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Dagoberto Gilb discusses his new literary magazine, Huizache

April 26, 2013|By Hector Tobar

No, New York understands this no better than Washington, D.C. How many Latinos are editors? Are any from western states or their universities, let alone MexAm? There is simply no awareness of the Chicano, a MexAm world in the East. Their perception is what’s been around for a century. Thus, the usual stories are promoted: the exotic, untamed, tequila’ed Mexico (“Under the Volcano,” or Kerouac & Burroughs adventure), or as Mexican nationals even if the setting’s in the U.S.; or how we just crossed the border (despite being here a couple hundred years now, and the curiously Spanish names of our mountains, rivers, and cities), Guadalupe-tattooed cholos in or out of prison (though, worst case number, 95% have non-gang lives).

Though this is a much larger discussion, it’s also true that we are responsible for showing the industry that there’s a market for complex stories from the real population of the West. In many respects, what I want Huizache to do is both external and internal: to raise the awareness (and market viability) not only for publishers, but to educate our own about our own beyond what’s marketed by East Coast publishing. As with real political changes in this country, we are only at the beginning of our artistic powers, stories, and verses, and we want to be able to promote it from within.

Well, moving across the Mississippi to the East Coast, in one of our emails back and forth you referred to the “Junot-ization” of the Latino lit scene. What did you mean by that? And how has Junot Diaz changed Latino and American lit?  

I’ve known Junot for almost 20 years, since he was my little brother (way smarter than me!), when he was only a literary hip-hop star, not the massive planet he’s become. It’s not on him that all questions Latino are most definitively answered by him (has he been asked where the best Mexican restaurant in L.A. is?), as if his is our experience and history. The man is super-smart and talented and funny, but he’s from New Jersey and teaches at MIT. He’s into Dominican culture and supporting it. Unlike us, his local mag is a national one, the New Yorker. All good for him.

Putting aside the Latino part, there’s nothing extremely new when you look at it clearly: Even Kerouac and Ginsberg were from there. It’s like watching an old Western: We’re supposed to be thrilled the stagecoach finally got here with the soprano and grand piano from the classier East. It’s not on him that our own region fawns as though it’s the way of their literary dreams. They don’t realize that buying him — better said, only buying him — and not our own stories makes New York publishing believe it has it right. Ours don’t realize that buying, say, Huizache (or any other of “our” publications), making it half-profitable, would generate far more opportunity for their career possibilities, because editors would become aware of the huge market in the West that is about being here. I myself love international lit, but we need some “buy local” consciousness so all stories aren’t shipped in — so at least our young can learn that where they were born and raised doesn’t doom them to only watching the high lives of "Mad Men."

And, finally, who are some of the new up-and-coming voices in the Southwest scene you're excited about? Who are the ones you think are most underappreciated?

I am no Stalinist, no doctrinal mandates or purity tests. Maybe it’s only because I’ve been a man so long, with traditionally male work (in construction for a decade and a half) or jobs dominated by men (back when I was a janitor, for instance, or even now in universities), I find it very cool that I’m seeing women writers, like women vocalists, doing the least clichéd, most fascinating and fresh work. Me, I want punk, I want classical, so long as it’s obsessed with what it’s doing and good. I hate do-gooder pedo. I like skilled art that knows the smartest, that doesn’t try to dupe the stupid or naïve. Willful craft. I want quality from artists who don’t think they ever get it right but move on anyway.


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