Book Review: Kafka in a Skirt: Stories from the Wall, by Daniel Chacón

 

By Lucrecia Guerrero

Kafka in a Skirt, Daniel Chacon’s most recent collection of short stories, opens with a bang that lights up a corner of the existential darkness, but only enough to make us wonder if indeed there is nothing, nada. “In the Closet,” one of the numerous flash fiction pieces in the book, gives us an adolescent protagonist who has been ordered by his mother to clean that “chingadera” out of his closet. He tells the reader that even though he got down on his knees to search his closet, he “didn’t know what [he] was looking for, but [he] somehow knew [he] would spend the rest of [his] life looking for it.”

I read somewhere that it’s often said that readers read to gain insight into others but that, in fact, readers read to gain insight into themselves. I suspect there is considerable truth to that. Have not many readers, at some time in their lives, feared that they will spend, or have already spent, most of their lives looking for an elusive and indefinable something?

Kiki’s – How a little neighborhood restaurant grew to be a community tradition

El Paso is a city packed with mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants – humble spots tucked in amid neighborhood shops that many non-locals might not even notice as they drive by. Places, like Kiki’s at 2719 N. Piedras. It is off the beaten path, but after more than 40 years, this Central El Paso eatery has grown into a local institution that attracts fans from across the city. Kiki’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar was established by Paula Yardeni in 1976. The name Kiki’s comes from Yardeni’s daughter who was just a toddler at the time.

How El Paso’s Thanksgiving Day Parade comes to life

Twenty volunteers have been working in a Central El Paso warehouse since May to get floats ready the Sun Bowl Association’s 83rd annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is one of the organization’s premiere events to promote the Tony the Tiger Sunbowl football game Dec. 31. This year the holiday event theme is Bobble Heads on Parade. The Sun Bowl Association welcomes Hyundai of El Paso as the new sponsor.

Gloria Osuna Pérez honored with exhibit reminding us of her artistic legacy in El Paso

Gloria Osuna Pérez spent less than 15 of her 52 years on earth in El Paso. But the Chicana artist continues to be celebrated as a local treasure decades after her passing. Marking the twentieth anniversary of her death from ovarian cancer, the El Paso Museum of Art is featuring “Beyond Portaits,” an exhibition in honor of her work and iconic style. Osuna Pérez was born in Madera, California in 1947. As the child of migrant farm workers she worked the fields picking fruit and witnessed the rise of the Mexican-American civil rights movement.

SoldierCon: Comic books and cosplay for the troops

FORT BLISS, Texas – Sgt. Joshua Rodriguez dresses up in his Texas National Guard uniform every day but at the recent SoldierCon, he dressed up as an Umbrella Corporation mercenary from the Resident Evil video game series. Rodriguez has served in the guard for six years as a transportation operator and this is the first year he attended SoldierCon – a convention that invited plenty of cosplay, where comic book super hero fans dressed up as their favorite character. “It has given me a new outlet to explore my cosplay. It’s amazing to see the creativity,” Rodriguez said.

Momentum grows for Border Tuner public art project linking El Paso, Juárez

Border Tuner, a major new public artwork by internationally renowned visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is set to take place in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in November 2019. The interactive art installation will highlight the complex connections between Juárez and El Paso through a series of nightly conversations and performances that involve residents from both sides of the border and beyond.  

The project is designed to shine a light on unity between the two sister cities and the people of both the U.S. and Mexico and aims to help the border community reclaim its own narrative in the national spotlight. “Those of us who live and work here in the El Paso-Juárez border know how interlinked our two communities are and know how important we are to one another’s culture and history,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso. “As the nation’s attention has turned to the border increasingly in 2019, its important that we share our story and reclaim our narrative as one border community. This project aims to highlight the many ways in which Juárez and El Paso are interconnected.”

 

What is Border Tuner?

Music Beyond Borders brings together student musicians

LAS CRUCES — The Esperanza Azteca Symphony Orchestra of Ciudad Juarez and New Mexico State University Philharmonic Orchestra came together to highlight “Music Beyond Borders” with joint concerts on both sides of the U.S., Mexico border. More than 100 student musicians performed a variety of pieces including Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Márquez’s Danzón 2, Gershwin’s Summertime conducted under the baton of teachers Simón Gollo of NMSU and Maestro Jove García of Esperanza Azteca. “This concert means a lot to me because it represents the union of these two countries and how we see each other,”said Grace Garcia, a student in Azteca Esperanza orchestra. Student musicians aged 12 to 24 years-old performed together. “Everyone is really talented I had the pleasure to play with them, I felt really comfortable and I loved all the pieces that we play,” said Ana Patricia Gonzalez, a University of Texas at El Paso student.

Mom remembers when Hollywood came for El Paso’s babies in filming ‘The Border’

Martha Romero’s favorite movie star is her son. Nicholas Romero was only six weeks old when he debuted in “The Border,” a movie filmed in El Paso in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson, Valerie Perrine and Elpidia Carillo. Nicholas was one of several infants used to play Carillo’s son. “Aw, that’s my baby,” Romero recalled saying when she saw the movie for the first time. Romero said that having her newborn in a movie was a fascinating experience.

Controversial ‘Godspell’ opens season for El Paso children’s theater group at new home, First Presbyterian Church

Kids-N-Co chose the musical Godspell as the El Paso children’s theater company’s first performance at First Presbyterian Church, the group’s new home. The play, written by Stephen Schwartz, interprets the Book of Matthew through acting, singing and dancing. “If seventeen-year-old blue-haired Jesus doesn’t float your boat, that’s okay,” said director Rachael Robbins, 22. “It doesn’t float my mom’s boat either. She might not come to see the show but that’s okay because that’s everyone’s personal interpretation and this is my interpretation and this is my cast’s interpretation.,”

The pastor of First Presbyterian Neil Locke performed in the play and encouraged Kids-N-CO to choose Godspell for the spring performance, despite concern it could be controversial.

‘Uncaged Art’ exhibit gives voice to migrant children detained in Tornillo tent city

The experiences of migrant children detained in a Texas tent city are on display at a rare exhibit of their art at UT El Paso’s Centennial Museum. Among the pieces the students created was a white Catholic church made of construction paper, popsicle sticks and yarn. Other students created dresses made of cloth with depictions of their homeland. Tornillo’s detention center, also known as the Tornillo tent city, opened June 14, 2018, and it came to symbolize the mass detention of migrant children under the Trump administration. Over the eight months of its operation.

3D printer a transformational gift for Borderland art students experimenting with new materials

A new 3D printer gifted to the UTEP Department of Art will allow art students to break boundaries in the arts to create unique sculptures, models and forms that have the potential to go beyond what they can do with their bare hands and sculpting tools. “It provides an amazing opportunity for them to think about their studio practices in a different way,” said Vincent Burke, associate professor of art who specializes in ceramics. “It brings new technologies, new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing – so it’s a tremendous opportunity for the students.”

Burke said ceramics is known to be labor intensive since most artists use their hands to mold clay. Although the 3D printer does help, it can still be challenging and time consuming as one sculpture can take from 45 minutes to three hours. “The clay has to be just the right consistency.

Art lovers unite to launch new community gallery in Five Points neighborhood

What began as casual coffee shop chats among five El Pasoans has developed into an ongoing friendship and a joint creative venture. Edward Reyes, Jacqueline Aguirre, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Humphreys, and Aryk Gardea met by being regulars at Joe Vinny and Bronsons Bohemian Cafe on Piedras Street in Central El Paso. After discovering a shared appreciation for art, they decided to work together to support their vision of a community gallery. They secured a narrow space next to the coffee shop and opened Galeria Cinco Puntos in January. Gardea, whose background is in art with a BFA in ceramics and painting from UTEP and a MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in sculpture, pitched the idea of launching the gallery with an exhibit featuring the Horned Toad Prints exchange.

A look at what’s on at the 2019 Chicago Feminist Film Festival this week

Five films with a Hispanic flavor will be screened at the Chicago Feminist Film Festival, which began February 27 and runs through Friday, March 1st. The Film Row Cinema of Columbia College Chicago is hosting the fourth edition of the festival, which is free and open to the public. Three productions from Colombia, Spain and Cuba with local directors stand out, together with two productions from the United States directed by Latino filmmakers. In addition, migration, and refugees and racism are the protagonists of four other films, a feature film and three short films. Most screenings will be followed by a debate, in some cases with the presence of the directors. Migrantes y refugiados son los protagonistas de cuatro filmes que se proyectarán en la cuarta edición del Festival de Cine Feminista de Chicago.

Gaspar del Alba’s latest book belongs in the Latinx literary canon

In 1999, the Mexican poet Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz began her transformation into becoming a Chicana. The 17th century Hieronymite nun, one of Mexico’s best poets, was already dead by about three hundred years before the term Chicana came to be used, but nonetheless, with the publication of Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s ground-breaking novel, Sor Juan’s Second Dream, she became a Chicana feminist icon. Today Chicana intellectual activists know who she is and how important she is to Chicana identity and resistance. She was too brilliant to want to get married to some “hombre necio.” She wanted to develop her mind and resist convention. Gaspar de Alba’s novel may have been part of a late 20th century Zeitgeist that liberated feminine images from male historical narratives and redefined their socio-political significance, like Sandra Cisneros did for La Malinche, but it is certain that de Alba’s book influenced Chicana feminist interpretation of Sor Juana’s life.

Love Letter to Sunset Heights mural highlights border history

It took three years to bring a love letter to El Paso to life in the historical neighborhood of Sunset Heights. Pearl Properties unveiled the mural, Love Letter to Sunset Heights, during the neighborhood’s annual tour of homes last fall. The mural is painted on the side of the Pearl apartment building at 220 Yandell, which overlooks I-10. The Pearl’s owners commissioned Alejandro Lomeli as the artistic director in charge of the painting, but the project didn’t happen overnight. Lomeli, who has lived in three different Pearl buildings – including the one where the mural is now – went off to work as a steelworker in Albuquerque for a while as funding for the project was secured along with permission from the El Paso Historic Landmark Commission.

Explicit lyrics in Latino music worries some, but simply reflects popular culture experts say

The Dominican Republic recently decided to ban certain Latino music due to obscene language, sexual content, and lyrics that talk about drug trafficking and consumption. Critics in other Latin American countries are claiming that explicit music is having a negative impact on the their culture. But some scholars say the content that offends one generation is just part of a normal evolution for popular music and society. Roberto Avant-Mier, a professor of communication at the University of Texas at El Paso specializing in popular music and film explained that music and society have a reciprocal relationship. “I know for a fact music has an effect on society but also, society has an effect on music.

What language do you play in? Online gaming chatter a mix of voices in global matchups

The success of the early online multi-player games like Doom laid the groundwork for successors like Halo and more recent titles such as Fortnite. Since then, there have been significant improvements in network capabilities that now allow hundreds of thousands of people from English and non-English-speaking countries all over the world to play a game together. So what happens when you connect with someone that speaks a different language than you do? Many players use microphones to communicate so this creates an obvious barrier. But Luis Rodriguez says that there have always been ways to get around such language barriers if a player is willing to look for them.

This artist is asking how border residents think about air, water, land

Zeke Peña, an illustrator and cartoonist has spent most of his work as an artist living on “la frontera,” the border, reflecting the reality and issues faced by Chicano and Mexican-American generations. “I think about how the border identity is binary. It isn’t about this side or that side, it’s way more complicated. But that’s the beauty of it,” he says. Sitting in battered, squeaky wood chair in front of a drafting table that displays his work in his studio, the 35-year-old Peña looks the part of a committed artist with his black-rimmed glasses and his shoulder-length dark curly hair and black ball cap.

Rare look at Mexican photographer Manuel Carrillo’s work in color on display at UTEP library

The photo collection of Manuel Carrillo – one of Mexico’s most influential photographers – resides at UTEP’s Special Collections Department and his work is often compared to that of famed American icon Ansel Adams despite both photographers being widely known for different types of photography. Carrillo focused on photographing the people of Mexico, while Adams concentrated on landscapes, but both were wildly influential, said David Flores, UTEP’s photo archivist. “Carrillo was passionate about the people (of Mexico) who worked for a living, showcasing his gente (people) in a humbling light with his photographs,” Flores said. The collection, containing about 14,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 3,00 slides and seven linear feet of papers, also contains numerous publications with Carrillo’s work or biographical information, according to Flores who dealt with the images first-hand. The collection also includes many awards and trophies, while the prints vary in many sizes from contact sheets to giant mural-sized enlargements.

Cinco ‘Expectativas’ cumplidas por Enrique Bunbury en su último disco

En noviembre, mi cantautor preferido Enrique Bunbury se hizo acreedor a un Grammy Latino en la categoría Mejor Álbum de Rock con “Expectativas”, disco que publicó en octubre de 2017. Como este espacio es reducido, describiré en cinco puntos por que creo que este disco es justo ganador de dicho reconocimiento. Lleno de romanticismo español puro

La música de Bunbury ha sido para mí un reflejo de varias épocas de la literatura. La letra de sus canciones está llena de metáforas con significados abiertos a la interpretación de la audiencia, algo muy característico del romanticismo literario. Él hace uso de ésto para mandar diferentes mensajes al mundo, desde dedicarle palabras a un amor, hasta criticar a la política y a los aspectos débiles de la sociedad.

Indy bookstore Literarity nurtures unique space for readers and writers in El Paso

In a little more than a year after opening, the bookstore Literarity has become an important fixture in El Paso’s literary community in promoting regional authors and poets for readings and book sales. The locally owned store sells new and used books as well as collectible books, rare books and signed first editions. Owners Bill and Mary Anna Clark wanted to create a welcoming shop for book lovers to browse through and included events where they can mingle with writers. “With most authors, it’s really focused on their new book,” Bill Clark said. “At the same time, we did an event with Alfredo Corchado and his new book Homelands, which deals with Mexican-American migration and immigration.”

Corchado, a border-Mexico correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, turned his book reading event into a conversation with border journalist Angela Kocherga about immigration, journalism and cultural identity that was followed by a Q&A session with attendees.

Rubin Center exhibit explores migrant culture

The works of Mexican artist Betsabee Romero offered a reflection on themes of migration and belonging in an exhibit featured recently at the The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center at UTEP. The exhibit of large-scale sculptures, prints and installations titled Tu Huella Es Tu Camino (Your Tracks Are Your Path) will be up through Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.  

El Paso’s position as a multicultural border city is one of the most defining aspects of its unique character. For Romero, the Rubin Center was a natural landing for her exhibit.

Iconográfika Oaxaca exhibit at Rubin Center until Dec. 14

EL PASO – Oaxaca has become known as a cultural center in Mexico with many art galleries and artisan crafts. An exhibit at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual arts gives a glimpse of life outside of the big cities of Mexico. Titled “Iconográfika Oaxaca: Contemporary Prints, and Works on Paper,” the exhibit showcases artwork that delves into topics of poverty, border relations, immigration, family, and indigenous culture in Oaxaca. The exhibit also features a wide range of art mediums including prints, photography, paintings, tile work, and sculptures. “I think that people coming to this exhibition can get a preview of…

Robot sheriff play co-written by autistic teen rises to the stage in El Paso

When the curtain closed this fall on an unusual play about a robot sheriff and his band of outlaws at the downtown Philanthropy Theater, playwright Robert De La Rosa, dressed in black jeans, cowboy hat, and a bandana around his neck, was there to receive a standing ovation from the packed auditorium. The post-apocalyptic tale, “The Ballad of Roobie Rookie,” that he co-wrote with a local playwright was no small accomplishment for De La Rosa who was diagnosed with autism as a child. His mother, Maria De La Rosa, says her son has never allowed being on the autism spectrum to stand in his way. She first became aware that the youngest of her three children was different when he was three and she noticed him methodically arranging toys and VHS movies on the floor of their Northeast El Paso home. “He would become very involved with that toy, he would just get really happy and flap his hands and that was different to me; I didn’t know why he was doing that,” Maria De La Rosa said.

Vegan merchants sharing their bounty with community shelters

An El Paso couple are providing homeless people and others in need with meals and educational services to promote plant-based living. Roman and Adriana Wilcox, owners and operators of One Grub Community, are following a mission centered on giving back to their community where five percent of their sales and 100 percent of their tips go toward the purchase of healthy food for meals for people at non-federally funded shelters like Annunciation House, Villa Maria, The Opportunity Center and others. “We needed to make sure that we are able to cook together and eat together,” Adriana Wilcox said. “I think that’s when you get the community involved and you’re able to get personal with them.”

Through various “pay it forward” events and demonstrations of plant-based meals, the Wilcoxes keep the community involved. Mayela Duran, housing coordinator for Rapid Rehousing for chronically homeless residents at The Opportunity Center said, last year’s holiday event featured a vegan pozole for the 25 participants who lived in the housing center.

Loot boxes and gacha games dubbed newest forms of gambling

Loot boxes and gacha games where players purchase virtual items have become a topic of debate within the online gaming community according to aficionados and regulators who consider them just another form of gambling. In these online games, it’s not unusual for a player to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy options to customize their favorite character or to purchase weapons and armor. In one published report, a Japanese player spent $70,000 to participate in the gacha game Fate/Grand Order, also known as FGO. The release of Electronic Art’s (EA) online game Overwatch in 2016 and Sony’s mobile game Fate/Grand Order in 2015 have contributed to the international debate. Loot boxes, also called loot crate or prize crate, are an in-game purchase item that contain implements for the players to use.

What can creatives learn from arts communities on the border?

Arizona theater professor Mary Stephens was pleasantly surprised when a recent arts tour bus ride took less than 10 minutes to get from El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, Mexico,

“This is my first time to El Paso and Juarez and I’m just so delighted by realizing how close these cities are with each other,” she said. “Families are on both sides crossing all the time, and culture is crossing all the time. Stephens was visiting the borderland for La Frontera: Art+People+Place, a two-day convening on arts in border communities presented by the El Paso Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez. The Sept. 7-8 event was part of the fifth Transborder Biennial 2018 exhibition, which featured the work of 32 contemporary artists that live across the U.S.-Mexico border.