You know Sandra Cisneros: She authored the now-canonical coming-of-age novel House on Mango Street, as well as Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, her children’s book, Pelitos, poetry collection My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and multi-generational epic Carmelo, or, Puro Cuento, among other tomes. You may also have seen her out dancing at a party wearing Ranchera finery, cowgirl boots, and a rebozo. Or walking her dogs along the San Antonio River.
Cisneros is also an arts and human-rights activist, a sometime luchadora (her handle is “La Mexican Spitfire”), and one of our relatively few conduits between San Anto and the outside literary world. Her non-profit arts org, the Macondo Foundation, now in its 12th year, began as a writers’ club seated at Cisneros’s kitchen table, and now operates a writer-in-residence program, an annual workshop for professional writers, and confers the Gloria Anzaldúa Milagro Award (currently held by Dagoberto Gilb).
For Macondo Writer hopefuls, be advised that only eight new participants are chosen per application period (see macondofoundation.org for more details). If you’re a professional writer who places a strong emphasis on social justice, compassion, and progressive engagement with underserved communities, check it out.
The theme for this year’s Macondo Foundation three-day spectacular is Nuevo Mundo, shown through “Word, Música, y Dance.”
Friday at Jump-Start Cisneros shares the stage with two powerful literary luminaries whose writing has never been more urgently needed: Leslie Marmon Silko, and Elena Poniatowska. Silko, a Laguna Pueblo tribal member, is the author of the groundbreaking novel Ceremony (1977), a book credited with igniting Native American literature, two subsequent novels, the poetry and short-fiction anthology Storyteller (1981), and many published critical essays and nonfiction, and is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” grant.
Elena Poniatowska, though relatively unknown on this side of the Rio Bravo, is the grande dame of Mexican letters. Since her first foray into journalism in the 1950s, Poniatowska has written journalistic articles, essays, short stories, novels, biographies, historical accounts, and children’s books. Massacre in Mexico (1971) (published in Mexico as La noche de Tlatelolco), a compilation of survivor interviews from the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in 1968, caught the attention of the entire literary world. The 78-year-old Poniatowska was named to the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur in 2004.
The Current spoke with Cisneros last week. Get the full Macondo schedule at macondofoundation.org.
A couple years ago, the Macondo event had a “lucha libre” theme. This year it’s Nuevo Mundo. How does this theme relate to San Antonio, and to the two `headlining` women writers in particular?
Well, of course, in the sense that San Antonio is in the New World, but I don’t take that literally — but, you know, the idea of Meztizaje is important to me, how it’s ongoing.
Elena Poniatowska is really the most famous female writer — one of the most highly regarded writers of either gender — in Mexico. She’s written over 50 books and everyone reads her, from people in power to cabdrivers, they can all quote her. And she writes about social issues in Mexico and is really famous there, but here I talk to people and they’ve never heard of her ….In terms of Leslie Marmon Silko, she’s a Native American, a Laguna Pueblo whose work reflects on that life experience, of being indigenous to the New World. She’s just a fantastic writer. …And she’s living in Arizona now, so I’m really looking forward to hearing what she has to share about SB1070.
And what do you have to say about SB1070?
It’s so hard — this legislation has opened up some very hateful stuff. But there is a good side; `immigration` is an issue that politicians really haven’t had to deal with on this level. … Now they’re going to start addressing it seriously, and tell which side they’re on. And learning that there’s a big opposition even in Arizona, and across the country, that’s inspiring. I think this could motivate people to get involved and take action. That’s the hope, the potential. •
Macondo Presents Nuevo Mundo: Words, Música, Dance
Jul 28-Jul 30