I especially wanted to see Tucson because I teach some wonderful stories by Patricia Preciado Martin in her book Amor Eterno that are set here. I asked Joe if he knew her and he called a friend to get her email for me right there--such a sense of a small town! I hope to be in touch with her soon to see if she’s interested in an enhanced e-book of her stories with pictures and music. As we rode down the 10-mile highway to the Mission, I marveled at the strength of Preciado Martin's character in "Amor de Madre" who makes such a long pilgrimage on foot in the Arizona heat as a manda for the safe return of the barrio boys from the Korean War.
The highlight of the conference was meeting author Stella Pope Duarte and enjoying a lingering lunch with her. I had read and written about her powerful novel Let Their Spirits Dance several years ago about the effect of the Vietnam war on a Chicano family who makes a pilgrimage to the memorial wall in Washington D.C. Her dynamic personality and excited storytelling kept us riveted during her conference presentation and lunch afterwards in the outside patio of La Paloma resort with the stunning view of the massive mountains that dwarfed us. Stella excitedly shared her experiences at the shrine of El Tiradito in Tucson that inspired her to research the oral history of the barrio and this popular figure for a novel. In the 1870s one Juan Oliveras fell in love with his mother-in-law and was killed by the jealous husband. The transgressive love-triangle has fascinated people for over 130 years, and people leave lighted candles, coins, and other memorabilia at the shrine, believing his spirit will grant their prayers and wishes. Stella Pope Duarte has an alternate take on the story, noting that in Mexico older men often marry very young women. Maybe El Tiradito was the same age or even older than as his mother-in-law! She conducted many oral interviews with people in the old barrio in Tucson to piece together the local memory of the legendary figure for the novel. Fiction and belief will come together through Stella’s hand for an exciting new take on this popular spiritual tradition. The sprits will dance again in her upcoming novel.
We enjoyed great meals and conversation with friends Bob Senkowicz and Rose Marie Beebe from Santa Clara and Chuck Tatum from UA and his wife Anne. Chuck told us about the origins of the first course on Chicano Literature he taught as an advanced graduate student at the University of New Mexico. A number of UNM students attended the March 1969 Denver Chicano Youth Conference convened by Corky Gonzalez and the Crusade for Justice; they returned strongly advocating that a Chicano literature course be taught. Chuck worked on developing the course, getting it approved, and making history by teaching it the following fall. How far the field of Chicano literature has advanced over the past four decades!