LibroFEST celebrates culture, self narrative
Arte Publico Press held the Fifth Annual LibroFEST at the Houston Public Library on Oct. 1. This yearly event recognizes Houston’s Latino culture through literature and highlighting local Latino and Hispanic writers and artists.
The event showcased Latino writers, arts and local hispanic writers affiliated with Gulf Coast, Public Poetry and Writespace. In addition, there was music, food, and arts available for children.
The event also included panels involving former Texas State Rep. Diana Dávila Martínez and former Houston City Council and Mayor Pro Tem Gracie Saenz where they shared their experiences as civic leaders, and poet Javier O. Huerta and Wall Street executive-turned-writer Julissa Arce shared their immigrant experiences.
At the LibroFest, Elizabeth Farfán-Santos, anthropology assistant professor at the University of Houston, was there selling her first book, “Black Bodies, Black Rights: The Politics of quilombolismo in Contemporary Brazil,” released in May 2016.
During graduate school Farfán-Santos went to Brazil and became interested in how they think about identity formation. She became interested in quilombolas who fought for their land rights based on their black identities.
“The way they had to fight and explain to the government what it means to them to be quilombolas, what the land means to them, it really connected with me as a Chicana,” Farfán-Santos said. “Where for many years, we’ve been trying to fight for our identity, for our own way to define ourselves and that’s exactly what the quilombolas are doing.” Farfán-Santos continued, “I think a lot of us share this narrative where we feel like it’s okay to be who I am, it’s okay to be complicated and complex, to be Mexicana, and American, and to speak this not-so-perfect English and not-so-perfect Spanish,” Farfán-Santos said.
For Farfán-Santos, this is the first time she has attended the LibroFEST as an author. In the past she and her husband, who is an artist and is connected to the event, have attended LibroFest.
“I have a six-year-old son who loves this event, and as soon as I had my book, I said, ‘I want to be a part of that’” Faran-Santos continued, “So it’s been kind of a family tradition, It’s a very proud day for me to be able to a part of this.”
Among all of the authors at the event, Rene Colato Lainez, Latino children’s author, was there to read his latest book, “Mamá the Alien/ Mi mamá la extraterrestre.” for Bilingual Story time.
“I love when children and parents come all together and have a great time to listen to music and stories, it’s wonderful,” Lainez said.
Lainez has 12 bilingual published books, and a new one to be released in December titled, “Telegrams to Heaven/ Telegramas a Cielo.” The book is a biography of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated over 36 years ago.
Lainez said since he began writing, he always wanted to write bilingual children’s books. “I imagine my parents, my grandparents, and my relatives in El Salvador reading the books. At the same time, children in the United States (reading the books).”
For Lainez, “I think it’s great that children see themselves in books, to listen to their story, that they are really important” Lainez continued stating that I wants children to see that their story is important, too. “That’s my goal as a writer in a children’s book, that they can see themselves, and that they can feel powerful of being Latinos.”
Lainez adds that it is important to promote, read and share Latino authors and bilingual books, and books related to the culture.
Farfán-Santos said she feels like LibroFEST gets bigger every year, and more people come.“This year, it’s focus on immigration and the immigrant narrative, which I think is just beautiful and so necessary right now,” Farfán-Santos said.
She adds people at the event are occupying this “alien terminology” that gets put on the Latino community and turning it into something they can deconstruct.
“The kids are drawing stuff. We’re laughing, we’re talking and we’re celebrating our identity, and at the same time, we’re saying these bigots that are out there, trying to bring our community down, trying to make us feel like criminals, they’re not going to win. We’re not going to let them win” said Farfan-Santos.