La Neta: Is Marriage Normal?

Shi-Li-Bo Nouvavou, a voudoun spirit. “She is the zenith of solar force, assured and possessed of confidence that is tempered by time and knowledge.” The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot. Destiny Books: Rochester, VT, 1992

In A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness (Duke University Press, 2011), Cherríe Moraga writes that the issue of legalizing gay marriage has the potential to detract from a more pressing issue:  why is marriage normalized in our society, while other kinds of unions are denied legitimacy?  Along with Moraga, I maintain that marriage is the right of heterosexual and homosexual unions alike, but I also join her in wondering if it should be idealized as the ultimate expression of love’s maturity.

Divorce is a process in which a legal authority dissolves the bonds of matrimony.  According to Paul R. Amato’s research brief “Interpreting Divorce Rates, Marriage Rates, and Data on the Percentage of Children with Single Parents,” the commonly cited statistic that about 50% of American marriages eventually end in divorce is accurate.  In a Latino cultural environment, the celebration of marriage is the major rite of passage that defines our entry into adulthood and, as women, one of the most crucial measures of our adequacy. According to Catholic belief, marriage is a sacrament.  Once it is consummated, it cannot be dissolved, and if a divorced person remarries, they are living in perpetual adultery – a state of mortal sin.  As a writer, I can appreciate the poetry in this.  It is true that although it has ended, a relationship never remains safely in the past, and it continues to be a part of who we are forever.

However, as a feminist, I need to question this doctrinal attitude. First, it is clear that sexual control of women (“once it is consummated…”) is the objective here, and this control is used to prevent women from making their own choices about who they partner with.  Secondly, divorce is just as valid an expression of love’s maturity as marriage, and it takes a great amount of faith and spiritual resilience (whatever your system of beliefs happens to be) in order to leave a marriage and travel into the unknown.

I really couldn’t point to a body of films or television shows that portray divorce as the successful outcome of a love relationship. In the media, Latinas are only happy when they are wives and mothers, or perhaps celebrating their quinceañera in a stretch Hummer. To go outside of what our culture promotes as normal is a frightening thing.   People want to know what went wrong, and there is something deeply humiliating about breaking the news to friends, family, co-workers, and in-laws. If children are involved, you are shifting their universe irrevocably.  You are in a world of judgment.

Recently, I overheard a conversation that made me think about how we look at divorce.  The conversation was between two long-time students of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.  A current capoeira player talked with a woman who had trained for many years, but had stopped playing.  The woman who left capoeira said she felt that the martial art could have been better to women. The more aggressive player invariably “won,” while a player exhibiting just as much mastery in their evasive moves was perceived as the lesser player in the bout. I think of our society on whole, and our cultural traditions in particular, like the capoeira player who promotes offensive tactics as intrinsically more valuable than the defensive moves to avert the deathblow.  A divorce takes great love and skill.  It is described as a loss, but it takes enormous courage and emotional mastery to move away from the attacker into a position of greater safety.

As women, we are trained from childhood to cooperate with sexually controlled, officially legitimized unions.  A recent news article about two girls in Iran who assaulted a cleric in a small town says volumes about the pervasiveness of this control.  The older, male authority figure told one of the girls to cover herself more completely. “She responded by telling me to cover my eyes, which was very insulting to me,” explained the cleric. On many parts of this planet, “normal” still means to be controlled by a husband, father, or priest.
Divorce is about believing that love can be better. So plan your anti-bridal shower with your best girlfriends, make that appointment to get that new tattoo – or get that tired “forever yours Enrique” on your neck covered over.  And if a cleric tells you he doesn’t like what he sees, you may cordially invite him to cover his eyes.

(Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences in the comment section)

Call For Submissions – Proyecto Latina Chapbook

!Felicicadades! Proyecto Latina is soon to be completing its 7th year! To celebrate this milestone, we are creating an anthology of the voices, artwork, and chisme that have made Proyecto Latina thrive as a safe and vibrant space for Latina creativity in Chicago.  We want to include your best work that represents your collaboration with Proyecto Latina’s mission and values in our anthology. We look forward to reading your submission.


We accept electronic submissions to online submissions manager

Submission fee $15, payable through the online submission manager.  (We know.  We don’t like submission fees either, but all fees go toward the cost of printing so that we can make this happen).

Online deadline: November 15, 2012

Accepting original writing and artwork, all genres.

Include cover page with: brief bio, specific relationship to Proyecto Latina’s activities, and acknowledgments and complete publication information of works that have been previously published.

Your full name is your entry/submission title

Your writing should be a Microsoft Word file; art should be TIFF file

Simultaneous submissions ok provided we are notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere

English, Spanish, and Spanglish are welcome. 


Microsoft Word submissions only; use a 12-point standard typeface (e.g., Courier, Times, or similar font)

Number all pages

Name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address in the top left corner of the first page

Title and author name at top left of each succeeding page

For fiction and novel excerpts, include word count at the top right corner of the first page

Fiction: 4000 words maximum.  Double-spaced with minimum 1-inch margins all around.

Flash fiction to 750 words. Three stories maximum per submission.

Experimental/hybrid/cross-genre work to 12 pages.

Poetry: No maximum length.  Up to five poems per submission.  Single-spaced okay.

Short Plays: Up to 15 pages

Novel Excerpts: Self-contained or standalone chapters or excerpts of up to 4000 words

We will begin our reviewing  from November to February and will contact you to confirm

if your work has been accepted.

Questions about the process? Contact Paloma Martinez Cruz –

Submit your work at the link below:

Submit to Proyecto Latina

Click the Pay Pal button to process your $15 submission fee. Submissions without the submission fee payment will not be considered.

12 Ways To Mother Your Inner Writer

My mom all smiles with me on her lap

Feliz día de las madres to all of you that are moms or soon-to-be moms! This mother’s day, I’m reflecting on how we can mother our writing self and nurture our creative writing pursuits.

Here is my top ten list on how to mother our inner writers

1. Carve out time for writing

2. Create writing meet ups with other writers

3. Disconnect from Facebook, Twitter and other social media

4. Evaluate your writing goals

5. Get out of your comfort zone and explore other creative genres

6. Take creative risks

7. Treat yourself to a new journal or packet of pens

8. Indulge in a good book! One of my favorites is “The Sound of Pen on Paper,” by Julia Cameron.

9. Organize a reading of your work

10. Treat your inner writer to a prickly pear margarita

11. Find new writing nooks in the city where you can plop down and crank it out. Here is one of my most recent finds…

12.  Pick up Poetry & Writer’s magazine and enter a writing contest

What are some ways that you spoil your inner writer? Let us know in the comment section.




May Proyecto Latina Reading Series – Xánath Caraza

Photo by Tzununi Caraza.

Coming in May! Meet writer Xánath Caraza from Kansas City.  She’s driving all the way from Kansas to be part of the Proyecto Latina Reading Series.  We hope you can join us to welcome Xánath as our featured reader and participate in the open mic. Xánath will be sharing some poetry and narrative work. She likes to write about the human condition honoring women and gender issues.  She likes to  borrow voices of different women to tell their stories.

Her work has been called feminina-centric and she uses language, Spanish and Nahuatl, to assert her heritage, but also incorporate other languages in her writing. She fictionalizes  places has been to, and have caused an impression on her.  For example says Xánath, “my mother’s kitchen, the murals of Bonampak, la Alhambra, or the classroom where I teach every day have been inspirations for me”.

After her reading we will be doing a Q&A with her so you can ask her your burning questions about writing,publishing and life in Kansas City! We will also have special guest artist María Esther León
who grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico and currently living in the Chicago. She will have some of her artwork on display.

Monday, May 16  @7pm

Proyecto Latina Reading Series

@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!

Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, and short story writer. She has published her original work and essays in America: Now and Here Kansas City,, Pegaso of the University of Oklahoma 2010 and 2009, Pilgrimage Magazine, Quercus Review, Thorny Locust, Antique Children, La Bloga, Latino Poetry Review Blog, Present, El Cid, Utah Foreign Language Review, and elsewhere. Additionally, her work has been published in the following anthologies:  Woman’s Work: The Short Stories (Girl Child Press, 2010), Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2009), Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2008), and Más allá de las fronteras (Ediciones Nuevo Espacio, 2004).

She has taught in Mexico, Brazil, China and currently in the US. She is a member of Con Tinta, Writers Place-Festival of Faiths, the Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City, and a member of the Planning and Programming Committee of The Writers Place also of Kansas City among other committees.

In terms of literary awards and honorary mentions, her short story “Canción de la lluvia” was one of the winning short stories in the 2003 international short story contest in Spanish organized by Ediciones Nuevo Espacio. Furthermore, her short story “Agua pasa por mi casa, a mi casa se viene a soñar” was a finalist in the first international John Barry Award, 2008, a Spanish language short story contest.

With regard for other professional activities, such as editing, she was the Spanish language consultant for Scapegoat Press for Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland and Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland.  She received an MA in Romance Languages from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Her original Day of the Dead Altars have been on display at the annual Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery in Kansas City, MO Day of the Dead Exhibition since 2005.

Artwork by María Esther León