As an MFA student at Notre Dame and as a member of the Institute for Latino Studies, one of the many privileged moments I’ve been able to enjoy is that of participating in intimate conversations with key figures in Latino/a letters. At Notre Dame’s Morri’s Inn, I had the opportunity to meet John Phillip Santos, who joined us for breakfast after a morning run in anticipation of his featured reading. John’s inquiring of my opinion, background and literary interests struck me as sincere and generous. Our conversation was incredibly diverse ranging from reminiscing about his time as a Notre Dame undergraduate to his time in England as a Rhodes Scholar to the exponential violence that has taken Mexico hostage since President Calderon’s militarization of the drug conflict.
On October 11, 2011 John Phillip Santos—author, filmmaker, journalist and the first Mexican-American recipient of a Rhodes scholarship—read from his most recent book “The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire.” The lecture was followed by a taped interview for Letras Latinas’ Oral History Project conducted by Professor José Limón.
This twenty-six minute interview offers an insightful look at John Phillip Santos’ early years at Notre Dame—his alma mater—and his formation as a writer; taking us on a literary trip through what Professor Limón refers to as “Greater Mexico,” England and the U.S.. Along that literary trip we meet those writers who influenced Santos as a young man. This conversation quickly broadens to include Santos’ affirmation of indigeneity as a valid tradition of antiquity—indigeneity in the same breath as the biblical or Greco-Roman traditions we are quick to assume are the great traditions of antiquity. Santos’ offers here a compelling argument at the way ancestral stories are recovered and recounted and the resulting distance that exists between those stories and their descendants.
Click here to enjoy the interview and also check out the other gems in this video library.
John Phillip Santos
Francisco Aragón welcomes the public
Professor Limón introduces John Phillip Santos
Audience at John Phillip Santos reading
Santos with ILS Director, Gil Cardenas
Professor Limón and John Phillip Santos interview