Interview with Diana Lopez of Huizache Magazine
Interview by Sebastian H. Paramo
You say on your website that, "The voices in this magazine are motivated, not silenced, by harsh, unwelcoming conditions." Could you talk a little bit more about the voices meant to be represented in Huizache?
Here’s what I want to say about those harsh, unwelcoming conditions. Many of our contributors do not come from top-notch schools. They’re not “pedigreed,” for lack of a better word. They’re like me, Diana Lopez, and our executive director, Dagoberto Gilb—people who didn’t grow up in houses full of books or with parents who read anything beyond newspapers, who attended community colleges instead of the Ivy Leagues, and who have worked in fields outside of academia. In other words, doors in the publishing world don’t open for people like us unless we kick them down or pick the locks. And this is for a variety of reasons such as a lack of connections or the idea that anything set outside the east coast is considered too regional. It can get frustrating. But we’re here for the people who don’t give up, who take on the fight and insist on being heard.
This is what inspired the title Huizache. It refers to a tree common in South Texas. It’s a short tree with thorns, and it’s considered a nuisance by farmers. Most people think it’s ugly, so you don’t really see huizaches in the nurseries, which only further proves how undesirable it is—so undesirable, in fact, that it gets pulled out like a weed. No matter. It’s a stubborn tree. It comes back, and it blooms gold.
Can you elaborate more on the name Huizache and why you started the magazine?
We work for CentroVictoria, an organization housed at the University of Houston-Victoria and devoted to promoting Mexican American literature. To that end, we have visited educators throughout Texas to share lesson plans about Texas Mexican literature. Right now, Mexican Americans make up 51% of the student population in Texas, and teachers are recognizing how important it is to share literature that reflects the faces of their students.
But to answer your question about Huizache, establishing a journal that features works by Mexican Americans seemed like a logical next step in our mission to promote the literature. With the journal, we can continue to provide material for educators and students but also to the greater community—that is, and we certainly hope, to readers all over the country. And, we can provide a home for writers that might be overlooked by other journals.
What's the best part of working for a literary journal?
Finding a story, poem, or essay that’s a perfect fit. But also, the moment you get to hold the journal in your hands and leaf through the pages, smell it. It’s a celebratory moment, and the best part is that we get to celebrate the voices of a community we dearly love.
What's on your list of must-read literary magazines and why should we be reading those?
Zzyzzyva and Threepenny Review. They’re based in the west and feature the best of new and established writers. But, can I also suggest that you support our contributors? Read their bios, buy their books, and talk about them. We have to support each other. And by this, I mean buy—buy Huizache but also other journals, and books by our contributors, books period. Imagine I’m using a gavel here to get your attention. Every dollar you spend is a vote for something. If you spend your money on burgers, then burgers will stick around. If you spend your money on literature, and the type of literature that we represent, then it will continue too. And consider the type of investment you’re making—an investment in history, community, and art.
What's a question that I didn't ask that you'd like to answer? Answer it here:
I’d like readers to know that we don’t publish Mexican American writers exclusively. Though it’s our focus, we truly aim for a diversity of voices. This means a couple of things. There’s the idea that Mexican American literature is about migrant workers, poverty, maids, and gangbangers (and similar assumptions can be made for other groups), but those are not the only stories. So by diversity, I mean multicultural voices but also, within those cultures, a variety of experiences. Yes, stories about migrant workers, but also stories about chemical engineers. We must challenge the stereotypes. Otherwise, those who are unfamiliar with our community will not recognize all the wonderful things we do and how complex, how gifted, we are as a people. I can’t say this loud enough.
Lastly, where do you see Huizache in the future?
Can I say that I see it on every nightstand in the country? And that its pages are stained with drops of cerveza and chorizo grease because it’s just so loved? But seriously, we want to continue publishing high quality work from new and established writers. We want to be on the acknowledgment pages of dozens of books because it will mean that our contributors have continued to find homes for their works.
To submit, order, or find out more about Huizache visit: http://www.centrovictoria.net/huizache.html