More than Meets the Eye

Today I’m in San Francisco, in the heart of the city, the day beautiful and warm, thinking of the strong audiences I’ve had so far for “Music of the Mill.” Many old friends (and many new ones) showed up to my Chicago reading on May 13 at Barbara’s Bookstore on Halsted Street. I especially appreciate Father Bruce’s efforts to constantly bring youth from Casa Chavez in Racine, Wisconsin to my Chicago events – he was there with a respectful crew of young people. There was a wonderful discussion about the issues and ideas in the book, and how fiction can often tell the most poignant truths – if done well. I also had radio interviews on WBBM and WRTE (in the Pilsen barrio – a young radio personality, Silvia Rivera, there had some of the most insightful questions of any interviewer so far), and with my friend, the journalist Elbio Rodriguez from La Raza newspaper's new cultural section.

On May 14, I got up early to catch a long plane ride from Chicago to San Fran – with two radio interviews as soon as I departed the plane. Later that evening I had dinner with my friend Juliana Mojica, her daughter Alejandra, and granddaughter Mireya. We ended up in a great Yucateco restaurant on Valencia in the Mission. I attended a reading in honor of the important Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton (where my friends Jack Hirschman, Margot Pepper, Alfonso Teixador, Abache, Alejandro Murguia, and others) read or attended at the Cachi Art Studio. Then I got to check out a couple of bands at the 12 Galaxies night club such as Castles in Spain and a well-loved San Pancho original group, Oriza. This helps me find out who’s who and what’s what for possible future engagements at Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural – we’re expecting amazing music, poetry, author signings, theater, and more to grace our stage this summer.

So you know, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural – the not-for-profit sister organization to the café/bookstore – has received a grant from the LA Cultural Affairs Department to host a music/art/poetry/theater festival this fall called “Celebrating the Word – Spoken, Performed and Sung.” We hope it becomes an annual event. For more information, check out our website later in the year at

Also – Tia Chucha Press, my 16-year-old poetry press, is now publishing out of LA. Our first LA-based book is now out: “My Sweet Unconditional” by ariel robello. A national release party is slated for June 4 at 7 PM. Spread the word.

And while I’m my tour, I’m well aware of the ongoing anti-Mexican/Central American immigrant efforts that have brought Minutemen to the Arizona border (and a misguided invitation by Gov. Swarzenegger to have them come to the California-Mexico border), national anti-inmigrant gang efforts aimed at Mara Salvatrucha (labeled “terrorists,” the latest ploy to detract from the economic crises in the country and the folly of war that continues to kill with no sane or reasonable direction), and the small resurgence of Save Our State (a racist mostly white group), who came to protest a mural in Baldwin Park, CA that they claim was touting the turning over of the Southwest US to Mexico (nothing of the sort was being advocated in the mural). The counter-protesters were 10 to 1 in size, but as my friend Mark Vallen says, this was not just about racism and ant-immigrant policies – it’s also about censorship of city-sanctioned art.

One SOS leader apparently smirked his way through the protest, smugly claiming the counter-protesters were getting his message out – apparently that Americans will not tolerate what the mural is apparently NOT saying (except in his literal, narrow-minded mind}. He doesn’t realize that SOS is also galvanizing a significant section of Mexican and Central American (and other) youth – like ex-Governor Pete Wilson did when Proposition 187 ended up on the state ballot. Thousands of young people marched and demonstrated against the proposition in the 1980s – with many becoming politically and socially active (the proposition won, but was later declared unconstitutional). Waking up from any complacency is vital today. I honor these youth – the racist arrogance of SOS will only get the opposite result (by the way, Pete Wilson has been unable to maintain a viable political life after his Proposition 187 debacle).

And the road goes on…

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