La Tolteca 2.0 #4 Aug.21, 2020

Issue #4, August 21, 2020

Welcome to our fourth issue.  Featured here are Chi-Town creatives!  So much is happening in Chicago this summer.  We send our love & hope for continued strength to that American of American cities.

Included in this issue we introduce Creative Guadalupe Chairez. Also included poets Marcelo Castillo, Mary K. Hawley and Mike Puican, Academic and Curandera Laura de los Santos, and Writer Sandra Jackson-Opoku

You don’t have to be a Babe-Boomer or Brown to submit a selfie or fave pic of yourself:


We are celebrating life in Times of Covid-19. Here are this issue’s contributors:


Mary K. Hawley & Mafalda enjoying their time at Lake Superior. See Mary’s poems in this issue.

Lupe Chairez, Midwest, first-gen, Chicana creative. ¡Qué viva Durango! See her art in this issue.

Marcelo Castillo & Guadalupe Chairez observing mask protection during pandemic.

Laura De los Santos, academic & curandera at home in Chicago





Mike Puican was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team, and is a long-time board member of the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. Currently, he teaches poetry at St. Leonard’s House.







Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Chicago writer. Her new fiction appears here.





In Yo ¡Presente! we give voice to lives of  teachers, creatives, writers–healers & custodians of beauty & culture–all at different times one and the same.

Guadalupe Chairez

When Guadalupe Chairez isn’t at her day job & observing COVID_19 she practices modern dance & paints in Chicago.


Digital art by Guadalupe Chairez




‘Ilustración de la noche en cual aprendía dejar’’
Medium: Digital art

“I use acrylic on canvas with other media and now digital.


My objective is to amplify my life and the lives of others with my use of vivid colors.”  

~Guadalupe Chairez 

Laura de los Santos


Aloe Vera (Savila) used for skin ailments.

My Curandera Camino in Times of COVID 19

(all photos credit:  Laura de los Santos)

I began 2020 full of excitement about turning fifty-two.  In Mesoamerican calendric systems, fifty-two years mark the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. At this age, curanderas are typically beyond reproductive years and can answer the Call to devote themselves to helping people.

Academic & Curandera Laura de los Santos. testimonio on healing in Chicago.

Helping heal my family and friends came naturally for me; plant medicine was part of grandma’s regular routine and my hands seem to know how to sooth my loved one’s injuries.

I finally decided to open my heart and home to treat people while I prepared my research for a July presentation at the Curanderismo class in Albuquerque. Their 2oth Anniversary class was sure to be special.  Then COVID 19 shut down our world.

I feared for the well-being of my multi-generational household of seven plus the dog and was on constant watch for symptoms in my family.  Every day I prayed for wisdom to know what to do.

As soon as I heard a sneeze or a cough, a pot of water was put to boil.   The aroma of simmering cinnamon sticks often wafted through the air as I did my best to keep sickness from my home.

I was not alone; a handful of friends and I began connecting online every morning to pray.  As a “recovering Catholic” who also calls on my ancestors and their beliefs

La Virgen de Guadalupe takes center stage on my altar.

In my effort to stay on my curandera camino, I began a medicinal plant garden, nurturing seeds indoors until what I thought was the end of the Chicago winter.

Unable to treat people and disheartened over my gardening failure, I wrote an article for a local newspaper in the hopes of giving folks (and myself) something good to think about.


Healing can happen in so many ways.

Once again, I planted seedlings, but this time was ready with a little greenhouse my daughters gifted me for my April birthday.  My granddaughters joyfully help me care for the plants.

Ruda (rue) plant tea is especially helpful with menstruation and helping women heal after childbirth.

By the time the city began to open, I had been shut in with my loved ones for months.  I was tired, stressed out and had little more to give, so I sought healing in the spa chair at the nail salon.  As I drifted in and out of bliss, I noticed the nail technician rubbing her shoulder repeatedly.  Her mother, who had been hired to keep the salon COVID clean, told her the sobador in the city wasn’t treating people.  I offered to sobarla tantito.  She felt some relief and asked to come by for a more complete treatment.  I couldn’t deny her; if she was treating me using COVID safety protocols, I could do the same.

My faith has guided and comforted me. Grandpa used to say, “Hija, don’t ever lose your faith. If you lose that, you’ve lost everything.”


Writings on the Virgin of Guadalupe, ed. Ana Castillo

Marcelo Castillo

My Brown Skin




My brown skin g l o w s

My brown skin turns dark golden bronze in the yellow sunlight

My brown skin opens and closes doors that speak Spanglish.

Dances around the World with brown bodies and brown feet

Brown feet that dance on sandy beaches and cobblestone streets


Photo Credit: Guadalupe Chairez

My brown skin lets others know my people I aint from around here

(No somos de aqui)

Marcelo Castillo during his DePaul U days in Chicago.


My people live up the block from here right up the way homie

Abuelo mowing his lawns in his brown guayaberas and chanclas

My brown skin baking under the hot 90s Chicago summer sun

It feels warm to the touch misses my childhood and Aztec past


Warm to the touch in the day and cooler than the tortilla moonlight

It wraps around my whole body like tight hugs from my Mami

It calls me out and blends me into crowds of loud brown faces

My brown skin protects my brown heart from the world around





Sandra Jackson-Opoku



There was a howling in the wind and Hunger was the reason why.

Those who met Hunger in the latter days thought a certain wasting disease had whittled her away. Though it wasn’t spread by casual contact, still they kept their distance. Those who had known her through thick and thin realized the truth. She’d been hungry for nearly fourteen years.

Hunger had once been what men called a T-bone, though she never liked the comparison. Big, solid thighs and hips. Buttocks a shelf to rest packages upon. Proud flesh, as in “protruding from the surface.” But Hunger wasn’t proud of all that commotion. A Venus Hottentot ass, frisky as a kitten, followed its own agenda.

Men whistled and moaned as it bounced along. Standing behind her in the grocery checkout line, one petted it like a puppy.

“Sorry,” he shrugged when she turned to confront him. “I can’t help it.”

Hunger ruled out surgery, a butt reduction. The money, the pain, the possible scarring. She would tame the beast by restricting its nourishment.

It didn’t dwindle all at once. The butt was last to go, behind the cheeks and breasts and belly, the fleshy wedge of upper arms. Hunger had patience. She waited for T-bone to turn to gristle.

As flesh began to disappear, so did her name. When people noticed the gauntness in her face, the stringiness of her thighs they began calling her “Hungry Herlene,” though her name was Merlene. That was slurred to Hungry Her, then Hung-Her, which sounded just like Hunger. Which is what they had meant all along.

Alarmed with her retreating proportions, well-meaning friends would murmur warnings. This wasn’t fly, it wasn’t cute. Anorexia was a White woman’s thing.

“Don’t nobody but a dog want a bone.”

Hunger had one of sorts, a sometimes companion. Curtis, nicknamed Cur was quite the rarity, a Black man who abhorred the booty. He hadn’t liked all that “dead-ass energy” stirring around back there. Hunger didn’t point out the irony, the double negatives and oxymoron.

Cur nodded his approval as the energy dissipated. “Your worst days are behind you, girl.”

Hunger nibbled her nourishment by halves. Half a sandwich, a split tangerine. A boiled egg sliced along the oval. Not one grape, not even a raisin was too tiny to divide. Her refrigerator was crammed with moldering tidbits she’d one day deserve. When she’d trimmed away that last pinch of fat. When there was nothing left to lose. When her name was reduced to Hung.

Once-proud flesh hung empty behind her. A kangaroo pouch turned backwards, an envelope without a letter. Hunger walked the two blocks from home to the CTA bus stop. The pouch flapped in the wind, waving at passing pedestrians.

Those who had called her T-bone averted their eyes. Cur had already slunk away. The only howling now was a wind they called The Hawk, thrusting against her in impotent fury.

Photo credit: Sandra Jackson-Opoku

(Sandra Jackson-Opoku’s novella-length story,”She Loved Trouble” recently appears

in the anthology,Both Sides: Stories from the Border)

Mike Puican

And Now Fall

                          –for Mary


Late September, at a station just off

the highway to Akron, a tired-looking

security guard—white-haired, unshaven—


adds weight to the evening. He leans

against his car door and pumps gas.

He doesn’t bother to check the oil


or squeegee the glass. He is perhaps

lost in a music all his own. On his front seat

are items in a shopping bag: red carnations,


a cereal box, some oranges. One blossom

dangles out of the bag. I recognize it

as a thought.  I call it the thought of heaven.


We share the faint night breeze,

the gentleness between two ships. The pump

clicks shut. He tops it off. It clicks shut.


He tops it off. How many times

in a man’s life does summer turn to fall?

How many times does a man return

to the start of his journey?

How many love letters can I write to you?


Mike Puican’s debut book of poetry, Central Air, was released by Northwestern Press in August of 2020. He  is a long-time board member of the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. Currently, he teaches poetry to incarcerated.






Mary K. Hawley


July Sunset 2020 by Mark K. Hawley

Night Watch

In the way I used to sit

alongside my father in the Pontiac

late at night, on country roads,


the others asleep in the back—

as night air made pungent

by pine and skunk whistled


through the little triangle window

and shadows loomed

on the ceiling,


taking flight when cars

whooshed past and plunged

into the dark behind us


as the Pontiac rumbled

into the darkness ahead

following the bends and swells


of the road unwinding

in the headlights that lit up

dancing clouds of insects,


and the windshield grew

greasy with their smashed bodies

while I fought sleep,


certain that only my rigid stare

kept the car from swerving

off its safe path—


so now I sit beside him

as he sleeps, in the last

evenings of his life, watching


the shallow rise and fall

of his chest, and stay awake

as if it could make a difference.




Lake Superior, credit: Mary K. Hawley


Duck Creek, Lake Superior

Tonight fog rolls over the beach, lapping

at the feet of the dog as she runs ahead,

bouncing over logs and rocks, zigzagging

into waves. Trees draw together like a curtain

behind the rising mist, the cabins vanish. I walk

in a grey tunnel that opens before me the way

a night highway unravels, white lines spooling

under the car. No frogs singing from the marsh,

no eagle on a long glide over the lake, no ghosts

but that of my grandfather as a boy, combing

this beach for wood a hundred years ago while

his parents stoked the stove in a drafty cabin.

Summers they came here from town, jolting

along the plank road in a horse-drawn cart.


The dog’s black and white legs churn

as she disappears, reappears like the beacon

winking from town. I don’t know when

the darkness started for that boy, came down

like a curtain, hushing the world, separating him

from every other living thing. There were no names

for it then, nor cures. On a night like this

he walked in a tunnel of black thoughts, saw no

stars, no moon, didn’t know I would follow him.

When he startled a buck at the creek its hooves

exploded in the sand and he fell back, as spooked

as the deer. He laughed then, full out, and laughed

with us later whenever he told of it; so always

this place would save him, would save us.


Photo credit: Mary K. Hawley

Between Waking and Sleeping


Filmy scarves

colors of sky and water

hang from a hook

in a market stall

as I speak one scarf

ripples on a breeze

and darkens, flies away

a clumsy heron


on an old trunk

an address of my childhood

I crawl inside

white ribs

block the moon’s stare

grey feathers brush my face

as I wrap myself

in my own wing


a dark hole

blooms on a wall of rock

inside the cave

I trace a vein of silver

along a damp wall

water drips on stone

the wings of a thousand bats

rustle like dead leaves


PHOTO Credit note:Unless otherwise indicated, all photos in La Tolteca 2.0 are original, taken with an iPhone camera & the property of La Tolteca2.0.

LA TOLTECA 2.0 on homepage: is a virtual zine with ongoing posts.

You may submit to Youl’ll receive an automated response until we are able to review your submission.  (If you don’t receive the automated response alert Ana Castillo on FB messenger.) For consideration to the following new features only unpublished, never posted on SM, original images and material.  New Features

BOX  4B:  Brown & Beautiful Babe-Boomers

You don’t have to be brown or a Boomer and your submissions don’t have to be selfies but you’re welcome to submit.  Send us what gave you a smile, lifted your spirits, kept you going that past week.  Smart phone pics work, no  specific format necessary.  Do NOT send images previously posted on social media or elsewhere.  Your submission is consent for use at L/T 2.0.  Add a couple of lines with your name and about the pic or yourself to be included, if selected.  If any of your submission is selected it will be posted the following Friday.  If not, you won’t hear from us but you will be welcome to send something new for consideration again.

Yo ¡Presente!

No rants or editorials, please.  Only clean, proof-read submissions in a journalistic style will be read for consideration.  Double space, 12 point, Times Roman—750 words.  Your most recent activist concern.  Include your name and a line describing how you participate in social justice issues.  Checklist for your piece:  What, when, why  who and how.

Poetry and Flash Fiction

Original and unpublished work.  Spanish and English languages considered.

All submissions must have been proofread double-spaced, 12 point, paginated.  Fiction word count limit 2,500.  Your name and one line about yourself or your submission.  If selected, it will appear the following Friday on Tolteca 2.0, homepage.  No emails will be sent out.  If you don’t hear back it wasn’t selected.  You are welcome to send something else next time.

La Tolteca 2.0 is a a zine on a blog.  We reserve all rights to post as and what we choose (with permission of contributors.) If your original works appear here you may use again elsewhere with credit to first appearing at La Tolteca 2.0 (and date.)

Next issue:  Friday, September 4, 2020:  New York creatives ¡Presente!

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