CfP: 2019 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest

Now much time left! Please get to it!

Each year, Split This Rock sponsors a national poetry contest which serves to raise the visibility and prestige of poetry of provocation and witness. Formerly known as Split This Rock’s Annual Poetry Contest, the contest was renamed in 2017 the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest. The new name honors two poets significant to Split This Rock: Langston Hughes who penned the poem “Big Buddy” from which Split This Rock takes its name and Sonia Sanchez who opened the very first Split This Rock Poetry Festival in 2008. Contest winning poems are published on Split This Rock’s website and in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

The 2019 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest is now OPEN.

Contest Judge: FRANNY CHOI

Benefits Split This Rock, helping to sustain its work
to bring poetry to the center of public life

$1,000 in Prizes Awarded for Poems of Provocation & Witness!

DEADLINE: November 1, 2018



PRIZES: First place $500; 2nd and 3rd place, $250 each. Winning poems will be published on Split This Rock’s website and in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. All prize winners will receive free festival registration to Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2020 and the 1st place recipient will be invited to read the winning poem on the main stage at the festival.

READING FEE: $20. Benefits Split This Rock, helping to sustain its work to bring poetry to the center of public life

ACCESSIBLE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: If Submittable is not accessible to you, you are welcomed to submit your poem(s) using the accessible Word version of the submission instructions. After submitting your poem(s), if you have not received an email confirmation of receipt within a week’s time, please contact us at or (202) 787-5210.



Photo of Franny Choi. She is a young Asian woman. Franny has long hair that is dark brown at the top and becomes lighter, eventually blonde at the bottom. She stand against a white backdrop, looking off into the distance.She wears glasses and a black tank top, and has bright red lipstick.

Franny Choi is the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) and the forthcoming Soft Science(Alice James Books, 2019), as well as a chapbook, Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the Helen Zell Writers Program. Her poems have appeared in PoetryAmerican Poetry Review, the New England Review, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman fellow, an Editor of News and Politics at Hyphen Magazine, co-host of the podcast VS, and member of the Dark Noise Collective. Learn more at Franny Choi’s website.

Franny will serve as a final judge for the contest, selecting the winning poems from up to 20 top poems chosen by first readers. As she desires, she may also select poems as honorable mentions.


THEMES: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, resistance, leadership, issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic class, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.), community, civic engagement, education, activism, and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons. Visit the Past Poetry Contests webpage and The Quarry for past prize winning poems.

Split This Rock subscribes to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Read it online at our website.


Submissions need to be received by 11:59 pm on November 1, 2018, Eastern Standard Time. 

Submit up to 3 unpublished poems, no more than 6 pages total, no more than 1 poem appearing on each page, in any style, in the spirit of Split This Rock (see above). For instructions, visit Split This Rock’s Submittable page or, if Submittable is not accessible to you, download the accessible Word document below. NOTE: Entries totalling more than 6 pages will not be read.

What we mean by “unpublished”: We accept only poems that have not yet been included in a publication with an ISBN number or online via a juried journal or website. If your poem is selected and it is posted on social media, we ask that you take it down prior to our publishing contest results.

We read entries anonymously. Please do not put your name or contact information on the document you upload to Submittable or within its title, or your poems will be in jeopardy of being disqualified.

Simultaneous submissions are OK, but please notify us immediately if the poem is accepted elsewhere.

Close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judge are excluded from the contest. Likewise, the current Board of Directors, staff, teaching artists, and DC Youth Slam Team of Split This Rock are excluded, as are members of their immediate families. (For more detail: visit the code of ethics on our website.)

Mailed and Emailed Submissions: Except for special circumstances we are aware of in advance or in the case of people for whom Submittable is inaccessible, we do not accept mailed or emailed submissions. Instructions for how to submit if Submittable is inaccessible to you are available below in the “Accessible Submissions Instructions” section below.

We encourage you to submit before the November 1 deadline so that if you encounter problems we can assist you.

ACCESSIBLE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: If Submittable is not accessible to you, you are welcomed to submit your poem(s) using the accessible Word version of the submission instructions. After submitting your poem(s), if you have not received an email confirmation of receipt within a week’s time, please contact us at or (202) 787-5210.

Late entries will not be accepted.

Once decisions have been made, you will receive an email notifying you of the status of your submission. We do not send hard copy notifications or accept self addressed stamped envelopes. Please monitor Split This Rock’s website and Facebook page for updates on the contest if for some reason you have trouble receiving emails.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: | (202) 787-5210 |

Harry Gamboa Jr.’s Portrait Series Expands the Meaning of ‘Chicano’


When photographer Harry Gamboa Jr. began his portrait series, “Chicano Male Unbonded” in 1991, the word “Chicano” implied guns, drugs and all manner of dangerous things.  “I started the car, turned on the radio and the first thing that went on was an announcement from the news that says to be on the lookout for a Chicano male; he’s dangerous,” recalls Gamboa Jr. in a video with KCET, which is also on view at the Autry Museum of the American West, alongside an exhibition of his long-running project, starting September 16.

That initial statement inspired Gamboa Jr. to seek out Chicano males that went against this prevailing stereotype, men that were lauded in their fields. “What the series achieves is not to give you the correct definition of Chicano male, but to give you nearly one hundred answers to that,” says UCLA professor and curator Chon A. Noriega in the same short film.

Here’s a glimpse of what a Chicano male can be.

Rodolfo Acuña, Historian (CSU Northridge), 2000 | Harry Gamboa Jr.

Rodolfo Acuna

Dr. Acuña is the founding chair of Chicano Studies — the largest Chicano Studies Department in the United States — at California State University Northridge (then called San Fernando Valley State). Three of his 20 books have received the Gustavus Myers Award for the Outstanding Book on Race Relations in North America. Acuña was named one of the “100 Most Influential Educators of the 20th Century by Black Issues In Higher Education. One of his most famed titles is “Occupied America, A History of Chicanos,” considered the definitive introduction to Chicano history.

Willie Herron | Harry Gamboa Jr.

Willie Herrón III

Herrón is one of the founding members of Asco, an avant-garde Chicano art collective that also included Gamboa Jr. In a 2007 article, LA Weekly calls Asco the “the superheated core of the East L.A. art scene, an underground legend in the making” in the 80s. Herrón is well-known for his murals, especially “The Walls That Cracked Open,” which he painted at the site where his 15-year-old younger brother was stabbed by a local gang. This work is one of the best-known examples of early Los Angeles street art, “recognized immediately by scholars, art critics, historians and Chicano rights activists as a transcendent piece that spoke to the physical and psychic violence surrounding many disenfranchised youth,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gilbert Magu Lujan | Harry Gamboa Jr.

Gilbert “Magu” Luján

Visual artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján’s work paved the way for emerging Chicano artists to show in more established art venues. He was one of four Chicano artists to ever exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Despite his role as one of the most iconic figures of the Chicano art movement, his work is not only found in large museums and galleries, but in everyday life; his whimsical style full surrounds commuters on the Hollywood and Vine metro stop.

Salomon Huerta | Harry Gamboa Jr.

Salomón Huerta

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Salomón Huerta gained fame in the 90s for his crisp paintings of lower middle- class homes and the back of peoples’ heads. His depictions, while seemingly innocent, questioned the value and worth of these subjects to its viewers. Since then, his work has been included in Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art and has been exhibitedat the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Gregory Bojorquez | Harry Gamboa Jr.

Gregory Bojorquez

Bojorquez is not your average photographer. His work first gained attention when his photograph of a shooting on Sunset Boulevard made the front page of the Los Angeles Times.  Unlike the staid, posed photographs one would expect of Hollywood, Bojorquez’s images document street life in its wild, gritty and often sensual reality.  His 2012 show at Hardhitta Gallery, “.45 Point Blank,” was curated by Benedikt Taschen Jr., son of the luxury publishing magnate. The show and a pop-up gallery also debuted in Berlin and Cologne.

‘Border Town’ is a comic about immigration and Latino identity. But it’s mainly about monsters.

Michael Betancourt wrote this amazing piece for the Washington Press. Check it out here:

A Mexican American bond led the way to DC Vertigo’s new hit series “Border Town.”

Part of Vertigo’s fall relaunch of new titles, “Border Town” (the second issue is available Wednesday in print and digitally) is the creation of writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos.

During their initial plotting conversations over the phone, Esquivel and Villalobos realized their experiences growing up Mexican in the United States could be used as fuel for the flames of “Border Town.” Esquivel, who is Irish Mexican, grew up without his Mexican father (like the lead character of “Border Town”). Villalobos says that both of his grandfathers came to the United States from Mexico and that he considers himself “fully” Mexican. Like Esquivel, Villalobos struggled with identity at times — he would be called out for not speaking Spanish despite being Mexican (a branding that afflicts characters in “Border Town” as well).

“Border Town” writer Eric M. Esquivel. (DC Vertigo)

Esquivel always assumed “Border Town” wouldn’t work at a major publisher, because it leans so heavily on Chicano identity and Mexican folklore. He acknowledges feeling a little angry when pitching the idea to Vertigo, because the publisher (an imprint of DC Comics) had already turned down prior ideas of his for a new series. But Esquivel says those initial ideas were more tributes to Vertigo tales of the past such as “Sandman” and “Y: The Last Man.” He was shocked when Vertigo gave him the green light for “Border Town,” but it stood out because it was so original.

“I never thought in a million years that a company like DC/Vertigo would gamble on a story like that, because it’s controversial just being [a] Mexican [story] in America, and especially in comics,” Esquivel said. “I thought [‘Border Town’] was going to be a black-and-white self-published thing that I was going to do someday.”

The story takes place in the fictional town of Devil’s Fork, Ariz., on the border between the United States and Mexico while also serving as the border between reality and Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, home to various demons and monsters of legend that frequent the pages of “Border Town.”

The protagonist, Frank, a teenage newcomer to town, is loosely based on Esquivel and his experiences moving from Illinois to Arizona as a sophomore in high school. It was an experience that Esquivel says took him from an area that was suburban and “aggressively white” to a setting that felt like “jail in an ’80s movie” because of cliques that were so clearly defined by race. In “Border Town,” Frank quickly discovers that blending in on both sides of a town split by racial makeup is difficult, but he quickly forms a bond with other Latino outcasts at his school.

“Border Town” No. 1 cover art by Ramon Villalobos. Colors by Tamra Bonvillain. (DC Vertigo)

“Arizona is a big part of me,” Esquivel said. “The elements of the book that are based on my actual life read as the most over-the-top, and the ones with the monsters and stuff don’t.”

The literary border of “Border Town” is between horror and the supernatural. When the monsters of Mictlan cross over to Arizona, they have a spellbinding effect on a town that is already defined by division. Whatever the locals fear, that’s what they’ll see when one of those monsters approaches them. An undocumented immigrant might see an ICE agent. An American minority could visualize a tiki-torch rally. But in the first issue of “Border Town,” when a child is approached by a monster, he sees the Batman villain Bane. Esquivel and Villalobos were looking to prove a point with that image.

“That was sort of our commentary that you have to be taught to hate,” Esquivel said. “Everyone else sees all these stereotypes, but the kid sees only [things from Batman.]”

“Border Town” No. 2 is available Wednesday. (DC Vertigo)

Guiding the visual adventure of “Border Town” is the Frank Quitely-inspired art of Villalobos, known recently for work on superhero titles at Marvel. Villalobos has embraced drawing a different type of comic-book tale, one leaning more on horror and teen angst than capes and masks.

“Border Town” artist Ramon Villalobos. (DC Vertigo)

“I love superhero comics, and that’s mostly what my career has been, is just drawing people in tights punching each other,” Villalobos said. “And that’s really fun, but personally, media that I like to intake is not superhero stuff at all. It’s usually romantic comedies and teenage dramas and stuff like that, just because I spend my whole day doing superhero stuff. So it’s refreshing to be able to do [something different].”

When “Border Town” came out last month, many readers focused on how it applied to Latino identity and border politics. At times, lost in the hype was the main story Esquivel and Villalobos are trying to tell, which is more about underworlds than political worlds.

“I don’t want people to feel like we’re doing this in opposition to anything,” Esquivel said. “I’m not putting out this book because Trump is president. I’m putting out this book because it’s a story I want to tell. Because Mexicans exist. We should have always had these stories coming out through all of these companies, and we didn’t.”

“To me [“Border Town” is] a horror story and the fact that it’s being so politicized is a little bit unfortunate,” he said. “I think our readers feel that way, too. But maybe that’s why [this story is] so powerful, because other people are getting to see what our life is like.”

(DC Vertigo)

(DC Vertigo)

(DC Vertigo)

Lowriders, Aliens and Cultural Hybridity in the Work of Rubén Ortiz-Torres

PST LA LA horizontal logo

This fall and winter, the Getty’s ambitious Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative sprawls across dozens of Southern California institutions, presenting a broad range of exhibitions on Latin American and Latino Art in Los Angeles. It is widely considered to be a watershed cultural moment, highlighting often-overlooked artists and movements who are being finally given institutional due. Six years ago, however, a single exhibition included in the inaugural LA-focused Pacific Standard Time explored many of the same themes that are now being considered on a much larger scale. “MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985” at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach could be considered a precursor to PST:LA/LA, tracing the legacy of Mexican artists like David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco in LA through the Chicano Art Movement of the 60s, and beyond.

“MEX/LA…is a show that pretends to tell an L.A. history or a Mexican history that has not often been told as either, and yet it is both and it is important,” exhibition curator and artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres writes in his catalogue essay, “Does L.A. stand for Los Angeles or Latin America?,” a question that could just as easily apply to the current PST:LA/LA series. “Like any other history it is partially true and forgets something else. It is a fragmented and contradictory one with different points of view that often clash and differ but are necessary pieces of an incomplete puzzle…It is a show about conflict, misinterpretation, appropriation, fascination, resilience, and more.”

Just as the show he curated can be seen as harboring the seeds of the larger PST:LA/LA project, through his own work over the past three decades in sculpture, video, installation, photography, and more, Ortiz-Torres has grappled with and celebrated themes of hybridity, identity and cultural transmission that weave through many of the exhibitions now on view.

“He’s an important voice at the intersection, not only of transplanetary, but transnational borders,” says Robert Hernandez, who included Ortiz-Torres’ work in “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” an exhibition he co-curated at UC Riverside. “He was at the forefront of that kind of hemispheric dialogue, not just bi-national between Mexico and the US, but in relation to Americas in the whole.”

Born in Mexico City in 1964, he moved to Southern California in about 1990, and this dual identity as a Mexican, but also as a Mexican-American, is a focal point in his work.  (Even before moving North, he had an affinity for the US national pastime as he notes in his bio: “After giving up the dream of playing baseball in the major leagues he decided to study art,” and he can often be seen wearing a Dodgers jersey and ubiquitous L.A.-baseball hat).

See Rubén Ortiz-Torres’ “La Zamba del Chevy” in action. This video comes courtesy of L.A. Freewaves and was produced in 2002 for “Inter-State: Video on the Go,” which follows three other artists in L.A. His parents were fairly well-known folk musicians, but living in the dense urban metropolis of Mexico City, he had a hard time connecting to their brand of indigenism, gravitating more to gritty punk rock, which still surfaces in his work. Still, he included a remix of a popular song written by his father, “La Zamba del Che” written in 1967 after the death of Che Guevara, in his 2000 work “La Zamba del Chevy,” which picks up on the irony of Guevara’s love for the archetypal American automobile.

As a young artist in the 80s, Ortiz-Torres was never content to stick with one style, his work changing so rapidly that curators were often left befuddled.

“My work has always been very eclectic,” he notes. “They would come to my studio and say, ‘Let’s do a show but let’s see how your work evolves.’ So we had a meeting six months after that, and they said, “But the work is different, we like the old work.’ It’s like, ‘Well now I’m doing this.’”

Ortiz-Torres was a peer of several of the artists who would go on to international recognition in the 90s like Gabriel Orozco, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Carlos Amorales, and Gabriel Kuri (he was actually high school classmates with Orozco), however, he left for LA just as Mexico’s contemporary art scene was exploding.

“Through an accident of destiny I met the filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke [director of “Twilight”],” he recalls. “She says, ‘come to Los Angeles, go to CalArts.’”

After applying, Ortiz-Torres was accepted to CalArts but lacked the funds to pay for tuition, which he solved by landing a grant to cover expenses.

“Once I got the grant they said, ‘You can go to New York or Chicago or wherever,’ but for me, it was like a reality check. The things I was dealing with in Mexico City would make sense in LA somehow,” he says. “Also if everything goes bad I can go to Tijuana in a couple of hours.”

The things he was dealing with were directly related to the hybridity, mutability and messiness of culture, of how to convey the breadth of the Mexican experience without essentializing it.

“What I saw as this big conflict for Mexican culture at large was how can you be modern and contemporary and yet negotiate with local and specific cultural traditions?” he says. “In the history of Mexican Art, what you really see is this schizophrenic pendulum of conflict. You either have nationalism, like Rivera, the Mexican School, where you have to look at our indigenous cultures, and resist European cultural colonialism, or the rejection of that nationalism, which says we’re part of the rest of the world, we’re part of the international community.”

In Los Angeles, he found an ideal expression of this creative conflict in the quintessentially SoCal phenomenon of the customized Lowrider car show.

Rubén Ortiz-Torres. Alien Toy (La Ranfla Cósmica), 1997 | Collection of Tom Patchett, courtesy of Track 16, Los Angeles
Rubén Ortiz-Torres. Alien Toy (La Ranfla Cósmica), 1997 | Collection of Tom Patchett, courtesy of Track 16, Los Angeles

“The car show is obviously modernistic, but at the same time, it has all this other stuff. At CalArts, they kept talking about multiculturalism, as this theoretical thing, and about interdisciplinarity, and I thought, ‘What the hell are these things? Are they sculptures, are they performances? The painting is fantastic.’” He recalls. “It was dangerous. You would go to the car shows and there would be shootings. One kid got stabbed with a trophy.”

Fittingly, the car shows in L.A. were not Ortiz-Torres’ first experience with Lowrider culture. As a child, he had gone to Michoacan with his grandfather to celebrate Christmas, and it was there that he saw his first Lowrider, a Southern California export presumably driven down by a Mexican-American to Mexico.

He began making works based on Lowrider customization, the most well-known of which is “Alien Toy” (1997), a border patrol truck that breaks apart and mutates into a dancing robot. As with many of his car creations, this was a collaboration with Salvador Muñoz, a self-taught Lowrider artist who regularly competes in car shows. “He’s originally from Jalisco, so he has kind of an outsider interpretation of Lowriders, which is itself an interpretation of hot rod car culture, which is already an outsider interpretation of cars,” Ortiz-Torres notes.

Alien Toy is currently on view in “Mundos Alternos,” dancing for the first time in many years at the opening. “Rubén’s work has historically been rife with humor and parody,” says Hernandez, the show’s co-curator. “One way he comments on our social reality is through the guise of the alien. Himself, a resident alien, riffing on that in a number of ways, juxtaposing literal green men with INS raids.”

In addition to the inclusion of his own work in PST:LA/LA, Ortiz-Torres also co-curated “How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney” on view at the MAK Center and the Luckman Fine Arts Complex. Taking its title from “How to Read Donald Duck,” a 1971 Chilean book that applies a Marxist critique to Disney’s exportation of American culture, the two-venue exhibition features artists throughout the Americas who reflect this critique with irony and humor. Several works meld familiar images of Disney characters like Mickey Mouse with figures of Aztec or Mayan deities. For Ortiz-Torres, this relationship has a special significance here in California, Disney’s home. “The conflict that we pay a lot of attention to is between pre-Columbian culture, indigenisms, and modernisms, which in California has always existed. The Annenbergs and other collectors in California collected both at the same time.”

Donald Duck by Sergio Allevato and Mickey by Dr. Lakra
“Donald Duck” by Sergio Allevato (Courtesy of Collection Gilberto Chateaubriand MAM RJ) and “Mickey” by Dr. Lakra (Courtesy of Vanessa Branson ).

Ortiz-Torres’ most recent work is on view in “White Washed America,” at Royale Projects in downtown L.A. Featuring glistening, abstract paintings made with urethane and metallic paints, the show brings together several themes that he has explored over the years: car culture, punk rock, minimalism and American identity — in both the national and hemispheric sense. “Black Flag” (2014), comprised of four shiny, black rectangular panels — two hung and two leaning against the wall — succinctly captures it all, referencing both the L.A. punk band’s iconic logo designed by Raymond Pettibon, as well as the “Finish Fetish” school of mid-century California minimalism. “El Grito (The Scream)” (2014) is part painting, part performance, a radiant orange work that changes color once the viewer screams at it. Incorporating thermochromatic paint and unseen electronics, it is a technological mutation of El Grito, the Mexican cry of Independence.

Ruben Ortiz-Torres. Black Flag, 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects
Rubén Ortiz-Torres. Black Flag, 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects
Ruben Ortiz-Torres. White Washed America (America blanqueada), 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects
Rubén Ortiz-Torres. A detail of “White Washed America (America blanqueada),” 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects

“Plata o Plomo (Silver or Lead)” (2017), is an expressionistic, metallic composition inspired by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s phrase outlining the two ways to accomplish your goals:  “Plata o Plomo,” bullets or bribery. The work takes on a grim significance considering the U.S.’s current situation of overwhelming violence and corruption.

One of the only representational works in the show, “White Washed America” (2014) recreates “América Tropical,” a 1932 mural by famed Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros commissioned for Olvera Street in downtown LA. Depicting a crucified indigenous peasant, the controversial work was whitewashed shortly after completion, only recently being uncovered and restored. Ortiz-Torres’ version is rendered in chromaluscent pearl paint, a glowing, ghostly image that one must struggle to ascertain. He excavates this important artifact, only to obscure it again beneath additional cultural and artistic layers. In many ways, Ortiz-Torres is not interested in answering the question, “What is Latin American or Latino Art?”, but in further complicating the conversation.

“It seems that for us in America, we don’t really know how to locate ourselves, especially when it comes to constructing identity,” he explains. “This is something that unifies the whole continent. Even Jackson Pollock, where is he gonna draw from, Native American sand paintings or the history of Western art? He doesn’t know. It’s a real cultural dilemma. For Frank Lloyd Wright too. ‘Do I refer to the Greeks or the Mayans? At some point, he realizes they are both are valid, that the Greeks are not necessarily the default. They might be as alien to him as the Mayans.”

Ruben Ortiz-Torres. Shopper Hopper, 2016 and El grito (The Scream), 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects
Rubén Ortiz-Torres. Shopper Hopper, 2016 and El grito (The Scream), 2014 | Courtesy of Royale Projects

Top Image: Rubén Ortiz-Torres. La jaula de oro (Gilded Cage), 2017 | Courtesy of Royale Projects.

New Book: Cine-Mexicans by Roberto Avant-Mier and Michael Lechuga

Cine-Mexicans is about the cinematic representations of “Mexicans” in US American film. By tracking the history of cinematic representations of “Mexicans” in the US, Cine-Mexicans also tracks the notable developments in the Chicano/ a experience and comments on the relationship between the USA and Mexico, between US culture and Mexican/Chicano culture, between US Americans and Mexican-Americans (and/or “Chicano/as”), and even Mexican nationals and immigrants. This book also doubles as an instructive look at the history of cinematic representations of “Mexicans in US/Hollywood movies as an introduction to the development of Chicano/a-themed feature films in which Mexican-Americans (“Chicanos” and “Chicanas”) sought to make their own films, for their own audiences, as a response to mainstream cinematic representations of Mexicans. Cine-Mexicans is an introductory text that highlights major cultural and political issues affecting Chicano/a communities that are portrayed in cinema/film, so it can be used for classes in: “Chicano Cinema,” “Mexican-American Cinema,” “Mexican Cinema,” “Borderlands Cinema,” “Ethnicity/Race in Media” or even issues in “Latino/a,” “Latin American,” or “Hispanic” cinema.

‘Bridges in a Time of Walls’ Brings Chicano Art to Mexico City

See original post by Samanta Helou Hernandez for KCET here:

Es arte Chicano,” explains a mother to her young daughter, “de gente Mexicana que vive en Estados Unidos.” (“It’s Chicano art, from Mexican people who live in the United States.”) The little girl has an awestruck expression as she walks up the winding path of Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil. The pair stops to observe mural-sized paintings, sculptures and colorful installations, all made by Mexican-American and Chicano artists from Southern California.

“Bridges in a Time of Walls: Mexican/Chicano Art from Los Angeles to Mexico” is a wide-ranging, multigenerational and rare exhibit of Chicano artwork in Mexico’s capital on view until November 25, 2018. The exhibit, organized thematically rather than chronically, with work from artists like Patssi Valdez, Carlos Almaraz and Patrick Martinez, among many others, seeks to complicate the narrative and challenge misconceptions of what Chicano art is while contributing to a much-needed dialogue between Mexico City and Southern California.

“You have a group of people who are born with Mexican heritage who have chosen to explore themes to help them and others understand that they are more than just Mexican and more than just American,” explains Julian Bermudez, the exhibition curator.

Despite the violent rhetoric around immigration in the United States, 36.3 million people in this country identify as being full or of partial Mexican ancestry. It’s hard to find a person in Mexico who doesn’t have a relative or friend that immigrated to the United States. This makes understanding the conditions of Mexican-Americans and Chicanos that much more critical; and art is a poignant vehicle to do so.

“Mexico City is a significant art center, and there’s a significant exchange with New York. The same doesn’t necessarily happen with Chicano art,” explains Chon Noriega, a professor of Chicano studies at UCLA, curator, and contributor to the exhibition’s catalog. “It’s an important dialogue to have between Mexico City and Los Angeles.”

"MacArthur Park, the Arrest of the Taco wagon, an Attack on Culture" 2010 by Frank Romero and "Paleta Cart," 2004 by Gary Garay | Samanta Helou Hernandez
“MacArthur Park, the Arrest of the Taco wagon, an Attack on Culture” 2010 by Frank Romero and “Paleta Cart,” 2004 by Gary Garay | Samanta Helou Hernandez


“Bridges in Times of Walls” is a collaboration between the Mexican government’s cultural department and AltaMed Health Services — the United States’ largest federally-qualified health center, which also boasts an extensive collection of over a thousand pieces of art, many of which are by Chicano artists. The idea of inaugurating a Chicano art show in Mexico City came about after the overwhelmingly positive reception of “Before the 45th: Action/Reaction in Chicano and Latino Art,” an exhibit at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. by AltaMed.

Walking up the ramps of the museum, visitors are greeted with a bilingual text introduction detailing the experiences of Chicanos in the United States and the art created in response. Eighty-eight pieces of art take up the third floor. The glow of a liquor store-like neon sign with the phrase “Brown Owned” by Los Angeles artist Patrick Martinez fills the right side of the room, its words cleverly celebrating everyday imagery we take for granted. Photographs of performance art by the avant-garde 1970s collective Asco follows soon after. Proceeding in a circular fashion, the exhibition is thematically divided into five sections: Rebel Diamonds from the Sun, Imagining Paradise, Outsiders in their Own Home, Mapping Identity and Cruising the Hyphenate.

"America is for Dreamers" 2016-2017 by Patrick Martinez | Samanta Helou Hernandez
“America is for Dreamers” 2016-2017 by Patrick Martinez | Samanta Helou Hernandez

“Rebel Diamonds in the Sun” serves as an introductory section to the inception of Chicano art as a visual response to the social movements of the 1960s and 70s. The conceptual work of Asco is placed alongside the overtly political paintings of 70s Chicano art collective, Los Four. By showing a diverse set of visual and conceptual styles made from the 1970s to today, the exhibit contradicts false ideas around Chicano art as limited to one set of forms or subjects. “An exhibition like this gives an opportunity for an audience in Mexico to see a much more expanded array of art,” says Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the curator of Vincent Price Museum and an advisor on the project.

In “Imagining Paradise,” we see the way artists across generations respond to their built environment in vastly different ways. The explosive brush strokes and vibrant colors in Carlos Almaraz’s depiction of Echo Park finds itself next to Shizu Saldamando’s representational painting of a Highland Park kickback created on Japanese multi-panel rather than canvas. Saldamando celebrates everyday life in the historically Latino neighborhood while using elements that represent her own identity as a biracial woman of Mexican and Japanese descent.

"Highland Park Luau," 2006 by Shizu Saldamando | Samanta Helou Hernandez
“Highland Park Luau,” 2006 by Shizu Saldamando | Samanta Helou Hernandez

In the middle of it all is Ana Serrano’s “Cartonlandia,” a mountainous cardboard structure of colorful homes inspired by neighborhoods in Mexico. Serrano’s work conveys the ways in which Latino barrios often resist Eurocentric aesthetic standards of visually-unified neighborhoods through a liberal use of color and texture.  The multicolored neighborhood could easily be found in Mexico City, Tijuana or South Central.

Contemporary artist Ramiro Gomez places domestic workers on the pages of luxury home magazine in “Outsiders in their Own Home” conveying the experience of being ni de aqui ni de alla, (neither from here nor there,) of not being fully embraced by Americans or Mexicans. By re-imagining photographs of perfectly manicured backyards and clean homes, we are confronted with the often forgotten labor behind these realities.

Visitor views Ana Serrano's "Cartonlandia," 2008 | Samanta Helou Hernandez
Visitor views Ana Serrano’s “Cartonlandia,” 2008 | Samanta Helou Hernandez
"A Lunchtime Conversation," 2015 by Ramiro Gomez | Samanta Helou Hernandez
“A Lunchtime Conversation,” 2015 by Ramiro Gomez | Samanta Helou Hernandez

Performance artist Gabriela Ruiz, also known as Leather Papi, created a monochromatic room of re-imagined furniture found during her excursions of through Mexico City’s streets. By giving these disposed objects new life, Ruiz questions her own relationship to the idea of home in “Mapping Identity.” Artists in this section created work that explored questions around belonging, sexuality, gender and immigration.

“Today it really is more about one’s own perception of self,” explains Tompkins Rivas. Artists in this section looked inward to create work that explores questions around belonging, sexuality, gender and immigration. “Historically there’s been a tendency and need to make the term [Chicano Art] mean one thing or a movement of specific images that came out of maybe only muralism or printmaking. While those are important, art production is so much more complex than that,” explains Tompkins Rivas.

As the circle comes to an end, “Cruising the Hyphenate” uses the metaphor of a car to show the in-betweeness of Chicano identity while celebrating an object (the car) that has a vast cultural relevance for Chicanos in Los Angeles. That the exhibition physically comes full circle is a reflection of its non-linear curation but also of the non-linear nature and evolution of Chicano cultural production.

Through various conversations with Mexicans in Mexico City viewing the artwork, it was apparent that stereotypes are still persistent. Many mentioned films like “Blood in Blood Out” as their introduction to the idea of a Chicano, while others described the art of cholos as their only exposure to Chicano art. Yet, all were pleasantly surprised to see the scope of artistic production by Chicanos ranging from sculpture, surrealism, realism, performance, video, conceptual art and beyond. “What impresses me is the great diversity of the exhibit and an array of artwork that still preserves a Mexican essence,” describes one attendee in Spanish.

Whether it’s through questioning alienation, migration, environment, politics, sexuality or gender, each artist, across different time periods engages with their identity in myriad ways. Ultimately, it exposes Mexicans in Mexico to sides of the Chicano and Mexican-American experience that they otherwise might not have seen. Throughout the opening weekend, curators and art workers from both sides of the border reiterated the importance of understanding the shared experiences between Chicanos and Mexicans, especially during a time where the livelihoods of Mexicans in the United States are in constant threat. They stressed in Spanish and English that, “la cultura no tiene fronteras,” (“culture has no borders.”)

New Book: They Call Me Güero by David Bowles

Check out this new book by David Bowles with AMAZING illustrations by Zeke Peña.


Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He’s starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool.

In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd—reader, gamer, musician—who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails.

But trusting in his family’s traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart.

DAVID BOWLES grew up and lives in the Río Grande Valley of South Texas. A many-faceted writer and scholar, he’s the author of Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico.His middle-grade fantasy The Smoking Mirror was selected as a 2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor by the American Library Association.

New book: The Translational Turn: Latinx Literature into the Mainstream by Marta E. Sanchez

Coming in January 2019…

No contemporary development underscores the transnational linkage between the United States and Spanish-language América today more than the wave of in-migration from Spanish-language countries during the 1980s and 1990s.  This development, among others, has made clear what has always been true, that the United States is part of Spanish-language América.  Translation and oral communication from Spanish to English have been constant phenomena since before the annexation of the Mexican Southwest in 1848. The expanding number of counter-national translations from English to Spanish of Latinx fictional narratives by mainstream presses between the 1990s and 2010 is an indication of significant change in the relationship.  A Translational Turn explores both the historical reality of Spanish to English translation and the “new” counter-national English to Spanish translation of Latinx narratives.  More than theorizing about translation, this book underscores long-standing contact, such as code-mixing and bi-multilingualism, between the two languages in U.S. language and culture.  Although some political groups in this country persist in seeing and representing this country as having a single national tongue and community, the linguistic ecology of both major cities and the suburban periphery, here and in the global world, is bilingualism and multilingualism.

Marta E. Sánchez is professor emerita of Chicano and Latino literature at University of California San Diego and Arizona State University.

Information pulled from:

Who Was Jovita Idár, the Radical Muckraking Mexican-American Journalist?

Marilyn La Jeunesse wrote this for Teen Vogue. Check it out here:

Educate a woman and you educate a family.” These are the words that defined Jovita Idár’s lifelong pursuit of civil rights for Mexican-Americans. Though you may not find her name in your average U.S.-history textbook, Idár’s impact on the early Chicanx movement should not be forgotten.

Long before César Chávez and “Corky” Gonzales, Idár was dismantling the systematic racism and oppression of the Chicanx community through her work at the Spanish-language newspaper La Crónica. Following in the footsteps of her activist father, Nicasio Idár, she dedicated her life to promoting the progress of Mexican-Americans through her work.

According to Dr. Gabriela González, the author of Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights, there were two major events that shaped Jovita Idár’s activism in her early 20s. First, there was the segregation and impoverished nature of schools for Mexican-American students that Idár had witnessed firsthand as a former teacher. Idár believed education was the foundation for a better future, Dr. González tells Teen Vogue. The young activist had been teaching since she was 18, and, after seeing the deplorable state of education provided to Mexican-American students, committed herself to ending segregation and increasing educational opportunities for Mexican-American students however she could.

“Idár encouraged ethnic-Mexican communities to pull their resources together for the establishment of escuelitas, schools where ethnic- Mexican children would be provided with Spanish and/or bilingual instruction by ethnic-Mexican teachers,” Dr. González says. “In escuelitas, ethnic-Mexican children received better treatment than they would have in the Texas public school system, which saw them as inferior and therefore segregated them from Anglo-Texan children.”

The second major event that influenced Idár’s activism was the lynching of ethnic-Mexican men in South Texas during the early 20th century, Dr. González explains. During this time, racial tensions in Texas were at a breaking point, with white community members attacking, brutalizing, and killing Tejanx people. Idár covered many of these injustices for La Crónica and eventually El Progreso, and was threatened for her journalistic work. Despite threats from the police, Idár used the racism around her as fuel to further her cause.

“She joined her father, Nicasio, and brother Clemente, as well as other family members, associates, and friends in an organized transborder human rights congress known as the First Mexicanist Congress, in 1911,” Dr. Gonzáles says. “This congress addressed issues of civil rights, cultural retention, and education, in addition to the violence directed at ethnic-Mexicans.”

In October 1911, Idár founded La Liga Feminil Mexicaista, known in English as the League of Mexican Women. Idár acted as president for the feminist organization and made the education of Mexican-American students a priority.

“Attracting other middle-class women with teaching backgrounds, the League concentrated on providing free instruction to ethnic-Mexican children, plus sought to alleviate some of the material needs of their working-class families.” Dr. González explains. “Poverty plagued the lives of many of the people she sought to help. [She hoped providing] free educational services to ethnic-Mexican schoolchildren would help them transcend poverty.”

Rori! 💖😈💙@RoriComics

Day 77: Jovita Idár—worked for Mex-Amer rights & education, exposed civil rights abuses 

But fighting to end the outright prejudice and racist violence in Texas at this time meant taking on a system of white supremacists that weren’t afraid to shed blood. According to González, Idár found protection in her predominantly Mexican community. As a middle-class, educated woman during this time, Idár leveraged her privilege to advocate for her community’s rights and education.

“The patriarchal modern family structure that relegated middle-class women to a domestic sphere governed the lives of many women in industrializing societies in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Dr. González says. “However, like the European-American and African-American women reformers who politicized domesticity to create a public voice and forum for themselves, ethnic-Mexican women, such as Jovita Idár, also used their gendered roles to carve a place for themselves as activists working to help their communities combat injustices.”

Idár continued to advocate for Mexican-American civil rights for the rest of her life. In 1913, she aided the Mexican Revolution by acting as a nurse for injured revolutionaries. Four years later, Idár and her husband moved to San Antonio, where she became an active member in the Democratic Party. She also started a free kindergarten, interpreted for Spanish-speaking patients at a local hospital, and continued her work as a muckraking journalist.

Her legacy isn’t written in many American history books or well known outside of Mexican-American communities, but Idár exposed some of the greatest injustices of her time, and refused to be silenced by a world that loathed who she was.

“She spoke of the right of women to be educated and, in at least one instance, she spoke about the right to vote,” Dr. González says. “Her life record reveals a passionate woman who placed herself constantly in very public arenas, battling for social justice issues. This was not a woman who stayed home to watch the world pass her by.”

And thankfully so. In many ways, Idár’s early activism helped shape the 1960s Chicanx movement. She was a feminist and a Tejanx dedicated to changing the world. The world didn’t change much while Idár was alive, as violence and racial prejudice against Mexicans continued and the Latinx community wouldn’t get equal voting rights until 1975. Nevertheless, Idár’s actions during the early 1900s had long-lasting effects on the Mexican-American and Latinx communities in the U.S. and should never be forgotten.

New Book: The Fight For Time: Migrant Day Laborers and the Politics of Precarity by Paul Apostolidis

You can pre-order the book here:

In today’s precarious world, working people’s experiences are strangely becoming more alike even as their disparities sharpen. The Fight for Time explores the logic behind this paradox by listening to what Latino day laborers say about work and society. The book shows how migrant laborers are both exception and synecdoche in relation to the precarious conditions of contemporary work life. As unauthorized migrants, these workers are subjected to extraordinarily harsh treatment – yet in startling ways, they also epitomize struggles that apply throughout the economy. Juxtaposing day laborers’ descriptions of their desperate circumstances and dangerous work with theoretical accounts of the forces fueling insecurity, The Fight for Time illuminates the temporal contradictions that define precarity today. The book taps the core intellectual current among day labor groups – Paulo Freire’s popular-education theory – to craft an original “critical-popular” approach for understanding the points of connection between the ways that day laborers view their lives and scholarly analysis of precarious work-life writ large. The result is a temporally attuned and politically bracing perspective on neoliberal crises, the work ethic in the era of affective and digital labor, the intensifying racial governance of public spaces, the burgeoning deportation regime, and the growth of occupational safety and health hazards. The accounts of the day laborers in this book are rich with potential to catalyze social critique among migrant workers – and clarify the terms on which mass-scale opposition to precarity can occur. Such opposition would demand restoration of workers’ stolen time, engage in a fight for the city, challenge the conditions under which aversion to financial risk puts workers into physical danger, and foment the refusal of work. We can look to the urban worker centers where this radically democratic politics of precarity is taking root to understand what types of organizations have the potential to wage the fight for time and enable broad mobilization in the face of precarity: worker centers for all working people.