Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology

Cover art by Diana Solis, "Mama Bird," hand-cut paper, 2009

Cover art by Diana Solis, “Mama Bird,” hand-cut paper, 2009

!!Book Launch Reception!!

Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology
We are thrilled to invite you to join us in a toast as we celebrate the birth of the Proyecto Latina Anthology! In the tradition of our reading series, we will have a few featured writers and the Chisme Box will also make an appearance.

Monday, August 12th – 6:30PM to 9:30PM
@ Meztli Gallery & Cultural Organization
2005 South Blue Island
Chicago, Illinois, 60608
Street parking available / CTA – #60 Blue Island bus

The anthology spotlights the creative spirit and diversity of writing that is the Proyecto Latina community. At this time, it is the only book being published in the Chicago focusing on the writings and artwork of 26 Latinas.

Special thanks to all of our Madrinas y Padrinos for supporting the literary arts and to Paloma Martinez-Cruz for her creative leadership in making this dream a reality.

Please spread the word about this event by sharing via social media. We’d greatly appreciate it.

The anthology will be sold day of the event. Cash only.

More info. on how to purchase the book online TBA.

On Critics and Creating Work

On Critics and Creating Work

On December 3rd, I opened a new show called TOUR GUIDES. The piece, a collaboration between 10 poets from different neighborhoods across the city, is an ode to everything we love and hate about living in Chicago. We talk about big things (segregation, gang violence, gentrification) and little things (beer, parades, germs on the CTA). Performed by (most of) the poets who wrote it, TOUR GUIDES is often a raw experience, an act of poetic truth-telling from people who are not seasoned or polished performers but who love their city in the way it seems only Chicagoans do: protectively, fiercely, and cynically, bracing against harsh weather and even harsher racism but warmed by summer and the beautiful sight of city lights reflected in the lake. As the director of the piece, I’m proud of the work the poets involved have done. But beyond that, I genuinely love the show. I find myself remembering lines from TOUR GUIDES as I move about the city, “whispering to myself that so much is still unknown.”

Critical reception of the show, however, has been decidedly mixed.

One critic accused us of trotting out “musty white-people-are-like-this, people-of-color-are-like-that setups,” while another argued that our take on Chicago neighborhoods is clichéd and “blatantly reductive.” Both complain that we take cheap shots at Lincoln Park, a criticism I find baffling, if only because we talk about Lincoln Park for less than a minute of a show that lasts 90 minutes, and in the context of a piece that trashes neighborhoods ranging from Rogers Park (smells like pee) to Back of the Yards (smells like smoked meat). Though I disagree with both of these critics’ assessments of the show, I don’t bring up these reviews to defend myself against them.  I bring them up because many of the people who read/come to Proyecto Latina are trying to figure out how make their way as Latina writers, artists, and performers. Proyecto Latina has long served as both a platform and a forum for emerging Latina artists, and a space to discuss the ins and outs of making work as mujeres y Latinas.

There was a point in my career when reviews like this would have made me cry. I remember reading a review of S-e-x-Oh! (a show I created with Teatro Luna) that called the piece “incomprehensible.” Despite sell-out houses and rave reviews elsewhere, this review made me sob for an hour, hunched over the steering wheel of my car.  Even today, I can’t remember a single nice thing a critic wrote about S-e-x-Oh! but that review (written, incidentally, by the same critic who called TOUR GUIDES “musty”) is burned into my brain. When I went to one of my mentors for advice on how to handle bad reviews, she told me to handle them the same way I would handle a good review: “not at all.” She warned me that if a review could change what you think of your own work, you aren’t creating from a place of confidence or certitude. To be an artist, you have to have a vision of what you want to make; you have to believe in what you set out to do.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t be open to criticism—indeed, as artists there is little more valuable than friends and collaborators who offer us the kind of feedback on our work that pushes it to a better place. But that kind of commentary is rarely found in a newspaper, a facebook status, or twitter feed. It is developed through community and relationship with people who are rooting for you, who want you to be the best artist you can be. (It is developed in spaces like Proyecto Latina!)

Now, when someone criticizes my work, I do pay attention. I look for patterns (are lots of people saying the same thing? Maybe there’s some truth to it.) I look for point of view (Who is saying this? What social position—race, class, gender, nationality—is driving their opinion?)  But most of all, I ask myself if any of it rings true? On a fundamental level, do I agree? If so, I challenge myself to do better next time. And if not, I let it go.

This time, I’m letting it go. I think TOUR GUIDES is a beautiful piece. But you don’t have to take my word for it. See it for yourself December 10, 11, 17, or 18th at 7:30 pm at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets and info at www.guildcomplex.org And then, tell me what you think. I promise, I’ll listen…

10.10.10 Domingo Newsbytes

Hard to focus on the news today, my friend Anita ran the Chicago Marathon and I was much too excited about tracking her progress.  Running is her passion and in addition to family and work commitments, in the last year she carved out time to train for today.  She’s definitely inspired me to indulge in my own artistic interests, set some goals and pursue some creative marathons of my own–these also happen to align with an ongoing dialogue I’ve been having recently with Diana and Coya about creative goals for 2011.  I will be sure to keep you posted.

Creative marathons are not new to me.  In 2010 I was honored to partake in hours of collaboration with the wonderful El Stitch y Bitch for the creation of a knitted and crocheted altar dedicated to our crafty ancestors.  The groups collaboration is the cover story of the November issue of Cafe–the story is not linkable yet so if you want to read it you have to pick up a hard copy of the magazine.  I usually find a free copy at Pilsen restaurants and/or cafe’s.

I was pleasantly surprised to see another Proyecto Latina favorite, Monique Frausto in that issue, she’s part of a story about Latinos reconnecting with their language and heritage.  And there is also a wonderful article on Concha Buika, that recounts a childhood memory that still haunts her, but taught her to seize the moment each and every time she takes the stage.

A random an interesting tid-bit about Google and the word Latina.  I know I’ve turned up questionable searches that include the word Latina in their name.

Seriously? Dear JLO, I’m going to tune-in but for the record I’m uncomfortable and resisting the Latina nanny concept.

Perhaps the life of Alicia Amador, could one day inspire a leading character on prime time tv.  According to Windy City Times, Amador passed away last Thursday of cancer–”her greatest legacy was the impact she had on children and families in the Pilsen community.”  Amador was a staff member at Mujeres Latinas en Accion and founding member of Amigas Latinas.

Finally, I’m counting down for the next Proyecto Latina on Monday, October 18th.  Kansas City poet, Linda Rodriguez will be sharing poetry and a piece title, We’ve Been Here All Along: 13 Ways of Looking at Latinos in the Midwest. I’ve gotten a sneak peek at the work she is sharing and I have to tell you its going to be a special treat. Plan to join us!

I leave you with a first in a series of short films, a project by Proyecto Latina friend and fellow artist extraordinaire, Ricardo Gamboa–who is always on creative marathons.  His most recent project focuses on concerns over immigration issues.

09.18.2010 Doming Newsbytes

09.18.2010 Doming Newsbytes

This week I was fortunate to be come across so many dynamic women. My first encounter came when I did a communication’s training for the Women of Power housed inside the Cook County Sheriff’s office. They provide services to women that have just been released from prison. The women ranged from 19 to 62 years old and they were all trying to improve the quality of their lives and also inspire others going through similar situations to do the same.

A few days later I ran into Irene Tostado from the IL Resource Net. She is one of the organizers for the conference I was attending for nonprofits to get federal funding. That same day I ran into Olivia Sanchez, executive director, of Project Vida. Her organization provides preventive education and direct services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Than I get a wonderful Facebook message from actor/writer Stephanie Diaz Reppen letting us know that she is on her third draft of The Quetzal she said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for breathing life into its writer”. All of these women I’m happy to say are either in a masters program or are in the process of getting into one. What strikes me about all of these women is that they are all telling their stories or their organizations and leading the way trying to improve the quality of their lives and their communities. With this in mind we hope all of you remember to create your own opportunities.

Paloma Martinez & Aaron Michael Morales

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend Strong and Chata, an art show organized, by Paloma Martinez in the Pilsen neighborhood. What struck me about her performance piece which included a boxing ring, beer cans and little jars to blow bubbles was the competing narratives between her and the character Juan Bob. I felt really proud of her because not only did she organize a whole art show that included the work of local artists but she also stepped out of her comfort zone and performed this piece. Again the lesson here is to create your own opportunities for yourself and others.

This week the ladies of Proyecto Latina also had a busy week:

Thelma and Irasema were on Eight Forty-Eight talking about their Día de los Muertos Alter.  Listen to the interview.

The lovely and talented Coya Paz was part of Paper Machete listen to the podcast.

I also had the chance to do a guest post for the 3 six and 5 project based on the walk I took on 18th street. Check it out!

Yolanda Cardenas is working on a soon to be unveiled musical collaboration with…??? We hope we can share her good news with you soon!

We hope this will inspire Latinas in the arts and other sectors to tell their stories. There’s a lot of great work being done in are communities and Latinas are definitely leading the way.

Next month we have the honor of featuring Kansas City poet Linda Rodriguez! She’s a powerhouse poet that will be reading from her book “Heart’s Migration”. Read more…

Here are your Domingo Newsbytes:


This week Mexico had its 200th B-Day Celebration. In case you missed it on TV check out this wonderful photo narrative of the celebration featuring highlights from the event.

Poet Julia de Burgos has been recognized by the U.S. Postal service with a 44- cent stamp. She was an award-winning writer, journalist  and  a celebrated Puerto Rican poet.

“We want it turned into a library, that’s what we want,” said Araceli Gonzalez. She is one of the parents doing a sit in at the Wittier school to protest the demolition of a building adjacent to the main building.

Early detection of cancer is key for Latinas to fight cancer. Pink Pearls of Hope is an initiative that promotes early detection. Learn more about early detection.

Even though Día de los Muertos is a few weeks away the annual Día de los Muertos show is in full swing and one piece that sticks out is the altar by Patricia Carlos honoring the women of the Mexican Independence and revolution.

US Treasurer Rosie Rios will be one of the women speaking at this year’s Smart Money Smart Women. The event includes breakout sessions on managing money. Register today for this event. It’s Free!

Don’t forget Proyecto Latina needs your help! Have story ideas or come across an article about Latinas or an issue that impacts our community? Send us your suggestions to info@proyectolatina.org. Feel free to also comment on our posts we’d love to hear from you. You can follow us on Twitter @proyectolatina

Have a great week everyone! –Diana Pando

08.15.10 Domingo Newsbytes

08.15.10 Domingo Newsbytes

Ever since my mom pointed it out in a norteña song long ago I’ve been smitten with the accordion.  I happened to mention this to Sandra Treviño earlier this year, when I first sat down with her to explore the way in which we could feature her on the Proyecto Latina platform .  Her eyes lit up and she expressed an affinity for the instrument as well.  For now I’m going to live vicariously through her since she’s about to embark on learning how to play it–this was one of the factoids that emerged when I hung out with her earlier this week.  She honored the request for an interview and I’m so glad I asked because this was one of the most interesting features I have ever done.  There were so many great things uncovered during the short while we were together.

Sandra is our first guest curator for our monthly reading series.  I can’t wait to see what has in store for us tomorrow.  Hope to see you there.

I’m going to get a head start on the chisme this week and let you know that:

This week Ragdale announced the recipients of its 3Arts Fellowships for 2010, and one is Proyecto Latina’s very own Coya Paz! Two fellowships were granted in each of the areas of music, theater, and visual arts to Chicago artists,  Fellowships at Ragdale include two weeks of residency, uninterrupted time and space, and a $700 stipend. No excuses now for not bringing new material to the open mic!

Cynthia Nambo hugs a graduate from the class of 2010 at Little Village/Lawndale High School.

I’m still super bummed that the Little Village/Lawndale High School in my neighborhood lost four of its administrators as a result of budget cuts.  Before leaving her post as vice principal, Cynthia Nambo–also one of many key players in the creation of the community designed  school–finally got to attend graduating ceremonies.  She describes hugging a graduate from the school, a dream come true.  As for life after her post at the high school, Cynthia says:

“Turned this budget cut into triumph! Now as Instructional Coach in Area 21, I am ready to create authentic relationships with teachers in North Lawndale, Hyde Park, and the North Side of Chicago. I will be giving teachers the focused support they need to grow exponentially and with vigor. In addition, I was accepted to the School Leadership Program at the University of Chicago. This model is innovative and sustainable. It’s focus is to improve neighborhood schools through training highly effective interdisciplinary administrative teams. Whew that was a mouthful! Most leadership programs train individuals not teams. Both of these endeavors will build my capacity to serve our teachers, our students, our families, and our communities to reach new levels of excellence! Educacion es mi pasion.”

In the news

  • For some time now, I’ve been wondering about the lack of Latinas on these day-time talk shows, Esther breaks it down very eloquently as she calls Obama on it and makes a call for Latinas on tv.  And by a look at the women mentioned in this post so far, there is no lack of a qualified person to fill the spot. Maybe someone in tv-land needs to note how Today’s Chicago Woman did it when they recognized a very diverse group of Six Women Changing the World, including Mayra Garcia Guzman, general manager at Chicago Transit Authority for Diversity and Small Business Compliance Programs Department.
  • Veronica Arreola launched Summer of Feminista back in June, an experiment on her blog that invited Latinas to address their relationship with feminism through a written submission.  Although, she is still accepting submissions, she posted a summary quoting the best-of what the submissions have turned up so far at Ms. Magazine.  Arreola writes, “A central theme emerged in these six tales: All these women had other strong women in their lives guiding them. Even if those women role models said one thing and did another, the message to be self-reliant shone through.”
  • Last Spring, we shared this interview with blogger, Cindy Mosqueda who decided to interview her grandfather and father when the Story Corps bus arrived to her city.  This week an excerpt from the interview with her father was aired on NPR.  Listen to the story of her grandfather un sobador dedicated to easing others’ pain.
  • Finally, last but not least the benefits of going to school and pursuing a higher education are sometimes a little less obvious and unexpected.  Students are spared amid an increase in deportations. My personal wish is that the use of that pesky and loaded word illegal be diminished in these news stories.

Have a wonderful week! See you at Proyecto Latina on Monday!