I filmed this video with Homero Fernandez for Alumnos47 back when Down & Delirious in Mexico City came out. Had so forgotten!
I filmed this video with Homero Fernandez for Alumnos47 back when Down & Delirious in Mexico City came out. Had so forgotten!
Last summer, at the urging of a friend, I sent a 30-dollar check and 22 pages of writing to the judges at MacDowell Colony.
I was either being delusional or just resigned to the tumult and shock I've already endured in the rough two years since I moved back to America from Mexico. Nothing here makes sense anymore. And everyone in a way is wildly deluded by the infections spread by technology. Me included.
In November, just before I signed on to become editor of LA Taco, I got word that I had gotten into MacDowell for Winter/Spring, off those pages. So that's where I'm going for a bit, to see what I can come up with and make for you, my reader.
Javier Cabral, associate editor, will take full reign of the site in my absence. We're also gonna publish a ... major food guide. That you won't want to miss.
But more on that later! Thanks for your patience and support.
* Photo above, a view of Village Green.
* Robertson and Olympic.
This year I am co-judging the journalism prize of the Pen Center USA Literary Awards, with writers Maria Bustillos and Edward Humes. I was also one of the co-judges of the inaugural Christopher Isherwood Prize in autobiographical prose at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
These tasks have helped me confront my own writing, and challenged my relationship to prose as a reader and editor. I've also had a glimpse of the complexity of making an editorial decision with other minds, in disparate places, and under deadline pressure.
Been thinking and engaging lots with trauma lately in my journalism, and in reckoning with what so many of us have gone through in Mexico. The terror of losing a loved one, or being abused, or being cast aside by society, rendering trauma as a state of homelessness, for example.
I was not gay and I told him so. He would not accept no for an answer. The no was even more evidence that I was gay. Back and forth we went like this. Since there had never been any precedent in my household for alerting the authorities to misdeeds, it never occurred to me that I could have walked over to the campus student services office and reported his behavior. In my confused and desperate state, I even wasted a significant amount of time entertaining with some seriousness the possibility that I might indeed be gay. This went on for the duration of my college career, which for the record was never completed.
** Originally published at Munchies, on May 7, 2014:
“Why is it that we have allowed people who are totally incompetent in food to design our food?” Diana Kennedy was saying, her gray and white hair lifting lightly in the breeze. “Our food doesn’t have the flavor it used to have. I remember the chile poblanos, full of flavor, thin-fleshed, very dark green, and that big. Now ¡olvidalo!”
“Forget it,” she said. Today, there is actually a four in ten chance a chile poblano served to you anywhere in Mexico has been imported, most likely from China. Kennedy knows this, and the truth seems to burn through her entire being.
A living legend in food, Kennedy started exploring the markets of Mexico’s towns and villages more than fifty years ago, meeting cooks and gathering plants and recipes with the precision of a ethnobotanist. It has been her lifelong project of achieving total intimacy with Mexico’s native ingredients.
Sitting at Kennedy’s outdoor dining table with a tiny glass of mezcal before me, I struggled to imagine the flavor of the chile poblanos back then because fifty years ago, Mexico and the planet were simply different places than they are now. There were less people, for one, and probably a lot less contaminants in the air, in the soil, in the water. In our lives.
There was no transgenic corn in Mexico fifty years ago, and definitely none imported from the United States—as there is today—not in the land where science has agreed that corn was born.
At 91 years old, Diana is old enough to remember what that Mexico tasted like. Her palate fuels her ideas—and anger.
“People are losing taste, especially in the US, and then it passes to Mexico,” Kennedy told me. “It’s ridiculous, but then nobody has paid attention to the agriculture in Mexico.”
* All photos by Alejandro Mendoza.
This photo of a photo shows my first apartment without roommates in Mexico City, 106 in the Edificio Victoria. It's where I wrote most of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" and had some of the best, worst experiences of my life. Joven Will is how I called William Dunleavy, a friendly young punk from New York and New Jersey who I met one day in DF.
Will threw me off at first when he let me know he was taking photos of a family of dedicated punks who lived in La Paz, past Ciudad Neza. He was 19 years old yet had a totally clear vision of what "good" documenting meant and what it did not. It was almost like he was trying to determine my seriousness the first time we talked, not the other way around. This photos is from the night Will had his 20th birthday at my place. A bunch of wanderers from the Hotel Virreyes came by. It was just a senseless DF beer peda. Really fun.
Will eventually helped illustrate "Down and Delirious," and I'm super proud to say it.
The poster behind Will is a Foro Alicia response to a government-mass media campaign of demonizing young people during those intense months of 2008 (but really always). It says: Soy delincuente, tengo 20 años, soy joven, no tengo derecho a la educación, al trabajo, a la vivienda, a la saludo, y a muchas cosas más.
We were down with that. Anyway, all of this is to say, I know it's not anywhere near your birthday, but, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Will!
** Originally published at World Now and in the print edition of the April 19, 2103 Los Angeles Times:
MEXICO CITY -- On the first day of trial, a witness named Bernardo Bernal recounted how, as a 9-year-old in the spring of 1983, he hid in a stream and watched Guatemalan soldiers kill his parents and two younger brothers.
On the second day of testimony in Guatemala City, a man named Pedro Chavez Brito described how soldiers found him and his siblings hiding in a traditional sauna in their village on Nov. 4, 1982. His sister was carrying a newborn.
"'You are a guerrilla, you gave food to the guerrillas,' they said to my sister," the witness said, according to an unofficial transcript of the genocide case in Guatemala. Soldiers tied his sister to the stairs of the house and set fire to it, killing her, her children and perhaps six other relatives, Chavez Brito testified.
Another witness said soldiers used an old woman's severed head as a soccer ball.
The litany of terrors recalled in the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President Gen. Efrain Rios Montt has been relentless. The proceedings have been widely hailed by human rights groups as an important reckoning with the past, a rare prosecution of a former Latin American military dictator for war crimes in his own country.
But on Thursday, nearly a month into the trial, the case suffered a potentially devastating setback. In a stunning turn, a judge from a different court granted an appeal from Rios Montt's defense to annul the entire case based on a technicality. That ruling in effect shut down the genocide trial and may force it to start all over. Prosecutors said they would appeal the decision.
"This is an absolute abuse of power, it is illegal, and of course we are going to appeal," Arturo Aguilar, an aide to the attorney general, said shortly after the ruling.
The uncertainty angered survivors, families and human rights advocates who had been attending day after day of wrenching testimony. Witnesses, often through interpreters, have described how indigenous Maya women, children and elderly adults were raped, dismembered, burned and buried in mass graves during counterinsurgency operations that prosecutors say amounted to genocide.
The case against the former Guatemalan president and his military intelligence chief, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, was not the first time that the world has heard about the atrocities committed by the country's army during the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. They have been documented in international truth commission reports, books and films and in the stories that Guatemalans carry with them anywhere they live.
But the trial has given survivors their first opportunity to testify in the same room as the high-ranking officers accused of ordering the burning of villages, the rapes and the executions of more than 1,770 Ixil Maya Indians in 1982 and 1983.
This week, the prosecution finished making its case against Rios Montt, 86, and Rodriguez Sanchez. The defense, seemingly in disarray early in the proceedings, launched its campaign to have the case dismissed, or at least discredited in the public eye.
On Tuesday, coalitions of Guatemalan army veterans, conservatives and Catholic groups placed ads or inserts in Guatemala City newspapers declaring that "genocide never occurred" in the country and that prosecutors are undermining the 1996 peace accords between the military and Marxist guerrillas.
In all, about 200,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed during decades of fighting that started in 1960 after a U.S.-backed military coup, the United Nations has found.
"There is still little consensus in Guatemala over what happened during the armed conflict or why," Mary Speck, a Guatemala-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said by email.
"These attacks on prosecutors — including Atty. Gen. Claudia Paz y Paz — as well as on human rights groups and their international supporters are likely to increase," she said.
If the trial resumes and a verdict is handed down by a special three-judge panel, it could have far-reaching implications for high-ranking army veterans and other members of Guatemala's right-wing elite.
During testimony April 4, an ex-soldier testified via videoconference from an undisclosed location that an army officer named Otto Perez Molina —now Guatemala's president — directly ordered the executions of villagers in 1982.
The implication reportedly rocked the courtroom, producing gasps among witnesses and observers. Perez Molina later labeled the soldier's testimony as "falsehoods," but the implication raised a troubling question.
Could Perez Molina, a retired general protected by immunity as Rios Montt was by virtue of holding a public office, be next in the defendant's chair?
The Rios Montt trial "is going to open doors for prosecutions against other military murderers," said Guatemalan American journalist Francisco Goldman, author of a book about the 1998 killing of Bishop Juan Gerardi. "It's also a way to clean up the murk of all these sorts of hidden powers rooted in military intelligence. And not just in Guatemala."
Here are resources to learn more about the trial and its players.
The Times recently profiled Claudia Paz y Paz, the Guatemalan attorney general described as brave and tireless by the international human rights community but harshly criticized by Guatemala's right. Read the story by Richard Fausset here. And a 1995 Times interview with Rios Montt by Tracy Wilkinson, before the end of the war and when he served as president of Congree, is here.
* Photo: Rios Montt seated right at the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, via LAT.
** Originally published at World Now:
The remains of Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes will be buried in the famed Montparnasse cemetery in Paris alongside those of two children who died before him, his widow, Silvia Lemus, told reporters in Mexico.
Fuentes, who died Tuesday in Mexico City at 83, served as Mexico's ambassador to France in the 1970s. He was given the country's highest award for a non-Frenchman, the Legion of Honor medal, in 1992.
He told a reporter as early as 1995 that he was considering Paris for his burial, saying that Montparnasse "would be a great place to spend eternity."
The cemetery is the resting place for a litany of artists and other famous names, including Fuentes' friend and fellow Latin American man of letters Julio Cortazar of Argentina and the former Mexican dictator Gen. Porfirio Diaz.
The Fuentes family plot at the Montparnasse cemetery already holds the remains of his son Carlos, who died in 1999, and his daughter Natasha, who died in 2005. The plot also reserves a space for Lemus, reports said.
The author of "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "Aura" consistently declined to discuss his children's deaths, although some news outlets have noted this week that Natasha Fuentes died in tragic circumstances in a tough Mexico City neighborhood. Among conflicting accounts of her death was that she suffered a drug overdose.
Fuentes was honored by President Felipe Calderon during a wake Wednesday at the Palace of Fine Arts in the heart of Mexico City.
* Photo: People touch the flag-draped casket of Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes during his wake at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on Wednesday. Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press
We're doing a cool event on Tuesday night, May 22, at Casa Familiar in right in San Ysidro, the most southwesterly community on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Excited to share the space with Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly editor and author of the new book "Taco USA"; Bill Nericcio, San Diego State professor and author of "Tex[t]-Mex," who organized the event; and un servidor. I think I'll read some from "El bajón y el delirio."
The Spanish-language translation of my book, "El bajón y el delirio," is going on sale in Mexico. I'm excited and nervous. Starting in January, I'm going to have to re-live the book all over again, this time in chilango Spanish, which automatically takes the intimacy and immediacy of the book to other levels.
I'm also super happy with it y espero que los lectores lo disfruten. The design is beautiful, a worthy match to the terrific design of the original edition. For the Spanish edition, the celebrated Alejandro Magallanes devised a double-flap sketch for the cover, with the title in relief, as if the words were tagged with a scriber. He has more on his design at his blog, here.
(I love it. Gracias, Alejandro!)
The translation of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" to Spanish is by Elizabeth Flores (an old friend from the Survival Brigade). Liz and I worked closely all summer on the translation, meeting in person to review each chapter line-by-line, discussing every possible outcome for a translation we both wanted to ring as true as possible for D.F. readers, yet while also retaining some of my native pochismos.
The editor of the translation is Guillermo Osorno, an associate editor at Editorial Oceano, my publisher in Spanish. Osorno is also editor of Gatopardo magazine, where one of two early sneaks of the book is published, in the December issue. Here is the chapter titled "Originales del punk," in its entirety, a journey through Mexico City punk, to the other side of Santa Fe, and back.
I hope you like it. I re-read it in the magazine with lots of trepidation, then found myself moved by it in a totally new way. You'll see.
Of course, there will be another big-ass party. Thank you. Y saludos a la banda de la caseta a Cuernavaca, a Reyes y su familia, y a los Agudos Crónicos y Vegetales.
* Elsewhere, "Gringo, chicano, chilango, y delirante."
** Originally published at World Now:
The front-runner in Mexico's presidential race stumbled in a high-profile way at a world-class book festival on Saturday, when, over several minutes, he appeared unable to correctly name a book that's influenced his life, besides the Bible.
And even then, Enrique Peña Nieto fumbled, not citing an "author" or a prophet whose biblical verse has particularly touched him. Instead, he merely made a vague reference to "some passages of it."
He also confused the names of two well-known Mexican authors, Enrique Krauze and Carlos Fuentes, in a four-minute episode that ended with the candidate red-faced, saying, "The truth is, when I read a book I often don't fully register the titles." (Link in Spanish.)
Peña Nieto's gaffe at the Guadalajara International Book Fair -- a deeply respected cultural platform in Mexico that is billed as Latin America's largest literary event -- continued resonating on Monday, with Peña Nieto defending himself in several tweets.
Adding to the embarrassment, Peña Nieto's teen daughter, Paulina, used a slur and a separate offensive term for poor people while defending her dad in two late-night tweets. Paulina's Twitter profile has since disappeared, and her father issued an apology Monday morning.
The episode has sparked a flurry of reaction on social-networking sites, including satirical "trending topics" on Twitter, such as #LibreríaPeñaNieto, or "Peña Nieto's Bookstore." Users are inventing the titles of books the candidate has "read" full of political mocking and double or triple meaning.
Peña Nieto, 45, is the presumed candidate for the formerly ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party as it seeks to recapture the presidency in 2012.
He was at the FIL, as the festival is known, partly because he's a freshly minted author himself, of "Mexico, the Great Hope." Releasing books at the start of the political season is a standard practice for presidential candidates in Mexico, and the practice attracts little scrutiny.
On Saturday, Peña Nieto was responding to a reporter who asked him to name three books that have marked his life. The candidate stammered and smiled nervously as he confused the author of a title he could name, the novel "The Eagle's Chair," saying it was by historian Krauze. It was written by Fuentes, perhaps Mexico's most noteworthy living novelist.
"There's another book by him [Krauze] that I want to remember the name, about caudillos, but I don't remember the exact title," Peña Nieto said.
Peña Nieto's wife, actress Angelica Rivera, sat in the front row and "appeared to suffer more than her husband," according to one local report (link in Spanish). Giggles and then laughter can be heard in this amateur video. Here's another video by El Universal, with a reporter's narration in Spanish.
The episode at the FIL came with the kind of allegorical coincidences that are the bread-and-butter of Mexico's chattering classes.
"The Eagle's Chair" is a political tale set in 2020, in which the United States has cut off Mexico's telecommunications -- radio, television, Internet. The president's Cabinet is filled with stealthy characters, as the book's jacket describes, and a mysterious female figure tells a young man, "You shall be president of Mexico."
Peña Nieto also managed to make reference to another author in Guadalajara, the British conservative politician Jeffrey Archer, author of "Kane and Abel." In real life, Archer has served prison time for perjury and conspiracy to pervert justice.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico on Saturday. Credit: EnriquePenaNieto.com
It's been nearly a month since the final edition of the "periódico con fin de vida," Estrella Cercana at kurimanzutto, and I've barely had time to regroup, review, and evaluate the project.
This week's series of posts is an attempt to do that.
So, from the beginning, Estrella Cercana emerged as a response to an invitation from Jose Kuri to propose some kind of intervention at the gallery. He had read "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" and liked it. The invitation was open and I tossed around ideas here and there with friends, but nothing concrete ever settled. Time passed.
One evening in early September after work, I met up with two architects for drinks at a cantina in San Miguel Chapultepec. I told them about Kuri's invite. Alberto Bustamante and Homero Fernandez and I came up with the idea for a "literary newspaper" that would accompany the gallery's show "Distant Star." The group show, co-produced with Regen Projects in Los Angeles, was titled after Roberto Bolaño's novella "Estrella Distante."
The name of the newspaper came almost instantly: Estrella Cercana. We thought the image of a nearing star was futuristic, apocalyptic, semi-cultish, and very "newsworthy"; or in other words, evoking cultural codes weighing heavily on the zeitgeist as we approach 2012.
Kuri immediately said Yes.
What did we get ourselves into, though? Activating a newspaper -- a newsroom, with different writers in different places, a design operation, an advertising operation, a publishing operation, a printer, a budget, a team -- was not going to be easy. And, crucially, we all had normal day jobs.
It also sounded like an opportunity not to be missed.
We settled on a weekly. We met with the gallery to discuss logistics and consider what ended up being a totally generous budget, a deep sign of trust, I'd say. Kuri wanted the intervention to be good. We were in agreement.
Who isn't down to work with a new, fresh group of people on a wild creative project? Thus, the team started coming together.
** ... Part 2, next.
Los contenidos del primer num. de Estrella Cercana ya estan en línea. Checkanlo! El periódico se puede conseguir imprentos en kurimanzutto, y varios otros locaciones entre el Centro, la Condesa, Roma, y por los alrededores.
Follow @StrellaCercana for the details.
Here's the site for Estrella Cercana, our experimental newspaper underway now at kurimanzutto. At the site, the main editorial crew and I are posting images and links to stuff we're thinking about, talking about, laughing about, cringing at, all through the production process for the weekly periódico con fin de vida.
We'll also be posting the issue's content on the day we publish, planned now for Saturdays through Nov. 5, as well as .pdf files of how the paper looks in print once distributed here in Mexico City.
What is Estrella Cercana, you ask?
It's a publishing project built around Distant Star, the show currently up at kuri, inspired by the literature of Roberto Bolaño. (See Intersections posts on Bolaño from 2007 here and from 2009 here). We're building a weekly newspaper, primarily in Spanish, partly in spirit of the Infrarrealists, but sort-of-actually-really-not-all.
("I haven't even read 2666, and that's so infrarrealista!")
Our newsroom is roaming between the gallery space and various points in the city, and so far always jussied up with the proper editorial bottles and snacks. The first issue of EC drops this Saturday, Sept. 24, and we haven't quite yet figured out how we're going to get it into people's hands. But it's definitely coming. Each issue will feature a beautiful full-color visual piece as a centerfold, and will also come with a link to a special audio track from one of our many beat-oriented comrades and collaborators.
We're all super excited, super nervous, and super busy (everyone on the small team has regular gigs or is juggling various other projects). So let's report it out, be nosy, read, not read, burn books, have a dance party, start a reality TV propaganda show, I dunno!
* NOTE: We are accepting pitches for your Highly Newsworthy stories, photography, cartoons, comics, info-graphics or maps, anything! Write us at prensaestrellacercana at gmail. Or to advertise in our pages, to reach our very classy would-be readers, please write publicidadestrellacercana at gmail.
** ABOVE: A Polaroid shot I've been holding onto for years. West Temple Street, Los Angeles, Calif., circa 2004. It lasted only a day, if not hours.
It's 2011 and the only memory I have left from the 2008 Democratic presidential primary -- in which Barack Obama was fighting a political death-match against the Clinton machine -- is Bill Clinton saying something mildly demeaning about Obama's campaign while in South Carolina.
So I was surprised when I opened a note from a writer who said she'd like me to read a book she wrote about a young gay Latina in East L.A. with a drinking problem, and set during the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The following is an excerpt from that book, "The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive," by Vanessa Libertad Garcia. This is from a section called "Lament," while the speaker is on the beach drinking 40s and watching a homeless man collect trash:
I've given others money: Friends, Acquaintances, Churches, Family, Causes, Co-workers, and Other homeless people. I drink the second bottle and catch him to my left not too far away.
I call him over. "Hey you!"
He walks over. It takes him a couple of minutes. Each small step he makes, I take a long swig. I finish it. He opens his bag. I drop it in. We both hear it clank.
I ask him to sit. I ask him his name. I open the third 40.
We're both liberal. Eugene is a lot more hopeful than I. I ask him why he's homeless, of course. He responds and then I reply with a monologue about why I want to die.
Busting up. Throughout, in a series of loosely interconnected sections of prose and poetry (and even a long transcribed IM chat), the book is this wonderful mix of coy and cutting, open-hearted and bleak. It is a short book and ends without a looping resolution, yet it is an enjoyable, satisfying read. The prose sections in first-person have some real gems. Here's another:
Look at me in this mirror, my tits, breasts look great, my face is doing its job and this forty tastes so gooooooooooooooooooooooooooood. I wonder if that bi chick, with the ex-boyfriend, is going to be there tonight. Why can't we just get drunk and then I fingerfuck her and then she falls asleep in my arms all lusty and needy like Kathleen Turner in all those early films before the fun went to her face and turned her into Chandler's dad and then I leave at 6am and then I get a mcgriddle.
See what I mean?
A real voice. "The Voting Booth After Dark" also did something only good books can do: It reminds you --- or tricks you into being reminded -- of places you've been, people and crews you know, even situations that feel familiar or thought-trains you've had.
The thing also made me miss L.A. a little. The billboards. The stucco-choked windows poking out from behind sound walls on the freeways. The unpretentious yet sophisticated L.A. kids who are usually, deep down, from East of East L.A. The bars.
The photo above is by Tatiana Lipkes, an editor and author at the indie publishing house Mangos de Hacha, during the presentation and party for "Down & Delirious" on Thursday night in Club Atlántico in Centro. I'm waiting while Gabriela Jauregui is presenting the book.
Went so well! I read from the book in Spanish for the first time, from a draft of a Spanish translation by Elizabeth Flores. Gaby and the Pulpo ladies had us sweat-dancing all night. Took some questions. Rad performance by punk riders Agudos, Crónicos, y Vegetales. Thanks to everyone who collaborated, participated, and attended! Special thanks to the friends at Bósforo for the mezcales.
Now some notes:
† "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" is now on sale in D.F.! You can get it at Pendulo Condesa; that's at Nuevo León 115, in Col. Condesa. Sorry for the delay on that, for readers who've been asking where they can get the book.
El taller abarcará temas como medios, plataformas, métodos, y éxitos del periodismo que se practica en línea. Las sesiones son martes y jueves entre las 4 y 6 de la tarde. Informes con .357! Apúntense!
††† Finally, here's a video by Carlos Alvarez Montero where I introduce myself and the workshop. Check it out, and see you soon.
Sal Castro stole the show at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on Saturday, with total justification.
For starters, the longtime activist and lion-figure in the 1968 student movement in East Los Angeles broke flat-out late into the 12:30 panel shared between Castro, author Mario T. Garcia, author Miriam Pawel, myself, and author Hector Tobar, the moderator.
Castro showed off posters related to film depictions of the walkouts he helped lead: the 1996 four-part PBS documentary "Chicano!" and the film "Walkout!" by Edward James Olmos. This time Castro was presenting, with co-author Garcia, the book version of his story: "Blowout!" by UNC Press.
But the panel wasn't about the book or any other represented in the room. It was about Sal Castro and his stories from the trenches.
One anecdote of many he shared struck me. He told us about a young woman he met in his years of working with Mexican American public-school youth and encouraging them to gain higher education. He said a bright young student had been offered a coveted full scholarship to Occidental College, but the scholarship would require she live on campus.
In a traditional immigrant household in Southern California in the post-68 period, that's something parents would never approve for a young woman. (Heck, even in the late 1990s for a young man it wasn't easy to convince some Mexican immigrant parents that college away from home was viable, as was my case.) Mr. Castro told us the girl's parents dug their heels, and so did Occidental.
Someone called Sal. El maestro came up with a plan. He agreed to meet the parents, and speak to them in Spanish, as they were not fluent in English. He told us he told the parents in serious español that their daughter's scholarship offer was a federal program, and that "in this country you don't mess with the federal government," so they better accept or they'd get a "multa." Or worse.
The girl's parents swiftly relented and accepted. The young lady, Castro told us, ended up excelling at Oxy, enjoying a long academic career. Once more, Taper 101 filled with laughter, cheers, and applause. The C-SPAN cameras rolled. At one point, Hector tried to throw the mic to me, but I declined. Like most of others in the room, I wanted to hear more from the guys who walk in history.
* MORE: Read a Q&A with Castro and Garcia on "Blowout!" at the UNC Press title page. I couldn't get my hands on it Saturday. It sold out during the signing session.
** Photo via Jacket Copy, L.A. Times.
Above, a "moodboard" used by designer Jennifer Heuer during her process for the book-cover design for "Down & Delirious." The image appears in a fascinating interview Heuer did with Faceout Books about how she approached creating the book's central selling-pitch, its cover.
I loved reading this, as I've never met Heuer and had no idea what Scribner would offer as potential covers, or from whom, until I saw the designer's options. Here's what Jennifer had to say about the process (love that she started doing research at the New York Public Library):
What is Down and Delirious in Mexico City about?
The author is a journalist living in Mexico City taking a look at the new urban youth cultures and the people who love them or sometimes violently hate them. This was directed at a young fresh audience interested in how certain, and sometimes similar subcultures can form and clash in different areas. The author introduces us to the new hyper-emo crowd, a fashion-forward crew, artists and musicians. It's in no way a tour book for the city, so the general direction was to aim in a fresh, modern and somewhat fashion-minded direction. Mexico City is set in a volcanic bowl which means the city can't physically grow outside it's borders. So the density within the city is intense, hot, polluted, and grounds for subcultural strife ready to boil over.
Were there any steps taken before starting, and was there a clear working process that led to the final? Any known influences?
I began by heading to the library (NYPL has a wonderful picture library and I'm lucky enough to have the Pratt library at my fingertips). I researched mainly Aztec art, Latin American Catholic art, Day of the Dead ephemera and so on. I also began setting up an online moodboard through Imgspark.com!
I tend to spend at least half of my time writing and sketching. I start by listing out categories within the book, then lists within those categories and see if there's anything interesting that pops out or crosses over (I find this works for fiction and nonfiction alike). It's also just good to get bad ideas and buzz words flushed out of the system so I can ignore their nagging.
For this cover, the final piece uses a cutout Aztec-inspired pattern and beneath is an image of a volcano erupting.
Super interesting, and also intrigued by Image Spark. In Heuer's moodboard above, I see the sun stone, pyschedelic pyramid forms, the skull-influenced cover of "El Monstruo" by the late John Ross, feathered serpents, Aztec glyphs, and a thrilling find because I've considered these a personal visual influence since I first saw them: old Slash magazine covers.
I love that the eventual design is a mix of stylish and superflat, pre-Hispanic symmetry and volcanic tension, almost radioactive. It's interesting that Heuer describes listing and cross-referencing categories, which is a method I used in writing and visually mapping the book's themes and eventual chapters. See this image and post.
She adds: "I basically learned what I always knew; which is to get away from my desk, go to the library, museums, read through fashion magazines and the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch documentaries and observe closely."
Friends and readers consistently tell me that the cover for "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" is eyecatching and inviting, so this discovery is a real treat. Congratulations, Jennifer! Hope to one day meet and shake your hand with gratitude.
Readers and friends have been sending along or posting some awesome photos of the experience -- guess you could say -- of getting through "Down & Delirious."
Above, Conrad is reading along studiously while at a dentist's office in New Orleans. Below, the blog Love & Hate L.A. (so good) is stuck one evening absorbing the book by candlelight. I'm blushing.
Nice to hear that Metropolis Books in downtown L.A. is carrying it. Last I was in town, a friend reported that the venerable Skylight Books on Vermont was carrying the book but had sold out -- less than a week after the title officially hit shelves.
It's not Amanda Hocking, but it's something!
Friends and contacts in New York, Texas, and the Bay Area have been going to Barnes & Noble (first-person confirmation here) or asking for it at local shops. Is it or isn't at the Strand in Manhattan? I'm hearing different things, but I see it on the Strand website, at a paltry eight bucks. In San Francisco, I'm stoked to hear it was "on its way" at City Lights Books, the landmark shop in Beat-central North Beach. ... I remember going there to browse while in college.
Below, photographer William Dunleavy (whose excellent work led to the photograph accompanying Chapter 11, "Originals of Punk") sent this fantastic photo of the book in a 'proper' place, at least in his homemade cosmology. It's on an altar.
Pretty amazing. Thank you, up front and right now, for all the kind and thoughtful notes of feedback I've received. I appreciate each one. Now ...
Here are two fresh glasses of pulque, curado de mamey, just about an hour ago, at Bosforo in Centro. Notice the fine company: a "Vicky" and the cinnamon, to sprinkle on top. Que frescura. Just like the cranberry curado they have at Duelistas right now.
Had another liter-to-go of that yesterday.
I've been running around all day, in the nasty hot contaminated windy spring D.F. weather, mutating me suddenly into a sufferer of allergies and sinus trouble, which has never really afflicted me before. The curse of Anahuac, perhaps. But here I am, finishing this March 3, this 2011, eager to dive into the new books I collected today from the feria de libro at Minería. More books than I can handle, than I'll ever be able to read. More books.
More or less, I think, just as the gods intended.
The day before I traveled back from Southern California to Mexico City, I went to a Barnes & Noble store at one of those new suburban malls that still sprout up on the outskirts of cities. My mom and I hit up Otay Ranch Town Center, kinda east of Eastlake, east of Chula Vista, southeast of metropolitan San Diego. We wanted to see the book in its natural habitat.
With Borders going bankrupt, Barnes & Nobles is the only big bookstore chain carrying "Down & Delirious in Mexico City." We searched the long aisles of self-help books, books on celebrities in Spanish, study guides, books on crafts or pets, romance novels. I finally found two copies of my book on a low shelf in the travel section, wedged between a couple of bestsellers on ex-pat life in Mexico and some travelogues by Brits or Australians on India or the Pacific Islands. One of them had the word "savages" in the title.
The experience neither pleased nor disappointed me.
As I wrote and worked on the thing, I knew that one day I would walk into a big bookstore and see it on a shelf, an anonymous mass-produced product like any other. In Otay, it looked just as I had envisioned it. One book in a sea of books, each one waiting to be bought, each one worried that it might not happen. Its placement as a travel title also seemed a bit imprecise. But ... whatever?
It hit me. This book is no longer mine. The thing has its own life now. The process was my reward, my prize. After trying daily news reporting, weekly feature-writing, magazine work, blogging, radio, and video, I wanted to try another form to tell stories. Writing this book was that experiment, an opportunity to seize.
The process was long, hard, and often drove me crazy. I learned and grew and suffered plenty of doubt and setbacks. But I won't feign modesty. I'm proud of the work and the way the project turned out. Now I want to share it with people, and I'll keep doing so as long as you want me to. But in my mind I've already released myself of it.
That said, watching the book make its own life is exciting. I have to keep in mind that my collaborators and I might know the book intimately, but every other reader is getting to know it for the first time. That's exciting. Yes, I'm reading the reviews.
Cesar Arellano, the original street-fashion-party photoblogger in Mexico City, has died. Cesar was a crucial founding component of the scene. He was hard-working, generous, and supported emerging talents and faces on his website, Diario de Fiestas.
There's a lot of sadness and shock in the community in D.F. right now. The scene has lost its most respected and committed indie chronicler. The loss is enormous.
Last year Cesar redesigned and upgraded his site. It had started out three years earlier on the blogspot platform and immediately made an impact on the fashion community in Mexico, how it saw itself, and how it read in other parts of the world.
To honor Cesar's life and work, I'm re-publishing below the section of a chapter in the book where he is interviewed. Cesar will be missed.
First post in Author News, so here we go.
On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the day "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" goes on sale, I'm doing my first reading from the book at Writers Week at UC Riverside. Here's the release from the UCR newsroom and from the Deparment of Creative Writing.
Writers Week is an annual event at one of the nation's premier creative writing programs, and I'm honored to receive the invitation from Professor Michael Jayme, the El Monte native and author of "Every Night Is Ladies' Night." On the bill this year is Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic (and FIL homie) Jonathan Gold, and my friend Ben Ehrenreich, author of "The Suitors," among many other great writers.
I'm proud to start the roll-out of this book at the University of California, my struggling alma mater, and especially happy to do it at UCR. Riverside has the highest rates of underrepresented minority and low-income students in the University of California system, making it one of the most ethnically and economically diverse university campuses in the world. The campus's central library is named after Tomas Rivera, the trailblazing author of "... y no se lo trago la tierra," a life-long educator and the first minority chancellor in the UC system.
Also, on Thursday, Feb. 10, I'm presenting the book at Calacas in downtown Santa Ana, hosted by author and journalist Gustavo Arellano. Here's the announcement at the OC Weekly. Santa Ana, of course, is the oh-so Mexican county seat of Orange County and the first front, Gustavo might say, in the "reconquista."
Excited for this event, too. While I know I gotta technically read from the book this week, what I'm most looking forward to with this process are the discussions. I wanna hear what people are thinking these days about Mexico, migration, transnationality, books and publishing, Southern California, the drug war, subcultures, megacities, chilango-isms, the border, whatever comes up.
So please come out and say hi if you're in the area.
And here's something else I just noticed. Simon & Schuster has posted an excerpt from the book online. It's Chapter 6, "The Lake of Fire."
* Reading dates and locations for Los Angeles and San Diego coming soon! I can tell you right now, though, the big L.A. event is gonna be the bomb.
** Photo above, the carillon bell tower on the UC Riverside campus, via Flickr.
* Post updated 21-1-11.
"The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash with diced chiles, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert… Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty-four hours and at least one source of good music… All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked."
Now come on, and be honest, doesn't just a fraction of that sound like a fat slice of heaven? "Stone naked"? I wonder how many days Thompson actually started off in this way. Every single one? And I'm reminded, I need to re-crack open my copy of "Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," and finally get "Hells Angels," which I understand is a masterpiece of the form good ole Hunter S. Thompson perfected.
Today, Friday, I went for a big breakfast at la Pagoda, inspired. Huevos con jamon, cafe con leche, una donita, un plato de fruta, totopos y frijoles, salsa, jugo de naranga. Yours?
What lies at the intersections of popular culture and the occult? Mysticism and technology? Led Zeppelin? "Tron: Legacy"? La Santa Muerte? and I'm only beginning to find out. From a conversation with author Erik Davis, by Antonio Lopez, at Reality Sandwich:
I am not sure who exactly coined that term; there’s a British scholar who gets recognized for it but it was also online back in the day. It’s a good one. For me it means the place where popular culture meets the underground and very real currents of magic, mysticism, and the esoteric -- a stream that has always been with us, but which was rediscovered and reaffirmed, in not always healthy ways, in the 60s. “Occulture” is also a way to claim the occult or the religious fringe as a kind of cultural identity or playground, rather than an overly serious and hidden realm. I try to look at the mysteries from both ends -- I think its important to look at, say, the contemporary ayahausca scene as a scene, with dress codes and slang and rock stars, not as a sacred separate realm. (Even though sacred things can and do go down there.) At the same time I think it is important (or at least more rewarding) to look at our often junky world of late capitalist culture as a place where the seeds of insight and vision might be found, if only you look at the landscape in just the right way.
The whole thing is here. I've not read Erik Davis, but his titles are on the list for the next trip to the States, and RS is a new obsession. No better dosage of futurisms for the second decade of the "new" millenium ...
* Image via RS.
Above, a portrait of Enrique Metinides, the great D.F. photojournalist, taken in October 2010 by Eunice Adorno.
Metinides, now 76, is one-of-a-kind, an OG photojournalist whose work transcends the field and enters the realm of high art. In my view, he's among the best to have ever practiced the craft, taking more photos over many more years than, say, Robert Capa, Weegee, or Dorothea Lange.
Here's my end-of-the-year post at La Plaza, my interview with Metinides, marking the latest exhibit of his work in Mexico City. "In the Place of Coincidence," curated by longtime Metinides collaborator Veronique Ricardoni, is up at Garash until the end of January. The video and photo-montages mentioned in the piece display Metinides in new formats and through new perspectives; highly recommended.
"I'm a photographer by accident," Metinides said.
Back in his day, they called him "El Niño." The Kid, a name that followed him for years. Here are a few more portraits by Adorno, who is gracefully sharing them with Intersections. (Earlier this month, Eunice won the 2010 Fernando Benitez national cultural journalism prize in photojournalism, for her work on Mennonite women in north-central Mexico. See this slideshow at BBC Mundo.)
What does Mexico City sounds like, right now? Maybe, from at least two particular perspectives, a little like this. It's "The Sound of Mexico City," a mixtape I co-curated at the invitation of sound designer Daniel Perlin on the soundscape of D.F., for the Italian design and urbanism magazine Domus. Perlin led the project and mixed the mix.
Throughout, I read a portion of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" in which I rhapsodize on the city's noise. (It's the first time I've read any section of the book for audio online publication, so I'm a little nervous right now. Will the listener/reader get this particular excerpt's sense of exaggeration, the overblown sound-pyschosis, the humor?)
In addition, there's a pretty haunting piece in there by sound artist Rogelio Sosa. It includes the infamous clip of former President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz saying he was "most proud" of his role in the crackdown on the 1968 student movement.
Perlin and I had to turn around the mix pretty quickly, but I think we managed to string together a decent sample of various musical genres that define the D.F. soundscape right now, cumbia, tribal guarachero, ska, rockabilly, hip-hop. Thank you to the artists whom I personally contacted and agreed to supply a track. They are ...
The Kumbia Queers, whose garage-y lo-fi sound captures a certain "right now" aesthetic that bridges cumbia, punk, and queerness -- particularly of the female sort. The Rebel Cats, the slick maestros of Mexican rockabilly; they play tight and sport a good look. MC Luka, one of many hiphoperos doing it big in the Gran Tenochtitlan; I particularly like Luka because he addresses transnational cholo/barrio culture -- and spits so good overall. Sonido Sonoramico, one of several cumbia bands who play somewhere in town just about every week of the year, easily in the elite of this street subculture. And finally Maldita Vecindad, true OGs of the old-school ska/fusion scene in Mexico City, which in my view operates as an umbrella for many subsequent genres and groups. They've been at it for two decades now and remain committed to a sociopolitical vision of music and its ability to liberate and build community. Respeto.
In the near future, with more time than this project allowed, I'll be linking up more artists who I think define the sound of Mexico City as I've lived it these past three years. I'll also be posting, soon, on my "Top Ten Mixtapes of 2010."
Nos vemos en la calle, cabrones!
I'm choosing images to go with each chapter in the book. The process is a lot harder and more complex than I thought it would be, aesthetically, thematically. What is the image supposed to do?
The end product will be a mix of images by professional documentary photographers, photos I've taken myself, original illustrations, and at least one painting. There are 15 chapters in the book, an introductory note, and an Afterword.
Above, a shot I'm considering by William Dunleavy, a young photographer from New York who spent a good chunk of time in 2008 documenting a band of punks from the outskirts of Neza, on the outskirts of Mexico City.
I hung out with Will a lot while he was here and met his punk crew a couple times, but I can't find them anymore, and I have a gift to deliver to them that Will left with me. I'll still be searching ...
Here's a post from Will's blog on the series, "Punks del Barrio." He writes:
In a country that teeters between the first and third world, these kids are often the lowest of the low. They are often the children of indigenous transplants to the sprawling megalopolis and live in the furthest toxic shanty towns. Through some chance they took on the appropriated identity and culture that is 'punk.' It's a scene that exists in fragmented but tight-knit families who won't hesitate to fight each other or hurl a brick at the cops. They were some of the rowdiest and most destructive people I'd ever met, and I could tell that they didn't have much to hope for. Despite that, my heart was warmed by their kindness to me, their families and loved ones. It was refreshing to experience punk without the familiar pretensions of class and race that I know in the USA.
Nice one. Thank you, Will, for sharing your images with me. And thank you all the photographers and illustrators who have generously offered to share their work through this process.
As always, process over product ... The road over the destination ... This is the best part.
* More later. ** Post edited.
* How Postopolis spread: engagement. Via Tomo.
The culture supplement Tomo has just put out its Postopolis issue. Flip through the pages here. It's a useful marker to publish my final Postopolis report, so here it goes. Sorry for the delay ...
By Saturday, Postopolis had spread, like a Red Specter contagion. People in D.F. were hearing about it, tuning in and watching the stream online, and arriving to hear the talks live. The faces of my fellow bloggers were becoming not just familiar but welcoming. And those arty concrete ladrillos were by then all-too familiar with our poor sore nalgas.
On the final day David Lida came to discuss his book "First Stop in the New World" with Jace Clayton. A
questions centered on Lida's thesis in the book that Mexico is "the capital of
the Twenty First Century." He reiterated that his argument is based on the idea
fastest growing cities in the developing world are growing like Mexico
City did, which makes D.F. sort of the mother figure to places like Lagos or
Mumbai. People for the most part make their life here day-to-day, Lida said, like in so many other such cities.
In a question, Mariana Delgado of Proyecto Sonidero challenged the notion that Mexico City is post-Colonial or post-Hispanic. She said something to the effect of, 'This is still Tenochtitlán.' The exchange was so cool because it demonstrated that this question -– Is Tenochtitlán a ghost city or the city around us, actually? –- is still a relevant one in D.F. today, in the year 2010.