Monday, December 27, 2010


Ok, tried out Delicious and it's pretty cool. What happens now that it's for sale? Is is now passe? I do need to manage my favorites, la memoria se va...

Sarita's Favoritas 2010

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina by M. Padilla - a fun chica lit story that takes place in Southern Califas where several amigas struggle with love, work and telenovela stars.

Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina López – from the author of Real Women have Curves comes this book about a Chicana in Paris reconnecting with her passion and learning to cook truit farcie aux morilles

Beautiful Maria of my Soul by Oscar Hijuelos – is the Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love from the point of view of the heroine. Sink into the passion and romance of pre-Castro Cuba and experience the thrilling times of 20th century revolutionary upheaval

Haunted Honeymoon by Marta Acosta – the latest installment in the Casa Dracula series, a humorous alternative to the melodramatic Twilight series that features a snarky Latina heroine, think Bridget Jones with Micheladas instead of Bloody Mary’s.

The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina García – a deftly woven novel about people from vastly different cultures and stories who converge on the Miraflor Hotel in Central America with explosive consequences, this book is a real treat!

Queen of the South by Arturo Pérez Reverte – an exciting and suspenseful novel about a woman who escapes with her life when narcotraficantes murder her lover to ultimately triumph as a reigning queen of the trade. Will be made into a telenovela this spring starring Kate Del Castillo.

The Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago – this master storyteller died last year; this historical novel takes readers from the Lisbon of 1551 to Vienna to deliver Archduke Maximilian’s wedding present - an elephant.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea – a formidable young woman, Nayeli, journeys north on the trail of her father to find her own ‘Magnificent Seven’ to bring back to her small town in Mexico; a town that has been almost completely abandoned by men and is in danger of being taken over by criminals.

Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico by Steven Torres – police procedurals that take place in Angustias PR featuring police chief Luis Gonzalo; this one has him up against potential vigilante justice

Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi – Volpi is not easy to read because of his stylistic innovations and layered story-telling, but the effort is well worth the trouble. This novel brings you into the story of three women from different parts of the world whose lives are intertwined through globally significant events.

Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda – chica lit with a tejana twist about blogger Sandy Saavedra and her life and loves in Austin

Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa – the great Nobel Laureate brings his story-telling talents to recreate the life and times of Dominican despot Trujillo

Thursday, June 3, 2010

5th grade promotion at Peary Elementary

I was invited to be the main speaker at Peary's 5th grade promotion ceremony. The principal, Donna Ferrell, wanted words said in Spanish and English. I was not sure what to expect and thought well, I'll just say something in Spanish and the other speakers can do the English. Pues no, I was it. I did present a short speech, rogando paciencia con mi torpeza - in both languages, ha! Congratulating los presentes, emphasizing the hard times ahead and animando a LEER, leer mucho y a los grandes, pues que los vean leer. Oh! I also reminded them that we are community, that they are not alone, que hay que jalar juntos, etc.

Una vez ahí, I saw why Ms. Ferrell wanted a Spanish speaker, la gran mayoría de niños - mexicanos! Viva! The kids chingandole in the safety patrol in the snow and the slush! Latinos! Mexicanos inmigrados! I had to feel sorry for the teacher reading the names and the Masons giving out their prizes - they had a hard time pronouncing Ángeles... and Noe... but I do give them credit for making the effort. My own kids are cursed with a double 'l' in their last name; in okie, Bonilla sounds like Vanilla which they are definitely not - more café con leche.

Pero a la hora de la hora, it was the kids' day. They didn't care! They shone in all their finery - girls wobbling on high heels, boys' hair firmly gelled into place. Shiny satin, floor length dresses, white suits, even a fedora - mucha elegancia para el gimnasio. I hope they are ready para lo que vengan y se ve que los teachers at Peary did their best and wish them the best... con mucho cariño

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Public libraries in Mexico, an impression

The impression I have, from the conference and from visiting a few of these libraries is that there is a lot of work to do!

The system for adquisition is centralized; all handled from Mexico City through Conaculta. So, the people in Ciudad Juárez on the U.S./Mexico border get the same materials as the people in Oaxaca or those in Mérida, Yucatán...

The process for getting a library card seems difficult to me although the Mexican librarians don't find it so. You have to take 2 fotos and a fiador! Like, a co-signer! I forget what else...

The biggest problem would be that the people staffing the libraries depend on whoever is running city hall at the time. So when the mayor or presidente municipal goes, everyone goes y a empezar de nuevo! How hard would it be to implement a civil service??!!

Oh! And, of course, technology! They are still using card catalogs on paper instead of online. Those libraries that were lucky enough to have Gates computers were way ahead of the game

en Zacatecas

Pues, llegó el amante chido, so ya no hubo tiempo para estar sentado frente a la pantalla, but no más por no dejar -

Zacatecas treated us well! They have a tradition called 'callejoneadas' and the librarians met as a group the Wednesday night before my presentation to partake. We met in the Alameda at 8 p.m. and were given a small jarrito on a ribbon to hang around our necks. 2 or 3 young ladies had jugs of mezcal que convidaron whenever the mood struck. Ouch! I thought - no one is showing up for my ponencia in the a.m., todos van a estar crudos! We followed the brass band around town for a while and ended up at a sound and light show that used an old Augustine convent for backdrop, very cool.

The ponencia went well, started out with about 20 in attendance and ended with a full house. There were 3 of us on the panel - a woman from Colima presented about a project she implemented at her university - biblioburro. Basically, they did a reading promo campaign centered on the school mascot - a donkey. Tristemente, when the donkey died - from an African bee sting! - the project died with him.

Oralia Garza de Cortés presented about Día de los niños/día de los libros. She covered the trajectory of services to Latino children over the last half century in the U.S., especially this project.

Mine went well, some interesting discussion about respecting people's reading preferences and encouraging readers to challenge themselves. The cool thing was that this librarian guy from San Diego came who is very active in international exchanges and projects between Mexico and U.S. He introduced me to the director at the Benjamin Franklin library in Mexico City! So, conectados! A ver qué pasa...

Monday, May 3, 2010

1st day of conference

¡Clásico! A meeting of Mexican librarians and chaos at the registration table. The one thing that should flow, uf... Well, got registered and my blue wrist band, qué tal? We have to wear this the whole time; le comenté - así puedo tomar bebidas alcohólicas también, verdad?

The opening session was typical, thank everybody and their mamá; asking for donations to remodel their office. For 2,000 pesos, you get a faux brick with your name on it displayed for at least 10 years. Muy formal, awful sound system, not enough room between the rows, qué fijada!

The Palacio de convenciones is way out on the edge of town. Had to take a long walk and then a short bus ride and another long walk but found it sin problemas. Buen ejercicio que tanta falta me hace.

Have met some interesting people already, most here work at academic libraries or are students. They are exhibits, too. I was chatting with a woman who is pushing some scientific database. Turns out she's from New York; we figured out we both speak English, ha! She had a Portuguese accent, so ahí la confusión mía. Oh! A nice contact, the librarian from Cancún's Universidad Caribe, qué invite... digo...

The first panel I attended had some very interesting presentations. Here are the datos - Mexican libraries after the revolution were modelled on U.S. libraries since many of the revolutionary leaders were norteños - Alvaro Obregón, etc. "fundar una biblioteca en un pueblo tiene tanta significación como levantar una iglesia... un lugar para descansar y recogerse" My feelings on hearing/reading this - ¿y ahora? Public libraries in Mexico are in a sad state.

The next presenter has done research on Zacatecan migrants and information services. She has put together a web page that looks really good and helpful. I wasn't very convinced about the representative sample she used - 70% legal... ok... all with some education, etc. I met her and told her that I'm on the other end and would love to link to her site. It's not live yet, but will keep in touch.

Finally, a talk about measuring success in libraries. This seemed to provoke a lot of questions. Again, mainly talking about academic libraries. My feeling - hello! You have to constantly measure your relevance to your target population. Anygüey, as Chávez-Silverman says... The guy quoted Marx - el problema es el método - and Ranganathan - las bibliotecas son para usarse - so he's got to be ok.

Also, what god-awful Powerpoints!!! I know how to read, people!! But, bought a T-shirt from cuerito de la UNAM...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

on the road to Zacatecas

Somebody suggesting blogging about my trip to Zacatecas to present at the Mexican Library Association conference, hmm! What a concept! Qué ocurrencia! A ver...

I decided to try Transportes Zavala to get me here; in February took the Grey dog and was not impressed. Needless to say, está pobre la patria - ya no hay $$ for air fare. Transportes Zavala picked me up in the Plaza Santa Cecilia parking lot. We didn't leave exactly at 11 a.m., but pretty close after loading everyone's stuff below... and it barely fit! I thought I saw a 19" flat screen tv...

It was a pretty comfortable bus, we picked up more people in OKC and again in Dallas. After that, it was straight for the border. I gained a large seat mate. An 80 year old slow moving woman, but she was game for all that! We hit the border in the middle of the night; the bus driver's helper asked everyone to pitch in $10 as a small incentive for the agents to overlook making us take everything off the bus to go through customs. Everyone ponied up, even me, who only took 2 little bags {travel light!}. Pues, we got there and the fiscal - a hard woman, according to the helper, was not taking any bribes. Too bad! Everybody and all their stuff off the bus. Hooray for the woman! The helper gave everybody their 10 bucks back... and we were held up for an hour or more, but justice worked - the people trying to get all that stuff across had to pay some hefty taxes on it, jiji!

By the time we got to our destination, we were all pals. My seat mate was trying to hook me up with one of the single men across the aisle, jajaja! No, thanx, I told her - been there, done that! One of the men on the bus did come up and say he thought he knew me. Turns out his kids go to Disney and they use the library.

Checked in to pretty nice hotel, thanx to my friend Antonio Gaytan - Elaine's ex who is from near Zacatecas. His hook-up got me a decent price for a Western Inn placed located right in the Centro Historico with this free Internet in the lobby, yay!

They are having some kind of BMX biking event in the main plaza. They have set up ramps for the kids to bike up and down, doing fancy moves uptop- spins, no-hands, etc. It seems like I see a lot of my customers here -their faces- Noe, Rey, German, Jose Luis. All guys participating, except one stubborn little girl with braids on a tricycle who insists on getting in harms way, right in the middle of the action - you go, girl! She is the only one wearing a helmet, jajaja!