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Dagoberto Gilb discusses his new literary magazine, Huizache

April 26, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • Huizache magazine is a new Latino literary journal started by writer Dagoberto Gilb and based in South Texas.
Huizache magazine is a new Latino literary journal started by writer Dagoberto… (Huizache )

The writer Dagoberto Gilb is a believer in the literature of the American West and in the literature of the Latino United States. He’d prefer not to read any more novels that portray Latino people as stereotypical criminals and bumpkins. His own work — half a dozen books, including short story collections and novels — is a ferocious riposte to those writers and editors who perpetuate a one-dimensional vision of the Latino U.S.

Now Gilb is going to bat for Western and Latino lit in a new literary magazine called Huizache that he’s started with the help of the Centro Victoria for Mexican Literature, based at the South Texas campus of the University of Houston-Victoria. The first two issues featured an all-star literary cast, including Sandra Cisneros, Juan Felipe Herrera, Sherman Alexie and Gary Soto and art by Patssi Valdez.

In this email interview, Gilb speaks with characteristic candor about his new magazine, the “Junot-ization” of the Latino lit scene, and what he doesn’t like in Latino lit, including “do-gooder pedo,” by which he means work that patronizes Latino subjects.

Why have you decided to start a literary journal now, since supposedly printed words are dead?

Wow, you’re catching onto my most dazzling flaw in a first line of query! Dead lit, yes sir, that’s my baby mama. For lots of years in my life I didn’t know there was anything but. It was dead writers I loved to read. I couldn’t find American writers who lived wherever it was I was living (L.A. or El Paso). I’m so into it, I didn’t even realize I was writing in that non-contemporary vein of lit myself! So yeah, I still like work to be so out-of-it that it appears in these paper and bound dealios once called ‘magazines’ [mag-ah-ZYEEN]. Worse, I want for others what I have wrought unto myself — a home for those who love lit but come from unseen bad neighborhoods or maybe in the boonies or too close to a busy freeway or border, not in the mainstream suburbs or upper eastsides. A mag that puts us in the printed center. But hey, wait, soon we're going online a little bit too.

Why call it Huizache? And why call it "the" Latino literary journal?

“Huizache” is a Nahuatl word meaning “a real lot of thorns.” It’s also a type of acacia tree native to Mexico and well known in Texas, less fondly to farmers in South and East Texas, where they have trouble ridding their fields of it, whereas to Chicanos, many know the tree blooming (yellow flowers) in the backyard of their childhood homes. I think the metaphorical usage, from this point, will be apparent to most readers. I want to add that in Texas huizache gets pronounced in a mandatory, reduced to two-syllables form required of all Mexican words. We at Huizache magazine insist on the actual three syllables within the word and do not think we are talking Spanish when we say huizache anymore than we are when saying taco.

As to the “the” in “the magazine of Latino literature.” Oralé and oh yeah, that’s right, that’s us! You tell me who else has done what we’ve done in two issues alone? And that’s so far. And we’re in Victoria, Texas. You go, Uh, where? And I go, See what I’m saying?! Just think, and just wait. It’s our Paris Review, that’s why, and we’ve only started.

One can't help but notice that many if not most of your contributors are from the western side of the Mississippi River. Is cultivating that Southwestern Latino voice one of your missions?

The Southwest and Texas, yes, but as much so the West. There are so many magazines that “matter” on the East Coast already, it’d be hard for anyone to mention one that isn’t from there. Established media equalizes (roughly speaking) the nation’s Latino demographics into fourths (Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican), despite the fact that Mexican Americans are around 75% of the whole. It’s interesting to me that President Obama, who’s from Hawaii and or Chicago, chose a Cuban American to represent Latinos in his second inauguration. Imagine the impact in the West had he chosen a MexAm (that’s my non-gendered shorthand), the only group overwhelmingly from the West.

As one of the handful of Latino literary voices of the Southwest who's cracked New York publishing again and again, is New York publishing starting to get the difference, the diversity in Latino voices? Or do they still think a Dominican is telling the same story as a Texan?

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