On March 14, 2019, Arte Público Press (APP) received the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandroff Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City. This is the transcript of the acceptance speech by the APP director and founder, Nicolás Kanellos, and the management team, Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Nellie González, Marina Tristan, and Carolina Villarroel.
NK: When we founded Arte Público Press forty years ago, we envisioned it as part of the public art movement. Our books would draw from and give back to the community, reflecting its art, history and culture as well as its problems, like the muralists were doing. That is why some of our initial book covers, such as for The House on Mango Street, were commissioned to muralists.
MPT: Like the mural walls, our pages would help to make our people visible, announcing we are here, we have always been here and we have always contributed to life and culture in the United States. From the start, we were inclusive of all Latino ethnicities, religions and genders, and sought to combat stereotypes while inserting ourselves into the national identity. As we grew, the mural became a mosaic with each book becoming an individual tile in a large spectrum of varied images.
NG: Like our writers, we are mostly children of the working class, the children of citizens, of families that have been here since before the founding of the United States.
NK: I was an assembly line worker and a shipping clerk weaving my box-laden dolly through Seventh Avenue traffic in the garment district during the 1960s. Others come from humble backgrounds, doing domestic work, farm work and other manual labor.
CV: We are the people selling the morning newspaper but never appearing in it, the men and women washing dishes and waiting tables but never savoring the meals; we are among the crowds on city sidewalks who individually remain invisible, never thought of as writers and artists. It matters not that we are descendants of original settlers, intermarried with indigenous peoples and descendants of African slaves, whether immigrants from long ago or just yesterday, because no matter how long Latino families have resided in and contributed to the making of this country, we have been seen as foreigners.
GBV: No matter how well we spoke and wrote the King’s English, or how faithfully we reproduced the canons of American literature and culture, our books remained foreign to the mainstream press and, with a few notable exceptions, outside the scope of national awards. Now, thanks to your magnanimity, we will become more visible, recognizable as part of this grand cultural venture that is the creation and publication of books. Muchísimas gracias.
Ayala, Elaine. “A Texas publisher is honored for putting great Latino literature between hard covers and on shelves.” San Antonio Express-News. 21 March 2019. https://www.expressnews.com/news/news_columnists/elaine_ayala/article/A-Texas-publisher-is-honored-for-putting-great-13704479.php
Cardenas, Cat. “Houston’s Arte Público Gets a 40th Birthday Present.” TexasMonthly. 14 March 2019. https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/arte-publico-press-literary-award-nbcc/
González, Rigoberto. “National Book Critics Circle recognizes Arte Público Press as literary force.” NBC News. 14 March 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/national-book-critics-circle-recognizes-arte-p-blico-press-literary-n983286?fbclid=IwAR20-dRrUYp60siEw-Ho5CcVZTG2CHUi8-Dh76vc6G409DIsfR_F9pV2tw4
“National Book Critics Circle Awards.” National Book Critics Circle. http://bookcritics.org/awards
Valenzuela, Virginia. “Interview with Arte Público Press, 2019 NBCC Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner.” The New School Creative Writing. 7 March 2019. https://newschoolwriting.org/interview-with-arte-publico-press-2019-nbcc-ivan-sandrof-lifetime-achievement-award-winner/?fbclid=IwAR12AZxBeFFt9v2rvy56_itduiNRtPsKe6lMk5LZs3X1vqjQF956e-NuCFs