Wednesday, March 23, 2016


One of the pleasures of directing Letras Latinas is forging all manner of relationships in various literary spaces. Some years ago, in San Antonio, TX, I had the pleasure of meeting Sara Campos at the Macondo Writers Workshop. In 2012, Sara was designated the Letras Latinas Residency Fellow.

Recently, I learned that Sara, along with Leticia Del Toro—both Bay Area natives—have embarked on a project that resonates with me: the curation of an anthology of Latino writing, whose working title is Canto a San Francisco.


What are you attempting to do in this collection?

Our intent is to showcase contemporary Latino writers, both established and emerging, in a multi-genre collection that evokes a deep sense of place and leaves readers with the lived experience of Latinos in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why are you doing this?

The Bay Area consists of approximately 7 million people, approximately 23% of which identify as Latino. Yet, despite the rich historical imprints left by Latino ancestors and the significant contributions Latinos are currently making in the Bay Area, our community remains largely invisible. When we are seen, it is often as Hollywood stereotypes -- migrants, drug dealers, nannies, and gardeners. We want to tear down clichés and feature stories that present the vast experiences of our community – we are lawyers, dancers, bankers, curanderas, vaqueros, tech moguls, abuelitas, teachers, punk poets, playwrights, sex workers, stockbrokers, santeros, cholos, queer parents, nuns and more. We want to the world to see the vibrant tapestry that makes up our community.

What was the impetus for this project? 

Over the past two decades, the Bay Area has undergone major demographic shifts. An influx of tech money and other wealth has changed the face of San Francisco and its surrounding cities. Streets that had been thoroughfares for low-riders are now dedicated for valet parking. Uptown Oakland is one of hippest foodie hoods in the nation. As hipster economies thrive, families that have lived here for multiple generations are being pushed out. From 2009-2013, the Mission District, one of San Francisco’s historic Latino neighborhoods, shrank by 27 percent.  A recent report from the San Francisco City Budget Analyst projected that the number of Latino households with children would drop from 21% in 2013 to 11% in 2025, with the overall population of Latinos dropping from 48% in 2009-2013 to 31% in 2025.

We feel these demographic changes intensely and personally. We are both Bay Area natives -- Sara was born and raised in San Francisco and Leticia is from Vallejo, California. We both now live in the East Bay, but maintain strong ties to San Francisco. We have seen the Bay Area shift in unprecedented ways.

Why focus on the Bay Area as a place?

Place goes beyond the setting – it is a character that shapes us and helps mold our identities. As Dorothy Allison so aptly says, “Place is not just what your feet are crossing to get to somewhere. Place is feeling, and feeling is something a character expresses…Place is emotion.”

Since its earliest recorded history, the Bay Area has demonstrated an open and rebellious spirit, its westernmost port open not only to people from all parts of the world, but to an abundance of ideas. It has birthed movements – from labor to free speech, Beats to Hippies to refugees of Central American wars and sexual minorities seeking freedom and acceptance. It has been a left-leaning area, often on the vanguard of change, a bellwether for the rest of the nation. It is also place of unparalleled physical beauty, wealth and poverty, and innovation. How has this magnificent tierra inspired us and given us our Latino identity? This anthology seeks to answer that question.

How might this collection differ from previous anthologies of Latino literature?
The last Latino anthologies appeared over a decade ago. Since then, new writing deserving national attention has emerged. We aim to showcase some influential pioneers as well as emerging contemporary voices. We want to curate a range of work that reflects the multitude of sensibilities and experiences that are unique to San Francisco and its surrounding communities. Readers are familiar with Jack London, Dashell Hammett, Mark Twain, Armistead Maupin, Ferlinghetti and the Beats, but can the average reader comment on the Latino literary landscape?  It definitely exists! Cultural centers and galleries offer readings featuring Latino talent year-round. We want to celebrate that talent and capture the pulse of the city, particularly now that gentrification forces are attempting to force us out.

The Librotraficante movement, the We Need Diverse Books campaign and the VIDA count are all manifestations of communities clamoring for more representation in distribution and publishing. Have any of these movements influenced your project?

Absolutely. At the start of the Librotraficante movement, many Latino scholars, writers, and educators felt that the works they had studied at universities, classics of ethnic studies courses and books that gave voice to Latino identities were being targeted. It was a battle cry. We realized we not only had a literary heritage to protect, but also have a responsibility to find and publish more Latino literature. By seeking out emerging voices we are sustaining a vision for the newer generation of readers. Both of us are mothers who are strongly invested in our young readers. We are constantly asking ourselves, “What kinds of stories and poems are not out in the world and still need to be told?”

Do you think your focus on one geographic area will have a limited regional appeal?

San Francisco is a world-class city and the Bay Area remains a place of infinite imaginative possibilities. We believe U.S. and international readers are curious about the region, its inhabitants, the movements it has birthed, and the cultural forces that shape it.

What are you looking for?

We are seeking fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that speak to the richly textured experiences that make up Latino experience today. We welcome experimental language and poetry in Spanish. We are especially interested in how Latinos navigate changes amongst the mélange of cultures and class differences that currently inhabit the Bay Area.

Who are some of your influences and Latino literary heroes?

Leticia: I love the poetry of Lucha Corpi, Alejandro Murguia and Juan Felipe Herrera. For fiction, I turn to Helena Maria Viramontes, Julia Alvarez, Luis Alberto Urrea, and of course, Junot Diaz. From Mexico, Elena Poniatowska and Juan Rulfo remain my favorites.

Sara: I second all of the above-mentioned writers and add Gloria Anzaldua, Sandra Cisneros, Richard Rodriguez, Cristina Garcia, Francisco Goldman, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Daniel Alarcon, and too many others to name.

Where should people send in their pieces? 

Writers should send their best work to
Please review the submission call here: 

                                      CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Canto a San Francisco – An anthology of Latino Writing (working title): A call for poetry, fiction, and essays by and about Latinos in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Who are we as Latinos in the Bay Area? This anthology aims to showcase our stories and impressions of beloved characters, barrios, movimientos, coastal hangouts, quinceañeras, street fights, business negocios, victories and sorrows. We are busboys, lawyers, dancers, bankers, curanderas, vaqueros, tech moguls, abuelitas, teachers, punk poets, playwrights, sex workers, stockbrokers, santeros, cholos, queer parents, nuns,  sci-fi nerds and more. Tell us about the Bay Area city that has cradled you, called you, exalted or abandoned you. We welcome triunfos, tragedias and everything in between as long as your work involves Latino characters who are rooted in the locales of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We want our lives present on the page.

Submission Guidelines: We are calling for submissions of fiction (up to 4000 words), poetry (up to 5 poems), and prose (up to 3000 words). All prose and poetry must be written by Latinos and must connect to the Bay Area. We want your most vibrant prose, poetry, and fiction. Spanish submissions welcome in poetry. Please submit a cover letter, specify the title of your piece, the genre, and any writing credits. Submit in rtf. doc., or pdf. Deadline: March 31st, 2016

Please send any inquiries and submissions to

About the editors:

Sara Campos is a writer, consultant, and immigrant rights attorney with an MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She has published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in a number of publications including, St. Anne’s Review, Rio Grande Review, Great River Review, Platte Valley Review, Cipactli, Colorlines, AlterNet Media, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is also the recipient of the Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, residencies with Hedgebrook and the Anderson Center, and has been a Voices of Our Nation (VONA) and Macondo fellow. She is currently writing a novel of historical fiction set in Spain and Guatemala.

Leticia Del Toro is a Xicana writer, arts activist and teacher from Northern California with roots in Jalisco, Mexico. Her work has appeared in Zyzzyva, Mutha Magazine and  Palabra, among others. Her awards include a Hedgebrook Residency for Women Authoring Change, a fellowship from the New York State Writers Institute and other prizes. She holds degrees from UC Berkeley, UC Davis and is a VONA Voices fellow. She is currently producing a short story collection, Café Colima, which was a finalist for the Maurice Prize in fiction from UC Davis.


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