Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction: Tunaluna by alurista

TUNALUNA by alurista
Aztlan Libre Press, 2010
Cover art by Judithe Hernández
With permission from Aztlan Libre Press, we reprint the introduction to Xicano poet alurista's tenth book of poetry, Tunaluna. This book also marks Aztlan Libre's inaugural collection.

I first met alurista in 1975 at the University of Texas in Austin. He was a Visiting Lecturer there for a couple of years teaching courses and already a legendary loco en la Literatura Xicana. I was a junior at the university and was involved en el Movimiento Chicano with various organizations at the school and in the community including MAYO and the Raza Unida Party and I had already begun writing when I enrolled in one of his Chicano Poetry classes. This course proved to be a turning point that greatly influenced the direction of my life and my life’s work. It was through alurista and this class of estudiantes and emerging escritores y poetas que se me prendió el foco. Everything came together, full circle, so to say, much like it has come together again today, and it was the new beginning of my American Indian spirituality and Xicano cultural identity. It was the new beginning of my work with poesía, música, danza, education, Chicano arts organizations and arts administration. It was the beginning of my work with Literatura Xicana and publications and independent Chicano publishing. In a very real sense, it was the beginning of Aztlan Libre Press, 35 years later, mas o menos, with the publication of this book, Tunaluna, our first and alurista’s tenth.

But it all began in alurista’s Chicano Poetry class at U.T. Austin where we met once a week, first on campus, then off campus, then at alurista’s home, or one of the other writer’s homes. We read our poetry, short stories, locuras, discussed, critiqued, talked politics, got organized, made música, marchamos, leímos en la universidad, la comunidad, and at the end of this course we published Trece Aliens, a compilation of writings and drawings from twelve students and alurista. I only have one copy in my files, copyrighted 1976 by the authors. An 8” X 11” spiral bound, xeroxed copied, black on white bond paper with black on blue slightly thicker cover stock and a Cecilio García-Camarillo black ink drawing on the cover entitled “Un bato con las manos abiertas” whose two outspread hands are drawn with the letters that spell “silencio” and whose black-hatted face is composed of words that read “para mi raza tortillas cósmicas” with a cucaracho coming out of the bottom of the drawing. I think we added that cucaracho to Cecilio’s drawing. Con permiso, carnal. It was my first publication. I remember collating the pages by hand assembly-style, and at the end of the short introduction to Trece Aliens alurista wrote: “la temática de la obra es el resultado de diálogos abiertos en los cuales exploramos la alienación humana – particularmente xicana – y sus causas. la dedicamos a todos los ‘aliens’ como nosotros, con esperanzas de que el dia llegue cuando las fronteras no existan.”

Thus began a journey that would immerse me in the Chicano Cultural Renaissance and working with many projects and organizations including the Conjunto Aztlan, LUChA (League of United Chicano Artists), the Festival Estudiantil Chicano de Arte y Literatura, Capitán-General Andrés Segura and Xinachtli, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Palo Alto College, and others.

All along this journey I have been involved with writing and publishing in one way or another. In 2008, my compañera, Anisa Onofre, who is also a poet/writer and currently the Director of the Writers in Communities Program at Gemini Ink here in San Antonio, and I decided to fulfill a dream and create an independent Chicano publishing company dedicated to the promotion of Xican@ Literature and Art. In 2009 Aztlan Libre Press began to become a reality. In the spirit of Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo and Caracol, plans are underway to publish Nahualliandoing Dos, a chapbook of collected poemas and writings in three languages, Nahuatl, Español and English, and a coloring book for children in three languages with the symbols of the 20 days in the Aztec calendar. Tunaluna is the first in the Veteran@s Series, and we're making plans for a Nuevas Voces Series and an Aztlan Libre Press Premio en la Literatura Xicana, among other projects. It’s a labor of love, pero como preguntó la camarada, “is there any other kind?”

This book just kinda fell into our proverbial laps. I hadn’t talked to the maestro alurista in years and Nisa and I found his website one evening. We e-mailed him and his son, Zamná, responded with a telephone number for him in Tijuana. I called him that night and we talked and caught up a bit on our San Anto-Tijuana telefonazo and when I mentioned Aztlan Libre Press just starting up, he said he had a latest manuscript of poemas he was going to send us. To our surprise, a couple of weeks later we received a typed manuscript for Tunaluna via snail-mail. We read the manuscript and were amazed and maybe just laughing un poquito that Aztlan Libre Press, a just-started-never- published-nada-small-Chicano-press-con-poca-feria, might publish alurista’s tenth book. So I called alurista again a little later in the week and presented the idea to him and de volada he said “simón k yes,” and sas, just like that, after months of trabajo and editing and decisions, “aquí estamos y no nos vamos.”

Another interesting convergence was with Judithe Hernández. She contacted us after seeing one of our internet postings about alurista’s book. Judithe had done the illustrations and artwork for alurista’s first book, Floricanto en Aztlán, in 1971. She offered her beautiful cover artwork and design for Tunaluna as a gift to alurista. Another connection had come full circle.

alurista is without a doubt one of the seminal and most influential voices in the history of Chican@ Literature. A pioneering poeta del Movimiento Chicano of the 60s and 70s, he broke down barriers in the publishing world with his use of multilingual and interlingual writings in three or more languages including English, Español and Nahuatl. But he is more than that. A maestro and mentor, camarada y duende destrampado, padre, abuelo, Ph.D profe and publisher, some have called him the Poet Laureate of Aztlán and he’s definitely one of them because he has been one of the most important poetic voices of the people, voz del Pueblo Chicano. He’s a thinker and philosopher, an organizer and activist. He was instrumental in developing Chicano Studies in the U.S. and a co-founder of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán). He also founded the Festival Floricanto, the first national festival dedicated to Chicano literature and art. His writings were key to reclaiming our history, heritage and MeXicano cultural identity. Author of the Preamble to “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán,” he integrated American Indian language, symbols, spirituality and the concept of Aztlan as the Chicano Nation into our literature which reconnected us to our raíces, our birthright, our ties to this land, and in turn, to the cosmic consciousness.

alurista’s poetry can be cryptic and encoded at times, considered to be beyond the reach of the common working man and woman del pueblo. While this crítica is true to a certain extent, he has always written for the people and is very conscious of the Chicanos’ colonized status within the U.S. and how the poor, working class people have been exploited economically by this Capitalist system and its attendant educational institutions that have been motivated by the greed of the rich and the profit principle. It was this historical, cultural, social, economic and political understanding that led him to the realization of a revolutionary aesthetic that stressed the importance of art and literature as a transforming tool and cultural weapon in the struggle for social justice.

Con mucho respeto y honor, Aztlan Libre Press is proud to present to you Tunaluna, alurista’s décima, and our inaugural publicación. This collection of 52 poemas and writings, plus a “meditation canto,” is classic alurista: passionate and political. He takes us on a time trip through the first decade of the 21st Century where he bears witness to the “Dubya” wars, terrorism, oil and $4 gallons of gas, slavery, and ultimately, spiritual salvation and transformation through his connection to the Creator, and the Lord ‘n’ Lady of the Dawn, and Buddha, and flores y cantos y amor. The “Word Wizard of Aztlan” is at his razor-sharp best, playing with his palabras as well as with our senses and sensibilities. He is the tlamantinime, keeper of the black and red ink who gives the people a face and heart. He is the tlatoani, who speaks for the people. He conjures up César Chávez and Corky González, maize and salsa con chile, pyramids and suns, urakán serpents and águilas in flight, then descends into the depths of the underworld and “labyrinths of this neofascist burrocracia” where workers sweat, bleed, and die, only to be resurrected again in “...cosmic love and spiritual freedom...yes. love. be we.”

alurista is a Xicano poet for the ages and a chronicler of la nueva raza cósmica. With Tunaluna he trumpets the return of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent of Aztec and Mayan prophecy, and helps to lead us out of war and into the dawn of a new consciousness and sun, el Sexto Sol, nahuicoatl, cuatro serpiente, sun of justice.
    In tlanextia in tonatiuh
    Que su sol sea brillante
    May your sun be brilliant
—Juan Tejeda, Publisher/Editor, Aztlan Libre Press


Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you for starting your press, and congratulations on inaugurating it with such a distinguished voice. How can readers of this blog get the book?

Oscar Bermeo said...

Readers interested in purchasing Tunaluna can do so by visiting Aztlan Libre Press' website: www.aztlanlibrepress.com/?page_id=90

anisa said...

Thank you Letras Latinas, for helping us get the word out there about Aztlan Libre Press.