is a cultural patchwork made up of indigenous peoples and immigrants from all
over the world. Our literature is all
the richer for this great diversity of voices that color uniquely American
stories with a variety of hues and textures.
One of the cultural patches in our American quilt is being celebrated September
15—October 15: Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month.
My own writing reflects my mixed Latino/Anglo heritage. I grew up in a bilingual and bicultural home on the U.S./Mexico border, a place where cultures meet and blend.
My mother, a wonderful story teller, introduced us kids to her hometown of
by sharing anecdotes about family and others.
Mommy sang us English and Irish ballads, a legacy of stories hundreds of
years old. She prepared soup beans and
baked pones of cornbread in an iron skillet; served bowls of warm peach or
apple cobbler with cream drizzled over it; and fried up platters of fried green
tomatoes. She showed us her love—and
shared her heritage—through her stories, her music, her cooking. Ashland, Kentucky
My father, in turn, connected us to our family ties in
. He told us stories of maiden aunts who searched
for Pancho Villa’s treasures. Papi
introduced us to traditional dishes from different regions of Mexico but mostly
from his state of Puebla, food influenced by indigenous people and the Spanish
and French: salpicón, a cold salad of seasoned beef on romaine; mole poblano, a
savory chocolate sauce; chiles enogadas, poblano chiles stuffed and covered
with a sweet sauce and pomegranate seeds.
He took us on driving excursions through Mexico ,
pointing out different customs and historical backgrounds as we went along. Mexico
As I am fond of saying: I grew up eating biscuits and gravy with a jalapeño on the side. This statement is true, both literally and figuratively. And, for me, it adds another layer to my life’s experiences—and to my writing.
Among the U.S. Latino writers, you’ll find a great diversity of styles and stories. So many that I can not do them justice in such a short article. On this IWC blog, Kathryn Page Camp mentioned books for young people and children. Julie Demoff-Larson, in her blog contribution, focused on the Nuyoricans, writers of Puerto Rican heritage writing out of the
area. New York
Maybe your tastes run more toward the fantastical: try Manuel Lopéz’s The Miniature Wife and Other Stories and experience his intelligence, wit, and insight as he regales you with these strange stories. And, yes, zombies are included. Or if you like the experimental, Daniel Chacón’s Hotel Juárez short stories and flash fiction bring to mind the writing style of Jorge Luis Borges.
If family drama or the fantastical is not for you, you might want to try a mystery: Desperado, a Mile High Noir by Manuel Ramos is one I really enjoyed. Perhaps you prefer something with more indigenous influence. In flesh to bone, Ire’ne Lara Silva weaves stories steeped in the myths of the indigenous people of
Mexico and the Southwestern
I’ve barely dusted the surface of the wonderful literature available in the U.S. Latino category. I hope you’ll be moved to sample some of these uniquely American voices that will introduce you to the “exotic” while anchoring you in stories that deal with universal themes, those human concerns that pull you into a well-written story.
Lucrecia Guerrero’s short works have appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train and The Antioch Review. Chasing Shadows, a collection of linked short stories, was published by Chronicle Books. Tree of Sighs, her award-winning novel, was published by Bilingual Press at
. She is currently at work on a second novel,
tentatively titled Midnight in Arizona State University . She lives in Mad River and is available for presentations
and to facilitate creative writing workshops. Indiana