Arte Público Press Receives NBCC Award: Acceptance Speech Transcript

Photography: Paper Monday

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.

Photograph by Nancy Crampton

See also:

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

¡Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas public exhibit

The University of Houston's Arte Público Press/ Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Presents: Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas at the Central Houston Public Library. September 7 through October 31, 2018. Free exhibit! Visit the Central Houston Public Library to view newspapers and rare books from the Arte Público Press/Recovery collection! Location: 2nd and 3rd floors of the Central Houston Public Library. 500 McKinney Street, Houston, Texas 77002. Visit Arte Puúblico Press website at atrepublicopress.com. Exhibit curated by Elena V. Valdez (Rice University) and supported by a grant frm the Rice University Humanities Research Center.

¡Extra, Extra! The Literary Heritage of Texas, on display Sept. 7-Oct. 31, 2018 at the Central Houston Public Library

¡Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas is an exhibit of Spanish-language newspapers and first-edition books from the Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage collections. This is a free exhibit located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Central Houston Public Library (500 McKinney Street, Houston, Tex 77002). The exhibit includes rare books, newspaper facsimiles, and photographs.

On the 3rd floor, a special exhibit explains the editorial process for Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público dedicated to the publication—in English, Spanish and bilingual formats—of children’s and young adult literature focusing on US Hispanic culture.

This exhibit was curated by Elena V. Valdez (Rice University) and supported by a grant from the Rice University Humanities Research Center.  It will be on display from September 7 through October 31, 2018.

Digital components of this exhibit coming soon!

Summer Reading List

Looking for some summer books to read by the beach, pool, or on the road? Why not take this time to read recovered manuscripts from our collections? Here is a sampling of books that include fiction, poetry, and history for your summer road trips. Be sure to also browse Arte Público Press for contemporary books for adults, children, and young adults. Happy reading!

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, O, Cuando los pericos mamen by Daniel Venegas

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, o, Cuando los pericos mamen (The Adventures of Don Chipote, Or, When Parrots Breastfeed) is the first novel of Mexican immigration to the United States. Originally published in 1928, Don Chipote was written by journalist Daniel Venegas. Don Chipote is an unknown classic of American literature, dealing with the phenomenon that has made this nation great: immigration. It is the bittersweet tale of a greenhorn who abandons his plot of land (and a shack full of children) in Mexico to come to the United States and sweep the gold up from the streets. Together with his faithful companions, a tramp named Pluticarpio and his dog, Don Chipote (whose name means “bump on the head”) stumbles from one misadventure to another. Along the way, we learn what the Southwest was like during the 1920s: how Mexican laborers were treated like beasts of burden, and how they became targets for every shyster and lowlife looking to make a quick buck. The author, himself a former immigrant laborer, spins his tale using the Chicano vernacular of that time. Full of folklore and local color, Don Chipote is a must-read for scholars, students, and all who would become acquainted with the historical and economic roots, as well as with the humor, of the Southwestern Hispanic community. Kanellos provides an accessible and well-documented introduction to this important novel he discovered in 1984.

Available in Spanish and in English (The Adventures of Don Chipote, or When Parrots Breastfeed).


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century for children and young adult readers. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


George Washington Gómez by Américo Paredes

In the 1930s, Américo Paredes, the renowned folklorist, wrote a novel set to the background of the struggles of Texas Mexicans to preserve their property, culture and identity in the face of Anglo-American migration to and growing dominance over the Rio Grande Valley. Episodes of guerilla warfare, land grabs, racism, jingoism, and abuses by the Texas Rangers make this an adventure novel as well as one of reflection on the making of modern day Texas. George Washington Gómez is a true precursor of the modern Chicano novel.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Traveling to San Antonio, Texas this summer? Why not read up on the history of the missions before visiting them?

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena

If you’re looking for a quick read, try these short stories by María Cristina Mena.

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 


The Real Billy the Kid by Miguel Antonio Otero

Driving through the US Southwest this summer? Why not pick up a copy of The Real Billy the Kid and get a historical sense of the notorious outlaw?

Published as a limited edition in 1936, Miguel Antonio Otero’s The Real Billy the Kid: With New Light on the Lincoln County War is a landmark biography of the infamous Western outlaw otherwise known as William H. Bonney, Jr.—his brief childhood, gunfights, encounters with the Apache Indians, entanglement in the murderous feud known as the Lincoln County War, and finally his friendship with the man who ultimately killed him, Sheriff Pat Garrett.


Tropical Town and Other Poems by Salomón de la Selva

Tropical Town and Other Poems, de la Selva’s little-known first collection, was written in English while he resided in the U.S.; he employs traditional rhyme, meter, and forms such as the sonnet and quatrain. Some works celebrate de la Selva’s native land, Nicaragua, while others, such as “Finally” and “The Dreamer’s Heart Knows Its Own Bitterness,” speak of the United States with a mixture of admiration and misgiving. Love lyrics intermingle with folk songs and poems observing the war then raging in Europe. All are marked by a graceful verbal music, embodying what poet Grace Schulman has called “a poetry of deep concern for human suffering.” In a thoughtful critical introduction, Silvio Sirias surveys the poet’s life and work, and examines the “poetic dialogues” that de la Selva conducted with Millay and Dario.


Under the Texas Sun/Bajo el sol de Texas by Conrado Espinoza

Originally published in 1926 in San Antonio, Texas as El sol de Texas, the novel chronicles the struggles of two Mexican immigrant families: the Garcias and the Quijanos. Their initial hopes—of returning to their homeland with enough money to buy their own piece of land—are worn away by the reality of immigrant life. Unable to speak English, they find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous work contractors and foremen: forced to work at backbreaking labor picking cotton in the fields, building the burgeoning Southwest railroad system, and working in GulfCoast oil refineries.

Considered the first novel of Mexican immigration, El sol de Texas/Under the Texas Sun depicts the diverse experiences of Mexican immigrants, from those that return to Mexico beaten down by the discrimination and hardship they encounter, to those who persist in their adopted land in spite of the racism they face.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872), by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time. Sergio Reyna (editor) has brought together more than thirty narratives by González and arranged them into Animal Tales (such as “The Mescal-Drinking Horse”); Tales of Humans (“The Bullet-Swallower”); Tales of Mexican Ancestors (“Ambrosio the Indian”); and Tales of Ghosts, Demons, and Buried Treasure (“The Woman Who Lost Her Soul”). Reyna also provides a helpful introduction that succinctly surveys the author’s life and work and considers her writings within their historical and cultural contexts.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of US President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. New Mexico was among the states participating in this effort, and the project workers there included two women interviewers, Lou Sage Batchen and Annette Hesch Thorp, who in their work placed particular emphasis upon gathering Hispanic women’s stories, or cuentos. The two interviewed many native ancianos, gathering folktales as well as capturing narratives and gleaning vivid details of a way of life now long disappeared. Professors Tey Diana Rebolledo and María Teresa Márquez have combed through long-lost archives to recover these invaluable first-hand accounts, and have prefaced the whole with an introduction delving into some of the problematic cultural issues surrounding these records.

Reading List for Women’s History Month

Are you looking for more books by Latinas to read this Women’s History Month? Why not read a recovered manuscript?! Here is a list of manuscripts recovered and published by Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Enjoy!

A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out (Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer) by Luisa Capetillo

Mi opinión is considered by many to be the first feminist treatise in Puerto Rico and one of the first in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In concise prose, Capetillo advocates a workers’ revolution, forcefully demanding an end to the exploitation and subordination of workers and women.


Absolute Equality: An Early Feminist Perspective (Influencias de las ideas modernas) by Luisa Capetillo

In Luisa Capetillo’s three-act play written in 1907, “Influences of Modern Ideas,” Angelina, the daughter of a rich Puerto Rican businessman and landowner, educates herself by reading the works of European writers, philosophers, and anarchists. After reading Tolstoy’s The Slavery of Our Times, she is convinced that “the slavery of our times is the inflexible wage law.” As the workers go on strike in her home town of Arecibo, Angelina tries to convince her father to give his property—home, factories, land—to the working class. And so the stage is set for Capetillo, a militant feminist, anarchist, and labor leader, to inform the public about her passions: the fight for workers’ rights; the struggle for justice and equality, for women as well as workers; and the education of all classes and sexes. The themes in this social protest play appear throughout Capetillo’s writings.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena 

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 


Dew on the Thorn by Jovita González

Dew on the Thorn seeks to recreate the life of Texas Mexicans as Anglo culture gradually encroached upon them. González, a former president of the Texas Folklore Society, provides us with a richly detailed portrait of the ranch life of the Olivares clan of South Texas, focusing on the cultural traditions of Texas Mexicans at a time when the divisions of class and race were pressing on the established way of life.


Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova

When asked to deliver contraband papers to her native island home of Cuba in 1852, twenty-year-old Emilia Casanova gulped audibly in a most unladylike manner. This was her chance to be in the thick of the rebellion against Spanish authority instead of on the sidelines more befitting someone of her station. Even though she would be branded a traitor and endanger her family if she was caught, she pushed her fear aside and accepted the mission.

Back in Cuba following her first summer abroad, distributing seditious propaganda isn’t as easy as it had seemed while in New York. But she honors her commitment to the Junta Cubana, a group of Cuban revolutionaries living in exile in the U. S., and begins her efforts to convert compatriots to the cause of independence from Spain. She begins planting the seeds of insubordination in her social circle and enlists two of her brothers in the cause. Things become more dangerous when she targets soldiers in the garrison close to the family’s home, and it doesn’t take long for one of her brothers to be exposed. Soon Emilia’s father is forced to lead his entire family away from their home and into exile in the U. S.


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

The Rebel, by Leonor Villegas de Magnón, is the autobiography of the Mexican-American feminist and pacifist who served as a nurse in the Mexican Revolution and became active in Texas politics and culture. Originally written in the 1920s but never published, The Rebel stands as one of the few written documents which consciously challenges misconceptions of Mexican Americans.


La Rebelde by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

La Rebelde is the original Spanish-language version of Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s memoir. Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the Mexican Revolution.  Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women.  Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.


The Squatter and the Don by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Originally published in San Francisco in 1885, The Squatter and the Don is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population. Despite being granted the full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, this group had become a subordinated and marginalized national minority by 1860.


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Jovita González was long a member—and ultimately served as president—of the Texas Folklore Society, which strove to preserve the oral traditions and customs of her native state. Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. Many people participated in compiling a series of state-by-state guides to the country. Other writers’ projects included the gathering of folk songs and oral narratives by still-living ex-slaves.


For lists of contemporary woman-centric writings, see Arte Público Press’s Women’s History Month Fiction Titles list and their Non-Fiction Titles list.