Authors highlight Latino stories in ‘Literature as Free Speech’ event

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Anthology illuminates works from 25 years of Multicultural Conference.

By Jackie Muralles

Two authors said literature is a way to fill in the gaps of history and shape the public view of past events April 24 in a session of the college’s annual multicultural conference.

A total of 35 students and faculty attended the ‘Literature as a Free Speech’ Fiesta San Antonio event.

English Professor Patricia Portales presented the first reading, a piece she wrote for the book “Latina/os and World War II: Mobility, Agency and Ideology.”

The book published April 15, 2014, by the University of Texas Press, is a compilation of stories from different authors detailing Latino experiences during World War II.

She prefaced the reading by explaining how she had discovered the story while interviewing her aunt about what she did in San Antonio during the war.

“Part of documenting oral history is you have to ask the person what they were doing at that time (during World War II), and when I asked her, her answer was, ‘Oh I was welding bombs,’” Portales said.

The Friedrich Refrigeration Co. had a contract with the Dallas Chemical Warfare Co. 1942-1945 to create M69 cluster bombs, Portales said.

“Another thing about San Antonio is during the late ‘30s early ‘40s is we had one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the country,” she said.

Portales read excerpts where her character, Margo, has just been released from the hospital after suffering through tuberculosis and has taken a job as a welder at Friedrich for M69 cluster bombs.

Margo’s character in the story, is inspired by true events that happened in her aunt’s life and what was happening in San Antonio at the time, Portales said.

Sylvester opened her reading with the first chapter of her novel “Everyone Knows You Go Home.” `

The book was published by Little A on March 13, 2018 and is Sylvester’s second novel.

The story follows a couple from their wedding day, on Dia de los Muertos and their encounter with the ghost of the groom’s father.

The father, who the groom was never close to, came back every anniversary to try and talk to his son through the persuasion of his son’s wife.

Sylvester, who immigrated to America from Peru at the age of 4, said she wanted to write about the experience of being caught between two spaces.

In her book she also highlights stories of other immigrant families surrounding the two main characters and how those characters all come together.

Sylvester also used the book to detail how women are often the unsung heroes in many lives.

“For me, this book was really written as a love letter to my mom, my immigrant mom, and all of the labor she took on,” Sylvester said.

“All of these writers are giving a voice to voices that had been historically neglected, and so just their very existence is freedom of speech,” said English Professor Claudio San Miguel, chair of the conference.

San Miguel also edited and put together an anthology highlighting art and literary work from 25 years of the Multicultural Conference entitled “Education as Revolution.”

The 219-page book was given to attendees.

For more information, call the English program at 210-486-0649.


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