Archive for the ‘#LatinoLit’ Category

As a young 22-year-old editor for Houghton Mifflin Company in 1991, I had the pleasure to work with many incredible authors who were overlooked by the mainstream.

New Mexico’s Sabine Ulibarrí was one of those authors. The first story I ever edited was a short story by Ulibarrí called “Yo me llamo Antonio,” a fictional piece about a young boy named Antonio. His teachers wanted to call him Anthony or Tony, but this very proud little boy insisted that his name was Antonio.


We ran the story for Celebremos la literatura, our Spanish Reading series, and the story has always resonated with me. And so did Ulibarrí, who died ten years ago this month in 2003. The following video provides an excellent overview of his works.

Gracias, Don Sabine, for your grace and talent. I have never forgotten the day when I first read your works.

Read Full Post »

In this crazy world that is social media, you just keep doing and blogging and connecting and sharing. Since this blog was started in 2009, the goals were clear: to practice independent journalism, to write about the social media world of US Latinos, to celebrate #LatinoLit, to shout out the world about the great Fernando Varela (he is my brother, why wouldn’t I?), to share my writings, and to inform readers about the crazy topsy-turvy world of Puerto Rican politics. This is the world of this blog and it is a world that speaks to my world. In short, this blog is my personal world and I am humbled by all the people who have come into this world, all the people who have commented here (both the good and the bad), and all the people I have met and have become part of my familia.

Yesterday, I was greeted with some very cool news: a nomination for the inaugural Social Revolución event at SXSWi in Austin. To the angels who submitted the nomination (and I think I know who those angels were), thank you. GRACIAS MIL.

This whole world of Latino social media is bigger than any of us. Want to know why we are becoming a force? Because many of us started TOGETHER in 2008 and CONNECTED AUTHENTICALLY. We all shared the same vision. We all believed in the future, and more importantly: we all helped each other. When there was a blog someone wanted to share, we shared it. When someone had good news to post, we posted it. When people wanted their links tweeted, we tweeted. We are all in this together, and when we realize that each one of us can add our “little grain of sand” to the larger vision, we will become a powerhouse. The point is this: no one, no one is better than anyone else on the Internet. Once you have a page, a profile, a Twitter presence, etc., you are just as powerful as any other page on the Web. What you decide to do with that and how you want to present yourself is what matters.

My philosophy is a simple one: always be giving. Always be yourself. Always be authentic. Help people with no expectations. Do what you do for the right intentions and demand better. Use your blog, webpage, social media profiles to create real relationships and connect with like-minded people. Share your opinions respectfully and defend yourself when you have to with grace. When you make mistakes, just say you goofed. Be humble and admit your errors. Try to improve the next time. But never ever get caught up in the medium or in the numbers. If you don’t like something, say it. If you love something, say it too! I have said that from day 1 in 2008 and it still resonates with me every day.

Peace to all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting this blog and the Rebels. Let me know how I can help YOU in any way. You know where to find me.


Read Full Post »

We all have stories, some stories more raw and brutal than others. In his new graphic novel based on his book From the Barrio to the Board Room, author Robert Rentería has a story of struggle and success that should be shared to anyone who believes in the principles of hard work, education, and determination. Mi Barrio, Rentería’s new graphic novel published by SmarterComics, achieves just that—a testament to Rentería’s life story—yet fails on its delivery to the younger readers Renetería is targeting.

Yet before Rentería’s story rambles into tedium (not the actual events, just how the story was told), the beginning of the graphic novel has promise. The first three pages set Rentería’s early childhood in East Los Angeles during the 60s. The prose and images are simple, yet powerful. The premise and scenery have been brilliantly introduced, and the reader has been prepared to dive into the rest of Rentería’s tale.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story’s arc misses the mark.

Author Robert Rentería

Almost immediately drug use tales appear and later stories of drunken behavior and sex begin to surface. The taboos are boundless, that most school districts in California—a key market for this type of book—couldn’t even stock the graphic novel in their libraries, let alone distribute to students. Rentería does have a curriculum for schools, yet we would think having a book being read in some schools would cause problems.

Telling real stories about struggle and success can be inspiring. However, the story’s impact loses it punch rather quickly with scenes that rambles, prose that tells and not shows, information that is lost in and limited the graphic novel, and black-and-white illustrations that lack edge and pizazz.

We feel that even though the graphic novel just doesn’t deliver (it feels to us like it needed about 20-30 pages edited for quicker pacing and storytelling), Rentería’s story is an amazing one. Maybe he should explore a video or performance art piece that could make his message—a rather important one—more alive.

Like a 30-second YouTube video, YA authors and graphic novelists need to grab their readers instantly. Rentería’s beginning indeed delivers, but that powerful and honest voice that starts the graphic novel gets muddled and muted throughout the rest of the story. The result is a flat didactic story that although true, will ring hollow due to lack of execution.

We hope that the schools that use this graphic novel are actually benefitting it and enjoying it. Perhaps they can tell us that we were wrong about Mi Barrio. We would be cool with that, knowing that one of the hardest things in the world to do in writing is to write for YA readers.

We wish Rentería all the luck in the world. His story is a MUST HEAR. Let’s hope his passion proves us wrong about Mi Barrio.

FTC Disclosure: We received this book free from the publisher as part of a Condor Book Tour. We were not required to write a positive review. The opinions we have expressed are our own. 

Read Full Post »

When we read the amazing poem this weekend by our friend and fellow writer Efrain Ortiz Jr, it got us thinking: it’s time to express pride. So, if you are a Puerto Rican poet, writer, blogger or just one proud boricua, add your link to your poem down below in the comments section or add a few lines about why your pride is deeper than some parade on 5th Avenue. ¡Viva el orgullo boricua!

This is NOT Boricua Pride

My Own Parada

My own parada

I dance in my heart

My own bandera

I fly in my soul

My own patria

I love in my blood

My own pueblo

I scream to be free.

I banish all these things to EL CARAJO:

Boricua Kangols

Boricua shirts with boricua shorts with boricua socks and boricua shoes

Boricua cars covered with boricua pennants and boricua horns

Boricua shouts that would rather scream for JLO and Reggaetón instead of Albizu

My own parada

I celebrate in my heart

My fellow boricuas

Paren la parada falsa

Stop the false parade

Celebren sus propias paradas

Celebrate your own parades.

© Julio Ricardo Varela

Read Full Post »

Today on #LatinoLit we are proud to present the an amazing piece about REAL BORICUA PRIDE by the very talented Efrain Ortiz, Jr. As millions of Puerto Ricans swarm 5th Avenue for the Puerto Rican Day Parade, we as a country, as a people, still stay silent and ignorant of what it is to be BORICUA. ¡Despierta, boricua, coño, despierta!

Efrain Ortiz, Jr.


by Efrain Ortiz, Jr

There are no trinkets to be worn

There are no flags to fly

There is no shouting at the top of my lungs

There is no float I want to see passing by

My pride is deeper than that

Deeper than all the commercialism

Far deeper than the corporate capitalist

Getting rich off the backs of the very same parade viewers

Deeper than the politician waving a flag for support


Vote for me, vote for me…

My pride is deeper than that

To celebrate and show cultural pride

Let it be known; there’s nothing wrong with that

I shouted and waved the same

When I didn’t know from where I came

Not for not wanting, not for want to ignore

One-sided histories made for want of more

And more….

And more…

My pride is deeper than that

There are things that can’t be changed

Like the blood that flows through my veins

Blood that flows like a thousand waving flags

In sync and in harmony

With a heart that pulsates the song of a lone star

Blood with origins in another land

Land once tended by indigenous peoples

Land that gave birth to my forbearers

Etched deep within my pulsating heart

I affirm my identity with that of the forbearers

And proclaim…..my pride is deeper than that.


©Efrain Ortiz Jr.

Read Full Post »

I am proud to announce that one of my chapters for FRANKY BENÍTEZ was published in the book 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND, a charity anthology of flash fiction from authors across the globe. Proceeds from all book sales are donated to The Queensland Premier’s Flood Appeal. The book is available as an eBook or trade paperback.

The chapter, called “Power’s Sunday Slam,” is a tribute to the Puerto Rican Winter League and one of Major League Baseball’s first Black Latino stars, Víctor Pellot (or Vic Power). Today, all 100 authors in the anthology are holding an AMAZON CHART RUSH to celebrate the launch of the anthology. So far, the results have been outstanding, as reported by the editors of the book. Help me make some Amazon history in the U.S. by buying a book today?

Here is the current report about 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND as of this morning:

Hello everyone,
It is a little after midnight here in Australia and I have lots of amazingly good news.

First, 100 Stories for Queensland is one top of the UK movers and shakers list… up a ridiculous up 76,471% from 183,006 to 239 in just six hours.

100 Stories is currently sitting at 239 on the UK best seller list… we’re aiming to get it into the top 100.

In its categories… it is #3 in the short stories and general fiction anthology sections.

With the US just waking… we’re seeing some more amazing movement.

Currently sitting at 1313 on the bestseller list (up from 446,000 yesterday!) and just cracked the top 20 in the General Fiction Anthology category at #20.

Thank you all of you who have book books, or added books to your wish list. We’re only a quarter of the way through the 24 hour period, but I have a great feeling about where we will end up.

Read Full Post »

The #LatinoLit series continues with a poem by Puerto Rican author and poet Odilia Rivera Santos. As she states on Facebook Author page:

I was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and moved to the South Bronx at the age of almost-six. I am from a family of nine and nobody speaks to anyone else in my family very often, which is a long story that doesn’t matter.
The move from Puerto Rico to NYC meant that as a family, we were thrown into an environment in which shootings, drug addicts and constant chaos was the norm. I immersed myself in reading and writing at a young age, which allowed me to receive an excellent liberal arts education, and the skills necessary to be accepted into specialized high schools — but I hated high school.
I have studied yoga, meditation, nutrition, Western Herbal Medicine, the Fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine, French, and received a BA in Comparative Literature.
I love to read and learn new skills. Sometimes, people say they don’t use their degree and I always think that is an incredibly ignorant statement; it is like saying “I never use my brain.”
I use all I have learned from relatives, books, classes, films, life experiences and music everyday.
There is no better mix then a little autodidacticism and formal education; this concoction created an extraordinarily well-organized circuitry that allows me to gain new skills quickly, and to assess and understand new situations well enough to ask questions . . . so much of life is rooted in asking questions.

#LatinoLit Author Odilia Rivera Santos

We are proud to present one of her poems form her blog:

in Cuba, …

When I arrived in Cuba, a man attached himself to me
his hands were strong; his eyes aggressive
When I arrived in Cuba, the breeze confused me
women stared, their smiles patched with gold
When I arrived in Cuba, I did not feel sad
I breathed free air, but a man spoke
of liberty
he taught me what I had not seen.
When I arrived in Cuba, I found another man
with the face of a boy
he searches; he dances in the ruins; he speaks of
on the margins
in his house, he is not a complete man
When I arrived in Cuba, the streets had games
and rules
I understood a little
When I arrived in Cuba, I did not get lost easily
it was with great effort that I got lost
When I arrived, I distributed gifts
people accept a favor, a gift, a hand
without questions
When I arrived, it was an island, a city, a barrio
When I arrived, I asked if they had squirrels
When I arrived, I dreamt of standing
on a balcony to admire the stars
there was no balcony
I fell for a little while
it was not an unpleasant experience
Soon I saw I was not foreign
I have been hungry
I have accomplished much
with little
I know how to sing and argue
I want to stay home
and see the world too.

© Odilia Rivera Santos

To know more about Odilia, become a fan of her Facebook Author Page or follow her on Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: