Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nuestras Voces, Our Voices: Emerging Latina writers talk about their work - Elianne Ramos

Editor's note: this is the third in monthly series of guest blog posts in which emerging Latina writers talk about their work, their process and what inspires them.

Elianne Ramos is principal and founder of Speak Hispanic, a marketing and PR consultancy focused on non-profits. She is the winner of the 2012 Game Changers Award from Politic365, and was recently nominated to the 2012 Yahoo Women Who Shine. She's also a columnist at Huffington Post, NBC Latino and Mamiverse. Her website is You can follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.

Writing: Your heart on display

If I were to give it some thought, I’d say there must be something really wrong with all of us who decide to write for a living. Why else would you decide to put your heart and innermost thoughts on public display? And yet, we continue plodding on, one word at a time, in the hopes that transcribing the crazy thoughts swirling in our head can somehow orient us, help us find meaning, validate us.

The act of writing, in my case, serves many purposes. It’s a chance to understand life. To reimagine. To reminisce. To calm down or get fired up. To battle on. To BE. Inspiration, capricious goddess that it is, tends to show up unannounced, at odd times, always unwilling to give in to humanly-imposed timelines or expectations. Many a times, she’s triggered by completely random things: A phone call. A line from a forgotten poem. A tweet. My daughter’s laughter. A starry night. Trova music. Mandelbrot fractals. Justice.

Yet in my experience, she’s always willing to come along with me while interacting with people. Which is ironic, to say the least, coming from someone who grew up as a geeky, awkward girl with her nose in a book. I was never what you would call a social butterfly. Yet somehow, immersing myself in the fictional worlds of Allende and Marquez and Benedetti awakened my curiosity for the gazillion stories that surround us, everyday, everywhere, in every person we meet. Stories of challenges met, of travails overcome, of hopes crushed and regained…

There is something I find absolutely fascinating about the kaleidoscopic and relentless nature of the human spirit: People who aren’t afraid to claim their birthright to be awesome, magnificent, creative; who don’t wait for life circumstances to be perfect; who dare to rewrite their own roles and become the heroes in their own life.

As we step into the private chambers of someone’s story, we are given permission to flip through the pages of their life, to become a character in their stories of escapism, of turmoil, of redemption. We get a glimpse at the core of their very self. And at that magical moment, our souls recognize and embrace each other, like friends reuniting at long last. It is then that we realize that all our stories are really but one story: the story of humankind. And that glorious realization, to a writer, is what makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nuestras Voces, Our Voices: Long Hidden

Editor’s note: Elianne Ramos is the scheduled “Nuestras Voces, Our Voices” writer spotlight for March, but as she has been swamped and hasn’t been able to send her guest blog post yet, I wanted to introduce you, in the interim, to an anthology very much in the spirit of “Nuestras Voces, Our Voices.”

"¡Alumbra, lumbre de alumbre, Luzbel de piedralumbre! Como zumbido de oídos persistía el rumor de las campanas ...."

I read this in Guatemala more than three decades ago.

And while some of my memories of the country I called home during my earliest years have faded (or healed or diminished or become distant and pale as old photographs) the opening of Miguel Ángel Asturias’ seminal magical realist novel, El Señor Presidente, never has.

Because books shape us.

I read it as a form of resistance.
It was, after all, about Manuel Estrada Cabrera, an early 20th century Guatemalan dictator heading a regime very much like the ones that would follow his. The ones that would put the country through thirty-plus years of armed internal conflict and genocide. The ones I was living under when I read the book.

I read it as an incantation against forgetting.
I was young when I read it, but even my juvenile, half-formed conscience knew what this book did: it called out the present by looking at the past. It saw the dispossessed, the marginalized, the invisible. And if it could do that, couldn’t we all?

I read it as magic. Because words are the beginning of magic, and with them, we learn to make and unmake. To spell. To create speculation about what could be, or might be — if only we conjure it true.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History is an anthology that sets out to conjure  history true. Writer Daniel José Older, editor Rose Fox and publisher Crossed Genres describe the book (slated for release in early 2014) this way:

“Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center. People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins. Today, mainstream history continues to perpetuate one-sided versions of the past while mistelling or erasing the stories of the rest of the world.

There is a long and honorable legacy of literary resistance to erasure. This anthology partakes of that legacy. It will feature stories from the margins of speculative history, each taking place between 1400 and the early 1900s and putting a speculative twist—an element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the unclassifiably strange—on real past events.”

They have enough funds to include approximately 20 stories in the anthology, and have asked a number of very accomplished speculative fiction writers to submit work to be considered for it. But they are also planning to have an open submission period, and would like to be able to gather enough supplemental funding to include 10 additional stories.

If you are a reader of this “Nuestras Voces, Our Voices” series, you already know that there are many fine, undiscovered writers that deserve to be heard. In fact, some of you are those writers. If fully funded, Long Hidden will be a book of stories of resistance, of incantation, of magic. Please help make it a reality by clicking here and pledging your support.

Monday, March 18, 2013

As Rios Montt trial about to start: Uncovering the genocide in Guatemala

As the trial of Efraín Rios-Montt is set to start tomorrow, I'm posting a video of an interview with Fredy Peccerelli, a forensic anthropologist who has worked for the past 19 years with the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) to identify the remains of the genocide's massacre victims buried in mass graves, as well as the individual remains of those forcibly disappeared and executed extrajudicially. He, members of the organization, and survivors of the armed internal conflict who have requested mass graves exhumed, have all received death threats in order to prevent this work from being done.

Peccerelli's work was instrumental in reuniting a father with the sole remaining son he didn't know had survived the Dos Erres massacre (where his wife and other eight children had been killed). You can read the fantastic ProPublica report about that amazing case here.

To read more about the important work the FAFG does, click here. There is also a NYT interview with Peccerelli from 2004 here.

The upcoming trial of Rios Montt has gotten a lot of non-mainstream press, but here is a NYT article (finally) about it, in advance of the trial. But, before we get too excited about how much things have changed, here is an article about human rights workers and journalists still being intimidated and targeted (in Spanish) and here is an article about declassified U.S. documents that indicated that we knew about and colluded with architects of the genocide.