Carnegie medal goes to first writer of colour in its 83-year history

Check out this WONDERFUL piece by Alison Flood for the Guardian


Dominican-American Elizabeth Acevedo wins prestigious children’s award for The Poet X, while Jackie Morris takes illustration prize for The Lost Words

Dominican-American slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo has become the first ever writer of colour to win the UK’s most prestigious children’s books award, the Carnegie medal, which has a history stretching back to 1936 and includes Arthur Ransome, CS Lewis and Neil Gaiman among its former winners.

Acevedo, the daughter of Dominican immigrants, took the medal for her debut, The Poet X. A verse novel, it tells of a quiet Dominican girl, Xiomara, who joins her school’s slam poetry club in Harlem and is, according to the judges, “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith within a truly innovative verse structure”. Xiomara “comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin”.

The book is dedicated to “all the little sisters yearning to see themselves”, and one of her former students in particular. Acevedo was an eighth-grade English teacher in Maryland when the impetus for the novel struck her: one of her students, Katherine, wouldn’t read any of the books Acevedo offered her, telling her : “None of these books are about us.”

So Acevedo set out to write “a story that sounds like and depicts the same kind of neighbourhood” she and her students are from. “When your body takes up more room than your voice / you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, / which is why I let my knuckles talk for me,” she writes in The Poet X. “I’ve forced my skin just as thick as I am.”

“This was a girl who physically seemed to be taking up so much space but felt she had to be withdrawn, she was afraid to push the boundaries,” Acevedo said. “Her body takes up so much attention it would be easy to forget all the things she’s thinking, things she won’t say. I wanted to be really close to those feelings and show the everyday magic and beauty that quiet folks can hold.”

Acevedo is no longer a teacher but she returns to the school where she taught every year, and knows that her former students, including Katherine, have read her novel. In her speech after winning the medal she said:“I felt like this student had given me a challenge, or at least permission to to write a story about young people who take up space, who do not make themselves small, who learn the power of their own words.”

Acevedo’s win comes two years after the prize instigated an independent review into its historical lack of racial diversity, following widespread anger at 2017’s 20-book, entirely white longlist. After interviews with more than 600 people, from librarians to children, the review concluded that the UK’s overwhelmingly white librarian workforce, who nominate books for the medal, were mostly unaware of titles by writers of colour. It also found a dearth of books by writers of colour were being published in the UK.

Kingfisher (1)-3 Illustration from the book The Lost Words
 Jackie Morris’s Kingfisher illustration from The Lost Words. Photograph: Supplied by Penguin books

Tuesday’s ceremony also saw the illustrator Jackie Morris win the Kate Greenaway medal for illustration for The Lost Words, a response to the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s decision to remove everyday nature words such as “acorn”, “bluebell” and “kingfisher”, as they were not being used enough by children. The book, written by Robert Macfarlane, features his poems alongside Morris’s images of the excised words and has become a cultural phenomenon, with members of the public raising funds to ensure schools around the country have copies.

Alison Brumwell, who chaired the panel of librarians who picked the winners, called it an “astonishing book which deserves the highest accolades”.

“The illustrations test our acuity and make us all think on a much deeper level about scale, colour and proportion; also, about representations of loss and absence. We are invited to ‘read’ on more than one level and to reflect upon a world in which change can mean irreparable loss, impoverishing both language and the environment,” said Brumwell.

Jackie Morris, winner of the 2019 Kate Greenaway medal for illustration
 ‘We are at a turning point’ … Jackie Morris. Photograph: Katariina Jarvinen

Morris said that she believes the response to The Lost Words has been so strong because “instinctively, we know that we are not separate from nature, we’re part of it”.

“Certainly in urban environments, we’ve almost divorced ourselves from a close connection with it, and I think there is a hunger to return to those connections – and it’s also an enormous necessity,” she said.

Morris ended her acceptance speech on Tuesday with a call to her fellow authors and illustrators, artists and musicians “to help to tell the truth about what is happening to this small and fragile world we inhabit, to re-engage with the natural world, to inspire and to imagine better ways to live.

“Because there is no Planet B and we are at a turning point. And because in order to make anything happen it first needs to be imagined. And as writers and illustrators for children we grow the readers and thinkers of the future,” she said.

Since you


Nuestra Historia: Alonso S. Perales Exhibit

Very cool work coming out of the University of Houston

On May 14, 2019, in a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60, the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press, and SERJobs, members of the community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. Among those in attendance was Perales’ daughter, Marta Perales Carrizales. This digital archive marks the first digitized collection on the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Archives site.

Alonso S. Perales was one of the most prominent US Civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. He was born in Alice, Texas in 1898. Perales served in the US Army during World War I. After his military service, he attended college and law school at the National University (which later became George Washington University). Upon receiving his law degree, Perales became only the third Mexican American to practice law in Texas (Olivas xi). Perales dedicated his life to Mexican American civil rights and empowering the working-class community through knowledge and education. In 1929, Perales co-founded of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)–the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization, not to mention the largest and oldest US Latino political association. He served as the second LULAC national president from 1930 to 1931 (xiv). In addition to his work in the United States, Perales served as Nicaraguan Consul General for twenty-five years and as counsel to the Nicaraguan delegation to the United Nations in 1945. In addition, he helped draft the original Charter of the United Nations. Perales authored Are We Good Neighbors and two volumes of En defensa de mi raza. His writing stressed the need for anti-discrimination legislation and civil activism for the Latino community.

Alonso S. Perales Collection

The Alonso S. Perales Collection is Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s flagship online digital archive. In 2009, Marta Perales Carrizales and Raymond Perales donated their father’s extensive personal papers to the University of Houston’s Recovery Program. This collection, which measures over 40 linear feet, contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, civil rights writings, and foundational documents related to LULAC. The online digital collection includes a large sampling of these documents. To facilitate accessibility, the digital documents include full-text transcriptions and bilingual keywords for searches. In the future, more US Latino digital archives will be added to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections (available at: The original Alonso S. Perales Papers are housed at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Are We Good Neighbors? Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas

Screenshot of Are We Good Neighbors? : Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas.

Perales’ activism also included the empowerment of his community. He urged people to publicly share experiences of discrimination, including the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service. Many of the testimonies sworn to him in his capacity as Notary Public appeared in his book, Are We Good Neighbors?

The digital mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, uses the information in these testimonials to locate these incidents on a map in an attempt to reveal the embodiment of racism. One after another, these accounts tell stories of everyday life: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, looking for employment, or moving to a new house. Yet, for people of Mexican descent, these activities were marked by disgust, hatred, shame, and even violence. This project highlights the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our own neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics.

Twitter: @AlonsoSPerales

The Alonso S. Perales Collection Twitter Bot (@AlonsoSPerales) also strives to bring attention to his activism. This Twitter account automatically posts quotations (in English and Spanish) from Perales’ writing and allows his voice to continue to advocate for education, equality, and justice.

The Perales Collection is extremely important for our understanding of the historical trajectory of US Latinx civil rights. The documents in this collection reveal the ways our community refused to remain silent, even in the face of persecution. Civil rights leaders such as Perales fought for justice long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The history embedded in this collection is not readily available in K-12 history books. We hope that digital projects such as these can empower our community through education and help Latina/o/x schoolchildren see themselves reflected in US history in a positive light.


LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.

Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (“Recovery”) is an international program at the University of Houston dedicated to locating, preserving, and disseminating Hispanic cultural documents of the United States written since colonial times until 1980. Recovery in the premier center for research on Latino documentary history in the United States.

Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the United States. Established in 1979, it is the principal provider of cultural materials on Latino life in the United States for general and educational audiences.

SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that educates and equips people in the Texas Gulf Coast Region who come from low-income backgrounds or who have significant barriers to employment.

2019 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival to Focus on U.S. Latinx Talent

Rebecca Sun for the Hollywood Reporter

The festival co-founded by Edward James Olmos will take place July 31 to Aug. 4 at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Latin American filmmakers have earned much critical acclaim (and several Oscars) in recent years, but the 2019 edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, which takes place July 31 to Aug. 4 at the TCL Chinese Theatre, will put the spotlight on Latinx talent from the United States.

“LALIFF has become the preeminent destination for Latinx storytellers and this year we want to spotlight our homegrown U.S. community of filmmakers, musicians, students, TV writers, visual artists, digital producers and podcasters,” said Edward James Olmos, who co-founded the festival in 1997 with independent producers Marlene Dermer, George Hernandez and Kirk Whisler. In its early years, it has premiered short films from Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro G. Inarritu; today, the festival is run by executive director and Jane the Virgin writer Rafael Agustin.

In 2013 LALIFF took a five-year break from holding annual festivals (it returned last year); the organizers instead focused on the Youth Cinema Project, an outgrowth of the festival’s youth program. This year YCP launched its first-ever scholarship for high school students who demonstrate academic progress and filmmaking prowess. The inaugural recipient attends Santa Ana High and will complete a paid internship with LALIFF as part of the program.

Both LALIFF and YCP are part of the Latino Film Institute, which this year added Ana-Christina Ramon, director of research and civic engagement at UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and co-author of the annual Hollywood Diversity Report, to its board of directors. “As the largest minority group in the U.S. and one whose buying power outpaces other groups, Latinos are still severely underrepresented in film and TV,” Ramon said in a statement. “My goal is to provide the data necessary to enact meaningful change and motivate those in the industry to make content that is authentic and representative of how the majority of Latinos and other people of color live and work in America.”

Submissions for LALIFF 2019 are now open at The festival is programmed by artistic director Diana Sanchez (a TIFF international programmer) and director of programming Dilcia Barrera (Sundance feature films programmer).

Jimmy Santiago Baca’s latest carries timely message

A wonderful article by David Steinberg for the ABQ Journal about a wonderful writer. See it here:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The heart of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s new book is the epic narrative poem “When I Walk Through That Door, I Am – An Immigrant Mother’s Quest.” It packs an emotional and political wallop.

The poem is written through the yearning voice of a woman named Sophia, a heroic immigrant from El Salvador. Her husband, Tonal, had been the victim of a gang murder. She musters the strength to head north to the United States with her 4-year-old son, Joaquin. U.S. border authorities separate them.

Placed inside a southern New Mexico detention center, Sophia is raped. Yet she holds her head up and perseveres. She thinks of her late husband. She hopes her son is alive and they can be reunited: “I feel like I am walking up a mountain/meditating on you my sweet Joaquin,/where are you? are you safe? do you have nightmares?/do you cry at night, are you eating, are you sick?”

Repeatedly, Sophia wills herself to ascend a metaphorical mountain. She struggles to overcome fear and the unknown, suppresses memories of death and still has the will to go on. She shows the courage of Athena.

Baca, a widely honored Albuquerque poet, said he had been initially thinking about different individual battles. “I was bemoaning the addictions of kids. I was sick of it. With ‘walking up the mountain,’ I thought of the cross those kids bear. And it turned into Sophia’s cross,” he said.

Baca said in an author’s note that he created the character of Sophia soon after helping a real-life undocumented Burmese refugee named Sae-Po. Catholic Charity Services announced it was seeking sponsors for refugees; Sae-Po was one. Baca gave him a job at his ranch outside Santa Fe until Sae-Po and his family were arrested.

“Everything we know about (refugees) is wrong, and yet they come at just the right moment in time, to define for us what Democracy is,” Baca argues in the author’s note. “They come giving, not taking. They create community. They believe in justice. They seek peace. How much more simple can that get for our muddle-brained minions who create insane immigration policies? Refugees enrich, not deplete.”

Baca’s other new book is “Feeding the Roots of Self-Expression and Freedom,” written with Kym Sheehan and Denise VanBriggle. Baca said that book is for high school students who can’t manage the conventional framework of school. “It’s geared to help students and teachers in alternative learning environments – those sequestered in juvenile facilities, for young, unwed mothers or for kids who don’t fit in the public school system,” he added.

Baca has won the American Book Award for Poetry, the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature and the Pushcart Prize.

Jimmy Santiago Baca reads from, discusses and signs “When I Walk Through That Door, I Am” and “Feeding the Roots of Self-Expression and Freedom” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at the Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave., and at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo St., Santa Fe.

The film “A Place to Stand” will be screened at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Octavia Fellin Public Library, 115 W. Hill St., Gallup. At 3 p.m., Baca will give a free 90-minute Writers Workshop on “How to Write Great Stories and Poems!” in Room 200, Student Services Tech Center, University of New Mexico-Gallup campus. A live stream of the workshop will be in the public library.

At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, Baca will give a talk in the library on “Moving Ahead in Your Life.” The screening, workshop and address are part of Gallup’s Biennial Authors Festival – “Story, Telling & Conversation.”

The sixth annual Jimmy Santiago Baca Writing Retreat will be held in Albuquerque on June 19-20. Register at

Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States

I’m catching this late, but there’s still time to see this awesome exhibit up in New Jersey!

Saturday, March 16, 2019 – Sunday, July 7, 2019 at the Princeton Art Museum:

Retablos are thank-you notes to the heavens dedicated to Christ, the Virgin, or saints to consecrate a miraculous event. The votives on view—spanning the entirety of the twentieth century—were offered by Mexican migrants and their families to commemorate the dangers of crossing the border and living in the United States. Filled with emotive detail, they eloquently express subjects of greatest concern to the migrants, such as the difficulty of finding work or falling sick in a foreign land and the relief of returning home.

The word “retablo,” from the Latin retro tabulum (behind the altar table), originally referred to devotional paintings hung in Catholic churches in Europe. In Mexico, reflecting traditions embedded in local cultures by Spanish conquest beginning in the sixteenth century, retablo (synonymous in this usage with ex-votolámina, and milagro) came to denote a small oil painting on metal placed on the wall of a shrine or church.

Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments.

Download the exhibition checklist

Retablos son notas de agradecimiento a los cielos dedicadas a Cristo, a la Virgen, o a los santos para consagrar un evento maravilloso. Los exvotos expuestos aquí—que abarcan todo el siglo XX—fueron ofrecidos por migrantes mexicanos y sus familias para conmemorar los peligros de cruzar la frontera y vivir en los Estados Unidos. Llenos de detalles emotivos, expresan de manera elocuente los temas de mayor preocupación para los migrantes, tales como la dificultad de encontrar trabajo o enfermarse en tierra extranjera y el alivio de regresar a casa.

La palabra “retablo,” del latín retro tabulum (detrás de la mesa de altar), se refería originalmente a pinturas devocionales colocadas en las paredes de las iglesias católicas en Europa. En México, debido a las tradiciones incorporadas a las culturas locales con la conquista española a partir del siglo XVI, retablo (sinónimo de exvoto, lámina y milagro) vino a significar una pintura pequeña al óleo sobre metal, colocada en la pared de un santuario o de una iglesia.

Generalmente encargados a artistas locales que trabajan de forma anónima, los retablos presentan una narrativa tanto escrita como gráfica. Las viñetas en primera persona, fechadas e inscritas con los nombres de los suplicantes, recurren a un vocabulario tradicional como “doy infinitas gracias.” En las ilustraciones luminosas sobre las inscripciones, las figuras terrenales comparten el espacio con imágenes sagradas y una representación onírica del milagro. A medida que se acumulan en las paredes de las iglesias, tanto en México como en los Estados Unidos, estos exvotos se convierten en registros públicos de la fe, los miedos y los vínculos familiares privados.

Haga clic aquí para descargar la lista de obras en la exposición

Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States is presented in conjunction with Princeton University’s Migration Lab. It has been made possible with support from the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund, and by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the Office of Religious Life, Princeton University. The retablos on view, collected by Douglas S. Massey and Jorge Durand, are from the Massey-Fiske and Arias-Durand collections.

Milagros en la frontera: Retablos de migrantes mexicanos a los Estados Unidos se presenta en colaboración con el Laboratorio de Migración de la Universidad de Princeton. Se ha logrado gracias al apoyo del Fondo Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Clase de 1920, y del Instituto de Estudios Internacionales y Regionales, el Programa en Estudios Latinoamericanos y la Oficina de Vida Religiosa de la Universidad de Princeton. Los retablos expuestos al público, coleccionados por Douglas S. Massey y Jorge Durand, vienen de las colecciones Massey-Fiske y Arias-Durand.

Book Reading in Houston – Why I Am Like Tequila by Lupe Mendez

Is anyone going to be in Houston soon?! Make sure to check this out!

When: Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 6:30 PM


Where: Casa Ramirez Folkart Gallery, 241 W. 19th St., Houston, TX 77008

Please join us as Lupe Mendez presents selections from his new book, WHY I AM LIKE TEQUILA. Books for sale at 17.99 and Lupe will be available after the reading to autograph. Refreshments served. Free event


WHY I AM LIKE TEQUILA is a collection of poetry spanning a decade of writing and performance. This collection exists in 4 parts – each a layered perspective, a look through a Mexican/ Mexican – American voice living in the Texas Gulf Coast. Set within spaces such as Galveston Island, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and Jalisco, Mexico, these poems peel away at all parts, like the maguey, drawing to craft spirits, quenching a thirst between land and sea.

Reading & Signing: Cabañuelas by Norma Elia Cantú on 6/9/19 in Austin

Come join us at Bookwoman for a reading of Norma Elia Cantú’s second novel, Cabañuelas!

Nena leaves Laredo, Texas, and moves to Madrid, Spain, to research the historical roots of traditional fiestas in Laredo. Immersing herself in post-Franco Spain and its rich history, its food, music, and fiestas, Nena finds herself falling for Paco, a Spaniard who works in publishing. Nena’s research and experiences teach her about who she is, where she comes from, and what is important to her, but as her work comes to a close, Nena must decide where she can best be true to her entire self: in Spain with Paco or in Laredo, her home, where her job and family await her return.

Norma Elia Cantú is the Norine R. and T. Frank Murchison Endowed Professor of Humanities at Trinity University. Her earlier works include Transcendental Train Yard: A Collaborative Suite of SerigraphsCanícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, Updated Edition (UNM Press), and the coedited anthology Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art.

Event date:
Sunday, June 9, 2019 – 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Event address:
5501 North Lamar #A-105
AustinTX 78751

Cheech Marin tours Houston’s Latino art scene

Article by Molly Glentzer for the Houston Chronicle.

Cheech Marin got a few laughs in Houston earlier this month, but he was in town on a serious mission.

The beloved comedian, who gained fame in the 1970s as half of the stoner team Cheech and Chong, came to view some of the exhibitions that have been part of spring’s Latino Art Now! series. He also drummed up excitement for the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry of Riverside Art Museum, which is scheduled to open in Riverside, Calif. in 2021.

Marin, 72, is now nearly as famous in a different cultural realm as a top collector of Chicano art. He made it to Houston on May 7 and 8, just in time to catch the final days of a show by Einar & Jamex de la Torre at Nicole Longnecker Gallery. A retrospective of the de la Torre brothers’ work will be the first show at the Cheech, as the new center will be called.

Einar de la Torre led a walk-through of Longnecker’s show for Marin and a few starry-eyed guests before a dinner at the home of Dakota Enterprises founder and CEO Rick Guttman. “I never thought in 1971 that I would be driving Cheech to dinner in the rain in 2019,” said gallery director Brad Barber.

The next day, Marin toured the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibition “Between Play and Grief” with curator Mari Carmen Ramirez and lunched with community leaders at M.D. Anderson-Magnolia Park YWCA in the East End, where the show “Honoring the Masters: The Chicano Renaissance,” features works by Chicano artists Mario R. Gonzales, Daniel Lechón and Leo Tanguma and local artist and community advocate Jesse Rodriguez, a.k.a. Magnolia Grown.

Marin has a stealth Houston connection: Houston-based arts consultant Melissa Richardson Banks has managed his collection for about 16 years and is organizing the national exhibition tour and catalog for the de la Torre Bros. retrospective at the Cheech.

Artist Jesse Treviño’s ‘Spirit’ Evoked in New Book Examining His Work

Check out Nicholas Frank’s article on the Rivard Report


An overflow crowd of almost 200 filled the Central Library Auditorium on Tuesday evening for a celebration of Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño, the new book about the life and work of San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño.

Spirit author Anthony Head joked that half the people in the room must be relatives of the artist, who has a large, local family. Before the proceedings began, Treviño’s younger brother Robert reminisced about doing leatherwork and ceramics with his older brother when they were children, and about later witnessing the painting of Mi Vida in 1972, Jesse’s signature outpouring of his emotional reintroduction to civilian life after service in the Vietnam War.

As has often been noted, that service rendered Treviño a wounded warrior, having lost his right forearm and hand to a grenade explosion. Mi Vida represented Treviño’s adjustment to his wounds, including learning how to paint with his intact left hand.

While injured, Treviño had a realization: “I made a promise to myself that if I lived, I would paint the things important to me: my family, my neighborhood – my world,” he said, as quoted in a documentary on the artist produced by Ellen Riojas Clark, which was screened as the audience assembled.

Treviño has since grown into a leading art figure in San Antonio and beyond, with large-scale murals at important locations around the city, including the Spirit of Healing tile mural on the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio downtown. Among other notable achievements, Treviño painted the official portrait of the legendary U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez and is currently honored with the title wall of Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, featuring Mi Vida.

Treviño received a standing ovation upon entering the library auditorium, making his way up the center aisle as Mayor Ron Nirenberg slipped inconspicuously into the back of the room.

Nirenberg took the podium to introduce Treviño, Head, and moderator Robert Rivard, editor and publisher of the Rivard Report, for what he called “an extraordinary conversation about one extraordinary American.” Nirenberg described Treviño as “an example of what we can do when we put our creativity to work for the betterment of mankind.”

Head then gave a brief reading from Spirit, focused on the era of Treviño’s post-Vietnam return to the U.S., as the civil rights movement aligned with the antiwar protest movement. At the time, Treviño was invited to join the Con Safos group of Chicano artists by Mel Casas, who taught painting at San Antonio College. Casas also taught his young student that it’s “not as important how you make your art, but why – your intentions, your meaning, your message,” Head said.

“Jesse took to heart the lessons of Mel Casas, who kept emphasizing how art can be – must be – an important part of any dialogue on social and cultural issues,” Head read.

An issue recounted in the pages of Spirit is that both men, artist and author, suffered bouts with cancer during the book’s eight-year production. As Treviño endured the effects of chemotherapy to treat stomach cancer, “talking about his past was very uplifting to him,” Head said. “And at his lowest moments … being able to give me stories for this book, I know helped his recovery because I could see it.”

Anthony Head, author of Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño

When Head was diagnosed with leukemia soon after, he said his own treatments made him able to understand at least some part of the physical and emotional pain Treviño had endured throughout his lifetime. “After he got cancer, and after I got cancer during the research and writing of this book, I think he bonded with me in a way that he hadn’t before,” Head said during an earlier interview.

Their mutual trials made Treviño less guarded, and more willing to tell stories of his life. The result was an overweening, 240,000-word manuscript that was trimmed to a slim 80,000 words, more than enough for the eventual 256-page book.

Head said there is room for more books on Treviño, to tell the stories he by necessity had to leave out. “I think I interviewed half of the people here tonight, and I’m sorry for the other half but after seven years I just ran out of time. … There’s plenty of room for more books about Jesse to be written, I think, because Jesse is the story of San Antonio.”

At one point during the evening, Treviño proved his tirelessness by telling a lengthy story in Spanish. He used a barrio slang term – as described by an audience member – como la fregada (against all odds, roughly), to summarize the dual struggle he and Head went through to finally bring the biography Treviño had always wanted to come to fruition.

Rivard drew laughter as he summed up Treviño’s thoughts for the English speakers in the audience: “He likes the book.”

Despite his recent health struggles, Treviño clearly wants to keep going. He told of a desire to make a new mural for the redeveloped Alameda Theatre, as just one part of an ambitious plan for the near Westside Zona Cultural and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus.

One detail rarely heard came out during the conversation. Asked by Rivard when he knew he wanted to be an artist, Treviño remembered submitting a drawing to an art competition held by the Witte Museum with the idea of wanting to win. “That’s exactly true,” he said.

His competitive spirit still lives. “The future for me [is] I want to be in the lead of the arts here in San Antonio,” he said. “It’s important that I dominate with my work.”

NALAC: Presa House Gallery on May 3rd

Friday, May 3, 2019


Presa House Gallery

May 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), the legacy service organization dedicated to providing opportunities and empowering Latinx artists and art organizations across the United States, Puerto Rico, Central America and Mexico. In honor of this important milestone, Presa House Gallery is proud to present A Common Vision, an exhibition featuring a selection of 16 Nalaquistas who are alumni of the NALAC Leadership Program or recipients of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Award. The opening reception will be held on First Friday, May 3rd from 6:00 to 11:00 PM, and on view by appointment through May 31, 2019.

The exhibition brings together a cross-section of various media including, drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, photography, collage, and video. Many of the works address themes of self-exploration, cultural identity, race, history, and socio-economic issues.

Exhibiting artists include: Fernando Andrade, Rolando Briseno, Jenelle Esparza, Anel Flores, Adriana M J Garcia, Raul Gonzalez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Suzy González, Mari Hernandez, Veronica Jaeger, Michael Menchaca, Jesse Ruiz, Ray Santisteban, Luis Valderas, Debora Kuetzpal Vasquez and Guillermina Zabala

About National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts and culture field. Founded in 1989 on the Westside of San Antonio, NALAC was born from a common vision shared by a group of Latinx arts leaders who recognized the need for advocacy to improve conditions for an under-capitalized Latino artistic community. Since its founding NALAC has awarded 2.8 million dollars in support of over 200,000 U.S Latino artists and cultural workers and organizations and has delivered programs that stabilize and energize the U.S. Latino arts and cultural sector throughout the nation.