Winter Baby Blues & Piñata Dreams by Mayra Rocha

I believe most kids love celebrating their birthdays because they get a day devoted to them. They get a party, presents, cake, and games. They get to spend the day doing whatever they want in honor of their day of birth. Well for me, I always wanted a piñata for my birthday. My piñata would be made out of colorful tissue paper, cardboard, and paper mache.

ARIEL2It would be filled with bite-sized candy and chocolate, like Snickers, Skittles and Starburst. But it wouldn’t be your typical, colorful piñata. No, this piñata would be in the shape of Ariel from the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid”. It was my favorite movie growing up as a kid. I had watched this movie on VHS so much and memorized the songs by heart until the video film eventually broke.

This would have been the ideal birthday party for me as kid, except my birthday is in January. Born in one of the coldest months of the year, I suffered through blizzards and freezing temps around my birthday every year. When I was a kid, I had planned a small and simple party for my 9th birthday. Everything was supposed to go great. I’d only invited my close friends. My mom made me a chocolate cake, ordered pizza and had games planned for the party. We even had the usual decorations of balloons and streamers along with birthday-themed party plates and cups for the occasion. But of course I couldn’t have a piñata because the party was indoors. My mom wouldn’t allow kids breaking open a piñata in our 2-bedroom apartment in the south side of Chicago.

To make matters worse, a snowstorm hit on the weekend of my party. None of my friends could make it to my party because of the snowfall. I ended up having the party just with my family that day. Although it was still great having my cake and family there, I still wished that snowstorm didn’t happen. And of course I wished I could have had a piñata too.

It would have been great to be born in the summer months. To be a summer baby, so I could have pool parties, outdoor barbecues at the park or in my backyard, and of course break open a piñata with a bat or broomstick. I would have loved to have the freedom to run around and not worry about being confined in a small space or indoors. I think warm, sunny days outside just make parties so much more fun.

This is what us winter babies have to suffer through. Freezing temperatures and fear of blizzards ruining your birthday plans. I never had the chance to celebrate my birthday party in the outdoors on a hot summer day. I never had the chance to break open the piñata with my friends and run toward the candy falling out of the ripped-open piñata.

It’s no fun celebrating your birthday indoors every year, or living in fear of a snow apocalypse keeping you hostage at home. Especially when kids just want to run around from the sugar high of all the candy and cake they consumed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be alive and healthy, and that I’ve always been able to celebrate my birthday with family, even if it was indoors. But I just wish I could have had an Ariel piñata and a pool party too.


MAYRA_JUMPERMayra Rocha, a natural-born bookworm and writer from the south side of Chicago, has written articles for Echo, Screen, and Crane Works magazines, and blogs about her experiences from an urban Latina perspective. She was an online contributor for Remilon LLC and wrote engaging articles about online education and degree programs, and the steps involved in following a career path. Mayra has also contributed to, Moments in My Head and Proyecto Latina. She currently works at Groupon and writes for her blog, Avenida M, in her spare time. You can always find her reading a good book, learning a new hobby, traveling to a new destination, or daydreaming.

Dacamented in Jury by Carolina Gallo

Photo courtesy of: Mariana Martinez  Link to my jpg

Photo courtesy of: Mariana Martinez
Link to my jpg

Going to jury duty for the first time was a mix of emotions ranging from, I’m the youngest one here, to can I even legally be here?I say legally because I am DACAmented; which to me is a way of life. It stands for my transition from undocumented to being legalized through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an order that president Obama signed in 2012 giving qualifying applicants between the ages 16-30, the right to live legally in the U.S for two years.
The way it works is, you get a work permit and varying by state it allows you to obtain a state ID and driver’s license. In Illinois you are allowed to get the driver’s license and state ID and it is through the state ID that I ended up chosen for jury duty. As my law teacher in high school explained, every few years they pick people from the donors list and I am on the list, so I was chosen.

This to me seems crazy because I never encounter other DACAmented people in my situation. In the midst of it, I felt scared of what could happen to me. I started talking to other friends in similar situations; they didn’t know it was possible either. The day of jury duty I waited hours for my panel number to be called, it never did.  As I was waiting, I began to reflect on my experience as a Dacamented womyn.

My reflection went like this:

“Land of the Free

Where the rich run and the poor are locked up

People waiting in lines to stand trials

Just to find that the justice system fails us

Telling me that I am legal for two years

People cross borders and spend whole lives waiting on green paper that ain’t coming

People celebrating giving thanks killing each other for flat screens

My brothers and sisters fought too hard for my education

I can’t give up

I am not wanted, implied in unconstitutional misinformation telling me I am only allowed the privilege to a 12th

grade education

Quickly forgetting my rights

YOU call me for jury duty for being on the donors’ list that my people, my parents can’t get donations from

You’re quick to ask, but not quick to give

Where is the government’s money to fund my education?

Where is my right to go back to my country?

Where is my right to vote?

Things that upset me, you give an Americanized school experience

Giving me heroes that look nothing like me

Instead of teaching me

I gain skills on self-assertiveness

I learn the true lesson on socioeconomic status rules, a person life in capitalist America

I learn that just being an open DACAmented muxer is radical

I learn that people who look like me are expected to work blue collar jobs like our parents

You only look at us when elections come

Filling my people with hope

Ending in disillusion

Innocent people behind bars mounting up in county jails getting thrown into corners

So sad that a country built on immigrants won’t see that migration is a human right

So many lost souls trying to make it to the American dream

Expecting streets paved with gold

Instead getting dehumanized because without the green paper you don’t exist

Can’t even get a library card

Staying strong and fearing La PoliMigra

Trying to survive in capitalist America

Not an easy task

America takes, but never fully gives” – Carolina Gallo

Caro's_Bio PhotoAbout Carolina Gallo: She is a 19 year-old Xicana storyteller from Chicago’s Southside, originally from Jalisco, Mexico. Carolina likes to tell the stories of marginalized inner city residents because she feels their perspective is crucial to the city’s growth. Currently attending Harold Washington College working on her Associates in Art, she plans to transfer to UIC for Urban Planning and Latino Studies. Her work has been published in Young Chicago Authors, The Chicago Beat and The Division Street: The Remix Sessions (a recreation of Studs Terkel’s book, Division Street America). Her goal as a storyteller is to continue to empower people by giving them a voice.


Nudges, Shoves and Cosmic Cachetadas by Ericka Sanchez McCarthy

ERICKA_FINALI was the recipient of several “cosmic cachetadas” (term courtesy of the wonderful Diana Pando), during 2013. These weren’t necessarily physical manifestations but their effects warranted an actual need for me to act on things I had been ignoring or avoiding and continuing to live in a “comfortable/safe predictability.”

Life was moving forward, but the universe sought me out time and again through little nudges, then shoves and signs here and there to let go of what I perceived as safe and secure. One of the most important “cachetadas” first started with nudges and shoves over the past few years after having had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the ladies at Proyecto Latina.

There was a joy in sharing poetry with other poets and interviewing and writing about Latinas talentosas that didn’t just talk the talk but were doing what they felt was a way to nourish their creative spirit and breath for their soul. It was in these meetings, readings and discussions that the nudges and shoves became more frequent and imposing. I will be honest and say that there was always this self-doubt, and fear that it would be reckless of me to jump and follow that trail of word crumbs that had been slowly winding around my heart.

In the past, I had been able to ignore or avoid those feelings, that something was not right, that I wasn’t getting that “air”  I longed for which would in turn make me feel every breath I took feel full of actual enjoyment. However, there was a great feeling of creative bliss over the summer after having a poem published and shared in the company of wonderful Latinas who revealed a part of themselves through their words (shameless plug here, Rebeldes:  A Proyecto Latina Anthology, if you haven’t gotten your copy, you’re missing out on awesome Latina writers and poets).

That experience ultimately led to leave the “safe zone” and quit a profession that I was no longer feeling fulfilled in. A choice that I went back and forth weighing the pros and cons, then trying to justify the negatives, talking myself into continuing because if I didn’t, in my mind I would be a “quitter”.  The truth was that I wasn’t feeling the passion or fulfillment I once did and now I was starting to feel the anxiety that comes with not loving what you do.

The “cachetada” came one day, as I was getting ready for work, knowing that even though I had taken some time to think about the choice to quit, I had to do it now and give my notice. This decision caused me to stop accepting what had become a “predictable” way of life for me. The “cachetada” forced me to stop and follow this new path, which I look at as a new adventure towards what truly brings me joy, which is writing.

I am not without appreciation for the support system I have in the forms of my husband, children, family and friends, fellow writers and poets and creatives. Also, I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not scared of what the future will hold or that the process to get where I hope to be one day will be smooth and easy. I know it won’t be, but I’ve also learned when the universe gives you nudges, then shoves and finally “cosmic cachetadas” I’ll be paying attention with a notebook in one hand and pen in the other, ready to write it all down.


ERICKAEricka McCarthy is a Mexican import that has called Chicago home for a large portion of her life. She was raised in a bi and later tri-lingual home in the Little Village area where many a weekend, involved long walks with her mom and sister down 26th Street taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and shopping the neighborhood had to offer. Ericka was a monolingual Spanish speaker until she started pre-school and would meet a wonderful teacher that introduced her to the awesomeness that language, reading, writing and freedom of imagination would inspire. Her experiences through varying employments have helped her develop an appreciation for finding humor and thought in everyday events of life that can be written about.

Most recently, she worked in the education field, where for almost 9 years she enjoyed teaching, molding young minds, and learning a lot from her young charges as well, such as not all scissors are fool-proof and yes, if a child forgets their lunch over the weekend, a penicillin type mold will be begin to grow, thus creating an inexpensive class experiment! Ericka has had the amazing opportunity to work in the past with the illustrious crew at Proyecto Latina as a featured artist and, interviewing Latinas in the arts as well as being able to share poetry in the Proyecto Latina Anthology: Rebeldes. Ever changing like a chameleon that adapts, her current adventure involves leaving the teaching field and focusing on her dream of writing a children’s book, storytelling for children as well as adults (because come on, who doesn’t love a good story?), working on voiceovers for TV and radio as well as continuing the poetry and writing journey that she began long ago.

Awilda González’s Writing Journey

REBELDE“I’m not a poet or a performer, I just have a story to tell, it just happens to be that writing chose me to tell the story.” – Awilda González

When I wrote that over two years ago I never really felt I was a writer, let alone be a poet.  How can I be a poet or even consider myself a writer when I continued to compare myself to the likes of Julia de Burgos, Sylvia Rexach, Judith Ortiz Cofer and Gloria Anzaldua?

In all the years I’ve been writing, ten years to be exact, I never really thought or even considered that my poems would really make themselves out of my little notebook.  Writing was about my own journey, my struggles, my pain, and my heartbreaks a huge part of my healing process.  The thought of sharing those intimate and private thoughts meant I was sharing the deepest parts of who I am, like giving a part of my soul away and letting the vulnerable part of who I was exposed for the world to see.  Just the mere thought of that terrified me, so for many years I kept them all to myself, tucked away in my night stand protected from the world.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I began to share those tucked away intimate pieces of myself.  Poetry students at a high school, where I was a mentor, challenged me to share my story.  They boldly walked into class and announced “Miss G, if we have to get up in front of a group of people and share so do you!” How can I tell my students that I was afraid of the very thing I was asking them to do.  It was then I realized I had to get over my fear and release the years of hidden away thoughts and memories.  It took some time for me to feel comfortable with sharing, I still feel I struggle to this day to share those stories, let alone get them out on paper. I still have so many more stories to tell, so many words to pour out, yet I find myself with what feels like a thousand thoughts and about a thousand more emotions and my OCD tendencies surface.

Just as quickly as those thoughts and emotions appear they disappear. Recently, I’ve come to realize my lack of writing doesn’t have to do with my inability to write or that I no longer feel average compared to Julia de Burgos or Judith Ortiz Cofer, but more so of my need to have everything in perfect harmony. I realize poetry and writing is not about perfect harmony or having precise thoughts it’s just about getting it all out, whether it makes sense or not, the perfection comes with every re-write.

Last year, I definitely came full circle when the two poems closest to my heart where chosen for the Proyecto Latina Anthology, Rebeldes.  I can’t even describe the emotions and awe I experienced when I read Paloma Martinez-Cruz’s email informing me that Allegiance and Endangered Species where chosen.  When I read the list of other amazing poetas I finally realized Awilda you are a poet you are a writer and yes you have a story to tell.  Since the release of Rebeldes, I keep hearing Diana Pando’s voice in my head saying, “If we don’t write our stories, someone else will”, and those words became etched in my heart.

My goal this year is to live with intention in everything I do, which includes sharing my story, the story of so many other women who find themselves voiceless out of fear.  I now remind myself everyday by reading this quote I wrote at the end of last year, “You can’t partake in my Glory if you don’t know my Story”.  It’s time to share those stories, to write OUR stories and to let go of the thousands of words and thousands of emotions that have been tucked away for too long. So Cheers to a year filled with overflowing words! – Awilda González


AWILDA_FINAL  Awilda González  is a Puerto Rican Poet and Writer, born in Chicago and raised in Chicago and Caguas, Puerto Rico. She is a grad student at North Park University pursuing her Masters in Higher Education Administration and holds a Bachelor in Human Development from North Park University. She began writing as a teenager but it really wasn’t until 2004 after a series of life changing events, which she began to take writing seriously. In 2005 she read two of her first poems, one at North Park University’s Poetry Night Events and the second at Batey Urbano’s Windy City Women Event. She has taught poetry workshops at Association House of Chicago and taught poetry class at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School in 2008. In 2008 she took a team of students from Campos and prepared them to compete at the 2009, Louder than a Bomb, Young Chicago Author’s Poetry Competition. The team made it to semi-finals and was awarded the “Truth Award”. In 2010, she wrote her first all Spanish poems and performed it at various bomba performances in Chicago and Aurora. As a single mother she is very familiar with the struggles women face in parenting, being an individual and trying to balance it all and have her own identity. In the summer of 2010 she wrote her first article, which was published in entitled “Single motherhood vs. Being a woman”. After visiting Proyecto Latina a couple of times, was selected to be the feature poet in March, 2011.  In 2013, two poems closest to her heart, Allegiance and Endangered Species where published in Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology.  Her desire is to speak of the things others tend to hide and first and foremost to be open and candid about her personal experiences, which is the experience of many silenced women.

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.