The Sealey Challenge: Drum Dream Girl

Today I needed poetry of triumph, of grit and determination rewarded, of strength seen and honored, and so I turned to Margarita Engle’s words and Rafael López’s illustrations in Drum Dream Girl, the Pura Belpré Award-winning poem about groundbreaking Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. Engle is well-known, in kidlit, for her gorgeous work in verse: she’s written novels in verse for teens, novels in verse … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Drum Dream Girl

El Grito de Dolores & Mexico’s Independence Day

Happy Independence Day! For that is what September 16 is, in Mexico, and that is why there are Mexican flags the length and breadth of the Chicago area and, I would assume, well beyond. The sixteenth of September honors the day the parish priest and closet (or maybe not so closet) radical Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla started, with the ringing of his church bells (and … Continue reading El Grito de Dolores & Mexico’s Independence Day

Reading for Alt Columbus Day

My plan, for today, was to write about resistance to Christóbal Colón and his crew of marauders; unfortunately, when one has a headache, one is not in the mood to re-read those old diaries—or even de las Casas’ Brevíssima Relación, which always makes me angry1—one is not quite in the right frame of mind to write anything engaging. However, thanks to my librarian superpowers, I can literally always churn out a booklist.2 So here are some books for, you know, Indigenous Peoples Day, and Alt Columbus Day.

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Para el alma no hay encierro: Juana Inés on Netflix

It’s taken me a bit to return to Juana Inés, mainly because I have been running largely on rage and when that is the case I turn, very decidedly, to The Last Kingdom and The Musketeers and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and other violent period dramas (with an occasional helping of Wynonna Earp or Buffy the Vampire Slayer), because I am nowhere near as nice a person as folks seem to … Continue reading Para el alma no hay encierro: Juana Inés on Netflix

Showing History: or, [Yes, There Really Were] Records Before the Spanish Came

Scribes at work: “Codex-Style Vessel with Two Scenes of Pawahtun Instructing Scribes; c. A.D. 550–950; Possibly Mexico or Guatemala, Maya culture, Late Classic period (A.D. 600–900).” Image by FA2010, 2009. Wikimedia Commons. We peoples of letters have a knack for believe that we, and only we, are capable of creating literature, of composing epics, of recording our histories. We are the greatest at convincing ourselves that our way–only … Continue reading Showing History: or, [Yes, There Really Were] Records Before the Spanish Came

Three Things that Cinco de Mayo Is Not

1901 poster at the Biblioteca Nacional de México. Image from Wikimedia Commons. I bought a car yesterday, which meant that I didn’t give much thought to the date (other than, of course, to write it repeatedly, in an increasingly childish hand); it also meant that I avoided most of the obligatory social media posts about drinking José Cuervo or Corona or tequila or Patrón or whatever … Continue reading Three Things that Cinco de Mayo Is Not

For a Few More Days: Art from the Viceroyalty of Peru

The Art Institute’s incredible exhibit “A Voyage to South America: Andean Art in the Spanish Empire” will end its run on February 28, 2016–just a few days from now. I talk a lot about Latin American history; I’ve even talked about José Gil de Castro, free man of color, who painted the tale of the wars of independence. And, now that its course has been almost run, I’ll finally write about this exhibit.

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Image of Our Lady of Bethlehem with a Male Donor. 18th century Cuzco School painting by an unidentified artist. Image by Darren and Brad of Flickr.

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Remembering the Alamo, and the Maine, and the Coloniality: U.S. Interventions in Latin America, Part I

Prologue: The Monroe Doctrine

A long, long time ago, when our country was very new, a Doctrine was born. The world was, it seems, innocent then, but I think it unlikely that the Doctrine was ever entirely innocent itself. The Doctrine’s origins sink back even further, to a speech given by James Monroe while he was Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state; the Doctrine itself would be penned by John Quincy Adams, our future president, while he was secretary of state to James Monroe. We began to put that Doctrine to use long before its ink was dry: the fledgling U.S. consumed South Florida, and then, soon enough, all of Florida (never mind that the Spaniards had helped us win the Revolution).1 We had Manifest Destiny, after all. The World was well and truly Ours, and the Monroe Doctrine was elucidated to Keep Those Europeans the Hell Outta the Americas.2

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Columbus, de las Casas, and the Undiscoverable Land

Once upon a time, in Iberia in the fifteenth century, there was a Genoese man with fanaticism in his soul and a dream in his heart, a dream of sailing West to go East. This made absolutely no sense to anyone but our hero, because the Iberian Peninsula, thanks to its years as several Moorish caliphates, was well-versed in science. One did not sail west … Continue reading Columbus, de las Casas, and the Undiscoverable Land