Chicago Writers On Language & Identity

One of our favorite writers is coming to town next week! Ana Castillo joins a panel of Chicago writers to discuss the role of language and identity in their own writing and literature.

Language and Identity: A Chicago Writers Panel

January 24, 2013 @7:00 P.M

Northwestern McCormick Tribune Forum

1870 Campus Drive

Evanston, IL

Panelists include award winning authors:

Ana Castillo, Aleksandar Hemon and Bich Minh Nguyen and moderated by Reginald Gibbons, Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities. Read more…

How does language and identity impact your own writing?


“My Car Is Lame” – La Neta: A Latina Guide to Losing It All

Paloma Martinez-Cruz y su Perla Negra – Photo by Mike Travis


It was Christmas during my son Emiliano’s second year.  I was trying to settle him down and put him to bed after the frenzy of new toys and festivities were finally over.   This was when my son had a great revelation about truth, happiness, life, and everything, which he summed up with the following declaration, pronounced with tremendous gravitas: Quiero todos, todos, todos los regalos.  (I want all, all, all of the presents).  He knew what it took to be happy. Happiness meant todos todos todos los regalos.  Unhappiness meant NOT having todos todos todos los regalos.

Mijo, yo también quiero todos todos todos los regalos.  I don’t have to tell you that the Perla has seen better days.  I bought the Perla Negra, a 2001 Chevrolet Prizm when we left California for Illinois. She has been a real trooper, keeping us rolling through Chicago winters and parking year round on Pilsen’s mean streets.  Her wheel covers never stayed on, thanks to a Prizm design flaw.  Her paint is faded and her hood doesn’t close properly. I often catch people looking at her with that expression on their faces.  You know the expression.  There are cars that say, “You’ve made it,” but my Perla is the car that makes people say, “What happened?”

Vehicle wise, I covet the creamy lines of the Maserati Gran Turismo Sport, or the flirtatious yet artisanal air of the new Fiat 500.  My cravings are not limited to svelt Italian lines.  The inner chola wants to customize a ‘67 Impala Super Sport, or perhaps update my relationship to the GM family in a silver topaz Chevrolet Volt.

Quiero todos todos todos los regalos, but I can’t think about buying a car right now, and to tell you the truth, I am not sure that even if I could, I should.  As a single woman, I love the freedom that owning a car gives me to explore places around town on my own terms.  But in this economy, and with environmental threats being what they are, I need to take the alternatives seriously.  The capitalist overlords are banking on all of us having the same attitude of a two-year-old on Christmas: there are never enough regalos.  Our happiness depends on purchasing more and more, but this “consume, expand, produce” message about what will straighten out the economy is the antithesis to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” message that will straighten out our planet, particularly in the days when war ravaged peoples from fossil fuel production lands plainly tell us that our gasoline cravings are far from bloodless.

There are some exciting options out there that I am looking into with the understanding that Perla can’t keep on rolling forever.  Since I am thinking that the planet, and the people who die in droves when the capitalist overlords want to control their resources, need my loyalty and affection more than the automobile and fuel industry moguls, I am heartened to know that there are businesses and organizations that are adapting to the humanitarian, budgetary, and ecological urgencies of our times, and developing ways to emphasize access to – rather than ownership of – the things that we need.  In Chicago, ride share programs like Pace RideShare Pace helps people carpool together.  Relay Rides helps you rent cars from people in your community. I-Go is a non-profit with cars adjacent to CTA routes and rail stations.

So, my carnalísimas, I think we should have some fun pissing off the capitalist overlords by taking pride in our lame ranflas, and/or our non-ranfla having lifestyles.  Send me a lowrider picture of yourself posing with your ride, or a CTA photo wearing your best chola eyeliner (and lip liner, por supuesto) and send it this way so that we can do our part in creating a media stream in/of/about our own images, using our super powers of Latina glamorousness to rep the reduce, reuse, recycle lifestyle on our own terms, con safos!

Did You Know We Made the Top-Ten Referring Sites?

Did you know that Proyecto Latina made the top ten list in Linking Audiences To News II Report? Well happy news we did! So what does this mean?

In a nut shell, we are cyber chingonas in Chicago linking to other sites and providing resources to our community. If you look at the list of virtual colleagues that made the list below you will notice that we are the only Latina led site mentioned. I think it’s important that we support other local Latino online sites and encourage new ones to crop up.

The flip side of this is there is always room for improvement on our site and we hope in the next few months continue to enhance this virtual space we’ve created. Special thanks to Rich Gordon, Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for including us in the report.

We also wanted to give a shout-out of congrats to the other top referring sites in the report that include:

Make sure you check out and support these sites by following them on Twitter or liking their Fan page.

To learn more about these rankings you can go to Also, make sure you

get your free download of the 2012 New News Report that is also ranking Chicago’s online news scene.

To download a copy of the report go to Linking Audiences To News Report. 

Both reports were funded by The Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Meet Media Maker Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa photo by Timothy Greenfield

Recently, we had the great honor of being able to interview journalist Maria Hinojosa (National Public Radio’s Latino USA, CNN, PBS Frontline) She has received many awards including two Emmys, the Robert F. Kennedy award and a leadership award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

This month she is coming back to Chicago to be honored for the work she does at Community Media Workshop’s Studs Terkel Community Media Awards.  Maria is also the author of Raising Raul: An Adventure Raising Myself and My Son. In the past, she has also past Hispanic Business magazine named her one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States.

Maria Hinojosa emigrated with her family from Mexico City to the south side of Chicago. Her first jobs included babysitting,working at a jewelry store in Hyde Park and becoming a powerhouse media maker amplifying the stories of ordinary people. Since then Maria has been paving the way in media for the last two decades making way for a new generation of Latina media makers.

Despite her busy schedule, Maria was generous with her time to do this two-part interview. As I’m dialing Maria’s number I notice that my hands start to get sweaty. I am suddenly feeling a little bit nervous about interviewing a seasoned journalist like Maria.

Thankfully, I remember the interview Maria did with Queen Noor of Jordan and how she felt a little nervous about doing the interview. She was on her way home in New York when she took my call and this is what she had to say.

DP: What is it about telling the stories of unsung heroes in communities that attracts you?

MH: In general there are so many people who I meet on a daily basis who I’m reporting about or just simply meeting whose experience in America is unsung is untold and I’m always inspired by them and often times they are Latinas or women of color.

This country is changing dramatically and with change comes pain and so a lot of Latinas whether they are to an extreme working in the fields, garment factories or working in Fortune 500 companies many Latinas still feel  pressure coming down on us. There are amazing successes and I’m thinking for example Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis or Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer but many Latinas living day to day with a dual experience of what it is to be a Latina in this country.

Which is on the one hand the celebration of the reality of demographic growth that is clearly unstoppable and on the other hand the complete opposite response of “we don’t want to see you, please don’t be here, go away and be quiet and don’t say anything.”  Latinas are living that daily experience and daily dichotomy all the time. So the ones that I meet who are unsung they absolutely inspire me to keep doing what I have to do to tell these stories.

DP: What does it mean for you to come back to Chicago to receive the Studs Terkel Community Media Award?

MH: I’ve been out of Chicago for a long time but come back often because my parents and sister live there. There is something really special about Chicago and the Midwest.  When you visit Chicago sometimes you don’t quite see it but when you come back to it you realize that the spirit of this part of the country is very unique particularly Chicago. For me to receive the Studs Terkel Award its like wow Studs Terkel was doing this and he was breaking through these boundaries.

I remember picking up his book Working, and thinking what an interesting way of doing journalism. He’s actually letting people speak for themselves and he’s speaking to the invisible people. While I loved what he did, it didn’t make me think that I could do it. Today, I think Studs would be so pleased to know that there is a generation who was inspired by him and who learned the lessons of giving voice to the voiceless. I’m only hoping I can pass on that same kind of inspiration to the next generation.

Next week we will publish the second half of Maria’s interview where she will address the role of mentorship and what it takes to tell compelling stories. In the meantime, tell us what you think of the interview or if you have a favorite interview that Maria has done for NPR’S Latino USA share it with us.

The Reportera Series is supported by the Local Reporting Awards,

The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.

February Proyecto Latina Reading Series

Do you or someone you know have diabetes? This disease is on the rise in the Latina community and we wanted to provide a platform to spotlight this issue. When the arts and diabetes awareness collide you get something fabulous! Join us for a lively presentation and conversation with diabetes activist Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez.  We encourage you to bring any diabetes themed stories, poems, essays and share your story during the open mic or simply come to connect and learn from Christina’s inspiring story of how she combats diabetes.

Proyecto Latino Reading Series – Free

Monday, February 20, 7PM to 9PM

@Cobalt Studio

1950 West 21st Street – Storefront

Chicago, IL 60608

CTA: Damen Pink Line Stop / #50 Damen Bus

Arrive early to sign up for the open mic and remember the Chisme Box is ready to be fed

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez is the editorial director at Extra Bilingual Newspaper and has been living with Type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years of her life. Developing a need to educate her peers and those around her about the long-lasting and lethal effects of unhealthy living especially within the Latino community, Christina started blogging for ChicagoNOW on her blog titled Check Yo’ Self, which delves into the complications, nutritional insight, stresses and successes of living with diabetes. In addition, she is also the Communications and Social Media committee chair for the American Diabetes Association Young Professional’s Board. Christina has been a featured guest on Poco A Poco radio as a diabetes activist, is a monthly guest blogger for Latinos in Social Media’s Salud Saturdays and also talks to high school health classes when asked. To get more of her musings and diabetes insights, follow her on Twitter at @kiki416 and @kikisbetes.

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