Named after the fictional town in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Macondo Writers Workshop gathers socially-engaged writers from across the country for a week of classes and community building at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. What started as a small gathering of like-minded writers in Sandra Cisneros’s King William home 24 years ago has grown into a highly-regarded workshop with classes led by esteemed authors like United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez, and, most recently, Cisneros herself.
As master of ceremonies for the Macondo 2018 open mic at Viva Tacoland in San Antonio last July, I was blessed to usher in the work of the workshop participants. We were under a full moon, on the eve of a new Mayan cycle, during the rebirth of Macondo.
The work was thrilling, but you can judge this for yourself as you read the Viva Macondo series, chronicling the work from our collective. This is the first time work from Macondo is collected and published in a public volume of any kind, and it is the next step in quantifying, cultivating, and accelerating our community’s cultural capital.
Macondo founder Sandra Cisneros is a potent example of the power of cultural capital. She is a best-selling writer, but also has profoundly invested in our community many times over. The writers movement she created over 20 years ago at her kitchen table, is a shining example of that.
The Macondo Writers Workshop is a week of writers of the highest level introducing new writers to the homeland that is Macondo. Writers engage in social justice, convening workshops, lectures, readings, celebrations, and serve their communities all over the country with an artist’s commitment to creating work and spaces for non-violent social change.
At the 2018 workshop’s closing dinner, Cisneros told us that Macondo had been in a coma, but this year was a renaissance.
When I left the Macondo gathering in San Antonio after an incredible week of mind-altering prose and poetry, I left a legacy of writers who profoundly understand what those lines I wrote mean, who live them, and thereby give those words more meaning. I was coming down from the intellectual adrenaline, that creative high, the electricity of community, familia, muses.
It is significant, accidental, or cosmically ordained that Macondo’s rampaging rebirth happened the first full year after Arizona’s racist ban of Mexican American Studies was overturned. This also happened the year that the Texas State Board of Education unanimously endorsed Mexican American Studies statewide, on the eve of the new Mayan cycle. Is this coincidence? Synergy? Resistance?
I believe that policy change is the tip of the pyramid, and cultural capital is the base that stretches across our collective nations. Cisneros told us, “I didn’t create Macondo to start a literary movement. I started it because I was alone. I wanted familia.” Those are the exact principles and ethos of cultural capital.
For many of these writers, including myself, our first job was as translator, either of language or culture as we negotiated the world for our parents, our communities. We knew the power of words because heavy responsibility passed through us between institutions to our families: paying the correct amount at the grocery store, explaining our own school report cards, being the first to go to college. Back then our job was to translate the outside world. Now our job is to translate our community to the rest of the world.
And the party continues.
Long live Macondo.
Related: More ‘Viva Macondo’ entries