LA TOLTECA 2.0
Welcome former contributors, new contributors, readers & viewers. We’re back with the same positive vibes and desire to support creatives, artists, writers, book warriors and those who put the active in activists and walk their talk. We begin with a new feature called Box 4B: Brown & Beautiful Babe-Boomers. In these times where near-despair creeps up we must remind ourself there is beauty and hope in our lives, too. We don’t get dressed up for events but you can spruce up at home & do a selfie–share it with us. It may be the art you created in your studio, apartment, or on the kitchen table. Maybe you spotted a squirrel at the window ledge or a bird’s nest in the backyard that gave you a smile. Did you get some new threads or shoes you want to show off? Maybe inspiration came in a book you read–share the cover with a few personal words. Email only original images. Any format. Thanks to the first contributors for responding to the initial call. From La Tolteca 2.0 headquarters to your homes where we send good wishes fo safety & health, gracias! All positive comments are welcome here. Here we go.
What makes you feel happy, blessed, inspires you during a world pandemic throughout a catastrophic planet and with greed-driven ‘leadership’? Our spirits call out and to each other. Thank you to those here who submitted these images from their lives from Houston, Chicago, Austin, California, New York City to San Miguel de Allende.
Houston based poet who took workshops with me in San Diego and Chicago. Socorro Pasco, an islander by heritage says of the images she sent here: “A return to nature is a return to oneself. These photos reflect that to me personally and my way of connecting to others.”
photo credit: Socorro Pasco
Poeta de ¡New York, New York!
The Old Girl Throws Her Hair Back is a wonderful representation of how beauty is found in the old.
Empire Queen is sheer resilience and uniqueness.
Practicing social distancing in Chicago, Guadalupe Chairez shares one of her solo passions here.
(Photo credit: Marcelo Castillo. We welcome back Marcelo as a contributor to Tolteca 2.0. Check out our story in Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo and Me (Feminist Press)
El Maestro is working on a group mural in Chicago this summer. We’ll see more of his exemplary talent in future issues.
DARK GODDESS / BLACK MADONNA
Fabric Collage; 60 x 50 in. 2020
Traditionally, the huipil is the indigenous dress or blouse of Mesoamerica. Known for its straight, simple shape and intricate patterns, it is usually, but not always, woven on a backstrap loom. As a survival strategy during Spanish colonial rule, a wealth of information was woven into the design. Text within the textile. These garments were clandestine books. They functioned as containers for religious beliefs, agricultural secrets, and community traditions, all discretely embedded within the threads.
Inspired by the concept of a garment as messenger, I began in 2003 to create contemporary, non-wearable versions from paper and canvas. My intention was to weave the threads of truth, justice, beauty, and power into my huipiles, aligning with the cultural, historical, and social context of their tradition. In December, 2019, I published a book, “Whispers in the Thread,”, to celebrate 15 years of this series. While it was at the press, I was contemplating what would follow it, and I realized the answer was ‘more huipiles.’ This new beginning however, called for something different. I felt I was finished creating specific works for particular women or issues.
So I took a leap.
Wanting to continue my practice of reusing and repurposing, I took my boxes and bags of materials, threw everything on the studio table, to see what I could make of the chaos. This new way of working forced an emergence, and created a more organic, non-goal oriented process. Challenging as it is, I persevered, determined to allow something to take shape that I didn’t consciously direct.
The first work had been pieced together for months, and it wasn’t until January that I really dove into it. This oversized huipil had begun with a black chamisole and a woven plastic bag from the produce market, stitched on to some old painting aprons. It had no focus until I incorporated a book cover whose title “The Dark Goddess” showed faintly on the spine. I began to build the concept around her, the ancient mother goddess whose shrines I’ve made pilgrimages to in Mexico and Europe since the 1990’s. She had come home to me, and found a place in my studio. As Covid-19 was now beginning to spread to this continent, I also gave her an oversized facemask to symbolize protection and care for all her children.
Just as I was applying the last bits of textile and found objects, George Floyd cried out for his mama before his last breath was stolen from him. Like mothers around the world, I cried out with him, and for him. What if we all begin to see Black and dark as the place of emergence, without which nothing is birthed, nothing is grown, and nothing flowers? How could that awareness change our ingrained racist attitudes? DARK GODDESS / BLACK MADONNA is dedicated to George Floyd and all BIPOC whose lives have been shattered by white privilege.
Ana Castillo with Eddie Rodríguez
La Tolteca 2.0 closes this first feature with a post-script. All Baby Boomers, GenX & Millennials (i.e. folks past 40): During a world pandemic many of us are amongst the most vulnerable. Stay strong and remember you’re not alone. Send us your personal stories & images to share with our viewers.
Readers/viewers–we hope you are enjoying the original images in the first blog post of
La Tolteca 2.0. Comments here regarding your favorites are welcome.
(Submissions for Yo ¡Presente! feature must be current, original and previously unpublished anywhere. 750 word limit. Topic related to your political concern and activism. firstname.lastname@example.org). We launch this feature this week with former La Tolteca contributor and Georgia based activist.
(photo credits: Paul McLennan)
On Tuesday, June 17th, a rally was held in Decatur, GA to demand the immediate removal of the confederate monument in the city square that was placed there in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The rally was organized by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights. Attorney and co-chair of Beacon Hill, Mawuli Davis, is standing to the left. As a member of Beacon Hill, I have part of the 3 year struggle to remove this symbol of hate that finally came down the following night. The work continued past midnight into Juneteenth, a perfect way for the community to celebrate. Grateful for the youth who have risen up to confront systemic white supremacy. Combined with the ongoing base-building we had already been doing, they created a wave of change that made this historic event possible. More to do.
Readers: Are you (like Paul here) among the few on earth today with a smart phone who shies away from selfies or dodges the camera lenses that are around in our daily lives? Try it with your protective mask gear and send to us.
All flash fiction (750 word limit) and poems (English or Spanish, ok. Other languages but include translation) submissions must be original, 12 pt, DS, Times Roman format, unpublished anywhere for consideration: email@example.com.
I’m an educator, mami, and writer living in Austin, Texas.
On why the anger is in my blood and how it got there
It was slowly dropped in like an IV
from the bag of tricks of White supremacy
It’s the droplets. . . . like, let’s drop lies
in her heart that she’s not as smart as the White kids in private schools whose parents spoke English to them and who don’t have a green card that calls them an alien.
It’s the systemic injections of subjections to conquerors’ narrations and indoctrinations
of my supposed defeat
It’s revising history. Telling me I’m not Black. Telling me I can be White, but then belly-laughing when I try.
Because my ancestors’ African roots planted my feet in the soil, and it looks funny to them but it’s my ancestors’ stoic fight to not let me shake my leaves to give the fruit they wanted.
The toxic fruit of memorizing Shakespeare on a pedestal
in my blood
The toxic fruit of making it impossible to be a madre of Brown children
in my blood
The toxic fruit of their shock at my demand for more, for better, for dignidad
in my blood
The toxic fruit of reading an absurd quantity of their authors over a meaningful quality of mine
in my blood
The toxic fruit of laughing at my abuelo’s Inglés
in my blood
The toxic fruit of negating my identity and truths for their comfort
in my blood
And the sugar from that fruit is my glucose.
And self love, truth, God, power, words, and gentleness are my insulin.
And until I get my full dose, my sugar is anger. And now, the insulin takes time to move from cell to cell, through vein and vein, from organ to organ until it reaches my heart.
But until I get enough insulin
That is why there is anger in my blood and that is how it got there.
Tomás de Utrera
Since the 19s0s, arriving in Chicago from Spain with his young family Tomás de Utrera garnished a reputation around town as a flamenco guitarist. Today he has retired the guitar for the pen. Here is a remembrance when he encountered the renown novelist while he studied in Japan.
Un Encuentro (memoir)
The name, Yukio Mishima, is not a household name in most Western homes but my two meetings with him were life-changing events for me. He is one of Japan’s greatest writers of the 20th Century and this encounter took place in the mid-’60s when I was a student at Tokyo University of education (東京教育大学). For some of you older Japan hands, you might find our first meeting place nostalgic. Mishima was a great and quite knowledgeable fan of American jazz and I met him at a jazz coffee shop called “Check” located in Shinjuku san-chome just a few steps away from the now, world-famous beer hall, Donzoko. Though Check no longer exists, Donzoko is still there and doing a thriving business that I last heard.
I was sitting at the counter, reading when this large shadow loomed up behind me. I turned to see who or what it was and there was Mishima as large as life. He emitted a feeling of immense security and well-being that immediately made me feel completely relaxed. After a few cursory self-introductions, he mentioned that it was unusual to find, in those days, a young foreigner reading in the Japanese language and I told him that I was a student majoring in Japanese literature, and of course, that I was familiar with his work. He asked what I was reading and I showed him the book, a collection of the works of Osamu Dazai. He said the one fault he found in Dazai was not his work but the fact that Dazai committed suicide. At the time I didn’t think much about it because that was the complaint from most Japanese scholars on modern Japanese literature. My theory on the suicide of Dazai was different and that was the basis of my graduation thesis on the author. I felt for several reasons that Dazai’s suicide was, for many reasons, a classical Japanese suicide of obligation. Mishima gave me the benefit of the doubt on my theory and that lead to a short walk to San-ko-cho or the Hanazono shrine area of Shinjuku which in the 1960s was a much bigger area than it is today. It was full of those very small bars with only three or four stools and one of them was owned by a former lady-friend of Dazai’s. She and some of her friends were a mountain of information on the author and his work. I am always thankful to Mishima for what he did for me with respect to helping me, somewhat grudgingly I suppose, with my sotsuron-bun (卒論文).
I think it was on our second meeting that Mishima quizzed me on my aims once I had graduated from the university. Naturally, he asked me if I planned to become a teacher of Japanese since the school, I was studying at was dedicated to producing teachers. I said no, I had no plans to teach Japanese at any level nor to be a translator of Japanese literature. In the case of the latter, it would have been totally in opposition to everything I was doing. When, earlier in high school, I had read Japanese novels in translation was when I realized that I could never reach a true understanding of Japan through translations. So that if an individual was so taken with the culture of Japan he must read these works in the original and therefore become immersed in the language, the culture, and the people. I came to this obvious conclusion through my talks not just with Mishima and the literary class but by living completely within the society. This is especially true with such diverse cultures as those of the Far East when approached from the West. I realized I had to “get out of my Western skin” and get into my “Eastern skin.” In order to make an honest translation, one does not translate themselves but they must probably transform themselves into that which they are trying to convey. To successfully translate a writer like Federico Garcia Lorca one must become not just a Spaniard but an Andaluz as well. For as close as Spain may be to the English speaking and thinking world without immersing oneself in the land of Lorca one cannot translate the ¨duende¨ that lives in Andalusia into Anglo terms very easily. Be it the Japan of Mishima or the Spain of Lorca or the France of Rimbaud. We must go to the mountain for the mountain will not come to us.
Having attempted that, my decade long adventure in Japan was well worth the effort and the time for me. It was in great part due to those early conversations with Mishima and others. The art of listening is the most difficult of the language arts but the most rewarding.
Ed. note: I’ve enjoyed this memoir regarding the brilliant novelist, Mishima. Readers Have you read Mishima? Is this a new writer for you? Would you like to do a group read? Replies here welcome in comments.
We hope you have enjoyed our first blog entry with LA TOLTECA 2.0. Positive comments are always welcome. Regarding submissions lease read the Guidelines post. Send only original, unpublished works: firstname.lastname@example.org. The second issue will be out in two weeks–July 24. Deadline: July 20, 5 p.m. EST. Remember–everything must be unpublished and copy ready. We won’t be getting back to people. If your submission is accepted it will appear in the next issue. We’ll post pertinent info here.
Meanwhile, please stay smart & safe.