Ma­condo Writ­ers Work­shop at cross­roads, with fu­ture un­cer­tain

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COM­MU­NITY NEWS - By Jose­fina Casati

Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can au­thor San­dra Cis­neros has gifted us with many books, po­ems, and sto­ries such as the best­seller “The House on Mango Street.” She’s also nur­tured gen­er­a­tions of writ­ers, in­clud­ing my­self, through the annual Ma­condo Writ­ers Work­shop.

Ma­condo is now at a cross­roads. It needs an in­fu­sion of funds and new tal­ent to keep de­vel­op­ing the voices that can con­tinue to build bridges and do good work in their com­mu­ni­ties.

I at­tended a read­ing on July 25 in San An­to­nio by Cuban-Amer­i­can Richard Blanco, a ‘Ma­condista’ him­self and the first open­ly­gay poet to read at a pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion, Obama’s sec­ond. Hear­ing Blanco read from his new mem­oir and po­ems, as well as get­ting reac­quainted with my fel­low Ma­condis­tas, I was re­minded of what an im­pact Cis­neros’ work­shop has had on in­di­vid­ual writ­ers of color and of the gen­eros­ity of Cis­neros, its founder. She made good on her prom­ise to help fel­low writ­ers and per­son­ally con­tribut- ed the funds and staff to keep the or­ga­ni­za­tion go­ing for more than 15 years. For that, I’ll al­ways be grate­ful. But fol­low­ing a change of sea­sons, Cis­neros has now sold her pur­ple-then-pink house in San An­to­nio and moved to San Miguel de Al­lende in Mex­ico. She has down­sized in all re­gards so that she can go back to her first love — writ­ing.

She made a sub­stan­tial gift that will keep the or­ga­ni­za­tion go­ing through next year, un­der the aus- pices of the Guadalupe Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter in San An­to­nio. But now it’s up to us to take Ma­condo into the next phase.

In a time of charged po­lit­i­cal rhetoric that seeks to paint im­mi­grants and for­eign­ers as the en­emy, voices that bridge and unite, chal­lenge and il­lu­mi­nate, and en­ter­tain and ed­u­cate — such as Cis­neros’ or Blanco’s — are needed now more than ever. Austin Ma­condis­tas that have car­ried the torch in­clude poet and fic­tion writer ire’ne lara silva, who started the Flor de Nopal lit­er­ary series at the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter, and Ce­leste Guzmán Men­doza, who went on to co-found and di­rect Can­toMundo, a na­tional work­shop for Latino po­ets. The list goes on and on.

To writ­ers who are teach­ing lit­er­acy in their com­mu­ni­ties, sprout­ing new or­ga­ni­za­tions or win­ning awards, Ma­condo has been a great source of in­spi­ra­tion.

We need to make sure Ma­condo makes a solid tran­si­tion into the fu­ture, so all voices can be heard.

Richard Blanco reads on July 25 dur­ing the annual Ma­condo Writ­ers Work­shop at the Guadalupe Theater in San An­to­nio.

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