Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Welcome to EpicentroAmerica: "An Anthology of U.S. Central American Poetry and Art"

Foreword

The Epicentro collective has its history of transitions and what Maya Chinchilla calls “generations.” Epicentro itself emerged from a meeting brought together by Raquel Guítierrez and Marlon Morales. Named after the group’s first reading Epicentroamerican@s coined by Gustavo Guerra Vasquez, one of the original members and all co-founders, Jessica Grande, Dalilah Mendez, and Gustavo joined efforts with Raquel and Marlon to shape this unique and vibrant cultural group.

The anthology also has its history. A previous version was put together for a Central American Literature conference at Cal State Northridge (2001?). The current version began in 2005 at a barbecue at Mario Escobar’s house. Some members gathered to revive the group and to dream up a book of poems. This project is not about Epicentro specifically, but about all US Central Americans. In 2006, Maya came in motivating others to submit their work. Having been awarded the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at UCLA allowed for me to devote time to fulfilling the project. I have done so both as a scholar and poet involved in a labor of love. I too grew up yearning for stories of someone like me—a centroamericana poet and artist raised Pico-Union.
The anthology comes from our own interests in the cultural work of Central Americans born or raised in the U.S. and the void that currently exists in bookstores, academia and the media on the lives and stories of our people.

Each poet expresses a unique political, aesthetical, emotional, and intellectual viewpoint: I found Jessica’s bold work moving through the musicality of her words that sashay like dance. Leisy’s poignant reflections cut deep into yearning and conflict of family and self as a cultural poignancy shared also in Rossana’s and Leyda’s poems. Mario’s compelling work astonishes through the harsh realities of being a survivor. For most poets like Janssen, Johnnito, and Ernesto, politics have an aesthetic, and aesthetics are political. Gustavo’s bilingual and transnational work wittingly represent these concepts. Milta, Ana, Anayvette, and Maya build on these tropes to recenter and divulge the juiced and labored complexity of gender and sex. Marlon’s intense work speaks a naked honesty that all poets attempt to disclose whether in structural form, personal narrative, or historical reflection. Melissa pensively paints each line to awaken memory. Hugo epitomizes epicentro as he inspires all with his wise and jazzed infused art forms. Dalila’s evocative art visualize these same poetic concerns, while Raquel boldly and powerfully speaks in word and image.

This labor of love remains unfinished unless it is held close to the heart, smudged with use, and passed around. Join us in the effort to reflect, possibly empathize, and hear the memories, visions, lands, and peoples we carry. Hear the love.

Karina Oliva-Alvarado Co-editora






Introduction to forthcoming book:

This anthology is about creating a home for those who have lost their home, who were taken from their home, who had it stolen, who decided it was time to leave and for those who carry their home in their heart and need a place to rest. It is about recovering, documenting and making our own histories and demanding their rightful place among cultural, political and literary movements. We give our testimony to resurrect memory, inspire action, to laugh loudly and to heal old wounds.

We are often asked why we want to distinguish ourselves as Central Americans. Why not just join in or blend into other cultural and political movements that have more established visibility and community support? Many of us are a part of community spaces where we work as a part of or in solidarity with communities of color, queer folks, immigrants, and educators. But we feel the need to create a space for our own U.S. Central American voices, which are still rarely heard. Ours are the voices that many of us wish we had heard more of growing up so we didn't feel so alone and invisible in our multicultural/multi-lingual realities.

This book also comes from finding solidarity and a home in the group EpiCentroAmerica that has since found its home in cyberspace. Founded in 2000, the group Epicentro or EpiCentroAmerica doesn't exist as it once did; meeting to workshop writings, organize events and perform as a collective. But our vital passion for doing creative work, the need to hear each other's voices and the desire to inspire new voices remains.

This anthology, an often talked about dream in Epicentro, is my contribution to cultivation of new spaces for Central American voices, the kind of voices that we have always wanted to hear; the conscious and empowered voices of compañeras/os who are immigrants, workers, students, mothers, fathers, children of the borderlands and a part of solidarity movements.

I hope you are moved to support this book and later published versions. The book will fulfill its goal if you find what you are looking for in it or if it inspires you to create what you want to see in the world.

Maya Chinchilla
Co-editora

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