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Cinco de Mayo

11 May

I know. I am not Mexican. But having lived there till I was 5, I always say my soul is Mexican. And for whatever reason, this soul gets all ticked on Cinco de Mayo. Is it because so few of those people are Mexican? When I lived there, almost no one but the people from Puebla celebrated.

In Mexico, May 5 celebrates a victory over the French. It is not the Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16.  I know it’s a way to celebrate a culture, or country — one that is really under fire right now. But do you really have to celebrate it by getting sloppy drunk, wearing a sombrero and sounding like Speedy Gonzalez?

This makes me wonder. Why do cultures celebrate themselves by drinking to excess. And why do people suddenly become “Mexican” when drinking margaritas and acting like fools. It’s what has made me hate St. Patrick’s Day.

On Saturday, walking home with my daughter we saw a girl on 14th Street, up on the 4th floor fire escape, with a serape and flashing the people across the street. Of course, she was spilling her drink on the people below, like it was Mardi Gras. I guess it didn’t help that it was also the Kentucky Derby. But this was early, and post time wasn’t even close.

Ugh!

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The Dreamer by Pamela Munoz Ryan

29 Apr

The Dreamer won the Pura Belpre award for 2011. It’s a lovely book, a biography of Pablo Neruda ne Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto the Chilean poet and politician. The book focuses on his childhood, which despite his father’s ruthlessness seems magical. His stepmother allowed him to find the magic. His brother, who showed promise as a singer, had his spirit crushed by his father. But Neruda, despite his frail build, had the wherewithal to stand up to his father, to survive his childhood in the sparse Chilean city of Parral, in the Linares province.

Ryan focuses on highlights of his childhood – a summer at the beach, his struggles in school, his facility with writing, and his stepmother and step-uncle who show him love and affection. Neruda happens to be one of my favorite poets, and I love the Italian movie, Il Postino (in Italian with English subtitles). As an adult, I was very interested in this book. However, I can see the limitations to this beautifully written book. It’s about an author that most children are unfamiliar with, even Latino children. Being able to identify with a sickly, extremely literate and scholarly child from 100 years ago might be a stretch. Be that as it may, it is a wonderful book. The book is lush and full of imagery. It could be interesting to read about a child from a different time, who is bullied and picked-on as so many children today are. And it could awaken a love of poetry and words and language.

His poetry is wonderful. And if this book is a stepping stone to that, that is enough.

Links

13 Dec

Want some more links about Latinos?

You can read some Hispanic American Firsts here: Famous Firsts by Hispanic Americans — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933896.html#ixzz17jbPk8wv

Here are links on more books…

http://www.bookspot.com/features/hispanicauthors.htm

http://www.donquijote.org/culture/spain/writers/

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal/belpreabout/index.cfm

plus most authors also have blogs, here are some:

http://www.pammunozryan.com/

http://www.juliaalvarez.com/

http://www.garysoto.com/

Spanish Theater:

http://www.repertorio.org/

Best food in NYC (doesn’t include cart people who sell awesome tamales):

http://newyork.citysearch.com/bestof/winners/2009/latin_food

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

13 Dec

Tyler’s dad had a tractor accident. His brother is about to go college. And his high school aged sister isn’t about to help much. Since Tyler is only 12, he has to go to school. He can’t help like he wants to on the farm. The farm that has been in his family forever. María Dolores (Mari) is Mexican, and her father and uncles have been hired to do the work that Tyler, his brother and his dad can’t do.  Tyler tells his side of the story, while  Mari’s is in letter format — letters she writes to her mother but never sends. Mari is here illegally, but her sisters aren’t. They were born here. Their lives are here.

A lot of Vermont farmers hire Mexican laborers. But feelings are mixed about the details of those relationships and the lives of the workers and their families. Mari’s mother, who returned to Mexico a year ago to visit her mother, has gone missing.  They aren’t sure if she is dead, with La Migra (immigration) or with the coyotes.

Tyler and Mari struggle with problems, emotions and complications that her arrival at his house brings. They go to school and become friends. Mari and her sisters, also named María Ofelia (Ofie) and María Lubyneida (Luby), (Tyler calls them the three Marías) become a part of the family and Tyler learns exactly how much he will do to keep his family, his blood family and his new family safe and protected.

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20 Jul

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