Thursday, May 31, 2007

Proyecto Latina, Tianguis, and Women Who Love Words

Tianguis books|libros 2003 S. Damen Chicago, IL 60608

Continuing with this month's focus on Chicago Latino literary life, this week's column will take a look at Proyecto Latina, one of its constituent groups , Tianguis, and one of its organizers, Irasema Gonzales.

About Proyecto Latina

Proyecto Latina is a collaborative between Teatro Luna, Tianguis, and Mariposa Atomica Ink. We are excited about showcasing Latina talent and are always seeking outgoing Latina poets and performers for our monthly open mic series. Proyecto Latina takes place the third Monday of every month. Its an open mic so everything's game: Poetry, spoken word, music, monologues, shorts y en el idioma que prefieras. And if you're too shy to get on stage come and be one of the lucky spectators.

Proyecto Latina -- Recent and upcoming performers/2007 Calendar

January 15th: Diane Herrera
February 19th: Luna Blues Machine
March 19th: Silvia Rivera
April 16th: Sylvia Manrique
May 20th: Paloma Martinez-Cruz
June 18th: Lisa's shameless self promotion, forgive me.

...more dates coming soon...

Proyecto Latina's 2006 featured performers were: Belinda Cervantes, Maritza Cervantes, Tanya Saracho, Norbella Peña, Teatro Luna w/ Piece of Ass, Diana Campos, Achy Obejas, Coya Paz, Lupe Martinez, Yolanda Cardenas, Diana Pando, Irasema Gonzalez, Magda Banda, and Alicia Ponce.


Know someone we should feature? Is it you? We are always looking for established and emerging talent. Is it your mom, sister, bff, novia or vecina? Drop us a line, send us a sample of your work to: proyectolatina at tianguis dot com. Or sign-up for the open mic and show us what you got.


It's a pleasure to talk to someone who's love of the written word is so deep and who's made a commitment to offer a literary showcase in the heart of the Mexican community here in Chicago. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Chicago. I began getting in trouble in fifth grade for reading books during class. Around the same time, I got the urge to write and began drafting stories in my notebooks. My parents noticed and when I was in 8th grade my dad bought me a typewriter for my birthday. I attended a public grammar school and a Catholic High School. Drama and writing activities at school were always my favorite outlets. In 1995, I entered Columbia College Chicago. Simply getting into college was a miracle since I had minimal guidance from my high school counselor, and as a first generation college student I was for the most part on my own.

I’m still a book lover and writer, and now also a blogger, and merchant. In 2006 I unveiled Tianguis, a cultural shop featuring books and work by Latino writers.

A few months later in January 2007 I helped co-found Proyecto Latina, a monthly open mic featuring emerging and established Latina talent. I meet with my writing group monthly for writing, chisme, and sangria, and in 2007 we published the chapbook, “Afternoon Wine: Vicios, Suenos y confesiones.”

My work also appeared in the anthology, “Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest, published by March Abrazo Press, 2000. I live with my wonderful husband and two cats in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. When I grow up I wanna be a mommy, live on a goat farm and get a dog—-and not necessarily in that order.

Irasema--Tell us about Tianguis. Some people would say: "A tea room in a Mexican neighborhood? No way!" What's your response to them?

Well, we are not exactly a tea room. I think the word tearoom carries a certain connotation of formal afternoon teas or elaborate tea ceremonies. I’ve incorporated what I enjoy the most from tea and books into my concept—it was the kind of place I always wanted to frequent.

I am by no means an official spokesperson but tea definitely has its role in Mexican culture. There is Lemongrass or te de limon, manzanilla or chamomile, jamaica or hisbiscus tea is used to make an agua fresca, which is really an ice tea. And I’ve always enjoyed te de canela with a touch of milk.

You also represent one of three groups that came together to found Proyecto Latina. Talk to us about those groups, how they came together, and the purpose and focus of the project.

When I first opened my store last year my friend, Diana Pando came to me with an idea that her and Coya Paz, from Teatro Luna had been talking about.

The idea was to have an open mic that would be by, for and all about Latina talent—we would feature established and emerging talent. I loved the idea and we’ve done it ever since. Every month we pick a Latina and we try to keep the features diverse, we’ve had actresses, musicians, comedians, poets, and writers. There is always eight open mic slots for interested participants. There are no hang-ups on language, the programming is bilingual and we’ve had Spanish, English and Portuguese work featured. Most recently we had a teacher that made a suggestion and ultimately inspired the chisme box.

That has been a really fun element to incorporate—people drop in anonymous chismes and we read them in between participants, the winning chisme gets posted on Proyecto Latina’s myspace account.

Who are the artists so far that have performed? Do you see a thread connecting their work? Is there a a general direction Proyecto Latina is attempting to forge? If so, what would that be, and how does that relate to the Chicago poetry/arts scene, and the Latino writing and arts community here in the city.

All the women that have been featured have such presented phenomenal work, they include emerging and established talent. Some of last years highlights included Achy Obejas, Coya Paz and Teatro Luna ensemble, Diana Campos, Silvia Rivera, the Luna Blues Machine, and Lupe Martinez.

As for a common thread connecting their work I would probably have to say its the seriousness which all the women, including performers and our audiences members take the work. Its great to hear and identify with each others work without there being hang-ups on language or cultural nuances.

As a former writing student that sat in classes where many times, I was the only Latina, its empowering and exciting to see so many of my peers making such wonderful contributions—it’s a monthly reminder that we are in good company. I am one to definitely encourage an artist to create their own opportunities instead of waiting for the mainstream’s approval or permission—I think Proyecto Latina can help encourage that. And perhaps the result of those efforts will mean more visibility, or the initiative of even more creative projects by Latinas in this city.

What's the importance of Latina space for the development and presentation of writing?

A Latina space is very important, it was something that was definitely missing. There are stories, songs, skits, that only we can tell. We hope to nurture and inspire others, and if nothing else at least provide an opportunity for fraternity and networking.

How would you say Proyecto Latina offers something different than the slam/spoken word scene, particularly as it seems that slam is now a pigeonhole for many writers of color?

Most if not all, of our feature performers are working on very exciting projects. I personally am always asking for demo cd’s or encouraging self-publication of chapbooks, or online blogs—anything to get our work out there. We are always making a ton of announcements about other events, we are most definitely a busy crowd. We are writers and artists of color but we’re not letting that hold us back.

Who would be in your dream line-up and why?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. There is so much to pick from. Would this be a one hour event or a four day festival?

Where do you see Tianguis and Proyecto Latina ten years from now?

Tianguis will hopefully have more bookshelves, cover a lot more square footage, and have the resources stock more books and host more readings by Latino writers. Proyecto Latina will still take place the third Monday of every month, and a new generation of Latinas will be making their contributions.

bookshelf photo credit: Cindy Mosqueda aka Cindylu/

Irasema Gonzalez
2003 S. Damen
Chicago, IL 60608


More news from Teatro Luna

For Immediate Release
May 29, 2007

Coya Paz (773.315.2575/

Teatro Luna and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum collaborate in


a new performance series

Teatro Luna and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum join forces to showcase new works by emerging, Chicago-based performing artists. Curated by Teatro Luna’s Co-Artistic Directors/Co-Founders Coya Paz, Tanya Saracho, and Managing Director Carol Ng, this unique series, named OYE- LISTEN!, features 2 to 3 artists or performance groups each month, followed by a half-hour post-show discussion at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

This collaboration between Teatro Luna and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum aims to provide women artists of color a space to share personal stories and reflect on contemporary social issues facing their community. OYE- LISTEN! will be an opportunity for both professional and practicing performing artists who show extraordinary talent to share and exchange their work. By remaining true to the lives and experiences of women of color, this series creates bridges among Chicago ethnic communities.

Place: Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Residents’ Dinning Hall (800 S. Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60607)

Date: June 4, July 30, September 24, November 26 (Mondays)

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm Performance, 8:30pm – 9:00pm Post-show discussion

Performing artists: Lani Montreal, Yolanda Nieves, Sandra Santiago-Posadas, Gesel Mason, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cristal Sabbagh, Francis Allende-Pellot, and more!

This event is FREE.

Light refreshment will be provided at the event.

Reservations are recommended. Call Jane Addams Hull-House at 312.413.5353

About Jane Addams Hull-House Museum:

The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is part of UIC College of Architecture and the Arts and serves as a dynamic memorial to social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jane Addams (1860-1935) and other resident social reformers whose work influenced the lives of their immigrant neighbors as well as national and international public policy. The Museum's exhibits and public programs preserves and develops the original Hull-House site for the continuation of the historic settlement house vision, linking research, education, and social engagement.

About Teatro Luna:

Teatro Luna is Chicago’s first and only all-Latina theater company. Founded by Tanya Saracho and Coya Paz in 2000, Teatro Luna is dedicated to expanding the range of Latina/Hispana representation on the Chicago stage and beyond. Previous shows include Generic Latina, Dejame Contarte, Kita y Fernanda, The Maria Chroniclesm Solo Latinas, S-e-x-Oh!, Quita Mitos, and Lunaticas.

Lisa Alvarado


cindylu said...

I dropped in to Tianguis when I visited Chicago last month. Not only was the tea good, but I found some cute things to buy. I also left my chisme in the box. I think it was the chosen one for the Proyecto Latina myspace page! Heh.

Sandra Alvarado said...

Great blog!! I love the concept, content and the cultura....