Lee Merrill Byrd and Bobby Byrd
in the bathroom at La Mano Press (aka Self-Help Graphics), East Los Angeles
Artemio Rodriguez, Artist & Proprietor
We are just beginning to realize that this year is the 25th Anniversary of Cinco Puntos Press. Lee and I started CPP in 1985 simply because we just weren't happy in our day jobs. We were technical writers and we wanted somehow to escape. Lee writes fiction, I write poetry, we had three kids to feed, a house on Louisville Street to pay for. How could we escape? Oh yes, publishing! In El Paso, Texas? That's a silly idea, huh? But it worked. Sort of. So here we are. During the year we'll add information about the press' history here on the blog, but I thought I'd start the easy way and show some photographs of friends who recently have come visiting--citizens of the body politic of literature. Publishing, to our delight, revealed itself not only as a profession, but as an intellectual endeavor that's taken us into places of ideas and the imagination that we would never have found otherwise.
José Luis and Julie Orozco with Lee
After tacos and chili relleños at the H&H CarwashJosé Luis Orozco is the troubadour of bilingualism, truly a gifted singer and musician. Besides, he's a lot of fun. He makes music and words fun for kids. And for us too. He and Julie were in town visiting schools. We got to spend much time with them, enjoying their company and listening to José sing from his incredibly wide selection of music. Especially over the dinner table one night with family and friends. He sang and he sang. Oh, did he sing. Please visit his website, buy his books for your children and grandchildren, and when you get the chance, go hear him sing. At the H&H the day the picture was taken, it was Brother Maynard Haddad’s birthday, and so of course José Luis stood up and led all the folks in the restaurant in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday, Maynard.”
John Ross at Cinco Puntos, February 2010
Jornalista John Ross stayed with us for three days, telling us stories from New York, San Francisco, Iraq and the idiosyncratic country of his imagination. He was in El Paso on the Texas leg of his current book tour celebrating El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City from Nation Books. I’m reading the book now. It’s a great read, full of wisdom and humor and anger and prophecy and information. John is literally an old warhorse--journalist, poet, novelist--a displaced New York City intellectual who fought the fight against the machine in the 1960s in San Francisco. Now, it seems in my heart like John has been living in DF since the Aztecs were looking out to the east for the white man to come. And ever since he’s been at war--with his writing and his actions--with Cortez and the curse he left behind him. We met John at Debbie Nathan’s house sometime back in the 1990s and he’s been a friend ever since. In 1998 Cinco Puntos published his novel Tonitiuh’s People: A Novel of the Mexican Cataclysm. It’s a wild epic read through the history of 20th Century Mexico. Hear what he says--
I wrote this novel for revenge, mostly. Justice demanded it. The novel was begun in 1990 after many months on the road with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas as he pursued the presidency of his country and was ultimately cheated of it. At the time, the Salinas' gang occupied my vitriol. Tonatiuh's People has been rewritten several times since to accommodate political realities-the book had an uncanny aptitude for coming true. At each juncture, the text seemed to prophesy what later would be confirmed as fact. To stay ahead of the curve, I was forced to project further and further into the future. Today, the revenge motive is more structural. History has taught me true contempt for the rulers of Mexico-and deepened my faith in its peoples' ability to make a real revolution.