Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Hispana Leadership Conference

Vision: Latinas as Ethical World Leaders
Mission: To develop Latinas as ethical leaders through training,
professional development, relationship building, and community and world activism.
Latina Empowerment Conferences
Camino Real Hotel101 South El Paso StreetEl Paso, TX 799018:00 AM to 12:30 PM
LECTURE 2008 Schedule

March 28
Tampa, FL
May 2 El Paso, TX
May 30
Detroit, MI
June 27
Jersey City, NJ
August 22
Seattle, WA
"The Harvesters" by Edward Gonzalez
This Friday I will be attending the National Hispana Leadership Institute. El Paso is lucky that NHLC will be stopping here. As a city situated right on theh border and so far west Texas, we usually get looked over and these conferences end up in places like San Antonio or Dallas. Thank you NHLI for supporting El Paso's Latinas! Thank you for the scholarship to attend the conference as well! ¡Ay nos vemos!
Please stay tuned, I will post pictures and analysis of the conference presentations.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Robert N. Gaines Scholarship Fund

Checking email on Monday morning usually means opening reminders for meetings, possible bills that are sent electronically, lists of requirements for the next semester. But this past Monday, I got an email from Ned O'Gorman Ph.D. at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign saying, "Congratulations! You have been awarded a one-year membershp to the American Society of the History of Rhetoric through the Robert N. Gaines scholarship fund."

I don't know about you, but I love getting emails that say Congratulations! especially on a Monday morning. Dr. Carol Clark, our History of Rhetoric I professor at UTEP nominated me for this honor. Thank you, Carol. And a honest, warm thank you to Professor Gaines (pictured above) who teaches out of the Communications Department at the University of Maryland for starting the scholarship. I am truly honored and accept the one-year membership.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The inspirational quote that appears daily in my google home space today read, "You are the sum of the five people you spend the majority of time with." If the sum of my being includes part of Anita August, author of Gut Bucket Blues, then my personage is blessed and augmented by her contribution Anita came back to El Paso, Tx this week from Washington, DC to promote her book giving interviews at KTEP with jazz expert Denis Woo (pictured above in sound room), and then presenting her book last night at a reading coupled with live jazz (book cover and program above) I sat in on the interview she had with Denis, and her true spirit emerged She talked about jazz music, art and her years at Cal State Art where she started the book. Unfortunately, Denis didn't read the book because it was sold out at the Barnes and Noble on the Eastside of town here, but he grasped the rythm and color of the book without reading a word.

In the interview, Anita spoke of where she gathered the inspiration for telling a story, and it wasn't from a grandmother or mother who told her stories of their past, but from the Bible. Growing up in a Christian household, she only had the Bible to read many times, and so she thumbed through its delicate pages. The story she recounts is the story of the the adulterous woman who was thrown in Jesus's path by men of religious standing. Jesus did not look up from the circle he was drawing in the sand, and asked the men that if they are without sin then they may cast the first stone. None could. And then Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Her inspiration, Anita mentioned, came from stories of people who are not perfect, who are flawed, who are freaks. Those characters attract this author because just below the surface, we are all flawed creatures, at times even freaks to those who know us, and to ourselves.

Anita's reading at the Union last night danced. Accompanied by the sweet jazz of Marty Olivas '91 and QBIZM, the guitar of Rembrant Aaron came to life on cue. Her voice at times was drowned by the music, but that made the audience listen even more closely. People were on the edge of their seats. She read... "When Rebrandt finish beating on his guitar he twist half way on the sweet potato basket and signify with 'em vultures eyes to Diamond Dick and Fingers like he ready to pick some bones clean, "Let's get this funk flying in here.

"That's all Diamond Dick and Fingers was waiting on - The Call. Before Rembrandt twist back 'round to the audience, Fingers done already lower the tone with his harmonica. The sad moaning of it pull you from the Butt-Hutt and drop you smack in the middle of the cotton field. An dyou cain't help but see some old niggah pulling a cotton sack down a row of Delta Pine with a busted back, bleeding fingers, and a demon sun standing watch over him" (43-44).

Last night her friends, profressors, and literary buffs celebrated Anita and her very important accomplishment. Her reading flowed like the blues singin' of her inspiration, Bessie Smith. If you like the music of Bessie, buy the book and you'll be treated to language that sings, purrs, moans, and shrieks all at once.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Abriendo Puertas Cerando Heridas [Opening Doors and Closing Wounds]

Have you ever had a dream, and the dream seemed impossible and too far away to reach? ¿Has una vez en tu vida tenido un sueno? Y el sueno se te hizo algo increible, algo imposible alcanzar? Two years ago I dreamed to going of Mexico and presenting my doctoral dissertation topic of Mexican women journalists at the turn of the century. My dream is on the road to becoming reality.

The second semester of my doctoral program, I was taking a class with Dr. Sam Brunk, an expert here at UTEP on the Mexican Revolution and Emiliano Zapata, leader of the southern movement. One day I get an email from Dr. Brunk, "I have a student who would like to write a paper on the women journalists during the Mexican Revolution. Could you help her out?" I write back, "Sure, send her over to me."

In the next couple of days, Celia walks into my life. I am showing her my research on Mexican women journalists from 1900. After I tell her about Juana Belén´s life she interrupts me, "I´m from Durango." At the end of 2006, I go down to Durango with her family and spend the week exploring and learning about Durango. I went completely unprepared...no digital camera, no computer with which to do research. I didn´t know I would find so much.

At the library where they house the Hemeroteca (newspaper archives), I found a newspaper called La Bandera Roja published in 1900. A communist leaning newspaper, the editors and contributors to the newspaper were all anonymous using names of past revolutionary liberalists from Mexico such as Ignacio Zaragoza and Melchor Ocampo. In the newspaper, I found a section where Juana Belén had written to the staff congratulating them for their contributions to the liberalist cause. On that same trip, I made it down to San Juan del Río, Durango, the town in which Juana Belén was born in 1875. During my one day visit, I found Juana Beléns baptizimal records which show she was not given the name of Juana Belén, but María Juana Francisca Gutierrez Chavez. This will be a significant find for my research. With that trip, the Rodriguez family opened doors for me by showing me the ins and outs of the city, and providing a free place for me to stay whenever I am there.

On my last trip to Durango, Mexico (Monday, March 31 - Thursday, April 4), I met with several people who will help me advertise the historical importance of Juana Belén. One the persons I met was totally by chance. On Wednesday afternoon as I was leaving the library, I ran into (literally) a much older caballero by the name of Gonzalo Salas. He was looking through his immense collection he had donated to the library years early for a picture of a Mexican politician on whom he is going to write an article. It turns out that Gonzalo Salas has had an illustrious career in Mexican politics under the PRI and is now the President of Cultural Studies of the city of Durango. He publishes a journal through his department and initiates presentations throughout Durango on history, cultural studies, and more. He invited me for a cup of coffee down the street in Durango. After I told him about my reason for being in Durango, he showed great interest in helping my cause. The next day he met with me with Maestro Óscar Luna, Ramiro Corral, and Miguel Ángel Ortiz. These gentlemen head the Festival of Culture they hold every year in February in Durango under the auspices of La Universidad Juárez de Durango. In our meeting, they expressed interest in publishing my dissertation as well, they would like for me to participate in the Festival de Cultura in February by presenting there at UJED and also in San Juan del Río, Durango. This is a fantastic opportunity to take my research beyond the walls of academe and to people who would truly embrace Juana Belén and her important history as an indigenous to their region. If this all does come to fruition, I would love for any of you come down to Durango for a couple of days and enjoy the beautiful pueblo of Durango.

The title of this post "Abriendo Puertas, Cerando Heridas" comes from Gloria Estafan's song "Refranes" on her new album 90 Millas. She sings about finding her abuela's [grandmother's] notebook that was full of poems and refranes [sayings]. Her abuela's words inspired her to be a better person, to love eachother, respect eachother, visit our family members, etc. Mi abuela also left me words and her spirit has inspired me to cross borders and join cultures reminding each other that we have something special in each of us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Research Trip to Durango, Mexico

Durango is beautiful! I arrived early in the morning on Monday. Sleeping on a bus next to someone you don't know is never easy! It's all about personal space... Anyhow, as I got off the bus I was excited at the prospects of being here again. I was to have come last week, the week of March 23, but I learned at the last minute that the public library I needed access to was going to be closed due to extened holidays for Easter. My husband laughed at both my arrogance and ignorance as an American. We expect other cultures to conform to our ideas of business, and when it doesn't, we're put out of our ways and consider it an offense. But that's an issue for another blog!
On Tuesday I got up and went to the library, Biblioteca Central de Durango. They city had just come off of two weeks of vacation and were still asleep. Honestly, I did not come thinking to find something new in the archives to include in my dissertation, I wanted to make an effort to promote Juana Belén's voice here in her land among her people. As I was studying in the Hemeroteca (archive room), the director of the library El Maestro Óscar Jimenéz Luna came out to greet me. Let me here insert an cultural nuance about Mexico and its people. Contrary to American understanding, the people are VERY formal and polite. To be accepted in the circles of learning, one must present themselves as having knowledge about the culture and its everyday dealings. El Maestro (they address the director formally as the Teacher) came and greeted me inviting me into his office to speak about the completion of my dissertation. I wrapped up my studies and presented myself in his office.

El Maestro Luna certainly remembered me and my studies on Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza from the last time I had come to do research. In our meeting he proposed exactly what I had been hoping, to present next year here at la Universidad Juárez de Durango (UJED) during their Cultural Festival. Maestro Luna immediately got his secretary to call the director of the festival to set a lunch meeting for this Thursday at 12. I am hoping all goes well.

Festival de Cultura

Each year the UJED holds a month of cultural presentations from theater to music to poetry readings. I am hoping next year to reintroduce the city of Durango to their daughter, Juana Belén. Of course everyone, even outside of Mexico, know of Pancho Villa, born also in the same town as Juana Belén, San Juan del Río, Durango. But no one knows her name. I hope to change that sentiment. I hope to bring to light a forgotten history of Durango. I am going to propose several ideas at this meeting with these men of influence here in Durango. First, I am going to agree with Maestro Luna's invitation to present at next years Festival de Cultura. How exciting! (I hope that maybe some of you can come down with me... hgh huh...mom or dad!)Next, I am going to present to them another more lofty plan. As I was wondering through the Governor's Palace and taking pictures of the murals, I realized that Juana's painting as well should be on those walls. And then, another even loftier idea. I am going to suggest they have a bronze made of her and put somewhere in the city. I am going for broke. Tomorrow I will have the undivided attention of the men who move and shake this town. All they can say is no. But so far been very well received!