California State Archives Digitizes its Complete, “Diseños Collection” of Hand-Drawn Spanish and Mexican Land Grant Maps

The California State Archives has digitized its entire Diseños Collection, hand-drawn sketches of maps used during the land grant process before and after statehood. Click here to browse and search the Diseños Collection.

“While California entered the Union in 1850, our history begins much earlier,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “By digitizing this collection, the State Archives is preserving some of our oldest records. Creating a browsable, searchable digital collection will allow greater access to these maps and sketches—illustrating California’s transition from the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments.”

This collection contains images of 493 hand-drawn sketch maps that were originally created from 1827-1846. The hand-drawn sketch maps, or diseños, were used by the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. governments to demonstrate land grant boundaries for individuals. Following California’s statehood, the original records were transferred to the U.S. Surveyor General of California and later the National Archives, as was the practice with other U.S. land grant records. The diseños in the State Archives’ collection are complete and accurate copies of the original hand-drawn maps and were created in the 1860s as directed by the California Legislature. This is the first time that the State Archives’ collection has been digitized and available online in full color.

Each diseño includes naturally occurring boundaries—such as rivers, mountains, rock outcropping, and trees—as markers. Many of the diseños have labeled neighboring properties, show existing travel routes, locations of houses, and local place names. The diseños are part a larger collection of Spanish and Mexican land grant records at the California State Archives which also include expedientes, or written documents pertaining to the grant petition, and other related title documents.

Following California’s statehood in 1850, Congress passed the Land Act of 1851 creating the Board of Land Commissioners. The Board used the diseños, expedientes, U.S. Surveyor General surveys, and other related title documents from landowners to verify individual land ownership and boundaries. Hundreds of grant claims were ultimately made using these records.

Sara Lupita Olivares Named Winner of CantoMundo Poetry Prize

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Sara Lupita Olivares’ collection Migratory Sound has been named the winner of the annual CantoMundo Poetry Prize by guest judge Roberto Tejada. She will receive $1,000, and her book will be published by the University of Arkansas Press in the fall of 2020.

The collection turns both to nature and the generational narratives of immigration to illustrate how idyllic settings are at times posed against reminders of the imperfections that exist beyond these settings — the paper mills, dehorned cattle and featherless sparrows. These contrasts are used to redefine the idyllic for marginalized voices.

Olivares is a doctoral student at Western Michigan University. She is the author of the chapbook Field Things, and her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast Magazine, Salt Hill Journal, Denver Quarterly and Apogee.

Every year the University of Arkansas Press, together with CantoMundo, an American literary organization supporting Latinx poets and poetry, accepts submissions for the CantoMundo Poetry Series and awards the $1,000 CantoMundo Poetry Prize to a book of poetry, written in English by a Latinx writer.

The series editors are Carolina Ebeid and Carmen Giménez Smith. Ebeid is the author of You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior. Giménez Smith is the author of a memoir and six poetry collections, including Be Recorder.

Roberto Tejada is the 2020 series guest judge. Tejada is the author of Full Foreground, Exposition Park, Mirrors for Gold, selected poems in Spanish translation, Todo en el ahora; and a cultural poetics of the Americas, Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness.

The CantoMundo Poetry Prize winner for 2019 was Gina Franco, for her collection The Accidental. In 2018, Ángel García won for his collection Teeth Never Sleep, a finalist for the 2019 PEN Open Book Award and a winner of the 2019 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. The winner for 2017 was Jacob Shores-Argüello for his collection Paraíso, which the Oxford American called a “masterful reopening of that ancient mythos of paradise lost and regained, just in time for the 21st century.”

About the University of Arkansas Press: The University of Arkansas Press advances the mission of the University of Arkansas by publishing peer-reviewed scholarship and literature of enduring value. The Press publishes books by authors of diverse backgrounds writing for specialty as well as general audiences in Arkansas and throughout the world.

About CantoMundo: CantoMundo is a national organization that cultivates a community of Latinx poets through workshops, symposia and public readings. Founded in 2009 by Norma E. Cantú, Celeste Mendoza, Pablo Miguel Martínez, Deborah Paredez and Carmen Tafolla, CantoMundo hosts an annual poetry workshop for Latinx poets that provides a space for the creation, documentation and critical analysis of Latinx poetry.


My apologies

To anyone who has been following this blog, I apologize for my sporadic updates of late. It has been a rough few months for me, but I want to make an effort to get this blog rolling again. I very much enjoy this blog and being able to share with readers new publications and events. In short, I’m going to try to do better.  Without further ado…

Resurrecting ‘Stories That Must Not Die,’ A Chilling, Seminal Collection of South Texas Folklore by Juan Sauvageau

This piece by Joe Galvan is dynamite:

It’s a deep, midnight-colored October evening in 1992. The first chill of autumn has arrived in Harlingen, bringing a reprieve from the summer heat that has lingered too long. Eight-year-old me pulls a dog-eared paperback from my backpack and I turn on the bedside lamp. The book’s edges have yellowed, but the pages inside remain creamy white. Flipping through it, I can smell decades of history—its stories told countless times on cool concrete porches or warm wooden rockers or over coffee-stained kitchen tables. I read the title out loud—Stories That Must Not Die. Ask anyone who went to elementary school in South Texas what Stories That Must Not Die is, and you’ll hear a variety of answers. To scholars, it’s a collection of folklore. To teachers, it’s a valuable bilingual teaching aid. To students and parents, though, it’s a treasure trove of the region’s best-known, most beloved tales.

There is a sophistication and poise in Stories That Must Not Die, a sort of straightforward beauty in each of the collected stories. Juan Sauvageau’s Spanish translations bear the hallmarks of border Spanish—the indigenous loanwords, the syntax, the same two-stepping cadences and rhythms that aren’t found anywhere else. Think of your grandmother sitting under a warm yellow bug light under the carport on a humid evening, sipping a cup of black coffee, speaking with all the gravitas of a courtroom deposition about the apparition of the infamous Woman in Black, or the devil in the Bluetown well on the way to Brownsville. Try not to scoff at the miraculous cures that Don Pedrito Jaramillo made in his clapboard cabin in Hebbronville, tenuous proof of faith in a faithless world. Try not to say a prayer when you hear thunder crack through the bluest sea breeze of a hot South Texas afternoon. These are all things I read in Stories That Must Not Die, and was moved by the singular resonance of their simplicity and bilingual elegance.

These ghost stories are not merely told to frighten children into behaving. They are the record of a collective memory marred by colonialism and intergenerational violence, a world of ranches and chaparral touched by fire from Mexican muskets and Texas Ranger pistols and lightning from above. And we would not have them had it not been for a French-Canadian man who came to be known as Juan Sauvageau.

Born in Québec, John James Sauveageau was the author of all four volumes of Stories That Must Not Die. He lived and worked in Mexico, France, Spain, and other parts of the United States before coming to South Texas sometime during the mid-20th century to teach at what is now Texas A&M–Kingsville. Intrigued by idiosyncratic Tejano culture, he visited ranches and towns from Laredo to Brownsville in search of folklore.

By the mid-1970s the tales he’d collected were showing up in local newspapers, all over the Rio Grande Valley. Sauvageau—who had changed his first name to Juan—had collected a handful of stories in Spanish, translated them into English, and published them in 1976. All four volumes have an eye-catching design: The titles appear in a chunky Roman font, accompanied by a drawing of a jeweled, hilted sword pointing downward. Roel Montalvo’s illustrations are loopy and true to their 1970s origin (one of the depicted characters resembles Charles Bronson, helmet hair and all).

Sauvageau—who died in Meridian, Idaho in 2011—originally wrote Stories That Must Not Die with young readers in mind. Their entire purpose was to foster bilingual literacy and cultural understanding. At that point, very few people (Gloria Anzaldúa and Américo Paredes, for example) had tackled the torturous history of the Rio Grande Valley as a standalone subject. But Sauvageau carefully collected the stories and presented them in a storybook format, along with a word list and reading comprehension questions in both English and Spanish. Kids and teachers loved the stories for different reasons: teachers appreciated the folkloric tales’ educational impact, while scary story-loving kids ate up the accounts of ghostly weeping women, poor little naked birds, and vanishing hitchhikers–stories all situated in their own backyard.

But the real brilliance of Stories That Must Not Die lies in its matter-of-fact retellings of key moments in Tejano history. “Los Rinches,” for instance, is a half-true recounting of the Texas Rangers’ misdeeds in South Texas, which were only commemorated in recent years with a historical marker near Brownsville. Another tells the true tale of Gregorio Cortéz, whose exploits won him both the admiration and scorn of Texans north and south of the Nueces. Sauvageau carefully skirts controversy by glossing over some events, but otherwise correctly relays historical truths. For some Tejano kids like myself, these stories were the first time we’d been introduced to a history of our own people.

The book’s most famous tales have been inscribed in the memory of every Chicano child: Particularly that of La Llorona, who drowns her children in the Rio Grande (specifically in a place called “El Rincón del Diablo” in Laredo, “The Devil’s Corner”) because she cannot give them a better life. This version of the legend adopts a very American moral obsession with material security and happiness, and is markedly different than the more moralistic rendition in Mexico that reflects aspects of genocide. Another famous story, “The Handsome Stranger,” recounts how a spoiled, selfish girl disobeys her mother’s forbiddance to attend a dance and finds herself pulled into the arms of Satan himself in a horrifying whirl of sulphur and brimstone. Animal stories are included alongside the ghost stories, reflective of the ancient cultures of indigenous people on the lower border.

In their truest form, the stories preserved memories of a landscape punctuated with doubt and fear; the violence suffered by Leonora Rodríguez de Ramos, the ‘Woman in Black’ seen traversing the intersection of Highway 281 and Farm-to-Market road 141 near Ben Bolt, is both an historical fact and a moral admonishment. Her hanging (which occurred before statehood) is a bone-chilling reminder of the scourge of domestic violence that can exist within Hispanic families.

I often think of that cool Friday night when I read my first volume of Stories That Must Not Die, cover to cover. I read the other three volumes within weeks and acquainted myself with their facts as if I were investigating a crime scene. At school, details were embellished among children who’d heard them; the stories mutated into the tallest of tales. Adults were consulted to verify their accuracy. All four volumes were perpetually checked out by fascinated schoolchildren all school year long .

Sauvageau’s work is hard to find nowadays though—the forty stories have never been collected into one single volume, and aside from a few cursory reprints of individual stories with illustrations by regional artists like Noé Vela and Jessica P. González, a complete Stories That Must Not Die remains elusive. Their presence in the minds of Tejanos as a source of literary inspiration is impressive: taken as a whole, they represent an important South Texan variety of Southern Gothic literature. Countless writers (like Donna native and writer David Bowles) have cited Sauvageau’s work as an important contributor to the literary heritage of Texas. I myself owe a great deal of debt as a writer to Stories That Must Not Die, both as an appreciator of Texas history, and as a writer of fiction centered on the border and the people who live there.

In the hearts and minds of many Tejanos, however, these books remain enshrined as a quintessential goth essential. Like all things from South Texas, these cherished volumes of folklore deserve greater attention—a rediscovery—especially now as Texas comes to terms with the violent and vengeful ghosts of its not-too-distant past. As an adult I can see the animosity that belied the supposedly harmonious world of the Rio Grande Valley. I can see ruthless Texas Rangers, heartless Mexican brigands, powerless farm laborers, and unscrupulous land barons. I can see the wide plains of the border spread out like a tablecloth—a battlefield, a contest of wills—between traditional and emerging identities, touched by steel and born in blood and fire, separated by a stinking river.

When I read Stories That Must Not Die, I am reminded of the perennial tragedy and heartbreak that marked the lives of people who lived here, how close they were to losing it all, how unfortunate were those who did. Their legacy is immortalized in these fables, legends, ghost stories. For nearly five decades these tales have lingered with anyone lucky enough to read them—and they will continue to for years to come. In fifty years’ time there may be more Stories That Must Not Die that will both haunt and inspire our children. It will be up to us to explain, in our own way, why those stories matter.

New Book: In Dust & Dusk by Esteban Rodriguez

“In Dust & Dusk by Esteban Rodríguez, the ordinary and the astounding enrich and enlarge each other. These poems shimmer with surprising phrasing and dazzling figurative language. We encounter ‘pews of dirt’ and the month of June becomes a ‘fugitive outrunning spring’s custody.’ There’s emotional range, too. Sorrow and wonder, and all their synonyms, darken and illuminate the poems. Rodríguez is a gifted poet who has written an impressive and memorable book.” —Eduardo Corral, author of Slow Lightning

Esteban Rodríguez is the author of Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press) and the micro-chapbook Soledad (Ghost City Press, 2019). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Puerto del Sol, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. His reviews have appeared in PANK and American Book Review. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.

New Podcast heading your way! “Imagining Latinidades”

Any podcast fans out there? There’s a new podcast heading your way called “Imagining Latinidades.”

You can read more about it at their website:

Imagining Latinidades is a bi-weekly podcast about Latina/o/x Studies, which is spending its first year as a standalone and companion podcast for the University of Iowa hosted, Andrew W. Mellon Foundationfunded, Sawyer Seminar titled “Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging.”

Make sure to subscribe:

The CXC-Sol-Con Interviews – Breena Nuñez on Identity, Autobiography & Crocodile Girl

This interview from Philippe LeBlanc is a little old (2017), but it’s a worthwhile read on a super talented writer/artist.


Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (or CXC) is a four day festival in Columbus, Ohio celebrating the work of cartoonists and providing chances to learn more about the medium. It’s mission is “to provide an international showcase for the best of cartoon art in all its forms, including comics, animation, editorial cartoons, newspaper strips, and beyond, in a city that is a growing center of importance to comics and cartooning. We also focus on helping the next generation of young cartooning talent develop thriving careers that invigorate the industry for years to come.” In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat has conducted a series of interviews with some of the phenomenal cartoonists in attendance at this year’s Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. We hope that these interviews will improve our understanding of these creators voices, techniques, interests and influences as well as provide a platform for comics enthusiasts to discover new artists and challenge their conceptions of comics.

This year, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is collaborating with SÕL-CON, The Brown and Black Comics Expo. SÕL-CON focuses on creators with a Latino or African-American background. It’s a different entity and convention than CXC, but they are collaborating this year to make a more wholesome experience for attendees. Some creators are attending this joint collaborative event and this includes Breena Nuñez. Breena is a cartoonist and musician based in the Bay area. She’s currently working on a crowdfunded project called They call me Mix, an autobiographical comic about how the author (Lourdes) came to identify as non-binary. We’ve talked about autobiography and the recurring themes of identity in her work.

Philippe Leblanc: For those readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Breena Nuñez: Sure thing! I’m a cartoonist and musician from the Bay Area of California who was mostly raised in San Bruno by my migrant family from Central America. After high school I attended San Francisco State and studied graphic design while also participating in a few student organizations such as USEU, MEChA, and Clinica Martin-Baro (a student run clinic based in San Francisco). But I feel like I’m not so much of a traditional designer since I use most of my time to create zines, mini-comics while also being an after school art teacher within the San Francisco School District.

PL: You will be illustrating a comic book called They Call me Mix, an autobiographical comic about how came to identify as non-binary that was successfully crowdfunded last month. The creator of the project, Lourdes mentions on the crowdfunding page that the project came about after talking with kindergarten classes about their experience over the past few years. This comic is an attempt to widen the audience for this discussion beyond those that can be physically reached. I’m curious to know how you got involved in this project and how this project interested you?

BN: They Call Me Mix is going to be published moreso as a bilingual children’s book and I’m very honored to have been asked by Lourdes to essentially illustrate some very intimate life moments. Lourdes knew of my illustration work through my Instagram profile and we coincidentally shared the same dance floor at an Oakland dance party/fundraiser hosted by Queer Qumbia. I was approached by Lourdes to see if I was interested in collaborating with them and I immediately said yes! I think the universe just kept guiding me to wonderful folks like Lourdes who are making a difference for children and young queer folks of color here in the Bay Area. I owe a lot to our community for embracing me, talking me through my own queerness, and for constantly sharing their love for my work.

PL: When you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you put yourself at the mercy of your audience, fans and the internet. They may not have been as responsive as you hoped, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. What do you think made this project so successful?

BN: Well, I believe it is the value that people see in Lourdes and in their story. It is a beautiful time to be a child because there are even more bilingual and multicultural books that are accessible to children. But I think Lourdes is beginning to make children’s books more queer for that little brown kid who is questioning their identity, and who’d like to see someone who went through the same experience they are going through.

PL: You’ve just released a new comic at the San Francisco Zine Fest called Dear Sentida. Could you tell us a little bit more about this comic?

BN: Hehehe, so this mini-comic was actually an assignment I completed for a studio class at California College of the Arts. It was more of a test for me to see how much fun I was having creating these characters that are based off of myself, my partner, and my overall awkward interactions I have on the daily. The little crocodile character is based off of my nahual (Mayan spirit) and will most likely reflect inner monologues that I have with myself when encountering socially awkward situations or moments of deep-deep thought when dealing with unraveling my ethnic identity. Dear Sentida will most likely be a small piece a part of a larger project which will be my masters thesis for the MFA in Comics program at CCA.

PL: You’ve been working on a strip called Sentimental Sequential, can you tell us a bit more about this?

BN: Doh!… this is pretty much is Dear Sentida. I apologize for the confusion but I changed the name of this smaller project from Sentimental Sequential to Dear Sentida because I always want to make sure that I’m also speaking to other awkward latinx folks who consider themselves to be emotional, shy, and self-conscious.

PL: You made a zine called Center of my Heart, which focuses on portraits of women that inspired you. How did you decided what and who to include in this zine?

BN: This zine is a love letter dedicated to the different Central American women who I feel empower me and the work I do. Many of the illustrations are inspired by other Central Americans who I have come across in my life within community organizing, zine fests, social media, and even when I traveled back to my mother’s home country of Guatemala.

PL: Do you have any new comics or material you’re bringing to CXC? If so, can you tell us a little bit more about them/it?

BN: I will be selling a mini-comic I released earlier this year called Crocodile Girl and it talks about the relationship I have with my nahual and how I use identity to real from acts of racism.

PL: Identity is a recurring theme in your work, whether it’s your involvement on They Call me Mix, or with your short comic Colocha-Head. Why is that?

BN: Well, I think as people of color in the United States we carry multiple identities. Sometimes we are asked to embrace them and other times we are discouraged to reveal certain parts of our identity. I sometimes ask myself if I’m Central American enough or if I’m even afrolatinx enough because our younger self were not always seeing black and brown characters celebrating their roots. Comics, children’s books, and zines are already building confidence in this new generation who get excited and prideful when they see characters that reflect their culture.

You can follow Breena Nuñez’s work on her website, or follow her onFacebook. You can also buy her work on her online store.

New Book: Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity edited by Grisel Y. Acosta

Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity is an exploration of Latinas on the periphery of both Latina culture and mainstream culture in the United States. Whether they are deliberately rejected or whether they choose to reject sexist, classist, or racist practices within their cultures, the subjects of these articles, essays, short fiction, poems, testimonios, and visual art demonstrate the value of their experience. Ultimately, the outsider experience influences what the larger culture adopts, demonstrating that a different perspective is key to remaking Latina identity. Outside perspectives include those of queer, indigenous, Afro-Latina, activist, and differently-abled individuals.

By challenging stereotypes and revealing the diverse range of narratives that make up the Latina experience, Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity will expand and deepen notions of the Latina identity for students and researchers of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

New Book: Cabañuelas by Norma Elia Cantú

Nena leaves Laredo, Texas, and moves to Madrid, Spain, to research the historical roots of traditional fiestas in Laredo. Immersing herself in post-Franco Spain and its rich history, its food, music, and fiestas, Nena finds herself falling for Paco, a Spaniard who works in publishing. Nena’s research and experiences teach her about who she is, where she comes from, and what is important to her, but as her work comes to a close, Nena must decide where she can best be true to her entire self: in Spain with Paco or in Laredo, her home, where her job and family await her return.Norma Elia Cantú is the Norine R. and T. Frank Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University. Her recent works include Transcendental Train Yard: A Collaborative Suite of SerigraphsCanícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, Updated Edition (UNM Press), and the coedited anthology Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art.



New Book: Ballad of a Slopsucker by Juan Alvarado Valdivia

Check out this new book from UNM press!

A young widower visits Chichén Itzá to honor his wife; family dynamics unravel at a child’s birthday party; the lead singer of a high school metal band faces his dreaded tenth reunion; a serial killer believes he’s been blessed by God to murder bicycle thieves—Alvarado Valdivia’s debut collection of short stories ranges from dark to light and is written with a storyteller’s skill and compassion. Based in Northern California and examining a variety of themes, including love, family, and masculinity, these stories offer an important new perspective on the experiences of Latinos and Latinas in the United States and complicate ideas of nationhood, identity, and the definition of home.


Juan Alvarado Valdivia was born to Peruvian parents and raised in Fremont, California. He is the author of ¡Cancerlandia!: A Memoir (UNM Press).