Monday, June 29, 2009

Time Shadows: City Life

From poet Kim Roberts, news of what looks like a very fine Washington DC event:

Monday, June 29, 6:30 pm "Time Shadows: City Life" reading in English, German, and Mandarin. Kim Roberts reads with Grace Cavalieri and Davi Walders, along with translators Lane Jennings, Heribert Uschtrin, and Karl Zhang. Part of an international project to place poems about urban life by eighteen authors from the US, Germany, China, Taiwan, and Austria on posters on display in Washington, DC. Free admission. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, Auditorium, 901 G St. NW, Gallery Place neighborhood, DC. (202) 289-1200, ext. 167. View the poster, which will be on display in the Gallery Place neighborhood throughout the month of August.
More anon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

E'el Certified Organic Eggs in Mexico City

So glad to see E'el. I've been meaning to write an essay about chickens, but with the book tour, it just isn't happening. Oh well! Here's my 2008 post on the top 5 chicken cams. More anon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest-Blogger Trudy Balch: 5 Things Gaby Brimmer Loved, Or Would Have

After a hiatus while I've been on the book tour, the Wednesday 5-links guest-blog post is back! This week's is by Trudy Balch, writer, editor, and translator of both Spanish and Ladino. Her latest translation, just out from Brandeis University Press, is from the Spanish: Gaby Brimmer: An Autobiography in Three Voices. Gaby Brimmer (1947 - 2000) was a Mexican writer and disability rights activist. Born with cerebral palsy, Gaby communicated largely by typing with her left foot or by using her foot to spell out words on an "alphabet board" at the base of her wheelchair. Notes Balch, "The feature film Gaby: A True Story was based on her experiences, with the original Spanish version of this book a prime source. Renowned writer Elena Poniatowska structured the text to alternate Gaby’s voice (including her poetry) with those of her mother and her caregiver, creating a riveting conversation-like effect."
5 Things Gaby Brimmer Loved, or Would Have
Gaby Brimmer was a voracious reader and writer who published several other books, as well as articles and individual poems. In her introduction to Gaby’s life story, Elena Poniatowska recalls how Gaby’s mother, Sari, proudly showed her Gaby’s bookshelf, whose contents ranged from Spinoza, Marx, Bertrand Russell and Gabriel García Márquez to Dostoevsky, Jung, Max Weber and Rosario Castellanos. "I have a cause, and maybe that’s why I write," Gaby declared. "I want to tell the world that I’m fighting for myself and for my people... I want us to have equal opportunities to live, to fight, and to be ourselves." Here is some of what she held dearest or might have:

Gaby and a group of friends founded the Asociación para los Derechos de Personas con Alteraciones Motoras (Association for the Rights of People with Motor Disabilities) in 1989. Originally an advocacy group, it now concentrates on rehabilitation services. To see a series of photos of Gaby, enter the site, click on "Gaby Brimmer" and then scroll through the introduction.

2. Gaby: Un año después
Yet to be translated into English, this 1980 collection of Gaby’s poetry sold 20,000 copies when it was published in Mexico City. Though out of print, as are her published letters (Cartas de Gaby) and the short story collection Disfraces y otros cuentos, these books are often available through used book dealers and in libraries.

3. Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life
If Gaby had lived to 2005, I’ll bet she would have read Harriet McBryde Johnson’s witty, insightful, irrepressible memoir. "You're easy to deal with," Johnson’s father tells her. "As long as you get exactly what you want and no one gives you any shit."

4. Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography
Had she lived to 2003, Gaby would likely have read the bestselling Spanish original of this biography, entitled Elenísima: ingenio y figura de Elena Poniatowska The English version was published in 2007.

5. The Mexican Revolution by Adolfo Gilly
Gaby did read the original Spanish version of this book, mentioning it in Gaby Brimmer during an imaginary conversation with her typewriter, which she named "Che" (after Che Guevara). Critic Carlos Monsivais has called Gilly’s volume "a splendid amalgam of political history, dialectic analysis, a vision of a people in arms, and an uncompromising demystification."

--- Trudy Balch

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Javier Beristain Iturbide

Rest in peace.

I had the priviledge of being on the faculty at the ITAM when Javier Beristain was serving as Rector, and in the years since, our paths have crossed many times. He was an outstanding leader and administrator, excellent economist, and very generous and hardworking person. This is a great loss for Mexico.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico Since the Civil War by John Mason Hart

... and following up after my recent blog post, it's also a great pleasure of a book tour to meet and visit with others who have written about the same, or related subjects. I have long been an admirer of John Mason Hart, author of many works on Mexico, and one in particular that shines bright for me: Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War (University of California Press, 2002). Bright for me because, well, I am an American who has been living in Mexico for more than 20 years, and I've long been fascinated with the history of Americans in Mexico. My novel has much to do with Alice Green de Iturbide, the American-born wife of the second son of the Emperor Iturbide. Her son, Agustin de Iturbide y Green (1863-1925), was the prince of the title of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which I presented at Mexico's Consulate General in Houston (co-host was Literal: Latin American Voices magazine) with John Mason Hart (none other!) as one of the presenters. What an honor indeed! Literal's editor, Rose Mary Salum, has posted more about the event here.

Quoting the jacket text:

Hart's sweeping and unprecedented chronicle of the economic and social connections between [Mexico and the U.S.] brilliantly illuminates the course of events that made the United States a global empire. Combining economic and historical analysis with personal memoirs and vivid descriptions of key episodes and players, Empire and Revolution draws on previously unexplored source material in the archives of the United States government and research in rural Mexico... Empire and Revolution reveals much about the American psyche, especially the compulsion of American elites toward wealth and global power and the urge to control other people in order to "save" them.

Hart's Empire and Revolution is a work that is becoming ever-more relevant as increasing numbers of Americans look south of border, and not only for business opportunities but for retirement and medical care (dentistry, knee replacement surgery, plastic surgery, you-name-it). Alas, when it comes to Mexico, in the U.S. we're so often treated to "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" news stories that, for those outside the loop, the U.S. involvement in the Mexican economy and massive immigration to Mexico is a sort of Gargantua sitting quietly unnoticed in broad daylight. The whole landscape of Mexico is changing with the new wave of Americans, many of whom are so recently arrived, they don't even realize that, say, the picturesque "pueblito" they've stepped into would be unrecognizable to those who knew it 20 years ago. I'm talking about the days long before NAFTA, and before Wal-Mart and Starbuck's, yea, even, KFC. San Miguel de Allende? Lovely and artsy as it may be, when I hear my Mexico City friends call it "Saint Mike's de Allende"--- well, that's apt.

In coming years I think we will begin to sharpen the focus on a new culture: Americans who have become Mexican citizens (yes, a large number are getting their Mexican citizenship-- which allows them to own property and vote). Not that Americans living in Mexico is a novelty, but we tend to think and talk about them as, well, Americans. Expats. Business people. Period. But in coming to Mexico, whether frequently or permanently, we change, and if there are enough of us, we begin to form a distinct culture. And no doubt many subcultures. Already any casual observer can spot the class system of the Americans in Mexico (for heavensakes, what human conglomeration doesn't have one?) with its surprising and unsurprising flexibilities and rigidities, quite different, it seems to me than the ones in the United States. I could go on. But my point is, there's no way to understand any of this, no way to gain context, without first reading Hart's masterwork on the history of Americans in Mexico.

When Mexicans settle in the U.S. they become Chicanos. When U.S. citizens settle in Mexico, they become-- what?

More anon.

Blog Noted: Teaching in Thimphu

For refreshing reading, Alice recommends Teaching in Thimphu blog. More anon.

Jim Oliver's Healing Music

One of the best things about a book tour is meeting other writers and artists along the way. While in Albuquerque-- where I read at the Bookworks--- I happened to meet Jim Oliver, a composer visiting from Santa Fe who specializes in healing music. As I catch up on (or rather, approach the foothills of the Himalayas of) my e-mail backlog, I've been listening to his CD, "Radiant Heart" for most of today, and recommend it. More anon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Library Thing Author Chat June 15-28, 2009

As part of the book tour for my new novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, for the next few days I'll be checking in to Library Thing's "Author Chat" and will be delighted to answer your questions and respond to your comments. Participate by clicking here. More anon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

American Independent Writers Conference and Techniques of Fiction

This Saturday: The American Independent Writers conference--- editors, agents, writers of all stripes and more--- is all day at George Washington University's Cafritz Conference Center, Washington DC.

This Sunday: Techniques of Fiction, my one day only workshop, 1- 5 pm at the Writers Center, Bethesda MD.

More anon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Literal & Last Prince in the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston, June 9, 2009

Pictured here are hosts Rose Mary Salum, editor of Literal magazine and Carlos Gonzalez Magallon, Consul General of Mexico in Houston; then Yours Truly; Professor John Hart, Chair of the Department of History, University of Houston; and Associate Professor Rogelio Garcia-Contreras, Center for International Studies, St Thomas University. This was taken just after the conclusion of the presentation of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which is based on original research into the French Intervention and Mexico's Second Empire. In his remarks, John Hart made some fascinating comments about U.S. bankers and their little-known behind-the-scenes machinations on behalf of the Juaristas. Rogelio Garcia-Contreras quoted Milan Kundera-- I wish I could I remember the quote; it was something very witty about novels being the reliable sisters of history. Not pictured: Elsa Borja Ruy-Sanchez, the consulate's dynamic Cultural Attache. I am more grateful to all than I can say. More anon.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Houston, San Antonio, Austin: Book Tour for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

This week the book tour for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel based on the true story, comes through Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.

June 8, 2009 Houston, Texas
Reading & Book Signing
Blue Willow Bookshop
7 p.m.
14532 Memorial Drive at Dairy Ashford, Houston TX 77079
tel (281) 497-8675

June 9, 2009 Houston, Texas
Book Presentation (Reading, Discussion & Book Signing)
Consulate General of Mexico 4506 Caroline Street, 4th. floor|
Houston, TX 77004 . tel (713) 778-6101
12 p.m.
Among other presenters, John Mason Hart, Professor of Mexican History at the University of Houston, and Rogelio García-Contreras, Professor at the University of Saint Thomas, will introduce the author and provide a historical context for the book’s subject matter. Location: Consulate General of Mexico Free admission. |Light lunch will be provided RSVP: culturaleshouston (at)

June 10, 2009 San Antonio, Texas
Reading & Book Signing
The Twig Book Shop
5 pm (Please note 5 pm!! Flyers said 7 pm, but this is not correct)
5005 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209, Tel: 210-826-6411

June 11, 2009 Austin, Texas
Reading & Book Signing
Book People7 pm
603 N. Lamar Austin, TX 78703 tel. (512) 472-5050 and (800) 853-9757
At the corner of 6th & Lamar, across the street from Waterloo Records and right next door to REI & Anthropology.

More upcoming events elsewhere listed here. To view photos, read excerpts, and more, visit my webpage here. More anon.

"A Captivating Look at a Bizarre Reign in Mexico": The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire Reviewed in the Austin Statesman

This review by Rebecca Markovitz came out on Sunday:

Once upon a time ?"

So begins the story of "The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire," as told by the writer, translator and economist C.M. Mayo. Those familiar four little words bring us directly to a wonderfully busy intersection, the intersection between fairy tale and history, and from that spot, Mayo leads us down a myriad of fascinating trails. For, as the book's frontispiece informs us, this fairy tale about princes and princesses is based on a true story. And the glorious thing about true stories is the way in which they extend endlessly in all directions.

"The Last Prince" is Mayo's first novel, and it is a real pleasure to see her sharply focused, academic intelligence stretch comfortably out into the expanses that the form offers. It is a hefty, sprawling work, more than 400 pages long, but at no point does it begin to sag under its own weight. Perhaps because its spread is solidly supported by facts, Mayo's intricate plot trips along at a natural, inexorable pace, easily traveling the sweeping map she has laid out for it, from Washington to Mexico City and all the way to the imperial halls of Europe.

P.S. Visit the novel's webpage (photos and excerpts, etc.) More anon.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Literal Lunch

Some weeks ago, a very fun lunch in Mexico City with poet Eduardo Chirinos, his wife Jannine (who took this photo) and my amiga Rose Mary Salum, writer and editor of Literal: Latin American Voices, which is based in Houston. (That's Yrs Truly in the middle.)

Ever since Literal first appeared on the scene, I've had the greatest admiration for Rose Mary Salum, for I know (from editing Tameme, first a bilingual journal, now a bilingual chapbook series) that it is no small task to gather quality work in two languages, publishing and marketing (aka "guilt management") and (I'm out of breath just thinking about it) getting it distributed. Literal is a first-class effort in all respects. And listen y'all: you can find Literal at Sanborn's in Mexico City!!

I'll be presenting my new novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire in Houston this week--- first at Blue Willow Bookshop Monday at 7 pm, then on Tuesday, with the Mexican Consulate General of Houston and Literal with a light lunch. Both events are open to the public, though for the latter, RSVP. For further information, click here.

More anon.