Archives for posts with tag: Mexico

menudo by james
menudo
by Richard Vargas

i remember the morning
car ride to the Compton
neighborhood market
just the two of us
my dad would walk in
carrying the empty pot and lid
set it on the counter and ask
for it to be filled with our
sunday morning breakfast
while he picked up a package
of warm corn tortillas
i checked out the colorful
piñatas and sweet-smelling
pan dulce still warm from the oven

he would notice and buy a few
conchas and fruit-filled empanadas
watch the smile light up my face
the drive home was slow and gentle
making sure we didn’t spill
any of our orange-red bounty

i never cared for the oregano
but a squeeze of lemon
a spoonful of chopped onion
and a warm tortilla rolled up
in my small fist

planted the seed
for this poem to bloom

PHOTO: Menudo Rojo by James.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Menudo is one of those signature dishes that becomes a cultural icon for the place and people where it originates. The flavorful mix of tripe and hominy isn’t for everyone—you might say it is an acquired taste. And, yes, I know from experience that it is one of those “best cure for a hangover” remedies that gets passed on from generation to generation. Saturdays were for washing my dad’s lowered Chevy and cruising downtown, but Sunday morning’s ritual was picking up a pot of menudo and enjoying its aromas and steamy goodness around the kitchen table. These days I won’t hesitate to heat up a can of Juanita’s Spicy Menudo (only occasionally, since the salt content is enough to give an elephant a stroke), chop up some onion and cilantro, slice up a fresh lime, warm up some corn tortillas, grab a cold Modelo Negra, and watch the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows. Then, I raise my beer and toast my dad, wherever his spirit may be.

PHOTO: The author at age six months with his father.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, California. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, publishing early works by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alberto Rios, Nila Northsun, and many more. His first book, McLife, was featured twice, during Feb 2006, on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published in April 2014 by Press 53, and was featured once more on the Writer’s Almanac. Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010, where he workshopped his poetry with Joy Harjo. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference, and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Vargas also edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015, featuring poets from across the country. His poetry continues to appear in poetry journals and anthologies, while his fourth book, How A Civilization Begins, MouthFeel Press, will be released on Sept 8, 2022. Currently, he resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed. Visit him at richardvargaspoet.com.

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On Bahía Concepción
by Jeff Ewing

A sign rusted to the wall crackles over my shoulder
where I’m waiting for the late stars to appear, raising
the hairs on my arms—electric, the night, this night
when the Sea of Cortés itself lights with the prisoned
charge of life rubbing against the shore it will break on.

On the square of a town walked away from by all but
the least curious, a cannon slick with dew rings under
a storm of butternuts, a wind-driven harvest staining
the sidewalks and car hoods, the time-shedding roofs
of closed storefronts. I will wait there in short sleeves

and pale arms for news of the living. There is a future,
I guess even then, in which others wait for me, in which
the gull-speckled arms of the opposite ocean gather close
handful on handful of penny shells, combed pinnas cocked
in guilty thrall to the wail and shatter of each falling wave.

There is a song on a radio, a window thrown open to let
what’s left of the night air in. Tinny and bone thin, the words
perch one by one on the limbs of the tree domed wide over
me. I am still waiting, as you must soon, when the first of the
storm comes ashore to shake the last of the firmament loose.

PHOTO: Star trails above an empty beach on the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California), with the town of Loreto, Mexico, glowing in the background.  Photo by Emma Rogers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Ewing is the author of the poetry collection Wind Apples, published on May 26, 2021 by Terrapin Books, and the short story collection The Middle Ground, published by Into the Void Press. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, Southwest Review, ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Subtropics, Utne Reader, and Cherry Tree, among others. He lives in Sacramento, California, and can be found online at jeffewing.com.

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Vacation South of the Border
by Catfish McDaris

After the army I drifted through mountains in Mexico, exploring pyramids, fishing rivers, and lakes. Sharing meals with smiling people. Money didn’t matter. Cozumel was paradise and Isla Mujeres, Europeans sunbathed nude. Fish rubbed with garlic, chili, and oregano were grilled. Cerveza was icy cold and the mescal with lime and salt was smoky. A monkey lived in a tree, eating boiled eggs. Tourist buses stopped the monkey would climb down and snatch off the ladies’ bikinis and grab their purses and throw stuff all over. Laughter turned into tears and tears turned into laughter.

PHOTO: Lighthouse near the beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, an island located eight miles east of Cancun in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Piotr Pawinski (2015), used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Isla Mujeres (Spanish for “Island of Women”) is an island where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet, about eight miles off the Yucatán Peninsula coast. The island is approximately 4.3 miles long and 2,130 feet wide. To the east is the Caribbean Sea with a strong surf and rocky coast, and to the west the skyline of Cancún can be seen across the clear waters. In the 2010 census, the namesake town on the island had a population of about 12,500 people.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His newest books are Ghosts of the War Elephants and Meat Grinder.

PHOTO: The author in Guadalajara, Mexico (1976).

Toltec Atlantes, Tula de Allende, Hidalgo state, Mexico
Warriors Atop Pyramid B
by Jeannie E. Roberts

Columns of basalt rose unforeseen as if P. strobus
grew atop plaster flat — here, in Mexican state

of Hidalgo, sixty miles northwest of Mexico City,
amid semi-arid climate,

breezes swayed your cotton dress in ancient city
of Tula. Familiar with continental climate

and strong stance of Wisconsin white pine,
you were new to this Mesoamerican archeological

site and the stone sculptures that towered over you —
it was 1978, summer, when your twenty-one-year-

old self stood before Toltec warrior. Five levels
of limestone, Pyramid B, Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl,

supported five warriors: four inanimate figures
with atlatl and an animate one with camera —

though at the time, you’d no idea you were the fifth.

PHOTO: Toltec figures atop the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, Tula de Allende, Mexico by Natalia Lukiyanova, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Tula de Allende (Tula) was capital of the Toltec Empire (around 980 CE and destroyed between 1168 – 1179). The four, carved basalt statues are 13-feet high and originally used as support columns for the temple roof on top of the pyramid. Tula was considered a significant regional center, known for obsidian mines and agriculture. The word “atlatl” (from the Nahuatl language) means spear-thrower, spear-throwing tool/lever and “Quetzalcoatl” means “precious serpent.” When I lived and taught in Mexico City (1979-1981), I visited many Mesoamerican archeological sites, including Teotihuacan.

PHOTO: The author in Tula de Allende, Mexico (1978).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She is also the author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) and Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book dedicated to her son (author-published, 2009). Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She holds a B.S. in secondary education, M.A. in arts and cultural management, and is poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the StairsWhen she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings. For more, visit her at jrcreative.biz.

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Guaymas
by Catfish McDaris

The town was sleepy, my pockets
were light, I needed work of any
kind, a Yaqui man watched me, he
knew I spoke Spanish and approved

Of my silence, he invited me to beans
and tortillas, it tasted better than steak,
we walked to the beach, fishermen
sat with heavy poles and curved knives

They fished for red snapper or yellow
tail, but kept the blades handy in case
of a tuna dragging a man into a watery
death, it had happened a few times

There were long thin ribbon fish on the
beach, men were surf casting big chunks
of meat on treble hooks, one was soon
in a battle with a sand shark, when it

Was on the beach, it took five blows to
the head to kill it, the Yaqui said it was
for soup, we got jobs cleaning fish and
icing down shrimp, the water, sun, and

Cloud of blood over the Sea of Cortes
removed the January snow from inside
my weeping heart, a woman had made
me a prisoner and I was trying to escape.

PHOTO: Yaqui fishermen prepare for a long day of work at the height of shrimp season in Guaymas. Image by Dominic Bracco II. Mexico, 2012.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 25 years. He’s working in a wig shop in a high crime area of Milwaukee. His newest book is Sleeping with the Fish (266 pages fo $13).

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THE CARNIVAL WORKER’S PRAYER
by Kevin Casey

O San Julián, the summer is close to its end
and I am still here at the end of the Earth,
in this Nueva Inglaterra, driving through the dark

to park nuestras caravanas onto their fairground fields,
to open up the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Hurricane
like half-rusted flowers in the morning at the sun rising.

Dear San Julián, my home in the green hills of Tlapacoyan
is missing me, and also my mother. I have comfort
only in the guitar music they make at the Melody Tent

when the night comes, and also in the sad, dumb vacas
they always show. But from these tractor pulls
and the groups of chamacos, unattended and disrespectful,

these corndogs and their cotton candy, I feel such longing
for the falls that measure out the length of my jade-cool river.
I will go back, with your blessing, San Julián, to pick bananas

every day in the weather, or to climb for the coffee beans
that grow on the sides of mountains that rise to heaven
from the arms of my blessed valley.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Sunrise, Veracruz, Mexico” by Robert Swinson. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Though this poem is written from another’s perspective, I do live in New England and frequent the county fairs the narrator describes. The poem is therefore about my home, the narrator’s home, alienation/ dislocation, and simple homesickness. Each August, these traveling carnivals travel near my home in Maine, and the workers are predominantly from a certain part of Veracruz, Mexico. The Saint to whom the narrator appeals (Saint Julian) is the patron saint of carnival workers, of all things . . .

IMAGE: St. Julian, patron saint of carnival workers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kevin Casey is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and received his graduate degree at the University of Connecticut. Recent works have appeared in Grasslimb, Frostwriting, Words Dance, Turtle Island Review, decomP, and others, and a new chapbook is due out this spring from Flutter Press. He currently teaches literature at a small university in Maine, where he enjoys fishing, snowshoeing, and hiking.

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TO BE FRIDA KAHLO
by Daniel Olivas

Never conventional
about anything she did.

Never apologetic
about who she was.

And it was not easy.

From paint,
she did art and poetry.

From the infidelities
of her husband,
she found freedom.

Frida was the only woman
that kept challenging Diego

: for the right reasons

: she always surprised him

: he truly believed she was a genius

And it was not easy.

SOURCE: Salma Hayek interview conducted by Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel around the time of the 2002 release of Frida. 

IMAGE: Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in the 2002 film Frida.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  For many of us who grew up in the Mexican culture, Frida Kahlo has been part of our lives since childhood. Her “rediscovery” by the general public was somewhat surprising (for some) but quite welcome. If she were alive today, I believe she would have used the Internet, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as yet another canvas. I Googled Frida Kahlo and found an interview with Salma Hayak who played Kahlo in the 2002 movie Frida which was based on the truly remarkable 1983 biography by Hayden Herrera.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Daniel A. Olivas is the author of seven books including the award-winning novel The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press), and Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press). He is the editor of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press), and has been widely anthologized including in Sudden Fiction Latino (W. W. Norton), and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens (Arte Público Press). Olivas has written for many publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, High Country News, and California Lawyer. Visit him at danielolivas.com.

If you don’t know why people celebrate Cinco de Mayo, here’s a fun, fast way to get a history lesson from a song written and performed by Jonathan Mann. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

“When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime, too…”

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TRYING TO NAME WHAT DOESN’T CHANGE
by Naomi Shihab Nye 

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change   
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery   
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.
 
Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train   
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.   
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.
 
Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.   
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.
 
Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.   
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.
 
The train whistle still wails its ancient sound   
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.
***
“Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change” appears in Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995).

PHOTO: “Train Tracks, Mexico” by James Maher, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. To see more of the photographer’s work, visit  jamesmaherphotography.com.