lifeblood: listlogs: 1999v01n046-news

ig-news-digest         friday, march 12 1999         volume 02 : number 046

today's subjects:
  [ig-news] tigc; nea cowardice strikes blow to arts  [annie activist <lurke]


date: thu, 11 mar 1999 05:58:53 pst
from: annie activist <>
subject: [ig-news] tigc; nea cowardice strikes blow to arts

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at  it's very long but it lost
context when i started cutting parts out so here it is in its
entirety instead...]

hey y'all,

tiny bit of igc in the following . . .  but the most important thing is
to call your congressperson and call the nea!! additionally, the four
congresspeople listed at the end are on the natl. council for the arts
governing board (non-voting members) so call them too! and while you are
at at - get in touch with cinco puntos press and get a copy of the book!

thanks for the help. please forward in abundance.


n.e.a. couldn't tell a mexican rebel's book by its cover

by julia preston     ny times

mexico city -- a macaw with scarlet and violet plumes soars across the
cover of a book called "the story of colors," inviting children to  read
a folk tale about mexican gods who took a gray world and filled it with
brilliant hues.

there are a few surprises, though, in this eye-catching bilingual
children's book just published by a small publisher in el paso, texas,
which won a grant from the national endowment for the arts.

its author is subcomandante marcos, the political mastermind and
military strategist of the zapatista guerrillas of southern mexico. on
the  inside flap, he appears in a photo with a black ski mask hiding his
face and bullet-laden ammunition belts slung across his chest.

on tuesday, the chairman of the endowment, william j. ivey -- who is
working to rebuild the agency after its recent reprieve from a death
sentence issued by congressional republicans  abruptly canceled the
grant for the book. ivey overruled a multilayered, year-long grant
approval process, acting within hours after the book was brought to his
attention by a reporter's phone call.

he said he was worried that some of the endowment's funds might find
their way to the zapatista rebels, who led an armed uprising in 1994
against  the government of mexico.

ivey's decision stunned the cinco puntos press, a shoestring  operation
that had laid out $15,000 to print 5,000 copies of the book, half of
which was to be paid by the endowment grant. the agency canceled grant
funds  of about $7,500, which was to have paid for about half of the
printing  cost. the books are ready to be distributed and carry the
endowment's logo  on the last page, together with an acknowledgment of
"generous support" from  the agency.

"this is spineless," said bobby byrd, a poet and editor of books on
border issues who runs the publishing company with his wife and daughter
from their home in el paso. "this book is essentially about diversity
and tolerance, everything the nea is supposed to stand for, and they
just don't have the courage to publish it."

"the story of colors" reflects a literary, sometimes whimsical side
that has distinguished subcomandante marcos, the only non-indian among
the zapatistas' highest leaders, from other steely latin american
guerrilla commanders. (his real name is rafael sebastian guillen
vicente, and he  is a former university graphics professor.)

mr. byrd said he had made clear in his grant proposal that no part of
the grant would go to the author, subcomandante marcos, because the
guerrilla leader had declared that he did not believe in copyright and
had  formally waived his rights in talks with the mexican press. mr.
byrd said the guadalajara press would be paid a small amount for the

in the text the masked rebel leader describes himself as lighting up
his pipe, one of his hallmarks, and sitting down on a jungle pathway to
hear a tale from an indian elder named antonio. the old man recounts how
mythical gods grew bored with the universe when it was tinted only in
grey, and went about inventing colors one by one. in the end they pin
all the colors  on the tail feathers of the macaw.

the bird "goes strutting about just in case men and women forget how
many colors there are and how many ways of thinking, and that the world
will be happy if all the colors and ways of thinking have their place,"
the  text concludes.

the illustrations are bright, broad-stroked paintings of gods with
horns and bug-eyes done by domitila dominguez, a mexican indian artist.

spun in the sensuous tradition of latin storytelling, the tale  includes
elements that might be controversial in the mainstream american
children's book market. as the story opens, the text reads, "the men and
women  were sleeping or they were making love, which is a nice way to
become tired  and then go to sleep."

the double-page illustration shows a reclining naked woman in a sexual
embrace with figure that appears to be a male god.

there are no references to the zapatistas' cause or their military
tactics, but in a cover blurb, amy ray, a member of the indigo girls, a
grammy-winning american song duo, says, "this beautiful book reminds  us
that the zapatista movement is one of dignity that emanates from the
grassroots of the indigenous people of mexico."

"the most important thing is that it is a beautiful book," said byrd,
whose press specializes in bilingual children's books. "a lot of our
stories  in the united states have been cleaned up with a politically
correct sentiment, and so much detail has been washed away."

he added, "i can imagine how someone would rewrite this for an anglo
audience," referring to non-hispanic americans. "there wouldn't be
anybody smoking or making love."

"the story of colors" was originally published in spanish in 1997 by a
press in guadalajara, mexico called colectivo callejero, which  supports
the zapatistas' cause.

byrd said that he provided a copy of the original to the endowment  when
he applied for the grant to translate it in march 1998. his first
request, for $30,000 to translate a total of five books, passed two
levels of  review at the agency but the funds were cut back to $15,000.
byrd said he  conferred repeatedly with literature experts at the
endowment when he chose to  leave "the story of colors" in a revised
grant request he presented to  translate only two books.

cinco puntos press (the name means five points in spanish) received a
written notice in february that the funds had been approved. the only
step left was for the agency to send the money.

ivey, the endowment chairman, said that he was not concerned about the
book's contents and had not seen the finished printed book. when he
went over the grant records monday night, he said, he became worried
about rights payments, which the el paso press had contracted to make to
the publishing group in mexico.

"there was an uncertainty about the ultimate destination of some part
of the funds," ivey said. "i am very aware about disbursing taxpayer
dollars for americans' cultural life, and it became clear to me as
chairman  that this just wasn't right for the agency. it was an
inappropriate use of government funds."

an endowment official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said
that it is very unusual for the chairman to step in at the last moment
to override the work of several review committees, including the
26-member national council on the arts, which includes six federal

when republicans gained control of the congress in 1995, they were
frustrated with the endowment's support for art works they regarded as
offensive and vowed to eliminate the agency. but the house moderated
its views under election year pressures and voted overwhelmingly in july
1998 to keep the agency alive.

cinco puntos press:
2709 louisville avenue, el paso, texas 79930
- -------------
nea phone is: 202-682-5400. website:
- -------------
ex-officio members of natl. council on the arts (us congresspersons):

u.s. senator richard durbin (d-il)
sd-462 dirksen senate office building, washington, dc 20510

u.s. senator jeff sessions (r-al)
728 hart senate office building, washington, dc 20510

u.s. representative cass ballenger (r-nc)
2182 rayburn house office building
washington, d.c. 20515-3310
1-800-477-2576 toll free (within state of nc)

u.s. representative nita lowey (d-ny)
222 mamaroneck avenue
suite 310
white plains, ny 10605

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end of ig-news-digest v2 #46

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