Monday, August 29, 2011

True believers at the Albuquerque Cultural Conference

Everyone there was a true believer. They believe in justice, equality, women’s rights, the need to fight racism, but mostly, they believe in poetry.

They believe in the healing and changing power of words, and some of them believe even in it’s revolutionary potential.
The Albuquerque Cultural Conference took place on the weekend of August 26-28, 2011.

The weekend began with a poetry reading, fifteen poets, who read from their books, much of which have been published by West End Press and Wings Press. In fact, the two presses publishers, John Crawford of West End and Bryce Milligan of Wings, were co-organizers for the conference.

Over fifty true believers stayed for three days for a series of workshops and panels, in an old building near downtown. There were high temperatures and with little air conditioning , but it didn’t seem to matter.

They didn’t even seem to sweat. At one point, one of the participants couldn’t hear a speaker very well, so he got up from his metal folding chair walked to the window air conditioning unit and turned it off, so everyone could hear her better. He was saying with his actions that her words meant more than their temporal comfort.

These believers not only attended sessions back to back for over ten hours a day, but they also participated in every discussion, had something to say. And many of them were accomplished writers with multiple books, such as Margret Randal and Gerald McCarthy, but still, they stayed to say what they had to say and to hear the others.

And it mattered. What they spoke of, whether about the resilience of the oppressed, the e-book, or the need to increase awareness of Chicana consciousness and move away from indigenous fundamentalism, which has traditionally been used as an agent of male dominance, what they said mattered, not only to them, but to the pending cosmic energy that is reality. They believe in dialogue.

These writers and activists are salt of the earth, people who assert positive change, who believed that their voices, like all voices, are important to move toward change, toward justice.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Clint, Texas? Oooo, doggie!

Sounds like a the kind of town where everyone’s named Bubba and Slim and Mexicans just ain’t welcome unless they work in the fields or dance like Felina at the local watering hole.

But like the rest of the border here in West Texas, just about everyone is Mexican and even the few non-Mexicana around here speak Spanish.

Last weekend I went to the Festival San Lorenzo in Clint, something the local folk have been celebrating for 97 years.

"Six Tickets"
(Everyhting required tickets, drinks, rides. Here a clearly hardworking man buys tickets for his daughter or granddaughter. He carries a candle with him, of a saint.)

Of course, I brought my camera.

Everything was perfect, the beer cold, the food delicious, and of course, at festivals around here, the Gorditas were the best.

"Holy Gordita"

What stuck me most were the people. How friendly they were. No one whom I asked to take their picture said, no, and some of them wanted to pose for me.

"Not so Lil' Homies"

"Young Brother"

I’m doing something different this entry. I’m naming the photos. I don’t know why I’m doing it (although I know why I’m doing it), and I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again.

"Everybody's Happy"
(These kids are beautiful. They remind me of my sister and cousin when they were little. And look how happy there are. In fact, everyone in this picture is happy. Click on the image to make it bigger, and you'll see that even the guys you can see through the screen behind the booth are happy.)

I don’t know, maybe naming the photos is kind of crony, like naming a memo.

"King of the Taco Trucks"

"Basket Balls"

I don’t think real photographers name their images.

Some do.


This one below is simply called "Family." The man on the right was very nice to me and he asked me to take a picture of his family.


"Jesus et al"

(This woman in the wheelchair was so sweet. You can tell by looking at them what a nice couple they are.)

"Fish Lady"
(I love this lady. She kept wanting to pose, always smiling. She worked a game booth with little fishing poles, where kids fish for prizes, like a little pig made of paper mache)

"Fish Lady 2"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Images of Juárez: Light does not stop at the border.

I’ve always admired photojournalists, but I’ve never wanted to be one. I like being a professor and a fiction writer, and I’m excited every time I start a new book.

But I love photojournalism.

I love how the images say something not only about what is going on at the time, protests in Libya, riots in Greece, earthquakes in Haiti, but they also say something universal, something about us. I admire how photojournalists risk all for the perfect shot.

I spend a lot of time on New York Times Lens, clicking through the images like I was walking through a museum.

I live in the twin cities, one of which the media constantly reminds us is dangerous, and anyone can end up killed. Recently a UTEP lecturer was killed there. Children are regular victims of bullets.

If I were a photojournalist, I would take my Nikon to the streets of Júarez. I would follow the police and get shots of bodies under sheets on the streets outside of crime scenes where children are looking on.

But when I go to Júarez these days or nights, I don’t bring a camera. I just go, usually with friends, to marches, to drink beers at the Kentucky Club, to eat a taco, and the images of the city that sketch themselves on the walls of my memory usually find a place in my prose.

When I first began to travel parts of the world, Havana, Warsaw, Marseilles, I didn’t believe in taking a camera. I was dead-set against it.

I thought if I brought a camera, it would steal the souls of the images, and there wouldn’t be enough energy left to release into the conduit of my sentences.

Of course now I know that the glow behind any point in space, thus behind the archetypal outline of any image, is infinite energy.

Still, I’m not a photojournalist. But I love that photographs can capture something that would take a thousand words to express in writing. ☺

Of course, in evoking the cliché, “A picture paints a thousand words,” I might very well be making fun of it, but that doesn’t negate any truth the statement might make.

All the shots above and below I took recently in Júarez, nuestra querida ciudad gemela, our beautiful sister. Like all human beings, the landscape within which we live in the twin cities is a passage way into dreams, El paso into imagination, into death and into the distortions fear can warp around reality. Daily we walk into beauty, into ugly, into endless possibility, into endless dead-end streets.

On both sides of the line we breathe in the same air, and the light shines and reflects equally from one side to the other.