Juliana Aragón Fatula

writer

Sin Fronteras

Sin Fronteras

writing

juliana at work on the beach

Juliana Aragón Fatula
Sin Fronteras

After Carlos Almaraz’s Night Magic (Blue Jester), 1988, oil on canvas

She don’t regret nothing. Don’t apologize for a thing. An alcoholic, high school drop-out, hippy, cowgirl, Indian, Mexican, Mexican- Indian, Native American, pocha, misfit, statistic, survivor of sexual abuse, of domestic abuse, survivor of “I should be dead, but I’m still here,” best friend, wife, sexaholic, bad friend, bad wife, bad mother, bad daughter, bad sister, rebel, la Chicana-feminist, la feminist-Chicana, la Mexica, la Mestiza, la india, la mujer, la llorona, la Virgen de Guadalupe, la student, la teacher, la writer, la chica, la jita, la jester.

She yells at the crowd at the bus stop, “Don’t call me Hispanic! Or girl. Cause I’m a woman. La mujer, la chola, la vata—but don’t call me girl. You can call me la chingona but don’t call me Hispanic.” Between many worlds, she lives sin fronteras.
She stumbles onto the bus and rides through the north side of Denver. Sees house after house for sale. The cantinas gone, the segunda replaced with Gently Used Shops. The dark night streets flashing red lights. Police versus barrio boys.
Candlelight in windows flickers like falling stars, fallen angels, gang bangers, hookers. Children jumping rope on the corner where she rode her bike to la tiendita to cash in her pop bottles for candy money. The cement steps, the metal rail made from recycled plumbing. She would swing upside down on the pipe, her hair sweeping the ground, her hair blue black in the twilight. Now demolished.

Her community speaking Caló: órale vato, simón hermano, cálmese ése, o calmantes Montes, ay te wacho, ésele, a toda madre. The new neighbors speaking only English, arriving in Hummers and Subarus. The gardens where the flowers once bloomed silver, azure, peony pink, hollyhock white, Indian corn, now a parking lot.
She stares out the window of the bus. She doesn’t recognize a soul. Where are her people? Where have la gente gone? Why did they leave? She gets off at the stop in front of her old house. While she was sleeping it disappeared. Poof. Like that.
She asks a stranger passing by, “Excuse me, mister, what happened to the people who lived here?” He says, very matter of fact, “The couple died. Mr. and Mrs. James Harris bought the house.”

She stands until she can’t and then sits on the curb. “How long was I locked up? What day is it?” She feels like she’s in a black and white movie that’s been digitalized and technicolored. The magnetism and zeal of that time turned into a bad Disney film. The Harrises were not the Romeros, nor the Martinezes nor the Valdezes. Where are the Valdezes, who lived next door?

She laughs and says, “I’ve come home to casi nada, no gente, no carnalismo. No le hace. El barrio es agringado.”

The neighbor’s house with the front porch swing, revamped into an art gallery with a mural painted on the brick wall. She recognizes the painting. It reminds her of the last painting she saw. In a book, in a classroom. What was the name of it? The Blue Fool, no, no Blue Jester. No. Night Magic. She lifts her head to the heavens, can see it so clearly in the dark blue clouds. Rips of color in random shapes. Triangles, spheres, silhouettes of faces. Smears of light cast shadows. The black skyline turns blue. Dilapidated buildings in decay. The artist hides in the corner and paints the velvety darkness. The crippled man wears his Panama and carries an umbrella to keep the stars from falling on his skull. The blue jester lifts her halo to the cityscape. The second blue jester frowns into the mirror. The ceiling collapses. He tries to hold it up with his left hand. The pit bull, silent but attentive sits in the smoke. The homeless man sneaks and peeks from the alley. The red hue of taverns behind him like flames. The flashing police car lights wash the buildings in yellow, orange, green, red. They throb like the heartbeats of the city.

She listens to the wind and hears her mother’s voice: “Listen, you’ve been gone too long and everything changes, everything evolves. Like the day turns into night. Like young turns into old. Remember? Those were your words. That’s what you told me when I asked where you were going: out in the night, mamá, out into the blue magic night.”

Western Humanities Review · University of Utah · Department of English
255 S Central Campus Drive · Room 3500 SLC, UT 84112
© 2019 · Western Humanities Review

 

Leave a comment »

My First Visit to Casa Camino Real and Denise Chavez in her bookstore

 

TeacherJuli

That’s bullshit. That’s not what really happened. This is what really happened…

The sun shines in Pueblo, Colorado and I sip my café olla in late morning. I slept late after driving ten hours across Southern Colorado to the border town of Las Cruces, New Mexico. You know the feeling of jet lag when you’ve travelled cross country and can barely feel you legs or fingers from being in the same position white knuckled on the steering wheel and legs bent behind the gas pedals. Pero, the joy in my heart demands that I sing and dance and live in the moment of the experience of meeting new writers, work shopping with a legend, Denise Chavez; and traveling somewhere you’ve never been before, Las Cruces.

I met Denise Chavez in Pueblo, Colorado a year ago and had planned to visit her as soon as I was able.  After total knee replacement surgery, I accepted my limits and saved my money for her next writing workshop. I wanted to travel in the summer and not worry about winter storms on Interstate 25. So instead, I drove home in a summer hail storm that beat the hell out of my new Subaru and scared the bejesus out of me for hours.

The sun was shining. It had cooled off from the high temperature of 108 in Las Cruces. I stopped for gasoline and was told a hail storm with baseball size hail was ahead on the way home.

The sky blue and the birds sang and I felt no fear. A few minutes later as I drove north to Colorado, the sky darkened and the wind blew the birds like paper dolls. An ominous cloud of terror grew in the sky and changed daylight to night. It began with a sprinkle on the windshield. Plop. One rain drop. Then a torrent of rain fell sideways. My visibility changed to a wall of darkness. Vehicles began to slow and then pull of the interstate. Hail began to pound my vehicle relentlessly until I pulled off the interstate and parked next to a wall of stone.  The noise from the hail storm was so loud I couldn’t hear the radio. Streams of water ran off the stone wall and began to turn into a creek next to the car. The sky grew darker and the hail fell harder and the rain came down in sheets. I’d never seen it rain that hard, ever. I had food, water, fuel and lots of books to read, so I settled back and tried not to scream or freak out.

As I sat and waited for the storm to pass or subside, I pondered on my trip, my journey, my adventure. I felt alive and rejuvenated. I had challenged myself to travel by Subaru and experience the land of enchantment, New Mexico. It did not disappoint. Ever view was spectacular. The lava fields, the mesas, the mountains, the arroyos, the jagged tips of granite that projected from the earth into monuments. The temperature grew hotter by the hour until finally reaching a scorching 108 degrees. But suffering makes us stronger and I grew incredibly able to withstand the high temperatures. The heat melts the pavement so I saw doggies wearing little boots, glasses, and damp scarves around their necks.  I wore a slip dress, sandals, and a damp bandana around my head. It felt similar to attending a sweat lodge but the bookstore was an ancient adobe building with cracks in the ceiling and the essence of souls gone but not forgotten.

In the workshop Denise Chavez, the infamous, Denise Chavez, asked us to write and then stop and say, wait a minute, that’s not what happened. This is what really happened. We did that several times. Each time getting closer to the truth of our family myths and legends.

Denise gave us breaks for café olla, fruit, nuts, pan dulce… We switched from writing myths to creating myth boxes of recycled cigar boxes donated to the bookstore for craft projects. We brought family photos and mementos to embellish our myth boxes with memories of loved ones. Mine turned out to be a huge success even though I don’t consider myself artistic that way, the spirt moved me, the women worked elbow to elbow in the tight space and shared scissors, glue, and chisme.

We returned to writing our family legends and myths and wrote about the relative we wanted to explore. I wanted to write about the love story of my parents. Also their struggles and successes. I used photos of my mom, dad, son, and myself to inspire me to create the myth box and the myth and legends. This activity felt like art/write/perform and heal your deep pain. Women cried and laughed and hugged and ate and drank and sang and danced and rejoiced in being alive and experiencing a shared moment in time.

The ambiance of Denise Chavez’ book store, Casa Camino Real, feels sacred, holy, rooms stacked ceiling high with books by incredible writers. Paintings and  photographs on the walls by famous artists: Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and the talented and handsome husband of Denise, Daniel.

I spent the evening talking with Denise and Daniel in the lobby of my motel. We talked like old friends for hours. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, I promised to return again so we could share more stories. The couple have synced their communication after years of marriage so that they compliment each other’s stories. They have a sense of humor that can’t be denied. Interesting, funny, generous, charming, and a very liberal. I could have spent days with them and never tired of hearing their stories and sharing mine with them.

The adventure, the road trip, the writing workshop, the meals and conversation, the café olla and the iced tea gave me a jolt of happiness that I will never forget. I planned on learning from Denise, the master writer, and sharing my knowledge with my writer friends in Colorado and California. She graciously allowed me to video interview her afterward even though we were exhausted and she had just held a press conference for Los Libros traficantes the day before. She loved telling the writers about the caravan of book smugglers who travelled through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to deliver banned books to students in Tucson, Arizona and the Ethnic Studies Programs in the schools. Denise has her hand in many political hot pots of activism. From the Lasagna Day Fundraiser for Feral Cats, to the Cultural celebrations of Chicano artists, writers, move makers, and social activists fighting for the underserved and marginalized.

Stay turned for more about my adventures in New Mexico. I need a few days to refuel and then I’ll be back to tell you more. Until then, remember my friends, if you don’t get sticky, you aren’t having enough fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Finalist in Montana High Plains Book Award

imagehigh plains book award in Montana

Leave a comment »

When is too much, too much?

chocolate cosmos cowgirl You see it all started about 25 years ago. When I gave up the party. I grew up. I settled down. I buckled up. I rode in my first rodeo for the last time. I fell in love. I met someone who completes me. I met him on a blind date. It was 1990 and Prince was still the artist known as Prince. May he RIP.

My blind date was 29 years young. I was 30ish39. I can’t remember how old we were but we were hot still. We’re still hot. I’m hot. He’s hot. We’re hot, ok?

My sister became an angel about 1989. Her daughter, my niece, the angel Victoria, introduced me to my husband. It was predestine in the stars. Her husband worked with my blind date cleaning windows on high rises in Denver Metro.

My Vance, as my deaf father called him, was so respectful. Vince was handsome, yes, but didn’t know it. Still doesn’t know it. But he is trust me. I have to fight off women all of the time from stealing him. I just say to them these three little letters. “OCD.” He’s a handful and then some, but he works three jobs, so I can stay home and work on my writing. Yes, I run the household, the finances, the family, blah blah blah, but he works hard for the money, so hard for it honey. Remember we met in the 90’s.

So what is my point? I forgot. What were we talking about? Oh. Yes, love. In my writing I create elaborate romantic scenes where my characters dance to Culture Club, Prince, Isaac Hayes, Ruben Blades, Sade. They disco, salsa, tango, dirty dance, bump and grind to music on the dance floor, any floor, anywhere. The sex is only in their imaginations. Their daydreams, their wet dreams; because LA and Tony Tong are not doing the nasty. Not with each other anyway, except for in their dreams. She has nyctophilia. Prefers night to day. Night the cover of sinners. LA investigates under the dark cover of night.

I want to write something like the 70’s TV show, Moonlighting. Or the 90’s show, Northern Exposure. I want the idea of sex to be lingering in the atmosphere ready to burst at any time. I want the sexual tension between these two main characters, the murder suspect and the Private Investigator, to be filled with desire and hot thoughts. I want the two of them to dream about each other every night and in their dreams to dance and make love, and laugh, and play, and laugh. I want them to be the perfect ideal couple. But the two opposites. One is brave one is a pussy.

The female character defends the male character. She is strong, tough, smart.

He is sexy. He is weak. He is not a woman. He loves a woman incapable of love.

She is a celibate Chicana. An educated Chicana. And a Chicana Woman. Lethal combination.

So what does this have to do with my 25 year old relationship with my husband? Well, he is my second husband. I am his second wife. So I guess when we were  younger we were both married to other people and might never have met. But devine intervention blew into town and swept us both off our feet onto our asses.

My mom and dad had a special love. They were each other’s sweethearts. They  met when my mom was a little girl and her older brother brought home his bestfriend, Julian Aragon. She didn’t know that one day she would be Mrs. Julian Aragon. They were also each other’s second marriage. I’ll tell you that love story some day. If  you ask nice.

Well, I’m only happy when I’m writing so I’m going to say adios. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my murder mystery comedy love story. If you ask nice.

Leave a comment »

April Poetry Month

My language is my identity. My own unique voice: no longer silent or shameful of not being Indian enough to be called Indian, and called a pocha: like a musician who knows how to play an instrument but can’t read music. I write stories about my culture and code switch between languages. Spanglish is the story, the rebellion, the music, my voice. I refuse to be ashamed of my tongue. I land right in the middle.

SkywardStonehenge – 2007

She hands me the dowser.

my hands—stones,

jagged blades,

monsters,

buried,

loose,

loaded-down.

Eyes etched

in treasures,

sea caves,

ancestral graves of jade.

Everyone is surprised when the dowser moves towards Stonehenge. My traveling companions take it as a bit of a magic trick, but I hold the rod and I know there is no trick involved. They move on; I remain behind to say a prayer. I kneel on the damp grass and begin to pray. My head begins to be bend toward the ground. I pull my head up. It begins to bow down again. I feel this eery sense of magnetism drawing my head down to the earth. It looks like I am bowing while praying, like a Buddhist monk. I close my eyes and live in the moment.

My companions yell for me to join them in the gift shop before the bus returns to town. I fight the urge to spend the night at Stonehenge. To curl up in a blanket and lie under the stars and discover what other ploys nature has up its sleeve. My desire to purchase something that says Stonehenge, a postcard, a keychain, overwhelming. I can’t believe I traveled all this way for my dream to come true only to leave after twenty minutes. What a gyp!

On December 21, 2012,[1] I’d love to be at Stonehenge or Chichen Itza[2] for the moment when the planets align and the world ends. I will lie on the ceque, spirit path, to receive my dream-time, when the land strengthens and energies flow through me, fertilizing the land and receiving my spiritual message, to be part of Mother Earth, to transcend, to be magnetized, to feel the pull of earth in my bones one more time before I join my loved ones in the spirit world and wait to be reborn in the fifth world.

[1] The end of the Mayan calendar.

[2] Chichen Itza meaning “at the mouth of the Itza well”, is a Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, between Valladolid and Merida. It probably served as the religion center of Yucatan before the Spaniards arrived.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: