I recently had the opportunity to interview Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi about his involvement with St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Check it out!
Inspired to support this charity? Check out HospitalSanJudas.org.
Below is my interview with actor Adrian Bellani, the super caliente half-Salvadoran star of Mun2’s hit show, RPM Miami! Disfrútenla!
Latinaish.com: Hola Adrian! Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’ve been wanting to talk to you since I missed meeting you at the RPM Miami launch party and again at the Latin Billboard Awards. (Although we’ve connected a few times on Twitter since then!)
As a fan of RPM Miami, first let me say felicidades on the success of your first season. Can you share any secrets about the season finale?
Adrian Bellani: I can’t share much, but what I can tell you is that it is filled with tons of drama and action. You don’t want to miss it!
Latinaish.com: Now, your character Alejandro/Alex is a veteran of the Iraq war who loses his best friend, Mike, on a mission. When Alejandro comes back to Miami he falls for his best friend’s girl, Luisa, Mike’s widow. I saw a comment online from a former soldier who objected to such a relationship saying that a soldier would never do that to a fellow soldier. What do you think?
Adrian Bellani: I respect his opinion, but I don’t think anyone is right or wrong unless they have been put in that position. It’s easy to say “No, I’d never do that to my boy,” but at the end of the day things change. There is that connection Luisa and Alex have, everything seems comfortable, everything seems nice. It was one of the issues that I spoke with the director, (Jacobo Rispa) about. I didn’t want it to seem like he had forgotten about his best friend and was moving in on his girl. I think we did a good job showing Alex’s conflict towards his feelings for Luisa, and the guilt he carried with Mike’s loss.
Latinaish.com: One thing I love about RPM Miami is that it’s fully bilingual. What has it been like working on a show where you get to choose whether to say your lines in English or Spanish? Is it freeing or do you get tongue tied?
Adrian Bellani: Totally freeing. It’s the way we speak. If you grew up speaking both languages, you understand the concept and the idea. I had never worked and spoken Spanish on screen. It was lovely being able to speak in my accent and first language. I don’t have many Latino friends in L.A., so I find myself speaking mostly English. It was nice to be surrounded by Hispanics.
Latinaish.com: As I mentioned earlier, I missed meeting you in Miami. Knowing you’re half-Salvadoran, I asked some of your co-stars where the “guanaco” was – (My husband is from El Salvador.) … I think your co-stars thought I was asking for “El Guajo” at first. Here’s the video of our mix-up:
Now I can finally ask you the question, “Which Caliche (Salvadoran slang) word is your favorite?”
Adrian Bellani: I’ve actually never heard the word “Caliche” before – So that’s a first for me. You got me on this one. Too hard to name just one. I could throw an entire list out. The first one that comes to mind is “baboso” – my grandfather used to call us “baboso.” I’ll let you do your homework and see if you can find out what that means.
Latinaish.com: [No homework for me! I already know that "baboso" means "stupid" - but it can be used affectionately in a joking way.]
Thanks so much for your time. Before we go, please tell us when we should tune in for season 2 of RPM Miami and what other projects you’re working on?
Adrian Bellani: The premiere of season 2 RPM Miami has not been announced. We’re so excited for the second season! For those that missed episodes in season one you will get a chance to watch the entire season again before the second season premieres.
I have a few projects that I’m excited about. I’m on the 4th episode of Rizzoli and Isles – airs August 1st, I believe. September 23rd Moneyball will hit theaters, (I play the role of real life baseball all star Carlos Peña.)
Last week I wrapped an independent film called CROSSTOWN. It’s a beautiful script about the struggles of a Salvadoran immigrant family trying to make it in the USA. The film is very intense and very raw. I had the opportunity to work along side Manny Perez, (a Dominican actor), who I’m a huge fan of. Definitely keep an eye out for it.
Watch Adrian Bellani on RPM MIAMI – Sundays at 10pm EST on mun2, and tune in for the grand season finale on Sunday, July 24th at 10pm EST. Missed an episode? Visit mun2 online to catch up!
As you know, I recently went down to Miami at the invitation of Telemundo. What you probably don’t know is that it wasn’t just to attend the Latin Billboard Awards or tour their studios.
Myself and nine other blogueros, were fortunate enough to participate in Telemundo’s very first Digital Influencers Summit. Telemundo’s new digital initiative is called Social@Telemundo.
From the Press Release:
Social@Telemundo will focus on delivering its fans across Facebook & Twitter interactive experiences tied to TV programming. With dedicated Social Media resources tied to each of Telemundo’s shows and novelas the Social@Telemundo aims to take the entire TV viewing process to a more engaging level. Building of the success of its Interactive Broadband Series “Telemundo Live” and Mobile social initiatives Telemundo plans to expand its focus on sharing more access to its Studios, Shows and Talent in Spanish and English.
I wrote about this experience from a more business-minded perspective on LatinaBloggersConnect.com – but here I’ll share some of the more personal chisme.
As you might expect, the room where the meeting was held contained a long conference table surrounded by chairs and a screen on the opposite wall to give presentations. Large framed posters of Telemundo shows hung on the other walls. I knew that I wouldn’t be meeting the cast of my favorite telenovela, Los Herederos del Monte, since the show is filmed in Colombia, but I wanted my photo taken with the next best thing.
(For the record, I didn’t intentionally style my hair like Paula’s. It was a happy accident… Do you think Juan del Monte might mistake me for her? …Okay, maybe not.)
During the meeting, one of the executives asked which one of us was the novelera – I raised my hand and they asked what attracted me to Los Herederos del Monte. Now, to answer this professionally or honestly? I went with honesty, responding, “Okay, at first it was because the guys are hot…” But I did explain that I later came to appreciate the complexity of the storyline and the quality of filming.
Admitting that I began watching Herederos for the eye candy made it a little hypocritical of me to ask the question I asked later – which was if Telemundo was actively trying to step away from portraying women as sex objects in their programming. (Spanish language TV in general has a reputation for this and I know it’s something that bothers a lot of Latinas.)
The President, Don Browne, welcomed the question and answered that yes, they are producing programs that portray both real and fictional women as strong, intelligent and independent. (Examples – Kate del Castillo in Reina del Sur, Dra. Ana María Polo on Caso Cerrado, Jenni Rivera, and Maria Celeste of Rojo Vivo.) They really want to break a lot of the stereotypes about Spanish language television and consciously work social issues that affect, not just women, but other segments of the viewing audience, into their programming.
We got a lot of great insight into just what Telemundo, and mun2, are about from various executives who attended the meeting, and just as importantly, we had the opportunity to give them feedback, advice and ideas. Mutual respect flowed between Telemundo and the bloggers and the atmosphere was fun yet intellectually stimulating. Telemundo has a rare chemistry, passion, creativity and positivity there which has to be experienced to really be understood. I definitely felt like I was with mi gente. (Did you know that some of the Telemundo staff, including the President himself, are “Latinos de corazón” like me?)
For lunch, we were joined by Telemundo talent; Gaby Espino, Jorge Bernal, Vanessa Hauc, Enrique Acevedo, Karim Mendiburu, Sammy Sadovik, and Jessi Losada.
We all introduced ourselves and explained a little about our background. This conversation centered around the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. They had a few questions (such as “What is a good tweet?”) for the bloggers, and they shared with us how they use the websites to connect to fans, etc.
All of them were really down-to-earth. While we chatted in real life, we were also tweeting each other – and those tweets were being projected onto the wall for everyone in the room to see, which was a fun idea.
As you can see, I thought Jorge Bernal was especially funny. After lunch he gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said, “Adios, gringa!”
Disclosure: I was invited to the Digital Influencers Summit at the invitation of Telemundo. All opinions are my own.
Before I visited Miami and spent time with Telemundo, I had heard of the new show on mun2 called RPM Miami. I knew it had something to do with racing cars, and since that didn’t really interest me, I didn’t look into it any further.
During my time with Telemundo I learned that one of the stars of the show, actor Adrian Bellani, is half Salvadoran. Born in Miami and raised in San Salvador, Bellani plays the character Alejandro who is a soldier returning home from a tour in Iraq. He discovers that his father is missing and while trying to find out what happened to him, gets mixed up in the world of Miami street racing.
Two other things that I liked – First, the characters on the show are all bilingual and the show is a mix of both Spanish and English. And second, RPM Miami is shot on location in Miami.
I had the opportunity to meet some of the stars and of course, my question was, “Which one of you is the guanaco?” … Well, they totally misunderstood me. They thought I was saying “El Guajo” – (which is the name of the antagonist on RPM Miami.) Too funny…Chécalo!
RPM Miami premieres Sunday May 1 @ 10p/9C on mun2.
Disclosure: I went to Miami at the invitation of Telemundo. All opinions are my own.
Lately Suegra has been suffering from “empacho” … This illness has always confused and amused me – And Suegra is equally confused as to how it’s possible that gringos don’t believe in it, and usually have never even heard of it.
“Empacho” is a gastrointestinal illness that many people in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America believe can kill you. I decided to interview her about it for anthropological reasons because it doesn’t seem well documented.
Interview below, (in Spanish.)
Note: The use of the word “chibolitas” in Salvadoran Caliche means “little round objects” or “little balls.” (The word has other meanings in other parts of Latin America.)
(If interested in a translation to English, let me know in comments and I’ll see about transcribing it.)
Over the weekend I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Eva Linares, the only female soccer commentator in El Salvador, (probably the only female soccer commentator in Latin America, possibly even the world.) Our interview was in Spanish, but I’ve translated my questions and her answers to English as well so no one is left out of the fun!
Durante el fin de semana tuve el placer y honor de entrevisar a Eva Linars, la única comentadora de fútbol en El Salvador, (probalemente la única comentadora de fútbol en América Latina, posiblemente la única en el mundo.) Nuestra entrevista fue en español, pero he traducido mis preguntas y sus repuestas a inglés para que nadie quede fuera de la diversión.
Interview with Eva Linars
Entrevista con Eva Linares
Latinaish.com: Mi primer pregunta es cómo fue que metiste en el mundo de fútbol? Cúando supiste que tú querías ser una comentadora?
Eva Linares: En el 2000 cuando tenía 18 años de edad ingrese a Radio Milenio 92.1 fm (emisora comunitaria que transmite en Santa Ana), comencé siendo presentadora de noticias y en el 2001 el Director de la radio, Julio César González (quien es periodista deportivo y narrador de fútbol de MILENIO y de CADENA MONUMENTAL 101.3 FM) fue quien planteo la opción de involucrarme en los deportes, en un principio era sólo reportera y Julio me propuso enseñarme a narrar, comenzamos las clases, hasta que hice mi primera narración en el 2001. Siempre me ha gustado hacer cosas diferentes, aprender y superarme, gracias a Dios que en mi camino han aparecido personas importantes que han compartido sus conocimientos.
Latinaish.com: My first question is, how is it that you got involved in the world of soccer? When did you realize that you wanted to be a commentator?
Eva Linares: In the year 2000, when I was 18 years old, I started at Radio Milenio 92.1 FM, (community radio station broadcasting from Santa Ana.) I started out as a news reporter and in 2001 the Director of the radio, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, (who is a sports journalist and football commentator from Milenio and Cadena Monumental 101.3 FM), was the one who brought up the option to involve me in sports. At first I was only a reporter but Julio proposed the idea of teaching me to commentate, I started the classes, until I did my first commentating in 2001. I’ve always liked doing different things, learning and overcoming. Thanks to God, important people always appeared in my path and those people share their knowledge with me.
Latinaish.com: ¿Qué ha sido lo más difícil y cómo lo has superado?
Eva Linares: Lo más difícil ha sido superar en mí temores, temores al qué dirán, ¿se me escuchará bien? – Tantas cuestionantes que surgen cuando emprendemos algo nuevo, esas incertidumbres las he ido superando preparando, haciendo mi trabajo con pasión y con la ayuda de amigos y amigas, de mi esposo, mi familia que siempre me empujan a seguir.
Latinaish.com: What has been the most difficult and how did you overcome?
Eva Linares: The hardest thing has been overcoming fears, fears that say, ‘can they hear me well?’ So many questions arise when we try something new, these insecurities have been overcome by preparing, doing my job with passion and with the help of friends, my husband, and my family always pushing me forward.
Latinaish.com: ¿Tienes algún memoria favorita de fútbol?
Eva Linares: En primer partido tenía muchos nervios, me preocupaba si podría gritar el gol, práctique mucho, llego el partido y los primeros 15 a 20 minutos de mi narración fue un desastre, me enrede, confundí nombres, totalmente UN DESASTRE, termino el partido y el marcador fue 0 x 0 , en el primer partido NO HUBO GOLES, así que mi tensión por cantarlos tuvo que aguantarse hasta el siguiente partido donde sí cante mi primer gol.
Latinaish.com: Do you have a favorite soccer memory?
Eva Linares: The first game I was so nervous – I worried if I could yell “goal!” – I had practiced a lot, and then the day of the game came. The first 15-20 minutes, my commentating was a disaster – I got tongue tied, I confused names, It was a complete DISASTER. I finished the game and the score was 0 to 0 – in that first game there were no goals, so my tension to yell that first “goal” had to wait until the next game, where I got to do it.
Latinaish.com: ¿Tienes un equipo o jugador favorito?
Eva Linares: “La Selecta” , Club Deportivo FAS y por solidaridad con mi esposo (Alexis Triviño), quien es chileno “La Roja” y “Colo Colo”.
Latinaish.com: Do you have a favorite team or player?
Eva Linares: La Selecta, Club Deportivo FAS [Salvadoran teams], and for solidarity with my husband, (Alexis Triviño, who is Chilean), “La Roja” and “Colo Colo”.
Latinaish.com: Si tú podría dar algunos consejos a las niñas de El Salvador, o en realidad, las niñas de todo el mundo, ¿cuáles serían? ¿Qué deben hacer si quieren ser o hacer algo que tradicionalmente las mujeres no lo hacen?
Eva Linares: Creer , creer amigas en ustedes mismas, somos maravillosas, tenemos tantos talentos y habilidades que tenemos la obligación de explotarlos al máximo, venzan sus propios temores, los pretextos sobran para no hacer las cosas pero son más las razones por las cuales debemos lanzarnos, ponganle mucho amor a sus sueños y piensen ahora en lo que desean y vivanlo como parte de la realidad. Bendiciones a tod@s!!!!!
Latinaish.com: If you could give some advice to the girls of El Salvador, or really, all the girls in the world, what would they be? What should they do if they want to be or do something that traditionally women do not do?
Eva Linares: Believe, believe friends that you are amazing – we have so many talents and abilities and we have the obligation to use them to the maximum. Defeat your own fears. There are too many excuses for not doing things but there are more reasons why we should go for it. Put a lot of love into your dreams and think now what you want then live it as part of reality. Blessings to all!!!
Muchísimas gracias, Eva. Fue un placer y un honor. Espero que eres una inspiración a niñas y mujeres en todas partes. Ya has demostrado que nada es imposible. ¡Muy buena suerte!
Much thanks to you, Eva. It was a pleasure and an honor. I hope that you’re an inspiration to girls and women everywhere. You have already demonstrated that nothing is impossible. Wishing you lots of luck!
(Images provided by Eva Linares. Interview and images not to be reprinted without permission. Thank you.)
(Imágenes proporcionadas por Eva Linares. La entrevista y las fotos no deben ser utilizados sin permiso. Gracias.)
All of you remember how excited I was about the Chilean Miner, Edison Peña appearing on David Letterman, right? Remember the hilarious video I shared with you and the charming female translator we fell in love with? Well, I managed to find her and had the distinct pleasure of interviewing her for Latinaish.com!
Cassandra was hired to translate for Edison Peña by the David Letterman Show through Geneva Worldwide, a company in New York that provides interpreters, translators and other language services. They kindly put me in touch, and Cassandra generously agreed to answer a few questions. I was surprised to find out that interpreting is just one of many things Cassandra does. I think you’ll find her as interesting, amazing, clever, and fun as I did. Here is the interview below.
Latinaish.com: Hello, Cassandra! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. After seeing your appearance on David Letterman as the translator for Chilean miner Edison Peña, the internet has been buzzing with the question, “Who is that translator?” … Everyone loved you and I’m so pleased to speak with you. Please, tell us a little about yourself.
Cassandra: Hola, everybody! ¿Qué tal? Mucho gusto y muchas gracias, Sra. López. First of all, Congratulations for creating este espacio de reflexión on having one foot on each side of the cosmic cultural canyon! I think we all do in one way or another, even if we don’t know it.
Pues, la pura verdad es que estoy un poco chiveada pero, bueno, here goes. Soy Cassandra, a sculptor by trade who freelances as an interpreter for Indigenous Peoples in United Nations negotiations on the environment and human rights. I have also been known to sell roses at the farmers’ market and teach English to Otomi mariachis at dawn.
I am currently building my dentist a yacht. So forgive the unabashed self-promotion but if you have work for me, definitely holler. No job too small. Según el sapo, la pedrada. I can travel at the drop of a hat and have my own translating equipment. http://cassandra-the-translator.blogspot.com/
Además if you wanna see me out of UN drag, verify that women do, in fact, weld, commission a major monument or personal altar or just check out my sculptures, pica la salsa aquí: http://www.cassandraproductions.net/ OJO: Bronze statues ain’t chilaquiles. So piensa en what a small used car costs.
Latinaish.com: Now, we know that you speak Spanish since we saw you translate for Edison Peña. How did you come to learn Spanish? Are there any other languages you speak? Have you always loved language?
Cassandra: Aprendí a medio-masticar español cotorreando en las calles de Tenochtitlan. When I was 19, I went to México with three words: hola, amigo, and adios which, when you think about it, sort of covers the span of el convivir. I wanted to read Neruda without translation and hunt down l@s niet@s de Siquieros. For twelve years, I basked in México’s phenomenal legacy of la plástica concientizadora.
Por otro lado, I am the sheepish runt of a long line of linguists. I can chew the fat in French and Portuguese, too. I adore the crazy salad of speaking several languages all at once because it makes the colors in your paintbox shimmer infinitely.
Creo que slang is the cutting edge of language, the wiry green potato shoots of parlance. Homemade slang allows you to playfully skate the idiom and plasmar tu realidad mágica in your own terms. I especially love el huapango del albur.
Asímismo considero que la alegría es el secreto de la resistencia – joy is the secret of resistance -y contar un buen chiste que ilumina una sonrisa o un knee-slapping carcajada es unos de los mejores regalos que se puede brindar. I also have a special fondness for translating prayers.
Perhaps this sounds nerdy but etymology actually excites me. Digging for the twists and turns of meaning is like foraging for sassafras in the swamp. It gets you muddy, makes you bow in reverence to the Earth and, ultimately, heals you.
Para mi, consciousness of origins goes hand and hand with la vida’s invitation to Signify. There is nothing more deadening than the flight from significance and the copout of being innocuous As Le Chic says, “Don’t be a drag, participate.” Daring to give a damn is where it is at.
Latinaish.com: What is the best thing about being a translator/interpreter?
Cassandra: The best thing about being an interpreter is bringing people together and helping the voiceless have a voice. Ya sabes, ¡la traducción de la liberación!
Latinaish.com: What is the most challenging thing about being a translator/interpreter?
Cassandra: Whether at the UN or at the grassroots, getting caught in the crossfire can be dangerous and draining. Sometimes I really wanna hold up a sign that says “Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player!”
Latinaish.com: Are there any Spanish accents/dialects you like best?
Cassandra: I enjoy working with Indigenous Peoples because the poetry of their cosmovisión moves me.
Latinaish.com: How did you feel appearing on David Letterman? Is this your most exciting moment as a translator/interpreter so far or have there been others?
Cassandra: Truth is bright lights don’t float my boat. What turns me on as an interpreter is when people feel each other. Memorable moments include sitting on a dock on a bay watching dolphins play in the turquoise waves while helping an Inuit and a Kuna compare notes on kayaks and canoes. Another special chat was between a German geneticist and a Zapotec curandero on the effects of consuming GMO corn. (They both agreed it hinders digestion and depresses you aka te empacha y te debilita el espíritu.) I also treasure the time I translated for Berito KuwarU’wa in front of the International Court of Justice.
Latinaish.com: So many readers and friends of Latinaish.com have said to me both publicly and privately that they adore you. Did you realize how many people were charmed by your performance on David Letterman, or were you shocked at the response?
Cassandra: I am thrilled that Edison rocked the house. The man has been there and come back. (Goya and Dante ain’t got nothing on this dude.) One can only be dazzled by his wonderfulness and luminous afán to live life to the hilt. So, frankly, I didn’t give a thought to myself. But the other day at the Laundromat, I heard Carol King sing “Show the world all the love in your heart!” and realized that is certainly my aspiration.
Latinaish.com: The way you and Edison Peña interacted, you seemed like old friends! After working closely with a client, do you often have the opportunity to stay in touch? If not, do you ever feel a little sad to have made friends and then have to say goodbye?
Cassandra: Pues, I am very blessed to interpret for people that I care about and believe in so I almost never conceive of them as a “client” and almost always stay friends for life.
Latinaish.com: Cassandra, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. It is a real pleasure and I know my readers would also like to extend their thanks and good wishes to you. Buena suerte in everything you do!
Cassandra: Thank you! ¡Pórtense mal y cuídense bien!
Maybe love knows no boundaries, but that doesn’t mean cultures won’t clash.
The show “Quiero Mi Boda” on channel TR3S, is a reality show now in its second season, which documents couples from different cultures and how they navigate the messy business of getting their families, (who sometimes don’t even speak a common language), to accept their relationship, and then planning their weddings to keep everyone happy despite traditions that sometimes directly conflict with one another.
I had the opportunity to interview Sebastian Portillo, the producer of “Quiero Mi Boda”, and want to share that with you here, with English translation.
Latinaish.com: Hola Señor Portillo, gracias por tomarse el tiempo por responder unas preguntas de el programa “Quiero Mi Boda” que saldra el 25 de Octubre a la 7 pm EST en el canal TR3S…Por los que no están familiarizados con el programa, puedes decirme a cerca de ¿qué es el programa “Quiero Mi Boda”?
(Translation: Hello Mr. Portillo, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about the program “Quiero Mi Boda” that will premiere October 25th at 7 pm on channel TR3S…For those who are not familiar with the program, can you tell me what is the show “Quiero Mi Boda” about?)
Sebastian Portillo: Es un reflejo de lo que tienen que atravesar las parejas de diferentes culturas cuando deciden casarse, y se dan cuenta que las tradiciones que siempre soñaron incorporar, no necesariamente son las mismas que las de su pareja.
(Translation: It is a reflection of what couples of different cultures have to go through when they decide to marry, and they realize that the traditions they always dreamed of incorporating, are not necessarily the same as those of their partner.)
Latinaish.com: ¿Por qué quisiste producir este programa tomando en cuenta parejas multi-culturales en vez de parejas de la misma cultura?
(Translation: Why did you want to produce this program about multi-cultural couples instead of couples of the same culture?)
Sebastian Portillo: La razón principal fue que esta tendencia de casarse con personas de otras culturas es algo que se esta viendo mucho entre los Latinos viviendo en US. Antes había muchos mas prejuicios y ahora el amor demostró nuevamente que no tiene fronteras.
(Translation: The main reason was that this tendency to marry people of other cultures is something that is being seen widely among Latinos living in the U.S. Before there were many more prejudices and now love has once again demonstrated that it has no boundaries.)
Latinaish.com: ¿Había una pareja más memorable, o un evento que te sorprendió en la producción?
(Translation: Was there a most memorable couple, or event that surprised you during production?)
Sebastian Portillo: Lo interesante de esta temporada es que tuvimos la suerte de producir episodios con culturas bien diversa. Tenemos las que no pueden faltar, como la mexicana, peruana, cubana, y puertorriqueña, pero también las bien diferentes, como la china, de indonesia, India, persa, y afro-americana. Pero. Lo algo para destacar es que dos de las parejas se casaron luego de tener un hijo y eso mostro otro aspecto de que pasa con dos culturas diferentes cuando hay un nuevo miembro de la familia y como es que puede complicar aun mas el proceso del casamiento.
(Translation: The interesting thing about this season is that we were lucky to produce episodes with very diverse cultures. We have people like the Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, but also those who were very different, such as Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Persian, and African-American. But the thing to note is that two of the couples married after having a child and it showed another aspect of what happens with two different cultures when there’s a new member of the family and how we can further complicate the process of marriage.)
Latinaish.com: Gracias Sr. Portillo por su tiempo. Esperamos con interés “Quiero Mi Boda”. Deseando amor y felicidad a las parejas. Como una gringa casada con un salvadoreño, les puedo decir, no es fácil, pero vale la pena.
(Translation: Thanks Mr. Portillo for your time. We look forward to “Quiero Mi Boda”. I wish love and happiness to the couples. As a gringa married to a Salvadoran, I can tell them, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.)
“We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.”
So begins Brando Skyhorse’s first novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park.
Echo Park, an ethnically Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles, is the setting for this story’s numerous characters as they independently and collectively embark on journeys of self discovery which intersect unpredictably like the branches of the jacaranda trees which thrive in abundance in their barrio. The diverse stories include those of girls obsessed with Madonna’s new MTV videos in the 1980’s, undocumented day laborers, a bus driver, a house keeper and a woman of questionable sanity who believes she speaks with La Virgencita.
I really loved this book. Skyhorse successfully finds the voice of such vastly different people and it is all brought together with lyrical beauty, even when he writes about the gritty side of life.
I have so many favorite passages in this book that I kept a pencil handy for underlining them. Here is one from the perspective of a gang member out on probation:
“Capitalism is the best revenge against a gringo. And gringos love that “opportunity on every corner” bullshit. Mexicans don’t understand that because they’re too busy thinking about everything they don’t have. Did you know that Mayans invented the number zero? Who else but Mexicans would know what it means to have nothing?” – Brando Skyhorse/The Madonnas of Echo Park/pg. 107
Because I loved this book so much, when I was offered the opportunity to interview Brando, I jumped at the chance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Latina-ish Interviews Brando Skyhorse, author of The Madonnas of Echo Park
Latina-ish: Madonnas of Echo Park has been compared to the movie Crash because of the way the characters’ lives intersect. If Madonnas of Echo Park were made into a movie and the casting director asked your opinion, are there any Latino/a actors/actresses you think would be perfect for any specific character/role?
You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to be asked this question!
America Ferrara would be perfect to play the book’s central character Aurora Esperanza though if you asked me to come up with a second name, it’d be tough. There aren’t a lot of young Latina actresses working in Hollywood at the moment though I believe that can change if better roles are written (and greenlit by studios) to accommodate them.
Salma Hayek would be excellent as Aurora’s mother Felicia and I think she could bring both a grace and tenaciousness necessary for the role.
Danny Trejo would be outstanding as the “retired” ex-gangbanger Manny Mendoza while Gael Garcia Bernal could play his patient and considerate son Juan. I’d love to see Benicio Del Toro as the ferocious bus driver Efren Mendoza though I have promised that role to my stepfather so they might have to duke it out to see who gets it.
And while we’re at it, can we get Los Lobos on the phone to do the soundtrack?
Latina-ish: The story, including the “fake” Author’s Note at the front of the book, is so well written that I kept having to remind myself that it was a work of fiction. One thing that wasn’t fictional though was the fact that you thought you were Native American and didn’t learn that you were actually Mexican until you were about 12 years old. As someone living in an adopted culture and relating to the “weirdness” of reality not matching what one feels on the inside, I find that fascinating. Please, tell me more about it.
Gracias. I’m glad you read the “author’s note” in the spirit it was meant to be received. I took the liberty of checking out your own posted “author’s note” and see that you too have traveled between different identities – the one people tell you to live in vs. the one you feel most comfortable living in yourself.
My mother raised me as a Native American in a scatter shot way. The easy part was changing my name, hiding any history of a father I had no memory of, and searching for American Indian father figure pen pals through various magazine classified sections. What was harder was dealing with an absence of community with other Indians and a total lack of inherited cultural traditions.
On the flip side, my grandmother (who never interfered with my mother’s “re-ethnification” plans) spoke fluent Spanish and educated me about Mexican-American history in Los Angeles once I figured out around the sixth grade that I was Mexican. She told me about the Zoot Suit riots (Zoot Suit was one of her favorite films) and Dodger Stadium’s past as Chavez Ravine. Still, there was this great reluctance to accept my Mexican-ness so I found myself trying to reconcile an Indian heritage I didn’t really have with a Mexican heritage I had no clue about. That struggle is something I’ll explore in greater detail in my next book (see below).
Latina-ish: A good portion of the story is set during the 1980’s. I was a child of the 80’s, so I loved that. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed that 1980’s fashion is back in style today and what you think about that?
Children of the eighties unite! I confess the eighties fashion wave hasn’t made it out to Jersey City yet. It may still be stuck in Brooklyn and unable to locate the right water taxi here. I’ll keep an eye out though for neon legwarmers.
Latina-ish: Who are your favorite authors and/or books, and what do you love about them?
This is a list that evolves and changes each time someone asks me about it. There are a few consistent entries though – my all time favorite novel remains Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! because it opened me up to the storytelling possibilities of the novel.
Roberto Bolano’s 2666 is astonishing for its breadth of vision and the staggering leaps it asks its reader to make.
Annie Proulx’s Close Range is a bible for anyone who wants to know how to write great fiction. Her stories emanate warmth and sincerity (both important qualities for me) and her prose is both lyrical and as taut as a horizon line. I’ve read her words out loud to people just to hear how they strike the air.
I also read a lot of non-fiction. Rory Stewart’s memoir about walking across Afghanistan. The Places in Between, may be my favorite non-fiction book published in the last ten years. I’ve bought several copies as I keep loaning them out and they keep, well, walking away from me.
Latina-ish: Do you have any projects you’re working on that you’d like to talk about?
The next book is a project that likewise has evolved over time and one I’ve been thinking about writing for ten years. It’s a memoir whose working title is Things My Fathers Taught Me and is about my having had five stepfathers in the wake of being abandoned by my Mexican father when I was three or four years old.
There have been a number of developments in my life since I first thought about writing this book, most important of which was finding my biological father a couple months ago (March 2010) along with his new family, all of whom have been open and receptive to me being a part of their lives. That kind of discovery changed on a practical level what the book’s arc will be and on an emotional level changed what I will find out about myself as I write this book. To find things out about yourself is as good a reason I can think of to write memoir and I’m grateful my publishing company’s giving me an opportunity to do just that.
Latina-ish: Thank you, Brando, for taking the time to answer these questions and for being so candid. I’m very much looking forward to reading more from you and I wish you continued success! Felicidades on a fantastic book.
Disclosure: The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse was provided for review by Free Press Publicity. All opinions are my own.