As you might already know, Mexico City is located on an earthquake fault. So things are constantly moving and shaking both in literal and metaphoric ways.
Don’t know if I would use the word optimum to describe anything that happens in my dear and dirty hometown. But it is certainly an inspiring place. There’s so much going on as soon as you leave your home: so many people walking about, speaking different languages and participating in different cultures; for better or worse there are so many differences at so many levels that you cannot help but be stimulated as a creative individual. I feel like Istanbul has a similar vibe at times: there are different worlds clashing, tradition and modernity side by side, the ancient just waiting to sneak up on you at any moment, right next to your super high tech sneakers, you know what I mean?
They are sister projects. Sur+ started back when there was the H1N1 panic and a few friends got stuck at my place because all flights to and from Mexico were cancelled and we got excited about joining forces and making books. At the same time we also thought about distribution and readers and so on and with yet another friend we decided opening a bookstore in tandem with publishing books would be ideal. We also decided to only include small/independent presses and organizing books by press rather than by topics, sort of like a cult record store or something like that. La Jícara is not just a bookstore, it’s also what we like to call a freespace—a place where activists, writers, artists and people from the community at large can gather and share their projects and points of view. It is in Oaxaca, a beautiful small city in the south of the country, and locals have been tremendously supportive of the project. We initially thought the sale of coffee and mezcal would pay the rent, but book sales actually pay the rent!
To me it means art, it means everything we do as human beings: attempt, on a daily basis, and through our many activities, to control our inevitable decay (i.e. death).
That’s always a tough question to answer. Inspiration is a word that is related to breathing, and it sure feels that way to me, in the sense that I don’t wait for something “magical” or “special” to inspire me. It’s an everyday thing, like breathing!
I mean that what goes on around me is always a source of inspiration. Sometimes just a good song or the way light refracts off a glass of water or whatever. Everything and anything.
The idea came from my dear late friend the writer Aura Estrada. She really felt that there was this whole macho vibe going on in Mexican literature (and I wholeheartedly agreed) and that we should try doing something together as women artists. So we were three writers (Aura, Monica de la Torre and myself) and one visual artist (Laureana Toledo) and we all decided to embark on an adventure together: translating each other’s text into a new text or a new medium entirely, teaming up to write together, thinking collectively, challenging each other and pushing each other out of our comfort zones and out usual genres or mediums. The result was a really fun experiment that ended in a book published in Mexico City by Tumbona ediciones. Hopefully we will be able to do a second part soon, although it will never be the same without Aura.
I am not sure how to answer this question. I mean, we are all still human and we all need and enjoy arts and culture and hopefully perceive it as necessary, as part of what it means to be alive, no matter where we are.
Until a few months ago I would have also answered that arts and culture are perhaps more politicized (by necessity) in Latin America than in Europe but frankly, with all the recent events that have happened with immigration, racism, hate crimes of all sorts in Europe, one would hope artists begin to feel the urge to also consciously link their practice to what is going on around them, at least to a certain extent.
Sadly, “Yo soy 132” lost a bit of its power although not its relevance. I was an active supporter when it started and—note that I am glossing over things a bit here— I feel that in some ways it mutated into the movement that sparked up after the 43 students from Ayotzinapa were disappeared in the state of Guerrero. I think that people here are quite tired with what’s going on in the country, and we keep looking for answers that keep proving elusive. It seems as thought the same happened in Turkey and hopefully change will come with the recent elections—at least from the outside it looks like a positive thing. I just find it hard for Mexico to come through a real change in this way (elections) because the narco economy has such vested interest in keeping things as are (i.e. totally SNAFU) and the narcos have more money than pretty much anyone anywhere so they have limitless power. Hopefully the United States will legalize drugs (and then Mexico will too) because this would mean that at least part of the violence and extra-legality that has been unleashed in my country for years will come to a standstill.
Elections just happened this past weekend and things feel quite dark and somewhat hopeless. And then, in the middle of all the shit, you hear a few stories that give you hope, like the success of the self-defense and self-government in the town of Cherán in the state of Michoacán. Or you see a great work of art or read an excellent article or book, and things seem better. I also hope to help and work in whatever humble way I can to make that brighter future actually come to life, because that’s my legacy to my daughter.
My maternal grandparents.
I divide my time between working at my studio—writing a novel, translating various texts, editing books— and going back home to play, hang out and learn from my two-year-old daughter, Lila. And then once in a while, some parties, music and dancing thrown in for good measure.
My new book of short stories, La memoria de las cosas is coming out in August on Sexto Piso. And I’d like a visit to go eat a cheese gözleme on the street and then my favorite dessert in the planet: the sour cherry cake over at the spice bazaar in Istanbul. Hopefully that’ll happen soon!