“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.” ~ Arundhati Roy
As I wake up this morning my mind is on one thing… the anniversary of the NYC Latina Writers Group. I can’t believe we turn 8-years-old in less than twenty-four hours.
The year was 2006, it was October 15th. It was a day like today, a little cold, somewhat overcast. I packed up my daughter and we were off to yet another writing event. We attended a panel discussion in Bryant Park led by Latino Authors. It was the Bryant Park Book Fair.
What drew me to this event was that the authors were all Latino. I thought to myself this is fantastic! I was very excited. I was looking forward to hearing what these published authors had to say about writing, their process, and publishing. I couldn’t wait to be inspired.
They were asked how they felt about being called LATINO WRITERS… one woman answered, “I don’t want to be seen as a Latina Writer, I want to be seen as a writer!”
What I heard was something that would transform me…. this writer didn’t want to be seen as a Latina Writer!
What she said and what I heard were two completely different concepts. What she was saying was that she didn’t want to be put in a box, labeled, “one kind of writer, only capable of writing one kind of story…” which I completely get… But what I heard was “don’t limit me, don’t call me Latina–PERIOD!!! I don’t even identify as Latina!” Which was interesting since this was a panel titled, Latino Authors!!!
See what I heard has been a long standing discourse around wanting to be a part of the literary canon with the “respected writers…” the Hemingways, the Dickinson’s, the Bishops… “the REAL writers” and this was “NOT the place for the Latino Writer.”
What I heard was she wanted to be seen as a “white writer”!
And it wasn’t just what she said, but the way she said it that stayed with me. She came across as an entitled, self-important, arrogant, filled with self-hate and privileged writer when she spewed, “Don’t call me a Latina Writer! I want to be seen as a Writer!”
I was so angry when I left that panel discussion. I was offended…
The thing is that we can not be one without the other. I have no desire to check my Latina-ness at the door. Or woman-ness at the door. Our “Latino” culture… who we are, and where we are from is not only what makes us special, these are our stories and writing is how we honor and preserve our history and introduce who we are to the world.
And WE DO have stories worth telling.
It’s like saying I can’t be Latina and write a character from Bosnia… Or write really strong male characters because I am a woman… I can be Latina and write any story I choose. I choose not change my name, or pass myself off as a male author using pen names. Take me as I am!
When I left that discussion I left yearning something… I wondered if a place existed where I could be Latina without making apologies, defending,nor explaining who I am.
I went in search for a place where I could bring my families stories, my arroz con habichuelas, my accent, my merengue y bachata, platanos made 15 different ways, my Division 21 y San Miguel, Ellegua y las 7 potencias, my guira y tambor, my coño-coñazo, my cafe con leche, mi isla hermosa y mi abuela de la capital, mis viajes y mis memorias into a space that would “get it!”
Where I would not have to translate, or dilute it. Where I would be welcomed and respected for the stories I bring. Where I could be in a creative envirmonment that not only was safe but where my art could be nurtured and encouraged.
So I ENVISIONED OUR SPACE… I dreamed of what it would look like.
When my attempts at finding this space failed… a search that lasted all of a few hours–I created it.
I left Brant Park October 15th, 2006 more determined to be that LATINA writer and gave birth to our beautiful group… The NYC Latina Writers Group the very next day.
I hope you will join us this Sunday, October 19th for a most beautiful celebration of words and womyn.
My intention for today is to celebrate… to find ways to have fun in my writing this morning.. there is NO greater way to honor the NYCLWG than to write about her.
Today I write for this community of women…
Today I celebrate with the over 480 members of the NYCLWG by writing this morning…
Today I want to say thank you… for showing up… and answering your call!
And so it is.
Have the most splendid day!
With all my love,
As I wake up this morning… (Set timer for 5 minutes)
It was a day like today… (Set timer for 5 minutes)
What drew me in… (Set timer for 5 minutes)
My intention for today… (Set timer for 5 minutes)
Some of us are dealing with pretty powerful issues and themes… today I want us to celebrate and have fun. Think about a moment in your stories that is/was fun. Lets pull ourselves out of the more serious subjects and play today. Look for a time, a moment a memory that was fun… and lets brainstorm this moment…
Prompt: The moment that comes to mind… BEGIN
BREATHE – STRETCH
30 minutes – Write in scene. Let’s recall how much fun this event was. Really pay attention to the details… who was there, what was being said, what music was being played, the food on the tables… use your senses… use imagery… paint a picture and take us to this moment. BEGIN
Prompt: They were having such a good time… BEGIN
© 2014 Alicia Anabel Santos. All Rights Reserved.