NALAC: Presa House Gallery on May 3rd

Friday, May 3, 2019


Presa House Gallery

May 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), the legacy service organization dedicated to providing opportunities and empowering Latinx artists and art organizations across the United States, Puerto Rico, Central America and Mexico. In honor of this important milestone, Presa House Gallery is proud to present A Common Vision, an exhibition featuring a selection of 16 Nalaquistas who are alumni of the NALAC Leadership Program or recipients of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Award. The opening reception will be held on First Friday, May 3rd from 6:00 to 11:00 PM, and on view by appointment through May 31, 2019.

The exhibition brings together a cross-section of various media including, drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, photography, collage, and video. Many of the works address themes of self-exploration, cultural identity, race, history, and socio-economic issues.

Exhibiting artists include: Fernando Andrade, Rolando Briseno, Jenelle Esparza, Anel Flores, Adriana M J Garcia, Raul Gonzalez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Suzy González, Mari Hernandez, Veronica Jaeger, Michael Menchaca, Jesse Ruiz, Ray Santisteban, Luis Valderas, Debora Kuetzpal Vasquez and Guillermina Zabala

About National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts and culture field. Founded in 1989 on the Westside of San Antonio, NALAC was born from a common vision shared by a group of Latinx arts leaders who recognized the need for advocacy to improve conditions for an under-capitalized Latino artistic community. Since its founding NALAC has awarded 2.8 million dollars in support of over 200,000 U.S Latino artists and cultural workers and organizations and has delivered programs that stabilize and energize the U.S. Latino arts and cultural sector throughout the nation.


Exhibit on US Latina ‘cholas’ opens in Albuquerque

Check out this article on a new exhibit in Albuquerque written by Russell Contreras for the Sentinel:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A national Hispanic center is displaying a unique art exhibit on the chola — the working class, Mexican-American urban female often associated with gangs.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque opened the “Que Chola Exhibition” on Friday with pieces by artists from New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, and Colorado.

The displays feature the evolution of the chola from the World War II-era to the contemporary figure trying to survive in poor neighborhoods. Using paintings, photography and sculptures, the exhibit attempts to cover images of the chola as an urban warrior, a mentor, a mother and political figure.

Cholas, or homegirls, often refers to a particular Latina subculture in the U.S. characterized by a tough demeanor and distinctive style. They are identified by their clothing ranging from flannel shirts and khaki pants to their dark eye makeup and indigenous-theme tattoos.

The image of the chola gained popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s with movies like “Colors” and “Mi Vida Loca” (My Crazy Life).

In recent years, scholars have countered that the chola represents more than just gang activity. Latina scholars have argued that the chola’s image is a commentary of poverty in urban U.S. cities and symbolized a working-class Latina seeking to battle sexism.

Some Latina academics have playfully said on social media that “you can’t spell scholar without the word ‘CHOLA’.”

Curator Jadira Gurule said she agreed that the chola is more than a so-called dangerous female gang member linked to criminal activity. For many Latinas, Gurule said the chola also represents strength and perseverance.

“Many within our communities either were, or admired and wanted to emulate, the chola growing up,” Gurule said. “She also represents real people with real experiences. The chola is a persona developed in response to racism and sexism. To reduce her to a gang member is shallow.”

Pola Lopez, a Las Vegas, New Mexico, born artist who now lives in Los Angeles, said she was excited when she was asked to participate in the exhibit. “The chola…you can’t mess with her,” said Lopez. “She’s beautiful and represents us in many ways.”

Her painting, “Coatlicue and Chola,” features a homegirl leaning against a statue of an Aztec goddess.

Nanibah Chacon, a Navajo and Hispanic artist from Arizona, said she wanted to create an image of a chola if she had been represented in midcentury advertisements. Her painting, “Xicana Classic,” depicts a chola from the 1970s sitting on a red circle and smiling with confidence.

The exhibit, which runs until Aug. 4, is the latest attempt to create a new image around the chola and expand her meaning.

The Los Angeles-based gang intervention group Homeboy Industries, for example, sells clothing designed by former cholas and runs Homegirl Cafe — a restaurant with food prepared by former gang members gaining new skills. The hip cafe is an offshoot of social enterprises founded by Jesuit priest Greg Boyle.

And Art Laboe, a 93-year-old DJ based in Palm Springs, California, allows cholas every Sunday on his syndicated oldies show “The Art Laboe Connection Show” to call in and give dedications to their loved ones serving time in prison. Scholars and activists say the radio show helps humanize cholas since it allows listeners to hear cholas express emotions of love and pain.


Associated Press Writer Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at


This story corrects a previous version with the quote “you can’t spell scholar without the word ‘CHOLA’.”

April 6th: San Antonio Book Fair

Now’s not a bad time to play a trip to San Antonio. And if you’re there on April 6th, make sure you stop by the free book fair! The lineup features Carmen Tafolla, Meg Medina, Julissa Arce, David Bowles, Oscar Cásares, Reyna Grande, Jean Guerrero, and I could go on and on. Shoot, check out the list right here!

What a great way to spend the day talking books and meeting authors!

The 7th annual San Antonio Book Festival will take place on April 6, 2019 at the Central Library (600 Soledad) and Southwest School of Art in beautiful downtown San Antonio. The Festival runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

March 15-16: The Latino Comics Expo hits Modesto, CA!

THE LATINO COMICS EXPO comes to Modesto Junior College, courtesy of MJC Literature and Language Arts & ASMJC. The nation’s premiere Latinx comics convention will host an exhibitor hall and a variety of panels and workshops celebrating Latinx creators in comics, animation, design, illustration and more!

Admission is free and open to the public. Free parking.

Where!? Modesto Junior College West Campus

2201 Blue Gum Ave, Modesto, CA 95358

Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice

Malvern Books in Austin is hosting a very special event on Friday, March 8th from 7-8 pm. Get more information here:


In the interview series Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice, emerging and established writers and artists talk with host Chaitali Sen about the power of words and the role of art in reflecting and changing our world. This month’s guest is Monica Muñoz Martinez.

Monica Muñoz Martinez is the Stanley J. Bernstein Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University and an Andrew Carnegie fellow. She an award-winning author, educator, and public historian. Her research specializes in histories of violence, policing on the US-Mexico border, Latinx history, women and gender studies, and public humanities. Her first book The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas (Harvard University Press, Sept 2018) is a moving account of a little-known period of state-sponsored racial terror inflicted on ethnic Mexicans in the Texas–Mexico borderlands. She is currently at work on Mapping Violence, a digital research project that recovers histories of racial violence in Texas between 1900 and 1930. Martinez is also a founding member of the non-profit organization Refusing to Forget that calls for public commemorations of anti-Mexican violence in Texas. Born and raised in Uvalde, Texas, Martinez received her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

Chaitali Sen is a writer and educator based in Austin, Texas. She is the author of the novel The Pathless Sky, and numerous stories and essays which have appeared or are forthcoming in Catapult, Colorado Review, Ecotone, LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, New England Review, New Ohio Review, and other journals. She is the founder of the interview series Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice.

* A note on parking: Our landlord has requested that we ask everyone to please only use the store parking lot for attending events at Malvern Books and stores within the Park Plaza Shopping Center. Unfortunately, if you leave your car before or after an event (if you park out front with the intention of getting a meal across the road before attending an event here, for instance), there’s a chance your car could be towed or booted, and we’d hate for that to happen! If parking is unavailable in the store parking lot, please use residential streets. Or, for evening events, you can park at Breed Hardware, 718 W. 29th Street, when they’re closed (they close at 7pm Mon – Fri). *

Creative Writing Program Needs More Latinos

Originally written by Tony Diaz for Latino Rebels:


The University of Houston Creative Writing Program recently received an anonymous multimillion dollar gift to “celebrate the college’s commitment to community engagement through the Creative Writing Program” and “help attract and retain top scholars, particularly in creative writing.”

I was the first Chicano to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the UH Creative Writing Program (UH CWP). I graduate in 1994. I have been writing about this lately as I quantify, cultivate, and accelerate our Community’s Cultural Capital. That’s my new project.

I received a Houston Arts Alliance Individual Artist Grant to complete a folio on the topic. I’ll also be giving five talks about Cultural Capital throughout the city.

This will be part of that.

I am excited to not only write about the structural barriers in the way of our Community’s growth, but I am also thrilled to see those barriers overcome through the collective action of our gente. I’ve seen it. I’ve led it. I’ve been surrounded by folks who make it happen.

Policy change is the tip of the pyramid, and our Community’s Cultural Capital is the base.

Mexican Americans have directly experienced the power of cultural capital through two potent examples.

  1. In 2017, the Chicana/Chicano community overturned the banning of Mexican American Studies in Arizona.
  2. In 2018, Chicanas and Chicanos advocated and succeeded in getting Mexican American Studies endorsed statewide by the Texas State Board of Education.

I want to break down what transpired, not just for posterity, but also as a guide for our community to understand its power in order to quantify, cultivate, and accelerate it. I am focusing on Houston because we are one of the most powerful cities in terms of Cultural Capital. However, Houston is not fully aware of that and is not acting like the national leader for Latino Art. That is about to change.

I came to Houston to become a writer. When I first arrived, I was stunned to find out I might be the first Mexican American to earn an MFA from the UH Creative Writing Program. After all, it’s located in occupied Mexico.  Why in the world would they need to import Mexicans from Chicago when they had plenty already?

There are actually a lot of structural reasons why, but as a Cultural Accelerator, I’m going to skip to some solutions. I address everything in between in my writing, and on my blog “The Cultural Accelerator” with updates every Tuesday at 2 at I will get to all the nuances along the way.

This is not just about money. I’m glad the UH CWP has money to invest in our Community’s Cultural Capital, but money alone won’t change anything. It will also take a new way of imagining and engaging our Community. There must be a fair exchange of cultural capital with our Community.

An example of this is one of the most incredible “want ads” I have ever seen. The Department of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Davis is conducting a search for an assistant professor. Two lines in the job description address and solve many structural issues:

“The department seeks scholars with a strong community-based and social justice practice and inter/transdisciplinary methodologies that are engaged in critical, liberatory, decolonial and radical pedagogies. Candidates whose work is community engaged praxis.”

If those lines don’t capture your imagination it may take a few more essays, you may have to attend some of my talks, or we may have to set up a workshop just for you. And yes, that is in California, but I can begin to translate that for Texas through specific steps that Houston can take to structurally changes the playing field.

Of course, the UH Creative Writing Program, like just about all academic institutions, needs more Latinx professors which lead to more Latina and Latino students.

Here are four steps to achieve that:

  1. Consult with the Community on who to hire.  We know people. We can also save you from hiring the wrong person.
  2. Hire a Latina or Latino from Texas, who knows our community. It takes 3 to five years to earn an MFA. It takes several years to get your books published, and still, none of that informs even a brilliant artist about the heart, soul, and mind of our Community. That too can take years.
  3. Accept more students from Texas, from Houston, and from your own Creative Writing Undergraduate program. There’s this myth that says students should not attend the same program for graduate school as they attended for undergraduate. UH is Hispanic serving institution. Houston is over 43% Latino. Houston is one of the largest pools for Latinx talent in the nation. It makes no sense to eliminate Houstonians from any applicant pool.
  4. Get more of your Latinx undergraduate and graduate students published. Since I have attended the UH CWP more Latinx students have completed the program. I should point out that the nonprofit I founded Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say has cultivated more Latinos with master’s degrees than UH; however, the UH CWP is poised to really groom its students to get published and get jobs. When I was in the program, it was a sin to talk about actually making a living at writing. That should be fundamental, and this is within the grasp of The Program.

Really, the CWP needs more Texans, more Latinos, more African American, more Native American, and more Asian students, which can all be pooled and developed from UH. After all, those students are taking creative writing courses from UH CWP graduate students. That should make them good enough writers to get into the very same graduate program they are studying from, right? If not, perhaps that’s a problem for a future essay.

I write about the nuances of each of these suggestions in other essays, but, as a Cultural Accelerator, I’m going to provide you with some examples of Chicana and Chicano authors who epitomize the possibilities.

MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Sandra Cisneros is internationally known for her work ranging from House on Mango Street to Women Hollering Creek, which are so potent that they were banned since they were part of the Mexican American Studies curriculum once prohibited in Arizona. But not everyone knows how much she has done to help Latinx and multicultural writers. Over 20 years ago she founded The Macondo Writers Workshop. She put her own time and energy into cultivating this program that thinks and works like our Community in response to her experience at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Through Macondo, Sandra has helped writers get book deals, finish writing projects, get agents, create social justice projects, and inspire each other, and so much more. She did this harnessing her own and our Community’s Cultural Capital.


Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb is world-renowned for his books, including The Magic of Blood and The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña, which were also contraband texts forming part of the Mexican American Studies curriculum that was so powerful that Arizona officials once banned it. He is also the founder of El Centro at UH-Victoria, where he also founded the literary journal Huizache. He’s also edited major anthologies of Mexican American fiction Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature and The Anthology of Mexican American Literature from Bedford/St. Martin press.

But UH-Victoria is an undergraduate program, and even though it is a Hispanic serving institution, UH-Victoria is much smaller than Houston-home of the state’s largest base for Cultural Capital. However, Gilb has still been able to help our Community make great strides through teaching jobs for his former students, publications for his proteges, and Huizache is the leading literary in the journal in the nation and it focuses on Latino and multicultural writers. By the way, they also publish White writers. They have an excellent affirmative action program.

Both of these writers are from our Community and know our Community. They create, publish, and work adhering to the the vision and values of our Community. And they have both done this outside the mainstream Creative Writing system.

Likewise, my nonprofit, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say turns 21 this April. I founded it because Houston did not have a regular Latino reading series at the time. We had not funding, and people, including other Latinos, told us there was no interest in Latino Lit, and there were not enough writers to showcase. We did not listen.

We organized the largest book fairs in Houston, which rivaled the state supported Texas Book Festival.

We have cultivated over a dozen Latinos with master’s degrees in writing. That’s more than the UH Creative Program.

We were the base for the Librotraficante movement which joined a national movement to keep Arizona’s ban of Mexican American studies in check, and spearheaded Texas’s endorsement of MAS statewide.

We have changed the landscape of Houston’s literary scene.

Again, these examples all took place outside of the mainstream. Imagine what the UH CWP can accomplish if it forms a brilliant and profound collaboration with our Community, adhering to our vision and values.

Houston is going to become the national leader for delivering our Community’s Art and Cultural Capital. I hope the UH CWP will be part of it.


Anyone near UCLA? This might be worth checking out!

Event Date:
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 –

4:00pm to 4:45pm
Event Location:
CSRC Library – 144 Haines Hall

Join Los Angeles-based Chicana artist Sandy Rodriguez for a talk about “Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón,” a series of bioregional maps and paintings she created addressing the intersection of history, color, medicine, and culture in a 16th century ethnographic research study in Mesoamerica by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún. Rodriguez will discuss how she arrived at this body of work, including the role of field study, research, politics, botany, chemistry, interdisciplinary collaborations, civic engagements, and art history in her practice.

A related limited-edition catalog with contributions by Charlene Villaseñor Black, Ella Diaz and Ananda Cohen-Aponte, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, and Todd Wingate will be available for purchase.

This event is organized by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

This event is free and open to the public.

Arte Público Press Receives Prestigious National Literary Award

Written by Toni Mooney Smith for U. of Houston:


The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has announced that Arte Público Press, the nation’s largest publisher of U.S.-based Hispanic authors, has received the prestigious Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award is given annually to a person or institution with an extensive history of significant contributions to book culture.

“The award comes as a total surprise because it typically goes to authors,” said Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, founder and director of Arte Público Press. “This recognition will help us amplify voices in Latino literature throughout the United States.”

The National Book Critics Circle Awards, considered among the most respected literary awards in America. Past recipients include Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison.

“The University of Houston has given Arte Público Press an intellectual space in which to create and thrive, and has provided Latinos the opportunity to make a nationwide cultural imprint through literature,” said Dr. Kanellos. “I am proud that the Arte Público Press staff continues to strive for literary excellence. We labor not for our own recognition, but for the benefit of the authors we publish. Our mission to create a space for Latinos in the national culture guides us forward.”

Dr. Kanellos founded Arte Público Press in 1979, and the press has published over 600 books in English and Spanish in its 40-year history.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Kanellos,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “This initiative is one of many that demonstrates how the University of Houston relates to its community. We are proud to be recognized as a designated Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.”

Arte Público Press’ Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, now in its 27th year, is the first nationally coordinated attempt to recover literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Arte Público also indexes and publishes lost Latino writings from the American colonial period through 1960.

“I am especially excited about this national literary award presented to Arte Público Press,” said Dr. Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “As the M.D. Anderson Professor of Hispanic Studies, I not only feel the award is well deserved, but I am also proud that it sheds light on Dr. Kanellos’ innovation. Dr. Kanellos is a true leader in bringing much-needed attention and conversation to Hispanic and Latino literature.”

The NBCC Awards will be presented on March 14 in New York City.

Breaking Barriers Latinx Youth Conference

In the event there are any youth out there…


Breaking Barriers/ Rompiendo Barreras

Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 10 AM – 6 PM

Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

600 River St, Austin, Texas 78701
Breaking Barriers Latinx Youth Conference is a day of art, music, and community dedicated to Latinx youth, presented by the teens of the ESB-MACC Caminos Teen Leadership program. On February 9th, teens will collaborate with emerging artists and cultural activists to facilitate exploration and self-expression around the theme of “breaking barriers”.

Latinx teens may face barriers including cultural sterotypes, negative self-image, gender discrimination, family structure hierarchy, as well as wider issues such as gentrification, language barriers, education roadblocks, immigration status challenges, and even the physical barrier between México and the U.S. How do we break these barriers? How can we build resilience and empower our youth to share their voices? What can we offer to our fellow teens to help us suceed at our personal, professional, and artistic goals?
Conference activities will include screen printing, an open mic stage, self-published zines, live mural painting, a mosaic art project, and teen-facilitated discussions. This event is uniquely created BY teens, FOR teens.

Schedule: 10am – 6pm, with a live music performance by the Tiarra Girls at 5pm.

This event is free for any teen age 13-19 who wants to connect with others through art and culture. Please RSVP on Eventbrite or Facebook. RSVP not required to attend, but those who RSVP will be guaranteed a spot.

What to bring: A blank t-shirt for screenprinting. Snacks are provided and it is recommended to bring $10 for lunch at on-site food trucks. Please come willing to share your voice. To participate in the open-mic, bring any needed instruments. Free parking is available on-site. Students may earn volunteer credit at their school for attending if they get pre-authorization from their school and bring any necessary documentation for a staff signature. Adults may contact the organizers to volunteer at the event.

More about Caminos: CAMINOS is an immersive paid internship empowering Austin-area Teens to carve their own path in the creative arts. Students apply and are accepted into the program for one year, during which they are actively engaged in the various elements of the program which include working with ESB-MACC professional staff; artist mentorships, community engagement, special workshops and cultural events.


More About Tiarra Girls: Multi-Award Winning Best Performing Band. With many musical influences both in English and Spanish which has allowed them to make up their very own unique brand of Alt/Indie/Pop/Rock that is undeniably influenced by their strong family.


Jasmin Medrano gives a dynamite write up of the comic El Peso Hero to promote its exhibit at Texas A&M University:

With all of the negative drama at the border spiraling, one artist turns the tables, making it a positive platform for a public servant vigilante. The MSC Visual Arts Committee is proud to present artwork by comic artist Hector Rodriguez that will feature a Latino comic book superhero series known as “El Peso Hero” who shows the struggles of both sides.

Based on a rogue hero battling border issues such as Mexican cartels, human trafficking, and border corruption, the popular series has gained wide international media attention, including coverage by CNN, UNIVISION, and TELEMUNDO. And even though his comics are captioned in Spanish, his audience remains large and open to all.

Rodriguez himself is not superhuman but a bilingual educator who works with low-income students who come from the same unfortunate background as the refugees in his comics. The hero is said to defend Mexican refugees that cross the border to evade violence and government corruption, and is highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat with strength and immunity just like Superman. The cartoon style makes it more accessible to kids. Not only is the hero relatable, but the series also shares the border struggles in a different light. Latinos are not typically featured in comic books, much less featured on the covers, and it became a goal of Rodriguez’s to give his students a role model.

While the comics do not take a political stance, Rodriguez does try to counter the negative rhetoric he feels is incited by 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. Rodriguez even created a special Donald Trump cover that shows the main protagonist, “El Peso Hero” knocking his fist into President Trump’s face.

With the comic series being a unique and tasteful blend of history, art, and current events, it is a powerful demonstration of art with a message. The showcasing will take place Wednesday, January 16, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. through Sunday, March 3, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. in the MSC Reynolds Gallery.