Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Macondo Workshop

Gregg Barrios of San Antonio sent us a heads up about Sandra Cisneros's annual Macondo Workshop and an article in the San Antonio Express-News about the week-long event. Gregg is mentioned in the article - congratulations on the play and its selection for the Tennessee Williams Festival - and assures us that it is okay with the author of the article, Susan Yerkes, and the Express-News if we reproduce the article here on La Bloga. Gregg is a former Book Editor for the Express-News, so we are trusting his opinion and posting most of the article for La Bloga readers. The piece is loaded with news about literary stars such as raúlrsalinas and Helena María Viramontes, recipients of the first Gloria Anzaldúa Milagro Award; John Phillip Santos; Frances Treviño; and others.

You can find the original article here. And you can check out the Macondo website here.

'La Sandra's' writing workshop creates sense of family, service
Web Posted: 08/13/2006 10:37 PM CDT
Susan Yerkes, San Antonio Express-News

As the fifth annual Macondo writer's workshop winds down here today, Sandra Cisneros is seeing one of her dearest dreams come true. This year, led by "La Sandra," the Macondistas (workshop participants) honored two groundbreaking Mexican American writers, raulsalinas and Helen Maria Viramontes, with its first Gloria Anzaldúa Milagro Award.
Anzaldúa, born poor in East L.A., worked her way through college to become a leading voice in Chicana literature before diabetes led to her early death at 61.

raulsalinas, (and that's his own poetic version of his name), a poet and founder of La Resistencia bookstore in Austin, has been struggling with cancer for several years. Viramontes, Cisneros said last Sunday night, has been spending most of her time with a sister in hospice care who is close to death.

The Anzaldúa awards give writers involved in their communities, who often lack insurance and funds for health care, financial help to come to S.A. for a week of pampering — home-cooked dinners, massages and other creature comforts — during the weeklong, annual Macondo workshop. In Cisneros' words, the awards "recognize the role of community in taking care of our own and of the importance of taking time out to heal ourselves."

"Writing is like learning to cut your own hair," she told the old and new workshop members and their S.A. supporters at an opening night dinner. "There's only so much you can do alone. Somebody has to help you with the back. We're all here to help each other with the back."

Family values
Strong family ties are a crucial source of support in Mexican American and Latino communities, and Cisneros is creating not just a week of sharing, but a year-round support system, based in San Antonio, for writers from many cultures. Henry Cisneros (no relation to La Sandra, by the way) has often called S.A. the "city of the future" because of our multicultural community.
The Macondo workshops bring a river of multicultural literacy to San Antonio, and give other creative communities a model for supporting their own. Participants also get involved in service to the city while they're here. Last Wednesday, visiting writers worked with young folks in trouble at the Bexar County Youth Detention Center. And their schedule for this weekend included sharing their work with San Antonio at a Friday night reading at Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, and a Saturday night "Suavecito" show at Jump-Start Performance Company, which was to include a tribute to the late, beloved S.A. poet Trinidad Sanchez.

Writers among us
Father Virgilio Elizondo, Notre Dame scholar, former pastor of San Fernando Cathedral and author of "The Future is Mestizo," was on hand to help welcome new Macondo participants at the opening night dinner for the workshop, catered by El Mirador at the King William Gardens, next door to the popular St. Mary's Street café.

"1 Book 1 San Antonio" novelist John Phillip Santos was there, too, with poet and teacher Frances Treviño. Playwright (and former Express-News Book Editor) Gregg Barrios was also on hand, accepting congratulations on his new play about Tennessee Williams, "Rancho Pancho," which will be presented at the international Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans next spring.

And OLLU Prez Teresa Pollock got a big hand of thanks in absentia for opening the doors of the university dorms and meeting rooms to visiting Macondistas during the workshop.
"Tessa Pollock," Cisneros said, "is the only president I've ever met of anything who immediately said 'What can I do for you?' when I called." High praise indeed.

Susan Yerkes' column appears on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Call her at (210) 250-3542, or e-mail

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