November 23, 2005

Jóvenes, Abuelitos share their writing

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

When you’re trying to say algo, and can’t find the right palabra in English, well, you might as well say it in Spanish, qué no?

After all, you’re bilingual and bicultural.

Now, let’s say you were writing a short story or poem and the palabras you were using came from your corazón: In both languages, one next to the other, español and inglés.

That’s exactly what jóvenes in Los Bilingual Writers writing workshop do when they’re at the keyboard or with pen in hand.

They’re free to mix the two languages, they’re free to write about cultural experiences common among Latino youth, they’re free to express themselves through the written word.

Founded by Irene Márquez, Los Bilingual Writers is a writers’ workshop aimed at promoting writing –in English and Spanish—among Latinos in the communities of Logan Heights and Sherman Heights.

Originally, the workshop was created to be a forum for adult Latino writers in San Diego.

But since last October, and thanks to a grant from the The City of San Diego Commission of Arts and Culture, Márquez was able to start a new interge-nerational writing workshop where Jóvenes (ages 12 to 18) will meet with Abuelitos to share their stories and serve as mentors to each other.

“Abuelitos have a rich treasure they can share with youth: Their history,” Marquez said. “Jóvenes can share their enthusiasm and give a new perspective to our Abuelitos.”

Currently, there are about 10 jóvenes in Los Bilingual Writers Youth Workshop, which meets once a week at the Sherman Heights Community Center and once a week at the Logan Heights Public Library.

“We all have our story to share and especially children need to know that what they write has a value,” she said. “This way they can be on their way to becoming the published Latino writers of the future.”

The Abuelitos component of the program is still in the process of development, since it’s difficult for Abuelitos to participate, Marquez said.

“For one, they have transportation problems to get to the sites where I conduct the workshops. Also, they sometimes find it difficult to start writing. They feel their story is not worthy, but I tell them that their experience is as valid as any other story that has been written,” Marquez said.

Once Abuelitos and Jóvenes start sharing their writing, Marquez is sure the program will benefit both generations. Her goal is to get the Abuelitos group ready by the first week of December, she said.

Marquez added that Jóvenes tend to write about their own life, things that happen to them in school or at home.

Another goal she has is to publish an anthology of the best work from both groups.

Los Bilingual Writers, which is barely in its first year, has begun to create a name for itself in San Diego’s cultural scene.

Earlier this year, it organized a literature for cinema workshop with Mexican director Luis Mandoki and writer Oscar Torres during the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

The group also participated in the Tijuana book fair last summer.

Los Bilingual Writers is currently recruiting jóvenes and abuelitos for its mentorship program. Those interested can contact Irene Marquez at (619) 384-7144 or e-mail her at

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