The 10 Latinx Classics I’ve Added To My TBR — And Why You Should Add Them, Too by Kerri Jarema

Do you agree with this list?

Original post found here:

A few months ago, I wrote about why I want to read more classic books by Latinx authors. I had been thinking a lot about what it means to be Latinx in America right now; and more specifically in my case, what my place is as a white, non-Spanish speaking Latina. Of course, as introspection so often does, it led me to books and to using them as a way that I can continue to connect more to my heritage. Especially now, with a need for diversity, pride and respect for different cultures like never before (just google the Trump administration’s stance on DACA and you’ll see why this has increasingly become so important to me.)

Writing that essay inspired me more than ever to pick up books by Latinx authors that I had somehow missed; as a way to celebrate the creative contributions of the Latinx community while every day, the real-world labors we perform have been belittled and disregarded as more and more attempt to shun immigrants from the country that they love, helped build, and continue to insure thrives. Admittedly, though, in the two months since I wrote that piece, I still haven’t picked up a single one.

Yes, I’ve read new books by Latinx authors this year which I’ve adored; Adam Silvera’s They Both Die At The EndDaniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper, Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost, Celia C. Perez’s The First Rule of Punk and Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez, just to name a few. But it is important to me to pick up those books that have already helped lay the foundation for the work authors like Silvera and Rivera are doing now, books that have become a shared experience within the Latinx reading community.

With the fall season rapidly approaching, it’s natural to start looking toward the end of 2017. And I thought it was probably about time I started making an actual plan for getting these books read sooner rather than later. So I sat down and asked myself what I wanted from the books I planned to read. The criteria I came up with for picking a Top 10 Priority list is as follows:

  • A Majority of Female Authors: Not only do I tend to read, and enjoy, more books my female authors, but it is the black and brown women among us who are most often silenced. I want to make sure that is never the case in my own reading, and life.
  • No Repeating Authors: Though there are multiple books by multiple Latinx authors I want to read, I made sure that the priority list had a plethora of voices from within the Latinx community and diverse points of view. This also allowed me the space to add in a few memoirs and even a poetry collection among the fiction.
  • Only Books That Could Be Considered “Classics”: I made a rough rule of choosing only books that were at least 10 years old, and ones that have become mainstays in the world of Latinx literature.

Whether you’re feeling like me and are also hoping to complete a Latinx readschallenge, or you want to start one including books by authors from your own culture, or, perhaps even better, you want to create a must-read list of books by authors from multiple diverse cultures, making some brief guidelines like these can be a great way to focus in on your reading goals and expectations. I think that this challenge will only be more rewarding because I’ve fully thought about the reasons I am doing it.

OK, so what books did I finally settle on? Check out my list below:

I don’t have any sort of strict time frame on getting these books read; though I would love to get to a couple before the year is over. I don’t think I need to repeat how important I think it is for everyone to read more diversely; and to read more books by Latinx writers. Amplifying minority voices right now should be the goal, and the expectation of so much of our reading (and everything we do) moving forward. So, I hope you’ll join me in picking up a few of these celebrated reads…and even in making a list of your own. Let’s spread pride in our cultures, and ensure that no one ever succeeds in erasing them.



This looks like an important read…


An intersectional history of the shared struggle for African American and Latinx civil rights

Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the “Global South” was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like “manifest destiny” and “Jacksonian democracy,” and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.

Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, Ortiz links racial segregation in the Southwest and the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the twentieth century, to May 1, 2006, known as International Workers’ Day, when migrant laborers—Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth—united in resistance on the first “Day Without Immigrants.” As African American civil rights activists fought Jim Crow laws and Mexican labor organizers warred against the suffocating grip of capitalism, Black and Spanish-language newspapers, abolitionists, and Latin American revolutionaries coalesced around movements built between people from the United States and people from Central America and the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the resurgence of “America First” rhetoric, Black and Latinx intellectuals and organizers today have historically urged the United States to build bridges of solidarity with the nations of the Americas.

Incisive and timely, this bottom-up history, told from the interconnected vantage points of Latinx and African Americans, reveals the radically different ways that people of the diaspora have addressed issues still plaguing the United States today, and it offers a way forward in the continued struggle for universal civil rights.


Junot Díaz Draws from Immigrant Experience in Debut Children’s Book

original post by Alex Green for Publishers Weekly found here:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, among other acclaimed books for adults, is finally ending what he calls “the epoch of disappointment” by publishing his first children’s book, Islandborn (Dial, Mar. 13).

“If you’re a writer and you have young people in your life,” Junot Díaz told PW, “they naturally demand that you write them books.” For years, Díaz had nothing to share with his goddaughters, nieces, and nephews. “I always had the sense that they thought I was something of a fraud,” he said.

Now all of that is about to change with his latest effort: a picture book, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, which tells the story of Lola, an immigrant from the Island, who is growing up in New York City. When her teacher asks the class to draw a picture of where they’re from, Lola can’t remember the Island. So she interviews the people in her neighborhood to find out about it.

For Díaz, the story reflects the Dominican expat community in the U.S. that surrounds him. “I have a lot of young people in my life whose parents are immigrants, and they may have come over when they were really young. They don’t have the memories of their place, yet they live surrounded by it,” he said.

Childhood Inspiration

Díaz also drew on his own experiences emigrating to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as a child. Even though he was a voracious reader, he said that he still felt “stigmatized as being behind and remedial.” That only made him read more.

Díaz was aided by his school librarian, who he sought out relentlessly for recommendations, starting with picture books. “I burned a hole through a lot of Richard Scarry books, because you don’t need English to read them,” Díaz said. Within a few years, he was reading chapter books and soon fell in love with Richard Adams’s Watership Down, which he still reads once a year.

Within the plot of the fable-like story, he said, he sees a very real political tale. “These rabbits seek a new life across the countryside after their home is destroyed by developers.” Yet Díaz says the book’s capacity to draw his imagination is what brings him back to it year after year. “It’s hopeful and it’s a consolation to imagine small defenseless animals running the universe.”

In many ways, his views on Watership Down speak to Díaz’s upbringing as a whole, and its effect on his writing today. “When you grow up poor or ‘other’ in this society, it feels deeply dystopic,” he noted. “Your greatest weapon is imagination.”

Despite his affinity for the artistic style of the 1970s picture books that he discovered when he immigrated to New York, Díaz said he was always disappointed that people of color were not reflected in them. In writing Islandborn, he said, “I wanted a book about Dominicans and Caribbeans in that style.”

Working with Espinosa gave him the opportunity to achieve that—and to boost his confidence about writing for young readers. “It’s intimidating to write a picture book. The level of quality is so damn high,” said Díaz. “There is nothing better in the world than [to work with] somebody who is so talented they can make your ass look good.”

Just to be safe, Díaz tested drafts of the book out with friends and their children before submitting them to his editor at Dial, Namrata Tripathi. At times, he says, the children’s honesty could be brutal. “If you think wannabe writers have no filter on Twitter, try young readers when they’re staring you in the face.” But the truth was what he needed to create a book he felt could satisfy a larger reading audience. In the end, he said that sharing drafts of the book with six-year olds “was the only thing I could do.”

Despite his initial intimidation, Díaz has signed on to write another children’s book for Dial. A notoriously painstaking writer, he joked that he should have it ready for publication “in under 18 years.”

Islandborn by Junot Díaz, illus. by Leo Espinosa. Dial, $17.99 Mar. 13 ISBN 978-0-7352-2986-0

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” is the Coming-of-Age Novel Chicana Teens Deserve

Original post by Emily Prado for Remezcla.

Erika L. Sánchez was born with a pen in her hand on the outskirts of Chicago in Cicero, Illinois. “[It was a] very working class, Mexican neighborhood,” says Sánchez. “My parents were factory workers and I spent a lot of time alone because they were really busy working. I had an older brother but he didn’t really hang out with me because he was five years older, so I just did a lot of reading. I became obsessed with books and it became my whole world.”

By sixth grade, a lesson on Edgar Allen Poe inspired Sánchez to create her own work. “I started to experiment and write,” she says. “And I really loved it. It made me feel happy and fulfilled, so that’s where I began.” She knew exactly then that she was a poet. Now two decades later, her dreams are finally being realized.

Sánchez has spent this year unequivocally killing it. Earlier this summer, her first collection of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion, debuted to glowing reviews from The New York Times Book Review. Just a few months later, she was named a 2017-19 Princeton Arts Fellow—an award you can only apply for twice in a lifetime, and that is presented to artists who show “extraordinary promise.” And this week, Sánchez’s exceptional YA novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, became available worldwide.

The coming-of-age story follows the journey of Julia Reyes, a witty bicultural and bilingual teenager who must navigate the sudden death of her only sister while dealing with the pressures of growing up. Given Sánchez’s school-age admiration for Poe, it’s no surprise that I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughterplayfully and expertly blends humor with the macabre.

What’s most striking about Julia is her inherent complexity. In addition to a plotline that involves romance and secrecy, the book transcends the themes traditionally reserved for coming-of-age stories by exploring grief, immigration, sexual assault, and mental health, amongst others. With references to lime-doused Hot Cheetos as afterschool snacks and sneaking out with friends to sip on Alizé, paragraphs of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter could have been pulled directly from my own diary. And that’s exactly the point.

“I read a lot of classics and coming-of-age stories, but about mostly white kids. I didn’t know that there were books about me.”

“I read a lot of classics and coming-of-age stories, but about mostly white kids. I didn’t know that there were books about me,” admits Sánchez. “That would have really changed the way I felt about myself, I think.”

So, Sánchez set out to create a dynamic narrative that reflected her own experiences growing up as a first generation Mexican American with parents who immigrated to the United States without documentation. “Writing it felt very necessary on many different levels,” she says. “I wanted to provide this story to young women of color because I think it’s important for them to see themselves and to know that they’re not alone. That their experiences are important and that they matter.”

While Sánchez hasn’t experienced grief from death in her own life, she draws on the feelings that her depression has caused to create rich, vivid imagery that’s believable. “[It’s also] for girls who struggle with depression. I hope it’s comforting to them,” she says.

At times, Julia doesn’t always say the right thing. While a fat, poor Brown girl may feel radical as a main character, Julia’s conflicting opinions reflect the contradictions of growing up and strengthen her authenticity –because what quinceañera (let alone person) always knows what to say? Sánchez trusted that the story needed to be heard regardless of whether it would find an audience to resonate with.

“I never felt anything was off limits,” she says. “I wanted to write something that was really complex and true to my experience. Mental health is still a very taboo subject, unfortunately. Especially in the Latinx community.” When she faced rejection from initial publishers, she says it’s because they didn’t understand the protagonist.

“[The publishers] said they liked the writing but they didn’t like the voice. That was a little bit frustrating. I knew that it was because she was a snarky Brown girl and people aren’t used to that sort of character. And even now, some people don’t like Julia, you know? And that’s perfectly fine. But I think it’s interesting that she’s so foreign to so many different people when I know so many girls just like her. I was her, in a sense…I wasn’t very likeable.”

“She’s a snarky Brown girl and people aren’t used to that sort of character.”

The text also seamlessly interweaves Spanish and English without italicization which Sánchez says is intentional. “I don’t want to differentiate them because those words are just such a part of who she is. She can’t separate English and Spanish. It’s just part of her world,” she continues. “I feel like we live in a country that should know a lot of Spanish and if someone doesn’t, that’s not really my problem. They should just look it up. And within context, a lot of times they can just figure it out… I think we’ve gotten to the point where it’s no longer necessary.”

Sánchez hopes that I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter will help pave the way for other writers to publish their stories with greater ease as they move from the margins to mainstream. She advises budding writers to throw themselves into the process—but only if they truly love it. In a field filled with rejection, Sánchez is thankful for lessons of resilience she’s learned from her family. “Immigrant families are typically very tough. My mom is a very strong person and very hardworking. My dad too…I think that’s where it comes from. Not settling for what is given to you and trying to do more and have more.”

After struggling to make ends meet throughout most of her twenties, Sánchez is thrilled to be able to finally give her parents copies of her books. “It’s finally starting to pay off and I’m starting to see the results of all of my work. [My parents] are able to understand now what I was going for and they have tangible evidence of my work. They can hold the book in their hands which is really powerful.”

As a current finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, Sánchez will find out if I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter wins next month. In the meantime, she’s thrilled to be writing and teaching poetry at Princeton and is finishing up a collection of personal essays. Sánchez is also currently working on a secret project – one she promises is exciting. After the six years it’s taken her to write and publish I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Sánchez says the debut is overwhelming: “I’m a little bit terrified, but I’m happy about it. Of course, I’m nervous—I think that’s inevitable.” Even still, Sánchez is always looking forward and she can’t wait until the day her books become movies.

UT Austin XXIII Graduate Colloquium of Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures

I believe I’ve posted on this before, but this is a good reminder since the deadline is coming up!

XXIII Graduate Colloquium of Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures
Call For Papers
Transcending Categories in the Hispanic/Latinx World

The graduate students of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas at Austin are pleased to announce the XXIII Graduate Colloquium to be held on March 30-31st, 2018. This colloquium will examine the dialogue and discourse of crossing and the intersection of subjectivities across underrepresented groups in the Hispanic/Latinx world. At its broadest this colloquium asks: Who are we/they? How does one become constituted as a we or a they? How does an “I” intersect with an “Other”? And how do the various subjectivities within an “I” or a “we” intersect culturally and linguistically? What part does language play in these crossing of socially constructed categories? In recent years, the fields of gender, race, sexuality, disability, and indigeniety have proposed an array of theories to contend with these questions. We invite collaborators to delve into, explore and build upon the latest theorizations on these topics from a plurality of perspectives. Papers on literature, linguistics, cultural studies and interdisciplinary work are all welcome. Presentations may be given in Spanish, Portuguese or English.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

• Identity, subjectivities, and assemblage theory
• Race, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability,
• Colonial history, indigeneity, and critical race theory
• Transnationalism, borders, and immigration
• Literature, film, music, new media
• Visual, sound and performance Studies
• Geographic, political, and spatial configurations
• Pedagogy, education, technology
• Languages across cultures

Deadline and Proposal Guidelines: Submit an abstract of up to 300 words by January 22, 2018 to Include your name, “Conference Proposal” and either “Linguistics,” “Hispanic,” or “LusoBrazilian” in the message subject line. Please attach two documents, one with your name, affiliation, e-mail address and title of presentation, and a second document with title and abstract only as a .pdf or MS word file.

CfP: Pilgrimage Press and the theme of Unity

Pilgrimage Press is looking for unpublished works centered around the theme of unity. You have about a month to get something into them…

Spring/Summer 2018 (41.2)-Unity

“One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.”

—“One Today” by Richard Blanco

For our next issue, we are reaching out for unity. Send us writing that brings us together, that speaks of healing, that continues to call for resistance. It can be a soft touch or a stern voice  that reminds us of the struggle, that challenges the injustice of our turbulent times, or what captures connection with our streets, towns, communities, and natural world. Take us past the inspirational poster quotes with your poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translations, experimental forms, or writing that speaks and welcomes us all.

Closes February 15, 2018.



Pilgrimage welcomes previously unpublished creative nonfiction, fiction, translation, and poetry submissions via Submittable and snail mail during our open calls. We generally feature one artist per issue with full color artwork on the covers and black and white artwork in the magazine’s interior. Send what you think might fit, regardless of whether or not it matches an upcoming themed issue.

Simultaneous submissions are fine, provided you notify us if the work is accepted elsewhere. Our response time is approximately 8-12 weeks after the closing of an issue’s theme. Each prose submission should have a 6000 word limit. Please send up to six poems per submission.

For snail mail submissions, please include an SASE for reply only. Unused manuscripts will be recycled.

Juan Morales, Editor/Publisher
Pilgrimage Magazine
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Department of English and Foreign Languages
2200 Bonforte Blvd.

Pueblo, CO 81001

6 College Scholarships Latinos Should Apply to Right Now

Original post by Remezcla found here:


Between 1993 and 2014, the enrollment of Latinos in college rose substantially. In 1993, only 22 percent of Latinos aged 18 to 24 attended either a two- or four-year college, according to Pew. By 2014, with about 2.3 million Latino students, the number jumped to 35 percent. And while enrollment for Latinos continues to grow, the cost of higher education can still prevent some from attending college – or it may push others into taking on onerous loans.

Though the spring semester has just begun, it’s never too early to start thinking about summer and fall. That’s why we put together a list of scholarships meant to provide some relief for Latino students. Jot down these deadlines on your calendar.

Anhelo Project Dream Scholarship ApplicationDeadline: January 26, 2018

The Anhelo Project is for undocumented students in Illinois. “Our goal is to support undocumented students, many of whom despite growing up in the United States and earning a high school diploma, continuously face challenging roadblocks when pursuing a post-secondary education. One major obstacle being financial need due to ineligibility to apply for federal and state financial aid.”


Learn more and apply here.

AMS Minority ScholarshipsDeadline: February 1, 2018

The AMS Minority Scholarship awards students who “have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, especially Hispanic, Native American, and Black/African American students.” The two-year scholarship provides students with $3,000 for their freshmen year and $3,000 for their sophomore year.

Learn more and apply here.

National Association of Hispanic JournalistsDeadline: February 15

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) will offer five different scholarships in 2018 ranging between $1,500 and $5,000. “NAHJ scholarship opportunities are open to college-bound high school seniors, college undergraduates, and graduate students pursuing careers in English or Spanish-language print, broadcast, digital, or photojournalism. ”

Learn more and apply here.

ACS Scholars ProgramDeadline: March 1, 2018

The ACS Scholars Program awards students who are Latino, African American, or American Indian. It’s open to students (high school seniors, college freshmen, sophomores, or juniors) who plan to or are majoring in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, or another chemical science field.

Learn more and apply here.

Actuarial Diversity ScholarshipDeadline: March 1, 2018

The Actuarial Diversity Scholarship offers an annual scholarship for African American/Black, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander students interested in the actuarial profession. The amount awarded varies, with high school seniors receiving $1,000, sophomores $2,000, juniors $3,000 and seniors $4,000.

Learn more and apply here.

Hispanic Scholarship FundDeadline: March 30

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund has one goal: to “assist students of Hispanic heritage obtain a college degree.” The scholarship is open to high school seniors, undergrads, students transferring from community college to four-year universities, and graduate students. The 2018-2019 scholarships vary between $500 and $5,000.

Learn more and apply here.

Philadelphia names new poet laureate

Raquel Salas Rivera is relatively new to Philadelphia, having moved here from Puerto Rico for grad school — staying for love — and keeping rooted in both places.

“Many people who immigrate to the U.S. have more than one home,” said Rivera a few weeks ago during an interview at the Free Library of Philadelphia, just before jetting off to visit family in Puerto Rico. “They have multiple allegiances. My home is Philadelphia, and my home is Puerto Rico.”

That movement between two things is something Rivera explores in poetry and in life. The poet identifies as neither male nor female, rather as non-binary. Rivera prefers to be referred to as the gender-neutral “they.”

The poet likes to keep things fluid — and thinks deeply about what is gained and what is lost by changing nationality or gender.

Rivera writes in Spanish and only later translates to English, if at all. The poet often reads the work in the original Spanish, even when the audience is mostly nonplussed English speakers.

“I believe the discomfort can be a teaching movement,” said Rivera. “You might have to briefly experience what so many people experience when they first move here, no having power.”

The poet is very firm on political and cultural issues regarding Puerto Rico — not just the current recovery efforts following last year’s devastating hurricanes, but the century-long struggle to retain a cultural identity as an U.S. territory.

“I have been mourning for a long time, even though I don’t want to say Puerto Rico is dead. It’s not,” said Rivera. “People are living there and fighting every day because it’s their home. I will say it’s being radically transformed, and there is a pushback against that transformation. In any radical transformation or translation, something dies or is lost.”

“follow me fully.
if you follow me, you have to cover yourself
well with homage.
dress like them,
like men on horseback.
dress like a charging demon,
assume it,
because they assume you.
make yourself visible to ours
and invisible to theirs.”

— from “the vejigante’s flight” (2017)

Rivera applied to be Philadelphia’s poet laureate, but did not expect to be selected. “Puerto Rican poets are used to having the U.S. not know anything about Puerto Rican poetry,” said Rivera. “So the idea that I would become the poet laureate of anything in the U.S. was surprising.”

Rivera is the first poet laureate selected by the Free Library, which adopted the program from City Hall last year. The laureate position comes with the expectation that the poet will be a civic leader — a cultural instigator to tie together the Philadelphia’s citizenry through poetry.

The library’s director of enrichment and civic engagement, Andrew Nurkin — who administers the laureate program and sits on its selection committee — said Rivera was selected, in part, because of the poet’s eagerness to engage with Philadelphia as a sanctuary city.

“Raquel’s vision was very clearly around using poetry to engage and push political conversation around diversity of Philadelphia communities and, in particular, the Puerto Rican community,” said Nurkin. “That was very appealing to the committee.”

The poet already has ideas about how to use the laureate position. Rivera wants to start a series of poetry readings called “We Too Are Philly,” taking cues from Langston Hughes poem “I Too Am America.” The readings are meant to juxtapose a wide diversity of voices.

Andres Montoya Poetry Prize

You have 5 days to get all your poems together!

About the prize

The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize supports the publication of a first full-length book of poems by a Latinx poet.

The winning poet will receive $1000 and a contract from University of Notre Dame Press. Upon publication of the winning book, Letras Latinas will extend an invitation to both the winner and the judge to give a joint reading at Notre Dame.

The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize is awarded every other year. There is no entry fee.

The next deadline is January 15, 2018.

Judge: Ada Limón

Eligibility and guidelines

  • Latinx poets residing in the United States who have not published a full-length book.
  • Applicants must be living poets who have neither published, nor committed to publish a book-length collection of poems (48 pages of poems or more) with a registered ISBN, either in the United States or abroad.
  • Poems may have been previously published in periodicals or chapbooks, but the collection must not have been previously published (including self-publications and e-books).
  • Manuscripts must be of original poetry, in English, by one poet. There are no restrictions on the style of poetry or subject matter. Translations are not eligible.
  • Manuscripts must be between 48 and 100 pages of poetry, typed single-spaced (unless the poems are meant to be presented using nonstandard spacing). Multiple poems may not appear on a single page.
  • This page count requirement does not include front matter (i.e. title pages) or back matter (i.e. Acknowledgements pages)
  • Only one manuscript may be submitted per applicant.
  • Include one title page with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address.
  • Include one title page with only the title and no identifying information
  • The manuscript itself should not contain any information that would reveal the identity of its author.
  • Poets are not eligible to apply if they have studied with the judge in full-time accredited courses within the last three years.
  • Applicants who have published poems in magazines may include acknowledgment notes in an “Acknowledgements” page.
  • Applicants may submit manuscripts elsewhere simultaneously but must notify the Institute for Latino Studies immediately if a manuscript is accepted for publication by another publisher.
  • University of Notre Dame Press will publish the winning manuscript in a paperback edition within one year of the judge’s decision.
  • The Institute for Latino Studies cannot consider manuscript revisions during the course of the contest. The winning poet will have an opportunity to revise before publication.
  • All correspondence concerning the contest should be addressed to:
  • The Institute for Latino Studies reserves the right to withhold the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize in any given year.
  • Please send TWO hard copies of your manuscript, via US Mail, postmarked no later than January 15, 2018 to:

Francisco Aragón, Coordinator
Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize
Institute for Latino Studies
230 McKenna Hall
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556



The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize supports the work of emerging Latinx poets. The Prize provides a space for artists who, while part of the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States, are also increasingly diverse in their modes of literary expression. The Prize, therefore, does not privilege any particular style, subject matter, or aesthetic. While not losing sight of the traditions and conditions that gave rise to that literary expression, the Prize has as its goal to nurture the various paths that Latinx poetry is taking in the 21st Century. The Prize is awarded every other year.

The Comfort of Tamales at the End of 2017

You have no doubt seen this by now, but just in case…

Original post by Gustavo Arrellano for the New Yorker found here:

In Mexican-American culture, there is a time each holiday season, beginning around Thanksgiving, when all foods except tamales recede. We eat them fresh at home, one after another, until their corn-husk wrappers are piled high on the table. We pack two or three for lunch at the office, futilely hoping that the microwave doesn’t leave them a soggy mess. We bring tamales by the bagful to holidays gatherings, trading them like baseball cards with friends and cousins—I’ll give you some of my Tía Meme’s pineapple tamales if you hook me up with the potato ones from your Guatemalan sister-in-law. And, once we’ve put on the pounds (the Freshman Fifteen has nothing on the Tamale Ten) and sworn to reform our ways in the new year, we freeze what’s left to extend the holiday cheer.

Many families buy their tamales; in the parking lots of Latino grocery stores across Southern California, the call of “Tamales! Tamales!” from women selling out of their car trunks is as ubiquitous as the clash of shopping carts. But even more Mexicans make their own from scratch in a tamalada, a daylong ritual performed each year by an army of female relatives and friends. In the American Southwest, television stations offer dispatches from tortillerías (the squat Tamales Liliana’s, in East Los Angeles, or the sprawling Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa, in San Antonio, both equipped with industrial-grade machines), where people line up for hours for the best masa, the dough that serves as the base for tortillas and tamales.

Back in their kitchens, the family chefs—traditionally women—wash the cornhusks (or banana leaves, if they are from Southern Mexico) and cook the tamale’s fillings: guisos (stews) of vegetables, beef, chicken, or pork sluiced in a salsa. Then the real work starts. Spread a husk or leaf with masa, put a dollop of your filling of choice on top, then add more masa to encase it—not too much or too little. Steam the tamales in batches, in a giant pot with a penny at the bottom, which will rattle to alert the cooks when the water level is low.

Many tamaladas take place on Christmas Eve, when Mexicans in the United States typically celebrate Navidad. We eat them for dinner, before opening gifts. (The weakest Mexican joke in the American comedy canon goes like this: Why do Mexicans eat tamales during Christmas? So they can have something to unwrap.) My own fondest tamalada memories are from when my sisters and I were younger, before they had their own families to tend to. Our tías on my mother’s side would take turns hosting the yearly tamalada, setting up tables across their living rooms to create workstations. There was a hierarchy: the older aunts tended to the fillings while teaching the older cousins how to knead the masa so it was smooth. The younger aunts taught the younger cousins how to smear the masa so that the finished tamales could be unfolded without chunks getting stuck to the cornhusks. As a boy, I never even tried to crash a tamalada; it was an unspoken rule that they were a space where women caught up on one another’s lives.

At the end of 2017, a year of persistent chaos and anxiety for Mexican-Americans, tamales are a special kind of comfort food, and the tamalada a time for reflection. A friend recently told me that she and her sisters did their tamalada on Black Friday instead of Christmas this year, “because we just wanted a time-out.” Her husband had lost his job in the fall; she had taken to driving a Lyft. “I’m just stress-eating tamales right now,” she told me.

Marilynn Montaño, a Santa Ana-based artist and writer, does a tamalada with her family each year for Thanksgiving. Her mom’s best, she says, are made with beef and red chile. This year, though, interspersed amid the usual chisme (gossip) in the kitchen was discussion of a more pressing topic: escalating rent. Santa Ana was once predominantly poor and Mexican (in 2004, it was deemed the hardest big city to live in by suny’s Rockefeller Institute of Government), but it is quickly becoming gentrified, and Montaño has organized art projects and writing workshops to teach residents how to fight back. For her, tamaladas have become an extension of her activism. “In these times, it’s like going back to your family traditions, whatever they are, because people don’t want to see that,” she said. “People want Mexicans to just be silent and not express who they are.”

I bought my first tamal of the season in front of a bank near downtown Santa Ana, the day after Thanksgiving: rajas con queso, my favorite type, with strips of sautéed jalapeños fused with melted cheese. Lines were forming at the outdoor A.T.M., and other people walked inside to withdraw money for their Black Friday free-for-all. Sitting near the front door was an old man who wore a straw tejana hat and a fleece jacket despite the unseasonably hot weather. A cooler sat at his feet.

The scene struck me as odd. For one thing, a rotating cast of chocolate-hawking teen-agers, Salvation Army workers, and fund-raisers from a nearby church usually haunt this particular bank; fresh-food venders tend to set up on the street. Moreover, street vending is a pursuit for the young and the middle-aged with children who can help; this man looked like my retired uncles, grizzled and bent from decades working outdoors.


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A rush of people bought his tamales, a dollar apiece: bright-red pork ones, a chicken version that was too greasy for me. But the rajas con queso was perfect. It started hearty, got spicy, then ended with a creamy flourish—just like my mami makes them. I asked the man why he was selling tamales. He said that his wife makes them, and that he needed to raise money for a surgery in Tijuana. As an undocumented immigrant, he had no health insurance in the United States.

Sales were strong that day—thirty sold already, and it was only around 11 a.m. “Tamales nos cuidan,” he said—tamales take care of us. Then he sold a dozen to a millennial in a Crossfit tank top.