2014 Uptown Art Stroll Olmos Park Terrace November 1 (10 am-5pm) and 2nd (noon-5 pm) Free More info here A wise woman once told Anel Flores to move to Olmos Park Terrace. Sixteen years later, and she’s still in the neighborhood writing, painting, and making jewelry forever “inspired by my community garden, my neighbor’s outdoor sculptures, and the colorful bike-riders who fly by daily.”
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by Stephen Miller
photography by Mario Gutierrez
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This month is my birthday and I am more aware this year than ever, that I am a water sign. I have learned, most importantly, that water feeds my physical endurance, spiritual connectivity, creativity, storytelling, meditation and even my sex life! My blood moves, stirs and pumps through the veins and arteries of my hands, toes, face, heart, arms, legs and soul. On this day, I meditate on water and how she is my sustenance. Blessed I am to have her, and blessed I am to know how I must care for her and invite her into my life to keep living.
If you know me, you know Pancho. This morning at about 4 am my Pancho asked to go outside with the tapping of his nails on our hardwood floors. Unlike other nights, Pancho didn’t follow me to the door but took a few crooked turns into the closet and into Erika’s dresses hanging down low. Gently and slowly, I cupped his little belly in my hand and with my other hand cradled him out the back door and onto the porch. He made a few shaky turns and the whiteness in his pupils glowed brighter than before. I knew his sight, which had been deteriorating, had officially gone, along with his hearing, his hips and jaw. Barefoot, I scooped him up and took him out onto the middle of the grass. He made a few circles around, sniffed the soil around our orange tree, stumbled over a few hanging rose bush branches and passed clearly by our terra-cotta Virgen de Guadalupe statue without a scratch. I think the smell of the rain spooked him to wake but I knew he didn’t like the rain so I cradled him again and took him inside. Before we made it back to the bed he was heavy asleep in my crossed arms, with his sweet head hanging off of my bicep so I had no choice but to lay him beside us this morning. He would end up on the bed anyway once the rain started. We all slept peacefully. At 8 am, I received a text from a good friend telling me her two year old daughter woke up demanding to see Tia Anel today. She hinted that her daughter feels thing in others she loves and needed to bring her by to check on me. The rain was already falling when I read the text, tapping on the metal porch roof and waking the house slowly, waking everyone except for Pancho. For the first time in 17 years, Pancho didn’t want to get up, but wanted to be in my arms.
After a few visits from some of Pancho’s good friends, including the little two-year old Milagro, many hugs and kisses from Jessica, Klarissa, Erika and I, our Pancho, Paco, Francisco, Chancho, Panch, said goodbye.
Now, the thunder crashes and I feel lucky for two reasons. One, Pancho isn’t scared. Two, the universe is crying tears and cleansing his spirit as he travels through to the next life.
Rest in peace my sweet middle child. Born on Madonna’s birthday, you rocked this life for 17 good years. See you in our next lifetime. Say “hi” to grandma for me. Be safe and eat a lot of peanut butter. And, thanks for being my protector. We love you.
We invite jotas writing from the heart. Tell us your desires, challenges, love, deceit and everything in between.
Anel Flores’ Artwork will be available at the Uptown Art Stroll This Weekend,
October 30, 2013 San Antonio Express News
by Steve Bennett
For my ‘Buela 12 years after her death, on the first morning of rain after 4 months of dry 100+ heat.
My knees in this hard seat are starting to hurt. Mami doesn’t see me wave my fingers at her though the small openings on the back of the chair. Her mind is on other things – the two dirty forks in the sink and the tamales Tía Chita brought to breakfast this morning that make mami feel guilty for lying that she liked them. Buela is making her tortillas and the tías are making arroz, some kinda carne picada for dinner, and a calabaza mix with cebollas y chile, all while brewing an entire pot of coffee past the measuring line. We spend a lot of time together, the mujeres of my family, cooking and preparing meals. Our brown kitchen-chairs are slippery, and every time I try to get a better look at Buela roll the creamy colored tortilla masa, I slip a little bit down into the dip of the chair where your butt is supposed to fit, deeper and deeper, until I end up against the brown rails of her back. And even though I want to get down, mami hasn’t given me permission yet. Even though I am barely two feet from Buela’s cooking space and the voice wall of the tías talking, they don’t hear me or notice me squirm in pain. I imagine this is what Tío Crisóforo feels in la pinta while he stands for hours against his cell bars, wondering when his date of escape will come. Las tías talk about him in whispers when Buela’s in the cupboard getting the flour out. Everyone would rather not talk aboutTío Crisóforo because his life sets a bad example, “for the hijos,” and because Tío’s story makes Buela cry and cry, and sometimes stop cooking.
While Buela cooks, my tías and primas circle around to smell the food but most importantly, they circle in and out of hundreds of conversations overlapping each other and creating sharp clapping sounds with their gasps of excitement and worry. ¡Bien exageradas!
Today mami’s chatter spills the frijoles of my sister’s menstrual thing she got for the first time. It sounds like a big deal.
“I sent my honey with an empty Maxi pad box to the store so he wouldn’t buy her the wrong kinds.”
Because my mami is the most güera, the oldest of the cuatas and the oldest of all her hermanas, the other tías listen to her like she’s the priest at church and ask her a million probing personal questions for advice and gossip.
“Oye, did you talk to her?” Tía Chita whispers.
Concerned, Buela asks, “Does little Palomita know what to expect when she starts her period?”
Making the sign of the cross, looking down, and in a straining voice that reminds me of a detective’s tone, Tía Chita who was in the convent for three months says, “¡Ay, dios mío, that means la Lili will be ready for sex very soon now que está menstruating!! ¿Tienes miedo?”
The youngest tía holds her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh and spray beer on Buela’s masa while she crouches her vibrating body and laughs hysterically without sounds. The laughing Tía Toña has a pretty bad husband and just laughs at everything, always, anytime, regardless of how serious the chisme might be. Her sisters are her only sanity. Pobrecita Tía, she married too early and only because back then Tío Carlito looked like Elvis.
My older primas don’t huddle over Buela’s butcher block beside the stove with the tías; they sit at the table having a chisme exchange of their own, behind me.
“Hey girl, I heard you got your period? I didn’t get mine,” the cousin who lives in the Río Grande Valley whispers in a low hum, “Does that mean I’m pregnant?”
Secrets jump in and out of my ears. As the baby, I get to hear them all. Buela talks to herself while everyone’s stories fly aound, rolling and rolling our family version of pan and looking through me, kneeling on the chair in front of her. I am at her eye level. She swears once her height was five–foot-thee, and I don’t know how that could be possible especially because that would mean she stood higher than anyone in my family. I don’t doubt her or let her know that I question her height either. What Buela says is right; she’s lived much longer and knows what I know, times all those extra years she’s lived plus mine.
“When your Buelo died, I didn’t cry. I sat in my room at the edge of my bed. Didn’t cry.” She shook her head like the one leaf left dangling from the nogal after the fall wind blew through. In her raging tone, she makes sure I know that even without a man, a woman doesn’t cry. And before continuing her whispering rant no one but I heard, she throws a several pound masa ball onto the butcher block, over and over again until it becomes elastic enough for her to stretch the white dough towards her and watch it quickly return to its original shape. Her habitual addiction of making tortillas for every woman, child, man and friend in the family holds my attention even when she stops talking.
My Buela went from being, “la esposa de Concepción,” “mamá de las cuatas,” “de la Tienda Guadalupe,” to “la viuda,” the widow left alone with no one to care for or to be cared for. Between stories, Buela looks away from me, down toward the butcher block, spins the flatteningtortilla to six o’clock and pounds another time down onto its quickly thinning form. How yummy the tortillas will taste once tostadas, with butter y sal. They’re toasty and Buela will be wrapping them up one by one in a towel, right off the comal.
“The rich men from the other side of the railroad were all there, eating the little food we had left. Even the familias who never paid us back after their account receipts burnt up with the store, came to the house the day he died. Who knows if they were stealing from us? ¡Sinvergüenzas!”
Buela’s eyes tilted up while she told this part of the story and her voice became louder than all the echoing chisme slapping on the wall.
My bruises are already burning and the pain is so hot I pretend my knees are tortillas and lift them from the chair-seat rocking back and forth, up and down, again and again, and laughing to myself at the game I play alone. Buela’s tortillas de harina deserve to be tended to much more than my tortillas de rodillas.
The babbling of my tías and primas, monotone from its overflo, drowns under the flat hum of the ceiling fan and only my ears recognize the sounds of my Buela’s story. In her high-pitched, animated voice, Buela keeps on telling her stories.
“I didn’t have a job. Very little money was coming in. Only enough to pay things off like your Buelo’s burial. I paid for mine then too, ¡si acaso! You never know!”
In the pity-portion of the speech Buela’s slanted eyes reshape themselves into droplets.
“Everything was taken away from me. Mis hijos were already married off, except your Tía Toña, but she had to stay with me because she was still in secundaria. And I thought they were gonna take your Buelo’s last name from me.” Her eyes look down and get lost staring into space, the way mine do a lot of the times I’m in the kitchen. Mami added to my Buela’s story with an excited tone, “The first feminists I ever met in the early 50’s were you and dad. Ya’ll lectured us all the time, remember you would say, ‘¡Yo quiero que mis hijas se eduquen para que ningún cabrón diga que no puenden sobrevivir sin ellos!’ Ya’ll wanted each of us girls to get an education so that no asshole could come and say that we couldn’t survive without him! Remember, Amá?”
She blushed a little after saying the word asshole out loud. It doesn’t phase the tías or primas that Mami just rudely interrupted Buela’s story because they are so used to just running over their amá’s words with their hasty thoughts.
For the first time, I feel like Buela’s heart is inside of mine; like we are the same person, alone on our knees calling out for someone to notice us, to hear our stories or feel our pain, but there is no response. Truth is, the tías didn’t want to hear the rough parts of Buela’s story anymore because they hurt and reopen wounds bandaged after their dad, my grandpa, fell asleep and never woke up. Besides, the hitting of the rolling pin on the butcher block drowned out the rough stories.
Into my eyes, she pinned her stare and continued to talk only to me, “but then, when I thought I was all alone, your mami got pregnant with you, mijita, and you became my new mitad.”
From behind the bars of the kitchen chair I am kneeling on, I watch her. She flips the tortilla, turns it to twelve o’clock, rolls, flips it again, rolls, tosses it like a frisbee onto her black comal, and I stare through her.
Tortillas de Rodillas is an excerpt taken from Empanada: A Lesbiana Story en Probaditas.
Pick up your copy now by clicking on the link!
Last Sunday we awoke ready for a road trip up to Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve with some friends of the family for swimming fun, sandwiches and snacks in the sun. This didn’t happen after all.
After brewing some cafesito, each of the girls and Erika stumbled out of bed in their chones and before I could finish my first cup, we were all sitting around the living room, feeling blue from the news of George Zimmerman being found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin’s death. This also brought up the conversation of our lesbian, Portland, TX neighbors, Mollie Olgin and Kristene Chapa, who were violently shot execution style and left for dead, in June of 2012. “They still haven’t found the killer,” Baby K said, “Why is it taking so long?” What do we answer? How do we answer those questions? Trayvon Martin was walking around minding his own business, like Mollie and Kristene, when he was followed and profiled by Zimmerman. He had done absolutely nothing criminal when Zimmerman decided to get out of the car to approach him. This resulted in Trayvon defending himself and then later the fatal shooting that would leave our young, black hermano dead. Seconds later Zimmerman would say, “”F—— punks. “These a–holes, they always get away.” Where is the humanity in this man’s voice? There isn’t any – proof in my heart that he had premeditated hatred and ill will.
Seriously? Where is the humanity? Where is the humanity in the voices of young bullies who made Carlos Vigil commit suicide because he was made to feel unworthy to live after they called him “a fag, a freak and a loser?”
We have all felt and seen discrimination, up close, for being lesbian mothers, lesbian latinas, lesbians! or children of lesbians. For the sake of not reliving some of the most painful memories, I will not retell those we are still healing from here, but just say there have been many. The latest incident was at the mall while we walked by a line of shoppers in front of an ice cream shop. One family in line pointed at us, with extreme disgust on their faces. All four of us stared at them until we walked on by, Erika and I, hand in hand and the girls under our arms. Did it feel good? No. Do we know we have to continue to be ourselves on a daily basis? Yes. We choose to live our lives, as OUR lives, honestly, truly, lovingly and with our heads held up high. We also recognize we are lucky to be loved by so many great family, friends and community, as well. And, we recognize that there are too many people out there who are feeling unsafe, alone, left out, shunned or forgotten.
Sunday, in the safety of our home, we allowed our shoulders to drop, we allowed ourselves to feel down, to feel defeated, to feel like justice has still not been able to find a way to recognize that profiling based on race, gender, and sexual orientation is a reality and a truth. I remember when I was in the classroom, as a teacher, being profiled as a pedophile because I was an out Lesbian. Teachers would tell me, “Keep the door open when you are tutoring the girls because then people will think you are having relations with them.” Or, I was not allowed to take girls on field trips without a male teacher because, “Then parents won’t feel safe that you are with their daughters.” Yet, the male teacher across the hall was married to his past female drum major (then only 19 and he was well over 40.) True story. In college, a group of kids from our Bible study wrote on my car, “you are going to hell” and they smeared dog shit on my windows for everyone on campus to see. I was too afraid to do anything then but I know who it was to this day, and at this point I have to leave that action up to karma and let the pain go, but the truth live. Hate exists in this world. We are not protected from the violence it projects but we are able to defeat it every moment by illuminating love and peace as often as possible.
We decided to stay home on Sunday; ate breakfast together, made lunch together, laid on the hammock together, did yoga in our chones on the living room floor together, and we made an offering of water and flowers to the spirit of those lost because of hatred.
It was a much needed day of remembering, healing, strengthening and loving. Ometeotl.
Dedicated to all of our familia, friends and supporters of LOVE. Please be kind to yourself, to your memories, to your heart, to your body and to the earth. Being the best person you are will inevitable spread love and support to the people that need you. They will show up in your path and your light will strengthen them.
2013 (c) Anel I. Flores
Mi Mujer Rosa
Recycled Cruel Free Fine Silver Lace Pink Sapphire
In 1951, my grandparent’s Five & Dime General store in Mission, TX burned down. One of the only remaining items salvaged from the disaster was a small receipt box with a few bills and several swatches of my grandmother’s favorite lace. In this series of rings, each band is imprinted with the actual lace from my grandmother’s store. My grandmother rebuilt her life tightly into the intricately woven threads and knots of lace. When worn, each jewelry piece is a constant reminder to weave the moments of our lives together into a beautiful and strong lace.