January 2, 2020; Guardian
If “stories matter,” then who tells them also matters. Many communities labeled “marginalized” or “disenfranchised” have been telling their own stories all along, even if others haven’t been listening. A new project called Vindictas from Latin America’s largest university will highlight some of those storytellers this year.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM) has committed to re-publish books by Latin American female authors that were suppressed or forgotten. Tita Valencia’s Minotaur Fighting, Luisa Josefina Hernández’s The Place Where the Grass Grows, María Luisa Mendoza’s About Auscencia, Tununa Mercado’s In State of Remembering, and Marcela del Rio’s The Mirror’s Crypt are the first five selected for the collection. Four of the authors are Mexican and one is Argentine.
“The Vindictas collection was born out of deep indignation,” said Socorro Venegas, the head of the project. “It is women writers exhuming other women writers.”
All the books were once published but fell out of print. The effort seeks to reverse deeply ingrained sexism. Del Rio talks about university faculty heads who instructed students that wanted to read her book to focus on works by male authors. She recalls a friend whose husband threw her typewriter out the window. (The woman, Asunción Izquierdo, continued to write under pseudonyms.)
While the initial focus is on writers, Vindictas, notes Jesús Alejo Santiago in Milenio, is part of a broader initiative that seeks to also “recuperate works created by women, but that have been forgotten in fields like music, theater, and dance.”
Latina writers, and Latinx writers in general, face similar challenges north of the border. The Los Angeles Review of Books recently published an essay by Michael Nava, excoriating “Big Lit” (the big publishers and review publications, masters in fine art programs, and book festivals) for the way the field perpetuates white supremacy. Nava pointed out that even Sandra Cisneros, “maybe the only truly famous Mexican-American writer,” wasn’t picked up by a major publisher until after her work had come out through Arte Público Press.
NPQ has covered other efforts to revive previously overlooked or difficult-to-find literary works, such as the translation collective in India that works to make regional stories available in mainstream languages.
The Vindictas collection says they are having trouble locating the rights to some works, because, as Jo Tuckman of The Guardian suggests, the backlash writers experienced made them feel like it wasn’t worth arranging to bequeath the rights. Still, the project’s staff are persistent. In time, the work may be a story of its own.—Erin Rubin