Welcome to another Author Spotlight! These spotlights are for showcasing author’s (predominantly women and people of color) writing talents and published works. As you may or may not know, I do themed weeks of prominent holidays/events throughout the year on my site. Every time I do these I always feature other authors (usually ones of color and women). And for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month I am trying to feature authors who have Latinx and/or Hispanic backgrounds. So without further ado let’s get on with the Author Spotlight!
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About the Author:
Clara is an AfroSalvi poet living in diaspora on the Occupied Land of the Duwamish. Her words have traveled across time and space to speak light into the darkest areas of life. Born and raised in South Central L.A to Salvadoran immigrants, Clara weaves history and lived-experience creating diasporic poetry that amplifies ancestral power and pride. Her poetry takes you on an emotional ride through the struggle of learning who you are and learning to embrace the love you deserve. Follow her journey into published authorship and poetic healing on Instagram @hijademilagro .
What and when started your love for writing?
I’ve always had writing in my heart but it wasn’t until I was 8 years old that I began to use it as a way to cope and create. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life and learned really early that words had a magical way of making things better somehow. I picked up journaling as a way to try and understand the things that were happening around me and to find a safe place during the times it felt like there weren’t any.
When I was 16 I began writing poetry as a way to take journaling to the next level. This was a painful and turbulent time in my life and writing was the only way for me to bring myself safety and consistency. I surrounded myself with books and spiral notebooks, fingers perpetually stained in ink and many a sleepless night buried in prose.
I read Paul Laurence Dunbar’s We Wear The Mask in class one day and in that moment it clicked. The power of poetry revealed itself to me, opening a floodgate of emotions and understanding. If the pen was mightier than the sword, then surely poetry was the battalion that would blaze me into glory and liberation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44203/we-
Writing became a way for me to be the hero in my own story. The silver lining in the darkest of my days. I’m able express the fullest part of myself and step into an authenticity that, for me, is much harder to do off the page. There’s always this pressure to fit in to society’s expectations and despite sinking into that ocean of fallacies, I’ve been able to stay afloat and swim to safety through the power of writing.
Of all of the book genres, what drew you to write about yours?
Poetry takes me to my most authentic self. It lends itself to so many possibilities while capturing the essence of who I am and the flurry of influence around me. Poetry serves as a mirror that lets me see myself in others, reminding me that I’m not alone in this journey. The ability to see beyond ourselves in these carefully crafted words is where the real power behind poetry lies. I hope my poetry will do the same for others and continue this ripple of healing that comes from speaking our most authentic truth.
If you could meet your favorite Latinx/Hispanic author, who would it be and why?
This one is really hard but I gotta say Isabel Allende! Her books were some of the first pieces of Latinx literature that landed on my little lap. Her storytelling is so vivid, beautiful and explores places and times in Latin America that I had never heard of before. Before I read Cisneros, Dalton and Marquez, there was Isabelle Allende and a now-tattered copy of The Stories of Eva Luna that my tio gave me for Christmas…probably when I was 16, haha! I can confidently say that Isabelle Allende is one of the writers who saved my life and for that, I owe her at least a cafecito 🙂
How has your Latinx/Hispanic background and culture shaped what you write and how you write?
“To me, being Latinx means understanding that we are not a monolith and have a complicated history that binds us together in solidarity, blood and love. The last few years I’ve been learning more about my Afro-Salvadorean heritage and what it means to live in diaspora. With that knowledge came the understanding of how colonization impacted my and my family’s life, then and now. It also brought to light the many dangerous attitudes and behaviors within Latinx culture that I internalized and work continuously to dismantle.”
My poetry speaks to the reclamation of identity and the healing power that comes with understanding where I come from and who I am. I think about my younger self writing about not fitting in, trying desperately to belong and not understanding why I wasn’t enough of one or the other. I now understand how so much of that was intentional of white supremacy and the need to assimilate (and survive).
I know that if younger me understood this or was taught even just a little bit of this history, perhaps the road to self-love wouldn’t be so hard and feeling worthy would come easier. I feel that this is the impetus for my poetry, the why behind the words. The hope that someone who feels disconnected can find themselves in these verses and realize they’re not alone after all.
What book do you think everyone should read is based (or inspired by) around Latinx/
I highly recommend Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano; it’s such a thorough yet digestible read on colonization and the rise of imperialism beginning with the conquest. This is such a huge, foundational part of Latinx history that is often not discussed or understood within the mainstream. For those that want to learn more or want to dip their toes in this area of history, Galeano is your man!
What makes your book(s)/writing special?
Perspective is everything and I feel that my poetry offers something that many people are often not privy to or simply don’t understand yet. I describe myself as a queer, neurodivergent, AfroSalvi poet who writes about the history of my racial identity, living with mental illness and the ways I’ve had to assimilate to survive.
The history of Blackness in El Salvador has been denied and overlooked for so long. I feel that my words and existence are proof that there’s nothing like me (and my writing) out there. My family’s story of survival is one that wasn’t meant to be heard, I was not meant to know these truths yet here I am. Speaking light into the darkness the colonizers left behind.
So…what are you working on now?
I’m actually working on my first book that touches on much of what I’ve shared today! It’s a work in progress and the first time I’ve ever felt like I could fulfill this dream! 16 year old me wanted to walk this path so bad but life had other plans. I love that I can say that and be in a place where I can honor the part of myself that deserved this kind of grace and love.
I’ve been working Alegria Publishing to get bring this book to life. Their weekly workshops have been instrumental in building my manuscript and shift my in confidence. I struggle BIG TIME with imposter syndrome and my Alegria fam is always there to help me through it.
There’s something so beautiful about writing in community and surrounding yourself with people who get it. To be able to share space, receive feedback and build relationships with other Latinx writers feels sacred. They affirm and ground me in the fact that my words must be heard and that there’s a whole world out there just waiting to hear them!
Our first Author Spotlight in honor of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month! Clara, you have such a beautiful spirit and it was great to meet you and have you share your life stories with my audience! And congratulations on the first book process! So if you want to get in contact or connect with her, you can follow Clara on:
Thank you all for reading and remember:
Live. Love. Laugh.