Friday, September 16, 2005

La Raza Cosmica Rap

for Tio Americo

we said we're a new race
because we looked
in the mirror and
saw a new face
not the small round
brown one
but the mestizo
who took the ancestors place

we ask
what's in a glass
that we can't identify with
instead of looking aghast
we're aglow
because we know
we survived

in our newly found home
we're back in Aztlan
the place of the North
where we originally came from
Indios brown and proud
we come in all shapes and sizes
for years now we've been rising

though we know all
our names
from los chingados
used to keep us down and
everything in between to
Chicano the name
we claimed as our own

cafe con leche
y leche con cafe
y bronze

we're still here
fulfilling our destiny
proud of our roots
a complex identity
we claim 100 percent and
represent La Raza Cosmica
a cosmic race 
proud people 
in your face

© Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2002

image from Salvador R. Torres' painting "Viva La Raza"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

divinatory haiku

winter in Amerika
closed hearts cold and cruel
ancients predicted endings

fall whitened ash butterflies
fluttering souls fly
towards the light of loved ones

raining down terrorism
innocence is lost
call for peace at any cost

wool scarves
wrapping tight
out cold

ice streams
tears frozen

Fall leaves
on fire

ocean waves

Spring perfume
in mind

(c) Havana, 01 Sept. 2001

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Them Bones

bones stolen and stacked
studied by those superior scientists

slopes in the skulls sold them
on the theory that they were right

to rip the bodies out of graves
ground sacred only to those
considered lower than themselves

winds of time tried but failed to right the
wrongs of man's inhumanity to man

(c) 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mexican Invasion? The Only Illegal Aliens Are US!

Just a few days ago, a Mexican army convoy of 45 vehicles accompanied by 200 soldiers and around 270 tons of aid - which includes two mobile kitchens that can feed up to 7,000 people a day, water treatment equipment, blankets, food and water, crossed the US - Mexican border at Laredo Texas on their way to bring aid to Hurricane Katrina survivors who have found shelter in that great state.

It made few people uneasy though, to see Mexican troops crossing the border - even if this is a peace mission. The BBC NEWS World Edition reported that "US troops and Texas officials will accompany the Mexican convoy to provide security." That got me thinking, security, for whom and why? Then, later, after I started reading other accounts and opinions on this generous gesture by the Mexican people I figured it out - what the worry must be about - Mexican government troops have not set foot on "US" soil for 159 years, when they advanced north of the Rio Grande into Texas, which at the time was still Mexican territory and set off the US - Mexican War.

Other people, see Prison Planet, got really upset by the whole convoy affair and went as far as categorizing the Mexican presence as, "Armed Mexican Troops Invade US" with a caption stating, "Under cover of aid, combat ready soldiers roll into Texas, Congressman Ron Paul says Mexican troops in US period is "illegal, unconstitutional" and if that weren't enough the authors asked people to, "call the state police to interdict and determine if these forces are indeed armed and if their guns have ammunition or if their weapons are ceremonial (which is doubtful)". Wow! (This, my favorite word lately...)

As another aside, in the same BBC article about the Mexican convoy, Condoleezza Rice was quoted as saying, "... no offer that will ease victims' suffering will be refused." Though today, I read that in yesterday's White House press briefing by Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, when asked the question, "Cuba offered help to the United States. Are you considering taking any of this help? They offered medicines and doctors? What's the situation with that?" among other things McClellan stated, "... When it comes to Cuba, we have one message for Fidel Castro. He needs to offer the people of Cuba their freedom."

I thought that's typical, but definitely not in keeping with what Rice said or what should happen. Aid is aid. If the people of Cuba want to change their political system or leaders they will do it on their own, because they want to, like when they took Fulgencio Batista out of power in 1959. Again, if we stopped being the police force of the whole world and took care of our own, the USA would be a different place to live altogether and the horrible scenarios of the past week would not have had to unfold as they did, bottom line, we are too busy trying to control the whole world. Hands off Cuba! It's a sovereign nation with intelligent people who can make up their own minds if they are free or not!

So back to the supposed Mexican Invasion, and what the fear about seeing Mexican troops rolling into Texas might be about... In 1848 at the conclusion of the US - Mexican War both countries signed the Treaty Of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty stated that Mexico would give up almost half of its territory, which included most of Aztlan - California, Arizona, Nuevo (New) Mexico, Texas and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. In exchange, the US paid 15 million dollars in war-related damages. (There's that 15 million dollar figure again - see my entry on the Louisiana Purchase.)

The other contents of the treaty outlined where the border would be placed between the two nations - at the Rio Grande, but it's most important provisions provided for the protection and civil rights of Mexican nationals, who chose to stay living on what would now become US soil, many of whom elected to become American citizens. Of course, if we've learned the real history of our great nation we know the track record it has in honoring treaties - just remember what it did with the many treaties signed with Native American Nations.

Keeping true to form, when the US Senate ratified the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo it watered down Article 9 - which dealt with citizens rights and totally eliminated Article 10, the one that guaranteed the protection of Mexican land grants. In Texas, Mexicans were not allowed to vote, and California passed discriminatory laws, some known as the "Greaser Laws".

This government-sanctioned anti-Mexican sentiment made ripe the conditions for serious civil rights violations against the people: violence, torture, rape, murder and yes, the good old land grab. By the end of the 19th century most Mexican-Americans living in the areas supposedly protected by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had lost their lands either by force or by fraud...and so it goes.

It's no wonder some gringos got a little nervous seeing Mexican troops coming across the border - armed or not - after all, it's not like Americans are used to having any other nation come into police what their government is doing with its citizens or if they are truly free. So, there you go, it just looked to them like it might be a Mexican invasion dressed up as aid to Katrina survivors.

The last thing, when I asked a friend of ours who lives in Rosarito what his thoughts on Mexican aid to the US were, he said he thought it was great that Mexico was able to help its neighbors and countrymen from the affected areas who have suffered so much in the aftermath of Katrina. And on the subject of the US's fear of a Mexican invasion, he said, "Well, they [the US] promised we could keep our land but they stole it and after all these years we've slowly been getting it back, a little piece at a time," and then just smiled knowingly at me. c/s

See: Web Poster Exhibition - Zapata vive! Mexican Posters for peace in Chiapas.

For more information on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and Reies Lopez Tijerina's struggle to recover stolen land grants.

(c) 2005

Friday, September 09, 2005

Olly Olly All Out Are Free - Part of the Coming Up Chronicles

I couldn't sleep last night, stayed up until around 3:30 a.m. working on some writing, then finally I tried reading so I could fall asleep but to no avail. I had to take some CA poppy tincture to get to sleep. I can only take a few drops otherwise I wake up the next day foggy and with a headache. But it works well and on pain too. I really mean it when I say that this getting old stuff is not for the weak.

Today I went to the beach to take some offerings to Yemaya that we'd put up in the shrine special for my Ocha birthday and for her feast day which are back to back, the 6th and the 7th. I loved the way the watermelon kept rolling back up on to the shore I told Angel that it was her playing with it. The surf was kind of rough and the place was deserted, not like just a week ago when the last of the summer crowds still filled the beaches. But this week summer is over, it's back to school and vacations are officially over.

I used to love summers as a kid -  I still do, it's my favorite time of the year and even though I worked every one of them after I turned 15 there was something about this time of the year that was thrilling and I never wanted it to be over.

Chicago summer nights were great, I grew up on the southside - moved there when I was 2. When my mom first settled out of the migrant farm worker life, a few years after my dad got home from his tour in Korea we moved from Texas to Chicago and lived in an apartment on Cottage Grove, we then moved to some apartments on 63rd and Dorchester St., then one on Dante, then to a house on 73rd and Woodlawn. When I was 10, after my parents split up, we moved to the projects - my mom and us four kids. I have lots of stories about the southside and maybe someday I will get around to writing my favorites down.

Our time to do some serious playing in the neighborhood was after dinner dishes were washed and our mothers let us go out for a few hours before calling us in for the night. Chicago had a 10 pm curfew for people under 18 so that was usually around the time we all had to go in.

Us neighborhood kids would hang out at the various little play areas that the CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) put up to supposedly keep us busy and out of trouble. Mostly we sat on the benches and shot the breeze or played hide and seek or some similar games. I can't recall the name of the one that is like hide-and-seek but played in big groups - two sides - with equal numbers, and the object is to captureevery onee of the people on one side or the other. To capture someone, you not only had to discover their hiding place but you also had to touch them.

Once you were found by someone on the opposite team they took you to jail. People from your team who were still free, could come and rescue you from jail if they could. There were look outs from each side that kept close enough to the jail to keep those already captured inside while trying not to get captured themselves. Their job was to also capture anyone who tried to come to rescue of the opposite team's members.

Trying to rescue a fellow player on your team was considered a really heroic act because of course it meant that you were giving up your secure hiding place and risking capture. It was not easy to rescue folks either, because those in the jail from the opposite side would always start yelling for their team members to hurry up and come squash the rescue attempt.

I also think there was a rule that you could only rescue one person at a time. There were certain boundaries within which we could hide, and no one was supposed to go outside those boundaries of a few blocks. And it was definitely cheating to, say, go hide in your house just because you lived close to the play area - which was usually the place designated as the jail. That way the captured could sit on benches, swings or monkey bars and wait to be rescued or for the game to end.

Once, one of the littler kids went home to watch television because he said he thought the game was over, that was really a hoot because we just thought he had hidden really well! The projects I came up in had row houses, so we had lots of great hiding places - one could hide behind or in trees and bushes, in people's yards, behind garbage cans, in gang ways etc.

We had our strategies too, for look outs and fast runners to storm the jail. Sometimes four or five of us would rush the area to try and get out as many of our team members out as possible, which of course would become pandemonium because everyone would start yelling, running, grabbing, and trying to stop the rescue attempt. The other side would of course try to capture new people or recapture anyone who'd managed to escape.

One time the funniest thing happened both sides showed up at the jail at the same time attempting a big rescue and all hell broke loose, it was so crazy and confusing and we ended up arguing as to who had been captured, let out etc. We just decided it was better to start over.

If you were let out of jail and ran fast enough within the boundary area and could get yourself into a hiding place without being seen you could get away without being taken back to jail. I tell you this game could go on for hours, days and sometimes even weeks because we would remember who had been in jail from the night before and start right from there the next night. Sometimes we had up to twenty kids playing at the same time. We all had our favorite hiding places and it was great fun.

Of course this was when we were all pretty young, before people started hormoning out and becoming couples. Those summers were great and I don't imagine there is any place in the US where kids can still play in big groups away from the adults the way we did back then. We were poor but we were happy and summer was the stuff of life!

Yes, we were playing a game where the object was to stay hidden and out of jail - shades of things to come in adulthood for some of us, but the other part, the thrilling part, was to save your team mates and make heroic attempts instead of staying safely hidden in your little niche. The people who did that were the ones who always held up the game because in the end we'd all have to call out "olly olly all in free" or whatever it was that we said, in order to let whoever was still out hiding know that almost all of us were in jail and we wanted to start over or stop the game.

Here is a poem to honor my few, but long years of life in Trumbull Park Homes and my for first love, you know who you are...

We Shadow Boxed
in the indigo
security lights
Projects we called
home while the moon
and stars smiled at
our milktooth love
because they knew
it was forbidding
like red-hot fire
burns we knew too
but were trying
our spotted wings
anyway your lips
were ruby fruit
rolled in zacate
thought our mother's
didn't have a clue
but they could smell
love in grass stained
clothes newly mowed
every radio
was playing our song

and for all you folks still out there - olly, olly, oxen free. olly, olly all out are FREE!

the photo above is courtesy of CHANGE - Chicago Housing Authority

(c) 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Well, it looks like I have to jump on all the things that keep making me angry about this monumental tragedy before I start to cry again. Some of the new debit cards, that are being handed out to the survivors of Katrina, are called of all things "The Louisiana Purchase!" They're blue and have these words emblazoned on them. When I saw that (on the Spanish language news on Telemundo) I thought to myself, isn't that funny, not as in funny ha! ha! but funny as in, do they really think people are that unaware of what's going on and are they just gonna keep rubbing our faces in it? More on this in a minute...

I mean, forget that I am still trying to pick my chin up off the table after reading Barbara Bush's comments, well-meaning as she may have thought they were - they were stone cold racist in many people's minds. Yes, I know, a lot of people in this country hate that word - racist, so what if I said instead that what Ms. Bush said was at best super insensitive - would that feel better?

For those of you who don't know what the heck I am talking about, during a tour of the Astrodome in Houston, TX with her husband George Bush Sr. Barbara Bush had this to say: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." As if living in a cot space in the Texas Astrodome with thousands of strangers, with no privacy and a myriad of serious problems hanging over their heads (like how to rebuild lives, jobs and homes) was better than living their underprivileged lives back in New Orleans, before HK hit, just because of some good old Texas hospitality and now, a 2,000 dollar debit card!

And by the way Babs I wonder what is it that scares you so, is it the sheer numbers of people or their skin color? By the way, that Texas hospitality goes only so far, I know, I was born there. For more on this see Barbara Bush comments on survivors spark outrage.

Now back to the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana purchase was a treaty signed between the United States and France wherein the US paid France more than $15 million for approximately 800,000 square miles of land which extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. That was a lot of francs back in 1803 even if the French only received around $11,000,000 in cash for all they handed over - the rest went to pay off debts of the French to American citizens. The thing is, there had been a secret deal back in 1800 wherein Spain receded Louisiana back to France thereby making it part of Napoleon Bonaparte's booty, you remember him - another famous land grabber from back in the day.

Upon learning of this, the Americans got nervous, even President Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, "The day that France takes possession of New Orleans ... we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." Control of New Orleans was tantamount to control of the Mississippi River, probably the most important waterway with regard to commerce - getting products to market etc. Yes, Napoleon Bonaparte having control of the Isle of Orleans would not fare well for the American economy should he decide they could not use the river or charge them big bucks to do so. The US had to figure out a way to buy it or get it away from France. So to the bargaining table, they went and in the bargain, the US got all of the old Louisiana, see map above, and for more details about this history see Louisiana Purchase (and I thank them for the loan of the map).

Yesterday I was reading an article by the Black Commentator entitled, New Orleans Population has the Right of Return which is really from the text of Radio BC audio commentary for September 8, 2005. This commentary discusses how the population of New Orleans has the right to return to their city, "... before newcomers benefit from the tragedy of the previous population's displacement." It also states that it is not too early to start discussing this issue - and many agree. The real scary fact is that many survivors may choose to abandon their city and make Houston or other places their home instead of having to face going back to the ruins of New Orleans. That would leave New Orleans wide open for the 21st-century land grabbers, those that would come in after the levees are fixed, and after Halliburton has come in and rebuilt the city in its own vision of a modern port.

This New Louisiana Purchase is going to cost a lot more than the thousands of lives that were already lost, or the two thousand dollar debit card which is supposedly going be given out to over 100,000 folks. Which can't even begin to cover their loss - these people whose lives have been disrupted at best, destroyed at worst.

All of the displaced people of the Gulf Port States should have right of return and should be encouraged to do so, once it is safe. They should also have the right to assist in the planning stages - to map out how their hometowns are going to look now, after this tragedy. A tragedy that probably could have been mitigated but instead, was allowed to unfold in the way that it has.

No I am not blaming George W. Bush for the hurricane, I am not giving him that much power, but call me a conspiracy theorist - that's theorist not terrorist, please - because I do blame him for a lot of things among them, for not allowing New Orleans to have the money to shore up its levees and instead diverting this money to the war in Iraq. I blame him for not allowing New Orleans, the Big Easy, to be strong enough to stand up to a hurricane above a 3.0, and for not wanting or being able to respond as quickly as we did to the Tsunami, which was also a horrific tragedy but one that we were able to respond to within 2 days - not five, six or even seven! And I hope against hope that I won't have to blame him for a 21st-century land grab - for a New Louisiana Purchase.

(c) 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yemaya's Day

Today the majesty and beauty of my mother Yemaya are celebrated. We ask her, the greatest mother of all, to embrace us - especially her children who are suffering due to another great tragedy that has befallen the people of Turtle Island, of the US of A - to give us her special blessings. We need hope, we need love and above all, we need good character to know how to go on, how to proceed, to help our brothers and sisters who need us.

At 6 p.m. eastern time 3 p.m. pacific time many Orisha priests and priestesses and other followers of African Traditional Religions and ways of life and those with indigenous worldviews will be taking a few moments to make special offerings and prayers for the survivors of hurricane Katrina. We especially pray for those who have yet to be rescued, for those who are afraid to ask for help for fear of being arrested, detained or deported back to their country of origin, and for those who are rescued but are in despair.

We pray for the dead that their spirits were delivered speedily into the arms of Olodumare. Iba'se...

Oh, mighty mother Yemaya we ask that you deliver our prayers to the highest.

Ire O!

(c) 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Needling

H.R. Giger No. 473b, Debbie III, 1981, acrylic on photograph

to heal
I stick myself

with thin silver
needles threading

into the deep
meridians that travel

long roads of my body

I drink
the bitter teas

of deep roots cottonwood bark
desert brush Ming flowers

dark in my white china cup
I float freely

the ancient locust husk
red scorpions to sting loose

my frozen tight tongue

Copyright © Odilia Galván Rodríguez from 
Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems, 2002

Monday, September 05, 2005

Who is Bush Kidding?

Our country can and has responded to many emergency situations across the globe in record time so now all of us are asking the same question, why did it take almost a week to respond to our own emergency right here at home?

The feds are pointing fingers at the state and city governments, in turn, they are pointing right back but the bottom line is, that the shameful lack of response was tantamount to NOT CARING. Why didn't the federal government care enough to respond rapidly or even in a timely manner? Could it be because the hurricane of poverty had already hit and held so many of New Orleans' people in its grip? Could it be because as always, poor people (especially people of color) are expendable in the eyes of a government made up of people who have what they need, and those in need can just wait until someone gets around to helping them? This experience is a wake-up call for so many Americans on so many levels and as my fellow writer friend says, ¡Abre los ojos! Open your eyes! If you haven't figured out that this is just the beginning of days like these then you'd better... we'd all better.

Many of us sat glued to the tube trying to figure out what we could do besides praying because it sure looked like no one in the gvmnt was going to ride up in white hats to save the day... others of us headed out for the affected areas to try and make a difference.

There have been many good people around the country who have opened their hearts, wallets, and homes to the survivors of Katrina and in the months to come we are all going to have to do more to help our fellow citizens who by the way, are not refugees!

Go to to see the open letter to Pres. George Bush from the Times-Picayune a mainstream media daily newspaper in New Orleans, even they are fed up with the treatment their city received in their time of greatest need.

(c) 2005