Imagínate 1: Ana Castillo

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Welcome to Imagínate.
Here we will encourage the re-imagining of the Latina in American popular culture. 

Sparked by a highlighting in Latina Magazine of the many, many times Latinas have played maids and housekeepers in Hollywood, I started this section to raise the profile of women who are doing things that current popular culture rarely imagines they are doing.

We as Latinas are so incredibly diverse, we have so many faces and origins, so many stories to tell. I think it is time that mass culture reflects this.

To help fuel a new image, I will post short bios–with lots of links–about prominent (or emerging) writers and artists who are currently breaking the mold. Let us imagine a world where, when someone says “Latina” people think Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Ana Castillo, not just Jennifer Lopez, with or without her maid’s uniform. I’d love your help in spreading the word– share this post- tweet it, Facebook it, all of the above.

Today, in Imagínate 1, we highlight American Book award-winning writer Ana Castillo.

Ana Castillo is by no means an unknown name to those the literary world. She has managed to cross into the “mainstream” publishing novels, poetry and nonfiction works that seek to challenge our notions of not just Latinos and Latin culture, but our ideas about gender roles, sexuality, spirituality, family and culture.

Castillo began as a young activist in the 1970s, using poetry as a form of social protest. She says of that time: “Being of Mexican background, being Indian-looking, being a female, coming from a working-class background, and then becoming politicized in high school, that was my direction . . . I was a Chicana protest poet, a complete renegade–and I continue to write that way”

How then, did Castillo cross into the mainstream, becoming a widely-read author glowingly reviewed by media like the Los Angeles Times and acclaimed writers such as Barbara Kingsolver, Oscar Hijuelos and Luis Alberto Urrea? She is simply a beautifully moving writer, and the world noticed. She began winning such prestigious awards as National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (1990 and 1995), and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award in 1993 for her novel So Far from God (1993).

Castillo’s most recent novel is The Guardians. Says Booklist: “Castillo writes fiction and poetry of earthy sensuality, wry social commentary, and lyrical spiritualism that confront the cruel injustices accorded women and Mexicans in America, legal and otherwise….In this tightly coiled and powerful tale….At once shatteringly realistic and dramatically mystical, Castillo’s incandescent novel of suffering and love traces life’s movement toward the light even in the bleakest of places.”

Ana Castillo is one to watch, and one the Latina community can proudly hold out as a woman breaking boundaries, bringing important issues to the attention of many in an unforgettable, un-ignorable way.

Mexico Lindo

August 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

So often, my heart breaks for Mexico. I keep a keen eye out for news from there… one of my homes, a home of my heart, if not my physical home at the moment.

Today I read three stories concerning Mexico. One, from the New York Times, detailing a soccer game that was suspended due to gunfire. My heart sank as I read this. I thought of the final scene in the film, Traffic, where kids are playing baseball at night with lights. The message from that very well done Soderberg scene was that investing in infrastructure and in communities will help to stem the flow of drug violence and the power and lure of drug cartels.

The drug cartels are killing with impunity, more so than any time in history. That we know. But now, it seems that nothing is sacred. Not parks, not soccer games, not journalists, not foreigners, not children.

It is a dream, especially with the faltering economy here in the U.S., to think that this country could place a greater interest in Mexico at this time. Still, the second news story I read seemed to lend a bit more hope for a better relationship. Today, here in San Diego, people on both sides of the border are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Friendship Park on the U.S.-Mexico border, where then First Lady Pat Nixon reached her hand through the fence to greet residents of the other side.

Today there was “a cross-border salsa lesson, a bi-national music jam session, and testimonies from families who have used the park as a meeting place.” After 9/11 a triple layer border fence destroyed Friendship Park, but there are plans in the works to bring back this cross-border meeting space, without compromising security.

Serendipitously, I was researching writers to feature in Writing from the Margins for Her Circle Ezine, and I came across this speech by Meredith Tax about Mexican writer and feminist activist Lydia Cacho. Ms. Cacho was awarded the Ginetta Sagan prize by Amnesty International USA. Her struggle against censorship led to a change in Mexico’s federal law, decriminalizing defamation. Ms. Tax paints a very vivid picture of the ways the U.S. and Mexico are economically and politically entwined. Then, she closes her speech with a quote from Ms. Cacho, which captures my thoughts about Mexico today perfectly:

“It is impossible not to ask why, with these assembly plants that produce millions of dollars for owners of companies with foreign names, there is no investment in public works, there are no parks or gardens, or schools, only barren places, ready for sowing of garbage and death, surrounding the transnational buildings. Who cares about Juárez City? The abandonment of the streets reflects the abandonment of its people, the myopia of its governments, the death of its women and children, the solitude of the forgotten border.”

The solitude of the forgotten border. Her quote is found poetry. As much as I am passionate about free speech, removing barriers to the world’s receiving of the written voices of women and girls, I am also passionate that the U.S.-Mexico border and its pressing issues not be forgotten. All of these issues come together in Ms. Cacho’s story, and I am inspired. I want to know more, I want to do more.

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