Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Another Alternative: MACONDO

Sandra Cisneros shares the anecdote year in and year out with the "first years" aka "Mocosos y Mocosas": one of the principal reasons she started Macondo was because of her alienating experience as an MFA student at Iowa, as well as her unsatisfactory experience as a creative writing instructor in academia. Macondo, then, was an "alternative" creative writing community that got started in San Antonio in the mid 1990s. Below are 20 images from the 2009 edition, which concluded less than a week ago. And below that is Macondo's "Compassionate Code of Conduct"---a seminal document, in my view, and one that's worth a read for those of us who hold and bring certain values to this table. I re-visit it, now and then, to remind myself what really matters.

Photos courtesy of Macondistas

Jenn De Leon &Lilliana Valenzuela

Sandra Cisneros & Jenn De Leon

Sandra Cisneros & Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Jessica Lopez

Seated: Amada Irma Pérez, Fan Wu & John Olivares Espinoza (workshop instructors), Reggie Scott Young, Margo Chavez-Charles. Standing: Liliana Valenzuela, John Pluecker, Toni Plummer, Elaine Beale, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Ellen Wadey, Jenn De Leon, Ching-In Chen, Francisco Aragón, Miryam Bujanda (Macondo board member). Third row, standing: Sehba Sarwar, Linda Rodriguez, Josslyn Luckett.

late dinner after "Cafe Nostalgia"

Resistencia Bookstore @ Macondo

Beatriz Terrazas & René Colato Laínez

Linda Rodriguez, Sehba Sarwar, Jenn De Leon. Liliana Valenzuela

Levi Romero & Liliana Valenzuela

Charles Rice-Gonzalez & John Pluecker ("JP")

Reggie Scott Young & Macondo Board President Bill Sanchez. Vicente Lozano chatting with Amada Irma Perez.

Francisco Aragón, Margo Chavez-Charles, Ruth Behar

Sandra Cisneros @ Casa Navarro

Jessica Lopez @ Casa Navarro

Elaine Beale @ Casa Navarro

Liliana Valenzuela @ Casa Navarro

In afternoon seminar

Beatriz Terrazas & Belinda Acosta leading their seminar "How Writing Short Can Help Your Longer Works"

Las Dos Normas Workshop:
front center: Deborah Miranda
Standing: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Norma Cantú, Norma Alarcón, Sehba Sarwar, Jessica Lopez, Liliana Valenzuela

hanging with Sandra


For one precious week out of each year, we come to Macondo to share our work, to learn from each other, to befriend one another, and to re-commit ourselves to our writing in a supportive environment. We have an opportunity to create the world we would like to live in every day — to create a kind, generous, respectful, creative, and passionate community. We also have an opportunity to be our most generous selves — engaging in the daily work of creating Macondo, checking our egos at the door, recognizing the divine spark within others, fostering creativity and well-being in others, and sharing what we most authentically can offer.

In order for this work of creating community to flourish, it is necessary to establish certain boundaries. These boundaries are not meant to curtail individual freedoms or to spoil anyone’s fun. Rather, they are self-preserving and community-preserving. To put it simply, we forefront the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a spiritual cornerstone derived from Macondo’s Buddhist, Feminist, communal, and activist roots. It is a practice motivated by having witnessed marginalization in our communities, and it is a compassion applied with the resolve to treat each other better. We approach each other as guests from different worlds, with the common impulse to create. Mindfulness serves to ensure that we, as individuals and as a group, envision and re-vision what compels us to work together towards the Macondo mission of art for humanity’s sake.

This is not to say that we avoid conflict. Because we are a community of writers learning to be better artists and better people, we understand that in questioning the world, we sometimes question each other. In many cases, the friction between our fruitfully disturbed worlds necessitates another Macondo virtue — learning from Difference. We acknowledge that respectful disagreements can be extremely productive in many settings, including our workshops. Even when it is uncomfortable, challenging each other’s work or ideas is an essential part of growing and learning — as writers, activists, and human beings.

Many of us come from places where we’ve been involved in long-term conflicts and have learned extremely valuable survival skills, including persistence, skepticism, and a willingness to confront others. But in declaring ourselves present, we do not get to silence anyone else. In fact, such behavior is paradoxical. Our community is collective; by suppressing another voice, we shut an unrecognized part of ourselves down. Everything is an ongoing discussion. No one should consciously or unconsciously be working to shut down dialogue. No one can expect to have the last word or to persuade everyone of the rightness of their opinion. Our words can only open the next door, the one out to a nighttime back yard where we realize how small we stand beneath the sky.

No comments: