November 30, 2016


Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts 
from exciting novels by Latino authors.

This excerpt seems most apropos because of the death of the real Fidel Castro this past week. 

By Elizabeth Huergo
Unbridled Books

One particular good citizen, Saturnina, was squatting on a doorstep just a few blocks away, feeding a hard biscuit to a hungry stray dog, when she heard the news that Fidel and his brother had fallen. Saturnina rose from her corolla of ragged skirts and began to walk toward the throng of people gathering before the building and spilling over into the street, blocking the morning traffic. Though she could see nothing of what had happened, in a swirl of petticoats and skirts she began to mimic the words she heard: “¡Socorro! ¡Fidel calló! Help! Fidel has fallen!”

Saturnina, Sybil of the succulent bit of news that lodges like a string of pork gristle in the space between back teeth, began to fidget and whirl her way through the edges of the gathering crowd, calling out what she had instantly accepted as fact: The apocalypse that would precede the return of her son Tomás, whom she had lost decades earlier in the violent interregnum between Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro, had begun.

“¡Fidel calló! His brother has fallen, too!”

Stepping and swirling, the old woman tripped along the farthest perimeter of the bloody scene. As she passed along the streets calling out her news, housewives peered through rusted iron rails, pulling back quickly into darkened interiors. Men and women on errands or on their way to work or school stopped to listen, then sped on, looking back over their shoulders nervously.

*Excerpt from the novel THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ by Elizabeth Huergo printed by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.

BOOK SUMMARY: On July 26, 2003, the 50th anniversary of the Moncada Army Barracks raid that sparked the Cuban revolution, something unexpected happens. When Fidel Pérez and his brother accidentally tumble to their deaths from their Havana balcony, the neighbors’ outcry, “Fidel has fallen!” is misinterpreted by those who hear it. That wishful mistake quickly ripples outward on the running cries of the people, and it gloriously reawakens a suppressed city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Huergo was born in Havana and immigrated to the United States at an early age as a political refugee. A published poet and story writer, she lives in Virginia. THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ is her first novel. Visit her at


November 28, 2016


Millions of people have been dreaming about Fidel Castro’s death for almost 60 years.  It’s finally true – Fidel Castro died on Friday, November 25, at the age of 90.  Funeral arrangements are underway in Havana, while in Little Havana/Miami the celebration continues. 

The Latina Book Club offers some books about life before, during and after Fidel. Happy Reading.

  1. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS by Reinaldo Arenas (Penguin Books)
  2. CUBA: ANOTHER SIDE OF THE STORY by Iris M. Diaz (Xlibris)
  3. CUBA DIARIES: AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE IN HAVANA by Isadora Tattlin (Broadway Books)
  4. CUBA IN SPLINTERS: 11 STORIES FROM A NEW CUBA edited by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (OR Books)
  5. CUBAN-AMERICAN, DANCING ON THE HYPHEN by Amarilys Gacio Rassler (SPS Publications)
  6. DANCING WITH CUBA: A MEMOIR OF THE REVOLUTION by Alma Guillermoprieto (Vintage)
  7. DREAMING IN CUBAN by Cristina Garcia (Ballantine)
  8. EVERYONE LEAVES by Wendy Guerra (Amazon Crossing)
  10. HAVANA DREAMS: A STORY OF A CUBAN FAMILY by Wendy Gimbel (Vintage)
  11. HOW TO LEAVE HIALEAH by Jennine Capó Crucet (St. Martin’s Press)
  12. LA BELLE CREOLE by Alina Garcia-Lapuerta (Chicago Review Press)
  13. MEA CUBA by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  14. MORTIFICTIONS by Derek Palacio (Tim Duggan Books)
  15. SOFRITO by Philippe Diederich (Cinco Punto Press)
  16. REYITA: THE LIFE OF A BLACK CUBAN WOMAN IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Maria De Los Reyes Castillo Bueno (Duke University Press)
  17. THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ by Elizabeth Huergo (Unbridled Books)
  18. THE DISTANT MARVELS by Chantel Acevedo (Europe Editions)
  19. THE FIRELY LETTERS: A SUFFRAGETTE’S JOURNEY TO CUBA by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt & Co.)
  20.  THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE by Oscar Hijuelos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  21. THE MARES OF LENIN PARK by Agustin D. Martinez (Press Americana)
  22. THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS by Richard Blanco (Ecco Press)
  23. THE SKINNY YEARS by Raul Ramos y Sanchez (Beck & Branch Publishers)

For Fun Facts About Cuba, click here.

For Famous Cubans and Cuban-Americans, click here.


November 23, 2016


NEW! Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts from exciting novels by Latino authors. Happy reading!

and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

By Celeste León
Floricanto Press

Book Summary:  This novel is based on Celeste Leon’s father’s true story – he won the Puerto Rican lottery and used the winnings for the benefit of all. It’s fiction but an inspiring heroic adventure.  Read our review of LUCK IS JUST THE BEGINNING by clicking here.  And click here for Celeste Leon’s post about her father.

Maunabo, Puerto Rico
November 17, 1944

Ramon León had a powerful premonition. Something extraordinary was about to happen.

Just that morning, he shot an unprecedented seven free throws in a row. He watched the seventh ball soar into the air and sail through the tattered net when numbers appeared, high in the sky above the palm tree that held the faded backboard nailed to its mighty trunk. A 14 trailed by three zeros pulsed red above the clouds, so vibrant that Ramón believed God Himself had painted it.

His heart fluttered in his chest like a moth caught in an oil lamp. He could scarcely breathe before the vision faded away in the breeze. A trail of gooseflesh swept up his arms until his mother’s voice broke his trance, calling him to work at her tienda de ropa. Ramón tucked his basketball under his arm and hurried across the plaza, the only paved area in his village.

He passed the whitewashed colonial Catholic church and the enormous ceiba trees shading park benches. This morning, Ramón was the only person in the plaza, but the benches would soon be occupied by young boys who polished shoes for a penny with their square limpias botas and old too frail to work in the sugar cane fields.

Ramón stepped into the store, legs trembling—had he imagined that vision in the sky? Would everything suddenly look different? No, the shelves were lined with the same bolts and rolls of cotton, broadcloth and muslin from which his mother fashioned shirts, pants or skirts that villagers ordered when they could afford it. He placed the basketball under the counter where he tallied purchases, and washed his hands in the old ceramic basin. He began to press and straighten the rolls tight against one another when the tarnished brass doorbell jingled to announce his first customer, an elderly jíbara from the barrio.

Ramón nodded to acknowledge her. He wondered: what did it mean—the number above the clouds? What other extraordinary things might happen today? When the peasant woman laid seven brown buttons on the worn counter and counted fourteen pennies, a revelation struck him like a fist: fourteen cents, seven buttons, and seven free throws. He was the seventh child to survive after his beloved mother lost her first eight babies, the lucky one, born in a caul on the seventh day of the seventh month.  

“I hope Caimito comes today. It’s lottery ticket day, and my husband’s been saving two dimes to play,” the woman declared.

There was no reason the lottery vendor wouldn’t roll into Maunabo in his battered old truck. Hurricane season had passed, the roads were clear and the sky electric blue. The tropical breeze carried the scent of the sea.

At that moment, Ramón felt the gooseflesh again. Now he knew what those numbers meant. He must play that number in the lottery.

About the Author: CELESTE LEON is an award winning author. Her passion for the past ten years has been writing Luck is Just theBeginning, the novel inspired by the true story of her father’s life in Puerto Rico, released by Floricanto Press on November 23, 2015.  The book earned a Mariposa Award for Best First Book in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards, a Finalist in Multicultural Fiction in the 2016 International Book Awards and was selected as Book of the Month (August 2016) by the Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. Ms. León is a 2013 Alumna of The Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her personal essay, Finding Home, about her travels to Puerto Rico, won first prize in the Annual Contest for High Sierra Writers of Reno, Nevada; her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Celebrating People Who Make a Difference and The Preservation Foundation. To contact Celeste or for additional information, including reviews, interviews such as NPR, and scheduled appearances visit Also, visit her at and


November 16, 2016


NEW! Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts from exciting novels by Latino authors. Happy reading!

by João Cerqueira
Line by Lion Publications

Yes, this novel is about The Second Coming.

Book Summary:  Jesus returns to earth and meets activist Magdalene who is fighting for a better world. He finds an extremist ecological group, which is plotting to destroy a maize plantation it believes to be genetically modified. Then, he observes the rise up against a tourist development that is built on a forest preserve. Finally, he witnesses an armed conflict between blacks and gypsies. However, although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene, attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, he is unable to escape the fury of mankind. And only a con man will recognize him.

According to the gypsy community, it was the blacks who started the riots.

A gang of adolescents, who liked to harass gypsy women and to scrawl graffiti insulting the virility of the men, entered the gypsy café and, after refusing to pay for their drinks, smashed up the furniture and stole the takings from the till. Knowing that calling the police would only cause more problems, the gypsy community was forced to solve the problem on its own, to dispense their own justice. A meeting was held in the patriarch’s house and it was decided to retaliate that very day, “because with us it’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and no one laughs at the gypsies for long.” They then went after the assailants. And it wasn’t hard to find them, as they were celebrating the raid in one of their houses, in euphoric fashion. The gypsies weren’t the first to shoot, however, because bullets began to fly as soon as they rounded the corner of the road in which the gang was lurking. From that night on, the blacks started to attack any gypsy; even women and children weren’t spared.

Questioned on what had happened, Dona Eufrásia, a gypsy in her sixties, who sold designer clothes at the market, said the following: “Of course they’re the ones that started it. Who else could it have been? These blacks are bad blood! They leave their children on the street and the girls will do it with anyone. They sell drugs and rob people. I’ve never seen one do a day’s work. Do you know what they want? They want to kick us out of here and take our houses. They should stick them all in a boat and send them back to where they came from.”

According to the black community, the whole thing happened differently.

No robbery took place at the café, and no one caused any damage to the premises. It was a Saturday evening and the boys had decided to have a beer and chose this place by chance. They entered in an orderly manner and politely asked to be served. But the café owner replied, “We don’t serve blacks here, each to his own.” At that very moment, the gypsies got up from their tables and started to shove them outside the establishment. Still not happy, outside they set about pummelling them with punches and kicking them. In the end they chased them away, forcing them to take refuge in a house nearby. It was then that some of the gypsies pulled out their pistols and began firing at the windows before others arrived with shotguns, adding to the fusillade. The young men’s reaction was defensive; if they hadn’t fought back they would have met their maker, as the gypsies were preparing a raid on the house.

A witness to the event, Lourenço Marques, godfather of one of the victims and retired builder, got his feelings off his chest. “Everyone knows it was the gypsies who attacked us. We are a serious people around here, we don’t want trouble with anyone. But, with the gypsies it’s impossible, man! They think that this place is theirs, they don’t respect anyone, they threaten you and pull out their weapons for the slightest thing. Robbery and drugs are their main source of income. Have you ever seen them working or picking up rubbish? Of course not. These problems will only come to an end when they are all thrown into prison.”    

For her part, another resident, Dona Lurdes, housemaid and white — but whose dark complexion and curly hair seemed to want to deny her Caucasian status — also gave her opinion of the facts. “Whose fault is it? It’s both their faults. It was peaceful here before all these blacks and gypsies got here. Everyone knew and helped each other, the neighbors were like a family. If you needed a bay leaf you just knocked on your neighbor’s door; people looked after other people’s children. But after they arrived our neighborhood became hell, what with stealing, drugs, fighting, shooting. You can’t sleep at night for all the racket. It’s scary around here. It’s enough to make you sick with worry. And the police don’t lift a finger. If it was up to me, I’d send them all back to where they came from.”

About the Author: JOAO CERQUEIRA is the author of eight books published in six countries.  THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO won the USA Best Book Awards 2013, the Beverly Hills Book Awards 2014, the Global Ebook Awards 2014, was finalist for the Montaigne Medal 2014 and was considered by ForewordReviews the third best translation published in 2012 in the United States. JESUS AND MAGDALENE won the silver medal in the 2015 Latino Book Award and was considered by the unheard-voice.blogspot one of the best books published in 2015. The short story, A house in Europe, won the 2015 Speakando European Literary Contest, received the bronze medal in the Ebook Me Up Short Story Competition 2015 and an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train July 2015 Very Short Fiction Award. His works are published in The Adirondack Review, Ragazine, Berfrois, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Lights Film, Modern Times Magazine and others. Visit him at


November 14, 2016


Women are coming into their own, slowly but surely.  In fact, we almost had our first Female President of the United States. That glass ceiling may not be shattered yet, but one day. Until then, women will continue to fight for their rights and their place in history, like the women in this month’s Book of the Month by Enriqueta L. Vasquez.  Happy Reading! 

An Epic History of Chicana-Mexican American Peoples
by Enriqueta L. Vasquez

In the beginning there was woman.

The Women of La Raza is a “Plain talk” woman’s perspective of history with a special value for both the spoken and written word. I use plain talk because there is a certain respect for plain talk, in the old tradition. In ceremonial circles one asks for, “la Palabra,” to speak. I have been humbled many times by the Indigenous peoples of Mexico where ‘la palabra,’ oratory, is highly valued.—Enriqueta L. Vasquez

The Women of La Raza, Xhicana, Latina Book Club, Maria Ferrer, Enriiqueta Vasquez, HERstory

HERstory!  From goddesses to queens to rulers to heroines of independence to the 21st century Xhicana, THE WOMEN OF LA RAZA is an astonishing collection of Mexican and Mexican-American women.  Author, artist and activist Enriqueta L. Vasquez has put together a remarkable, ambitious and informative history of these women through the ages, and it’s one that readers will not forget.  We really hope this book makes it into history and women’s history curriculums.

BOOK SUMMARY:  The history of Mexican Americans spans over more than five centuries and varies from region to region across the United States.  Yet most of our books devote at most a couple pages on Chicano history, and much less attention is given to herstory of Chicanas.
            Thewomen of La Raza offers a powerful antidote to this omission with a vivid account of the struggle and survival of our people and woman’s place in the history, who, despite discrimination in schools, jobs, and housing has contributed considerably to the development of this country.  The book ranges from female centered stories of pre-Columbian Mexico to profiles of contemporary social justice activists, labor leaders, organizers as well as today’s leaders and activists.
            There is much to be learned from the women who fought and died in the War of Independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution.  These women fought and died with their young children at their side and in the invasion from The United States of America.  This thoroughly enriching view of Chicana women’s history promises to become a classic.#

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Enriqueta L. Vasquez, born and raised in Cheraw, Colorado of Mexican-Tarascan parentage, is an artist, activist and writer co-authored “Viva La Raza!” (Doubleday, 1974) with Elizabeth Sutherland Martinez for which they received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. She was on the editorial staff of the Chicano newspaper “El Grito del Norte,” based in Española, New Mexico.  Her regular columns in El Grito as well as some of her poetry became well known and were used in many books and publications as well as conferences and women’s studies.  Enriqueta’s writings from El Grito were published in 2007 in an award winning book “Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement” in the Hispanic Civil Rights series by Arte Publico Press, Houston, Texas. Along with her well known writings, Enriqueta designed and painted on several murals. She worked at the Centro Campesino in 1981 where she published a leaflet newspaper and produced a slide show film named “De Sol A Sol.” The film was used for educational and organizing purposes. Enriqueta is widely traveled, having been to Cuba, China, Spain, Germany, many parts of the southwest, as well as Mexico where she did much of the research for The Women of La Raza.  She is presently working on a number of short stories and poetry for publication in her next book.  Follow her on Facebook: Enriqueta.l.vasquez.