Reading is Fundamental…Philadelphia Latin American Book Fair

I followed the salsa music from Broad Street, past City Hall, and before passing the Love statue, witnessed three rows of people learning some dance steps. I was overburdened with my portfolio, backpack and purse but I couldn’t help myself and danced a few steps along with them.

Love Park was not yet crowded at 12:30 pm when I arrived. The tables were all set up with authors, books and representatives and on the other end there was a stage with rows of chairs in the audience, and announcements and information about the contributions and sponsors was being relayed.

This was my second time at the Latin American Book Fair, and when I went last, before the pandemic, it was held in the courtyard of City Hall. Love Park is a bigger and more open space, and on a sunny day like today, it was particularly inviting. Love Park could accommodate more people, a bigger stage, food venders, and of course, the dancing!

This is the fourth fair in Philadelphia and it did not disappoint. I met and spoke with several authors. For example, David Acosta, a local artist, filmmaker and writer, widely translated author J. Ramón Velasco from Mexico, with his novel Niña en lejanía, Venezuelan author of Arepas for Breakfast, Alejandra Rivas Mintz, and Odilón Adan, a Mexican author living in Pennsylvania who wrote the adventure novel, Si caminas te sigo. In addition, Milagros Veloz (Venezuela), had several non-fiction books on display, and representatives of Simone Salgado, a Brazilian coach and author, were there to chat with me about her books in Portuguese on entrepreneurship and other self-help issues. Novels of Bronx writer, Dahlia Llanos-Figueroa were available for purchase too. From the back cover of one of her books: “Daughters of the Stone follows the lives of five generations of Afro-Puerto Rican women focusing on the legacy passed from one generation to the next.” I’m excited to read it and the next in the series, Indómita, which is available in both Spanish and English (A Woman of Endurance)! Harsimran Kaur Wadhwa patiently explained her childrens’ books on mental health available in both Spanish and English.

But there were more than just writers selling their books at the many tables. I also saw an artist doing caricatures at the entrance to the park. I learned about the LITina Book Club which is a book club that features works by Latine people, and connects readers with the authors. Mighty Writers, a non-profit that provides children with writing activities and homework help, described their after school and one-on-one mentorship programs, as well as other projects to help local people. The Free Library of Philadelphia gave out information on jobs and volunteer positions at the libraries. Also present, among many different not-for-profit organizations, was Taller Puertorriqueño, a cultural center and bookstore (Julia de Burgos Bookstore) in Philadelphia. Last but not least, representatives from BookBaby gave out tips and information on how to publish your own book!

On the Graffiti Trail: El niño de las pinturas

I´m not one for graffiti. Personally it has always bothered me that people will deface a wall that isn´t theirs or scribble on a subway car. And most of it is unreadable and the public has to look at it because it is in a public space. So imagine my surprise when I saw some of the graffiti of el niño de las pinturas (Raúl Ruiz) in the Realejo neighborhood in Granada, Spain. This isn´t graffiti, it´s ART. Maybe he started out scribbling, but what I saw were murals that not only displayed a well-developed technique but also communicated emotions and called out certain socio-politico ills. Nowadays Raul Ruiz is well known around the world for his graffiti, and probably is commissioned for murals. He still makes his home in Realejo. You can find out more on his website (which has a link to Instagram) as well as see more of his artwork: https://www.elninodelaspinturas.es/index.html

El arte de cocinar: CookELE en Granada

Hay muchas maneras de aprender una nueva lengua, especialmente hoy en día con la facilidad de comunicarse con nativos a través del internet, y por un sin fin de aplicaciones digitales, podcasts y por supuesto, clases tradicionales en una aula.

En Granada se puede expandir el vocabulario español por talleres de culinaria en CookEle, una cocina ubicada en el barrio Realejo en Granada, España. Ana Isabel (Anabel) es la profesora que guía a estudiantes de todos los niveles de proficiencia en español en esta aventura gastronómica.

Estuve en un grupo de 13 personas y el menú del día era: 1. tortilla española (sin y con cebolla), 2. pipirrana (una ensalada andaluz) y 3. empanadas de una receta gallega. El espacio es muy agradable e incluye una cocina grande donde se prepara y se cocina los platos y una mesa en que cabe bien 12 personoas. Anabel explica todas las instrucciones para preparar los platos.

Ya que nuestro grupo era grande, nos dividimos en tres equipos, uno para cada plato. Yo estaba encargada del equipo pipirrana. La mayoría de nuestra labor consistía en pelar y cortar las verduras necesarias para la ensalada. Empleamos pepinos, tomates, ceboletas, y pimientos. Hicimos el mojado (la salsa) de ajo, sal, huevo, aceite y vinagre para alignar la ensalada.

Ensalada pipirrana

En mi equipo no necesitamos usar el horno o la estufa. Sin embargo, los otros equipos tenían tareas más complicadas: la tortilla requiere que fria las patatas y la cebolla y que la cocine en una sartén en la estufa después de mezclar y dejar restar las patatas, cebolla y el huevo por un rato. El equipo de empanadas tuvieron que cortar y cocinar el relleno de verduras. Luego prepararon la masa y formaron las empanadas de la masa, y las rellanaron. Finalmente pasaron huevo batido en las empanadas antes de hornearlas.

Después de preparar y cocinar los platos, nos sentamos para comerlos. Qué delicioso! Con pan fresco, esta cena vegetariana de comidas tipicamente españolas, fue el resultado de una colaboración y también puso en práctica el uso del idioma. Buen provecho!

La mesa puesta

Para más información sobre CookELE, vaya a su sitio web: http://www.cookele.es/

Creatividad aromática en Granada

El Patio de Perfumes en Granada es un sitio donde se pueden comprar perfumes, aprender sobre la frabricación de perfumes y disfrutar de un ambiente aromático y romántico. La tienda tiene dos plantas, y en total tres niveles, y se ubica en la Acera del Darro, No. 5. El puerta principal abre a un espacio abierto central donde se puede oler perfumes y por las paredes hay otros estantes con muestras de sus atractivos productos, disponibles para la examinación del cliente. Los empleados son muy simpáticos y pacientes aun con la multitud de posibles clientes, oriundos del mundo entero.

Si se baja a una cueva detrás de esta sala, se encontrará el museo. En este pequeno museo, hay objetos que representan las etapas y técnicas históricas de hacer perfumes.

Museo de perfumes, Granada

Subiendo las escaleras al próximo piso, hay un salón VIP y un patio. Ahora el patio se dedica al lanzamiento de la nueva colección, Nuevo Mundo, que incluye áromas basadas en esencias americanas, como La Habana y Maya. En este patio también muestran incensos, como el copal, utilizado con frecuencia durante en México, de origen prehispanico.

El Patio de Perfumes tiene su propio método traído de Francia por Chirstian Pamies y Valérie Sabini, y hacen los performes en su labortatorio Hévéa en Espana de materiales puros. En el patio también ofrecen talleres de perfumes y visitas todos los días. Para más información y para reservar, miren el situo web: https://es.patiodelosperfumes.com/ OJO: Se puede visitar en persona en su viaje a Granada, o comprar online!

Una cueva en la ciudad…

Cuando se piensa en las cuevas de Granada, se piensa en Sacromonte, no en un edificio cerca de la Puerta de Elvira… Hay escuelas y talleres de flamenco por tardes partes en Granada, pero de nuevo se piensa principalmente en Sacromonte, por su asociación con los gitanos españoles. Sin embargo, hoy nuestra maestra aclaró que el flamenco no es de origen gitano, sino que surgió de la fusión de culturas en Andalucía: la judía, el árabe, el hispano y el gitano, y aun más que vinieron antes. En este breve taller, la maestra, Chúa Alba nos enseños varios ritmos, alegrías, rumba y un compás de 12 tiempos. Habló también del baile las sevillanas, que no es flamenco, pero sigue el estilo. Practicamos estos ritmos haciendo palmas. Mencionó la importancia de la emoción que se comunica en el flamenco y que el flamenco es una forma de vida.

La bailaora Chúa Alba tiene años de experiencia y nació en Granada. Aunque yo había estudiado flamenco en Nueva York hace años por gusto personal, y para prepararme para cantar en la ópera Carmen y en zarzuelas, nunca pensaba en la emoción cuando tomaba las clases. Era bastante mantener la concentración y coordinación que se necesitaba para aprender la técnica de los movimientos y las castañuelas. Entencer que es más que técnica y estética es imprescindible. Esta gente de Granada (y por supuesto otras partes de España) que hace flamenco, vive flamenco!

Para más información sobre la maestra Chúa: https://www.chuaalba.com/

A Reading of the New Novel “Arribada:” Celebrate Pride

“We need to celebrate Pride.” These are the words that began the reading of Arribada, a new novel by Estela González, at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. The reading took place at 6:00 pm on June 3, 2022 on the second floor of the legendary bookstore in Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood” as part of Pride month events. The author was introduced by Ms. Kirsten Ernst, and was supported by her wife and daughter in attendance. All in all the space was full of eager listeners.

Gloria Estela González Zenteno (the author’s full name), has published fiction in magazines and journals but this is her first novel. This version of the book is written in English, but we later found out that a Spanish version is forthcoming.

González was born and raised in Mexico but has taught literature for years at Middlebury College in Vermont. She often returns to her childhood haunts and that has served as inspiration and catharsis in her writing. There are some autobiographical connections in Arribada (and the title means arrival). For example, the protagonist, Mariana is an aspiring professional pianist and González also trained to be a concert pianist. In the novel Mariana has an uncle who plays the guitar and disappears, which also draws from the author’s life.

González read two excerpts from the book which she declared “celebrate pride” and highlight joy, love and pleasure. We hear about how Mariana falls in love with a conservationist, Fernanda, who is part of an indigenous community. The book, although written in English, is peppered with Spanish and Conca’Ac words, and is set in 1990 in a fictitious town that resembles Mazatlán.

After the reading of the excerpts, there was a discussion about the use of language (Spanish & English) in González’ creative process, the autobiographical elements, and the indigenous language/culture in the book, as well as environmental issues. Then by random drawing among the audience, one free copy of the novel was awarded to one of the attendees. The event concluded with book purchases and signing. González is in the midst of a book tour, and after Philadelphia, went on to NYC, and has upcoming readings in New England. To learn more about Gloria Estela González and Arribada please visit: estelagonzalez.net

Reseñas de películas españolas contemporáneas en Netflix.

De la crítica invitada: Julia Meeley

Hola, soy Julia, una estudiante de Español en la Universidad de Drexel. Como estudiante de una lengua nueva, es importante descubrir nuevas formas divertidas de practicar mis habilidades lingüísticas. Entonces, he visto dos películas españolas para practicar mis habilidades de escuchar y comprensión. Estas películas están disponibles en Netflix, así fueron muy accesibles para mí. Yo he visto Vivir Dos Veces A Pesar de Todo.

Vivir dos veces

Sumario

Vivir Dos Veces se hizo en 2019, y la directora se llama María Ripoll. Esta película de humor está protagonizada por el actor venezolano, Oscar Martínez, y la actriz española Inma Cuesta. Vivir Dos Veces es sobre un anciano con alzheimer que quiere buscar a su amor de la infancia antes de olvidarla. Si bien el argumento tenía muchas partes que eran muy tristes, la película presentaba mucho alivio cómico también. Algunos de los temas en esta película son relaciones familiares, sacrificios profesionales, y amor de la vida. Durante la película, el protagonista, Emilio, y su familia necesitan superar muchos obstáculos y aprender a trabajar juntos para alcanzar su objetivo de encontrar el amor de la infancia de Emilio.

Mi opinión

En total, me gusta está película y pienso que el mensaje fue impactante. Vivir dos veces tenía algunas lecciones de vida buena, y después de verlo siento que intentaré implementar estas lecciones en mi vida. Por ejemplo, es importante equilibrar trabajo y sus relaciones personales, porque, algún día es posible que te arrepientas de no priorizar a las personas que amas. En el transcurso de la película, Emilio se da cuenta de que ha descuidado a algunas personas importantes en su vida, y toma medidas para enmendarse. En mi opinión, esta película también tiene un buen equilibrio de seriedad y comedia.

¿Fue útil para el aprendizaje?

Sí, pienso que está película está muy bien para la práctica de español porque tiene una combinación de vocabulario básico y lenguaje más complicado y palabras de jerga. Además, Vivir dos veces es bueno para escuchar español hablado con acento europeo en lugar de mexicano o sudamericano. Pero, es importante anotar que está película está clasificada para

mayores de 17 años/ una audiencia más madura debido a palabrotas. ¡Entonces, si quieres ver un cine de humor con temas de familia y amor, te recomiendo esta película!

A pesar de todo

Sumario

Similar a Vivir dos veces, la película A Pesar de Todo es una comedia hecha en el año 2019. A pesar de todo fue filmado en España y cuenta con un elenco español, pero es dirigido por la directora argentina, Gabriela Tagliavini. La película trata sobre cuatro hermanas que descubren que todas tienen padres diferentes después de que su madre fallece. En el testamento de la madre, dice que las hermanas deben trabajar juntas para averiguar quiénes son sus padres biológicos, y solo después de esto pueden recibir su herencia de ella. La película tiene temas de hermandad, amor e individualidad.

Mi opinión

Me gusta mucho esta película, porque las hermanas eran muy entretenidas y graciosas. Me gusta como cada hermana tiene una personalidad única y ellas se contrastan. En total, la película es alegre, divertida, y relajante para ver y sería estupendo para ver con amigas o con tus propias hermanas. Los temas de hermandad, familia, y amor hicieron esta una película para “sentirse bien”. Recomiendo esta película a las personas que disfrutan de “películas para chicas” o películas que presentan protagonistas femeninas únicas. Personalmente, yo disfruto está película más que Vivir dos veces.

¿Fue útil para el aprendizaje?

Sí, en mi opinión esta película es muy buena para estudiantes de español. También similar de Vivir Dos VecesA pesar de todo tiene mucho vocabulario básico que las estudiantes pueden entender, así como también vocabulario más avanzado. No se si está película es apropiada para un salón de clases porque está clasificada para audiencias maduras debido a las palabrotas y las referencias sexuales. Pero, yo recomiendo A pesar de todo a alguien los estudiantes universitarios que quieren una película de chicas divertidas en español europeo.

One Book, One Philadelphia: Features Latina Authors

One Book, One Philadelphia, kicks off the reading experience on April 27, 2022 at 7:30 pm EST with interviews of their featured authors. The Free Library of Philadelphia sold out this event and 150 people watch on the YouTube channel.

One Book, One Philadelphia is a yearly tradition that started in 2003. Every year a book is chosen for the people of the city to read. This year the book is My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes. For teens, there is an accompanying selection, Never Look Back, by Lilliam Rivera. For children aged 4-8, they (or their parents) can read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez Neal.

Quiara Alegría Hudes is already a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (Water By the Spoonful), who grew up in Philadelphia. She also collaborated with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the musical In the Heights. To find out more, check out her website: http://www.quiara.com

In addition, Lilliam Rivera has written Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story, and GOLDIE VANCE: THE HOCUS-POCUS HOAX. For more information, see her website: https://www.lilliamrivera.com

Punching Down: The American Way Represented in West Side Story 2021

“None of us would be here if we had somewhere else to be.” In the 2021 remake of West Side Story Tony (Ansel Elgort) says something like this at the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks. This line encapsulates the motivation for the Sharks and the Jets especially, in this ridiculous turf war that occurs in the story, and exacerbates the tragedy of it all. The Jets, here before the Sharks (the Puerto Ricans), feel entitled to punch down. They are at the bottom rung of the societal ladder and finally somebody else has arrived that they can abuse and kick in the face to feel better about themselves. Sadly, these are young men fighting over tiny crumbs that society has let them have because they have little else to aspire to.

“Punching down” unfortunately, is the “American Way.” In the 1950s before the Civil Rights Movement, no one balked at insulting, picking on or demoralizing new arrivals. Bullying was just part of life and you had to learn to fight back or deal with it. In parts of the country racial segregation was legal, and forget about women’s or LGBT rights. In this case, Puerto Ricans are the targets and are treated like second class citizens. They are not immigrants, but citizens of the USA, since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the country, and they move to the mainland for economic opportunities. Ethnic slurs and outward demonstrations of discrimination and prejudice were acceptable in many contexts. Words that we don’t hear often today, like spic, dago or guinea, punctuate the interactions between the Puerto Rican newcomers and the white Jets (and even amongst themselves), a gang that insists on fighting for their “territory.”

The Jets are the descendants of ethnic (Italian, Polish, Irish–non WASPs) white immigrants who live in the slums, subject to being forgotten by the mainstream and with next to no social mobility. This remake of West Side Story is particularly powerful because it situates the neighborhood (slum) in the context of gentrification, which is still relevant today. Buildings are being knocked down in order to construct Lincoln Center. The people living in the pathetic rubble of this neighborhood have only two months left before they are all evicted and bulldozed away.

The major characters, Tony, Bernardo (David Alvarez), Anita (Ariana DeBose) and Maria (Rachel Zegler), recognize that this fighting over territory is senseless, but Tony and Bernardo get caught up in it due to machismo and gang mentality. Bernardo fights as a boxer for a living, seems to be ambitious, and even claims that this feud with the Jets is “stupid” but “something we have to do.” As in West Side Story of 1961, Tony, at the request of Maria, tries to stop the fighting but fails to do so. In fact he makes it worse when his friend Riff (Mike Faist) is stabbed. Even though Tony is trying to change, the gang mentality lingers, and is too strong. Despite their differences lately, Riff was his friend, his “brother” in the gang context.

These Jets seem to be conditioned to hate and lash out because they have nothing but each other and have cultivated a delinquent way of life for years. The Sharks respond in self-defense and also because of machismo. They can’t let gringos beat them down. The Sharks in this remake also have a relationship with the Puerto Rican community, and want to uphold their dignity, so backing down does not seem to be an option in Bernardo’s mind. But there are other ways other than violence and cracking heads. Why choose to fight?

In West Side Story 2021 the low social status of both groups is clearly demonstrated–they literally have nothing to lose since they will be kicked out of their homes in two months and their houses will be demolished. How senseless and tragic it is to die for NOTHING? In a fight over land, over territory that doesn’t even belong to you and that will be the site of an arts complex that you will probably never set foot in?

The other motive for fighting is because Maria danced with Tony. How dare they mix with those who are not “their kind.” Bigots just like in WSS 1961 and just as nonsensical as the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet, the basis for the musical. Just because Tony and Maria like each other, the Jets and Sharks need to go to war to stop this mingling! Relatives of archenemies are not allowed to love and live in peace. Unfortunately, as we all know, these kinds of feuds still DO happen in real life. These are the heavy issues that make the new West Side Story film contemporary, resonant and compelling.

Overall, West Side Story 2021 is a tour de force, in which finally the acting, the directing, characterization and cinematography reach and match the virtuosity of the musical score! Bernstein’s musical (operetta or opera?) has always been a masterpiece. How many would argue otherwise? Every musical number in West Side Story is lyrical, emotional, exciting, catchy and memorable. Yet in my past experiences as a viewer or a singer, the music has always dominated in West Side Story. Spielberg’s production changes that with more realistic casting, sets and choreography. Although I loved the original, and admired and appreciated Jerome Robbins’ choreography, it seemed like dancers were in a ballet and not that people were falling in love, fighting or hating each other. It was like I glimpsed the scaffolding and the technique in the previous film. The actors and the story seemed to serve only as a backdrop for a dance/vocal concert.

Maybe it’s because I’m now older, and when I saw West Side Story for the first time I was a child, but the characters in WSS 2021 look like adolescents, instead of adults like in the first film. Because of their youthful appearances, it is more believable that they would act recklessly, impulsively without reason.

Some of the other changes in this new version include a trans character, Anybodys, played by Ezra Menas. In the original film, Anybodys is a tomboy, but she is a girl. Here they are trans and it works so much better, and resonates with issues of transgender identity in 2021. Valentina (Rita Moreno) is a new shopowner who replaces Doc from the previous film. Also, Maria is not as innocent as she was in the first film. She works and recognizes that she looks like a child and needs to make herself look more mature. In general the characters are more fleshed out and the movie shows us why the Puerto Ricans came to New York, to work, to make a better living. This is in contrast to the Jets, depicted as “losers” or failures who were born into poverty and neglect and had little motivation to get out of the slums–they are there because they have nowhere else to go. Their time and place will end soon because the city says so, not because they want to move.

I was impressed that this film opened up the story by way of the set/cinematography to encompass the subway, the department store, the Cloisters and the city streets. The 1961 version largely situated the action in indoor locations which did not replicate anything specifically characteristic of “New York”. In my opinion, the preponderance of indoor generic studio spaces further reinforced the superficiality of the characters and the story in the 1961 film, and facilitated the dominance of the music and the dance.

I highly recommend that fans of the 1961 film and the West Side Story musical go see this on the big screen. It will move you to tears and make you think about the meaning of love and hatred. It will make you realize that treating people poorly never ends well and violence doesn’t solve anything.