Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives: Fronteras: Dibujando Las Vidas Fronterizas

Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives: Fronteras: Dibujando Las Vidas Fronterizas

by Steven P. Schneider, Reefka Schneider

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Featuring 25 drawings in charcoal, conte crayons, and pastels, this handbook pairs portraits of people who live and work along the U.S.–Mexico border with bilingual poems that have been inspired by each of the drawings. A testimony to the people of the Rio Grande Valley, these drawings and poems capture their spirit, their quest for happiness, and their


Featuring 25 drawings in charcoal, conte crayons, and pastels, this handbook pairs portraits of people who live and work along the U.S.–Mexico border with bilingual poems that have been inspired by each of the drawings. A testimony to the people of the Rio Grande Valley, these drawings and poems capture their spirit, their quest for happiness, and their struggles to overcome economic hardship. This remarkable book highlights characters such as the "young street musician," the "six-year-old street vendor," and the "wise woman with rings." Compassionate and aesthetically compelling, this record raises awareness about social and cultural issues associated with border life, such as education, literacy, and poverty, and fosters cross-cultural understanding.


Con 25 dibujos al carboncillo, al lápiz conté y al pastel, este manual combina los retratos de la gente que vive y trabaja en la frontera entre EEUU y México con los poemas bilingües que han sido inspirados por cada uno de los dibujos. Un testimonio del pueblo del valle Rio Grande, estos dibujos y poemas captan su espíritu, su búsqueda de la felicidad y su lucha para superar la penuria económica. Este libro notable subraya personajes como “el joven músico ambulante,” “la vendedora ambulante de seis años” y “la sabia mujer con anillos.” Compasivo y convincente de manera estética, este libro despierta conciencia acerca de los asuntos sociales y culturales asociados con la vida fronteriza, como la educación, el alfabetismo y la pobreza, y promueve la comprensión intercultural.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Hurray for Steve and Reefka and the magical work they are doing crossing fronteras.”  —Sandra Cisneros, author, Caramelo and House on Mango Street

"Such a kiss is this book that you oftentimes cannot tell which came first: the poem, it’s translation, or the art work."  —Rene Saldaña, author, The Jumping Tree and The Whole Sky Full of Stars

“In the tradition of an earlier era, Steve and Reefka Schneider have created a portrait of border life that utilizes both words and pictures to capture the moment.”  —Kathleen Alcalá, author, The Flower in the Skull

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Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives/Fronteras: Dibujando las Vidas Fronterizas

By Steven P. Schneider, José Antonio Rodríguez

Wings Press

Copyright © 2010 Steven P. Schneider and Reefka Schneider
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-017-0


    Six-Year-Old Street Vendor

    In her right ear she wears a pink stud.
    Her lips are sealed and will not share the secrets
    Of her family, the two room house
    With dirt floors and no running water.
    Her mother makes doilies and tablecloths
    Sold at the basilica.
    The handbags draped over each wrist
    And around her neck
    Are stitched by a cousin
    Who lives in Matamoros.
    They hang from her like ornaments.

    She awakens each day, early
    To walk the streets of Nuevo Progreso
    Where she competes
    With other child vendors — of watches, silver bracelets,
    CDs of Tejano music.
    She is intimate with the alleys of this border town–
    Beggars with tin cans, children playing the accordion, stray cats.
    She will never learn how to read and write.
    She leaves only traces of her footsteps
    On the muddy paths beside the Rio Grande.

    Hey, Garlic Man

    You stand on the corner
    With that garland of garlic
    Hanging over your neck and shoulders.
    Garlic the size of baseballs –
    And sell them to Winter Texans
    Wearing John Deere hats and blue jeans
    Who come to Nuevo Progreso
    To save a few bucks
    On medications, haircuts, and shoe shines.
    You stand out there each day in the sun
    Wearing your orange cap,
    Rugby shirt,
    Looking out at the world
    Like a man who has seen too much of it.
    You wear that string of garlic
    Around your neck
    Like a snake charmer.
    You honor the scent of the earth.
    You take their cash
    And send the visitors home
    With those big white cloves of garlic
    Grown in the fields of Tamaulipas.
    To be sliced into frying pans,
    Diced into salsa,
    Cooked in tomato sauce,
    To add savor and luck
    To this unsavory, unlucky world.

    Mariachi With a Red Violin

    This is a drawing of
    Concentration: the red violin
    Tucked firmly beneath his chin,
    The bow held lightly
    In his right hand,
    The fingers of the left
    Positioned carefully on the strings.

    This young man
    Prepares to play
    The song from some warm night
    On a square in Mexico City,
    Where his grandfather listened
    To the speeches of politicians.

    He looks out beyond his red violin
    As if he sees
    In the distance a young woman
    In a violet rebozo,
    Waiting for him on her balcony.

    He begins to move the bow,
    And she tosses him a white gardenia,
    The evening air scented by its perfume
    And the ballad of love he will play.

    Beggar and Daughter

    Cuando hay hambre, no hay mal pan.

    This young girl chews on a plastic card —
    The streets of Nuevo Progreso, fall
    Ten years after NAFTA, hungry
    Brown eyes wide open.
    She leans her head back against her mother,
    Jacket zipped up against the wind.
    A few strands of hair hang down over her forehead.
    Maquilas along the border have closed down.
    The number of trucks crossing the bridge
    With automobile parts, washing machines, denim shirts
    and pants
    Has slowed to a trickle.
    She owns only this card in her mouth.

    Her mother cannot afford to buy her a bracelet
    Or a brightly colored frog or crab from Oaxaca.
    She wears a striped sarape across the shoulders.
    Her lips are sealed, mouth lined by disappointment,
    Eyes glazed with fear.
    Trapped in an economy
    Of harsh winds and muddy streets,
    She looks at you in sadness
    Her dreams void
    Of magic animals or hope.

    Bienvenido el Ángel

    El Ángel
    Is eating a chili pepper
    At the taquería which bears his name
    On a Sunday afternoon in late October
    At Ochoa's Flea Market.
    El Ángel likes tacos too
    And the young girls
    Who wait on tables
    And serve chicharrones, nopalitos, and tamales
    To the customers.
    The young girls who wear Día de los Muertos
    Pumpkin orange t-shirts
    With skeletons
    That smile and say "dead to the bone."
    One of them brings out a steaming
    Bowl of menudo
    To a white-haired, toothless old woman named Rosa
    Who has lived all her life in Mission, Tejas
    And comes to the mercado
    With her nieces and their children
    On Sundays
    After attending her church
    Named "the Messiah."
    She finds comfort here
    Among the workers eating their gorditas
    And the conjunto music playing in the background,
    And El Ángel on the billboard
    Blessing the food on the table.

    Three-Year- Old Street Musician

    You hug the accordion
    As if it were your baby brother
    And look out at the world
    With the sad eyes of a panda bear
    Taken from its natural habitat.
    You play a song for all the children to hear
    Who stand in the rain with a candle in one hand
    And a cup in the other hand.
    You play for all the lost children
    Who have disappeared in wars,
    In the crevices of earth,
    In floods of the seas.

    You play a song
    For all the children
    Who go hungry,
    For all the children
    Who sleep at night on dirt floors,
    For all the children
    Who never saw another butterfy.

    Vendedora ambulante de seis años

    En su oreja derecha trae un arete color de rosa.
    Sus labios sellados no compartirán los secretos
    De su familia, la casa de dos cuartos
    Con piso de tierra y sin drenaje.
    Su madre confecciona servilletas y manteles
    Que se venden en la basílica.
    Los bolsos colgados sobre cada muñeca
    Y alrededor de su cuello
    Son tejidos por una prima
    Que vive en Matamoros.
    Cuelgan de ella como adornos.

    Despierta temprano cada diá
    Para caminar por las calles de Nuevo Progreso
    Donde compite
    Con otros niños vendedores-de relojes, pulseras de plata,
    Discos compactos de música tejana.
    Es íntima de los callejones de este pueblo fronterizo-
    Pordioseros con botes de lata, niños tocando el acordeón,
    gatos extraviados.
    Nunca aprenderá a leer ni escribir.
    Deja sólo rastros de sus pasos
    En los caminos lodosos al lado del Río Bravo.

    Oye, hombre del ajo

    Te paras en una esquina
    Con esa guirnalda de ajo
    Colgada de tu cuello y hombros.
    Ajo del tamaño de pelotas de béisbol —
    Y se los vendes a los ancianos del norte
    Que visten cachuchas de John Deere y pantalones de mezclilla
    Y que vienen a Nuevo Progreso
    Para ahorrarse unos cuantos pesos
    En medicinas, cortes de cabello, y lustradas de calzado.
    Te paras cada día allá afuera en el sol
    Usando tu gorra anaranjada,
    Camiseta de rugby,
    Contemplando al mundo
    Como un hombre que ha visto demasiado de él.
    Llevas esa ristra de ajo
    Alrededor de tu cuello
    Como un encantador de serpientes.
    Honras el aroma de la tierra.
    Tomas su dinero
    Y despachas a los visitantes a casa
    Con esos dientes de ajo grandes y blancos
    Cultivados en los campos de Tamaulipas.
    Para ser tajado en la sartén,
    Picado en salsa,
    Cocido en salsa de tomate,
    Para agregarle sazón y suerte
    A este mundo desabrido y desdichado.

    El mariachi con violín rojo

    Este es un dibujo de
    Concentración: el violín rojo
    Firmemente encajado debajo de su barbilla,
    El arco ligeramente empuñado
    En su mano derecha,
    Los dedos de la izquierda
    Cuidadosamente colocados sobre las cuerdas.

    Este joven
    Se prepara para tocar
    La canción de alguna noche cálida
    En una plaza de la ciudad de México,
    Donde su abuelo escuchó
    Los discursos de los políticos.

    Mira más allá de su violín rojo
    Como si viera
    En la distancia a una joven
    En un rebozo color violeta
    Esperándolo desde su balcón.

    Empieza él a mover el arco
    Y le lanza ella una gardenia blanca,
    El aire de la noche perfumado por su aroma
    Y por la balada de amor que él tocará.

    Pordiosera e hija

    Cuando hay hambre, no hay mal pan.

    Esta niñita mastica una tarjeta de plástico –
    Las calles de Nuevo Progreso, otoño
    Diez años después del TLC, hambrientos
    Ojos color café abiertos de par en par.
    Recarga su cabeza sobre su madre,
    La chaqueta cerrada contra el viento.
    Unos cuantos cabellos caen sobre su frente.
    Las maquilas de la frontera se han cerrado.
    El número de camiones que cruzan el puente
    Con auto partes, lavadoras, pantalones y camisas de mezclilla
    Se ha disminuido a un goteo.
    Es dueña sólo de esta tarjeta en su boca.

    Su madre no tiene para comprarle una pulsera
    Ni un sapo o cangrejo de color brillante de Oaxaca.
    Lleva un sarape rallado de hombro a hombro.
    Sus labios sellados, la boca marcada por la desilusión.
    Los ojos vidriosos de miedo.
    Atrapada en una economía
    De vientos ásperos y calles lodosas,
    Te mira con tristeza
    Sus sueños vacíos
    Sin animales mágicos ni esperanza.

    Bienvenido el ángel

    El Ángel
    Se come un chile
    En la taquería que lleva su nombre
    Un domingo de octubre por la tarde
    En la pulga de Ochoa's.
    Al Ángel le gustan los tacos también
    Y las jóvenes
    Que atienden las mesas
    Y sirven chicharrones, nopalitos y tamales
    A los clientes.
    Las jóvenes visten camisetas anaranjadas como calabaza
    De día de los muertos
    Con esqueletos
    Que sonríen y dicen "muerto hasta la médula."
    Una de ellas le trae un vaporoso
    Tazón de menudo
    A una anciana canosa y desdentada que se llama Rosa
    Y que ha vivido toda su vida en Mission, Tejas
    Y viene al mercado
    Con sus sobrinas y los hijos de ellas
    Los domingos
    Después de asistir a la iglesia
    Llamada "The Messiah."
    Aquí siente consuelo
    Entre los trabajadores comiendo sus gorditas
    Y la música de conjunto sonando en el fondo
    Y El Ángel en la cartelera
    Bendiciendo la comida sobre la mesa.

    Músico callejero de tres años

    Abrazas el acordeón
    Como si fuese tu hermanito
    Y alzas tu mirada al mundo
    Con los ojos tristes de un oso panda
    Cogido de su hábitat natural.
    Tocas una canción para que la oigan todos los niños
    Parados bajo la lluvia con una vela en una mano
    Y una taza en la otra.
    Tocas por todos los niños perdidos
    Que han desaparecido en las guerras,
    En las grietas de la tierra,
    En las torrentes de los mares.

    Tocas una canción
    Por todos los niños
    Que pasan hambre,
    Por todos los niños
    Que pasan la noche sobre piso de tierra,
    Por todos los niños
    Que jamás vieron otra mariposa.


Excerpted from Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives/Fronteras: Dibujando las Vidas Fronterizas by Steven P. Schneider, José Antonio Rodríguez. Copyright © 2010 Steven P. Schneider and Reefka Schneider. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Steven P. Schneider is a poet, a writer, and a professor in the department of English at the University of Texas Pan-American. His poetry has been published in national and international journals, including American Life in Poetry, Critical Quarterly, Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tikkun. He is the author of A. R. Ammons and the Poetics of Widening Scope, Prairie Air Show, and Unexpected Guests and the editor of Complexities of Motion: New Essays on A. R. Ammons’s Long Poems. He is the recipient of an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award for Poetry and a Nebraska Arts Council Fellowship. Reefka Schneider is one of the foremost artists of the Rio Grande Valley region in South Texas. She is represented by Nuevo Santander Gallery, and her artwork has been exhibited at the Art Center for the Islands, the International Museum of Art and Science, Northwest Vista College, the Rockport Center for the Arts, and the University of Texas Pan-American. They live in McAllen, Texas. Norma E. Cantú is a professor of English at the University of Texas–San Antonio and the author or coauthor of several books, including the award-winning memoir Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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