Tag Archives: Latinidad

Tintero Projects: Writing/Righting Houston

Even though people from outside of Houston continue to think the city has no culture, H-Town is full of life and it’s “the literary world’s best-kept secret.” Besides being home to Arte Público Press, the University of Houston’s high-ranking MFA in Creative Writing, WITS, Inprint, Nuestra Palabra, WriteSpace, and Literal, Houston is now home to Tintero Projects. Founded by the visionary duo of Lupe and Jasminne Mendez, Tintero’s mission is to create a space to nurture the future Latin@ storytellers of the United States, with Houston as its main hub.

In March 2016, I interviewed Lupe about his activism, writing, and founding Tintero Projects:

For brown writers in the Houston-Galveston area, there aren’t any Latino-centric places to write from. There is no place to call home for Latino writing—no venues that host workshops or open mic nights for emerging Latinx writers. I want to change that. (…) I want to be able to help polish up new writers, set them up for success, get them ready for the time when they will get a bigger spotlight on the NP [Nuestra Palabra] stage, get them ready for the next platform.

If you haven’t read Lupe’s “Open Letter to the Houston Poetry Scene,” then open the link in a new tab and read it when you finish this blog.

Earlier this month, Tintero formally began with readings at Casa Ramirez and the Inprint House featuring powerhouse poets Yesenia Montilla, Denice Frohman, Malcolm Friend, and Raina León, with Lupe and Jasminne warming up the standing room only crowds. To bring these West and East Coast writers to the Gulf Coast was a powerful way to launch Tintero. As in many cases, the coastal bias tends to disregard the center of the country and the Gulf Coast especially. With Lupe and Jasminne at the helm, Tintero is bridging east and west and centering Houston as the epicenter in a literary movement that will see emerging Latin@ writers becoming the future of this nation’s literary arts scene (See: “Houston and Texas, the inkwells of poetry for Latino writers” by Olivia P. Tallet). The next phases of Tintero’s strategic plan will involve workshops and open mic nights for emerging writers.

Tintero launched with Latin@ fierceness that would ignite any community. Here, you had four knockout poets, three of which are Afro-Latin@ (not to mention Lupe and Jasminne who are knockouts in their own right). While this shouldn’t feel like a statement, it was. As Jasminne Mendez and Houston-based writer Icess Fernandez-Rojas have written about extensively, Afro-Latin@s still face issues of invisibility and identity policing even within their own communities (while I have you here, check out #TeatroLatinegro and Houston playwright Jelisa Jay Robinson’s work). I asked Icess to share some thoughts about Tintero:

For the first time in recent memory, there was more than one Afro-Latino writer reading in Houston at one time. See, Houston is one of the most literary cities in America but one thing it doesn’t have is a lot of Afro Latino writers.

The latest Tintero Reading was amazing. As an Afro Latino writer, it was air. The experiences of being in between two worlds – black and Latino – and existing in spaces where we have to choose, was apparent in their writing. From music to love, existing in this skin was painted their words and it was everything. I was seen that night and all my experiences were validated. This is what art does.

To use Tintero as a space to begin a dialogue about the intersections between Blackness and Latinidad in our community demonstrates the type of work that the project will undertake. Perhaps more now than ever, we need to be having nuanced conversations about Afro-Latinidad and multicultural identities.  And why shouldn’t the arts be the vehicle to ignite this conversation, to ignite social change?

5 Highlights from Tintero’s Launch:

  • Yesenia Montilla’s ode to rapper Notorious B.I.G., “Notorious.” You can read two of her poems here.
  • Denice Frohman’s poem that troubled the idea of “home.” Houston-based performer and playwright Josh Inocéncio was particularly inspired by Frohman’s poem about genocide: “Denice’s eloquent takedown of schools that ignore teaching genocide–creating a society with cultural amnesia–has inspired me to get into the classroom, the streets, the local newspaper (anywhere I can!) to educate students from all walks of life.”
  • Malcolm Friend’s poem about white people mistaking him for other black men who look absolutely nothing like him (even Philly’s Mayor Nutter!). I am waiting impatiently for Malcolm to finish his MFA and publish his book.
  • And Raina León’s, well, pretty much everything about her was perfection to me, but, if I had to choose, then the moment that touched me the most was the poem that began with her singing “Maybe” from Cabaret. Yes to an Afro-Latina Sally Bowles. Yes to Raina León. Yes to all of it!
  • Jasminne Mendez and Lupe Méndez both performed, warming up the crowd. Even though I could likely recite many of their poems from memory, I will never grow tired of hearing them both. They are familia to me and I will unwaveringly support them for as long as I can and you should, too.

While the poets (including Lupe and Jasminne) came from distinct cultural backgrounds and brought different life experiences to Tintero, all touched on the intricacies of identity in 2016 América. More so, all spoke to the power of art, poetry, and creative writing to heal both individual and community. Art is powerful. Art heals. Art saves. Art builds community. And as art does all of these things, so will Tintero Projects in Houston, Tejas, and across the Gulf Coast. I’ve known Lupe and Jasminne for years. They are change-makers. When they have a vision, they make it a reality. Houston is in for something special. Stay tuned.

Raina León reading at Tintero Projects

Raina León reading at Tintero Projects

Houston, We Have a Problem! Excluding Latina/o Stories in Tejas

In 2013, Smithsonian Magazine heralded Houston as the “Next Great American City,” citing its ethnic and cultural transformation over the last few decades as well as its reputation as a city where people can achieve the so-called “American Dream.” The Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University released a study that showed how Houston holds the nation’s most equitable distribution of the country’s major racial and ethnic groups: Asian, Latina/o, black, and white people. In Harris County, the demographics reveal that white people comprise only 33 percent of the population whereas Latina/os are 41 percent and African Americans 18.4 percent. In fact, of the population under 30-years-old, only 22 percent are white. The same year, an NPR feature celebrated this rich diversity. Still, in 2012 Pew Research Center ranks Houston as the most economically segregated city in the nation.

Houston is growing at an astronomical pace and there is no evidence that this is slowing down. Luckily, the arts are along for this ride. In 2015 and 2016 alone, the city has seen an unprecedented boom in the arts. The Alley Theatre just completed a $46.5 million makeover. The $25 million MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) opened with four theatres, an art gallery, rehearsal space, and office space. Main Street Theatre unveiled a $2 million overhaul of their space. AD Players Theater broke ground on a $49 million facility in the Galleria area that will house three theatres, a scenic shop, classrooms, and offices. Queensbury Theatre (formerly the Country Playhouse) opened its new $6.5 million theatre. And the Museum of Fine Arts Houston broke ground on its $450 million expansion (including a theatre).

Despite what the demographics and influx of cultural arts activity reveals, Latina/o representation on stage in Houston is few and far between. In the 2015–2016 theatre season, out of all the full productions at the city’s leading professional theatres such as the Alley, Stages Repertory Theatre, and Main Street Theatre, only two were by a Latina/o author: The Danube by Maríe Irene Fornés at Catastrophic Theatre and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz at Stages. To repeat, in a city with over 2.1 million people (over 5 million in the metro area) at least 40 percent of which are Latina/o, there were only two Latina/o plays produced during the entire professional theatre season. To me, these numbers are startling and reveal that Houston is wildly behind other places with similar demographic diversity across the country such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago where Latina/o stories are frequently seen on a variety of stages: big, small, Latina/o, LORT, university, high school—you name it.

Continue reading at Café Onda/HowlRound

#Syllabus4Ham: The HAMILTON Syllabus

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton debuted at The Public Theater in early 2015 it sparked a resurgence of theatre into the national zeitgeist, something unseen since Rent premiered in 1996. Seemingly everyone is talking about Hamilton. In fact, at the Final Four in Houston this past April I overheard two men discussing the musical during halftime of Villanova’s buzzer-beating win over North Carolina.

Hamilton is everywhere.

Including the classroom. One night while teaching my elementary Spanish course at the University of Houston, on a whim, I cut short my lesson about the preterite vs the imperfect and decided to introduce my students to Hamilton. The result? They loved it. While they seemed apprehensive about watching musical theatre clips on YouTube, they left the classroom with a newfound opinion about what a musical could be.

Seeing my students’ interest in Hamilton, I did a google search for “Hamilton syllabus.” While there is a syllabus, or a reading list, for nearly every current pop culture phenomenon, nothing exists on Hamilton. Until now.

The Hamilton Syllabus (#Syllabus4Ham) is organized according to the following resources: Criticism, Perspectives, Ham4Ham, and Interviews (with Alex Lacamoire, Javier Muñoz, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Lin-Manuel Miranda). I have limited my syllabus to resources that speak exclusively to the musical and it is my hope that someone else will create another syllabus that includes critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, performance theory, etc. to frame a critical discussion about Hamilton.

Whether you find yourself looking to include Hamilton in your high school or university classroom, want to write the next great musical, or just want to read more about the show, the resources below provide a starting point for conversations about Hamilton.

Hamilton 1

Criticism

Racializing the American Revolution Review of the Broadway Musical Hamilton – Donatella Galella (Advocate)

Why Hamilton is Not the Revolution You Think it is – James McMaster (Café Onda/HowlRound)

Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton – Lyra Monteiro (The Publican Historian)

Hamilton: the Musical: Black Actors Dress Up like Slave Traders…and It’s Not Halloween – Ishmael Reed (counter punch)

Hamilton– Stacy Wolf (The Feminist Spectator)

Hamilton missed a chance to highlight Haitian Revolution – Chinua Thelwell (Miami Herald)

Hamilton: Five Ways Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hip-Hopped History Musical Breaks New Ground – Jonathan Mandell (HowlRound)

Father Worship: Hamilton’s New World scripture – Peter Manseau (The Baffler)

Perspectives

Hamilton, Theatre, and Democracy in America – Patricia Herrera (Café Onda/HowlRound)

A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems – Rebecca Onion (Slate)

Watching A Brown ‘Hamilton’ With A White Audience – Gene Demby (NPR)

‘Hamilton’: Meet the Man Behind Broadway’s Hip-Hop Masterpiece – Brian Hiatt (Rolling Stone)

The Making of the Hamilton Cast Album – CBS News

Questlove on ‘Hamilton’ and Hip-Hop: It Takes One – Ahmir Questlove Thompson (Rolling Stone)

Exploring ‘Hamilton’ and Hip-Hop Steeped in Heritage – Anthony Tommasini and Jon Caramanica (New York Times)

How ‘Hamilton’ Is Revolutionizing the Broadway Musical – Alisa Solomon (The Nation)

Non-stop Between Subway Stops: Underground Reflections on Hamilton – Oscar A. L. Cabrera (Café Onda/HowlRound)

Mi tierra, my testimony: a #HamilTestimonio – Rebecca Martínez (Café Onda/HowlRound)

Ham4Ham

Pedagogy

Making His Story Their Story: Teaching Hamilton at a Minority-serving Institution – Erika Gisela Abad (Sounding Out!)

In the (Class)Room Where it Happens; Incorporating Hamilton into Theatre Curriculum – Heidi L. Nees (Theatre Historiography)

Teaching Hamilton: An American Musical as Contemporary American Drama – Sunny Stalter-Pace (Pedagogy & American Literary Studies)

Teaching Hamilton – Greg Specter (Pedagogy & American Literary Studies)

Teaching Revision through Hamilton: An American Musical – Caitlin L. Kelly (Pedagogy & American Literary Studies)

Early American Library History and Digital Humanities Using Hamilton – Laura Miller (Pedagogy & American Literary Studies)

Deconstructing Hamilton Lesson Plan – Heidi L. Nees

Hamilton Scavenger Hunt Lesson Plan – Heidi L. Nees

Ham4Ham

Ham4Ham: Taking Hamilton to the Streets – Trevor Boffone (Café Onda/HowlRound)

Hamilton’s Ham4Ham Preshow: The Complete Compendium (So Far) – Laura Reineke (Vulture)

The Show Is Nonstop – Forrest Wickman (Slate)

Broadway hit ‘Hamilton’ has a Web win on its hands – Rae Votta (Daily Dot)

Hamilton Collage

Alex Lacamoire

Que Onda? with Alex Lacamoire, music director of Hamilton – Trevor Boffone (Café Onda/HowlRound)

The man behind the “Hamilton” sound: Hidden Beatles references, the “hip-hop horse” sample and why if “it’s all computerized, there’s no heart to it” – Suzy Evans (Salon)

Nerding Out With Hamilton Musical Director, Alex Lacamoire – Nate Jones (Vulture)

Javier Muñoz

Interview with Javier Muñoz – Marisela Treviño Orta (Café Onda/HowlRound)

Javier Muñoz on What It’s Like to Play Alexander Hamilton When Lin-Manuel Miranda Isn’t – Jessica Goldstein (Vulture)

Renée Elise Goldsberry

An Interview with Renée Elise Goldsberry – Victoria Myers (The Interval)

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Genius: A Conversation With ‘Hamilton’ Maestro Lin-Manuel Miranda – Rembert Brownie (Grantland)

How Lin-Manuel Miranda Shapes History – Edward Delman (The Atlantic)

Ham4Ham: Taking Hamilton to the Streets

Ham4Ham

Lin-Manuel Miranda reading Alexander Hamilton. The cast of Fun Home rapping. A Spring Awakening reunion. The “Confrontation” from Les Mis. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Lea Salonga singing “A Whole New World.” Okieriete Onaodowan singing “Defying Gravity” as Mickey Mouse. Alex Lacamoire playing the melodica. You didn’t know you wanted it, but when you got it, you loved it.

I’ve been to many lotteries (won a few, lost a lot). It’s usually uneventful. A theatre employee collects names on paper slips, pulls them out of a bucket, calls out the winners, the winners do some sort of awkward celebration (guilty as charged), and that’s about it, folks.

Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Continue reading at Café Onda/HowlRound.