Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly, Canto XIII: Poco a Poco Wins the Race


Gentle cabrones:

I had a longer newsletter prepared, about my semester teaching an intro to journalism at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. But I’m going to save that for next week, because I just hit a milestone: *redacted* subscribers!

I’m not going to say what that number is, although I can say that Tiny Letter lets you use them for free up to 5,000 subscribers—and I’m nowhere near that. But that’s the magic number for me and this newsletter: 5,000.

If I top that, that means I need to start paying for the service—which means I need to make money off of my newsletter.

Which means I need to start getting serious with this chingadera. Which means I need to start assigning stories to folks, and paying them dimes instead of pennies—HWUT.

I have received many kind words about my newsletter (and even some Internet tacos), and I’m loving to write it. But doing something on your own is a humbling experience in this Internet age. On social media, I probably have a combined 130,000 followers.

I don’t have 130,000 subscribers to this newsletter. I don’t even have two percent of that figure.

Me at the original location of Libromobile, the wonderful indie bookstore in downtown SanTana
But that doesn’t stop me from giving it my all. As I told my students this semester, I’ve spoken to an audience of 15,000…and I’ve spoken to an audience of one, at SUNY Oswego in upstate New York. (and it was actually less than one—the person there was my driver. He had to be there).As a writer or a speaker, you can’t worry about how many people read you. As long as there’s just one person out there, you write or speak your ass off—you owe it to yourself, and to the people who bother to pay attention to you.

And if there’s more in the crowd, you can’t expect them all to like you—but if you reach just one person, you’ve succeeded.

That’s how you build your empire, your résumé, your whatever. Poco a poco, as they say in Spanish. Little by little. I’m far away from my 5,000 goal—but I’ll get there.


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Anyways, whenever I get 500 new followers on Instagram, I always celebrate by posting a picture of myself—because I otherwise don’t. I’ll do the same here, but only at 1,000 new followers. So above is a photo of me—a face for radio!

Gracias to all of you for subscribing. Do your dear desmadroso a favor, and tell someone about my newsletter, and have them sign up. Poco a poco.


Enough ranting. This was the semana that was

Listening: Pictures at an Exhibition,” Mussorgsky. I always loved this piece, ever since it was the intro to a show on the old K-MOZART station here in Southern California. But I play it in celebration of someone who’s recently made me proud—details to come…

Reading: Life Inside Texas’ Border Security Zone.The Texas Observer is nonprofit journalism at its finest, and Melissa del Bosque is one of my favorite reporters. The two of them together, on how the Migra State is expanding its reach? Chilling and gripping.

Gustavo’s Stories

“Here’s a worthy ethnic studies requirement: Make students pick grapes to graduate”: My weekly California columna for the Los Angeles Times’ opinion section argues that all Cali high school seniors should work on a farm for a week as a requirement for graduation. KEY QUOTE: “California is so huge, so sprawling, so diverse that our collective identity is increasingly fractured. But throwing hundreds of thousands of seniors together on farms can become a state-shared experience that unites the next generation of Californians. Everyone will return home with a better appreciation for their state, and meet peers they otherwise would’ve probably never have encountered.”

“Living Homeless in California: For the Hungry, “Food Happens.” Until It Doesn’t.I joined a special Capital and Main series on homelessness in California by interviewing former Santa Ana riverbed residents about their eating habits. KEY QUOTE: “The pickings were always slim at supermarkets, because they only threw out rotten food. Trash bins near homes and apartment complexes, on the other hand, rewarded Champanich with virtual feasts. Perfectly good meat and vegetables, loaves upon loaves of bread and buns. One time, he found “a bunch” of frozen tilapia and turkey burgers that he gave out to others.”

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Buy me a Paypal taco here. Until next week! And don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres!