Tuesday, January 04, 2011

MLA in Los Angeles: Central American Panels

Friday, 07 January

292. Central American Lives: Writings from the Diaspora

1:45–3:00 p.m., 301B, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Oriel Siu, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

1. “The Novel of the Central American Diaspora and the Coloniality of Power: Some Annotations on the Eternal Inmortales,” Oriel Siu

2. “Searching for Home: The Construction of Guatemalan American Identity in Omar S. Castañeda’s Remember to Say Mouth or Face,” Alicia Ivonne Estrada, California State Univ., Northridge

3. “GuateMa(LA)n in the United States: Gender and Masculinity in Omar Castañeda’s Guatemalan Macho Oratory,” Gustavo A. Guerra Vásquez, Univ. of California, Berkeley

4. “Memorializing the Missing in The Art of Exile by William Archila,” Karina Oliva-Alvarado, Claremont Coll.

Respondent: Ana Patricia Rodríguez, Univ. of Maryland, College Park


Saturday, 08 January

629. Gender and Sexualities in Contemporary Central American Fiction

5:15–6:30 p.m., 306B, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Uriel Quesada, Loyola Univ., New Orleans

1. “No Harm in Killing a Freak: Central American Gay and Lesbian Politics in Silvio Sirias’s Meet Me under the Ceiba,” Yajaira M. Padilla, Univ. of Kansas

2. “Sordid Masculinity and Female Agency in Postwar Central American Fiction,” Milos Kokotovic, Univ. of California, San Diego

3. “The Burden of Masculinity and the Possibilities of the Self in the Fiction of Horacio Castellanos Moya,” Erin S. Finzer, Univ. of Arkansas, Little Rock

Mayan Cultural Celebration 1/19/2011 @ UCLA Library

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reading at UC Irivine 4/27/10


Reading by the poetry collective, “Epicentro”

When: 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where: Social Ecology I, Room 112

Featuring: Leisy Abrego, Maya Chinchilla, Mario Escobar, Ernesto Garay, Jessica Grande, Gustavo Guerra-Vasquez, Karina Oliva, and Melissa Pina Rios and any surprise poets.

Cosponsored by: the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, Center in Law, Society and Culture, Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, and Department of Criminology, Law and Society.

"From the center of America erupts Epicentro: an organic literary collective straddling performance, spoken word and testimonial artforms, composed of inter-generational community-minded cultural activists of Central American extraction that write to resurrect memory and inspire action. These Central American bodies in flux and immigrant voices rise from Hollywood bus stops, volcanic ashes, quetzal wings, peripheral MacArthur Park, Mission pupuserias y mas..."

Epicentro poets will visit the University of California, Irvine on Tuesday, April 27th to present and read from their personal collections and the anthology Desde el epicentro. Karina Oliva will also read from Transverse: Altar de Tierra Altar de Sol. Their rich poetry addresses a variety of themes, including historical memory, violence, immigration, gender, social justice, identity, empowering connections, rethinking nation, Los Angeles, race, and more. All are welcome.

For additional information, please contact Susan Coutin at scoutin@uci.edu. For more information about Epicentro, Transverse: Altar de Tierra Altar de Sol, or Izote Press, please see http://epicentroamerica.blogspot.com/2007/09/desde-el-epicentro.html or http://izotepress.com/catalog.html.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The Anthology has had a limited run of printing in 2007-2008. Each author included in anthology has a digital copy and is allowed to make copies for their own use. Further plans will be made to publish the anthology when circumstances permit and the time is right. Thank you for all your support!

Welcome to EpicentroAmerica: "An Anthology of U.S. Central American Poetry and Art"


The Epicentro collective has its history of transitions and what Maya Chinchilla calls “generations.” Epicentro itself emerged from a meeting brought together by Raquel Guítierrez and Marlon Morales. Named after the group’s first reading Epicentroamerican@s coined by Gustavo Guerra Vasquez, one of the original members and all co-founders, Jessica Grande, Dalilah Mendez, and Gustavo joined efforts with Raquel and Marlon to shape this unique and vibrant cultural group.

The anthology also has its history. A previous version was put together for a Central American Literature conference at Cal State Northridge (2001?). The current version began in 2005 at a barbecue at Mario Escobar’s house. Some members gathered to revive the group and to dream up a book of poems. This project is not about Epicentro specifically, but about all US Central Americans. In 2006, Maya came in motivating others to submit their work. Having been awarded the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at UCLA allowed for me to devote time to fulfilling the project. I have done so both as a scholar and poet involved in a labor of love. I too grew up yearning for stories of someone like me—a centroamericana poet and artist raised Pico-Union.
The anthology comes from our own interests in the cultural work of Central Americans born or raised in the U.S. and the void that currently exists in bookstores, academia and the media on the lives and stories of our people.

Each poet expresses a unique political, aesthetical, emotional, and intellectual viewpoint: I found Jessica’s bold work moving through the musicality of her words that sashay like dance. Leisy’s poignant reflections cut deep into yearning and conflict of family and self as a cultural poignancy shared also in Rossana’s and Leyda’s poems. Mario’s compelling work astonishes through the harsh realities of being a survivor. For most poets like Janssen, Johnnito, and Ernesto, politics have an aesthetic, and aesthetics are political. Gustavo’s bilingual and transnational work wittingly represent these concepts. Milta, Ana, Anayvette, and Maya build on these tropes to recenter and divulge the juiced and labored complexity of gender and sex. Marlon’s intense work speaks a naked honesty that all poets attempt to disclose whether in structural form, personal narrative, or historical reflection. Melissa pensively paints each line to awaken memory. Hugo epitomizes epicentro as he inspires all with his wise and jazzed infused art forms. Dalila’s evocative art visualize these same poetic concerns, while Raquel boldly and powerfully speaks in word and image.

This labor of love remains unfinished unless it is held close to the heart, smudged with use, and passed around. Join us in the effort to reflect, possibly empathize, and hear the memories, visions, lands, and peoples we carry. Hear the love.

Karina Oliva-Alvarado Co-editora

Introduction to forthcoming book:

This anthology is about creating a home for those who have lost their home, who were taken from their home, who had it stolen, who decided it was time to leave and for those who carry their home in their heart and need a place to rest. It is about recovering, documenting and making our own histories and demanding their rightful place among cultural, political and literary movements. We give our testimony to resurrect memory, inspire action, to laugh loudly and to heal old wounds.

We are often asked why we want to distinguish ourselves as Central Americans. Why not just join in or blend into other cultural and political movements that have more established visibility and community support? Many of us are a part of community spaces where we work as a part of or in solidarity with communities of color, queer folks, immigrants, and educators. But we feel the need to create a space for our own U.S. Central American voices, which are still rarely heard. Ours are the voices that many of us wish we had heard more of growing up so we didn't feel so alone and invisible in our multicultural/multi-lingual realities.

This book also comes from finding solidarity and a home in the group EpiCentroAmerica that has since found its home in cyberspace. Founded in 2000, the group Epicentro or EpiCentroAmerica doesn't exist as it once did; meeting to workshop writings, organize events and perform as a collective. But our vital passion for doing creative work, the need to hear each other's voices and the desire to inspire new voices remains.

This anthology, an often talked about dream in Epicentro, is my contribution to cultivation of new spaces for Central American voices, the kind of voices that we have always wanted to hear; the conscious and empowered voices of compañeras/os who are immigrants, workers, students, mothers, fathers, children of the borderlands and a part of solidarity movements.

I hope you are moved to support this book and later published versions. The book will fulfill its goal if you find what you are looking for in it or if it inspires you to create what you want to see in the world.

Maya Chinchilla

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

'Little Armenia' sign in Hollywood feels strange, but right

Hector Tobar LA Times
January 27, 2009
A wise American once wrote, "You can't go home again."

If you're from Los Angeles, you know that truer words were never spoken.

Call this city home, and eventually L.A. will repay your devotion with a swift kick, a cold slap, and a mocking wave goodbye.

I learned this lesson the hard way after many years away. I decided to revisit the corner of L.A. where I was born and raised.

When I was a kid, I called this place Hollywood. The glitzier meanings of the name barely registered in my young brain. The Hollywood I knew was a sooty playground of concrete and asphalt where all my friends lived.

Then I got older, and moved to Montebello and many other places in California and beyond. I started telling people I was born in East Hollywood. I liked the gritty feel "East" added to its name.

But on my recent return, I found my old homeplace had a new name.

"Little Armenia" read the bold white letters on blue rectangular signs, installed by city workers on Hollywood Boulevard. Unfortunately, I am not Armenian.

Returning to your childhood home and finding it officially named for another ethnic group is sort of like going to your birthday party and finding someone else's name on the cake.

If the sign had read "Little Guatemala," I'm sure I would have felt a burst of pride: I might have called my immigrant mother to say, "There's a little part of L.A. named after us!"

The sense that the Armenians had picked my pocket, culturally speaking, lasted about three seconds -- three seconds in which I channeled my inner Lou Dobbs and scowled like Bill O'Reilly.

Then the great urban designer in the sky whispered in my ear, "Don't be a hypocrite."

My parents came here from Guatemala to reinvent themselves. Tens of thousands of Guatemalans followed after them, changing the L.A. neighborhoods they lived in.

Famous for both its transience and its diversity, Los Angeles is a place where any given street corner is rarely one thing exclusively for very long.

Little Tokyo, we read in this paper Saturday, is filling with Koreans. There's been a big Vietnamese and Cambodian presence in Chinatown for decades now. And my part of East Hollywood probably could just as easily be called Little Manila or Little San Salvador.

There's no denying the Armenian imprint on my old stomping grounds.

Armenian business owners have populated the neighborhood with signs written in the loops and arcs of their alphabet. My inability to speak Armenian led to a short conversation with a local merchant that ended with him apologizing for his poor English.

"I am not good listening already," he told me.

And when I thought about it, maybe I wasn't so good remembering.

Truth be told, there was always a little Armenia in the Hollywood of my childhood.
read more here

Friday, May 30, 2008


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