American Outrage, my take on the controversy over the film "America" and the Academy's decision not to let Puerto Rico compete in the foreign language category

I think that appealing to the Academy to reconsider because Puerto Ricans make films in Spanish -- as argued by one of its producers -- is ridiculous. Moreover, this is, at the root, a political issue that will haunt the island and it is deeply rooted in the island's current political status. It's about time Puerto Ricans decide what their political destiny will be because the current political association is schizophrenic. If they don't decide, others will.

Check out my column published in El Diario La Prensa. 

The English language version after the jump. Yes, I am bilingual like that!

How to deal with the haters in your life, three easy steps...

We lift as we climb is a powerful mantra that a fellow journalist Della Crews shared with me and a group of business women at a luncheon in Perth Amboy. It was told to her by two teenage sisters from Newark, New Jersey who started an anti-bullying group. "Lifting as we Climb" was also the motto of the National Association of Colored Women who fought hard against the harsh Jim Crow south.  It is my motto too!

This gem of a mantra is worth sharing in a world where it seems that everyone is just out to get a piece and forget the rest. Too many of us are stuck in the crab mentality, that is, let me climb all over you to get out of the bucket. The sad reality it that in the end, no one really gets out, including the crab who pummels hard and fast to get over and knocks the one who was just about to make it out.

How many of us have encountered that attitude over the course of our lives, over the course of our careers? The haters. The deficient thinkers. The desperate ones. This happens all too often but you can fight back. Gracefully. Eloquently. Elegantly.

This topic keeps coming up at my readings: a young woman asked me at how I've been able to create a strong circle of supporters, many of them women. She was inspired seeing and hearing Rosie Perez and Rossana Rosado, two friends who surrounded me at the launch of my book in New York City, speak so lovingly of me and the work that I do. Both Rosie and Rossana showed delight in my recent success. How do you build a circle of cheerleaders that help rather than hurt? How do you deal with the haters?

First, I have seen up and personal the crab mentality and the hurtful ways in which men and women maim to get ahead. It particular, this happens in communities where there isn't enough to go around - folk who have been disenfranchised and are spiritually bankrupt. The ones who have been kept of out the halls of power and influence and want it bad and will get it by any means necessary.

Three ways I deal with the inevitable nasty and continue building a solid circle of support:

California, here I come

I am so looking forward to visiting the beautiful state of California again.

This time I will be speaking at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. What a gorgeous campus!!! What a gorgeous city.

When: November 10
Time: 7:30 am (ouch!!!)
Place: Vista Grande Cafe

A discussion will follow in the University Union at 10 am. To go, please RSVP. Call Liz Cofer at 805-756-0327 or e-mail her RSVP by November 3rd.

This lecture and book signing is open to the public and free. Will you come join me?

Collaging from the inside out... a lush, vibrant, messy activity with many lessons

This past weekend I spent a day being with me. This Day of Me was organized by an amazing woman whose gift to heal is a fascinating thing to experience. The heart of the day was centered around collaging, something I had never done before and frankly, something I never really desired to do. Some people collage, some don't. I didn't.

Elena Hull, a sweet and patient creative arts therapist, led the group of women who had gathered for the day in this most interesting endeavor. She filled the space with sacred-- a beautiful circle with candles and flowers in the middle of a large room  replete with magazine cut outs, poems, ribbons, paints, water color crayons, golden glitter glue, post cards and more. Despite the fact that I found the collaging uninspiring -- I thought of a thousand things that I could be doing on a sunny Fall afternoon-- I went at it with gusto. I allowed the images to find me and found myself picking up the fierce spirit of Frida Khalo, a photo of a Modigliani girl, young women, older women, women of all ages and attitudes entered my sphere. I had red rose petals from a walk on the grounds earlier in the day and I decided to include them. I picked a white rose bud that I pasted by Frida. A rock shaped like a heart went on by the ballet dancer in a red tutu whose arms call to the sky, the center of it all. There were some crystals left and Elena offered them. I took her glittery offerings and gently glued each of the tiny jewels on the foreheads of several of the women, the third eye. A reminder to listen to my inner guidance. Our inner guidance...

My collage is lush, and very, very busy. It's a vibrant burst of feminine power and energy. With the exception of the lion, a man and a woman in a sensual horizontal embrace and an image of an ocean in sunset, it was all about feminine beauty.

"When you know better, you do better," Maya Angelou

The most brilliant part for me in Oprah's powerful lesson as taught to her by the brilliant Maya Angelou is when she talks about "no longer holding yourself hostage to who you used to be or anything you used to do." Say it loud!  

How long do we just hold on to guilt because of our mistakes, of youth, of yesterday, of our past. If today you can understand this truth: that you are not that woman who didn't know any better, you will arm yourself with the power to make better choices.   

"Intelligent women fall in love the way all women do—like complete idiots." Angeles Mastretta

My interview with the amazing super features reporter Lisa Mateo aired this morning on PIX. We talked about one of my favorite topics: Latinas.

Lisa explored the issue of domestic violence in the piece after reading my chapter, "When Love Hurts: The Dirty Secret of Dating and Domestic Violence Among Latinas."

It's too common and far too many women, men and children are caught in a cycle of physical and emotional violence and despair. We talked about the subtle signs that seem innocent at first but can spell trouble. Soon as link is up, will share.
PIX Morning show's Lisa Mateo with Sandra Guzman

R.I.P Piri Thomas: May you rest blissfully in poet heaven

Alex Haley once remarked that when an elder dies so does an encyclopedia. And so it is with the passing of poet, author, and storyteller  Piri Thomas. The Harlem born writer reminded us about the cruelty of life in his gritty and powerful coming of age autobiography, "Down These Mean Streets." This proud Puertorican also reminded the world that "every child is born a poet." 


Bello Belafonte

Singer, actor, activist Harry Belafonte's documentary, "Sing Your Song," is a moving look not only at the artist's storied life in entertainment, but his insatiable social activism. His involvement in every major political movement since the 1960's is inspiring-- from the marches for equality and voting rights in the South, to the Vietnam War, to advocating for Native American rights, to fighting for Nelson Mandela's freedom and against apartheid, to fighting against America's occupation in Haiti, to eradicating the famine in Ethiopia and beyond. Belafonte's continual activism is powerful and provocative.  His life as an entertainer takes backstage and the story of America, its schizophrenia around issues of equality and justice and sweet promise of a more perfect union, takes center stage. 

Throughout his life, Belafonte has shown an unflinching commitment for what is right and with grace and focus he has illustrated how fame and art can be used to inspire our better angels and achieve extraordinary social changes. At 84 years of age, the courageous activist shows no signs of slowing down. He is now shining light on what is being called modern day slavery: the imprisonment of millions of young black and Latino men. 

The film, which debuted on HBO October 17 and is on demand, is an an engaging and inspiring slice of American history as told through the prism on one man's remarkable life. "Sing your Song," is very much worth watching. If you have young ones in your life, watch it with them. 

Waiting is an art... and when you integrate it into your daily life, it becomes a gift

"I've started to realize that waiting is an art, that waiting achieves things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can sometimes achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked, however much money you threw up in the air, however many times you banged your head against the wall. . .

--The Courage to Change by Dennis Wholey

Wise woman says: Iyanla Van Zant's words to live by

"There is absolutely no reason to ever settle for less than the best. The only reason you get less is because you don't ask for exactly what you want. Sometimes you may think you don't deserve more than you have. At other times we think we want too much... Ask for what you want, the way you want it. From that moment on, believe it is yours."

These are the words of Iyanla Van Zant, one of my favorite authors, whom Susan Taylor rightly calls our national treasure. Her book, "Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color" is a gem that I've had since it was first published nearly a decade ago. I go to it for inspiration. And this wise woman never fails me.

Today's message was so beautiful and fitting for me and for so many people that I've met along my life journey that I wanted to share part of it. 

May today you find the courage to state what you want, know that you deserve the best and have faith that it is yours.

Check out the story about me in the Huffington Post

The Huff Post's Cindy Rodriguez gave me a challenging assignment: list my favorite 10 books by Latino or Latina authors that I think every Latino should read. A most difficult task because I have a lot more than ten books on my list and harder yet because I don't just limit myself to Latina or Latino authors. I read all kinds of authors: male, female from all corners of the world. I read authors who are dead and living. I read in Spanish and English, so my possibilities are times two!

But here is the story:

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, HuffPost LatinoVoices spoke with former Latina magazine editor-in-chief and Puerto Rican author, Sandra Guzman about the books she feels Latinos should be reading.
In addition to her top 10 recommendations, readers can pick up a copy of her second-edition guidebook for Latinas, "The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family, and La Vida" where she updates the original edition with two new chapters on Depression and Domestic Violence.
Guzman says, "I wanted to write the book to give the reader a sense of where we were in terms of statistics. When the first edition came out, there were 40 million Latinos in the U.S., now it's 50 million. I think in many ways it's a Latina feminist manifesto."
When asked how Guzman celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month? "I celebrate my heritage everyday, all day. It's my essence," said Guzman.

The truth about Columbus

History changes depending on who wins the war and gets to tell the story. And today, when the nation celebrates a terrorist responsible for the genocide of Native Americans, it's important to remember that. Christopher Columbus was a terrorist, a grotesque brute who worshipped one God: gold.

As a child, there was a song that was taught to us, roughly translated its lyrics describes how Columbus arrived to Boriken (the Taino name for Puerto Rico which the Spaniards renamed rich port for its natural resources) lifted his leg, and shat upon us. It's a child's song that speaks to the irreverence of the inhabitants of an island that survived so much destruction and exploitation. My mother taught me that song. She was taught the song by her grandmother. Her grandmother before that passed it on. The song is part of a Puerto Rican cultural legacy, an underground of sorts that speaks to a truth that we sing privately. Today, I teach it to my kids and tell them the story of Columbus from the our grandmother's perspective.

That there is a national holiday to a thief who represents vulgar and massive human destruction and who is equated to Hitler for the genocide he led of Native American communities is an atrocity.

From "Howard Zinn on History." His chapter on Columbus and his henchmen:

…of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity…yet into this sheepfold…there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening beasts…Their reason for killing and destroying…is that the Christians have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold…

To forget is to repeat history.

Found it! Check out the NY1 News story

Best-selling author Esmeralda Santiago recently took the stage at El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan to talk about her new book "Conquistadora." Her first work, "When I was Puerto Rican," put her on the literary map in 1994.
"When I began to write about life in Puerto Rico, there were not that many books about that," says Santiago. "So it was this desire to find myself in this culture, in this society and since I couldn't find it there, I began to write about it so that I could read it."
Santiago has inspired many writers, particularly Hispanic women who live in New York City. One of those authors, Sandra Guzman, had her second-edition guidebook "The New Latina's Bible" released this year.
"The way we look at life is very unique. We look at life through the prism of what it means to be Latina," says Guzman.
She tackles everything from love and spirituality to family and life. She says this conversation is a long time coming among such a large audience.
"There are more Latinos in the United States than there are Canadians in Canada," says Guzman. "It's massive, 50 million, and 50 percent of them are women. A vast majority of these women read in English but these women are invisible in the publishing world."

Latinas & letters story on NY 1 News includes me... tune in!

The story is not up yet on the news website, only on TV, but I thought I'd share some screen shots. Check out the piece if you have Time Warner Cable, it's looped all day!  Check out these screen shots of the three authors in the meantime. I tried photographing Esmeralda Santiago, author of "Conquistadora," Michele Carlo of "Fish Out of Agua" and yours truly with our mouths closed... hard. But, while NY 1 puts up the story.... here are some visuals.

Sunday morning meditation: everyday is a miracle

Looking forward to my event in central New Jersey tonight...

Photo by Gary D. Santana

Hoping to have a royal evening with everyone who makes the event. I'll be speaking and reading from my book and discussing what is means to be Latino/na in the U.S. in the 21st Century. Hope you can join me. 

 6 pm to 8 pm
Information: 908-526-1200

The Latino List, it's now on demand on HBO

The power of this cinematic portrait of Latinos in the United States at the beginning of the century is that it’s not just the portrait of one individual, but rather of a sector of the United States of America that now represents the fastest growing demographic group. At 50 million plus, this community is made up of a diverse group of migratory experiences, countries of origin, race and religion. These are the faces of what America is becoming.

The doc aired on HBO on Thursday and its now on demand. Interviewing the notables, including Pitbull and Dr Marta Moreno Vega, was inspiring and fun. Working alongside the film's director, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who also directed the acclaimed The Black List, and his team, was an awesome learning experience.

This is a slice of Americana. These are two trailers that I love.

Spend a royal evening with me...

One of my favorite De La Vega pieces

Like De La Vega, I too believe that sometimes the king is a woman.  Hoping to have a royal evening with everyone who makes the event tomorrow. I will be speaking and reading from my book, "The New Latina's Bible" at Raritan Valley Community College. Hope you can join me. I will have a gift for anyone who tells me the magic password.

When: Tomorrow, Wednesday 
October 5th 
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Information: 908-526-1200

Morning glory, the perfect coffee ritual that starts my day... happy sunday

I slowly sip my steaming cup of coffee, taking in full lungs of this delicious elixir, gently and slowly. I do this in bed each morning. I linger in the warmth of my sheets with my morning half sleepy/half awake self. My bedroom often feels like a womb, safe and perfect. I am grateful, always, to be where I am, no matter where that "where I am" finds me.

I am being with myself during this morning exercise. It's what I call a holy moment with self. I listen to sweet music. Today, John Coltrane's beautiful tune, "Acknowledgment" kicked it off and his equally gorgeous "Psalm" completed it. Other times, it's quiet and I listen to the soft churn of the ceiling fan. Urban birds sometimes come pay me a surprise visit and sing their morning song by my window.

This daily rite is a lovely moment that I carve out selfishly and lovingly for me. It is where I fully tap into the moment.

I thank a dear friend, Sol, for sharing her ritual with me and offering a new pathway to enter each day whole and ready.

I share this with you this glorious Sunday morning so that if you find yourself without a daily ritual, you may discover one. And may you usher into your life a morning rite that quiets the chaos of your external duties and connects you to internal stillness -- where I truly believe the sweet spot of the universe is located.