When Texas Poet Laureate and former San Antonio Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero assumed leadership over the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center‘s Macondo Writer’s Workshop last year, she remembered the sense of love and familia she felt during the 2013 Macondo Writer’s Workshop, after her grandfather – “the light of my life” – passed away not long before.
As Guerrero sat grieving among her fellow Macondo participants, or Macondistas, she was comforted and supported. It felt like she was home. In fact, Macondo is a fictional town described in Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the hometown to the Buendía family who play a key role in the story.
When the Macondo leadership was placed into her hands nearly a year ago, she wondered “what it was that I could possibly give to such an important entity that had functioned without me for 20 years already? And as with anything else, the answer was love,” she told a group of more than 100 people at the Macondo Welcome Dinner at the Guadalupe Theater Wednesday night.
There are so many ways to give and receive love, she said, but it took being “split open, exposed, vulnerable” alongside her Macondistas for Guerrero to gain a sense of understanding of her capability to love and be loved.
That vulnerability, she realized, would help the Macondistas evolve as writers who enact social change, a key element that connects each of them. It is through her writing that Guerrero is made aware of “where and upon what I stand. … It is where my voice takes shape, and with it the confidence to speak in those places I may or may not feel welcome in.”
Writing as activism is one of the key ideas the Macondo workshop’s founder, Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros, wanted to cultivate through the program that serves “writers who don’t fit in in other communities.” It should also be a safe place where “peers who come from your community, class, gender, sexuality can critique your work and support you and lift you up,” Cisneros told the Rivard Report in June.
In conjunction with the workshop, a select group of authors, including past Macondistas, will give free readings of their work at the Guadalupe Theater Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 16. This year’s Macondo program welcomes 45 writers from across the country and Central America. For the author lineup and to RSVP for a reading, click here.
Macondo was in need of resources and vision when Cisneros gifted it to the Guadalupe in 2013, said outgoing Guadalupe Executive Director Jerry Ruiz.
Guerrero, who is also the Guadalupe’s literary arts director, is perfect for the job because “she has the activist spirit, and she is a huge advocate for literature as well as for the people of our community,” Ruiz said. “I felt she would articulate a vision for how Macondo can continue to grow and flourish.”
So far, Guerrero has done more than keep the program afloat. Since she began managing it 11 months ago, the Macondo program’s budget doubled, she said, and new Macondo membership increased by 1,000% from last year. This is also the inaugural year of the Macondo Young Writers’ Workshop, a scholarship program that pays workshop fees for 20 high school writers.
Providing this opportunity for young writers to use their work to engage in dialogue and activism with experienced writers meant one of her “biggest dreams has come to fruition,” she said.
During the next five days, the Macondistas will participate in intensive and thoughtful critiques of each others’ work in the mornings, followed by forums regarding a variety of artistic, political, and spiritual issues related to writing. The program will not only be an opportunity for the participants to refine their writing and develop their portfolio, but also serve as means to build community in the midst of the tragedies that have plagued our country over the past few months, Guerrero said.
Together, she added, the Macondo Writers’ Workshop participants will create “this space for exploration, vulnerability, fight.
“Our nation is in mourning and we have gathered from so many different spaces,” she said, “but if we have been so privileged to gather in this way, we must do so in the name of love and be mindful of the gifts that have been placed before us, which is to say, each other.
“In this space, let us expose the parts of ourselves that need cultivating and that tender, tender push toward light.”
Top image: Texas Poet Laureate and former San Antonio Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero is head of the Guadalupe’s Macondo Writers’ Workshop. Photo by Camille Garcia.