Thursday, September 07, 2006


[I LOVE this picture of my nephew, Daelen! It's like he's in the zone, connecting with
his Afro-Rican roots. La Casita de Don Pedro, 2006]

I AM ALMOST recovered from back-to-back events (one August 19, and two on August 12) promoting Boricua Morena: Memoirs of a Humboldt Park Girl. The overall consensus is that everyone LOVES the title, particularly Humboldt Park residents (former and current) because the subtitle mentions their neighborhood. You might think sitting at a table talking to prospective buyers about your book, signing books, taking money & giving out receipts is fun, but let me tell it, it ain’t. It’s exhausting! Here’s a breakdown of the events:

For those of you who are not familiar with La Casita de Don Pedro, it is a mini-museum honoring Don Pedro Albizu Campos, the Puerto Rican nationalist who fought for Puerto Rico's independence. The house is a model of the typical casitas in Puerto Rico (including my grandma's) and features many Puerto Rican artifacts and musical instruments.

WHEN I GOT there, there were only two other artists on the sidewalk in front of La Casita and another table that featured children’s facepainting (see my grand-nephew above & below). Sales were slow and there wasn’t much of a crowd walking down Division, not like it used to be back in the day. Just as I was packing up, I made three sales. One surprise buyer was the director of human resources from my job. She is so cool. Thanks for the support, Raquel!

PUERTO Rican Film Series, August 12
festival, I read “Home is Where Mami Is” since they were honoring Puerto Rican women. There was an estimated crowd of 150 in the audience on a chilly (yes, chilly!) summer night. People were wrapped up in jackets & frisas (also known as cobillas by my Mexican friends). I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be. I was given a small space on a table where vendors were promoting their businesses and I sold 3-4 books, which is average. My sister downloaded an iron-on transfer from some website of the cover & made T-shirts (she also got the white cap I'm wearing in the picture with the book's title); I was surprised that people actually wanted the T-shirts with the book cover.

[La Familia at El Barrio Art Fest 2006, including my grandma, Arsenia, my tio & tia, Benito & Petrin (my mom's sister) -- all visiting from Puerto Rico-- cousins, my sisters & my daughter]

3rd ANNUAL El Barrio Art Fest 2006, August 19
The Not-so Good Parts
The El Barrio Art Fest was a huge success, though the location left much to be desired. Because the museum & stables were under construction, it took place inside, in the Fieldhouse, which was divided into several gyms, segregating the artists from each other as well. As usual, since I was covering my table, I wasn’t able to visit all the artists and their exhibits; plus, I couldn’t enjoy the music from the West Gym, where I was stationed. The day was humid, with intermittent teasing breezes when you stepped outside and even though every once in a while, a sigh-inducing breeze flowed through, it was stifling. To top it off (I noticed later), the other gyms were provided with huge industrial fans while those of us in my section, were left to the mercy of our homemade fans and water bottles.

The Good Parts

  • My family, as usual, came in packs to show their support: my sisters and brother, two aunts, two uncles, several cousins. A special surprise was the attendance by my 95-year-old grandmother who is visiting from Puerto Rico (the one I’ve mentioned in this blog before); she was walking 2 miles an hour, but she was there! In her honor, I read an essay from the book, “My Grandmother’s Letters.” The story is in English, even though she doesn’t understand much English, but my mother is going to help me translate it.

  • When I first signed in, I was informed that all the artists would be receiving a stipend. Imagine my surprise! I wasn’t expecting anything, especially after I had to donate proceeds of my sales the previous Saturday.

  • Three of my fellow cohort members from my master’s program showed up! That was a nice surprise, especially since one of them was someone that I would have never expected. Thanks to Honorio, Gigi, and Marixsa (I’ll never spell your name wrong again!).

  • Two other writers (an author & poet) joined me this year so I’m hoping this is the beginning of a growing cohort of writers (though I was the only woman). I also read my anti-war/anti-Bush/pro-motherhood poem, “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” The emcee was trying to bill us as the Humboldt Park Poets & Writers Association, but we preferred El Barrio Writers.

  • I saw a couple of my favorite artists from last year: Cesi Colon (the Abichuelas Sin Arroz artist), Leo Negron, Patricia (Lady Picasso) Perez, and Moses Perez. Cesi had a new piece which I absolutely fell in love with and wanted to “steal,” and Lady Picasso had some pieces that were breath-taking and reminded me of Frida Kahlo. I sold 26 books, which is a record; 50+ books to date.

Although this year's "book tour" was much shorter than last years, I'm beat. I met a lot of nice people who told me their stories about living in Humboldt Park. It was a wonderful experience and I'm glad I decided to put this book out at the last minute -- despite the errors (!). From here on, it's going to be all word-of-mouth.

[My abuela, Arsenia Morales Rodriguez, age 95, who is visiting from Puerto Rico. Ain't she sharp!]

[Daelen doing his own face-painting; La Casita de Don Pedro]

P.S. I finally got the contract from Levine-Greenberg for In the Picture I Have of You. WOO-HOO!


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