Yesika Salgado and I chop it up: video from 2019 LitLit Conference: Latinx/L.A. Poetics

That time when Yesika Salgado and I read two poems and talked: about how we became writers, who we’re in conversation with, and who we wish to become, and what L.A. means to us.

Shout out to the 2019 LitLit Conference sponsored by the Los Angeles Review of Books. Thanks again to Kyle Fitzpatrick for organizing our panel!

New on KCET, Youth Resistance and Los Angeles Photography

From my latest article on Artbound KCET:

“The week of November 14, 2016, nearly 4,000 students from about 18 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District participated in walkouts against the president elect’s selection. As in the 1960s and ‘70s, students gathered at landmarks like Mariachi Plaza, Lincoln Park and city hall for rallies. In photos circulated across news and social media, one student was seen holding a sign that said, ‘I can’t make my parents proud if they’re not here.'”

Read the rest of the story here. Gracias a Rafael Cardenas, Tim Toyama, Xela de la X, and Melody Soto, and of course, the curators and staff at the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College. Check out: Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943 – 2016The show is on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum through February 25, 2017.

Below, the Bell Gardens High School Lancer Scroll documents walkouts against the first Iraw War. (From the Vertiz family archives).

Lacer Scroll First Iraq War.jpg



Juan Gabriel: How he helped families love their queer children– in HOY magazine

In Friday’s print edition of HOY magazine in Los ANgeles, reaching thousands of hispanohablantes, I discussed how our working-class immigrant families loved their queer children and neighbors in a way that would not have been possible without Juan Gabriel. Read the whole story in Spanish here, page 13!

A HUGE “gracias” to translators Roman Lujan and Jen Hofer for their help in making the article sparkle like a bead on JuanGa’s Bellas Artes jacket. And to Aida Salazar for her mother’s story.

Excerpt from, “Ayudo a familias aceptar a sus hijos”

En tiempos de violencia y pérdida, hay que reconocer que Juan Gabriel hizo posible el ser gay, auténtico y amado. El poeta Eduardo C. Corral contó en Facebook cómo su papá lo aceptó cuando se enteró de que su hijo era gay: “Con los años, Juan Gabriel se convirtió en parte de muchas familias mexicanas. Sí, se burlaron de él. Pero allí estaba. En nuestros hogares. […] Se convirtió en una presencia […]. En mi casa. Esta familiaridad con ser gay ayudó que mi padre siguiera amando a su hijo.”

Su presencia en nuestros hogares se debe a nuestras madres u otros familiares, a quienes las canciones de Juan Gabriel les partía el corazón. Con letras como estas, no hay duda del porqué: “Sé que tú no puedes, aunque intentes olvidarme. Siempre volverás, una y otra vez.” Mujeres como mi mamá llamaron llorando a sus hijas e hijos, a sus hermanas y vecinas,  cuando anunciaron la muerte del Divo de Juárez. “Lo voy a ir a alcanzar”, me dijo mi madre. “Lo tengo que conocer, chata.” Y así, millones de nosotros todavía lo quieren conocer. Otras llevamos  flores a la funeraria de Santa Mónica donde llegó su cuerpo, a su estrella en el paseo de la fama de Hollywood, a su estatua en el Distrito Federal, pero más que nada, ponemos su música. “Háblame de ti. Cuéntame de tu vida.”

Con su tema “Te lo pido por favor” nos enseñó a ser amigos y a apoyar quienes tienen alguna necesidad. La letra dice: “¿Cómo te puedo pagar todo lo que haces por mí? ¿Todo lo feliz que soy? ¿Todo este inmenso amor? Solamente con mi vida.”  La presencia de Juan Gabriel también acompañó a la gente gay que ha sido rechazada por  su familia de sangre y ha tenido que  que construir familias de corazón. Por ejemplo, la comerciante Chavelita, originaria de Jalpa, Jalisco, vivía en la ciudad de Maywood en los ochentas, y se hizo amiga de hombres gay y trans que conocía a través de su tienda de decoraciones. Sus reuniones eran fiestas en la sala de su casa, en la que seis hijas e hijos esperaban ansiosamente el show drag. Abundaban las boas, el lápiz de labios rojo, los tacones dorados y los aplausos. Los intérpretes se movían y bailaban igual que  sus artistas favoritos, como Amanda Miguel, Donna Summer y, sí, Juan Gabriel. Las canciones de el Divo eran algo de todos los días, tanto que todos estos  amigos se decían “querida”. “Ay, querida, no me digas.” “Sí, querida.” El traje de lentejuelas que Juan Gabriel estrenó en Bellas Artes y la manera en que giraba hicieron posible que un drag show ocurriera en la sala de una familia. Al mismo tiempo la existencia de gente gay y trans hizo posible que Juan Gabriel fuera siempre efervescente y luchador.

Entropy–adding to an epic poem with epic girl drama

“Susi stopped being my best friend once she got bangs and a hickey.
Because I’ve heard her say it, I can hear her thinking: Ugh, what a wetter.
Are all your outfits from the swap meet?”

Today at Entropy, read about drama at the bus stop with a girl’s momma. Maybe it was me. You’ll never know. Big shout out to Gina Abelkopf for the chance to share.


(Photo: Han Link, 1970. Corner of Florence and Eastern in Bell Gardens.The Foodland parking lot where Toys R us stands now. From the City of Bell Gardens archive.)


How Bell Gardens is Banking on Bicycle Club Casino’s Luxury Hotel

The sign illuminates eight lanes of the neighboring 710 Freeway. In contrast to the new monument to luxury, the gritty Long Beach Freeway leads into the post-industrial heart of Southeast Los Angeles. Thousands of eighteen-wheelers trucking in the majority of exports into the United States from the Pacific Rim make this the busiest highway with the most accidents in the state. The transported goods that make their way into every store across the country all pass by the Bicycle Club and the thousands of families who live along it.

Read the rest of the story here.

Protesters and police arrive at the soft opening of the Bicycle Club_photo Vickie Vertiz.jpg

Cha Cha Nail Covers Take Over the World

Cha Cha Covers even the virgens! photo: Ana Guajardo

This story is part of KCET Departures’ series of articles and essays on the Informal Economies of L.A. and how local entrepreneurs create new opportunities outside of formal economic establishments. Read the whole story here.

“Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly aligned. I had to earn money and invest in my packaging. Earn more money and grow my inventory. If you wait for all the stars to align it never happens.” –Ana Guajardo, Cha Cha Covers CEO

Cha Cha Covers has 18,300 thousand followers (and growing) on Instagram. The photos feature glossy long nails encrusted with tiny jewels and images of the Virgen de Guadalupe–glamour and faith together at last. Her Etsy shop has over 2500 reviews and gets you one step closer to owning a set of papel picado nail decals. People can’t get enough of the playful and pop culture nail covers. Business is booming online and in person for Ana Guajardo and dozens of other local Latina and POC vendors.

At the Artistas y Empresarios Art Sale (AyE Sale) in Boyle Heights, Ana and her daughter, sold everything from nail decals to newer merchandise, like pencils embossed with the lyrics, “Bidi bidi bom bom” and “Some Girls Are Bigger than Others.”

[Raza loves them some Selena and Morrissey.]

Worth Gold: Feminism and Leadership at the Miss Bell Gardens Pageant

Bell Gardens City Council members with the 2015 Miss Bell Gardens Court. Photo: City of Bell Gardens

“All the court members agreed it was a great experience. One princess, Vanessa Perez from UC Irvine said:

I’ve lived in this city all my life. I’m proud to be from here and to get more involved.’

Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez sums up that though the pageant and competition, “may seem like something small… it’s going to be a life-changing experience.”

Read the full story here: Worth Gold: Feminism and Leadership at the Miss Bell Gardens Pageant”

     Thank you to city staff members Angie Contreras, Ana Ramirez, and pageant director Sylvia Blush for working so hard to honor our young ladies this year.


royal court hand out - final photo

Topless women in sheer nightgowns, burning chile, and teenage softball girls in love: my new essay is up!

Read the essay, “Kissing,” a chapter from my memoir right now at The Offing.

The essay will also be in print later this year in the anthology, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, by Trans-Genre Press.

Many thanks to Helen Klonaris, Amir Rabiyah, and Michael Snediker for supporting this work.

“Pets”– a cine poem

For those with philandering fathers or a penchant for the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, I offer you a cine poem featured on Luna Luna Magazine. Thank you, Ruben Quesada for the feature and Kenji Liu for the editing.

maria feliz


What You See, What You Take With You, in UCLA’s Parrafo magazine

Along with many talented writers, the awesome Sesshu Foster among them, Vickie published a poem in Parrafo magazine’s Los Angeles issue. Read an excerpt from her poem below and click the link for the whole enchilada.


 “What You See, What You Take With You”




On the Broadway bus with Marisela, her French diamond  lips
Composition notebooks and fancy uñas

A chola’s drawn-in dragon eyebrows warn us at the Walmart in Pico
In my skin, Jefitos      fade blue on my chest
Donuts and doctors and acrylic tips   tiendas y más tiendas
Open a n d c l o s e d              closing
Closer, chula
There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…


Visit the magazine to read the full poem.

A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey

(as shared by Dr. Melissa Hidalgo at Cal State San Bernardino and at the National Association Chicana/Chicano Studies Conference, 2014)

Because we craved permission to be despondent in English

Desperate for words to hide erections for other boys

behind Trapper Keepers, to document Kotex leaks in our journals

We needed

To be maudlin about being untranslatable

To do this in private, in the company of someone with rank

We hunted for you in crates, battled mold and being broke

Scraped pennies from grandparents who collected cans to feed us

We needed to hear your 50s guitar, the key of sorrow

Fans of Juan Gabriel twirl

We shake farsantes, know posers when we see them

You our savior for the disconsolation of being

Mexican and born here or not, our duplexes south of the 60 freeway

No Movement murals cushion a daily gray sky, ninety-nice cent interchanges

To your voice, we work our lives away in UPS trucks, as perfect receptionists, in community college for eight years

You taught me to hate the queen

I already hated the church for making me dirty, we were instant friends

You showed me to want public transit death, as long as we were together

We saved you from the has-been dollar bin

We’re your American Manchester Day Dream, empty tire factories, soot-covered eyelids, cracked front teeth and bleeding lips

We fondled your open shirts and built a country around you

of sidelong glances and glum gladiolus

When you first saw our tight black jeans and creepers,

You caught us like that tiger, recognized our crestfallen brown eyes,

lined in black, our red lips

Knew closely our penchant for racing Chevys down Slauson with no headlights

We were your wistful twins, nostalgic that boy we won’t share

You saw us make love in cemeteries

Gave us trim sideburns, Las Vegas Elvis beats made us jump like beans

We are fatalists by nations on all sides

Death-happy because it constantly raps at our door

In the carcinogenic heart of this Manchester

Our black lungs sing with you

Because every time we listen

It’s our last day, too


Originally published in Brooklyn & Boyle Magazine, February 2014, Abel Salas, editor

KCET Communities: “Pioneers of Artistic Revolution: Making Art and Space in Southeast L.A.

As part of  an ongoing project about the importance of the 710 corridor in Los Angeles, Vickie Vertiz contributed an article about the arts, teachers, and artists in Southeast Los Angeles, where she grew up. She names a few writers who also document the lives of the people in Southeast L.A., such as Steve Gutierrez’s short stories in Live from Fresno y Los and in Hector Tobar’s book, Translation Nation. 

While the 710 freeway is considered the backbone of commerce in Southern California, the Southeast L.A. region is rich with writers, visual artists, amazing public school teachers, and community art activists. Read the article here.


Bell businesses. Photo credit: Cynthia Herrera
Bell businesses. Photo credit: Cynthia Herrera


El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra

As the third installment of  the  Tropics of Meta series, East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte, in collaboration with the South El Monte Arts Posse, Vickie Vertiz contributed the essay, “El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra.” The project is an  anthology about the diverse histories, communities, and cultures of the California cities of El Monte and South El Monte, created by a wide range of scholars, artists, poets, activists and other community members. Visit the project website to read the essay and other entries.

Swallows Book Release Parties, Bay Area, June 7-9th

Come celebrate the official release of Swallows, my poetry collection just out from Finishing Line Press.

Friday, June 7th
ScholarMatch & McSweeney’s offices, 849 Valencia Street at 19th St., from 7-8 pm
Featuring Maya Chinchilla, Emilie Coulson, Kenji Liu, Aimee Suzara and special guests.

Saturday, June 8
At Aimee Suzara’s Finding the Bones book release
Eastwind Books, 2066 University Ave, Berkeley from 5-7 pm.

Sunday, June 9
At Arisa White’s A Penny Saved book release
Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, from 7:30-9 pm.

The first book release party was on:
Saturday, May 18th from 12 pm- 3 pm at North Legg Lake, hosted by South El Monte Arts Posse, Aimee Suzara, Kenji Liu, and myself for poems about sassy family pets, lucky cereal bits and being broke in college, with cameos from flying girls.
I will also be reading in the San Francisco Bay Area on:

Vértiz Featured on KCET’s Departures

As part of the reading series “LAnguage” at the Last Bookstore
hosted by Mike the PoeT Sonkensen, Vickie Vértiz was featured in an article
on KCET’s “Departures” website.

Vickie is thrilled to be included in such an amazing group of women,
including Gloria Alvarez, Marisa Urrutia Gedney, Rachelle Cruz, Zoe Ruiz,
and many other talented poets.

This month’s “LAnguage” reading is Sunday, March 24, 2013, 5-7 PM.
Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street at 4th Street. A free event.

Other readers at LAnguage include:
Kenji Liu, Armond Kinard,
Michael C. Ford, Joe Gardner
& singer-songwriter
Jaz James

Vickie will be reading from her latest collection of poetry Swallows, and new
material, recently featured on Juan Felipe Herrera’s website, as LoWriter of the Week.

To view the Facebook event, click here.