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Posts Tagged ‘Franky Benitez’


This morning, as I was researching stories for this week, I noticed something extremely cool: 100,000. Yes, today, the little blog that could surpassed an amazing little milestone: 100,000 unique visits here.

So, in the spirit of Sally Field’s Oscar speech, I would like to thank the following people who helped make this blog a destination point on the Internet, ever since it was launched in early 2009:

  1. Latinos in Social Media (LATISM): You were there from the beginning, and I am eternally grateful. Can’t wait to see everyone in Chicago this November!
  2. The Original Twitter Posse: you made me laugh, you challenged me, you picked me up when I was down, and you have made my online and offline experience a joy. Much love to you all!
  3. Jeremy Clarkson: thank you for being a anti-Mexican boor.
  4. Republican and Pro-Statehooder Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño: your vendepatria ways have allowed this blog to be one of the top ones when it comes to Puerto Rican politics.
  5. CNN Latino in America: without your uneven and poor show two years ago, there would be no Latino Success Stories blog.
  6. Fernando Varela: my brother is a talent and I was honored to co-translate a Spanish version of Coldplay’s YELLOW for him.
  7. All the trolls who want me to move back to Mexico. Memo to you: I am an American citizen. Bite me.
  8. The Rebeldes!!!!: my new group of ruffians, The Latino Rebels, are perhaps some of the most like-minded people I have ever met.
  9. The Two Raúls: Raúl Ramos y Sánchez and Raúl Colón. There are so many others who have helped this blog (see LATISM), but the two Raúls have been there from Day 1. Thank you for your unwavering support.
  10. And YOU: all the subscribers who take a moment from their busy lives to read this blog. Without you, this blog would never have achieved what is has done so far.
The future is even brighter in 2011: new books, new companies, new ventures, new topics, and two elections in 2012, one in the United States and Puerto Rico. Should be freaking fun.

GRACIAS MIL. A THOUSAND THANKS.

Hit it, Sally!

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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.

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

All rights reserved by ARCHIVO HISTORICO Y FOTOGRAFICO DE PUERTO RICO

 

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,
Rogelio

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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Yes, I have posted a new chapter for FRANKY BENÍTEZ, and I had mentioned that a critical plot detail would be revealed that would explain a major reason for Franky’s current state of sorrow. This chapter, although not autobiographical at all (this is a fictional piece inspired by several experiences in my life and others lives), was deeply personal and painful at times to write. I am exploring some very troubling scenarios that I would never wish for as a dad.

Instead of having the chapter on display as a blog, I have decided to make it a PDF that you can download. Please enjoy the next chapter and let me know what you think either here on this blog, on Twitter or on Facebook.

All the best,

Julio

DOWNLOAD THE NEW CHAPTER

CLICK ON FRANKY'S SNEAKERS

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Another installment of Franky Benítez. For a full list of chapters, click here: Table of Contents

Franky Benítez fell in love for the only time in his life on a Friday night in the South End during the first act of a local lesbian farce. The playwrights were a socialist couple from Davis Square who had staged a comedy about a five-women band in London struggling with finances, record deals, and relationships. The reviews in the Globe had called Five Punks “unique, stylish, and edgy.” Franky convinced his roommate Martin to take the T with him from Central and head into town. Martin had spent most of the day smoking pot and reading Tolstoy, but when Franky bribed him with a roast beef sandwich from Buzzy’s before the show, he finally got showered, shaved and changed into a fresh pair of clothes.

“Let’s go see some lesbian punks,” Franky said, as they left their apartment.

The ride on the Red Line was bumpy and cramped, full of Harvard, Tufts, and MIT sweatshirts, and young people who were still unsure about whether an X would be the best letter to describe their generation. Franky and Martin, two New Yorkers now living in Cambridge, always felt that when compared to the New York City subway, the T was a line of toy trains. Unlike a 4 or an A or a D rumbling though Manhattan’s underground, Boston’s Red Line was Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. It crawled past Kendall Square, over the Salt and Pepper Bridge and into Charles Street. By then, Franky and Martin would be so impatient with the train’s pace, they would get off at Charles, grab two roast beef and Russian dressing sandwiches at Buzzy’s and walk through Beacon Hill, into the heart of the Back Bay and then finish at the South End. To the roommates, a 15-minute walk in Boston would take you across three or four neighborhoods, unlike Manhattan, where walking from 1st to 5th was an army march. Once Martin was so high during one of their walks that he told Franky that Boston was too tiny and he felt like Gulliver in Lilliput, each giant step eating up a mile of terrain.

The theatre was a black box space on the corner of Berkeley and Tremont, about three blocks from the publishing company where Franky worked. The South End was a neighborhood in transition, but it was the one place where Boston felt like Manhattan. In the early 19th century, this part of Boston didn’t even exist, as it was just tidal marsh, but as the city grew and fill was transported from the city’s outer suburbs to form the South End and eventually the Back Bay, the neighborhood became the final stop of the Boston and Providence Railroad line. All the bowfront buildings that gave the South End its charm had always reminded Franky of Manhattan’s brownstones.  The South End, once a white Protestant district after the Civil War, began to attract Irish Catholic immigrants as well as blacks from nearby Roxbury, and Boston’s white middle class fled the neighborhood, adding to the city’s racist past.  Soon, tenements ruled the neighborhood, a place for new arrivals to share rooms together and by the 1940s gay men began to live there. Jazz took over parts of the neighborhood in the 1950s, and Franky recalled the time Martin and he went to the original Wally’s Paradise to catch Arturo Sandoval. After the city’s jazz age, the district became poorer for the next twenty years and it was common to see empty bowfronts decaying. A few Puerto Ricans led a cultural revival at Villa Victoria in the late 1960s (Franky had always loved walking down Aguadilla Street in the winter and murals of Albizu Campos against a snowy backdrop), but it wasn’t until the early 80s when the gay community restored the South End into a neighborhood of hipness. Theater mixed with nouveau cuisine and people stayed out later into the night. This mini-Manhattan was all Boston had for Franky and Martin, and they found themselves spending more time there than in another place in Boston or Cambridge.

They sat in the back row of the black box, behind a group of elderly ladies from Newton who had read the Globe review and had ventured out into Boston for a monthly adventure. While the ladies chattered and read their programs, slowly enunciating the word “les-bi-an” to show off their new way of thinking, a group of younger and stylish men to the left of Franky were talking about a converted pub that had just started serving tapas from Barcelona. Franky made a mental note. Tapas in Boston? The city was changing. Finally.

The play began inside a cold, dreary flat in London’s West End as the punk rock lesbians were collaborating on a song inspired by their childhood love for Duran Duran. The dialogue was witty and English, and when Franky’s eyes focused on the character of Fiona, the sassy bass player from Belfast, his stomach swirled and somersaulted. Even though her wardrobe was styled after George Michael during his early Wham! years, her eyes transfixed Franky and made him ignore the other four cast members. Her eyes were green and deep, like an emerald gemstone reflecting into sunshine. Her accent was brass and northern, the wit in her speech displayed a raw energy that gave her presence. She commanded every action in the play, but made sure her fellow actors had their moments as well. And her body. Her body wasn’t thin and flat and Irish. Her body was full and Latin, with dark black hair that fell to her shoulders and framed her rosy cheeks. She was, as Franky found out later on their first date, dark Irish, having received the blood of the Spanish Armada when the English navy sank certain ships and sailors rowed their way to Ireland.

“Martin, that’s the one,” Franky whispered to his roommate.

“The one? The one what?” Martin asked. The pot had yet to leave his system completely and there were times when he would wander and his brain would shut down. This was one of those times, which were becoming more frequent. How the hell did he ever get into Harvard, Franky thought. He already knew the answer: Daddy’s Jewish money from the East Side.

“That girl right there, Fiona, she’s the one,” Franky said. “I’m in love, Martin.”

Martin smiled at his friend. “That’s cool.”

During intermission, Franky grabbed a program and read the bio of Siobhán McDonald (Fiona):

Siobhán McDonald is thrilled to be playing the role of Fiona.  A native of Dublin, she moved to the Boston area with her family when she was six. She quickly shed her inherited Irish melancholy and has been performing in plays since high school. Siobhán earned her way into Emerson College, where she played the lead roles in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? and A Tribute to John Patrick Shanley. She is a recent graduate of the New Theater Conservatory, and was recently cast in the role of Chicklet in Psycho Beach Party, to be staged later in June at the Central Square Center for the Arts. She would like to thank her father and mother for supporting her dreams after all the years.

“Martin, I’ll be right back.” Franky said, as he jogged through the black box lobby and outside to Tremont Street. He searched around to see if the homeless flower peddler who was always walking around with roses in his hand was still selling flowers.  Franky picked him out right in front of Hamersley’s trying to convince a middle-aged man to buy a rose for his lady. Franky ran over to the peddler, grabbed a twenty from his wallet and took the last of the roses. He returned to the black box just as the second act was beginning, short of breath but relieved that he had accomplished his mission.

“We’re waiting for her,” Franky told Martin. “You bet your ass we’re waiting for her.”

The actors came back on stage and began jamming to a Pistols-like song specifically written for the play called, “Love Can Hurt, So Give It To Me.” While the backbeat bounced off the walls of the black box, Franky Benítez began to imagine a life with Siobhán McDonald, the girl from Dublin who shed herself from her family’s Irish melancholy. Franky clutched the roses close to his heart. Love can hurt, as he already knew, but sometimes the hurt can be pure joy. And for the first time in his life, Franky Benítez felt a love that had nothing do to with his past. This time, this love was his, one he could mold and nurture. And there was no way he was going to let this love leave him. This love had nothing to do with his parents. For once, Franky would love and this would stay with him forever, faithful and true.

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The last month, when I haven’t been working (I go back to the office on January 4) I have gotten some very nice responses to my plans to publish (or self-publish) a novel. The working title is called Franky Benítez, and my 15-second elevator pitch (right now) is: A story of love, pain, and hope, from San Juan to Boston.

A photo model I used for the characters of Franky and Linda.

To kick off 2011, I have decided to create a to-do list of what I would like to accomplish. Let’s see where I stand next December 31:

  • Finish and edit the final manuscript. I would think I couldn’t do that much until I have the whole story completed. Right now, I am posting unedited first drafts and sharing them online for reaction. I plan to write about 5,000 words a week, which would get me to about 100,000 words in about 10 weeks. Goal is to complete the first draft by March. Then, I go looking for an editor.
  • Share the work-in-progress through social media. I have a blog (this one), I have a Facebook page which shares my writing and also shares the Facebook world of LatinoLit. I just opened a Twitter profile, a Flickr site with old photos that helped me to develop some of the characters and a YouTube site (we made a list of favorite videos that inspired the characters in the story; more videos to come). My goal is to share the back story of how the novel was developed and also ask readers questions as we go. So far, the reaction has been incredibly supportive.

  • Engage my network, and keep it balanced. There is a lot of upfront work that I needed to do during my vacation. The goal now is to settle into a pattern that will keep me focused and discipline on the task at hand, but also ensure that I don’t forget about other life’s responsibilities, unless of course, I win the lottery and can focus on this project 100%.
  • Don’t turn down opportunities to discuss the project. I welcome any blogger who wants to discuss this project with me. More than happy to, and I would be more than happy to blog about you if it relates to the literary world or exhibits a good example of social media.
  • Explore editing, publishing and/or self-publishing options. Granted, there is a lot of work to do in this category. I will definitely need an editor who can help me polish the work. I am still on the fence about submitting a final manuscript to an agent or just going ahead and self-publishing. Let’s keep that one open. Yeah, as well as a cover and all the other fun stuff.

So, the list is done. Now it’s time to complete it.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive so far. It should be a fun journey.

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