Words Play it again, Samuel

'Desahogate' anthology gives the brown and proud a place to vent

Venus Prado, 33, sat at her computer and thought about the life experiences that have made her the person that she is today: an independent and successful Hispanic woman.

Born and raised in San Antonio, with a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's in counseling from St. Mary's University, Prado, now a professor at Northwest Vista College, began to write about her father, Richard, a man she said did not allow the family's lower economic status define their love and support for one another. Prado said she was inspired to write about her father, who spent a large portion of his life working at the Frito-Lay factory and raising her and her four sisters, because he is the role model for her hard work and perseverance.

So, she writes: "Your road less traveled marks the journey by which the color of your skin will celebrate and triumph ... although the falls will come you will be left standing tall because you are a strong brown man."

Those few lines from her poem Strong Brown Man, one of two pieces by Prado published in the first volume of Desahogate: Growing Up Xicana/o, tell a personal story in an anthology dedicated to the expression of Hispanic identity.

"All the stories connect to one another," Prado told the Current during a fund-raiser at The Spark to help raise money for the publication of the second volume of Desahogate. "People are going to attach their own meaning to each story they read. I hope that whatever meaning they come to is of value in their own life."

Jorge Burwick, 28, editorial board member of the Xicana Xicano Education Project (XXEP), which was founded in 1999 and publishes Desahogate, said the barrio-based anthology has been in the works for the past three years. With 44 contributing writers and 56 poems and short stories, the publication got off the ground with a small grant from the United Way and personal contributions from members of XXEP.

Noche De Poesia Y Pensamiento
Raza Poetry And Open Mic Night

7pm Fri, Apr 1
Abuela's Café
1828 Martin

Desahogate: Growing Up Xicana/O
In Tilli, In Tlapilli Press
Available at Hogwild Records
and Black Mountain Books
"It's been a long process," Burwick said. "This anthology gives people a chance to validate their voices and gives them an outlet for written expression. I think that people will be able to relate to one of the stories or poems that is in this publication. I hope that when people read it they think, 'Hey, maybe I can get published, too.'"

Desahogate is a self-described collection of "histories that are never told to a mainstream audience." Given the recent critical and (sometimes) commercial success of imprints such as ArtePublico, Cinco Puntos, and University of New Mexico Press, that assertion may be debatable, but Desahogate's authors seem animated by a common sense of purpose. Ernest M. Garza shares a story about being embarrassed to bring tacos to lunch as an elementary school student in the mid 1950s. Poet Melissa Sandy Vela writes about her husband's culturally unusual eating habits.

Skimming through one of the 500 first editions of Volume One, Cristina Ordóñez, 21, shared her personal story, Desde la Raíz. Born in Queretaro, Mexico, Ordóñez illustrated through her words how it felt moving to the United States in first grade and being unable to relate to the people who spoke English, an unknown language to her. Ordóñez wrote Desde la Raíz for a Latino Cultural Expressions class at UTSA and thought that it would fit in well with Desahogate's mission.

"For me, this is trying to say how proud I was of where I came from and how my roots are a very important part of me," Ordóñez, a UTSA biligual education major, said. "I just couldn't turn away and become an American and not think about where I came from and what my language is. This is like embracing my past."

By Kiko Martinez