Means To LGBT People of Color

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a writer who has influenced my work for nearly 20 years

Ricardo Arjona has been my favorite lyricist since I was 12. And, somehow I hate every single one of his albums when they first come out, only to end up enamored and obsessed with them after a few weeks of listening to them. His latest, Quinto Piso, is now my favorite album. This song, specifically, is rich, lush, dry and striking. Listening to this, I am reminded of how and why my work is deeply rooted in pedestrian metaphor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview on Pluma Fronteriza

I was recently interviewed by Ray Rojas over at Pluma Fronteriza. Check it out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

D.C. is the old Las Vegas

I’ve been in D.C. for over a week, and still have several days to go before returning to San Francisco. The work I’ve been involved with while here has been incredibly rewarding. I feel honored to have reached a place in my life where the many worlds I navigate have intersected in a project that looks specifically at the intersections of identities and experiences. Few things make a nerd like me this happy.

I’m a fan of D.C. I’m fascinated by the architecture, the posture of its D.C.-oriented inhabitants, and by the irony of invisibility of those who call it home, yet never come near the fire. Perhaps it’s a matter of survival or of structural segregation maintaining inhabitants of color at the margins of the city. Perhaps it’s simply telling of the irrelevance of policies and policy makers emanating from the cracks of old buildings. ¿Yo, qué sé?

D.C. has always struck me as a Las Vegas kind of town. The city that most know is a manufactured context comprised of piles of buildings, rigid streets, gaudy circles, and people running back and forth carrying the lives of millions in their briefcases. As with Vegas, D.C. seems to have been built to serve a specific purpose. Perhaps the only real reason is that one enters Las Vegas full of hope. Sure, we leave Vegas broke, hungover and coughing up feathered boas. Pero, ¿yo qué sé?

I have learned to appreciate D.C. in all its irony. Most of what I see as I walk through the Mall is an amalgamation of tragic contradictions. From the giant penis attributed to George Washington, to the place where the Great Aretha stood with her all-seeing “I will cut you” hat. For a brown boy from Aztlán, D.C. can stir multiple simultaneous and contradicting emotions. The ancestral in me knows I am a visitor of those who called this home centuries ago. I know they are still here. I stand in silence.

I stand at the mall and remember that this city witnessed the planned occupation of the land I have always called home; the only land my peoples have ever called home. D.C. is a complicated place. I am a complicated place.

I offer no reverence. I offer admiration toward the complexities. I offer distrust to its norms. I offer smiles to its museums. I offer laughter at its giant penis.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

hierbaloca: the children of aztlán

may we dance
in the living room of hope
our bodies hold memory
we are desert stones

may we rise
in the face of our pain
as Arizona weeds dare
our fists rise most when blown

our hearts pump through sorrow
making way for what is possible
we are farmers, we harvest our own

we are backyard children
playing, watched by la abuela
weaving through each other’s arms

we are leaves
on branches, on roads
fodder after being shade
cover to elders
food for new leaves to grow

we are the blood
rivers, mama’s veins
we are the return
though we never left

our lungs pump through anguish
manifest what is possible
we are Texas breeze in each other’s hair

we are nopal-raised abuelos
we play dice with tomorrow
betting we will overcome

somos, todos, aztlaneros
our roots run deep, run wild
unharnessed, tainted as the Gulf

we were free, we remember
thievery shall not hold us
we have no papers to show

Originally published by Poets Responding to SB 1070.

Inspired by such luminaries as: Joe Jiménez, Alma Luz Villanueva, James Thomas Stevens, Ku'ualoha Ho'omanawanui, Clemencia Zapata, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, Rajasvini Bhansali, Dawn Surratt, Nikhil Aziz, Gloria Nieto, Héctor Silva, Floyd Johnson, Luz Guerra, Diana Gorham, María Salazar, Marvin K. White, Belinda G. Acosta, Juanita Salazar Lamb, Magdalena Barrera, Irene Mata, Victor Vásquez, Ana Ángel, Favianna Rodríguez, Noralee Ortiz, Robert Unzueta, Rosa Revuelta, Martha Ramos Duffer, Elaine Chukan Brown, Chip Livingston, Francisco X. Alarcon, and Lorna Dee Cervantes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts on La Mission and the Ongoing Struggle to Broaden Notions of Latino Masculinities

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.

It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.

We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them.

All in all, I found La Mission to be a beautiful film. I’m not a film critic and will leave that to those who know better. Instead, I’ll limit my thoughts on what moved me most about the movie, and those areas I wish it had gone deeper.

The relationship of Benjamin Bratt’s character, Che Rivera, and his son Jesse, played by Jeremy Ray Valdez, was sweet, raw and in many ways reflective of my own experience with my father. I was further moved by the depiction of comunidad and the ways in which we, as a village, honor our shared responsibility and opportunity to support each other and our children. Even as the father struggled with the realization of his son’s sexuality, their community intervened, loved and supported both of them in a way that rings true to my experiences of community engagement in times of family crisis. This particularly resonated with memories of how my family responded to the teenage pregnancies of cousins and to my own coming out. This isn’t to say my family, or our communities are romantic portraits reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. Rather, it is necessary to honor the fact that even in our messiness and pain, we managed to love each other in the only ways we knew how.

A question I had throughout the film was the extent to which audience members knew what the film was actually about. This was somewhat answered by the collective surprise when Jesse first kissed his boyfriend, Jordan. However, after the initial shock, people seemed to settle with the idea, though I wouldn’t suggest this was a celebration or affirmation of queerness; yet another reflection on my coming out experience.

In addition to the possibility that some in the audience were unaware of the gay theme in the story, people were very surprised when Benjamin and Peter Bratt entered the theater. The Q&A with the actor and the director was a bit all over the place. Nonetheless, I was excited to hear Peter Bratt, who was both the writer and director, talk about his process.

Something that resonated with me was Bratt’s reasoning for the gay theme in the film. To paraphrase, the writer wanted to portray Latino masculinity in its most vulnerable state. According to Bratt, the best way to expose ultimate vulnerability in a Latino who is deeply rooted in what some would argue is a stereotypical depiction of Latino maleness (dare I say machismo), would be in the realization of his son being gay. Hearing this evoked the memory of hearing my father crying inconsolably on the phone while he asked if his suspicions of my sexuality were true. The call, which ended with my father saying I was a dried-up branch of his family, exposed the darkest and scariest of both his and my vulnerability as Latino men.

I appreciate Bratt’s analysis and his courage to quite literally breakdown Latino masculinity on the big screen. However, I am saddened by the fact that he only focused on exposing the vulnerability of the father’s masculinity, and in doing so, left a gaping whole in exploring the vulnerability and possibility of the gay Latino son. Instead, the story seemed to use the son and his sexuality as a conduit, rather than truly honoring the experience of gay Latino men and our relationship with our fathers.

I was also concerned with Bratt’s reinforcement of the notion that gayness is a white construct and something that only exists openly in white-defined spaces such as San Francisco’s Castro District. This is not to say that the Castro is not an important space in queer culture and one that many queer men of color, myself included, have traveled through in the formation of our identities and experience. Yet, to continue leaving gayness within the realm of whiteness speaks to our ongoing inability to claim the many facets of Latina/o sexualities and the many ways we express and manifest gender.

Furthermore, leaving gayness to be embodied by the Castro and a white boyfriend also overlooked the rich history of queer Latinidad that has long been an integral part of San Francisco’s Mission District. As a queer brown man, the LGBT Latina/o community of the Mission, including such spaces as Esta Noche, heavily shaped my identity. Horacio Roque Ramírez, a professor at UC Santa Barbara, has done extensive work on the LGBT Latina/o community of La Misión and has done an excellent job in honoring the legacies of organizing and community building that has taken place over several decades.

To be clear, I am not arguing against depictions of the Castro or against mixed-race relationships. Rather, I ask that we think about what continues to stand in our way of fully acknowledging that LGBT Latinidad can and has long existed outside of the confines and direct influence of white LGBTness. Perhaps acknowledging that queerness can be just as inherently Latina/o as it is to white communities is a vulnerability we are not prepared to experience.