Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Count Me In - by Cynthia Weill


Oaxacan dancers and musicians celebrate with a colorful parade. 
Count yourself in the fun!

A Parade of Mexican Folk Art NUMBERS in English and Spanish

Practice your numbers in English and Spanish when you count the beautiful dancers, playful musicians, and happy children of Oaxaca as the Guelaguetza parade goes by! Pronounced Gal-a-get-zah, the lively celebration—full of traditional dancing and music—takes place every July deep in the heart of southern Mexico. ONE band leader with a big white balloon! DOS hombres with firecrackers! THREE musicians! FOUR giants! All exquisitely handcrafted by the Mexican folk art masters Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepción Aguilar, in collaboration with author and scholar Cynthia Weill. Bienvenidos! Welcome to the parade!

Cynthia Weill holds a doctorate in education from Teachers College Columbia University.  She is on the board of a foundation, Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art which seeks to promote and preserve the artists and artisanal work of the state.  Count Me In is her fourth book in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art Series.

The Aguilar sisters are Mexico’s most beloved artisans. They learned how to make clay figurines from theirmother Isaura Álcantara Diaz. These lively independent women are considered great masters of Mexican folk art and have been presented to Queen Elizabeth, Queen Sofia of Spain, various Mexican presidents and Nelson Rockefeller. Their humorous ceramics of the people of their town and state are in museum collections the world over.

The collection of parade figures from Count Me In was acquired by the Field Museum in Chicago for its permanent collection. 


Praise for other books in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art Series
ABeCedarios Letters in Spanish and English. “Highly recommended...” —Críticas
Opuestos Opposites in Spanish and Enlgish. “Direct and charming.” —Publishers Weekly
Colores de la vida Colors in Spanish and English. “The sculptures are hypnotic.” —Publishers Weekly

Count Me In
ISBN 978-1-935955-39-9 hardback 
 978-1-935955-40-5 e-book
US $14.95 
24 pages / Publishes September 2012

The Aguilar sisters, from left to right, Irene, Conception, Josefina and Guillermina.

For more about the Aguilar Sisters of Oaxaca, go here!

Catrina with Frida Kahlo References

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Cinco Puntos Press has been proud to collaborate with the El Paso Community Foundation in its initial First Steps to Reading project. Modeled from the national Born to Read Program and the Born to Read Program in San Antonio, First Steps to Reading, a pilot program, will deliver high-quality bilingual “early concept” books to newborn babies and their parents before they leave the hospital. Books will be distributed at Sierra Providence East Medical Center in El Paso and at Hospital de la Familia in La Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. “The El Paso Community Foundation is proud to provide access to literacy by building home libraries which encourage reading from birth to adulthood,” said Eric Pearson, president of the El Paso Community Foundation. 

The program’s goal is to improve literacy rates in the El Paso community through ongoing, targeted interventions aimed at children and their parents.  By several measures, El Paso lags behind the country in adult literacy rates.  The National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimated that 36% of El Paso County residents lacked basic literacy skills in English.  The state average is 23%.  A separate study, America’s Most Literate Cities, ranks El Paso 69th out of 75 cities in the literacy resources that it affords its citizens.

“We are delighted to support this literacy program in its inception,” said Johnny Byrd, managing editor of Cinco Puntos Press.  “El Paso and our region is a bilingual community, and we believe our bilingual books—rooted like they are in the first-hand experience of both languages—can be used as an antidote to the problems of literacy here.”
In its first year, the program will deliver 4,200 books to newly born children and their parents at the selected hospitals. The three books selected are from the Cinco Puntos bilingual series “Early Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” by Cynthia Weill in collaboration with three different groups of Oaxaca artisans: Opuestos, Abecedarios and Colores. 

The El Paso Community Foundation has granted $20,000 for First Steps to Reading, and is encouraging other funding partners—corporate or individual—to contribute. For more information contact the Foundation via

FEMAP staff Alejando and Vicente
pick up books at Cinco Puntos to take to Juárez

EPCF President Eric Pearson and CPP Managing Editor Johnny Byrd
at presentation of books to staff at Sierra Providence Medical Center

These are some of the Sierra Providence staff who will be handing
parents and children the First Steps to Reading books!

Monday, August 6, 2012


--by Bobby Byrd

Note: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is that classic book with text by James Agee and photographs by Walker Evans that documents farmers, immigrants and families during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Cinco Puntos, from time to time, would like to celebrate librarians, teachers and others in the struggle for literacy and reading of good books in our nation's schools. This is the first installment. 

Francisco Vargas seated next to Xavier Garza
At this year’s ALA Convention in Anaheim, CA the Pura Belpre Committee celebrated its annual literary awards, given to writers and illustrators of Hispanic origin. The awards are sponsored jointly by ALA organizations REFORMA  promoting library services for Latinos and the Association for Library Services for Children. Xavier Garza’s Maximillian and the GuardianAngel received an Honor Book for 2012. Lee and I were there at ALA to celebrate with Xavier, his wife Irma and son Vincent. It was a wonderful occasion for all of us. The Pura Belpre Organizing Committee had put together a great event to celebrate its winners. But Xavier’s honor soon received added significance.

Francisco Vargas, the Youth Services Librarian at Long BeachPublic, made the presentation. He delighted the audience by proudly strutting like a luchador to the podium in his most prized lucha libre mask, the one he wears at his library when he does story-time for the kids. He smiled down at the audience through the mask, his eyes flashing with joy.  He was honored, he said, to be presenting this award to Xavier. As a kid, he loved books but he never found that one perfect book that spoke directly to him about his Mexican-American roots.

When he became a librarian, he wanted to find books that spoke to the children in front of him. Especially the Mexican-American kids. The kids like him. But he could never find that perfect book, that is, not until he read them Xavier’s first Cinco Puntos picture book, Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask. Oh, he said, the boys loved that book. And now here was this new bilingual chapter book about Max and the Guardian Angel. The Chicano kids love that book just as much. They want him to read both books over and over.

That’s the speech Francisco wanted to give to celebrate Xavier and his books. But something happened. As he began talking, he choked up. He was so moved by what he wanted to express to all of us he began to weep. He’d stutter and stop and start again. Finally, he ripped off his mask to reveal his true self. At first, we all thought that this was part of his presentation, the famous luchador rips off his mask to reveal the true man beneath. We thought he was making theatre. But we were wrong.  The emotion of the moment actually grabbed Francisco and swept him up. It was beautiful. At that moment Francisco Vargas was the embodiment of what power and purpose a man like him can bring to the library and to the kids he serves. 

What a performance!  

Thanks to Francisco and to all the members of the Pura Belpre committee: Chair Jamie Naidoo, Rebecca Alcalá, Carling Febry, Daisy Gutierrez, Amanda Sharpe, Henrietta Smith, and consultant Oralia Garza de Cortes.