Cristina Rivera Garza is a Mexican writer and professor who has developed her career on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Her novels in Spanish have won literary awards in Mexico, and she’s taught writing both in Mexico and the United States.
So she knows what it’s like to work and write in both Spanish and English. Producer Betto Arcos caught up with her at LéaLA, the Spanish-language book fair in Los Angeles, and asked her what it's like being a published author in two languages, and how living on both sides of the border has affected her work. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.
Cristina Rivera Garza: I'm a Mexican author who's been living in the United States for the last 25, 26 years. I’m a Norteña in Mexico, I was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. This is the city on the other side of the border from Brownsville, Texas. And I've been living in San Diego, California, for a number of years on the other extreme of the border as well.
You know, most of my creative work, I've been publishing that in Spanish. Most of my academic work, I've published in English. And for a while that kind of division worked quite well. But for the last 7 years I've been teaching in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of California-San Diego, and I've been teaching in English mostly. No, not mostly, only. And so that difference, the fact that I saw myself as a Mexican author writing in Spanish and as a continental academic writing in English — all of that was somewhat subverted by this experience. Obviously, I've been here for such a long time that I've been writing also in English, things that I’ve decided not to publish. But that might be changing in the near future.
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