Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Road Trip to Las Cruces, New Mejico, los estados unidas by Juliana Aragon Fatula

2017 Denise Chavez Casa Camino Real, Las Cruces, NM
Hello gang! I'm back. I travelled to the border with a great friend, Dr. Judy Noel. I'll tell you about my adventures and experiences in the bookstore, Casa Camino Real. A brilliant writer, Denise Chavez, invited me to visit her bookstore. You don't have to ask me twice. Hey. I'm there. And with a cool traveling companion the infamous Dr. Judy Noel, what could go wrong? Right? Ten Thousand dollars worth of hail damage to my new Subaru. But no one was hurt, no one cried, no one died and no one lied. So I call that a successful road trip. 

Have you ever had so much fun that you felt elevated to a new dimension? Medical marijuana has the same effect. But this high on life came from a writing workshop with the master writer, Denise Chavez. 

I marked my calendar and planned my road trip for months. I saved every penny, literally, I cashed in $25.39 in loose change. I saved my $500 prize money from the 2016 High Plains Book Award in Poetry. (I'm judging poetry books this year.) My pussycat, Vince, gave me some mad money. I didn't spend it; I'm saving for my  next road trip. So with a full tank of gas in my 2016 Silver Surfer Subaru, Judy and I grabbed our bags and books and hit I-25. 

The writing workshop was magical. I'm pleased that I convinced myself to keep trying until I finally made it to Las Cruces to interview my new comadre and best selling author of Chicana Literature, Denise. Her bookstore has power. It's sacred in a way only spiritual people understand. The building has wooden beams and is made of adobe. The kitchen opens its arms and says, "Come have a cup of  café olla. The best cupa you'll ever drink because it's magical, too. 

Piles and piles everywhere of rare books, old books, signed books and art by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Georgia O'Keeffe. Her vinyl collection made me salivate for a turntable. I know plenty of people who only play vinyl. I saw her rare and unique collection of LPs. 

She gathered nine women and she made ten around her long writing table. The kind you find at the library. Everything had a story. An amazing story. I learned about the holy tortilla with the face of Jesus. I never knew. I learned about history, music, literature, Greek theatre; I created my own myth ofrenda from a recycled cigar box. It became magical, too.

Afterwards, Denise and I sat in the sweltering heat, 108 degrees on Saturday, and I interviewed her for my blog. I used my iPad video camera and it looks beautiful. The audio is perfect. I can hear every nuance in Denise's voice. Like when she asked how much for an iPad. I said, "a hundred bucks." She sat up with a jolt and said, "What? A hundred? I gotta get me one of those!" Then the interview began. I asked the questions my husband had argued were too much for first questions. He said ask those later. Denise, said, "No. Those are the questions to ask." And they were. She told me stories and we laughed. She told me tragedies and I nodded my head and smiled tight lipped. I knew her stories like they were mine. I've read her books and she has a style unique to her and her alone.

I'm here to learn from the master and transfer that knowledge to other women writers of color. The doctor orders; she said, "Juliana, drive to Las Cruces and go get you mojo back." And I did. Denise Chavez changed my life.

When I made it home to Colorado, I walked in the backyard and started the irrigation pump for my Chicana Garden. Everything in bloom, birds chirping, dogs barking...I felt alive and content to be who I am and where I am. So what if I'm not Stephen King, I'm a talented writer with a bright future. I need to surround myself with other writers from time to time to remind myself that I'm a writer. Yes, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, but if I don't write, I get a little crazy. No one understands this dilemma more than a woman writer and in my case a woman of color.

Denise Chavez is my mentor. I'm going to study and learn everything I can from this woman; they don't make them like her anymore. She's original, traditional, spiritual, humorous and professional. She's the cat's meow. She raises funds for feral cats to be neutered. She holds press conferences at her bookstore for los libros traficantes to support the books that have been banned in Arizona. She teaches writing workshops to the community and welcomes anyone to her adobe.

Someday when I finish my novel: the Colorado Sisters, I'll thank Denise in the acknowledgements because she taught me something valuable: I am a writer.

My interview with Denise Chavez is coming soon. Keep posted.


  1. I love this post--and the photo of Denise Chavez in the kitchen. Sounds like you had a magical time.

    1. I'm excited to post the interview next month. Thanks for reading.