Blogtitlanistas Feminista Readings

Interview with Blogger Elena Mary and organizer of Blogtitlanistas Feminista Readings

Blogger Elena Mary

What is Blogtitlanistas Feminista Readings?  

Wednesday April 17th a few of the women from Blogtitlan will gather to read a short selection of their work.  Blogtitlan (a phrase I believe originally coined by Cindylu of Loteria Chicana) is a community of mostly Latino bloggers that came together in approximately 2003 and grew to support each other as we developed our individual identity politics. Read more on this event…

Why did you decide to organize this event?

I missed Blogtitlan despite our min-reunion in January of 2012 in San Diego, California.  A lot of Latina bloggers are here in the Midwest, and I miss the discussions we had so what better place to organize than Chicago —an epicenter for many Latino bloggers.  Plus, I love Chicago!

What do you want the audience to walk away with from this event?

I think we are all embracing to know we aren’t alone, and can identify with others.  I want people to laugh, cry, and nod in an “ohh yeah! I know that feeling, I too feel it, it’s okay”

Why are Midwestern Latina voices important to you?

Midwestern Latinas are my own voice and a generally an unheard voice.   I think people forget there are Latinos in the Midwest, we are a different bunch but still part of the movement.  We have generational issues, language issues, assimilation issues, and historical issues just in different context than someone in the valley might have.

How has blogging impacted you as a writer?

This question makes me chuckle.  I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, but blogging has given me the self-esteem to think of myself as someone who can write, and occasionally have the privilege of influence.

What kinds of content will we find on your blog and how long have you been blogging?

I have been at since 1999 but I believe I only have archives up since 2004. I mostly write personal stuff and when I get political it tends to be about something dealing with my world in Ohio or in regions of Mexico where my family still lives.

What are your top three tips for blogging?

Not sure, I should be giving any tips but here goes, blog from the heart, and don’t regret. The don’t regret is the hardest.  There will be times you write things and think I can’t believe I used to think like that, or I can’t believe I used those words, or made those mistakes.  But you did and they are who you were. We are changing and if you aren’t changing you aren’t growing, allow yourself that process.

Lastly, I love this quote and I think it embraces the blog from the heart idea:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Loteria Chicana , Flor y Canto  and Mi blog es tu blog

What have you learned about Latina bloggers that has surprised you?

They can be shy! I always imagined bloggers as generally very out going people but for example Cindylu of Loteria Chicana can be quiet and shy.  Also, once I actually get to meet bloggers, it is amazing how instantly we can connect.

Final thoughts?  Whenever I say “Proyecto Latina”, I think of the band Proyecto Uno jajajaja. Get more details on the reading on April 17th.

About Elena Mary (EM)  - She is a Xicana that is happily creating her own space where one kind find awesomeness and failure.  Like a good “American” EM has race and cultural identity issues which she blogs about quite a bit. Having trouble focusing on anything for too long, she has run for political office, been a union organizer, fostered half dozen children, studied medicine, urban geography and queer feminist performing artists, is competing for a slot at the world championships for triathlon.  Most importantly EM loves days with no set plans because she is stubborn, adventurous and hates being told what to do. Read her blog…

Extra, Extra Read All About It! Self-Interview On Our Proyecto Latina Anthology

WRITERHere is Proyecto Latina’s installment of the self-interview project “NEXT BIG THING” is online. Thanks to poet/writer Xanath Caraza for tagging us.

I’m tagging writers Xenia Ruiz, Ulises Silva and Linda Rodriguez

Next Wednesday they’ll each publish a self-interview based on the 10 questions and tag other writers.

What is the working title of your book?

We are currently huddling with the illustrious and sassy Chisme Box to kick around a few names. Some working titles we’ve come up with include:

Hola Chola: A Collection of Proyecto Latina Writings, Art, and Chismes

Snake Effect: Collected Proyecto Latina Writings, Art, and Chismes

Presentation: Proyecto Latina Writing, Art, and Chisme

If you suggestions at

What genre does it fall under?

Multi-Genre Anthology

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Last year, writer Paloma Martinez-Cruz made the suggestion and we encouraged her to take the lead on the anthology project. Since then, Paloma has been amazing at gathering the stories and giving thoughtful edits to the writers who will be published in the anthology.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This anthology chronicles the stories, poems and chismes of Latina women living in Chicago and have come to the Proyecto Latina Reading Series to share their work in primera voz.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? At this time, all of the writers included in the anthology are in the editing process and in March we will be in phase two of compiling all of the edited stories.

Who or what inspired you to write it?

This anthology reflects the voices of women that were featured at Proyecto Latina Reading Series. Their work chronicles and honors the diversity of stories being told in our community. It is meant to inspire other Latinas to take responsibility and generate new work.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The anthology will be self-published and is supported by madrinas and padrinos who believe in the voices of Latina women and have generously contributed to the publishing of the anthology. We are still looking for madrinas y padrinos for the book. If you are interested learn how you can get involved read more…

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

I have to say the Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City kicks ass when it comes to cranking out books reflecting diverse Latino voices. I think are intentions are similar in that we both strive to amplify the stories of Latino writers in the Midwest. Two of my favorite books they have published and are sitting on my bookshelf include:

Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland

Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There are many different stories and poems in this anthology representing the Proyecto Latina community so obviously I can’t speak for their work. For my own story, Of Pulque, Pilgrimages and  Goddesses, I would cast Will Ferrell in a wig or Scarlett Johansson to play the lead protagonist. Cringe, I’m kidding but isn’t that how it works in the movies?

We have this huge Latino population in this country and we aren’t reflected in the mainstream movies we consume. We remain invisible except when we are cast as gangbangers, maids, janitors or prostitutes. This is why it is so important to cultivate diverse Latino writers to challenge and change those narratives. If I had my way I would cast local actor Stephanie Diaz Reppen or funny lady Claudia Martinez because they get my writing and I trust their skills to interpret the work.

What else about your manuscript might pique the reader’s interest?

At this time, it’s the only Latina anthology being published spotlighting the work of Latinas living and writing in Chicago. The Chisme Box will also be sharing some of her funniest bits of gossip that mujeres have shared over the years.  It’s definitely a literary blue print for women in other communities to either create their own anthology or start their own reading series. My hope is that readers will be inspired and challenged to generate new work and create their own print or online platforms to share their stories with the next generation of Latina writers.

You can read more about the anthology in a recent article written by Lucia Anaya, The Gate Newspaper. Read more…

Next week, expect self-interviews from these writers and poets:



You CAN go home again… but you might not find what (you think) you’re looking for

This is the face of a child who told off the clown at her birthday party.

In 1979, my grandmother took me to Guatemala for a short visit, which ended up stretching to a full year, and would have continued indefinitely had my fed-up mother not boarded a plane and personally retrieved me. According to her, I had insisted on wearing full native costume for the trip home: corte, huipil, faja, trenzas piled on my head interwoven with ribbons and festooned with pom-poms. She says I sang the Guatemalan national anthem as I deplaned. I have a vague memory of this; I remember my huipil was from Cobán. I was five years old.

I remember many things about my life in Guatemala: living in the Zona 1, walking with my cousins to school at San Vicente de Paul, all of us in our green-and-white uniforms. I remember going with Abuelita or Tía Sheny to buy tortillas down the street, and the strange dark room in our house that was curtained off, that nobody ever went into.

I remember the student store at school, the kindly pàrroco who never smiled –“Padre Shuco” to my cousins, because he apparently never bathed—and Maria Luisa Rey, my kindergarten/1st grade teacher, whom Tìa Sheny had dubbed “Señorita Tamalita” because she was round and compact. I remember marching in the Independence Day parade as the abanderada, but as I was too small to carry the flag—I walked in front of it, wearing white knee socks on my arms because I had deemed the wrist-length gloves I’d been offered not formal enough for the occasion.

I remember my fifth birthday party, with all my cousins and the neighborhood kids, and my Penèlope Burro piñata, and the stupid clown whom I instantly hated when he informed me I had incorrectly answered a Guatemala trivia question (I promptly and tearfully informed him that there would be no more need for his services at my party, while my uncles wept with laughter).

I remember buying green mango with chile, sal y limón from the street vendors –eating so much of it one day that I got a sour stomach as Abuelita clucked, “te dije!”– and drinking purple Fanta from a baggie with a straw. I remember the procesiones in the streets and making my primera comunión in a white dress and veil with what seemed like hundreds of other, identically-dressed little girls. Learning to write in cursive. Going to misa with Abuelita and feeding the pigeons in the plaza, sitting on the fountain. Fireworks and sparklers para la Noche Buena. The entirety of my other childhood memories is virtually eclipsed by this one year, this singular window into the world of my mother’s upbringing.

This one year in my young life became the cornerstone of my very identity (particularly when I returned to the U.S. with no recollection of how to speak English, and was promptly treated as Other). When I went away to Guatemala, I became –in my mind and heart—Guatemalteca, and lived much of my life thinking of myself that way, despite the fact that I would not return again for many, many years; too many to admit.

Stephanie in Guatemala, November 2012

Most of these memories make appearances in my current short story collection, and they are easy to work into the narratives—they are mine, and mine only, and their idyllic nature makes them a relative joy to fictionalize. But they’re not the only memories serving as a basis for my book: my mom’s stories of her life in Guate, her political activism, her emigration to the US, her life in New Orleans in the ‘60s and her service in the US Marine Corps during Vietnam all figure prominently as well, as do secondhand tales of various other family members.

These stories are not mine… and when I went to Guatemala last fall to try and supplement my Mom’s versions of them (and maybe pick up a few new ones!), I was presented instead with a tangled snarl of resentments, estrangements, conflicting accounts and never-to-be-solved mysteries. Most of all, I was confronted with a painful truth, one that brought my work on the stories to a screeching halt for months: I am not Guatemalan anymore. And, worse– maybe I never really was.

This story is PART ONE of writer Stephanie Diaz Reppen’s journey going to Guatemala to do research for her writing. Stay tuned for part two of her story.

La Neta: A Latina Guide to Losing it All — He Doesn’t Love You and Self-Acceptance Is Not an Option

Art credit: Sallie Ann Glassman, The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot : “Erzulie Freda Dahomey”

This La Neta post is my personal Valentine card to all the loveless, and you know who you are.  You check your email and Facebook and inspect your cell phone until you put holes in those things.  You could write the Encyclopedia Britannica of social network stalking, including all the pages and posts of everyone in his retinue, knowing that his best friend or his brother always has that camera ready, and you religiously discover new ways to eat out your own heart as he smiles for the camera, his arm squeezing the waist of his new flame, her eyes shining as she poses in the protective cleft of his embrace where you once stood, or never stood, and her nails are done in his favorite color, and her hip touches his, and you know when they take the photo that she is standing in the halo of the way he smells.

You have the playlist, a sonic altar to the way he made you feel, the beautiful memories that seduce you with their kung fu sorcery, wishing that you could hate him so that you could finally just let it go, and I hope that you never get drunk enough to send it to him, but if you do, there it is, the whisky sob of Ana Gabriel’s, ¿cómo es posible que te quiero, y no me quieras? Or, if you reach back into your grandmother’s record collection, you get Cuco Sánchez’ fat head singing in his unlikely falsetto, y tú que te creías, el rey de todo el mundo…  We pour heartbreak straight from the tap in our neighborhoods.

So, okay, you’re down.  Flattened on the mat of the ring.  And this obsession of yours that’s got you down there, I am on board two hundred percent.  There you are, burning, striking the classic self-immolation sunbather’s pose, smiling big for your close-up.  This is no time to douse the flames.  Listen to me.  You need to turn the heat UP.

You can’t have him in your life, but the madness that your life has become since he left you, now THAT is something to appreciate.

What was it?  What was is about him?  Surely there was something exceptional and amazing if you are reading this from the floor of the ring, bleeding out in such a manner.  And you can, you will, and you must populate your life with the essence of what he put in your path that was remarkable and unique.  Don’t accept yourself the way you are, but rather parlay the energies of defeat into a new incarnation.  Did he compose sonnets?  Did he play the accordion?  Did he climb mountains?  Jump out of planes?  Make award-winning omelettes?  The things that you were convinced were only in your life because he placed them there: if you are capable of admiring these aspects in another, you are capable of creating them in yourself.

Heartbreak tastes like iron pyrite, like the metal and salt of your own blood.  He is not here for you now, and perhaps he never was.  You deserve to be loved by someone who loves you back just as fiercely, and to move past your infatuation with your thankless shadow prince.  But if that is not possible, then you still have more to learn from what he is trying to show you about your life.  May the hours, minutes, and seconds of your existence be devoted to the awakening of your next you.  It is one the gods’ most terrible gifts that our bodies are the containers of immense passion.

Please, sisters.

Please don’t waste a single drop.


Ten Writing Tips In Celebration of The Flower Sun

This week I was recalling the recent discovery of a Mayan Warrior Queen in Guatemala named Lady Ka’bel.  I am fascinated that thousands of years later she has emerged to tell her story through Mayan hieroglyphics and sculpture.

During her time, she was the supreme ruler of the region with more power than even her hubby. I wanted to share that nugget of Pre-Columbian history to encourage you to reign supreme over your own creativity. On Friday, December 21 we close out the Mayan era of 13 Bak’tun. I’m excited for us collectively and individually to shift into a new era of creativity and transformation because we are mujeres de tinta y papel amate; urban scribes tapping into our higher selves and telling stories in primera voz.

According to poet Francisco X. Alarcon the “Nahuatl calendar corresponds to the date “Four Flower” (Nahui Xochitl). In the Nahuatl tradition this new era is identified as the “Flower Sun” (Xochitonatiuh).” We all have stories to tell and it’s just a matter of digging deep and listening to our inner writing warrior queen to get our stories on the page. As we enter this new cycle, I’m looking forward to reading and hearing your stories in whatever medium they appear. Lastly, below are some quick tips to kick start your writing endeavors. Feliz Flower Sun!

Ten tips in celebration of the Flower Sun:

  • Prioritize your writing or risk becoming your own creative apocalypse
  • Writer’s block? Shake it off and keep writing.
  • Get out of your own way and own your story
  • Take responsibility for your writing life
  • Participate in writing meet ups or create your own
  • Take creative risk and get out of your comfort zone
  • Read things that nurture your creative spirit
  • Support a reading series or start your own reading series
  • Encourage other writers to write
  • Ask yourself, “How am I walking in this world as a writer?”

Stay tuned for Proyecto Latina writing meet ups in the New Year.






Will You Be Our Madrina de Tinta y Papel?

Image Courtesy of Link Mesh Hadas –

Proyecto Latina is completing its 7th year and to-date our initiatives include a reading series and writer meet-ups that allows us to create a culture of self-empowerment by spotlighting Latinas in the arts and beyond. We also provide a virtual platform to chronicle stories, share resources and start conversations.

To celebrate our coming of age, we are creating an anthology of the voices, artwork, and chisme that have made Proyecto Latina thrive as a safe and vibrant space for Latina creativity in Chicago.

We hope this volume will serve as a way to preserve, honor, and promote the contributions of Proyecto Latina’s members and serve as a catalyst for Latina creativity by taking the best possible portrait of our past, and pose relevant questions about where we are heading.

Like any Chica Súper Poderosa from the neighborhood, our coming of age ceremony is an enterprise that relies on the support from the padrinos.  We hope you will consider being our madrina or padrino de tinta y papel.  Your name will appear in our anthology as our benefactor, and you will receive a free copy of the work.

Your donations in any amount our greatly appreciated! Our goal is to raise $2,700.00 to cover the cost of printing. Thank you for supporting this creative endeavor to continue to amplify the voices of Latina women in the arts.