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John Rexer and Mike Tallon at Cafe No Se, Antigua, Guatemala

As with many of the plans distilled by John and me during late night tequila sessions, the creation of La Cuadra Magazine had both technically functional and wildly romantic moving parts. On the technical / functional side, John and I were frustrated with our inability to get our hands on decent, periodical information in English in anything close to a timely fashion way down here in the wilds of Guatemala, and figuring we’d face insurmountable ass-pains trying to get the local and international postal systems working in a coordinated fashion, we decided to just write a friggin’ magazine ourselves.

The wildly romantic side has something to do with saving the world.

And it has everything to do with why we’re down here in Guatemala in the first place. It’s something that we have not, effectively, been able to express to our loved ones back up North. When we try to explain to them that something insidious and spiritually deadly is happening in America – to their cities, in their schools, around their water coolers – and most importantly to them – we watch their eyes glaze over and wry smiles crinkle the corners of their mouths. Writ small – they think we’re nuts. But we’re not. There is a plague of sameness that is slowly drowning the culture. It can be seen in the spread of chain restaurants and megastores throughout America, from small towns to sprawling metropolises. It can be sensed in the commoditization of news and information. It can be watched in the expanding waistlines and shrinking worldview of our friends who remain in the heart of the dying empire and there’s damn little that we could figure out to do, given our skill sets and our misanthropic natures, in that world to set it right.

So we moved away, and while here, we decided to birth this magazine – and the publishing house we hope one day to become – as a way of proving our point. La Cuadra could not have come into existence in Los Estados. The start up costs would have been prohibitive and the advertisers too skittish to come on-board because of the middle finger flying irreverence of many of our authors. Sure, we’d legally have had the right to print our magazine, but the corporate economics would have killed it in the crib as effectively as a sociopathic Stasi agent with a pointed stick.

The United States, which still deludes itself about being “the freest nation in the world,” is anything but. It is increasingly difficult for small, independent voices to be heard through the din and maelstrom of moneyed interests and corporate filters. A few have made it through the maze of the blogosphere, but for every Daily Kos or Narco News, there are hundreds more that have been subsumed or collapsed under the pressures of advertising and louder voices. Our hope, as we launch La Cuadra Online, is that with our years of developing dedicated readers who have passed through Antigua while studying or traveling and have returned home with hard copies of our rag and a desire to keep reading our words, we might be able to carve out a niche for writers and artists around the globe who struggle to find a megaphone through which to shout.

On that point, if you think you’ve got something to say or show, send us a submission. If it doesn’t suck, we’ll put it up.

With La Cuadra, both in print and on line, John and I want to do something like what Lawrence Ferlinghetti did with City Lights Bookstore back in the early 1950. As he knew then, we know now. The writers and the readers are still out there – they’ve just got to be brought together in a spirit that encourages both to have a laugh and to catch a new perspective or two along the way.

We encourage people who come to this page to mine our archives and enjoy the dissident soul of the place. To potential contributors, we ask you to get to know our different columns of fiction, creative non-fiction, travel writing, reportage and special commentaries. Let us know if you’ve got something you think is worth the ink. And, as always, feel free to drop on by Antigua. You’ll find us still sipping the tequila at Café No Sé and toasting the fact that there are still a few drops of lunacy in the bottom of this world’s bottle and seeds enough to attempt to re-grow a culture that’s proud of its shaggy dogs and wayward souls, and as such, still knows the power of a spirit that leans into the wind and gladly gives the finger to people who think that only the polished and polite should be put up on stage.

Or something like that. Remember, we were drunk at the time.

Mike Tallon and John Rexer