Archive for the ‘#LatinoLit’ Category


Originally from Los Angeles, #LatinoLit Silvio Sirias is the true definition of the bilingual, bicultural author who weaves his words through many worlds. Sirias, whose novel MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA won the 2007 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, has written several novels based in Central America, a region that has influenced him even since he lived as an adolescent in Nicaragua. We had the chance to chat with Silvio about how he uses social media to promote his work and the advice he would give aspiring new writers.


Silvio Sirias


JRV: Has social media helped you promote your books and increase your book sales? What experiences have you had with social media?

Silvio Sirias: Social media—primarily Facebook and Twitter—played important roles during the virtual book tours of my two novels, BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN (Northwestern University Press) and MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA (Arte Público Press). Both Facebook and Twitter helped spread the word regarding the schedule and the host websites. With the assistance of Condor Book Tours—and I highly recommend authors sign-up with enthusiastic publicists, such as Nilki Benitez—our efforts translated into larger audiences and, of course, momentary spikes in sales.

Regarding my experiences in social media, I’m far more adept at attracting attention—positive, I hope—on Facebook. Twitter is still somewhat of a mystery to me, even though I have been participating for more than two years. I think this is because the discourse in Twitter is slightly encrypted, and the vast amount of useful information that travels over this medium overwhelms me. Nevertheless, I’ve met many kindred spirits on Twitter—a Latino and Latina literature niche-group, as you would say, Julio—and this alone has been worth the effort. What’s more, Twitter has helped educate me—and substantially—about the world of publishing.

JRV: Everyone is saying that the self-publishing movement will eventually become how every book is published. Will large publishing houses become extinct? Why or why not?

Silvio Sirias: I’m jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon myself with a collection of essays entitled LOVE MADE VISIBLE: ESSAYS AND REFLECTIONS ON WRITING, TEACHING, and OTHER DISTRACTIONS. The reason I’m going this route is because, although a fun read, I think, Love Made Visible would prove difficult to place with a traditional publisher. As a result, rather than spending months sending the manuscript around looking for a home, for this project self-publishing makes sense. I’m hoping that readers who have enjoyed my writings in the past will support me on this solo venture.

I don’t think, however, that the monumental surge in independent authors constitutes a death knell for traditional publishers. Undoubtedly, publishers were asleep at the wheel when the tidal wave hit them. But at the helm of the book industry are creative, quick-thinking people. After they recover from the shock they will redefine their place in the market and carry on. That said, though, the absolute dominance they had in the industry is already a thing of the past. The present situation in the publishing world, and the freedom it now allows authors, reminds me of the Spanish proverb: “En río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores” (There’s good fishing in troubled waters).

But the problem I foresee with self-publishing is that there will be an almost crushing amount of chaff. As practiced gatekeepers, traditional publishers have an advantage: their ability to choose what they consider to be wheat. (And in the major publishers’ view of the marketplace that means what sells, regardless of literary quality.)

JRV: What is the best advice you would give new authors about promoting your works and using social media? What works? What doesn’t?

Silvio Sirias: I bow to your expertise on this matter, Julio. I’d urge them to follow you on Twitter (@julito77). Other than that, I feel that the best writers can hope for is to make readers aware of their work. Convincing readers to make a purchase, that’s a different matter. What authors need to keep in mind is that in the developing world of social media one has to be persistent, astute, yet very, very judicious. Social media will help sell a few books, but only great writing will keep readers coming back.

To Become a Fan of Silvio on Facebook: Click here.

To Follow Silvio on Twitter: Click here.


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Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Last Friday, award-winning author Raul Ramos y Sanchez, whose new book HOUSE DIVIDED launched in late January, made an appearance on CNN en español. Here is the subtitled video in case you misssed it. Yes, Raul, we LOVE your CUBANO accent! ¡VAYA!

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Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Great news for my dear friend and award-winning author Raul Ramos y Sanchez. The author of HOUSE DIVIDED and AMERICA LIBRE will be on CNN en Español today, February 23, at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

He will be interviewed by CNN en Español anchor Juan Carlos López.

Juan Carlos López

You can watch the interview on DirecTV Channel 419 and Dish Network Channel 859.

¡Enhorabuena, Raul!

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The latest installment from FRANKY BENÍTEZ: A Story of Love, Pain, and Hope from San Juan to Boston:



The torrent of clouds raced over the rays of the Caribbean sun, blackening the colonial port of San Juan within seconds. Holding his only possessions in a leather satchel made by a fat Moroccan from Seville, Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón, the great-grandfather of Franky Benítez, sprinted past africano porters dragging steamer trunks in the Puerto Rican mud and Spanish nobles opening black umbrellas to find cover from the impending downpour.

Octavio Antonio, seventeen years old, his dark curly hair dangling over his green eyes and olive skin, opened the wooden door of a café at the very moment thousands of tropical rain drops splattered onto the port.

He looked around. The café’s scents of crusty bread and espresso steam held the criollo merchants heading back home from Spain to the island, new arrivals with labor papers in hand, two sugar speculators from New Orleans, three crying babies with their mothers, and two priests reading from a Bible and crossing themselves every time they whispered Jesus from their lips.

“What would you like, young man?” Octavio Antonio heard the voice of an elderly man from behind the café’s glass display of guava pastries, caramel flan, and cheese turnovers.

“Nothing, sir. Just trying to get out of the rain,” Octavio Antonio said as he took his handkerchief from the breast pocket of his only ditto suit, whose sack coat was starting to wear from the long voyage across the Atlantic, and wiped the sweat beads from his brow,

“If you are not buying anything, please leave my café,” the man said.

Octavio Antonio nodded. “Yes, sir.”

He walked back out onto the cobblestone streets of the capital city, the rain soaking his clothes and drenching his boater, which he bought in Huelva the day before his trip with the last reales his father Don Antonio Octavio had given him. The city, if he could call it that, had narrow, winding roads that made walking slippery in the middle of a downpour. Octavio Antonio, not knowing where he was, kept walking, and at times stopped for cover under the bottom of a pastel-colored balcony that formed part of the city’s colonial structures modeled after the houses of Andalusia.

After thirty minutes, the drops vanished from the sky and the sun crept through the remaining clouds, imparting a late afternoon light onto the soaked city. Octavio Antonio noticed he was not far from the city’s central plaza, the Plaza de Armas on San José Street. His meeting place. He took out his handkerchief to dry his eyes and cheeks, as he strolled to the plaza’s main area. Before he reached the plaza’s pigeon-filled fountain, a voice shouted behind him.

“The American ship exploded in Havana! U.S.S Maine destroyed! Read all about it in this afternoon’s edition! El Mundo has the story! American ship exploded! Hundreds dead!”

It was a boy with skin as dark as molasses. He wore no shoes, yet he was able to hold a stack of newspapers under his left arm as he shouted the headlines from the afternoon edition. Octavio Antonio watched as the boy started to run past him and heard towards the plaza. Soon, the island’s merchants would saunter out before their late afternoon coffees with steamed milk and buy a newspaper from the boy.

Octavio Antonio knew this voyage had its risks, but when he had received the letter from his uncle Rogelio six months before to help with Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A., all Octavio Antonio could think of was how quickly could he escape his town of Lora del Río in southern Spain and book a steamer ticket from Cádiz to San Juan. His father urged his son to stay, but Octavio Antonio had adventure in his soul. Among the olive trees and frisky bulls that others in his town raised and trained, Octavio Antonio would spend days dreaming about his fortune, his destiny, his freedom. His father was born to cultivate olives. Octavio Antonio was born to lead men, like the Moors who had owned his land centuries ago.

So, convinced that Puerto Rico was his future and ambition, he wrote back to his uncle Rogelio to inform him that he would indeed go to Puerto Rico once he had enough money for the voyage. Octavio Antonio then worked any task he could muster from his fellow neighbors, picking olives until dusk and cleaning stables until dawn. By November of 1897, Octavio Antonio had enough money to purchase his one-way ticket. He celebrated his last Christmas in Spain drinking sherry and confessing his sins.

In late January, just a few weeks before his departure from Cádiz, Octavio Antonio received a letter from his uncle that only confirmed his decision:

15 December 1897 A.D., Juncos, Puerto Rico

To my dearest nephew:

May the Lord grant you blessings, prosperity, and happiness in the blessed new year of our Christ. My joy of your potential arrival was recently overshadow by a even more momentous occurrence: several of my fellow partners have heard through their contacts in Madrid that the Spaniards have granted this island of Puerto Rico autonomous rule! Puerto Ricans will now be able to govern themselves and begin to free their chains from their Spanish brothers. There is talk that a government will be formed on the island before the summer solstice of 1898.

This is indeed wondrous news, since it will allow Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A. the opportunity to export its rum without the impositions of the Spanish government. The years of struggle for our independence and freedom have begun to dissipate. When you arrive to this beloved island, it will be active with anticipation. I cannot think of a better place for an industrious young man to earn his fortune. I long to be your age again and not the old man that I am, the one who had first through that the original scream for revolution in Lares over twenty years ago was mere childish folly. Yet when I did finally decide to emigrate to this lush, green island, I discovered quickly that Puerto Rico could become the commercial pearl of the Caribbean and eventually all of Latin American. Like Rodó’s Ariel, it would swirl into a world of profits. And when I began to read the accounts of Betances and others who had committed to a free Puerto Rico, my heart became more attached to my new home each and every day.

Can you imagine it, my nephew? This former Royalist and lover of the Crown joining hands with fellow Puerto Ricans last year as we heard of the news in Yauco, where the first Puerto Rican flag had be flown by patriots, although to Spain, they were dangerous rebels? That day, I grabbed a hammer to one of my finest barrels and let the drink overflow into the mouths of my fellow friends! It was a celebration that had taken decades to occur, and to some whose families lived on the island since the early Spanish governors, the wait has lasted centuries. When the authorities stopped the Yauco liberation, hope still lingered in our souls, since we had already devoured the taste of freedom and of money. We were determined, and our brave leaders ensured everyone that the Spanish Primer Minister, the very enlightened Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, would indeed be granting autonomy to the island.

We did achieve it, and as I take time to pause between another Christmas celebration, I felt the urge to write this to you and inform you that yes, my nephew, you are indeed wise for your desire to live on this island as a free man. Of course, we will not change much in terms of who we are, we still speak Spanish and my accounts on the continent will not vanish once Puerto Rico meets its destiny. Once we are free, we will all be rewarded with riches never seen on this island before!

You are like the island, my dear nephew, you are as bright as the sun that shines on Puerto Rico each and every God-given day. If the Lord is willing, I see a future that will propel you to be able to not only live on the island, but also bring you back to Spain on regular holidays to enjoy the family you will leave behind as well as the country that was your first home. Now, your home will be with me in Juncos, and eventually you will grow to be prosperous, powerful, and mighty.

With this I must leave you to attend to the guests who will soon be arriving. Remember, my nephew, Puerto Rico will be yours and yours will be Puerto Rico. I urge you to come to this island with a mind to challenge our colonial mentality, which has kept us shackled like the africano slaves of Loíza. You represent the island’s progress and what it will become: a country that the whole of Latin America will exhibit as a model testament to the free enterprise markets, political stability, and human dignity.

I wish that our Lord protect you on your journey and bring you to me prepared and at the ready to form our own empire of sugar and rum, not unlike the Crown I used to defend when I was young and thick-headed like you.

May the Lord bestow you blessings. Your loving uncle,

PS Please write to me with the final details of your itinerary so I can make sure to arrange one of my laborers to meet you at the Plaza de Armas near the end of day when you arrive. He will ensure that a private carriage will be made available for your long journey into the mountains of Juncos, where I will be waiting for you at our company with open arms of anticipation and love.

PPS Please share my affection to my brother and sister-in-law. I long for the day when I can return to Spain and visit them. I can assure you that the recent developments will allow me to achieve this goal successfully before we enter the next century. Can you fathom how close we are to a new age? The Pearl of the Caribbean, the Isle of Enchanment, will soon be real!

As he waited for the carriage to arrive in the plaza, Octavio Antonio could still recall the words his father shared with him upon listening to the details of his brother’s letter.

“Fortunes are for dreamers, Octavio,” his father said. “Rogelio has always claimed that such fortune will be found in Puerto Rico. He has been writing the same letters ever since he left us. That is why he had never returned. He cannot pay back his debts.”

Near the plaza’s fountain, another voice began to snuff out Octavio’s memories. He look up and saw a younger man, with skin as mixed as his own, signaling to him.

“Don Octavio? Don Octavio Benítez Aragón?” the voice said.

“Yes, that is I,” Octavio said to the man.

“Your uncle has sent me to find you. My name is Rafael, Rafael Castro of Juncos. I am one of your uncle’s supervisors. The carriage will arrive shortly. It will be a long ride, but you will be provided with all the comforts merited to a young man who has traveled so far to get here.”

Octavio Antonio smiled. Rafael appeared to be a few years older than him, and his mustache smelled of rum. The same rum that Octavio Antonio had battled a bout of seasickness and stale bread so that he could learn from his uncle and become a master merchant.

“I am ready, Rafael. I am ready to go to Juncos and see my uncle. I have never met him since he had left my family before I was born.”

“He will welcome you with an embrace only family can recognize, even those who have never had the pleasure of meeting before. Let us go.”

“Yes, Rafael. Let us go to find my life.”

Three months later, in the very same place where Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón had arrived on a steamer from Cádiz, a dozen American ships led by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson bombarded San Juan. The city’s residents were in a panic. A month later, the Americans blockaded of San Juan harbor. The month after that, General Nelson A. Miles landed in Guánica, on the southern part of the island, along with over 3,000 American soldiers. The resistance to Nelson’s landing was sparse and weak. By the end of August, Puerto Rico was a colony again, this time under a different master, and Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón was mourning the death of his uncle and the loss of Benítez & González Sugar & Rum Company, S.A., due to a bankruptcy ruling.

Each night, it was told many years later that the residents of Juncos would hear the wailings Octavio Antonio Benítez Aragón every night at around three in the morning, when the local tavern had closed and he had nowhere else to go.

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Raul Ramos y Sanchez

The Franky Benitez blog has been a lightning rod for Latinos in the social media sphere, myself included, to vent their indignation about the disparaging talk by the hosts of the BBC’s show Top Gear. At the same time, there is a LACK of talk I find equally troubling.

There is still very little talk in the national media about the trial in the shooting death of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores, killed in Arizona during a home invasion by three people with ties to border vigilante groups. Shawna Forde, a former member of the self-appointed border patrol calling themselves the Minutemen, is accused of leading two men into the home of Raul Flores in the early morning hours of May 30, 2009 and shooting Flores, his wife and daughter in a robbery attempt. Reports say Forde and the others believed Flores was a drug dealer whose money the killers would use to fund their border security operations.

CNNNPR and the Washington Post have carried stories about the trial of Shawna Forde. But the trial — and Brisenia’s brutal murder — have failed to match the coverage in over 300 newspapers that followed the death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, whose killer was believed to be an illegal border crosser – but never arrested. The media frenzy following Krentz’s death was used by Arizona legislators to justify the passage of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070.

As a Latino, I cannot help but feel a sense of bias by this disparity of media attention. And perhaps that’s what makes me especially sensitive to the disparaging words by the three louts on Top Gear.

Cartoonish jokes about national character may seem like frothy fun to the BBC. But the consequences of such talk take on a wholly different tenor in the U.S. today.

In 2010 alone, Hispanics were killed in hate-motivated attacks in Arizona, Maryland, New York and Washington. Each time these stories were published online, ethnic slurs like those on Top Gear have appeared in the comments section by those who apparently feel the victims deserved their fate. Even online reports on the case of Brisenia Flores — a nine-year-old shot in the face in cold blood — have drawn similar talk from those whose hatred seems to trump the bounds of decency.

Meanwhile, Top Gear host Jerermy Clarkson states in a public explanation for his comments: “I’m sorry … that you have no sense of humour.” To Mr. Clarkson, I reply:  It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humor, sir. It’s that you are a clueless, arrogant ass.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez is the award-winning author of the novels AMERICA LIBRE and HOUSE DIVIDED from Grand Central Publishing. For more information visit www.RaulRamos.com.

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This is the moment. The is the time for Latino influencers in social media to take their message mainstream. No more niche communities. No more small groups. 2011 is the year. The year we go mainstream.

How do we know? Let us show you the way.

Exhibit A: Create The Disruptive Event

This week’s TOP GEAR fiasco catapulted this blog to a different level. Want proof? Here are the search terms that brought people to our blog yesterday. We have 87 terms that brought people to this blog.

Here is image 1:

Here is image 2:

Notice the topics? Yup, the “disruptive event” that brings people to read a blog occurred this week for us. Thank you. Google.

Exhibit 2: People Will Come

When you write about the right “disruptive event,” people will come. Here are our current traffic stats:


Daily Page Views

Monthly Page Views


Yes, we are going mainstream.


So, are you ready to join us? Are you ready to start taking the power that you have as a Latino influential and turning that power into what this is all about: getting people to read your content and connect with you? Then do these simple things:


  • Celebrate Latinos in Social Media: #LATISM

And keep working it. Support your friends. Share their content. Write good content. Comment on other content. Share. Share. Share. With no expectations. That is how you go mainstream. With a lot of hard work and support from others, you will get there. ¡VivaViernes!


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Once in a while, it all clicks. And this week was a great one for JRV.com. We wanted to take this moment to thank everyone for all their support and loyalty. We know that the Internet is full of so many choices, and we are blessed that you take the time to read the content on this blog.

This post will try to summarize some of the good news (and views) we received this week. Yes, sometimes you just need to share it and celebrate.

Whole Foods Controversy

©Boston Herald (Nancy Lane)

We saw the story about a new Whole Foods opening in the same place where a Latino supermarket (and cultural institution) used to stand. We reacted. We reached out to Whole Foods via social media. They responded and got us a name to interview. We reached out to a Boston City Councillor and he commented. We now have access to comments and will be adding more stories about this. Here is the original story: Whole Foods vs Hi-Lo.

Guest Post on @MarketingProfs

It is one of the world’s top social media marketing sites. We love MarketingProfs and love what @marketingprofs does on Twitter and beyond. This week, we appeared on their blog as a guest blogger and wrote the following post: How Niche Communities Build Brand Awareness. We were thrilled to be featured, especially since we got a chance to talk about #LatinoLit.

Short Story Makes Long List

This week, one of the stories from FRANKY BENÍTEZ, made the long list as part of the anthology, 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND. The story, “Power’s Sunday Slam,” is being considered for the publication, which will benefit the victims of the Australia floods. Out of 300 submissions, “Power’s Sunday Slam” made the first cut.

The New #Latism Web Page

We celebrated the new #Latism (Latinos in Social Media) web page as well. This is such a great organization, the best community in social media. #LATISM has done great things, and it will continue to do even greater things.

And finally, we think this blog is heading in the right direction and posting content that our readers want to see. We just checked our recent blog and fan page rankings (in the end, being online is all about reach) and we are happy to report the following:

  • The Facebook Fan Page of Fernando Varela is now over 18,500 fans as of January 30, 2011. We think we will get to 20,000 by the end of March, if not sooner.
  • The Sónico Fan Page of Fernando Varela is over 55,000 fans. We project that this will reach 100,000 by the end of 2011.
  • The current Alexa rating for juliorvarela.com puts us in some select company. We are amazed at how a personal, part-time blog is gaining new views each day. We are growing by 100% every month we are online.
  • The little novel that could, @fbnovel, which just started tweeting this January 3, is expected to hit 500 followers by January 31. At that rate, when the novel is published in September, the account will have 4,000 followers with the right level of growth and engagement.
  • We are currently at close to 37,000 views on this blog site and expect to be at 40,000 by the middle to February.

Yes, sometimes you need to celebrate. And we are doing just that this week. Hit it, Mr. Astaire.

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