This year’s celebration of Latinx Heritage Month at Kenyon concluded on Tuesday, Oct. 16 with a bilingual reading of written work by Latinx, Latin American and Spanish authors. Fourteen students and eight faculty and staff members shared poetry and passages in Finn House’s Cheever Room. Readers recited work in both Spanish and English. Some readers selected writing that alternated between English and Spanish, while others chose to read a piece twice: first in its original Spanish and then translated into English.
William P. Rice Associate Professor of English and Literature Ivonne García, who also serves as the faculty advisor to The Collegian, acted as the event’s master of ceremonies.
García held Kenyon’s first bilingual reading in 2011 to honor what was then known as Hispanic Heritage Month. Originally limited to poetry, the event has grown and changed with each successive year, eventually evolving to include all forms of writing by Latinx, Latin American and Spanish voices. Kenyon students are also invited to read their own work. The reading became a staple of Latinx Heritage Month at Kenyon, which is celebrated every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“It is probably my favorite event of the year at Kenyon, because it’s so moving,” García said.
This was the first year the reading was held in Cheever Room during Common Hour. Thanks to a class earlier in the morning, the long tables faced each other. Although untraditional for a reading, the seating arrangement helped enhance the sense of community in the room and made for a lively and engaged audience.
“You’re part of something important and big,” García said to the audience as she introduced the readers.
Before they began, each reader explained why they had selected their piece. Some were personally affected by a work of literature, while others emphasized the work’s importance to a broader Latinx identity. Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellow and Visiting Instructor of Modern Languages and Literatures Janelle Gondar shared a selection of Spanish haikus by José Juan Tablada that evoked breathtaking nature imagery. Juliette Montoya ’22 performed Melissa Lozada-Olivia’s spoken word poem “If I Got Paid for All My Emotional Labor,” earning laughs and sighs from the audience.
Dani Martinez ’21 shared two pieces: the poem “A Julia de Burgos” by Julia de Burgos, and a poem she wrote herself in response to de Burgos, titled “Spilling the Beans and Other Stories.” Martinez said she usually chooses not to share the work she writes, but was inspired to participate in this particular reading due to her role as co-director of Kenyon’s Spanish newspaper, A Medio Camino. Like de Burgos does in “A Julia de Burgos,” Martinez confronts a version of herself in “Spilling the Beans,” but unlike de Burgos, who writes solely in Spanish, Martinez alternates between Spanish and English.
“It’s kind of Spanglish,” Martinez said. “And the reason I did that is because it’s kind of exemplifying the language I’m comfortable with, and so it’s kind of me meeting myself. That’s what the poem is. Kind of the way that Julia does it too.”
Although the reading is firmly cemented in the tradition of Kenyon’s Latinx Heritage Month, there were plenty of new faces in the audience. Alexis Miramontes ’22 described her first time attending the reading as an emotional experience.
“As a bilingual speaker, I was very appreciative of this space that we created … I kind of felt at home,” Miramontes said. “It was way powerful to hear my peers talk in Spanish. It was very moving, especially when Ivonne García was reading. It made me feel very passionate and almost brought me to tears.”
García expressed satisfaction with the reading’s status as the finale of Latinx Heritage Month.
“[It’s] a very emotive moment where those of us who participate in this culture can celebrate it … and at the same time, have others join us to celebrate a literary tradition that is as old as Shakespeare,” García said. “And the closing I think should be something that involves the whole community, that brings together staff, faculty, students in a celebration of a literature that is just breathtaking.”