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Cooking Tamales For The Beatles: Guest DJ Sandra Cisneros

Author Sandra Cisneros.
Jessica Fuentes
Jessica Fuentes
Author Sandra Cisneros.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This week Alt.Latino offers an encore presentation of one of our favorite shows while Jasmine and Felix enjoy some vacation time.]

(With apologies to Sandra Cisneros' poem "You Bring Out The Mexican In Me.")

We brought out the Dolores del Rio in her

The soul sister

The Joni Mitchell fan

The teary bolero singer

The teary opera fan

The loving daughter

The emancipated daughter

The spirit communicator

The Beatles fan

The aspiring ballerina

The Chicana from Chicago

Okay, I'll leave the poetry to the real writers. But a conversation with Sandra Cisneros did bring out the poet in me, and during our far-reaching conversations on this episode, we touched on many of the themes she explores in her books and poems. Over the decades — and in books like Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, The House on Mango Street and her recent Have You Seen Marie? — Cisneros reminds us how the nuances of a bi-cultural life here in the U.S. contributes to a larger picture of identity, alienation and acceptance.

Though she grew up in Chicago and I grew up in California at roughly the same time, Cisneros' characters can seem very familiar to me: They are my friends and my family. Her music choices reflect that, with Baby Boomer soul and pop that carries traces of our Mexican grandparents' music.

After going through her music selections for this show, I'm grateful to know that I'm not the only one who sees a direct connection between vocalist Chavela Vargas melting our romantic souls with a ranchera and opera great Maria Callas laying us out with a heartbreaking aria. You're going to hear music that you don't normally hear on Alt.Latino this week — and that's okay, because Cisneros' selections reflect the experience of millions of Mexican-Americans who can hear a little of themselves in all kinds of music. As we've seen with her writing, that discovery doesn't set us apart. It brings us closer together.

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Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.