A Conversation With Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2017-01-13 20:52Z by Steven

A Conversation With Natalie Scenters-Zapico

The American Literary Review
2016-03-27

Sebastian Hasani Paramo, Poetry Contest Coordinator

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of The Verging Cities, which won the 2016 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas FOCO Award, was featured as a top ten debut of 2015 by Poets and Writers, and named a Must-Read Debut by LitHub (Center For Literary Publishing, 2015). A CantoMundo fellow, her poems have appeared in American Poets, The Believer, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, Best American Poetry 2015, and more. She lives with her husband, border rhetorics scholar José Ángel Maldonado, in Salt Lake City.

Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection was recently named a top ten debut by Poets and Writers. Before that, her poetry was featured in American Poets, a publication by The Academy of American Poets, and was introduced by Dana Levin. That issue was my first introduction to her work and I eagerly anticipated her book. Many others have since applauded her aforementioned collection, The Verging Cities. Dana Levin writes that Scenters-Zapico “engages politically and personally charged material…with signature intimacy and fairy-tale strangeness.” In 2015, her book was featured on several top lists and included in Best American Poetry 2015. When I read her collection, I read it eagerly. Her poems in this collection are dark, visceral, haunting, and will echo for days in your mind. Here’s one of the most thought provoking lines in the collection:

I write of the boy I love gone missing, his father found with no teeth
In an abandoned car. Some say you have no right to talk about the dead.
So I talk of them as living, their bodies standing in the street’s bend.

Throughout, she builds and breaks down the boundaries of love, place, identity, and memory in ways that are unexpected, and uses them to great effect to write the political and engage us in the surreal violence of our time. I was fortunate to be able to interview her via email.

Sebastian Hasani Paramo: In reading The Verging Cities, I loved this idea of “verging” and the many forms it took. Your use of the Oxford English Dictionary as a guide for exploring this idea was very incredible. The relationship you created between the speaker and borders seemed to create much tension and conflict. Can you talk about this idea and how it culminates into the title poem?

Natalie Scenters-Zapico: When I started writing about El PasoCd. Juárez just about everyone had a reading list for me to take home. There are so many wonderful writers who have come before me who share the same love affair with the border. And yet, the more I read the more I felt that I had a very different relationship with the border than the ones I saw being described. So, I started talking about the border as verging—the beginning of one thing and the end of another in constant cycle. When I looked up the term “verge” in the OED I was fascinated by its long history and deeply masculine roots. So I set out to write poems that addressed the verging cities—being beaten by them, escaping them, returning to them. By the time we get to the title poem, “The Verging Cities,” I wanted the reader to get a sense that they are in fact one place, only to turn to that poem and hear two distinct voices, one from each city, in an abusive, violent, incestuous relationship. In it I turn to the history of border crossing into El Paso and the use of Zyklon-B, strip searches, etc. I wanted to point to how the use of these things continues. The past and the present are in constant cycle, there is no beginning or end…

SHP: What influences were important for you in writing about identity and what things do you say to young writers about feeling more comfortable writing about themselves? As a younger writer, I felt sometimes I didn’t always see myself in the writers I read, but when I started to–I saw many more possibilities for my writing.

NSZ: As a young writer I often made the mistake of looking for myself in the writing of others. As though, only if they mirrored my identity or experience in some way could I learn something from them. This is a huge, embarrassing mistake on my part. Because how could I, with my hybrid, messy, one could argue “pocha” identity see myself in a piece of literature as a complete mirror reflection? This is impossible. I understand that some people have this “mirror” experience in reading the work of others, but I don’t think I ever will. However, when I stopped looking for a reflection and instead looked for refracted moments, or places where I could feel deep empathy, or ways of dealing with and examining trauma that I could apply to myself that is when I felt I could truly learn.

I also have to give a huge shout out to people who are doing great work when it comes to hybrid identity in our field. I’ll never forget when I was nineteen I went to a reading at the University of Texas at El Paso by Rosa Alcalá in which she read from her amazing collection Undocumentaries. Here was this woman who looked like me, who was bilingual like me, who was willing to call herself Latina, and was questioning our traditional notions of that word. I left that reading nearly in tears, because it felt like she was talking to me, it felt like she was making me see the world in a way that both empowered me and made me question my pain. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked Rosa for that moment, but it changed me deeply.

I also love the work that Rosebud Ben-Oni is doing in advocating for people who don’t fit the mold perfectly, people who question the use of strategic essentialism, whose very existence won’t allow for it because it’s just so damn complicated. And of course, I personally am very interested in liminal spaces, and the art that can come from existing in that space. I wrote more about that in my introduction to the liminal spaces interview series I did for The Best American Poetry blog. I think it’s important to recognize that to be Latinx is to be hybrid. There is no such thing as purity in Latinidad, if you even buy into this very American idea of Latinidad…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Verging Cities, Poetry

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, Poetry, United States on 2017-01-09 02:02Z by Steven

The Verging Cities, Poetry

Center For Literary Publishing
2015
80 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-885635-43-3
6.5 x 8.5 inches

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

  • Poets and Writers Top Debut Poets 2015
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award
  • NACCS-Tejas Foco Best Poetry Book of 2015

Ninth in the Mountain West Poetry Series, edited by Stephanie G’Schwind & Donald Revell

From undocumented men named Angel, to angels falling from the sky, Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s gripping debut collection, The Verging Cities, is filled with explorations of immigration and marriage, narco-violence and femicide, and angels in the domestic sphere. Deeply rooted along the US-México border in the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, and Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, these poems give a brave new voice to the ways in which international politics affect the individual. Composed in a variety of forms, from sonnet and epithalamium to endnotes and field notes, each poem distills violent stories of narcos, undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents, and the people who fall in love with each other and their traumas.

The border in Scenters-Zapico’s The Verging Cities exists in a visceral place where the real is (sur)real. In these poems mouths speak suspended from ceilings, numbered metal poles mark the border and lovers’ spines, and cities scream to each other at night through fences that “ooze only silt.” This bold new vision of border life between what has been named the safest city in the United States and the murder capital of the world is in deep conversation with other border poets—Benjamin Alire Saenz, Gloria Anzaldúa, Alberto Ríos, and Luis Alberto Urrea—while establishing itself as a new and haunting interpretation of the border as a verge, the beginning of one thing and the end of another in constant cycle.

Read an excerpt here.

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The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2017-01-04 02:23Z by Steven

The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

University of California Press
January 2017
188 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520291638

Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

The Other California is the story of working-class communities and how they constituted the racially and ethnically diverse social landscape of Baja California. Packed with new and transformative stories, the book examines the interplay of land reform and migratory labor on the peninsula from 1850 to 1954, as governments, foreign investors, and local communities shaped a vibrant and dynamic borderland alongside the booming cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Santa Rosalia. Migration and intermarriage between Mexican women and men from Asia, Europe, and the United States transformed Baja California into a multicultural society. Mixed-race families extended across national borders, forging new local communities, labor relations, and border politics.

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The Life and Times of Pío Pico, Last Governor of Mexican California

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2016-10-30 16:42Z by Steven

The Life and Times of Pío Pico, Last Governor of Mexican California

Lost LA
KCET
Burbank, California
2016-10-27

William D. Estrada, Curator of California and American History and Chair of the History Department
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County


Pío de Jesus Pico and his wife, María Ignacia Alvarado Pico, in 1852, with two of their nieces, María Anita Alvarado (far left) and Trinidad Ortega (far right). Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Pío Pico was the last governor of California under Mexican rule, serving from 1845-46, just before the U.S. military occupation. Today, the name Pico is a familiar place name. Driving or walking throughout Southern California one will encounter busy Pico Boulevard; the City of Pico Rivera; two Pío Pico elementary schools; the Pico-Union district near downtown L.A.; Pico Park; the Pío Pico Koreatown Library; the three-story Pico House building; natural landmarks such as Pico Canyon north of Los Angeles and Pico Creek near Oceanside; and Pío Pico State Historic Park in the City of Whittier, just to name a few. His name has been commercialized in several businesses from corner grocery stores, shopping malls and fast food restaurants. And yet, despite the veneration in the popular mind, much of what we know about Pío Pico remains clouded in myth. His significance as an historical figure, as well as his connection to the contemporary Latino and African-American communities, is worth remembering…

Read the entire article here.

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Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Definitions, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-22 20:38Z by Steven

Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
September 2015
235 pages

Savannah N. Carroll

Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This investigation intends to uncover past and contemporary socioeconomic significance of being a racial other in Oaxaca, Mexico and its relevance in shaping Mexican national identity. The project has two purposes: first, to analyze activities and observations of cultural missionaries in Oaxaca during the 1920s and 1930s, and second to relate these findings to historical and present implications of blackness in an Afro-Mexican community. Cultural missionaries were appointed by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) to create schools throughout Mexico, focusing on the modernization of marginalized communities through formal and social education. This initiative was intended to resolve socioeconomic disparities and incorporate sectors of the population into the national framework that had been excluded prior to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. While these efforts were predominantly implemented in indigenous communities located in the northern part of Oaxaca, observations from cultural missionaries related to social and educational conditions reveal ongoing disparities between what it means to be indigenous versus mestizo. The exclusion of moreno, or Afro-descended people from this state sponsored initiative indicates that blackness along with indigenity is otherized, with the primary difference being that Afro-descended Mexicans lack visibility.

To gain a better perspective of the historical and present significance of blackness, my project moves from the general to the specific to include José Maria Morelos, Oaxaca, an Afro-descended community that is isolated, has no tourist attractions or services, dirt roads, and little access to socioeconomic resources. Morelos was established by blacks who escaped slavery and lived independently in their own community. People in the town strongly identify with this history and its relation to their present condition. After speaking with local activists, it became apparent that rights that were supposed to be gained from the Mexican Revolution, such as land rights and public education, did not happen in Morelos, which adversely affects people’s prospects for socioeconomic advancement.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-10-22 20:04Z by Steven

Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

University of Oklahoma Press
2016-10-20
304 pages
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus., 2 maps, 18 tables
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806154879

Robert C. Schwaller, Assistant Professor of History
University of Kansas, Lawrence

On December 19, 1554, the members of Tenochtitlan’s indigenous cabildo, or city council, petitioned Emperor Charles V of Spain for administrative changes “to save us from any Spaniard, mestizo, black, or mulato afflicting us in the marketplace, on the roads, in the canal, or in our homes.” Within thirty years of the conquest, the presence of these groups in New Spain was large enough to threaten the social, economic, and cultural order of the indigenous elite. In Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico, an ambitious rereading of colonial history, Robert C. Schwaller proposes using the Spanish term géneros de gente (types or categories of people) as part of a more nuanced perspective on what these categories of difference meant and how they evolved. His work revises our understanding of racial hierarchy in Mexico, the repercussions of which reach into the present.

Schwaller traces the connections between medieval Iberian ideas of difference and the unique societies forged in the Americas. He analyzes the ideological and legal development of géneros de gente into a system that began to resemble modern notions of race. He then examines the lives of early colonial mestizos and mulatos to show how individuals of mixed ancestry experienced the colonial order. By pairing an analysis of legal codes with a social history of mixed-race individuals, his work reveals the disjunction between the establishment of a common colonial language of what would become race and the ability of the colonial Spanish state to enforce such distinctions. Even as the colonial order established a system of governance that entrenched racial differences, colonial subjects continued to mediate their racial identities through social networks, cultural affinities, occupation, and residence.

Presenting a more complex picture of the ways difference came to be defined in colonial Mexico, this book exposes important tensions within Spanish colonialism and the developing social order. It affords a significant new view of the development and social experience of race—in early colonial Mexico and afterward.

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Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-17 00:07Z by Steven

Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

FotoRoom
2016-10-10

Photos by Cécile Smetana Baudier

31 year-old French-Danish photographer Cécile Smetana Baudier discusses Diaspora: Costa Chica, a subjective reportage from a coastal area of Mexico where Cécile lived with a minority ethnic group: the Mexicans of African descent. Her beautiful portraits and landscape photographs introduce us to this community living at the margins of their society, and sometimes victim of racist stereotypes.

Hello Cécile, thank you for this interview. What inspired your new series Diaspora: Costa Chica?

I was living in Oaxaca city in Mexico and was researching on a different project; however when I started working on it I never got a connection with the girls I was photographing. I was not in a very positive state of mind.

One day I was sitting at the dentist’s office. A lot of his clients where other photographers and therefore he had all these photography books on the table. I started looking through them and I stumbled across one about the Afro-Mexican community in Costa Chica, an area that expands from the state of Oaxaca to the coast of Guerrero. I didn’t know that there were any communities of people of African descent in Mexico and I started researching on the subject. I found the photos of Tony Gleaton, an American photographer who dedicated his life to portray Afro communities and I was very much inspired by him, which becomes very clear when comparing my own images to his…

Read the entire interview and view the gallery here.

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What is Afro-Latin America?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science, United States on 2016-09-06 02:23Z by Steven

What is Afro-Latin America?

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-09-04

Devyn Spence Benson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Latin American
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina

From Mexico to Brazil and beyond, Africans and people of African descent have fought in wars of independence, forged mixed race national identities, and contributed politically and culturally to the making of the Americas. Even though Latin America imported ten times as many slaves as the United States, only recently have scholars begun to highlight the role blacks and other people of African descent played in Latin American history. This course will explore the experiences of Afro-Latin Americans from slavery to the present, with a particular focus on Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. We will also read some of the newest transnational scholarship to understand how conversations about ending racism and building “raceless” nations spread throughout the Americas and influenced the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

In doing so, the course seeks to answer questions such as: What does it mean to be black in Latin America? Why has racism persisted in Latin America despite political revolutions claiming to eliminate discrimination? How have differing conceptions of “race” and “nation” caused the rise and decline of transnational black alliances between U.S. blacks and Afro-Latin Americans?

Last Tuesday, I began my eighth year of university teaching, but my first day at my new institution – Davidson College. Feeling both like a newbie (I was still unpacking boxes of books last week) and like an old pro, I dove right into teaching two introductory courses—Afro-Latin America and History of the Caribbean—passing out the course description pasted above. Both of my courses were cross-listed with Africana and Latin American Studies and fell under my purview as the new professor of Afro-Latin America. Mine is a joint position and the first untenured new hire for both Africana and Latin American Studies. I was initially shocked when I saw the advertisement last summer and remain shocked in many ways that both Africana and Latin American Studies at Davidson were interested in hiring an Afro-Latin Americanist as their first faculty position (other than chair) in two relatively young departments…

Read the entire article here.

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When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-09-01 00:58Z by Steven

When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

The Museum of African American Art
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90008
2016-06-05 through 2016-09-18
Opening Reception: 2016-06-05, 14:00-17:00 PDT (Local Time)

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN: The African Diaspora In Mexico opens Sunday, June 5, 2016, with a public reception from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at The Museum of African American Art. The opening will feature a drumming procession of African and Azteca dancers and musicians, a dramatic performance, and a talk and tour by the exhibit’s curator, Dr. Toni-Mokjaetji Humber, Professor Emeritus, Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN is an innovative, multidimensional project that includes photographs, artifacts, and installations that document the African presence in Mexico from the Ancient Olmecs — Mother Culture of the Americas — through the colonial enslavement period, to contemporary Mexico. In addition to the visual components, Dr. Humber has incorporated educational programs and activities to compliment the exhibit. She will conduct middle and high school tours of the exhibit with activities for students to better understand the culture and historical contributions of African Mexicans.

“Recognition of an African root in the Mexican heritage, both ancient and modern, has been rendered invisible in the ideological consciousness of what it means to be Mexican,” Dr. Humber states. “This research will present a face of Mexico that has been hidden, denied, and disparaged, yet one that is vital to Mexican history and culture.”

The exhibit is designed to further the understanding of African influence and contributions in the Americas and to foster greater understanding among African American, Chicano/Latino, and Indigenous communities about their historical connections and their intermingled sangre (blood) that has produced beautiful and dynamic peoples of the Americas.

For more information, click here.

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Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-08-28 02:32Z by Steven

Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

University of The West Indies Press
April 2016
234 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-976-640-579-3

Paulette A. Ramsay, Senior Lecturer in Spanish
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

Paulette Ramsay’s study analyses cultural and literary material produced by Afro-Mexicans on the Costa Chica de Guerrero y Oaxaca, Mexico, to undermine and overturn claims of mestizaje or Mexican homogeneity.

The interdisciplinary research draws on several theoretical constructs: cultural studies, linguistic anthropology, masculinity studies, gender studies, feminist criticisms, and broad postcolonial and postmodernist theories, especially as they relate to issues of belonging, diaspora, cultural identity, gender, marginalization, subjectivity and nationhood. The author points to the need to bring to an end all attempts at extending the discourse, whether for political or other reasons, that there are no identifiable Afro-descendants in Mexico. The undeniable existence of distinctively black Mexicans and their contributions to Mexican multiculturalism is patently recorded in these pages.

The analyses also aid the agenda of locating Afro-Mexican literary and cultural production within a broad Caribbean aesthetics, contributing to the expansion of the Caribbean as a broader cultural and historical space which includes Central and Latin America.

Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Foreword Father Glyn Jemmott Nelson
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Mexico through the Distorted Lens of Memín Pinguín
  • 2. Constructions of Gender and Nation in Selected Afro-Mexican Folktales
  • 3. Masculinity, Language and Power in Selected Afro-Mexican Corridos
  • 4. Place, Racial and Cultural Identities in Selected Afro-Mexican Oral and Lyric Verses
  • 5. Afro-Mexico in the Context of a Caribbean Literary and Cultural Aesthetics
  • Conclusion
  • Photographs
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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