Manos en la Masa

Doña Maria & Tía Carmen

Happy Holidays by Bing Crosby is blaring from my suegra’s old beat up radio. There are huge cooking pots on the stove of meats, smoky liquids, and the smell of coffee beckoning me inside. In the middle of the room is a pot of masa the size of a kid’s swimming pool waiting to be kneaded.

My suegra and I are elbow deep in tamale masa. The masa feels alive in my hands the way wet clay feels when you are preparing to shape it into something beautiful. We continue to coax the masa with our hands so it finds the form it needs to turn into an army of tamales.

It makes me wonder how we can take our creative masa and shape it into something that nourishes ourselves and others. The tamale, like our creativity, is a regalito wrapped in a cornhusk waiting to be unwrapped, to delight in and share with others.

“We need a larger cooking pot,” says Doña Maria interrupting my thoughts. She hands me a shiny key. I hold onto it like the Holy Grail. For the first time in a decade she is allowing me to enter her “secret room of pots and pans.”

When I come back with the cooking pot I am still dazzled by being surrounded by so many pots and pans. Doña Maria begins to tell me all kinds of wonderful stories about her life. She is especially nostalgic of the navidades with her siblings in a pueblito called San Jose de Las Flores, Jalisco.

Suddenly there is a loud knock at the door.

It’s Tía Carmen (tamale making drill sargeant a la Full Metal Jacket)

She even brings her own special wooden tamale spoon to slather the tamales with. I cringe when I see it because it reminds me of the wooden spoon my mom would use to discipline me. She eyes me suspiciously and says “Who is helping you with the tamales?” My suegra points to me and I smile.

We begin to assemble our ingredients around the table and start slathering masa and meat into the cornhusks. Tía Carmen eyeballs my tamales and takes one and says,”no, haci no, I used to pinch my daughter if she didn’t slather them right.” I laugh and say, “Lucky for you I would pinch you back.” She laughs and shakes her wooden spoon back at me and begins to tell us a story of navidades in Chicago.

Coming together with Doña Maria and Tía Carmen to make tamales and share stories made me reflect on the ritual of women coming together the way we do at Proyecto Latina every month. Telling our stories at every age in our life is such a gift. I’m so thankful for our ritual of creativity and storytelling that we do because each one of our features, open mic participants and audiences members are part of a vibrant ritual of cultivating creativity and giving each other the gift of our stories in primera voz. Feliz Navidad Everyone!


Kelly Norman Ellis

“i’m a two headed woman

still a piece of the caul in my eye

I’m a two headed woman

a piece of caul still in my eye

i sees cradle to grave

and don’t never ask why”  – Aperture by Kelly Norman Ellis

It’s time for pumpkin pie and Proyecto Latina! This month we are excited to feature the fabulous and fierce Kelly Norman Ellis! Last year, she organized the Conjure Woman workshop at Chicago State University and it was wonderful opportunity to connect with writers from the African-American community.  I walked away inspired and empowered by listening to the  stories being told by this community of writers. Next week, Kelly will be reading poems of desire, love and home from her upcoming collection Offerings of Desire (upcoming Williow Books). Read more about Kelly below.

Proyecto Latina Reading Series – FREE

@Cobalt Studio

Monday, November 21, 2011 from 7p.m. to 9p.m.

1950 W. 21st St 1st floor - Storefront

Chicago, IL 60608

Click here for directions

CTA: Damen Pink line stop / #50 Damen Bus

Kelly Norman Ellis is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Chicago State University. She is also the director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at CSU. She is a poet whose work has appeared in Sisterfire: Black Womanist Fiction and Poetry, Spirit and Flame, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Boomer Girls, Essence Magazine, Obsidian, Calyx, and Cornbread Nation.

She is a recipient of a Kentucky Foundation for Women writer’s grant and is a Cave Canem fellow and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.  She is the author of Tougaloo Blues published by Third World Press and the upcoming Offerings of Desire.

Special thanks to Adriana Baltazar, Creative Director and our venue sponsor:

Proyecto Latina Reading Series – September

Jazmin Corona

It’s time for cozy sweaters,autumn leaves and the Proyecto Latina Reading Series!

We’ve had a wonderful summer and are energized and ready for a season of creativity.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see Prop Theatre’s production of Arizona No Roosters In The Desert. I thought Jazmin gave a strong and memorable performance in that production and we are delighted to feature her this month.

For Jazmin storytelling comes in many forms and she will be celebrating love, life and loss by reading/performing an original piece dedicated to her mom, who passed away last April. According to Jazmin she will accompany the piece with a few selections of poetry and some photographic images to help illustrate the fact that no matter what happens in life, there is always someone there who loves you.

Monday, September 19th 7PM to 9PM

Proyecto Latina Reading Series

@DeLaTorre Fine Arts Studio

1200 West 35th Street –3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60608

Map Quest

Please note venue is a warehouse – use the main entrance on 35th Street

Street parking plentiful and CTA: #35th Street Bus

Disclaimer: No elevator available

Jazmin Corona, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, has been living in Chicago for the past 6 years. She has blessed many stages as an actor and as a dancer. Few, however, know that she is also a writer, photographer and teaching artist. If she’s not on stage than you can find her in the studio or in a classroom, sharing knowledge with and acquiring knowledge from our city’s youth. She is dedicated to using all her art forms to further an understanding between each other, for each other and of each other. Jazmin has performed and studied theatre and dance here in the U.S. and in Mexico. She has been a performer for the past 31 years. See Jazmin’s theatre credits… Her website is in the works at

SPECIAL NOTE: Before we forget we’d like to thank Abraham Duenas of Catedral Café for generously letting us use the community space. His café has closed and we wish him much luck on his new endeavors. We have begun looking for donated space for our reading series. If you have any suggestions let us know. This month we’d like to thank DeLaTorre Fine Arts Studio for carving out some creative space for us.

Latinas Are A Driving Force In Pilsen’s Hip-Hop Festival

Left-to-right: Elizabeth Del Valle,Lizette Garza,Laura Najera

First, the disclosure: Proyecto Latina’s Irasema Gonzalez and Thelma Uranga are employed at Pros Arts Studio—the community arts organization that sponsors the annual We Are Hip-Hop Festival.

Now, I want to tell you about their colleague Delilah Salgado, the teaching artist that led the first youth organized hip-hop festival in Pilsen. She has returned to this project each summer because it has given her the opportunity to inspire students to create art and mentor youth so that they can get the guidance they need to make better choices.

This summer teens working on the 6th Annual We Are Hip-Hop Festival continue to gain invaluable skills in event planning, marketing, promotions and music management.  The festival showcases local musicians, artists, break-dancers, and poets in the Pilsen and Little Village community to promote the positive aspects of the Hip-Hop culture. The festival is a program of Pros Arts Studio in residence at Dvorak Park.

This year a second instructor, Lizette Garza, a third year Columbia College students majoring in music management, was brought on board to teach the Promo Pros interns. In this After School Matters summer program a dedicated team of teens learn and apply lessons in marketing, branding and promotions for the We Are Hip-Hop Festival.

“The youth are able to come together to put on this festival and see the difference they make by collaborating with each other,” says Lizette Garza. The festival aims to empower youth to put together this event and spotlight their talents by keeping them busy and off the streets.

This year the festival will create a safe space that includes music, break-dancing, and graffiti battles. The festival put on by the youth will bring different types of hip-hop together to promote peace in a neighborhood where violence is an issue.

Laura Najera, 17, a returning high school student is taking advantage of this summer program.  She says, “It’s a fun experience and gets kids off the street.  Being part of this program has shown me how to talk, to ask for donations from sponsors, and be professional. I will be able to add these skills to my resume when I start looking for a job”.

Elizabeth Del Valle, 16, will be performing at the festival with her group Hood Huntaz. She says, “I always liked everything about hip-hop and being a part of this allows me to give back to my community.  It makes me feel like I’m more a part of the hip-hop scene.”

Elizabeth is the only female singer in her hip-hop group and it can be challenging. “The music isn’t what it used to be; now it’s about girls and how they look and a lot of guys talk bad about girls,” says Elizabeth. She likes to respond to these issues and “stick up for women and set them straight” through her music.

The festival aims to spotlight Chicago hip-hop artists and Elizabeth hopes to show off her talents, “I want to put my music out there hopefully someone who hears my music says I like that and give me more opportunities to make it bigger in the music industry.

What struck me about this innovative arts programming is the impact it has on the youth by empowering youth to take the lead and produce a hip-hop festival.  Pros Arts Studio, the arts organization behind the festival, is leading the way in providing innovative arts programming and summer jobs for youth in a time when youth employment is sparse and youth violence is on the rise. According to a recent Newstips post by Curtis Black, ““Funding for youth employment has steadily dried up – and violence has fairly steadily increased – since the 1990s.  Today youth unemployment is at record levels…”

At this year’s festival Delilah, also a graffiti artist envisions working with other organizations and increasing youth participation and connecting them with a more diverse hip-hop scene in Chicago showcasing emerging and established hip-hop artists at the festival.

The Hip Hop Festival is FREE and will be held on Saturday, August 13th, from 1pm-6pm at the Back fields of Dvorak Park 1119 W. Cullerton. Chicago, IL 60608


ProsArts Programs

Find the Hip Hop Festival on Facebook

Twitter: @WeRHipHopFest

Chicago Hip-Hop Artist – Ruby Yo

Can’t Stop The Women of Hip-Hop

Real Women Of Hip-Hop Tackle Negative Images


Proyecto Latina August – Natalie Marlena Goodnow

Well the lazy days of August are here and so is the next Proyecto Latina Reading Series!
Our feature this month will be teatrista and cultural activist Natalie Marlena Goodnow.  She is coming all the way from Austin, Texas to share her work with us. Natalie is the winner of the 2011 Jane Chambers Playwriting Contest.

Natalie will be performing an excerpt from her solo play of Mud Offerings about a Chicanita that has it out with the Virgen de Guadalupe unraveling the culturally complicated truths, lies and mythologies of women’s spirituality and sexuality in contexts of violence and betrayal.

Monday, August 15th from 7pm to 9pm

Proyecto Latina Reading Series – FREE

@Catedral Café

2500 South Christianna Avenue

Chicago, IL 60623

Street parking / #60 Blue Island Bus

Come and connect with Latinas in the arts and beyond!

Remember to get there early and sign up for the open mic and bring your chismes for the chisme box.

We’d love it if you can spread the word about this event by tweeting it/posting it on your FB wall/ blogging about it or simply telling your comadres to swing by. We greatly appreciate it!

Natalie Marlena Goodnow is a nationally recognized teatrista, teaching artist, and cultural activist from Austin, Texas. She writes, performs, and directs; she’s been practicing some combination of those forms for seventeen years, and started teaching about and through them 8 years ago. She specializes in the creation of original works for the stage, as a solo performer and in collaboration with other performers and playwrights, both youth and adults. Goodnow’s work is dialogical in both its process and product, using performance as a tool with which to engage communities in conversation. Natalie explores the relationships between people and places, in terms of relationships to community, to the Earth, and to our own bodies. Natalie is an Artistic Associate of Theatre Action Project and a member of The Austin Project.

Read more about Natalie…

 Special thanks to our venue sponsor:

Make Your Life a Writing Residency…

Amores, I just got back from a two-week writing residency at Ragdale. If you’ve never been to an artist colony before, here’s a basic rundown of how it works: you apply to the residency, usually by submitting work samples and an artist statement. While you’re there, the residency provides space to sleep and space to work (mine was the same space – a cute room with loads of books and a desk between two windows) as well as food, all for a nominal fee.  Sometimes they’ll want you to present work in progress, sometimes they won’t. Usually, there are a handful of other artists around, which affords ample opportunity to share ideas, tips, and experiences – personally, I found this to be one of the most rewarding parts of my stay. Can you believe I actually made friends with a journalist/novelist who writes about war and violence against women and who grew up traveling all over the word because her parents were anthropologists? My soulmate!

Okay, the residency was great (if a little too quiet for my city-loving self) but realistically, I know that going away for 2-6 weeks isn’t an option for many of us here at Proyecto Latina. I mean – I have one of the MOST flexible jobs on the planet, and I still found it stressful to clear my calendar. So… I’ve spent the past few days thinking about residency “take-aways” – how to incorporate what was most useful about the residency into my everyday life. Here goes: (more…)