More than two decades ago, a small group of writers from across the country gathered around the dining room table of iconic Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros. She invited them to her home in King William to exchange their written stories, ideas, and perspectives as writers who work to enact social change.
This meeting and subsequent ones in the years following would become known as the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, a place where “writers who don’t fit in in other communities” could critique each other’s work and build a network of support among each other, Cisneros told the Rivard Report last week.
The workshop was born, she said, because she needed such a community of writers in San Antonio.
“The work we do as writers is very individual,” Cisneros said. “A lot of time our families don’t know what we’re doing and don’t understand, so it’s really important to create a connection so that you have peers who come from your community, class, gender, sexuality who can critique your work and support you and lift you up so that your writing will have a long shelf life.”
In 2013, Cisneros gifted the Macondo program to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center when she prepared to leave San Antonio for her new home in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. The program has lived on ever since.
On Wednesday, July 13 at 6:30 p.m., the newest group of Macondo writers, or Macondistas, will convene for the 2016 Macondo Welcome Dinner and Fundraiser at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
The night will feature workshop leaders reading samplings of their work, as well as a keynote address by Texas Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero, who was chosen in 2015 to spearhead Macondo’s next phase.
For a list of the 2016 Macondistas, click here.
While the majority of Macondistas are Latino/a, writers of all backgrounds and genres from all over the country apply to the five-day, master’s level workshop and are accepted through a blind peer review process. Along with intensive and thoughtful workshopping of each others’ work in the mornings, the Macondistas participate in forums regarding a variety of artistic, political, and spiritual issues related to writing.
Cisneros said a main focus of the workshop is to develop each other’s work so that it can be the best it can be.
“I want people to finish their work and publish it,” Cisneros said. “I want it to be good when it’s published so it has a long shelf life. I don’t want it to get destroyed and they never write again. I want these artists to be artists for life and I want their books to outlive them and reach readers and make them hang on because they can see themselves in books finally.”
Erasmo Guerra is a Rio Grande Valley native and was one of the first 13 writers Cisneros invited to her home for the Macondo workshop.
“That summer it was just like I’d found my tribe, I found an incredible group of people who were not just community, but family,” he said. “There was something different about the work that was being put out there versus at other workshops I had been to. It wasn’t a competition, but instead about how we can help each other to be the best that we can be in our own work and for our own communities.”
Many, including Cisneros, have worried about the future of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop. Cisneros said she had to “divorce” herself from the program so that it could grow on its own, but without adequate funding, Macondo would not be able to continue offering writers and social activists an outlet for their work. But the program seems to be on an uptick.
According to the Guadalupe’s website, “this year’s number of applicants rose over 1000% from last year; the new 2016 Macondistas range from champion spoken-word artists to NEA award winners to organizers of other national writing festivals and conferences and are coming to us from all over the country and Central America.”
This year also will be the first to welcome local high school students to the Macondo YOUNG Writers’ Workshop. The program will be held concurrently with the regular Macondo workshop so that the students can interact with the more experienced writers. Guerrero was unable to be reached about the new program before time of publication.
Cisneros was glad to hear about Macondo’s growth, but still believes that “it’s a crucial time” for the program financially.
“I want to see people make a donation, and think about supporting the younger writers,” she said. “That’s the whole purpose of the Macondo Workshop, that the younger writers become better writers.”
Guerra agreed. The local and national community would be at a serious loss if Macondo disappeared, he said.
“There’s such a need for artwork that makes people think, that unsettles, that riles up, especially in these times where there’s so much rhetoric about marginalized communities, about Mexicans, gays and lesbians, religious minorities,” he said.
“It’s such an important thing to have alternative spaces and organizations like Macondo that speak to and champion all kinds of diversity of voice.”
Top image: The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Photo by Scott Ball.