I hate when I can’t figure out how to insert Spanish punctuation into documents and messages from my keyboard. But I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t give a shout out for National Hispanic Heritage Month which started September 15th and ends October 15. And I would lose some major cool points with some dear friends if I didn’t acknowledge. Plus this is a shout out to some family members too.
I’ll kick this off with the great stuff I got in my gift bag at the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) Noche de Gala earlier this month. The NHFA’s annual gala raises scholarship monies for Hispanic American students enrolled in graduate programs in the arts, specifically film, television, theater, and music. The organization was co-founded by actors Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, Sonia Braga, and attorney Felix Sanchez. And we’re all on a first name basis since I’m on the NHFA board. The Gala is my annual excuse for buying after-five. I consider formal my favorite and most flattering attire.
One of the goodies in the bag was especially meaningful for the NHFA’s mission: Tales From the Town of Widows written by James Canon who earned his MFA in creative writing from Columbia University with the help of a NHFA scholarship. His book has been optioned for a film. A few years ago, Newsweek magazine declared magical realism dead. Declaring something dead is the usual spin for introducing something new usually followed by the word “wave.” The magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende was so called being swept away by a new generation of Latin American writers here and abroad who were bringing grit, urban realism, and a minimalist prose to the novel. Just a reminder, Hispanic authors are not required by law to write in the magical realism style. But Canon chose to apply it to Tales From the Town of Widows. I’ve read a few pages and have already decided this book’s gonna be good.
The second item goes into my purse for the DJ at the salsa club – a CD of Willy Chirino’s Pa’lante. Chirino performed live at the Gala getting the 3 inch heals and tuxes on their feet in the Mayflower ballroom. Chirino was born in Cuba and was part of the airlift of Cuban children to the United States in the early 1960s. Obviously he didn’t leave Cuba without one of its prize traditions – it’s musica. I’m no music critic, but this CD’s a party all by itself. Chirino is based in Miami.
Last item of note in the bag was a DVD of Under the Same Moon (la Misma Luna), a film by Patricia Riggen who received the NHFA’s Raul Julia Award.
I must digress for a moment to explain this award. Raul Julia was an actor of Puerto Rican descent. The first time I saw him was on television when PBS broadcasted Joseph Papp’s Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park production of “Taming of the Shrew.” Julia played Petruchio, Meryl Streep played Kate. I was sold that this was a star rising. Raul Julia made films including “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Tequila Sunrise,” and many more. Most people know him as Gomez Addams from the feature film version of “The Addams Family.” But he preferred to be known for his stage work, his wife, Merel, told me.
All that said, Patricia Riggen, surrounded by members of the cast of “Under the Same Moon” accepted the honor. “Under the Same Moon” is about a mother a son and their special bond that couldn’t be broken even when the mother leaves Mexico for the United States to build a better life for them. I haven’t broken the seal on the box yet, but Jimmy Smits assured me I won’t be disappointed. If this film is anything like Gregory Nava’s “El Norte,” which totally changed my life and perspective on immigration, I better have a box of Kleenex next to the remote.
Here are some links to calendars for Hispanic Heritage Month.
National Hispanic Heritage Month – Library of Congress
National Council of La Raza – Hispanic Heritage Month Calendar