Wednesday, April 27, 2011

11 yr-old incest/rape survivor gets vilified by an Immigrant NYC community

We all read (and got upset) by the NYTimes skewed coverage of the Texas Gang Rape of an 11 year old Latina last month, today the Village Voice takes a look at the incestuous rape of an 11 year old in Spanish Harlem, perpetrated by her own father - a community activist and Cinco de Mayo parade organizer - and how his sympathizers have created an ugly smear campaign to publicly vilify her.

This horrible crime puts both his daughter and his wife (also being targeted) at the vortex of sexual politics within the Mexican community but also speaks volumes of the heavily biased sexualized culture and power structure of machista Latino culture at large.
"This girl is being crucified in public," says Cecilia Gastón, executive director of VIP Mujeres, a Manhattan-based organization that helps victims of familial violence. "A young girl should not be treated this way in public. The adults should be behaving a different way. Something very private is being handled on the Internet and that's not right—especially because of the sexual nature of the crime."
We need to defend this little girl and stand behind her!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Love, Selfishness, and Beggars

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Monday, April 25, 2011

This weekend: Lea L.A. (Biggest Spanish language book fair in the U.S.)

LeaL.A., the biggest Spanish language book fair in the U.S. takes place April 29th-May 1st at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The event is free to the public and will feature appearances by Isabel Allende, Jose Jose and Kate del Castillo among others. Mexican actor-writer-director, Ofelia Medina will present the play "El Placer de Nuestra Lengua" with Ruben Albarran from Cafe Tacuba. A series of concerts will also take place over the weekend at Club Nokia including Lupillo Rivera, Banda el Limon, Pedro Fernandez, Molotov and Kinky.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Great Grandmother Consuelo's "My Sin" (Mon Peché)

Yesterday, I visited my mother and asked why my grandfather chose to be buried in Puerto Rico (as opposed to here in NYC). My mother explained that he wanted to be buried in the family crypt along with his mother and other relatives.

The conversation soon turned into an ancestry lesson, and quickly, I had to get out paper and a pen to keep the names and family tree straight, basically putting all that anthropology/ethnography training to good use.

The one anecdote I enjoyed the most was learning of my great grandmother Consuelo, who was a dark skinned woman, who wore a French perfume, called My Sin by Lanvin, high heels, and gold jewelry. She gave my mother her very first pair of high heel shoes.

I looked up this perfume online, trying to visualize my great grandmother in rural 1940s Puerto Rico, the wife of a well-to-do rancher/store owner, wearing heels and wickedly delighting in telling my mother that her perfume was called "My Sin," and decided that I would've liked this classy woman had I gotten to know her. According to the Puerto Rican Census, she was 25 years old in 1920, the era of the Flapper, and already married to my great grandfather but I would imagine still impressionable. My own grandmother was yet to make her own debut.

"My Sin" (Mon Peché) contained notes of aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, clary sage, neroli; heart notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, clove, orris, lily of the valley, jonquil, lilac; base notes of vanilla, vetiver, musk, woods, tolu, styrax, civet. It was first produced in 1925 and was so popular it was discontinued only in 1988.

From what I've read online, it was the perfume of what we refer to today as ladies who lunch, debutantes, society women, and was "both pure like a white pearl and very sensual; [the scent] of the woman in black who smoked and wore as an accessory just a white flower."


I've decided I'm a going to order a vintage bottle off of eBay, and whether I think it reeks or wholly imbibe the scent, my mom and I will draw in Consuelo's sin. It too will be My Sin. It will be a keepsake to treasure forever.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day

Be good to Mother Gaia for our children's future lays in her hands * Photo via

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Book: Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras

In 1976 Buenos Aires, a ten-year-old boy lives in a world of school lessons and comic books, TV shows and games of Risk—a world in which men have superpowers and boys can conquer the globe on a rectangle of cardboard.

But in his hometown, the military has just seized power, and amid a climate of increasing terror and intimidation, people begin to disappear without a trace. When his mother unexpectedly pulls him and his younger brother from school, she tells him they’re going on an impromptu family trip. But he soon realizes that this will be no ordinary holiday: his parents are known supporters of the opposition, and they are going into hiding.

Holed up in a safe house in the remote hills outside the city, the family assumes new identities. The boy names himself Harry after his hero Houdini, and as tensions rise and the uncertain world around him descends into chaos, he spends his days of exile learning the secrets of escape.

Kamchatka is the portrait of a child forced to square fantasy with a reality in which family, politics, history, and even time itself have become more improbable than any fiction. Told from the points of view of Harry as a grown man and as a boy, Kamchatka is an unforgettable story of courage and sacrifice, the tricks of time and memory, and the fragile yet resilient fabric of childhood.

  • -Short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
  • “Subtle . . . Brilliantly observed, heartrending.”—Financial Times
  • “Interesting and insightful . . . Engrossing, often funny, and very, very unsettling.”—The Brooklyn Rail
  • “Stark and immediate, more moving because it is presented without sentimentality . . . [Written] with wry comedy . . . the tenderness breaks your heart.”—Booklist
  • “A masterpiece . . . Written in beautiful prose.”—De Telegraaf (Netherlands)
  • “Interesting and insightful . . . Engrossing, often funny, and very, very unsettling.”—The Brooklyn Rail
  • “Figueras writes with power and insight about the ways in which a child uses imagination to make sense of terrifying and baffling reality.”—The Times (UK)
  • “Tender, severe, moving, elegiac.”—El País (Spain) “Brilliant.”—The Independent
  • “This powerful novel brings to life the atmosphere of desperation following Argentina’s military coup of 1976. . . . A richly drawn, moving and memorable novel, a fine tribute to ‘los desaparecidos,’ Argentina’s ‘disappeared’”—Irish Examiner

About the Author

Born in 1962 in Buenos Aires, Marcelo Figueras is an award-winning journalist, screenwriter, and novelist. He has also been a war correspondent and singer. Figueras makes daily contributions to the Spanish-language literary blog, His books have previously been translated into French, German, Dutch, Polish and Russian; This is his first novel to be published in English.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Symmetry and Beauty

Filmmakers Will Hoffman, Daniel Mercadante, and Julius Metoyer III play with our yearning for balance, and reveal how beautiful imperfect matches can be.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rain Town by Hiroyasu Ishida - Beautiful!

The storyline reminds me of The Lost Playground, my childhood favorite (shout-out to Mostly Frederick Sometimes Sam).

No in Between

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Book: Pao By Kerry Young

One to note: Pao: A Novel by Kerry Young
As a young boy, Pao comes to Jamaica in the wake of the Chinese Civil War and rises to become the Godfather of Kingston's bustling Chinatown. Pao needs to take care of some dirty business, but he is no Don Corleone.

The rackets he runs are small-time, and the protection he provides necessary, given the minority status of the Chinese in Jamaica. Pao, in fact, is a sensitive guy in a wise guy role that doesn't quite fit. Often mystified by all that he must take care of, Pao invariably turns to Sun Tzu's Art of War.

The juxtaposition of the weighty, aphoristic words of the ancient Chinese sage, with the tricky criminal and romantic predicaments Pao must negotiate builds the basis of the novel's great charm. A tale of post-colonial Jamaica from a unique and politically potent perspective, Pao moves from the last days of British rule through periods of unrest at social and economic inequality, through tides of change that will bring about Rastafarianism and the Back to Africa Movement.

Pao is an utterly beguiling, unforgettable novel of race, class and creed, love and ambition, and a country in the throes of tumultuous change.

About the Author

Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese-African mother and a Chinese father-a businessman in Kingston's shadow economy, who provided inspiration for Pao. Young moved to England in 1965 at the age of ten. She earned her MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University. Pao is her first work of fiction, which traces one man’s search for a sense of self and place in Jamaica that is also struggling to shape its identity and destiny. Kerry completed an MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University. Pao is the first of a trilogy and will be published in July.
You can enter to win an advanced reader's copy at

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Global Voices on Literanista

Global Voices recently interviewed me about Literanista.

Check out the interview and see what I had to say about my book selections, my writing and more:

Blogging Latino Literature and Technology by Yarisa Colón Torres

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bathing in Joy

About a week and half ago, I finally treated myself to a spa day, courtesy of my best friend who gave me a lovely gift certificate to the Soho Sanctuary. The place was luxurious and relaxing. Right before my massage, I was given a choice of scented oils to choose from and while I listened to the options, my mind wandered to a story that my best friend has often told to me during times of crisis:

For a certain Native American tribe, the rite of passage for a girl on becoming a woman, was being sheltered away from everyone and being bathed by her mother. She would be bathed in milk so that she could be soft - for women had to be soft. And, she would be bathed and scoured with Rosemary (whose leaves are rough) so that she could be tough - for women must be tough. Her new 'armor' on she could rejoin the world as a woman.

The four oils to choose from where Eucalyptus for energy, Joy, Relaxation, and Citrus.

I chose to be bathed in Joy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Book: The Woman I Kept to Myself By Julia Alvarez

The works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life. Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, she has been articulating the passions and opinions of sisters and aunts, mothers and daughters, heroines and martyrs.

In The Woman I Kept to Myself, seventy-five poems that weave together the narrative of a woman's inner life, it is Julia Alvarez's own clear voice that sings out in every line. These are not poems of a woman discovering herself--Alvarez might say that's what her twenties were for--but of a woman returning to herself. Now, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become.

And she hides nothing: from her early marriages to her late-in-life love, from the politics that informed her to the prejudice that haunts her still. Her fears, her accomplishments, and the ready humor that permeates even her darkest thoughts are all proffered to the reader. Perhaps the truest words to describe this remarkable collection are the two that give the last section its title: keeping watch. We are pulled into the intimate circle of a woman who keeps us company by sharing the stories and insights that we often keep to ourselves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fage Ad IS Perfection

In the past couple of years, I've become fascinated by advertising - brilliant and brilliantly bad. This ad by Fage Yogurt is simply sublime. Its speaks to beauty, purity, and offers holistic emotional branding. Yay for Fage!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Guest Post: Frankie De Soto on Latin American Cyberliterature

Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature, edited by Claire Taylor and Thea Pitman offers evidence that Latinos from Latin American countries and the Caribbean can adapt to online media technology just as fast as non-Latinos here in the United States. Each chapter of the book focuses on one particular facet of media technology that Latinos clearly have expertise in within their society.

Media theorists and academics contribute their own research of interest in full detail within each chapter. I was very taken back by the case studies, they were well written and some of the visuals presented in the book were an added bonus to the content.

Further proof that Latinos are able to understand and adapt to a techno social culture was the fact that several well known Latino authors such as Jorge Luis Borges explored the concept of hypertext, a writing style that redefines the relationship of the reader and author as being blended together; the reader is immersed in the story rather than being the spectator. This concept was first explored by Latino authors even before the first computer was ever used, this later paved the way to today's hypermedia utilization.

I highly recommend this book to those who want to research online media usage in today's Latin American society. It's welcome read for both professionals and academics and a great resource tool.

Frankie De Soto recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Arts and Technology, where he studied the concepts of human/computer interaction, new media art and online social communities. After graduation, Frankie still continues to study the continuing development of online media technology in today's society. His main interests of research are CMS sitebuilding, SEO, cyborg anthropology, hypermedia, Hispanic online media and social media applications to build engagement, social intelligence and online communities.

He currently owns and manages two blogs. One is Solpersona, a blog about Hispanic online media, and the other is CyberAmbient, a blog about cyberculture and new media research. In his spare time, Frankie assists others as a WordPress and social media consultant.
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