Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Low-Techerie

Ingenious little contraption: Heatstick.dom's Candle Heater

Low-Tech Magazine on Tile Stoves: "Sunbathing in the Living Room"

Low-Tech Magazine: How to Downsize a Transportation Network: Chinese Wheelbarrows

Never let a sunny day go to waste! The daily solar cooking recipe

Introduction to Woodworking Classes at the Northwest Woodworking Studio


This looks worth a hajj: The Oasis Camel Dairy. (I bought some of their camel milk soap, great stuff.)

Neat trick: DIY Ice cream 

My own impression precisely: Michael Wolff on How the Book Biz Dug Its Own Amazon Grave

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gabriele Lusser Rico (1937-2013)

I was so sad to learn, belatedly, of the death of writer and visionary writing teacher Gabriele Lusser Rico. I never met her, but I felt as if I had, because I read and reread her book, Writing the Natural Way, until it was, literally, falling to pieces.

>Visit Gabriele Lusser Rico's webpage for more about her life and work.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rose Mary Salum's Visionary Anthology DELTA DE LAS ARENAS: Cuentos Arabes, Cuentos Judíos

DELTA DE LAS ARENAS
Cuentos Árabes, Cuentos Judíos
Editora, Rose Mary Salum
Literal Publishing
Houston, 2014
One of the opening epigraphs of Delta de arenas (Delta of the Sands), this visionary anthology of Arab and Jewish Latin American stories, is by one of my favorite writers, Edward Said, author of the classic Orientalism. He says:
"The ideal of comparable literature is not to show how English literature is really a secondary phenomenon or how French or Arabic literature is really a poor cousin to Persian literature, but to show them as existing contrapunctual lines in a great composition through which difference is respected and understood without coercion."
The great composition then, of Latin American literature, of course, includes its multitude of Arab and Jewish writers. But until now, Arab and Jewish Latin American writers have not been gathered together between covers-- a group just the size for a cocktail party, were it possible:

Katya Adaui (Peru, b. 1977)
Carlos Azar (Mexico, b. 1970)
Alicia Borinsky (Argentina, b. 1946)
Nayla Chehade (Colombia, b. 1953)
Sergio Chejfec (Argentina, b. 1956)
Marcelo Cohen (Argentina, b. 1951)
Ariel Dorfman (Argentina, 1942)
Rose Mary Espinosa Elías (Mexico, b. 1969)
Luis Fayad (Colombia, b. 1945)
Julián Fuks (Brazil, b. 1981)
Margo Glantz (Mexico, b. 1930)
Eduardo Halfon (Guatemala, b. 1971)
Rodrigo Hasbún (Bolivia, b. 1981)
Milton Hatoum (Brazil, b. 1952)
Gisela Heffes (Argentina, b. 1971)
Bárbara Jacobs (Mexico, b. 1947)
Andrea Jeftanovic (Chile, b. 1970)
Jorge Kattán Zablah (El Salvador, b. 1939)
Sandra Lorenzano (Argentina, b. 1960)
Jeannette L. Clariond (Mexico, b. 1949)
Carlos Martínez Assad (Mexico, b. 1946)
Lina Meruane (Chile, b. 1970)
Salim Miguel (Lebanon, b. 1924, naturalized Brazilian)
Myriam Moscona (Mexico, b. 1955)
Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (France, b. 1936, resident in Mexico since 1942)
Alberto Mussa (Brazil, b. 1961)
León Rodríguez Zahar (Mexico, b. 1962)
Ilán Stavans (Mexico, b. 1961)
Tatiana Salem Levy (Brazil, b. 1979)
Rose Mary Salum (Mexico, b. 1964)
Leandro Sarmatz (Brazil, b. 1973)
Ana María Shua (Argentina, b. 1951)
David Unger (Guatemala, b. 1950)
Naief Yehya (Mexico, b. 1963)

As an American writer and translator who has been living in Mexico City on and off for over two decades, when I meet with my north-of-the-border American writer- and other friends, one of the things that continually astonishes me is that so many of them are entirely ignorant of even the existence of Jewish or Arab Mexican communities in Mexico-- which are large, and especially in the cities. Well, let's see, they've heard of Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes…. and not that they're writers, but of course, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. And when I mention that Frida Kahlo's father, Guillermo Kahlo, was born in Germany, of Hungarian Jewish descent, they do a double take. ("You're kidding, right?") In short, like most Americans, they've been lulled into assuming they know everything about Mexico already because they watch the evening news and a movie or three at their local Cineplex. (And woohoo, maybe they've visited Cancun or Los Cabos.) The reality of Mexican culture is infinity richer and more complex than its image in the United States even begins to suggest-- well, more from the soap box here.

Over the centuries, Mexico, like Latin America as a whole, has taken in many waves of immigrants, from Africans to Chinese to Welshmen. Not all but most of Latin America's Jewish immigrants have come from Europe, some as early as the 16th century, but most in the 20th century and the wake of World War II, while Arabs have come primarily from the Levant in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jews and Arabs: the juxtaposition conjures images of war, and indeed, as I write these lines, the newspapers feature horrific ones from the conflict over the Gaza Strip. But on the far shores of Latin America, where Jews and Arabs live together in peace, the common threads in their cultures are easier to pick out. Writes editor Rose Mary Salum, a Mexican of Lebanese descent, in her preface:
"Los autores de los cuentos participantes viven en este continente, el español o el portugués es su lengua madre, pero desde su nacimiento, dado su singular legado, llevan consigo una herencia que matizó las experiencias personales y los determinó, enriquiciendo el tejido con el que el lenguaje embebe la realidad".

[My translation: The authors of these stories live in this continent with Spanish or Portuguese as their mother tongue, but given their singular legacy, from birth they carry an inheritance that clarifies and determines their personal experiences, enriching the texture with which language absorbs reality.]

What these stories do, varied as they are, is what all good stories do: open our minds and elevate our awareness and our compassion. In other words, with heart and with art, they explore what it means to be human.

Salum's introduction is especially valuable for scholars, as she provides an overview of the scarce literature on Jewish Latin American writing and the even scarcer literature on Arab Latin American writing. A delightful and fascinating read, this collection is also a vital and visionary contribution to world literature itself. Highly recommended for both book groups and libraries. And highly recommended for a translation into English. Please.

Literal Publishing, by the way, was founded by Salum and in addition to a small but growing list of outstanding literary titles, she edits Literal Magazine: Reflections, Art and Culture / Pensamientos, Arte y Cultura, about Latin American culture. Look for that on the newsstands in Sanborns and elsewhere, or visit the website page.

> Visit the webpage for this book at Literal Publishing.
> Review in Nexos
> Review in Milenio
> Buy it on amazon.com

This blog post is in memory of my great uncle, Robert R. Mayo, who was professor of comparative literature at Northwestern University-- and a wonderful conversationalist. How I wish he were still here, that we could discuss this book over Turkish coffee and baklava!

COMMENTS always welcome.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cyberflaberie: Writers and Writing: Sam Quinones on the Mennonite Mob, the Daily Skimm, Write On!

Debra Eckerling's Write On! August newsletter is out. (Thanks, amiga, for the mention of my "30 Deadly-Effectve Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing" and the new gumroad.com edition of From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion.") Lots of useful information in there for writers. Take note, those of you looking for some inspiration, Eckerling is offering Purple Pencil Adventures, her Kindle of writing prompts for free on specific dates. Read the newsletter to find out all about it.

Sam Quinones, who I admire more than I can say, has just posted on his blog about the Mexican Mennonite Mob. Whoa.

Something I find charming, useful and yet totally appalling: The Daily Skimm.

How to Rank Well in Amazon. Uh, for all one's spare time. 

James Somers asserts: You're Probably Using the Wrong Dictionary.

The always elegant and thoughtful Pat Dubrava on Discovering Indians in 1951.

COMMENTS always welcome.

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SURF ON:


Madam Mayo:
>Why Aren't There More Readers? A Note on Curiosity, Creativity and Courage
>Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West by Rubén Martínez
>My Little Gumroad Shop
And on the home page, www.cmmayo.com:
>Review of Sam Quinones' True Tales of Mexico
>Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises: August
>New Workshop: One One Day Writing Workshop at the Writer's Center on Literary Travel Writing, Saturday October 11, 2014.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Extinction of the Vaquita?

In the San Diego Tribune, Sandra Dibble has just published an important article on the immanent extinction of the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, unique to Mexico's Sea of Cortez. Read it in full and watch the video here.

I've written about the catastrophe-- that really is the word-- in the Sea of Cortez in my book on Baja California, Miraculous Air. One of the chapters, about Bahía de los Angeles, is on-line at this link. It's a complex issue, and it's not all about the lack of regulation and enforcement on fishing limits, but also on the pollutants washing into the Sea of Cortez from the United States' agricultural run-off.  But it is also as simple as this: the tragedy of the commons.

COMMENTS always welcome.

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SURF ON:
Madam Mayo:
> Cyberflanerie: Bajacaliforniana
> Guest-blogger David Rothenberg's 5 Links on Music for and with Whales
> The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece
On the homepage www.cmmayo.com:
> Baja California photo album
> (Podcast) A Conversation with Sara Mansfield Taber, author of the memoir Born Under an Assumed Name
> (Podcast) An Interview with Cynthia McAllister: "The Buzz on the Bees" (Pollinators in the Chihuahuan Desert)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Traditional + Indie = Hybrid Publishing: Three Authors Dish at Jane Friedman's Blog

I'm not the only one (my previous publishers include University of Georgia Press, University of Utah Press,  Milkweed Editions, Whereabouts Press, Unbridled Books, and in Spanish, Planeta and Random House-Mondadori) now going indie. Maybe that long list of publishers sounds impressive; I think it's evidence of the crack-up in the publishing industry. Read about three other authors' indie adventures over at Jane Friedman's excellent blog:



(I already linked to Leslie Well's article in this previous post, noting that her book's cover was one of the best I've yet seen for a Kindle.)

COMMENTS always welcome.

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SURF ON
> 30 Deadly-Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing
> Cyberflanerie: Writerly Whatnot Edition
> Cyberflanerie: Epic Travel Edition
> Self-Publishing for All the Right Reasons (Reporting on The Writer's Centers "Publish Now!" Seminar)
> Guest-blogger Regina Leeds on 5+1 Resources to Make a Writer Happy in an Organized Space

And on the home page, www.cmmayo.com:
>Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises
>Recommended Reading on Craft
>The Manuscript is Finished --(or is It?)-- Now What?
> Once-in-a-purple moon newsletter

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Friedrich Liechenstein (Again): Happy

Better than 3 cups of coffee. But the ending is profoundly absurd. I think. Anyway it wasn't Brad Pitt in a chicken suit.



SURF ON:

>Watch more of Herr Liechtenstein (nobody pours cereal into the bathtub with more elan…)

>Cyberflanerie: Prozac Not Needed Edition

>Cyberflanerie: This 'N That Cat Edition

COMMENTS are always welcome.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ciclo Arte, Historia y Pensamiento Jesuita at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City

Alert to all with interest in Mexican history: an excellent line-up for the conference on Jesuit Art, History and Thought at Mexico City's Iberoamericana University. To attend in person, contact arte.uia@ibero.mx; emilio.quesada@ibero.mx. You can also watch this conference live on the Internet at rtsp://192.203.177.79/broadcast/pensamiento_jesuita.mp4 
using Windows Player. 

My amiga Carmen Boone, the leading expert on the Virgen de Loreto, will be speaking about the Colegio de la Nueva Veracruz, this Thursday August 13th. 
  



 COMMENTS always welcome.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Fun in Mexico, Literary Edition

News from Oaxaca, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Tepoztlan. 

U.S. Poets in Mexico is holding what looks like an outstanding and very intriguing conference in Oaxaca this fall. Founded by poet Sheila Lanham in 2008, they are all about connecting U.S. and Mexican poets for translation projects.  Thanks, Clare Sullivan, for the tip.


Only a measy-weasly itsy-bitsy and jaw-droppingly ridiculous 3% of literature published in the U.S. is translated. Anna Clark illuminates.

(P.S. Speaking of Mexico and translation, grab your copy of my anthology of 24 Mexican writers, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Big stories, bodacious translation, small package. Translation: Yes, it fits in your backpack.)

Not for the squeamish: my amigo metaphysical author John Kachuba on Mexico's Santa Muerte Cult. Take note: Kachuba is leading a Day of the Dead Cultural Tour in Oaxaca, check it out.

Artist and travel writer Jim Johnston, whose blog is Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide (same name of his book) says "buy this book"-- so I shall-- Miscelánea: Guía del comercio popular y traditional del Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de Mexico by Marie-Aimée Montalembert and Ángeles Reunes. 

More coming up in February 2015. My Tepoztlan amiga, childrens' author Mary Lynn Patton, reports on last year's San Miguel Writers Conference:
Mary Lynn Patton
author of SOUNDS OF MEXICO
and other childrens books
I drove to San Miguel (about 4.5 hours) from Tepoztlan with Sheila Urquidi for the 9th annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference in a state of high anticipation and the event did not disappoint. Calvin Trillin opened the conference to an audience estimated to be 900 listeners with 90 minutes of laughter that probably generated a room full of healthier people. I bought all his books for sale in the bookstore. 
There were 7 keynote speakers that spoke either in the evening or after lunch and the next up was the poet, David Whyte, my favorite speaker of the conference. His poetry readings were outstanding and I can highly recommend his "Midlife and the Great Unknown: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry.” 
All keynotes were worthwhile to attend but I wanted to particularly note the talk given by Benjamin Alire Sáenz who received the PEN Faulkner award for his short stories in Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club. Sáenz brought down the house with a standing ovation from this crowd who so poignantly felt his message that on the border he is both Mexican and a native born American yet neither. The book is a read that will be of interest to all who stand with a foot in each of two cultures, as does Benjamin Sáenz, and the many readers of Madam Mayo’s blog.
As in previous years there were workshops of a very practical nature to encourage anything you might want to write: food writing, screen plays, children’s books, memoirs, novals, fiction and non-fiction, travel, really so much was available. Additionally, there were agents and publishers to listen to query letters. 
There were simultanious translations and a few great presentations I missed (in particular the Co-cultural panel with Yann Martel, Benjamin Sáenz, and Alberto Ruy-Sánchez). This is an event well worth attending with a community of writers that whole heartedly work to make it give value. For example, not knowing who the poet David Whyte was before hearing him speak, I wanted to go to his presentation for which I had not signed up so the registrar suggested I stand outside to see if there were any empty chairs when the presentation started and happily, there were added chairs for the additional attendees like me. Every effort was made to make conference goers happy.
>More information and to register for the 2015 San Miguel Writers Conference.

Mary Lynn Patton also reports on the 2014 Tepoztlan’s Magical Cultural Festival. Mark your calendars for this winter 2015!
The 4th annual Mexico Canadian Cultural Festival was held in Tepoztlan, Morelos with the theme of “Magic as Inspiration” February 14-23, 2014. The plan in years past has been for this festival to follow the one in San Miguel intentionally to allow book lovers to attend both events. However, the theater events, art presentation and workshop conducted by Juanita Pérez and Márgara Graf at La Turbina Gallery, and children’s community art show required an early start date to manage it all.
The Canadian moderator, Hal Wake, organizer of the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival, returned to applause and brought the following prize winning Canadians to present their works in the context of magic as inspiration: Lorna Crozier, a poet and author of many works, Steven Galloway, author of “The Cellist of Sarajevo,” Michael Crummey, Newfoundland poet and author of “Galore” an epic novel.  
Canadian Doug Gibson, editor, publisher and friend of Alice Munro gave a presentation on his experience of accepting the Nobel Prize for literature on her behalf this year with the Canadian Ambassador to Mexico in attendance.The Mexican side of the writers included Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez, our loved local Tepoztlan poet who has previously presented at the Vancouver festival, Alberto Ruy-Sánchez, author of the Mogador trilogy which is available in English, and many other books, Verónica Murguía, prize winning author of young adult (YA) books, and José N. Iturriaga, a prolific writer on Mexico and the subjects of food, travel, eroticism and rituals. His latest book is Linaje de Brujos.
And the talented moderador for the Mexican authors is herself a writer, radio host, blogger, Mónica Lavín. 
A special treat of the panel discussions was the number of Mexican and Canadian authors that had worked together previously at the Banff Center for creative writing in Canada. Simultaneous translations were available throughout and La Sombra del Sabino book store reached a new level of excellence in this 4th year of festivities. Classical guitarists Avin Tung and Morgan Szymanski performed a concert at La Buena Vibra Hotel, Janet Dawson held a meal to celebrate gastronomy, and Stuart Cox performed Shakespeare. There was culture for all. 
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Friday, August 08, 2014

Belén de Sárraga (c. 1872-1950)

The excellent and deeply researched new book by Mexican historian María Teresa Fernández Aceves, Mujeres en el cambio social en el siglo XX mexicano (Women in Social Change in 20th Century Mexico) has one chapter in particular directly relevant to my own book on the Mexican Revolution: a mini-biography of Belén de Sárraga, whom Fernández Aceves calls "one of the most important leaders of her generation." Few people outside of the Spanish-speaking world have heard of or even imagined such a public figure as Belén de Sárraga; that should change.

A Spanish-born Spiritist, freethinker and feminist, differing from but a contemporary of Annie Besant, Sárraga visited Mexico in 1912 as part of an international speaking tour. What she said-- and the fact that her fellow Spiritist President Francisco I. Madero, the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, both welcomed and celebrated her-- caused an uproar. Writes Fernández Aceves (my translation):
"[In a conversation with The Mexican Herald] Sárraga... commented on the Mexican Revolution and said the Catholic Church was responsible for the conditions under which the country lived. The type of education it provided did not allow freedom of thought. The clergy only promoted the masses' fanaticism and made women into slaves." 
Belén de Sárraga
Especially valuable is the detail Fernández Acevez provides about Sárraga's early involvement with and writings about Spiritism-- the French offshoot of American Spiritualism, lead by French educator Alan Kardec. At the same time, Sárraga, a committed anti-monarchist, ardently defended Spanish colonies' rights to independence. In 1896, she protested the execution of the leader of the Philippines movement for independence and she was jailed for protesting against the war in Cuba. For Sárraga, as for Madero, Spiritism led to political action for freedom and social justice.

Fernández Aceves (my translation):
"[In 1912] Sárraga gave a series of conferences in Mexico City's Xicoténcatl Theater. Among the attendees were the President of Mexico, the cabinet officers and their families, Spiritists, intellectuals, Masons, women, politicians, and workers. Most attended in formal dress. Sárraga lectured with great rhetorical eloquence and and attacked the Catholic Church. She covered the following topics: The Evolution of Thought; Religious Congregations; Woman as a Human Being; Education; Progress and Tradition; and Morality."

Francisco I. Madero
President of Mexico
(1911-1913)
In her 1914 book published in Lisbon, El clericalismo en América, Sárraga argued that the counterrevolution that ended in Madero's assassination was a coalition of the old-guard (porfiristas) and the clergy, and that the Zapatists, Madero's one-time peasant allies turned enemy, had a religious fervor and respected the clergy. Writes Fernández Acevez (my translation):
"Sárraga… did not recognize the legacy and neither did she understand the popular, radical and rural ideas of the Zapatistas and Villistas: Land reform. She did not take into account the Anarchist motto of Zapatismo: "land and liberty." From Sárraga's point of view, their fanaticism was incompatible with a liberal and modern revolution. For her, that was central to the Mexican Revolution."
Among those who protested against Belén de Sárragas were more than a hundred Mexican señoras who arrived at Chapultepec Castle, the Presidential Residence, in protest at these "outrages" against the Church and Mexican womanhood. President Madero, then frequently the butt of cartoons portraying him as a midget ghost whisperer, mildly replied that he was dedicated to protecting free speech-- theirs as much as Bélen de Sárraga's.

Nearly a decade later, when Sárraga returned to Mexico, the contratemps between the Mexican Church and State continued, and she because-- my translation-- "more vocal and active."

"She gave talks for Masons, teachers, soldiers, and workers in Aguascalientes, Colima, Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalajara, Morelia, Pachuca, Puebla, Oaxaca, Toluca, Torréon, Tulancingo, Xalapa and Zacatecas. All her talks attracted very large audiences. In Puebla, she had an audience of 20,000 workers."

Plutarco Elias Calles
By 1923 Belén de Sárraga was receiving financial and political support from Presidential candidate Plutarco Elías Calles-- her fellow anti-cleric and Spiritist. After Calles won the presidency, Bélen de Sárraga continued speaking to the same topics and in support of his administration in Mexico, New Orleans and Havana. In 1926 she became a Mexican citizen.

Fernández Aceves recounts in detail Sárraga's efforts with her magazine dedicated to universal freethinking, Rumbos Nuevos, which lasted from 1925 to 1927. But after 1928, suddenly, information about Sárraga dries up. Speculates Fernández Acevez (my translation), "Perhaps she did not approve of the armed violence of the Cristiada"-- that is, the civil war that had broken out between the adherents of the Mexican State under Calles and the Church. In 1931 Sárraga was back in Spain, where she soon fought against the fascists in the Civil War; when the Fascists triumphed in 1939, she found herself again in Mexico. She continued to give talks, though one imagines to less clamor, and was writing her memoirs when she died at age 78 in 1950.

Belén de Sárraga surely deserves a full-length biography, as does this outstanding collection of case studies of women in social change in Mexico an English translation.

>More about María Teresa Fernández Aceves's Mujeres en el cambio social en el siglo XX mexicano (Siglo XXI Editores, 2014).

COMMENTS always welcome.

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SURF ON

>More on this blog about Plutarco Elías Calles: Una ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World) or, Master Amajur and the Smoking Signatures

>My interview with historian Michael K. Schuessler about Alma Reed, Felipe Carillo Puerto, Pita Amor, and Elena Poniatowska.

>My knock-your-huaraches-off interview with historian John Tutino, "Looking at Mexico in New Ways"

>More about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual