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.

What's it like to grow up in Little Village?


Early 90's: Primas and photobooth silliness at Ford City Mall.

Love in the time of Aqua Net and Crushed Cherries
was a piece I wrote a few years back when my friend Diana Pando posed the question, “What’s it like to grow up in the Little Village neighborhood?”  I didn’t start off writing about love–it’s a theme that emerged as the piece evolved and I allowed the creative process to guide me on a journey that ultimately led me back to my youth.  Below is the segment that includes the radio edit of this story–it aired on Vocalo on WBEZ a couple of weeks back.

[mp3t track="" title="03-24 Vocalo Hour 2"]

Did you grow up in Little Village?  Perhaps you grew up elsewhere but what was it like for you?  How does that story compare to what you read and see on the news and media?

You can share with us via the comments or drop us a line if you would like to guest blog.  Another avenue you might be interested in: Vocalo Storytelling Workshop is currently recruiting for a new group of storytellers deadline is April 16th.

Ciudadanía 2012

Citizenship Workshop at Mujeres Latinas en Acción where volunteers assist legal permanent residents on the citizenship application process.

I have a very hazy memory of my parents becoming United States citizens since it happened when I was pretty young.  What is easy to recall is the feeling that it was something big and that they worked hard towards accomplishing.  My mother recounted the nerve wrecking experience of preparing and taking her citizenship test.

I don’t know if anyone helped my parents navigate that path but I do remember their oath ceremonies where as big a deal as school graduations and they took days off work to attend.  Afterward they both  beamed with satisfaction and pride–perhaps a sense of relief. And once they had this social capital they paid it forward, I often heard my mom pointing friends–that like her were also immigrants–toward  resources and offering much needed encouragement on obtaining their ciudadanía.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website in the last decade 6.8 million individuals became U.S. citizens.  With over 800,000 new citizens in 2000 that number dropped by almost half by 2003 and didn’t see a significant increase until 2008 at over one million.  That is an average of 680,000 new U.S. citizens per year that gain the ability to fully participate in the country they now call home and that can begin flexing their voting muscle. It was my parents who modeled this civic duty and by the time I turned 18 I understood the value of registering and showing up to vote on election day.

So when Maria León, Latina Leadership Coordinator at Mujeres Latinas en Acción recently told me about an opportunity to train to assist legal permanent residents fill out their applications for citizenship I didn’t have to think too much about it–its definitely something I want to do.

Below is information on the training workshop and dates that the citizenship workshops will take place in 2012.

When:  Wednesday, January 18th from 6pm to 9pm
Where:  Instituto del Progreso Latino,
2520 S. Western Ave.
If you are interested in participating contact Maria Leon at

All workshops take place Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm but volunteers usually stay until 2 pm if the turnout is great.

January 21 @ Daley College, 7500 South Pulaski
February 25 @ Benito Juarez High School,
1450-1510 W. Cermak Road  (Parking is on 21st and Loomis)
March 10 @
Benito Juarez High School, 1450-1510 W. Cermak Road (Parking is on 21st and Loomis)
March 24 @ Location TBD
May 12 @ Location TBD
June 23 @ Location TBD

And as Maria says, “In the spirit of giving back: feel free to spread the word.”

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards, The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.  Get the full scoop on The Reportera Series here.


Kansas City: Respite in the Heartland


The invitation arrived a few months back. Diana and I were invited to read as part of a Dia de los Muertos event at the Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the perfect excuse for my favorite mode of travel—a road trip!

On the morning we left Diana bought bacon buns from the Bridgeport Bakery to jump-start our journey with a savory snack. I was determined to keep the 500 mile stretch of Midwest inter-state interesting with my favorite Pandora stations. We occasionally pulled over to obscure rural towns and rest-stops for bathroom breaks and to gas-up the car. Nine hours later we were welcomed into the lovely home of Kansas City resident and founding member of the Latino Writers Collective Xanath Caraza. It was the beginning of a charming weekend and plenty of wonderful discoveries about a city that up until very recently I knew too little about.

This brief get-away also served as a creative pilgrimage with plenty of delightful discoveries that left me inspired–they are as follows:

The Writers Place I’m told that this literary community center was founded by a Latina, and the mansion it calls home was once a brothel, later an evangelical church and now the writers that frequent the spot suggest there is a ghost.

The Latino Writers Collective is a fierce group of Kansas City writers, “they hold bi-weekly meetings and critiques, collaborating to hone and polish the work of its members for publication.” To date they have published two anthologies: Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland and Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland. Proyecto Latina has been lucky enough to feature two of its members: Linda Rodriguez (Oct. 2010) and Xanath Caraza (April 2011).  It was an honor to have the opportunity to read with them in Kansas City.

The Plaza is a posh entertainment district full of Spanish inspired architectural eye-candy.  We squeezed in some window shopping and Diana splurged on cookie cutters in the shape of a hummingbird and a daschund. At the coffee shop I was pleasantly surprised that the barista that prepared my pumpkin latte pronounced my name correctly.

Dolores Huerta was not new to me, but it was the first time I got to hear her speak. I was pretty star-struck but I managed to ask if she would take a photo with me.

Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery had an impressive number of altars, for their Day of the Dead exhibit, squeezed into their storefront space. One interactive ofrenda titled Mujeres Poderosas allowed Diana and I to add our mothers names. It was in this space that I encountered a French Bulldog named Diego, with the same frog eyes as his name sake, a bow-tie collection and the sweetest temperament.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum features a sculpture garden with a 56 foot metal tree and a scattering of giant shuttle cocks.  Our visit was short but it packed a punch: we viewed an exhibit of prints by Jose Guadalupe Posada and we saw the Day of the Dead community ofrenda that our friend Xanath had a hand in creating–you can listen to a piece on the making of this ofrenda here.

Rotary Cheese Graters You know, the darnest things will impress me. Xanath hosted us to breakfast and dinner, and when we asked if we could help it was this kitchen gadget that kept me entertained–she joked that it was part of her husband’s dowry. There were other gastronomic indulgences in Kansas City: A pint of craft beer from Boulevard, a local brewery and the signature burnt ends bbq brisket for dinner. How about a scoop of goatcheese and fig flavor ice cream? Diana, Xanath and I vowed to write odes to it.

How much Pozole can you eat?

In case you have not noticed we all have daytime jobs, to–you know–pay the bills.  Although, I confess we have sometimes wondered: What if Proyecto Latina  was our full-time project?  Let us dream, we know how to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, but who can blame us for such an active imagination, we are after all writers and/or artists and creating is like air for us.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by more artists in my 9 to 5 gig.   Working for Pros Arts Studio has given me the opportunity to get acquainted with other creatives and develop an even deeper appreciation  for the disciplines they work in–beginning with Giselle Mercier, who continually nudges me toward new levels of potential.  I’ve learned about the humbling nature of clay from Nicole Marroquin, had the opportunity to co-instruct the Tejer y Poder class with Thelma Uranga– an experience that expanded my horizons to the possibilities of fiber arts and I have witnessed the exceptional commitment to our youth from Delilah Salgado who uses street art to guide teens in the youth produced summer festival, We R Hip Hop.

I’m also immersed in a non-profit world in a community based setting where we have to depend heavily on community and foundation support to survive.  We offer free art classes, the kind I only dreamed about as a young person, these take place in a modest basement studio of Dvorak Park. They are out-of-school time programs that include a community clay studio and a circus arts workshop and can always benefit from one more ally.

Enter the 3rd Annual Pozolada on Saturday, March 19th, 2011, a fundraiser to support the community programs mentioned above.  The premise is simple: Each ticket purchase includes food, drinks and dessert, at the end of the night you get a one-of-a-kind bowl to take home.  Pozole is donated by community members and local restaurants, this year we are having traditional pozoles–including rojo, verde and blanco–as well as more contemporary versions that include a vegetarian pozole.   I’m particularly excited that we will be pairing this delectable offering with Latin Vintage Sounds courtesy of  (((Sonorama))).

Consider this my personal invitation to you–yes, you—to join me and the Pros Arts Studio community. My mom will be making a pot of her pozole, I know I’m biased but hers is my personal favorite.  Save room for seconds and thirds, there will also be signature pozoles from El Faro and De Colores.

3rd Annual Pozolada
Saturday, March 19, 2011
From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Held at Casa Juan Diego,
2020 S. Blue Island
Chicago, Il 60608

Advance tickets for Pozolada are $25, tickets at the door are $30, tickets for youth under 12 are $10.  You can buy your tickets online at