Friday, December 21, 2007

Celebrate your blessings!

…let’s shine together on New Year’s Eve!

We think you are beautiful
and we’d love to have you around
to celebrate the blessings of the year,
toast to new beginnings,
and laugh like village idiots.

Come play with us:
December 31, 2007
8 p.m. – ‘til….
email for details
We’ll have food, drink, dance, toys and surprises galore!
Much love,
Grisel and Vincent

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Caribs, Free Ph.D. and Misery

I had a really great Thanksgiving this year. Usually I prefer the later holidays but I felt truly thankful to be with my husband and my parents for Thanksgiving. First of all, the food was kickin'. I told Mami that she made her best meal ever this year and I meant that. I will always remember Mami's Thanksgiving '07. But the real feast was the warmth that I was able to share with the family. I felt totally relaxed being out of school for a few days and it was great to laugh and share silly stories with everyone. My parents believe in deep, long laughs - es lo mejor, yo! There are other things to be thankful for, too. I've found a really great mentor in Dr. Sonja Lanehart, a linguist who writes about African American Language, the words and inflections and mad multidimentional meanings of what some call Spoken Soul. She has helped me a great deal out here. Dr. Wendy Barker has been way cool to me, too. She's my creative writing teacher and she brought cool peeps to town like Kimiko Hahn and Benjamin Saenz. Her support has meant a lot this semester. And I am always thankful to the Hispanic Leadership Program, the folks who fund my crazy ass. Furthermore, I couldn't be doing all this without Vincent, my patient and generous husband.

But understand, this experience has really broken my heart, too. I am discovering so many things that I was not taught in school. I'm looking at stuff in new ways and exploring my heart and DNA in ways that connect me to the earth so deeply. I am so grateful for this opportunity. So you can understand how hard it must be when two out of the three Latino professors who I've taken here have deemed my work unsatisfactory at one point or another. I was so excited about coming down here. I thought, "Whoohoo! I'm studying with MI GENTE!" I've quickly found out that some of the people down here who I felt connected to do not feel connected to me or my ideas. Well, that's not exactly right. They like my ideas but only if they are spoken by someone other than me. At least that is what it seems like. Perhaps I am just too sensitive a person.

So, this semester I've been working on a paper about how the Caribs have been represented in formal correspondence. I cried when I found some of the documents that I cite in this text. I cried because I had never seen any documentation about this part of my ancestry before. However, those tears of joy have been truncated by tears of misery because apparently my scholarship is not up to par, according to one professor. Fine. So maybe I'm not a scholar, but maybe my work can be useful to someone. I'm posting the paper here. It is very long but maybe you'll have time to read it. It connects the indigenous populations and African populations of the Caribbean and calls for a unity between peoples who were separated by the colonizers different languages. People in the Caribbean have always intermingled but colonization separated the people into different linguistic groups, color categories and unspecific names. The letters I examine show the resistance to this separation that has always been present. It also calls out the racist depiction of the Caribs in "Pirates of the Caribbean." I hope you can see some use for it. (Sorry about the screwy formatting.)

Grisel Y. Acosta
Postcolonial Theory
Essay – 11/20/07

“It’s Just a Movie” or It’s Unjust Propaganda: Carib Revolt Represented by Colonial and Corporate Correspondence

Obscured History: We Cannot Know Ourselves If We are Not Shown Ourselves

My earliest memories of my extended family members in Colombia were very confusing to me. I have cousins who look like Americanos (White), others who look like Negros, and still others who look like they might be from the Middle East. In school, information was not provided to explain this mix. My history classes gave me a couple of paragraphs about the Alamo and another paragraph about the Bay of Pigs. In college, I took a Caribbean studies class to learn about my history; it was disappointing because I did not learn much about the different populations that were present in the Caribbean. When I went back to school for my Masters in Education, there were no Latino professors to learn from. I, then, tried to learn about my ancestry through literature and other creative works. I’ve obtained bits and pieces of information about my ancestry – about myself – through random conversations that I’ve had with people. This type of dialogue is not enough to sustain a clear identity for the mass of people of Caribbean origins that exist in the Americas, so we end up having a population that knows very little about its past. This leaves one wondering where one comes from and who in one’s past contributed to what. I see the same frustration in the eyes of my Latino students, many of whom do not know their own indigenous and/or African roots. The depiction of Latinos in popular culture is one of a monolithic raza and an explanation of how that race was formed is rarely provided. My decision to return to graduate school is influenced by the desire to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. Because I am a Caribbean Latino, this is a multicultural endeavor. For this study, I focus on the Carib population – one that is severely neglected in history books – and I have found that even if one tries to focus on one population in the Caribbean region, the direction will nonetheless point towards connections to other populations.

The Search Begins: Anthropologists , Correspondence and Theoretical Framework

Looking for my past is not an easy endeavor. Much of it is buried under jungle or has been kept confined within the halls of the privileged class that tried to dominate my ancestors during colonization. It is clear by the sheer difficulty of finding information about the populations in the Caribbean that persons in power find it dangerous for Caribbean descendants to know their history. Furthermore, the information that is available is largely written by English, French and Spanish White men. Fortunately, I have found a format that allows the voice of the Carib population to be heard – and it also reveals the condescension of the colonizer which is often hidden under the guise of authority in anthropological studies. I have found that letters (actual and fictionalized) on behalf of the Taíno/Arawak/Carib/Garifuna population are forms of dialogue that formulate an easily understood postcolonial timeline, something which is simply not available in most of the schools where Caribbean Latino students reside. Furthermore, the rhetoric in the letters can be examined for the “Carib/Garifuna, etc.” palimpsest. In this case, the palimpsest does not just have multiple meanings; multiple words are also used interchangeably. That is, words like Carib, Garifuna, Taíno, and others, are used interchangeably to point to the population that mixed before colonization, as attacked during colonization and has reconnected after colonization. The palimpsest reveals these intentions about the original colonizers and it connects the United States to being a colonizing force by highlighting its similar behavior. The Carib palimpsest is no longer of interest to the original colonizers. Instead, its layers are now being manipulated by the United States, despite the common assumption that the U.S. is not a colonizing force. The letters reveal that the U.S. continues the Carib/Garifuna colonization in terms of intellectual property. The words “Carib/Garifuna” and connected terms are used as intellectual property that is off-limits to the people represented by the words themselves. Some community leaders (in the letters) have attempted to create a space for credible Carib/Garifuna intellectual property, but the ownership of this space is under attack within the letters I examine. In effect, even though the actual Carib population is next to extinct, the idea of the Carib and what it represents is still under the auspices of colonization, which implies that the fighting Carib are still very much alive.

I examine the letters using the principles behind Max Weber’s social stratification theory, Noam Chomsky’s propaganda theory, and critical race theory (as it is applied to education by Ladson-Billings and Tate). I use a hybrid of social stratification theory and critical race theory to examine how the idea of the indigenous Carib has been stratified within history. Max Weber stated that, “The primary significance of a positively privileged property class lies in the following facts:…[t]hey may control the opportunities of pursuing a systematic monopoly policy….[t]hey may monopolize opportunities for the accumulation of property through unconsumed surpluses….[t]hey may monopolize the privileges of socially advantageous kinds of education….” (425). I use these statements in order to analyze how the privileged property class has monopolized the intellectual property of the Caribs and their descendants. Not only is it currently difficult to find any information about my ancestors, but when information is provided about the Caribs/Taínos/Garifuna, it is either controlled by the privileged class and therefore distorted, or it is presented as a direct response to the monopoly that must be fought. Ladson-Billings and Tate, in “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education,” claim that schoolchildren of color have not been given access to intellectual property that would further their understanding of themselves and of the world. They state, “curriculum represents a form of ‘intellectual property.’ The quality and quantity of the curriculum varies with the ‘property values’ of the school” (54). I apply this idea to the Carib/Garifuna race. It has not been allowed the right to present its intellectual property – facts about its history – in a meaningful manner. Furthermore, its intellectual property has been deliberately stolen and distorted in order to influence the actions of future generations, much like land is stolen in the process of colonization. That is, without access to the correct and accurate intellectual property, there is no way that anyone – Carib or non-Carib – can make informed decisions about the current or future Caribbean region and population. That action is a colonization of this intellectual property, a siege of history and of the future. I use Chomsky’s propaganda theory in order to examine how Carib descendants and their supporters must work within the confines of propaganda. The propaganda “filters” include: ownership, or proof that the media outlet is a large, moneyed organization, such as a monarchy or a corporation; funding, or proof that the entity is indebted to funders above any other persons affected by its policy; sourcing, or proof that the entity has a monopoly of information and can pick and choose what information to release (usually information that will not harm the entity); flak, proof that the entity has the power to chastise or ignore anyone who questions it; and anti-ideologies, or proof that the entity will exploit public fears, whether real or imagined (“Propaganda Model”). I argue that the letters create a framework for propaganda and imply the authority of the colonizers and the weakness of the Carib population.

My guiding question asks how representations of Carib correspondence present aspects of the colonization of intellectual property and how these letters might be used in the classroom in order to counteract propaganda. My thesis is that through the representation of Carib correspondence, we can see a timeline of the colonization of intellectual property and this can be used within classrooms to address multiculturalism, critical media studies and historical discrepancies within Caribbean history.

A Correspondence with the Past: Fiction Is Better Than Fact

The first letter I am looking at is actually a representation of a letter. That is, it is a letter represented in a fictional story. Author Haydée Reichard de Cancio takes bits and pieces from history and constructs a story around a letter from “The King” to Chief Agueybana (1-3). Agueybana, which means “the large sun,” was the chief of the Guaynia village in Puerto Rico during the late 1400s and early 1500s (Pérez). Although the story does not include the name of the king of Spain at the time – it is left out of the letter – Ferdinand II was ruler in 1512, which is the year the letter is dated. The story begins with Agueybana fretting over how the conquistadores have treated his people. Words like Yucayeque, batey, and Areyto are used by the Chief as he painfully recalls how the center of town once belonged to the indigenous population, and how it now belongs to the Spaniards. The author writes Agueybana’s thoughts:
“What will become of my people…! We cannot go on like this; we are nobody; day after day the white men abuse us and draw us apart from each other…. A metallic sound brought him back to reality” (1). Agueybana is visited by Don Cristobal, who brings him the letter from the King. Reichard de Cancio could be referring to the Don Cristobal Sotomayor who founded a sector by the town of Aguada between 1508 and 1510 (Vasquez). She is clearly giving the reader a history lesson. This history lesson is a direct response to what a critical race theory reading reveals.

The legend of Agueybana is not taught in schools and this is to keep those of us who have indigenous blood ignorant as to the legitimate resistance that the Caribs met the conquistadores with. Reichard de Cancio is also responding to the propagandistic tools that are used in colonization. She sets up the reader with vital information about Agueybana and his people before the letter is read so that the reader will understand what a farce the “business letter” is. Some might assume a business letter to be a necessary tool to conduct important transactions, but before the colonists arrived in the Americas, such transactions were done by word of mouth. The business letter is a tool of propaganda in that it is used to make certain words from certain people seem more powerful, credible and truthful than they really are. Reichard de Cancio is poking at the usefulness of this tool while at the same time leading the reader to an important name in history. All of this is done to address the stratification of the Carib population and its descendants.

The story continues as Don Cristobal reads the letter to Agueybana; he imagines that the Chief cannot comprehend what the letter even is. The letter is from Tordesillas. This invokes the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, which gave Spain control of lands west of the 50 degree West meridian and Portugal control of lands east of the meridian (de la Cova). Barely a paragraph long, the letter tells Agueybana that the King is sending a couple of men in his service and Agueybana is to learn from them and do as they say. The scroll is then handed to the Chief. He quickly goes to the bonfire at the end of the town’s center and throws the scroll in the fire. An onlooker asks Agueybana what he is doing and he replies, “Burning a dry leaf from tree that is almost dead” (2). Then he thinks to himself, “We know now that they are not gods. Soon we will get rid of them….” (3). Upon reading this, one might assume that this story is a sad tale about how the Chief could not foresee how powerful the colonizers would be and how he would soon be destroyed. In actuality, he does foresee, upon noticing that the colonizer’s documents can be destroyed without reproach, that the indigenous population can destroy its foe. If we look back to the Villa de Sotomayor, history shows that this town was destroyed 1511, in an uprising by the indigenous population. Uprisings continued for years. A monastery was built there five years later and was then destroyed twelve years later in another indigenous attack (Vasquez). Reichard de Cancio is pointing out that the indigenous populations of the Caribbean fought and were quite brave, despite the common depiction that there was a quick genocide due to Spanish swords, guns and disease. She is attempting to address the palimpsests that have been created for the words “Carib,” “Caribbean indian,” and “Taínos.” She is remembering what has been Whited out.

Currently, the Latino Caribbean writer trend is to use the palimpsest form to expand notions of memory. Myrna García-Calderón states, in Current Approaches to Hispanic Caribbean Writing: An Overview, that, “Contemporary Hispanic Caribbean literature…has been particularly interested in exploring multiple notions of memory” which include the “rethinking of historical memory” and “the notion of cultural memory, often opposed to official history and canonical views of studying the past” (65). García-Calderon asks about the subaltern’s ability to voice alternative ideas about history and how this rearticulates memory (66). Reichard de Cancio uses facts that can direct readers to important points in history, but then she also uses fiction for, I would argue, two reasons. First, she must disguise her story as a simple story of failure. The story was published in the United States and in the U.S., the story of the Caribbean Latino is usually one of failure unless his/her roots are decidedly European. This is a form of propaganda that Latinos must assume as a sort of “disguise.” Any quick reading of this story will show the failure of an indigenous community to plan for its success, something that is acceptable to those in power in the U.S. A deeper reading that connects to the history between the lines is what reveals the memoria that the author intends to share. The reader of this tale, if he/she is uneducated about Carib history, simply will not know what is really going on in the story. S/he must do his/her homework. One can look at this as a form of signifying, as explained by Henry Louis Gates. In signifying, there are two meanings for two audiences. The uninformed White and/or mimic audience will not see the history in the tale, but the population that the story is truly meant for will understand the map to Carib roots that the tale sketches out. Second, she also uses fiction so that her words will not be scrutinized in the same way factual texts might be scrutinized. This way, the history is, indeed, in her hands. This creates ownership of the material, which, ironically, does not exist for Caribbean Latinos when it comes to the recorded factual history of the region. Most of the factual texts have been written by the English or the Spanish colonizers. One can also point to Chela Sandoval’s differential consciousness when looking at what Reichard de Cancio is doing. According to Sandoval, “practitioners of the differential mode of social movement develop and mobilize identity as political tactic in order to renegotiate power: identity is both disguised and not disguised in a form of differential consciousness that thrives on oscillation. The positional subject is not living a lie, then, but rather a disguise” (145). Reichard de Cancio is disguising the facts within a simple-minded tale and disguising herself as a children’s storyteller when, in fact, she is a historian.
Of course, there are limits to this. For example, if this were used as a history lesson in a classroom, not every teacher would even know that the story is based on fact. It is presented in a way that makes the tale appear mythological and mystical. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand, just by what is in the story, that Agueybana went on to be a great leader. The short story would have to be accompanied by factual information, much of which is not readily available. What could also happen is that it could open up the idea to fictionalizing history, which is already done in terrible ways by persons such as Oliver Stone, who has no problem creating confusing and lie-filled filmic histories about important events that need to be presented truthfully. This tale of Agueybana could open up the door to less accurate fictionalized depictions that keep Caribs/Taínos in the same intellectual property deprived boat. The hope is that Reichard de Cancio can be a historian that is able to share the best pieces of information with Carib descendants in order to create an informed population of people who know what their ancestors did.

Official Letters: One Voice Is More Official Than Another

The next letters I examine are “factual” ones. The first is titled “Waitukubuli Kalinago petition of 10 August, 1930,” (see Appendix A) and the second is titled, “Douglas Taylor to Noel Teulon Porter, 25 September, 1930” (Campbell 7-9). These letters document the struggle for survival by the Carib population in Dominica roughly 400 years after the letter in Reichard de Cancio’s work is dated. “Thomas John, Chief of the Caribs, and all the Caribs of Dominica” demand from King George V a “restoration of our ancient rules and privileges” (7). The letter also states that previous letters were sent but went unanswered and that the Carib population, while having been cooperative, has been reduced to a state of poverty and possible extinction. Here is an excerpt:

“WE, Thomas John, Chief of the Caribs, and all the Caribs of Dominica greet and
express their loyalty to His Most Gracious Majesty George V, King of Great Britain,
of Ireland and the Dominions and Colonies over Seas, Emperor of India, and humbly
submit to His Majesty's Gracious consideration this our petition.
WE beg His Majesty to grant us:-
1. The restoration of our ancient rules of privileges, where perpetual continuance was
graciously accorded us by Her late lamented Majesty Queen Victoria and which have
unlawfully and unjustifiably been taken away from us since the year 1926” (Campbell 7).

Stratification is clearly demonstrated here and John is also forced to work under the rules of stereotypical propaganda. The letter format is simply ridiculous when addressing such rights issues; it forces moral issues to be dealt with in a format that was originally used in the context of theft and pillaging. That is, the letter has traditionally been used by the colonizers to let indigenous populations know that they no longer own their land, for example. Rolena Adorno cites Guaman Poma’s frustration with colonial rhetorical forms in “From Story to Sermon,” and demonstrates the usefulness of the sermon as a cross-cultural tool (57). The colonial letter was useful to the colonists in that it presented an authoritative, factual, faceless entity on the side of the colonial force. In this case, the Caribs are attempting to use the letter for their own means, but this cannot entirely work because the letter has already been established as a tool of propaganda. The Caribs are attempting to work within a differential consciousness, what Chela Sandoval calls a “weaving structure [that] permit[s] alliances between varying oppositional ideologies” (153). The Caribs are mimicking the colonial business letter while at the same time seeking power for themselves. The Caribs have taken on the colonizer’s language and writing format – something that Agueybana did not do, as he did not respond to correspondence with words/letters but with fire. Furthermore, the Caribs are implying that they have cooperated with the British and are in need of their help, which makes the indigenous population sound passive and somewhat weak. This creates more dimensions in the Carib palimpsest because now we have the idea of passivity counteracting the idea of the fierce and uprising-prone Carib. This is a stereotype the Caribs have assumed in order to bargain with the colonizers. It is their disguise. The Caribs clearly know that the letter format is weak and this is underlined by the fact that the King refuses to acknowledge their letters. In other words, the colonizers try to maintain power by refusing to acknowledge a letter as legitimate. This works for them in one sense, but it also works to undermine the letter format itself. It doesn’t show the colonizers as reasonable people who simply don’t acknowledge unreasonable correspondence; it shows the colonizers as persons who must withdraw in order to “win” this sort of attack. The only option left to the colonizer is to give up because if they respond in writing – within their own form of propaganda – they know the writing will show them to be the imperialists that they are. The propaganda meant to make the colonizer look strong is starting to work against the colonizer. It shows a repeated pattern of lying, manipulation, theft, greed and bigotry. The colonizer has to stop writing letters lest he incriminate himself.

The “Douglas Taylor” (see Appendix B) letter adds even more to this notion. Douglas Taylor appears to be an advocate for the Carib population in his letter to Porter, as he asks that help be given to preserve the Carib race. He mentions how the Caribs live on a reservation – a connection to other indigenous populations in the Northern Americas – and that they are “quite pure” (8). Here is a section of that text:

“The Caribs themselves, of whom there must be at least 250 quite pure (the chief himself
puts it at 400 out of a total of 500, but I think he is optimistic) are small and wiry, the
women sturdy and well formed; olive to light copper skin though which the blood shews
red, high cheek bones, slightly slanting eyes, broad flat foreheads with tendency to recede towards the top, coarse black straight hair, hands and feet small, the latter with very high
arches. A peculiarity is that men and women have little or no hair on the face and body.
In character, they are much less exhuberant [sic] than the blacks, almost melancholic, soft
voiced and extremely shy with strangers. Their language is almost extinct, only the old
men remember some of it, the current language is Creole French and of course the young
ones learn a certain amount of English in school. The rest of the population of the island,
black and white, look upon the Caribs much as we look upon the gypsies [emphasis added]
- as a lazy good for nothing lot. In point of fact they are not lazy but as long as they stay on
the reserve, they can only work for themselves. I think this suits their temperament best,
and it is sure that if they went to work on the big plantations the race in it’s pure form would soon be extinct. At it is, many of the girls leave to marry half-caste or niggers, and the chief himself has a pretty half Carib wife” (8).

He implies that the purity is the reason why they are deserving of attention. This is demonstrated when he tries to create sympathy by stating that “the government…is trying to starve them into absorption [sic] with the nigger population” (9). If we connect this to the earlier statement that, “In character, they are much less exhuberant [sic] than the blacks” (8), it becomes clear that Taylor is implying that Black Caribs are much more likely to participate in an uprising, therefore it makes sense to help the “pure” Caribs. Again, the idea of the Carib is problematic because we know that earlier uprisings took place among “purer” Carib descendents. Furthermore, the idea of a “pure” Carib does not work, either. According to Walter E. Roth’s study of the indigenous populations of South America (which he connects to populations that traveled to the Lesser, Greater Antilles and Mexico), the Caribs had always mixed with other tribes such as the Warrau and Arawak/Taínos (107). In fact, he connects the Semis, or idols, used by the Arawak on the South American mainland to the Cemis or Chemin of the island Arawak and Caribs (168-169). The significance of this connection is that the mainland and island Caribs/Arawak were always in communication and there was always movement in and out of the lands. These people were connected before the colonizers separated them into different nations that were forced to communicate differently, through separations in language and/or culture. Therefore, Caribs have traditionally been multicultural, or mixed, and they have traditionally fought against enslavement. The “Douglas Taylor” letter, as seen here, is clearly being used as a tool of propaganda because it sets forth an image of the Carib population that is false and it seeks to spread that image far and wide. It perpetuates the idea that certain Caribs are not connected, certain Caribs are prone to violence more than others (the darker they are, the more they may fight us), and that the letter format can be trusted as a tool of authority. Douglas Taylor does not attempt to corroborate what he believes with anyone else. He states it as fact and even expects investment to come based on his word. What is especially disturbing is that the Carib population is not only stratified in such writings but in this one, Douglas Taylor attempts to further stratify the population by separating it into different groups based on skin color. Furthermore, the Carib as a population that must be helped is reinforced once again. In the Reichard de Cancio story, the King is sending a magistrate to “help” the Carib/Taíno population; in the 1930 petition, the King is asked to help the Caribs; and here Douglas Taylor is asking a colleague to help the Caribs. Within all of these requests for help, the possibility of violence always looms although it is always implied that the violence will occur on the part of the Caribs. The Agueybana story (not the letter in the story) and the Carib-written letter are the places where the violence towards the Caribs is addressed and this is one way in which the Caribs have attempted to own their intellectual property in terms of their history.

Corporate Correspondence: The New Colonizers

Caribs have always fought for ownership of their land but the fight has changed. The difference of the fight in modern times is that now it is one of intellectual property and ownership of it. We see the Caribs fighting for ownership of how they are represented and the right to manipulate said representation to their benefit. The colonizers attempt to divide the population along racial lines, but the next letter shows how they fight that attempt, as well. Ben Palacio highlights a letter from Michael Polonio, President of the National Garifuna Council of Belize, to the CEO of the Walt Disney Corporation (see Appendix C). In the heading of the article, Palacio defines the population represented by Polonio as “Garifuna, garifuna, GARINAGU, garinagu, Kalipuna, Caribs, CARIBS, Seine Bight, An Indigenous Culture.” Here, many of the layers of this palimpsest are brought together. Now, the population is not just Carib, but it is Garifuna, or the mixture of Caribs with Africans. On the “Garifuna History” page of the Seine Bight website (a website dedicated to the village in Belize) where the letter is posted, the reader is informed that a population of shipwrecked Africans adopted the Arawak language and customs of the Caribs and mixed with the population, and the tribe later evolved into the Garifuna population. All of these cultures are connected as one and the Garifuna do not believe in separating them; all of the words refer to one indigenous population, as far as they are concerned. The palimpsest is given a complexity that Douglas Taylor completely missed. Taylor insisted on separating the Carib and Black Carib populations and viewing them as having different characteristics. The various colonizers in Europe – the French, the Dutch, the English, the Spanish – made agreements with each other to split the Caribbean lands and separate the people who were once unified. The different cultures and languages that exist there now are not an accident; it was planned so that the Caribs would not feel unified after a generation or two. This is something the Carib descendents are responding to. Jorge J. E. Gracia, in Individuation of Racial and Ethnic Groups, is also responding to the outdated desire of separating peoples who have shared history. He looks to W.E.B. Du Bois’ “familial-historical” view of race, which states that a race shares a history. This causes problems if we look at the history following the naming of the race because many people within a race will have different resulting histories. For example, if we say that a Latino is only someone who speaks Spanish, we are separating two populations of people who share a history, so that definition of individuation does not work. If we look at the history around the time the term was created, that can also cause problems because different people in different countries, for example, will have different histories. However, if we look at the history that leads up to the creation of the term, this is the shared history that connects the family tree best. In other words, “Latino” was not created before the Spaniards arrived in the Americas and it was not created for a long time after that, but the history that took place after 1492 is the shared history of Latinos that connects all of them, whether they speak Spanish or not. This is the argument that Gracia poses (78-100) and the Carib/Garífuna population is currently using a similar method to connect all indigenous peoples and their descendants in the Caribbean, regardless of any mixing that took place with Africans or Europeans. The Caribs are reconnecting and re-membering what was strategically disconnected and dissected by all the European nations that colonized the Caribbean. This can be seen in the aforementioned letter to Walt Disney.

In the letter to the unnamed Walt Disney CEO (which echoes the unnamed King in the Agueybana tale), Polonio calls the indigenous population shown in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 “Calinago” and terms them “ ancestors of the Caribs and Garifuna” and, in fact, equates the words Carib and Calinago at various points. Polonio is connecting the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean together because they are connected, as history shows. The population is multicultural and this view creates a clear timeline, in terms of colonization, and it connects the original colonization to the current corporate colonization of the Carib/Garifuna intellectual property. The Walt Disney CEO at the time of the letter was Michael Eisner, who had actually announced his resignation three days before the letter was dated (“Robert A. Iger Named Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company” ). Although, the resignation would not be effective until September 30th of that year, the letter – like the one sent by the Carib population of Dominica to King George V – was responded to by no one. The letter to Eisner asks the Walt Disney Corporation to change the script, which depits Caribs, or Calinago, as cannibals. It reminds Walt Disney Corp. that it claims to embody high business standards and integrity and then informs the corporation that there is no factual evidence proving that Caribs were cannibal. This excerpt addresses the idea of the cannibal:

“The myth about cannibalism was started because the Calinago were not intimidated by the European invaders and waged war in the defense of their territory and way of life. For 30 years they held back the British Army, the most modern fighting forces of the world at the time. After the eventual defeat the British suppressed and attempted to wipe the Calinago/Garifuna and their culture off the face of the earth following the conquest of the island of St. Vincent in 1796. Fortunately for mankind, our people and our culture have survived, against all odds, among the descendants of the Garinagu (the Black Caribs) who were forcibly exiled and abandoned on the mainland of Central America in 1797.

If the Walt Disney Corporation is indeed about integrity and truth, then we ask that you desist from filming this movie as currently scripted and that you hold honest, truthful, respectful and constructive consultations with the living descendants of the Calinago (Caribs) in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent (known as Yurumien in our language) and Dominica. Ours is a story of epic proportions that needs to be told and we would not mind collaborating with your company in honestly and truthfully relating the Calinago/Garifuna/Carib story” (Palacio).

A history lesson about the race is given, demonstrating that the Caribs and their descendents were simply protecting their families and land, and that this should be the reasoning behind any violent action that might be depicted by the Caribs in the film. The letter is signed by ambassadors and officials from Belize, Honduras, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica. The Garifuna work within the confines of the colonialist letter dialogue, which places them within the confines of a propaganda-prone enterprise, as we have already established. In the end, the same script was used, but what is interesting to note is that the indigenous population shown in the film is depicted as Black Caribs, which echoes the ideas that Taylor had about the Black Caribs in the earlier letter. Again, the Caribs are the main course in the propaganda dish. They are depicted as the cannibalistic Black Caribs that eat people for no reason instead of being shown as strong people who have always tried to defend themselves – whether they were “pure,” whether they considered themselves Taíno or Garifuna, or whether they commiserated with African peoples. This letter, to a corporate entity – depicted as a “nameless” CEO like the King in the Agueybana tale – has taken up where the colonial correspondence left off. Chomsky’s propaganda theory applies here because not only are the Garifuna working within the colonialist enterprise of letter writing, but they are also forced to view themselves as cannibals in the film, anyway, even though they addressed the issue. The propaganda remains and this creates stratification in terms of intellectual property.

Stratification is seen in this last letter because the historical property of the Caribs is silenced, not valued and cast aside. The Carib population is placed on the outskirts of society by not being depicted properly and not being heard when it voices its ownership of the truth. Critical race theory also comes into play in that the Carib population is responding to this stratification by attempting to address the way the public is being educated – or miseducated – by the Walt Disney film. The Carib population and its descendents are attempting to claim their intellectual property as a response to racism and stratification. Furthermore, the Carib descendents are also attempting to lay claim to intellectual property that divides races instead of unifying them. This is a good tactic for this kind of fight. Walt Disney did not respond to the letter with another letter, a tactic we have seen before, because the company did not want to incriminate itself. Instead, the company responded by simply ignoring the issue. In effect, the lack of a response results in a failure on the part of Walt Disney, because even though the film came out unchanged, the letter by the Garifuna will always be there, poking a hole into the depiction of the Caribs. Ultimately, the palimpsest – the continuing change that occurs surrounding the word Carib and all of its subsets – speaks to the persistence of the Carib descendents. They were known as fighters when the area was first colonized and this fight is now being continued in the information age as a fight over intellectual property.

The palimpsest is a useful tool for the indigenous persons of Carib descent. It allows the Carib descendants to continually add to the definition of who they are, especially if it needs to respond to an inaccurate part of the palimpsest that has been contributed by colonizers. That is perhaps the most problematic part of the palimpsest. However, the use of this tool demonstrates how comfortable the Carib descendents are with multiculturalism, as they use it to connect to the various indigenous populations surrounding the Caribbean Sea. Birgit Faber Morse, in The Salt River Site, St. Croix, at the Time of the Encounter, notes that Taino culture (or Arawak culture) can be seen in the ancient ball courts found on the islands of St. Croix and other Lesser Antilles (45), and Samuel M. Wilson, in Introduction to the Study of the Indigenous People of the Caribbean, shows in a migration map how indigenous populations from Central and South America continually traveled in the circle of the Caribbean Sea (2). These populations were the ancestors of the Caribs, Arawak, Taino, Warrau, and many others. The mixing was inevitable and this is influences the decision to linguistically connect all of these populations in the letter to the Walt Disney CEO. The multifaceted palimpsest is necessary for the Carib descendents, even though it is problematic because its form can also be used inappropriately by persons who do not identify with the culture. It is also problematic in terms of teaching the history, which may explain in part why most of my textbooks refused to tackle the subject. I do believe I have found some answers to the questions I had when I began this study, but I cannot say that I am happy to find that the Caribs and their descendents have a legacy of fighting to uphold, especially in terms of owning the rights to our history. I am proud of our love of multiculturalism, and I am proud of our desire to continue to speak out, but I find it shameful that the Spanish, the English and now the U.S. have all felt the need to silence this history and depict my ancestors as ignorant or barbaric. What these letters end up revealing is the barbarianism on the part of the Kings and, now, the equivalent CEO.

The Letters in the Classroom and Conclusion: “It’s Just a Movie!”

As a model on how to create an effective presentation, I used an excerpt of Pirates of the Caribbean II and presented the letter to Walt Disney to one of my composition classes. The students were very engaged in the presentation and were surprised to find out that anyone had written to the movie company about the film. Some of the responses included phrases like: “But the movie doesn’t specifically call the indigenous population Caribs”; “When I saw the movie, I wasn’t thinking of a specific place or specific people, so I would never associate the tribe in the film with Caribbean tribes”; and the inevitable, “What does it matter – it’s just a movie!” These responses were very interesting to me because I honestly didn’t expect them. I naively assumed that the students would have sympathy for the indigenous population that did not want to be depicted falsely. What this experience revealed to me, however, is that the students were completely unprepared to be sympathetic with the indigenous population because, even though the majority of the students were White, they had suffered from the lack of intellectual property, as well. Not only do the Caribs suffer from not having control over their own intellectual property, but the bourgeois class also suffers from not having access to information that the privileged class controls. Middle class students have no idea what has happened in the Americas and they do not see why they need to know because they are not hungry, they do not lack for education, and they have access to most things necessary for life. They don’t even need to think outside of their own virtual space. Note the student who, despite the location in the title of the film, did not think of the landscape in the movie as a real place with real people.

One student did pose the idea that perhaps if we knew more about the population, if we saw Caribs in our everyday life, then maybe we would care more. I mentioned that their professor has Carib blood, as does J.Lo, numerous baseball players, a former CEO of Coca-Cola, etc. This was quite uncomfortable for the students because they were now questioning what they had been taught. One student said, “We don’t want to know, we don’t need to know, even if words like ‘barbacoa/barbecue’ come from that culture, it’s not like it’s Latin.” In other words, the culture of a land that is thousands of miles away is valued more than a land that is nearby and affects us each day. Despite the welcome frustration that was a result of this presentation, when the students had to create their own presentations, I saw the effects of the original model. One group of students looked at Disney’s “Pocahontas” alongside the diary entries of John Smith and highlighted the extreme differences in the depiction of the stories. Another group of students looked at how little people (persons with dwarfism) are depicted in film and how they are treated in everyday life; one student (the one who said “we don’t need to know”) openly admitted that his feelings about little people had changed from when he started and the project really convinced him of their contributions to society. I was shocked. Another group analyzed junk news and the more important news items that are obscured by stories about Brangelina, for example. I don’t think I need to convince anyone that this type of analysis is critical in the classroom. Bringing in the Carib letters can not only contribute to Carib descendants knowing about their history and maintaining the rights to their intellectual property, but it can also contribute to non-Carib descendants looking at information in an critical way which is currently discouraged within traditional media.

This project has been one of the most liberating experiences for me. I simply never had access to such documents. To be able to see Carib letters and interpret fictionalized Carib tales that depict the colonial correspondence has allowed me to understand part of my history, part of myself, and that is so necessary for someone to feel whole. I don’t know if anyone who has always had access to documents about his/her own history can possibly understand what it feels like to be able to interact with the past in this way. However, the fact remains that the letters themselves are written under the auspices of propaganda and while they do record the fight for actual property and intellectual property, there are still inaccuracies that can occur within the official letter system. This is why the letters should not be taken alone and fictionalized accounts – or stories and other creative works – should be carefully considered, too. Who is writing these accounts will always affect the accuracy. Reichard de Cancio had the idea to share history that isn’t often taught, but if the Carib story does eventually become popular beyond what is depicted in false, cannibalistic scenes, then there will be a greater risk. Oftentimes, stories about the Civil Rights Movement depict sympathetic White men who help the African American community, for example. Once the story is in the hands of the imperial force – and the imperial force wants to put the spotlight on the “real” story – there is a greater chance for subtler propaganda. Pirates of the Caribbean II has blatant propaganda about Caribs. If a future “truthful account” about the Caribs should be created, will the protagonist of the story be a sympathetic Spaniard? Will the Caribs be portrayed as ruthlessly violent and misogynistic, even indulgent, the way the Persians are portrayed in 300? This type of propaganda, which is far more subtle and far more effective, is what corporations have a stronghold on through their acquisitions of publishing companies and media giants. I want the Carib history to be presented, but owning that intellectual property is key. In the wrong hands, it’s just another myth that reminds the imperial force that it is the most civilized and brilliant. This project has shown me that is not the case and I find myself happy to have learned a bit about my ancestry, even if it did have to be through the frame of the colonial letter.

Appendix A:
Waitukubuli Kalinago petition of 10 Aug. 1930

WE, Thomas John, Chief of the Caribs, and all the Caribs of Dominica greet and express their loyalty to His Most Gracious Majesty George V, King of Great Britain, of Ireland and the Dominions and Colonies over Seas, Emperor of India, and humbly submit to His Majesty's Gracious consideration this our petition.
WE beg His Majesty to grant us:-
1. The restoration of our ancient rules of privileges, where perpetual continuance was graciously accorded us by Her late lamented Majesty Queen Victoria and which have unlawfully and unjustifiably been taken away from us since the year 1926.
By our ancient rule and privileges, is meant that within the boundaries of the Carib territory the lawfully elected Carib Chief should have power to administer law and justice over the Carib people and that there should be not interference on the part of the British local authorities except at the Chief express request or at the majority of the Carib people MOREOVER, that the Carib people living peaceably in the Carib territory should never become liable to any forms of taxation, other than the duty of keeping open some part of the road within their territory, except by their majority consent or approval.
2. That the Government grant of ten shillings a month at present made to the Carib Chief be raised to a sum compatible with the upkeep of dignity and honour of his position.
WE would bring to His Majesty's notice that a protest and petition made by us some time ago [i.e. in September 1927] to His Majesty's Secretary of State has remained unanswered and unacknowledged.
FINALLY, we would submit to His Majesty's gracious consideration that we, the Carib people, have since the beginning of British rule in this island always lived as peaceable and loyal subjects of His Britannic Majesty, that since the beginning of recorded history these islands have always been our home, and that today, living on a small section of territory in this island we, the last of our race are, through lack of recognition, absence of means of communication and marketing, reduced to a state of poverty in which we can only face extinction, we are convinced that the submission of these facts will suffice to persuade His Majesty of the urgency of taking such measures as will ensure us, His Majesty's loyal Carib subjects, the proper respect, recognition and protection worthy of His Majesty's Government.
(signed Thomas John, Carib Chief)

Appendix B:
Douglas Taylor to Noel Teulon Porter, 25 Sept. 1930

Dear Noel,
I have just returned to France from the West Indies where I spent some time amongst the Caribs of Dominica (not to be confounded with the Dominican Republic or Santo Domingo). I am writing to you, as the only person I know interested in such matters, to ask if you would be willing to help me to preserve the Carib race, of whom only four to five hundred remain, and who are rapidly becoming extinct in the pure form owing to the local government’s trying to ride over the privileges accorded them by Queen Victoria.

Dominica is a island belonging to the British Leeward group, situated 15°N by 61°W between the French islands of Guadaloupe and Martinique, which I also visited. It is the most mountainous and the most wild of the Antilles, about 40 miles by 20, and the only place on earth where pure Carib blood survived. They probably owe this continued existence to the fact that there are no proper roads across the island, whose greater part is still uncultivated and covered with virgin forest.

The Caribs now live in a legally defined Reserve of ample dimensions on the windward and most savage part of the island, under the nominal rule of their Chief. There is no village as we understand it, the houses which are well built of hardwood in a style of their own raised on stakes, and scrupulously clean, being scattered over miles, each one being surrounded by plantations of coffee, cocoa, vanilla, nutmeg, breadfruit, tania, dachine, limes etc. and the whole intervening countryside being covered with bay trees. About then miles inland starts the forest, from which they get their hardwoods, seman, balata, ceder and gommier this latter being used for the making of the native boats, gommiers, which they sell for 25/- the current price at Fort de France [Martinique] being 18 pounds (a good boat takes several men several weeks to complete). This together with carib baskets and limes is their only way of getting money. The only means of communication with the port of Roseau is by sea, in these same gommiers, which means an absence of several days from the Reserve, and considerable danger in the channel of Martinique[.] Salybia, (the Carib Reserve) does not possess either doctor or priest the nearest being about 3 to four hours walk entailing the crossing of a river impossible in the heavy rains.
The Caribs themselves, of whom there must be at least 250 quite pure (the chief himself puts it at 400 out of a total of 500, but I think he is optimistic) are small and wiry, the women sturdy and well formed; olive to light copper skin though which the blood shews red, high cheek bones, slightly slanting eyes, broad flat foreheads with tendency to recede towards the top, coarse black straight hair, hands and feet small, the latter with very high arches. A peculiarity is that men and women have little or no hair on the face and body. In character, they are much less exhuberant [sic] than the blacks, almost melancholic, soft voiced and extremely shy with strangers. Their language is almost extinct, only the old men remember some of it, the current language is Creole French and of course the young ones learn a certain amount of English in school. The rest of the population of the island, black and white, look upon the Caribs much as we look upon the gypsies [emphasis added] - as a lazy good for nothing lot. In point of fact they are not lazy but as long as they stay on the reserve, they can only work for themselves. I think this suits their temperament best, and it is sure that if they went to work on the big plantations the race in it’s pure form would soon be extinct. At it is, many of the girls leave to marry half-caste or niggers, and the chief himself has a pretty half Carib wife.

They are at present very unhappy because the government, (the administrator is a man called Eliot) is trying to starve them into absorbtion [sic] with the nigger population. They want on the one hand to levy taxes on boats etc, and on the other hand to bring the Caribs under the jurisdiction of the local coloured magistrate in Rosalie – the nearest village out of the reserve. The shop keepers in Roseau, - a days journey by boat or though the jungle on foot, now refuse to buy their bay leaves, and give less and less for the baskets. A Carib basket is the local form of luggage throughout the West Indies; made to be carried on the head, it is about 3 ft. long and 1 1/2 broad by 3ft. tall, very light and waterproof, made of the bark of a tree called "la rouman" double lined, i.e. one basket made to line another wither [sic] plantain leaves between the two; the design is in black red brown and white. Each one takes about two days to make – after the preparing of the bark – and they sell if lucky, after carrying them to market, for 2/- a piece. Could they be sold in England in quantities to make export worth while?

I enclose a copy of a petition to the King written by the Carib chief. You will see that his complains are rather on the score of prosperity than health. But in my opinion one of the most important things is to preserve the health of the Carib infants a great many of whom suffer from mal-nutrition, which produces a disease called locally "chaws" and which results in a bleeding from the genital organs. Anthropologists and ethnologists like yourself would find a great many things to interest you among these people, and I think it is worth while doing something to ensure the continuation of the race.

Is it worth while sending this petition? Could a campaign be started in the Times (letters) or in some other papers? The chief’s idea is that if he came to Europe and could tell people about the Caribs he could raise enough to start a little local industry for the extraction of bay essence and bay rum. Or they might sell some produce in Europe.

Appendix C:
From: Michael Polonio - President, National Garifuna Council of Belize
To: Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company
Subject: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3

The National Garifuna Council (NGC) is the legally constituted and recognized representative organization of the Garifuna people of Belize, who, along with other Garinagu in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, are direct descendants of the "Black Caribs" of St Vincent and the lesser Antilles as we are referred to in the English language. We are also, therefore, descendants of the Calinago, the people you call Caribs. It has been brought to our attention that the Walt Disney Company intends to film a movie called "The Pirates of the Caribbean" in which the Caribs or Calinago, the ancestors of theGarinagu (as we refer to ourselves in our language) are portrayed as cannibals. We understand that preparations are underway to commence filming in Dominica in April of this year.

We note on your website that Walt Disney has portrayed itself as a company which upholds the highest Business Standards and Ethics in the conduct of its affairs and, therefore, are at odds to understand why you are involved in the perpetuation of this brutal and unjust myth and wrongdoing against the Calinago (the Caribs) and their descendants. There is no credible scientific evidence or reliable report that the people in question were cannibals. Our Calinago ancestors were a warrior race who migrated to the lesser islands of the Caribbean from the Amazon region of South America and, as with any warrior race, they engaged in ritualistic practices to encourage fearlessness among warriors. They fought to the death to defend their islands against invaders in the colonial era which followed the arrival of Columbus to our shores, an unfortunate event that changed for the worst the natural evolution and development of indigenous societies of the world in the period that followed. The myth about cannibalism was started because the Calinago were not intimidated by the European invaders and waged war in the defense of their territory and way of life. For 30 years they held back the British Army, the most modern fighting forces of the world at the time. After the eventual defeat the British suppressed and attempted to wipe the Calinago/Garifuna and their culture off the face of the earth following the conquest of the island of St. Vincent in 1796. Fortunately for mankind, our people and our culture have survived, against all odds, among the descendants of the Garinagu (the Black Caribs) who were forcibly exiled and abandoned on the mainland of Central America in 1797.

If the Walt Disney Corporation is indeed about integrity and truth, then we ask that you desist from filming this movie as currently scripted and that you hold honest, truthful, respectful and constructive consultations with the living descendants of the Calinago (Caribs) in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent (known as Yurumien in our language) and Dominica. Ours is a story of epic proportions that needs to be told and we would not mind collaborating with your company in honestly and truthfully relating the Calinago/Garifuna/Carib story. In May, 2001, the importance of the Garifuna culture (the culture of the Garinagu) to mankind was recognized in the United Nations Proclamation of the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Walt Disney would be making a mockery of that United Nations recognition with the filming and release of your movie portraying our ancestors as cannibals, the worst categorization and dehumanizing assertion that can be made against a proud people whose culture is a testament to good citizenship and independence of spirit.

The National Garifuna Council associates itself with the sentiments of Carib Chief Charles Williams of the Garifuna Territory of Dominica, who asserted that "our ancestors stood up against early European conquerors and because they stood up. We were labeled savages and cannibals up to today. This cannot be perpetuated in movies." We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider your position.

The National Garifuna Council of Belize
Tel: 501-502-0639
cc: Honourable Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
Honourable Francis Fonseca, Minister of Attorney General and Minister Education and Culture - Government of Belize
Honourable Assad Shoman, Minister of Foreign Affairs - Government of Belize
His Excellency Russel Freeman, Ambassador, Embassy of the United States of America, Belize
Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister, Commonwealth of Dominica
Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Chief Charles Williams, Carib Territory, Commonwealth of Dominica
Lic. Celeo Alvarez Casildo, Presidente ODECO, Honduras
Hon. René M. Baptiste -Minister of Tourism and Culture , St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Hon. Sylvia Flores - Minister of Human Development, Belize
Her Excellency Ms. Lisa Shoman, Belize Ambassador to U.S., Washington
His Excellency , Mr. Andy V. Palacio, Ambassador for Culture, Belize

Works Cited
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Coll y Toste, Cayetano. “Dictionary: Taíno Indigenous People of the Caribbean.” The
Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Boriken. Ed. Juan Antonio Pérez. 1970-2006. 28 Oct.

de la Cova, Antonio Rafael. “Chronology of Latin America.” Latin American Studies. 15 Dec.
1997. 30 Sept. 2007. <>.

Faber Morse, Birgit. “The Salt River Site, St. Croix, at the Time of the Encounter.” The Indigenous People of the Caribbean. Ed. Samuel M. Wilson. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1997. 36-45.

García-Calderón, Myrna. “Current Approaches to Hispanic Caribbean Writing: An Overview.”
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Ladson-Billings, Gloria and William F. Tate. “Toward a Critical Race Theory of
Education.” Teachers College Record. 97.1 (1995): 47-68.

Palacio, Ben. “Walt Disney Company, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3,’ Portrayal of Garinagu
Angers the Garifuna Nation Worldwide.” Seine Bight Village Website. 16 Mar. 2005.
20 Oct. 2007.

Pérez, Juan Antonio. “Names of Taíno Families and People.” The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal
Nation of Boriken. Ed. Juan Antonio Pérez. 1970-2006. 28 Oct. 2007.

“Propaganda Model.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 1 Dec. 2007. 2 Dec. 2007.

Reichard de Cancio, Haydée. “Agueybana the Brave.” Tales from La Isla Del Encanto. New
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“Robert A. Iger Named Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company.” News Releases.
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Roth, Walter E. The Animism and Folklore of the Guiana Indians. New York, New York:
Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1915.

Sandoval, Chela. “Love as a Hermeneutics of Social Change, a Decolonizing Movida.” Methodology of the Oppressed: Theory Out of Bounds. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Vasquez, Doris M. “Spain in Puerto Rico: The Early Settlements, Aguada.” Writings and
Rewritings of the Discovery and Conquest of America. 1978-2007. Yale-New Haven
Teachers Institute. 19 Oct. 2007.

Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. New York, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1947.

Wilson, Samuel M. “Introduction to the Study of the Indigenous People of the Caribbean.” The
Indigenous People of the Caribbean. Ed. Samuel M. Wilson. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1997. 1-8.

Monday, October 01, 2007

ImPOSTers, POPaganda and FREEkingdom

Take a look at these envelopes. They look like any other mail one might get, but look a little closer. Do you recognize the faces? The first stamp is of Tony Clifton, a notorious character made famous by Andy Kaufman. The second is Ferdinand Demara, a dude who was famous for impersonating anyone from a lawyer to sherrif to a monk. What you may be asking yourself is why these folks have been honored by being placed on a couple of our United States stamps. Well, they haven't been honored that way, exactly. These are not real stamps. These are a couple of works of art in the collection called "ImPOSTers" by the Chicago street artist known as TEWZ. Tewz is known for the usual street art like spray can stuff, but he also teamed up with other artists to decorate the hideous boxes that hold our various daily papers and magazines. That was the MonsterBox project. However, Tewz has entered new territory with the pseudo-stamps. He has created art in an arena that was formerly determined by our government alone. How often do we get to choose who or what is on our stamps? I've read about votes on this or that stamp; most recently, folks got to decide on a Star Wars-themed stamp, but who got to propose the Star Wars theme to begin with? We have government-chosen art all around us (kind of like the force) but we don't really choose what that art will be. Tewz decided to see if he could make such a decision and I think he made quite a statement in that process.

But public art is not a new idea. People have been tagging since the beginning of time, as Toro so aptly puts in one of his poems: (to paraphrase) the first tagger was Cro-Magnon man. However, for some reason - I assume it is because people don't understand it - public art is often not seen as an art form at all. Vandalism is the word many people use for it. I understand that sentiment, especially as someone who, as a young girl, had to see her father paint over some tagging on the garage. Nonetheless, there are some really interesting things being done in terms of public art. Ron English is famous for his "illegal" billboards, many of which attacked big tobacco and, I believe, contributed to the stance we have on smoking today. He particularly went after the Joe Camel character and how it appealed to children; his public art campaign definitely contributed to the demise of that cartoon. A new version of a documentary that covers his guerilla billboard action goes into the reasons why he thinks public art is necessary. English, and other artists in the film, state that there is no real public space for art and commentary. In theory, we are supposed to have public spaces for our ideas to flourish, but in reality, high fees and connections are what determine whether someone is going to be able to contribute to the public arena.

The street art movement believes that art and commentary should be available to the larger public, both as viewers and participants. In other words, there should be a FREE KINGDOM available to the public. There should be a public domain where we FREAKS can say what we need to say and make the world a prettier place, a smarter place, a more informed place. There should be a FREEkingdom where new visuals and ideas can make statements that may not have crossed the larger public's collective mind. It is easy to say that artists should just work within the gallery system, but we need to ask ourselves how limited that gallery system is. Who controlls it? Who views art in these private spaces? Who decides what is worthy? There is a reason why artists like De La Vega, Keith Haring and Basquiat began with street art.

Latino muralists have beautified ugly buildings; graffiti artists beautified trains and buildings with spray can art; Ron English questions our moral decisions with guerilla billboards; and TEWZ has entered a new arena within our postal system. Here are some other random street artists and some around the world. Look at the art in Tokyo. It looks like vandalism, perhaps, but aren't there works that cause you to think? Would these works have the same effect if they were in a private, sterile space? What happens when these works interact with the actual public?

I remember looking at the graffiti murals when I was taking the Blue Line home from school; I was always excited when the subway came up into the El part of the line, right by Damen Avenue in Chicago. There was a strip of art that made my skin get goose bumps every time I saw it. Why? I'm not sure I understand. Perhaps it made me feel like I was having a conversation with someone who I didn't know. Perhaps it was excited to have a gallery that was controlled by the public. Perhaps the work was just beautiful. Perhaps the work depicted my reality more than the work in the Art Institute. I'm not knocking the Art Institute - Chagall's blue stained glass windows are a part of me forever (the link doesn't do them justice; they are immense) - but street art is something that feels like home. It feels like it is mine.

Street art isn't anything new, hence the wiki-entry, but it is an idea that demands new thought. Just like Andy Kaufman tried to push the limits of entertainment, street art is trying to expand the the limits of the artistic world. I think Tewz has pushed us to think about postage art, something that we have to pay for all the time(!).

Where else might we squeeze some innovative thought in?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Killer Instincts

Yesterday the European Union issued a statement urging my current home state to halt executions because it is about to top off at 400. Texas has more executions under its Lone Star belt buckle than many other states combined. I've been thinking about this a lot because a San Antonio native, Kenneth Foster, is set to be executed even though he has never killed anyone in his life. There's a law that says that if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, a jury of your peers can say you were guilty of the murder someone else committed. That's what happened to Foster. He was in the car waiting for his friend, heard gun shots, wanted to drive off, but then didn't drive off because another friend in the car told him not to. It has been established that Kenneth had no desire to murder anyone but because his friend did, he's going to be killed.

The Texas news is so sympathetic (read: sarcasm). Despite that, people all over the world are protesting. Yesterday, thousands in Austin, sent a message to the State Capitol (where Dubuya himself once snorted a few lines). This article demonstrates a bit of that sympathy. I think it is quite interesting that the EU has taken interest in our murderous rampage in Texas/the U.S. Or is it exactly a murderous rampage? Are our killer instincts levelling everyone in our path or are we more selective?

It seems that the death penalty doesn't exactly apply to everyone, does it? This article came out about a week ago. Let's see, now...Foster didn't kill anyone, yet we're killing him. Mary Winkler did kill someone, yet she has gone free in less than a year. Interesting. What's the difference? Oh, she had post traumatic stress disorder...from trauma experienced as a child...and the trauma manifested itself when she became an she killed her husband...and was cured in about a couple of months. Yes, that makes sense! No? Well, what else could explain why we're killing Foster and not Winkler? I'll let you be the judge. Maybe Foster stands more of a chance with you as the judge. I know if I were the judge I would have decided that anyone who hasn't killed, can't be killed. He may need to be locked up because he was involved somehow, but if he didn't kill anyone, there isn't any reason to kill 'em. I know if I were the judge in the Winkler case I'd remind Winkler that a lot of us - especially women - have experienced trauma in our youth, severe hope-killing trauma, but once we become adults it is our responsibility to get help so we don't kill our minister husbands. This woman had THREE KIDS. If they grow up and murder their spouses, will they also claim post traumatic stress disorder because their mama was a crazy woman?

We all have killer instincts. It is the reason why we eat. We want to survive. We kill plants (veggies, paper, etc.), we kill organisms in our water, we kill animals if we aren't vegan. And yes, sometimes we decide, if only in our minds, that someone's life just isn't worth it. The problem is when we decide whether someone's life is worth it based on something other than the survival instinct. It is clear that in this country - especially in Texas - we have decided that poor Black men just aren't worth it, even if they aren't guilty of murder. White, middle class women, even if they are proven murderers, are apparently worth it. This is who we're choosing to live with.

This is who we're choosing to live with.

My killer instinct once said to me, "Don't hurt 'em unless they are coming at you." I've taught behavior disorder kids in the Bronx and kids with an enormous sense of entitlement in the suburbs, and I have yet to hurt any of 'em. If you meet people where they're at, they don't come at you with bad energy...usually. But our court system.... They are coming at me. They are coming at all of us with racist, classist, blatant murder.

It makes me sick. It makes me sick because I am starting to wonder if I should change my killer instinct. Aw, I'm a lover, as the cliche' goes, but I am sharpening my pen. The fountain of my eyes is shooting bullets. I am ready to level those in my path to JUSTICIA. My husband says "those people won't understand anything but a noose around their necks." I hope there is some other way. I hope I can draw that noose, make it tight like my writing and make it sting like regret. I hope.

(P.S. There is also a Kenneth Foster Yahoo!Group - join to get updates.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Art, City Planning, and Your Dreams

Your dreams are shaped by your environment.

I've always been well aware of the effect nature can have on a person. Not only have I seen a sense of calm and understanding in students who have had the opportunity to travel outside of the concrete heat, but I experienced the change in myself, firsthand, every summer when I spent my time staring at the stars and befriending trees in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Luckily, I also grew up in Chicago where past city landscape architect Jens Jensen ensured that the city would have a certain amount of greenspace. Chicago's past and present mayors have also had a good relationship with the arts (the city assumes a place for arts and education!), so free and public works of art were always part of my day as I traveled to school through the city. Yes, Mayor Daley did ban and whitewash (no pun intended) some of the coolest spray can murals that sprinkled my El travels with delight - I'm still not quite over that - but at least there were other kinds of art everywhere and plenty of art programs for kids like me (the link shows how the graffiti evolved from the early 80s to the present). Heck, I even got to paint with Keith Haring himself! I can say I collaborated with ol' boy on a big ass mural - yeah, dat's right.

This is why when Vincent and I had the opportunity to drive to Houston this July (the only "vacation" we could afford), our little four-day excursion turned out to be one of the most pleasant trips I've ever taken, despite hurricane-like winds and rain. As soon as we hit the city limits, I noticed that there was an abundance of little radio stations at the low end of FM. I ended up falling in love with KTRU. I heard hip hop, old 80s alternative, world music, new indie music I'll probably never hear again, an hour dedicated to music that little kids would like (!) - KTRU is awesome! I thought college stations had pretty much disappeared and this blessing made me realize that some of 'em still exist out there, but you will likely run into them only if you are in a major city. In fact, there is a college station in San Antonio that is my least I THOUGHT it was a San Antonio station. I recently found out that it is actually an Austin station that has a strong enough signal to reach San Antonio. All the other stations in San Antonio are very hard rock, squeaky clean country or Tejano. Not a lot of options, but I digress.

HOUSTON. There is art everywhere in Houston. We not only heard it in the music stations but we also tasted it in the food. We had Eggs Orleans, a cajun crabcake take on Eggs Benedict, at Cafe Artiste; we shared a fresh and innovative yet traditional Indian plate of seasoned meats at Indika on Westheimer; and watched folks dance and scream "Oopaah!" at a Mediterranean restaurant we just happened upon and I just know I'll never remember the name.

But that was just the fuel. Our legs were energized to check out a bunch of Houston art and boy was it freaky. The Rothko Chapel is well-suited for all sorts of Goth occasions. Be sure to bring your black lipstick and pessimism. I really liked it! The Byzantine Chapel, which was remade with pieces of the original, is a marriage of cool, modern frosted glass and old traditions from one of the cradles of civilization. What was really the joint was the Menil Museum, which houses B.C. stuff like old Alaskan prints, pillars from Egypt and gold jewelry from South and Central America. But it doesn't stop there. It takes you into modern times with collections from the impressionists, the surrealists (stuff they owned - like a weird iron maiden suit!), and pop artists. A lot of the stuff I saw at the Menil I had studied when I was in art school. It is amazing that they have all this art in one place. Makes you wonder how much cash funds it all, huh? That answer is easy: tons.

But before I move onto that point, I want you to know a couple of other things about the art in Houston. First of all, there's a bunch of public art out in the open, too. The Menil has a sculpture garden but you can find outdoor art all over the city. Hence, the opening photo of the essay. You see me leaning on a sculpture by Jean DuBuffet that sits in the center of downtown Houston (Chicago also has a DuBuffet). We were walking back to our hotel from the Mets-Astros game (the one that lasted 17 innings - and the Mets won!) and Vincent wanted to record the trippy art. You can see the new tattoo on my left arm, although not that well. We have a cheap camera. Anyway, walking around allows a person to interact with art in Houston. As it should be. The second important point is that there is much money in Houston for such endeavors. Our friend and colleague, Leslie, moved to Houston before we moved to San Anto because she was offered a residency at the Museum of Fine Art - Houston. The competitive market in New York, where we all met, didn't allow for the same opportunities that we've all had here in Texas. But, as you may have noticed by now, not all Texas cities or U.S. cities are planned in the same way.

I find Houston and Chicago to be very similar. They have large African American, Asian and Latino populations. These cities are cosmopolitan. Both of the cities have a lot of money, too. With money comes a certain amount of philanthropy and culture. There are plenty of wealthy people who think it is important to have a variety of artistic choices in the city, in addition to green space and good places to eat. Unlike fast-paced New York, however, Houston and Chicago are much more family-oriented, in the traditional sense. The point I am trying to carve and shape here is that Houston and Chicago are really awesome cities in that they have a variety of music, food, art and people, and there are well-funded programs that support creative thinking. This isn't something that just happened. It was planned.

How to plan a city takes a lot of thought, naturally, and in this article (paragraph 11) it is argued that Houston and Chicago have "similar patterns of land use" but Chicago's zoning laws have created slums and higher housing costs. This site gives a list of "famous" urban planners and Chicago figures prominently in the history of the profession. This library's archives have a document that explains Chicago's "world-wide influence" on city planning. It is my hypothesis that there might have been someone or some organization that planned parts of both Chicago and Houston because the two cities are so similar in appearance and vibe. I haven't found the connection yet, but I think it exists.

This type of thinking inevitably led to the thought: Who planned San Antonio? Or, actually: Who is currently planning San Antonio? Emil Moncivais is the current planner, according to the city website, and I really feel for this guy. San Antonio has grown so much in the past few years, I'm sure it is a tough job to organize the new construction around what already exists. It is clear that the city has a mission to protect its classic architecture and to ensure that residential areas are green and peaceful. However, how are other things planned? Art, food and music, for instance? I already mentioned the lack of diversity on San Antonio's airwaves; why is that? There are countless amazing artists in San Antonio; where are the funds to support them? When a controversial play was recently put on, community members saw fit to wonder whether the arts should be funded at all (on the WOAI website - that's NBC, folks). According to this info., San Antonio plans itself differently than most major cities. It actually does not allow outside regions (suburbs) to create independent municipalities; in other words, it ensures that it can acquire all surrounding land and zone it the way the city is zoned. Therefore, not a lot of independent changes can occur within or outside of the city limits.

Okay, that may explain why San Antonio doesn't have a lot of outside influence, but why are Chicago and Houston so alike? According to a couple of articles in the Houston Chronicle, there is Marquette Companies, a Chicago-based firm, that has building projects in Houston. So it may be as simple as big builders leaving their mark on many major cities. But why do Chicago and Houston have such a cosmopolitan outlook when it comes to the arts, food and entertainment? Why is San Antonio more traditional when it comes to these things? I don't think either choice is wrong - both options are way cool - but what influences a city to make such decisions? The fact that Houston and Chicago are next to waterways might have an influence.... Hmm. And what is the result of such planning?

Well, I can tell you that if I hadn't grown up in Chicago, I may never have become an artist. Theater, fine art, dance, music and public support and space for these things were an integral part of my childhood. Houston really reminded me of this. If I had grown up in San Antonio, things may have been different. There are awesome traditions here; kids learn to dance, sing and play Mariachi music and dances in a religious way, and painting techniques - as seen in San Antonio's many murals - are studied with great care by young and old alike. What is the value of promoting the arts in these different ways?

First of all, you get impeccable art in San Antonio. The precision and care that is taken is breathtaking. However, there is just not a lot of financial support - although I must say that actors here actually expect to be paid and that is not the norm in places like New York where you're just happy to have gotten a role.

There isn't a lot of public support for the arts, either. This summer Vincent created a program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center that brought teens from New York and San Antonio together to create film, visual art, theater and poetry together. It was awesome! (Slide show link) The Teen Arts Puentes Program (S.A.) and the ACTION Project (da Bronx) had an incredible closing show that brought laughter and tears of joy. The theater was packed! And it got press! However, there are several people in the community that dismiss such a program as "communist" (I am not joking), "a waste of time," and not something that will get their child into college or lead towards a career. In fact, many folks think that these endeavors are a waste of time for adults, too, because they do not generate revenue. Vincent and I were wondering why people might have this opinion. In New York, Chicago and Houston, most patrons of the arts understand that the arts are supported by grants and other kinds of donations and that generating revenue is not the point. They understand that museums and other similar institutions lose money all the time on acquisitions, etc., but that if you look for it, there is always money to support creative projects. The big cities understand that art, in all its forms, creates minds and souls that are prepared for a variety of tasks. Art generates creative thinking. Period. So why not use that in all cities?

San Antonio is a military city. As I mentioned before, the music heard here is traditional. Hard rock, country (without a lot of politics) and Tejano. The art is traditional. Therefore, the thinking is traditional. Or is it? Is it really tradition? Or is it just limited? There is tons of support for the Spurs here, and as it should be for they are a winning team. I remember the waves of support for my own Bulls. However, the Bulls money led to new parks and public art in the heart of downtown Chicago. Spurs money...I'm not sure where it's going. It certainly isn't going towards art. But does that mean that Houston is a better city than San Antonio? 100% NO!

What I've come to realize is that Chicago and Houston have all this variety because those cities have a lot of money. San Antonio is not a rich city. That's why it's so cheap to live here. I probably couldn't afford to live in Houston. So the pattern I'm seeing here is that the wealthier cities give their residents an abundant variety of music, art, food, culture, etc., but cities that don't have the same resources just don't get that stuff. It's the classic reason why small town folks move to the big city (although, San Antonio isn't exactly a small town). What the folks of San Antonio do get is a bunch of military choices. Since they haven't had a lot of choice to begin with, the lack of career choices may not seem that bad. I think there is something wrong with this.

The kids in the TAPP program were starved for what we were bringing to them. And actually, the kids in the Bronx were pretty excited about all the artistic possibilities that were presented to them, too. When they saw that there was an arts complex (where Vinny and I live), they wanted something like that in the Bronx. You should note here that Hip Hop and breakdancing and graffiti art were created in the Bronx despite the fact that New York art big shots have notoriously avoided the Bronx. San Antonio is similar, in a way. There are so many great artists and writers here (it's Sandra Cisneros' home, yo!) despite the insistence that Austin and Houston are the real art centers of Texas.

All this ends up making kids think that they can't be on the football team AND in theater classes. You'll find kids in both San Antonio and the Bronx that think theater is "gay." You can probably fake people out on the field in a more convincing way if you take an acting class, dude. It also makes adults think that there is no monetary value on artistic pursuits. All the richest people in the U.S. have promoted the arts and the wealthiest cities clearly have an intertwined relationship with the arts. Seems to me city planners, and whomever is influencing them, are deliberately trying to keep the arts away from cities that are on the poorer side. That is, the working class don't need art. They need sports and the military. That's really interesting because all of the best artists I've ever met came from working class backgrounds. We all know that military recruiting centers are located in poorer areas, ie., the Bronx and San Antonio.

My dreams came true because I grew up in a city with art. Would I have even known what my dreams were if I had grown up in a different place? Would I have developed different dreams? Would those dreams have really been my own? It is scary to think that city planners, people who I never met, influenced my life to such an extent.
Oh, and I won't even go into the architects that design both prisons and public schools. Ha!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Party Positively Perfect

After a crazy end of the semester (defending my work from being graded inappropriately, my funding being cut in half, the evil NJ taxation people squeezing us dry when yours truly made only about $10,000 by teaching at five different jobs last year), Vincent and I actually decided to celebrate. There were good things, despite the chaos. Vincent's family friend, Candido Tirado, was/is now in town to direct his play, "Momma's Boys." I managed (after a fight) to get perfect grades. Beautiful weather was in abundance. We couldn't complain. We decided to open up the Blue Boogie to all the lovely people who have become a part of our lives. And it went surprisingly well! The flowers you see here were a gift from one of our guests (!) and I have to say, that generosity set the tone for the evening.

Please let me introduce you to the awesome people who shared our space:

Nereida is a wonderful woman who should be paid boku dolares (big dollars) for her reading skills. She is a poet but she could be reading a grocery list and it would bring you to joyful tears. She is Puerto Rican and used to live in the New York area, which explains why she gives such great hugs. She was excited to watch the Spurs game; the city is unified and ready for their big win.

Chad, a quiet and careful speaker, is also a writer and I met him first at the graduate school's literary magazine, the Sagebrush Review. I later met him through one of our creative writing classes and he wrote a cool story about a brave girl who saves her village. I was really surprised to see him show up because I'm kind of the person to pick on in UTSA's literary circles (the prez of Sagebrush said I was tacky to a room full of people I just met because I wanted to put an upcoming gig in my bio and a couple of people in the online class were somewhat hostile about my experimental story - hee, hee!). I made sure to tell Chad that his presence meant a lot to me, and it did!

Candido Veras, not to be confused with Candido Tirado, was a crucial key to our party. This guy is an amazing eccentric artist who owns one of the largest lofts at the Blue Star Arts Complex (although, I heard he may be moving). He came in ready for merengue, merengue, merengue! His demands for dance music were substantial and I hope we satisfied. He also gave us a work of art made with old newspapers and Bud bottles - he compressed everything into a pulp paper which looks pretty cool, actually. Candido danced with all the ladies and spilled his wine just like the song tells us to. And, he brought many friends...including Pirate Joe.

Pirate Joe is a young lad who came into my home dressed like Adam Ant in his pirate phase. He spoke like Johnny Depp in the recent pirate trilogy and he looks kind of like a chubbier Orlando Bloom. I didn't pay much attention to this little guy because I figured he and Candido Veras arrangement...but he turned out to be so damn interesting! First of all, he ate a lot of my food while stating how scrumptious it was and that is a compliment, indeed, cuz Texan's don't eat lasagna made with summer squash (or crudites, for that matter). Second, he knew the definition of "scalawag" or "scallywag," which means a rascal but can also mean various political things depending on the dictionary you're looking at. Pirate Joe and I dove into my foot-thick volume of Oxford definitions and got into how definitions change depending on time, publishers, etc. Apparently, Pirate Joe also carries around the U.S. Constitution in his back pocket, ready for debate. However, most amusement came from his reaction upon hearing that the boys in "Momma's Boys" did not have to learn how to cook crack cocaine when they naively decide to try to sell drugs. "Those lucky bastards! Do you know how hard it is to cook cocaine? It crackles and sprays up on you and burns you. Those lucky bastards!" Pirate Joe left a bone compass drawing on my bathroom wall and was one of the last to leave. He took the remaining rum in case he had to sleep bearing the elements.

Devon is a very cool M.A. student and she brought her artist husband, Luis Valderas, to the spot. He was feeling a bit under the weather but it didn't keep them from meeting everyone and having a nice long talk with Candido T. They both drew on the bathroom wall, too, and I feel honored to have both a Luis Valderas on my wall AND Devon Valderas on my wall. She and I met a week later to check out the huge prints made by all the local artists at a steamroller event right here at the Blue Star. Devon is witty and wonderful and I love her hair (don't dispute it, Devon!).

Rachel, the Education Coordinator at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, and her husband Brian came over and while she talked to everyone and giggled and giggled, Brian raided our extensive library and record collection with Pirate Joe. Brian left things as they were but we can't say the same for Pirate Joe, who tends to put things back the way a blind two-year-old might. Rachel was quite a surprise and I think I can say that I've found a friend who can hang with the patient ol' partying Grisel (but I am getting older, folks).

Rich Diaz came sanz wife Belinda (who was also ill) but boy were we happy to have him over. What a smart and thoughtful guy. He was having fun watching the madness from the sidelines. I could see him giggling at the strange array of guests and I was right there with him. Rick has lived pretty much all over the world (he's been to two places Vinny's been to: Turkey and Tucumcary - not sure if that's spelled right) and his better half has always been right there with him. These experiences have made them into a sweet, wise couple who happen to be amazing thinkers and artists, too. The link on his name gives more of his background and a view of his amazing larger-than-life puppets.

Martha Curcio and her sweet friend (can't remember the name of this lovely lady in red) came ready to dance and Martha brought one of her wonderful flower creations seen in the picture at the top of this article. Vincent and I met Martha when we performed for the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers here in San Antonio. She blessed our spot at SASS and has continued contact with us. I absolutely love Martha. Her flowers are amazing. She is generous. I only hope I can one day have as much grace as she - and her friend!

Mark, the dad of the dude across the hallway who has a badass chopper, was quite happy to talk to the ladies and gents all evening long. He admired our books and had a great time when we screened "The Hideous Secrets of Hock Streedlefork," now on the omnipresent YouTube. Mark is an interesting guy: he rides his bike, he can build pretty much anything and he's really smart. I think the ladies (and gents) were happy to talk to him, too.

Laura, Hillary, Benny and various members of Second to None, came through. Benny, in addition to Candido T., was celebrating his B-Day, so he and Candido got to share a wish when the Blue Boogie candles were blown. Later on we got a sneak preview to STN's new CD and it was damn good. These guys were a bit shy but somehow Rachel and I broke the shell a bit with, what was it, turpentine? Hmmm.

Rodney Garza, an amazing actor/director, who has been an integral part of the Guadalupe's theater productions before and since Vincent began coordinating them, showed up after the Spurs game which he actually slept through. Rodney is a very hard worker but somehow manages to have energy for more and more. He and Candido T. and Rachel talked to the wee hours while I cleaned up and made sure Pirate Joe didn't burn my records when using a lighter to see the names of the LPs. Rodney's lovely love, Deva, slept it out but she was surely missed. She had superb timing as one of the Greek chorus women in a Chicano version of the Electra myth.

Alex Rubio and his clan of amazing artists make a quick afterhours stop. They are some cool, mellow folks and we saw more of them during the steamroller printmaking event a week later. We hope to see more of them in the future!

Bertha, from the Guadalupe, and her hubby came over and I must say that they were two people who danced who didn't need to be told to dance. Jimmy and Genevieve, also from the Center, came by and we talked about living spaces and how they are usually cheap here in S.A. and how the are usually an arm and a leg in New York. I've had that conversation over and over and somehow I just don't tire of it. It's true!! Belinda Menchaca and her husband were also on hand when our cat Hemingway (I didn't name it) kept sneaking out in the hallway to see if the conversation out there was as good as the indoor jive. What I especially loved was that Belinda had a smile on her face the whole time - now was she smiling with us or...? :)

Now, there were some miscellaneous folks that called and came through and I'm not really sure who they were or who brought them or where they came from, but they were really nice and they didn't steal anything beyond something to drink or whatnot. That's what I like about art complexes. You can go into a loft party, grab a drink, get to know the people, and you're not treated like an outsider but a potential friend. I've done the same thing countless times at the art lofts that once existed in Jersey City (before they were torn down and made into condos for Wall Street people). One of the artists at the Jersey City link, Ron English, did the art for "Supersize Me" and was such a nice guy, he let me interview him for an article. That's what the folks who graced the Blue Boogie are like, too. Really nice people. Isn't that great? When you continue to hear about all the drama in the news or encounter pressures at work it is nice to know that really cool, non-judgmental people exist in the world. It's especially great to know that they are all a little bit crazy and fun just like you, too.

Yippie! The Blue Boogie has officially been warmed up!