Monday, June 14, 2010


Rigoberto González is the author of eight books and the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing recently published by the University of Arizona Press. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, winner of the American Book Award, and The Poetry Center Book Award, he writes a Latino book column for the El Paso Times. He is contributing editor for Poets and Writers Magazine, on the Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle, and is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers—Newark, State University of New Jersey.

Rigoberto kindly agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the Camino del Sol anthology:

DANIEL OLIVAS: What role has the Camino del Sol series played in Chicano and Latino literature?

RIGOBERTO GONZÁLEZ: Whether the University of Arizona Press was aware of this or not, by championing this literary series devoted exclusively to publishing Chicano/Latino authors for the past sixteen years, the press has been keeping a cultural record of Chicano/Latino literature in the new millennium. The extensive and distinguished list of authors in the series is a veritable who’s who and this has made it an attractive place for early career writers to submit quality work. Thankfully, the series has always kept its doors open to new voices, fomenting an incredible community of artists that will sustain a dynamic and energetic list of talent as the press moves into the next decade. The reputation of Camino del Sol titles continues to grow, solidifying its place as one of the most important and visible Chicano/Latino literary series in the nation.

DO: How long did it take you to compile the poems, stories and essays that were eventually chosen for the anthology?

RG: I had read or reviewed for The El Paso Times most of the titles by the time Patti Hartmann (the acquisitions editor of the University of Arizona Press) approached me about undertaking this project. But I did have to reread most of the titles (close to 50 books) with the help of my graduate assistant Diego Báez. Together, we read, selected and retyped all of the entries within one year. Few of the authors had any idea this anthology was being put together and none had any input on the selections. I wanted to create a narrative of sorts, reflecting the political and social changes that were in the air, and as editor I made the choice to strategize independently. But I was guided by the power and beauty of the writing. This was, I felt, the true testament of the series--how the authors’ language, voices and ideas remain relevant to the times and environments we live in.

DO: Did you notice a difference between the earlier pieces and the newer ones?

RG: Whatever I come up with in terms of an answer is immediately proven false. About the only thing I can come up with is that the series eventually owned up to the inclusive term Latino. From 1994 to 2001, the series published exclusively Chicano writers, but then came the Caribbean writers like Virgil Suárez and the late Rane Arroyo, and more recently the South American writers Braulio Muñoz, Kathleen de Azevedo and Marjorie Agosín. There’s still room for other traditions and nationalities, and it will be exciting to see what will come next.

DO: Though you were already familiar with the Camino del Sol writers and their works, did you have any epiphanies or encounter any surprises as you dug deep into the catalogue?

RG: There were very few books or authors I wasn’t already familiar with, but I was pleased to have a chance to reread some of the earlier titles by Juan Felipe Herrera, Demetria Martínez and Luis Alberto Urrea. I first read those books while I was still in college, so I experienced a pang of nostalgia for the days I was just beginning to discover my literary history and lineage. And look at how far we have all come. (On a side note, I just realized that all three of them were attending the National Latino Writers Conference in Albuquerque last month. It’s great to see that they’re still active and living examples of generous and productive writers.) Maybe we can add that to the importance of Camino del Sol--it has kept our Chicano/Latino role models in print!

DO: What are your hopes for this anthology? What do you want readers to “get” from it?

RG: I think readers will be pleasantly surprised to recognize how aesthetically, politically and culturally diverse Chicano/Latino literature is. There is no “one way” to shape identity or express it, no “one way” to write as a Chicano/Latino writer in terms of language, subject matter or sensibility. That’s a strength, accepting and encouraging our artistic differences, because it will help us come together and move forward in solidarity, especially during these hostile times. Chicano/Latino writers are important, and what we have to say matters. Camino del Sol, the series and the anthology, is not simply a venue for art, it is a venue for life--our lives. It’s not only a record, it is a future. And if we don’t keep our lives and futures vibrant with poetry and story, it will be that much easier to erase us. Let’s keep ourselves living and writing.

DO: Mil gracias for spending time with La Bloga.


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