Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crónica/Photo Gallery: Letras Latinas in Kansas City

Kansas City Chronicle
by Xánath Caraza

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Fred Arroyo and Richard Blanco were invited to read from their recently published books, Western Avenue and Other Fictions (University of Arizona Press, 2012) by and Looking for the Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), respectively. Arroyo and Blanco made appearances at The Writers Place and the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC).  Their visit was co-sponsored by Bernardin Haskell Funds, the UMKC Latina/Latino Studies Program, the UMKC Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, The Latino Writers Collective, the Riverfront Reading Series, and The Writers Place in Kansas City. I’d like to take a moment to thank Miguel Carranza, Ph. D., Director of the Latina/Latino Studies Program at UMKC and Francisco Aragón, Director of Letras Latinas, who both graciously supported every step in creating this event.  Scott Baker, Ph.D., Chair of the UMKC Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures also supported what in the end was a wonderful two-day event.

A welcome brunch at The Writers Place with the Latino Writers Collective launched the series of activities planned for both Arroyo and Blanco on Sunday, September 16th.  Subsequently at 4 p.m., a reading at The Writers Place, hosted by Riverfront Reading Series, took place. The reading started with Blanco reading his poetry and finalized with Arroyo’s reading from his short story collection.  After their presentations, there was time for a book signing and an opportunity for our audience to visit informally with our guest authors.

On September 17th, UMKC celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with Arroyo’s and Blanco’s campus visit.  A reading took place at 11 a.m. at the Language Resource Center for the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.  The program was kicked off with a reception followed by Dr. Carranza’s introductions. Angela Elam and her team from New Letters on The Air recorded the event and, in the near future, this recording will be available on-line.  Approximately fifty people, including students and faculty, attended.

After a reading and Q and A session, both Arroyo and Blanco went beyond their pages and shared personal stories and anecdotes.  For example, when asked about a poem Blanco had shared in which he code-switched, Blanco discussed how his use of both Spanish and English tended to be within different contexts.  Spanish was an affective language for him he used with his family and English happened to be the language he felt comfortable in for professional endeavors.  Arroyo, answering a similar question about influences from both Spanish and English, shared that as he studied and developed his writing style, he began to realize how he had melded a “latinization” into his writing style in English. 

Arroyo’s and Blanco’s visit to Kansas City wrapped up with classroom visits that resulted in meaningful and enriching dialogues with students. What a great way for Kansas City to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you, Fred. Thank you, Richard. And now for your viewing pleasure, some photos.
Fred Arroyo
reading at The Writer's Place
Richard Blanco and the audience
at The Writer's Place
UMKC students enjoying Fred's and Richard's books
before the reading at UMKC on 9/17
before the reading at UMKC on 9/17
Los libros: 
Looking for The Gulf Motel
Western Avenue and Other Fictions, The Region of Lost Names
Miguel Carranza, Director of Latina/Latino Studies Program 
introduces Poet Richard Blanco 
and Author Fred Arroyo at UMKC on 9/17
Richard Blanco reading from Looking for The Gulf Motel 
at UMKC on 9/17
Fred Arroyo reading from Wester Avenue and Other Fictions 
at UMKC on 9/17
Q&A  after the reading at UMKC on 9/17
Richard Blanco, Miguel Carranza, Fred Arroyo, Scott Baker, 
Xanath Caraza at UMKC on 9/17 at the end of their reading
Richard Blanco at UMKC on 9/17
Fred Arroyo at UMKC on 9/18
Fred Arroyo at UMKC on 9/18

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