As San Antonians, we often put our city inside of a box. We have the River Walk, the Alamo, margaritas y Fiesta, Mexican restaurants on every corner — all tied neatly together as the perfect package. And we’ve learned how to sell this package to out-of-towners, marketing it as our cultura. But do we really believe that culture to be our own? Does that shiny, colorful version of San Antonio, laced with its papel picado while serving puffy tacos to tourists, really belong to us?
In the August 2002 edition of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center’s newsletter La Voz, columnista Bárbara Renaud González writes that “San Antonio has a majority Latino/Chicano/Mexican American population that is disproportionately poor and uneducated. Its business is tourism, driven by the cultural richness of Tex-Mex culture.” This critical theme of San Antonio’s culture as an exotic commodity is González’s specialty — her pan y mantequilla — and in her latest collection of columns and clippings, Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writings by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995-2005, there’s no holding back.
With an education in social work and a background in journalism, González has made a name for herself as a critical voice in Chicana/Latina culture, often calling attention to the machismo identity of Mexicanos, the blurred lines of Mexican-American identity — especially in South Texas — and the lost traditions of our ancestors.
Las Nalgas de JLo features a collection of González previously published work, including multiple pieces from her monthly column at the San Antonio Express-News during the mid-’90s and early 2000s, as well as articles and reviews that were never published due to their content, which some have considered to be slanderous or false. This book, however, reassures you that they were not.
Though her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, NPR’s Alt.Latino and other national publications, Las Nalgas de JLo is intimate. Each column gives a close look into González’s deepest thoughts and often reads like a diary that could belong to your wise, older tía. Praising local figures like union leader Emma Tenayuca, the first Latina to serve on city council, María Antonietta Berriozábal, and Esperanza Center director Graciela Sanchez, González’s admiration for homegrown activism in Las Nalgas is expressed with an authentic voice — a voice that will be familiar to San Antonians.
To kick off the national book launch, Aztlan Libre Press, in collaboration with the Esperanza Center, will host a pachanga on Friday, April 28, featuring a performance by conjunto musicians Juan and Armando Tejeda, plus readings by Nadine Saliba, Maria Salazar, Araceli Herrera Castillo, and of course, González herself.
In a 1991 article published by the Los Angeles Times titled, “We Must Search the Soul to Find the Mexican Conscience,” González wrote, “Language is a bridge to culture.”
For anyone looking to build that bridge, Las Nalgas de JLo is an excellent place to start.
Las Nalgas de JLo National Book Launch
Free, 6-10pm Fri, Apr. 28, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 922 San Pedro Ave., (210) 228-0201, esperanzacenter.org