The Almagre Review: @ Poor Richard’s August 19

Come join The Almagre Review at Rico’s Cafe (1247, 322 N Tejon St.) this Sunday from 2 – 4 PM. This is an informal celebration of the publication of our fifth Issue, made possible by so many contributions from our local writing and reading community. Contributors to Issue 5 are welcome to read their piece which appears in “Race, Class, and Gender.”

All are welcome. This is a casual affair, enjoined to the mild intoxicant of caffeine and married to the general joy of the written word. Along with contributors, we hope to hear from local readers and writing enthusiasts, so come with your favorite literary topics at the tip of the tongue.cropped-ar-monogram-q.png

~The Staff

Joe Barrera: Christmas in South Texas

Growing up in south Texas in the 50’s we used to get Christmas presents on three different days. First there was the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6. Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop who gave gifts to poor people, is the original gift-giver whose name has morphed from the Dutch Sinter Klaas into Santa Claus. Because of him people in Europe give and receive gifts. A remnant Spanish custom survived in our small town and the children got gifts on December 6. I remember getting oranges and apples in my stocking, but never the proverbial lump of coal that the  bad kids were supposed to get. For many of the older Mexican people Dec. 6 embodied the spirit of the season, whereas Christmas was the American celebration. All the Christmas customs, the gift-giving, the decorations, etc. were absent. We didn’t have a Christmas tree, for instance, until sometime in the late 50’s. My mother found a dried branch  from the huge pecan tree in the yard. She brought it inside the house, painted it white and hung Christmas lights on it. That was the first Christmas tree I remember. It looked beautiful. Gradually, Christmas presents began to appear under the tree. By the early 60’s most of the old customs had died out and the new Christmas had taken over.

Nativity

The real celebration of “Christ’s Mass” was at church. “Misa de Gallo,” midnight mass on Christmas Eve was the important occasion and even the little kids would attend. The highlight was the procession of the children to the empty manger, to lay down the image of Baby Jesus. After mass everyone would go home and eat tamales and drink the powerful cinnamon-laced Mexican chocolate. That stuff could keep you up all night but of course that was not allowed for the children. The men had gone deer hunting and brought back plenty of venison. The women had spent hours in the kitchen marinating the meat and putting it into the corn dough wrapped in corn husks and then steaming the tamales in huge pots. There is nothing more delicious than venison tamales. For days afterward we would be eating tamales. At Christmas women ruled the house. I remember my mother and her “comadres,” which literally means “co-mothers,” making untold dozens of tamales and enjoying their sisterhood time. I sneaked in just to listen to them talk, but men were not allowed in the kitchen.

The twelve days of Christmas, December.25-January 6, had real meaning in those times. There was the joy of Christmas, but mixed with sadness, as all earthly experience must be. We remembered the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, when all the men and boys named Inocente were honored. I often wondered how so many not-so innocent types could have that name. And how could Herod have killed so many babies? There was New Year’s Day, sacred to God the Father, who seldom gets any credit, but because of him sacred to all who bear his name, Manuel. After that there was Epiphany, on January 6, holy to all those named Epifanio. On Epiphany the Magi come bearing rich gifts. It is the Day of the Three Kings, el Dia de los Reyes Magos, the day of the Wise Men. This is also the name-day of all those named “Reyes.” In the old way of looking at things your name-day is much more significant than your birthday. The saint or sacred feast whose name you bear is your protector, a type of totem beloved in the Indo-Hispano culture.

If there was a true joyous day for all, this was it. Jan. 6 definitely eclipsed Christmas for gift-giving. Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar had brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child. We emulated them and brought our own gifts. We gave gifts to friends and family.  But in a holy time it’s the King you must honor and how can you give the King any gifts? He already has everything, owns everything. He doesn’t need your poor gift. The Irish nuns at the parish school told us so. They said that on his birthday it is the King who gives gifts. During this season we should ask the King for a favor. There is always life, but also death, and the Irish, like the Mexicans, are ever aware of death. The grace we should request, the sisters said, was for the dead–the release of dear loved ones from Purgatory. Release of captives, that was the true spirit of Christmas and Epiphany. More purified sinners are released from Purgatory at Christmas than on All Soul’s Day.

Joe Barrera, Ph.D, is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS, and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

Issue 3, Environment; An Exciting Edition on its Way

Here at the Almagre, we are thrilled about our upcoming issue (Publication in JUNE). This will be a great opportunity for Colorado readers and writers to experience fantastic local talent alongside voices from all over (and we do mean all over!). There is, of course, the interview with famed Southwest writer, John Nichols, sharing insight about his environmental philosophy and the ways it manifests in his writing.

But this issue will feature much, much more. Readers will find contributors from all over the country whose work has appeared in other prestigious publications such as the Massachusetts Review, TriQuarterly, Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Sun, and others. We have words penned by some of Colorado Springs’ finest talent as well as beautiful poems from as far away as India and the Netherlands.

These are exciting times for Colorado Springs’ newest literary journal, and we’re asking those who are passionate about art and narrative to come join us. Spread the word to friends, to family, to fellow authors and artists. Absolutely everything we make from this passion-project pours back into the pages which carry the magic of the written word. Come help us tell the story of America.

          With Gratitude,
          The Staff of La Revista Almagre

 

Janice Gould Presents at Colorado College

The Almagre Review’s first literary salon, April 6, at Colorado College. Janice Gould and the audience read and discuss feminist author, Kate Chopin, and her fiction piece, “The Story of an Hour.”

Veterans Community Dialogue: Last Saturday

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This…was an experience well worth witnessing.  As Joe speaks about the healing process, these dialogues make it apparent to anyone who comes.

To be a civilian means I don’t get to look through this door very often.  It’s always a privilege when I do.  These are a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to listen, and to participate.  The treasure in these events is the very fact that Joe works to include the voice of spouses, even the children.  Last Saturday was informal, intimate… a comfortable setting.

There were difficult things to hear.  There were moments of great laughter.  The honesty shared by the attendees felt heavy, arresting, illuminating, and courageous.  When asked the question, “which is harder, adjusting to war, or adjusting to coming home?” the veterans unanimously chuckled and said, “adjusting to home.”

What more can be said to emphasize the value of all those at home to engage in and be a part of the healing process for their loved ones?

The Almagre Review thanks all our veterans for their service, and for the honor of attending the Military Veteran’s Community Dialogue.

~John Lewis,
Artist/Editor