Last year, Baruch Porras-Hernandez left his position as patron services manager of Magic Theater, where he worked for nine years, to focus on his own arts organizing. With a grant from Galería de la Raza, Porras-Hernandez has organized a three-evening festival honoring Latino writers, called Donde Esta Mi Gente? (or, Where Are My People?).
“When I went to school for theater I was the only Latino in the entire department,” he said recently from the top of Bernal Heights. “I never thought that that was odd. I just expected spaces to not have people like me. Because they were like me … they just didn’t share my cultural heritage.”
This was fine to Porras-Hernandez, a lead curator for the Queer Open Mic for almost five years now: he didn’t give it much thought until one night he attended Lunada, la Galería’s full moon open mike.
“It’s like electricity in the room when you see an artist do a poem that everybody kind of gets automatically,” he said. “When I see, for example, Christina Perez do a poem about La Llorona in a room that doesn’t have that connection with that myth … they like it, they clap. But when she does it at las Lunadas, with a roomful of people who grew up being terrified of La Llorona, because she’s kind of like the Mexican boogeyman but represents so much more, to watch all these adults and children get goose bumps and start to freak out, and enjoy the poem like 10 times more, it’s really wonderful.
“So I named the festival Donde Esta Mi Gente?, because for a while I would go to a poetry show and see all these really great poets but no Latinos and I would be like, ‘Where are my people?’ “
As he’s asked around, trying to answer his own question, Porras-Hernandez has discovered many other talented local Latino poets, more than he can feature in three full nights of performance.
“That’s one reason I’m doing the festival,” he says, “not only to educate myself as to who the Latino writers are in the Bay Area that need to be seen, but also to help them, to create a place for us to network, to create community, to help us navigate our writing careers into the future.”
Saturday’s opening night features SF Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía, Lunada host Sandra Garcia Rivera and others. The event continues the following two Saturdays, at Magnet (4122 18th St.), and then at la Galería (2857 24th St.).
“For the long term (the goal is) to create a focus point of continuous support, inspiration and knowledge for Latino writers. A lot of us have been raised to be very humble; a lot of us have been raised to not aggressively go for what we want, because of an economic background, or because we’re immigrants,” he says. “I think Latinos are sometimes taught to be very passive, even though our music is on fire, even though our poetry can be on fire. With this festival I hope to create a space where they can come and get support and knowledge, inspire each other, and never have to ask that question as well. You know, where are my people?”
IF YOU GO
Donde Esta Mi Gente?: 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Books Inc., 2275 Market St., S.F. (415) 864-6777.
Photo by Mark McBeth