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Posts Tagged ‘#LatinoLit’


AMERIZONA
by Julio Ricardo Varela

in Amerizona
cars halt
captains arrest
guns blare
people scream
latinos scare

in Amerizona
haters live
liberty leaves
lovers hide
slurs spew
latino pride

in Amerizona
blood flows
fathers shout
mothers cry
children weep
americans die

to Amerizona
you threat
you condemn
you are not me
you lack love
you are not free

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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

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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Jeremy never thought a Mercedes DTM C-Class would cause aches in his groin. While he raced the car around the streets of London for his show’s O2 event, the engine’s vibrations shook his muscles so violently that three Jamaican assistants had to squeeze him out of the car.

“For fuck’s sake, be careful!” Jeremy shouted. “Do you know who I am?”

His limousine drove him back to his terrace house on Courtnell Street. Bloody hell, he thought, it feels like a elephant stepped on my chopper. Jeremy grabbed a bottle of scotch from the limousine’s wet bar and poured himself a glass, clean and neat. He took his Android from this jacket pocket and dialed his help.

“Get the steam ready. I will be home in 15 minutes. It better be as steamy as Nigeria when I get there.”

The London Friday traffic was unusually light for February. His team had just wrapped up Season 8 for the BBC and was beginning to test concepts for Season 9. When he was asked to host the show in 2002, Jeremy and the producers were desperate. The show’s ratings were miserable so they had quickly devised a plan to revive it: bring in two younger hosts and start poking fun of anything and anyone. So they did. Everyone was fair game, from stinky Italians, snobby Frenchman, boorish Germans and greedy, fat Americans. All of sudden, Jeremy was loved again. He knew early in the show’s second season that he was on to something when he couldn’t even watch the FA Cup Final at Millenium Stadium without being approached for an autograph every minute. Bugger off, he would say, can’t you see I would like to watch the bloody match? It’s fucking Chelsea and Arsenal.

350 million viewers and millions of pounds later, Jeremy and his lads were the new emperors of the BBC. The praise came from all over the world. Geeks from Mumbai had created apps that made him 30% for each download. A group of elderly Australians sent him homemade pies via overnight parcel, even though he would just have his assistant take the packages and crush them in the rubbish. And the communists, the crazy left Labour socialists who would campaign against him through their liberal snobbish publications? Jeremy would always snicker. They might have their shitty rags. He was a bloody columnist for The Sun.

“Mr. Clarkson, your steam bath is ready,” said Mrs. Lee, Jeremy’s house maid and general lady of all trades. She had already opened the doors of the limousine while Jeremy slid his body out of the back seat, grimacing in pain.

“Fuck, my bloody chopper! Just get me to the steam!”

Jeremy limped his way to his house, a four-bedroom home where he live for the few months he was in London and wasn’t traveling all over the world. This year, the producers suggested that he and the lads do shows in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. As long as they get me a chinky whore for my troubles, Jeremy thought, I would travel to Mars on a bloody scooter.

With Mrs. Lee following behind him, Jeremy walked through the open door of his home and started to go up the stairs. Just then, his Android’s Rolling Stones Limited Exclusive Ring Tone sounded. Today’s tone was”Sympathy for the Devil.” Jeremy glanced at the caller ID. Fuck, it’s Smith. Smith never calls. What in hell does he want? Jeremy took a breath before clicking in.

“Johnny lad, how goes it?”

“Jerry, we are getting 200 complaints a minute right now. Most of them are still coming in from Mexico, but now we get the Yanks chiming in. It’s getting bad.”

“It’s great publicity, John. I mean, I think we can get 400 million viewers this year all because of those two minutes. Ha! And you said we couldn’t get any bigger before we fucking take over China next year.”

“The show’s not running in America, Jerry. I don’t need some looney greasers picketing on CNN and FOX. That is all we bloody need.”

“Who the fuck cares?”

“You need to write an apology, Jerry. Richard has already written his. And Coogan’s piece shitting all over you three is on the front page of The Guardian tonight.”

“Coogan is a wanker.”

“He’s also popular here, Jerry. This is no longer about some Mexicans, this thing is not going away. Write the apology. Publish it in your column this Sunday.”

“Fine, I will apologise.” Jeremy snickered.

“Fuck, Jerry, this is serious. Be sincere this time. They are all over you online. Every minute the great Jeremy Clarkson is called every slur in the Spanisn language. And I think they are starting to appear in Portuguese. Jerry, do you know how many Mexicans watch the show? 10 million. 10 million. And I am not even counting streaming in Latin America. Just apologise. And next time just mock the French. No one likes the fucking French.”

“Sure, John, I will offer my most sincerest apologies, my liege.”

“Do it.”

“Or what?”

“You know what the contract says.”

“How bloody dare you, John. Is that a threat? Who in hell saved the fucking BBC?”

“Write the apology, Superman. We’ll lunch on Sunday. Cheers.”

Jeremy headed back down the stairs, past his marble floors and chef’s kitchen, the countless TV awards from all over globe, his picture at last year’s World Cup with Beckham, Gerrard, and Rooney. He arrived at his study and powered up his laptop. An apology, he thought, they will get their apology.

Why doesn’t Mexico have an Olympic team? It’s because everyone there who can run, jump or swim is already across the border.

This piece is of course fictional in nature. And yes, I can take a joke, but you can decide for yourself by viewing the video below.


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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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Social media is cool. It gets really cool when your networks interact with each other. This Saturday award-winning author of AMERICA LIBRE and HOUSE DVIDED, Raul Ramos y Sanchez, was on an Orlando talk show discussing his novels. And guess what? My dad, Julio Varela, who lives in Orlando, got a chance to talk with Raul. It was a fun conversation. Here’s to social media!

Here is the link to the talk show:

Raul Ramos y Sanchez on the Big 810

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While covering the social media saga of author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, several of our readers had emailed us to see if we could find more information about famed Hollywood attorney Marty Singer, who was hired by Encanto Productions’ Ann Lopez to ensure that Valdes-Rodriguez cease from posting her opinions and thoughts on social media about the TV adaptation of her book, THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB.

According to its website, Singer’s firm, Lavely & Singer, is “one of the world’s premier talent-side entertainment litigation firms.” The profile on its website continues with this quote:

First, we represent clients against the tabloids and other media and internet outlets in disputes which arise prior to, as well as after, the publication of articles which defame the clients or invade their privacy. We also police the manner in which the names and likenesses of our clients are commercially exploited throughout the world. Second, we represent clients in the resolution and litigation of a broad range of entertainment industry disputes including copyright and other intellectual property disputes, contract breaches, and business torts.

It is clear that Brooklyn native Singer, nicknamed “The Mad Dog,” knows his stuff and understands that in the entertainment business, you got to be tough. His actions in representing Ann Lopez resulted in a rather detailed retraction and correction by Valdes-Rodriguez regarding her social media fight with Lopez. Occasionally, Valdes-Rodriguez has tweeted and posted some updates about her situation, but it is no longer as detailed or frequent, when compared to the period between December 23, 2010 until January 6, 2011.

Singer’s web page also includes a section called RAGING BULLS, where the following excerpts and quotes a 2000 Los Angeles Magazine article are included:

  • “What these lawyers possess is the proven ability to go all the way, to a jury trial if necessary, and play by whatever rules are laid down to save their client’s freedom or fortune in a civil or criminal matter. On the other hand, when one of them makes a phone call or sends a demand letter, arguments are often settled quickly … and quietly.”
  • “I’ll make one call to a publicist to check out a tip,” growls New York Post Page Six editor Richard Johnson, “and pretty soon I get a hand-delivered letter from Singer threatening all sorts of disasters and financial damages.”
  • “Marty is a heavy hitter, but he’s reasonable,” claims [National Enquirer Editor Steve] Coz in a careful tone. “He’s one of the few that ‘gets it’–his clients need the press every bit as much as the press needs his clients.”

As with any lawyer, Singer has his web critics, and some of his letters have been publicly shared online. Here are some of those links.

Yes, Singer is the real deal when it comes to a lawyer who will fight for a client. Which leads us to this question: What about the countless of social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook who shared their unfiltered opinions about Valdes-Rodriguez and Lopez? We saw tweets that used profanity to insult Lopez, Encanto and NBC from social media accounts who expressed their anger and passion about the story. Will Singer go after them as well? And if so, what recourse does he have to tell other social media accounts to stop their expression of opinion and free speech? We are in interesting times, when news and opinion flows as quick as a WIFI connection. Will printed hard copy legal letters still have its effect?

As you know, we declared Valdes-Rodriguez a “social media winner,” which is quite different from saying that she won her battle with Lopez. Valdes-Rodriguez was savvy and understood that if her message got out in social media, it would take a life of its own. We also believe that Lopez could have used social media to answer the allegations instead of doing business the old-fashioned Hollywood way. Sure, Singer has very likely won the legal war, but the little mini-battles that happened in the social media space were all won by Valdes-Rodriguez.

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