PCC – Community of Writers: Patricia Preciado-Martin

(upbeat music) – Hello, my name is Sandra Shattuck and welcome to the Community of Writers. Today, my guest is
Patricia Preciado Martin. She is a highly beloved Tucsonense because of her oral histories. She’s a writer of fiction. We’ll be focusing on
her short stories today. And she is a speaker. And I’m honored that she
is able to join us today. – I’m honored to be here. Thank you for the invitation, Sandra. – Thank you. If you want to know more about her life, you can check out a podcast on Tucsonense. Aengus Anderson published
it on October 30th, 2016, and it was based on
three hours of interview in early 2016 I think. One of the things that I noticed was you were talking about studying in Mexico after you finished at the university. That you knew you were Mexicana, but in Mexico you understood
that you were intellectually and historically Mexican. And it reminded me of
Amor Perdido, Lost Love, and your latest collection Amor Eterno. And there are really two
lost loves in this story, but one of the lost loves is Mexico. So the narrator is an
older man, Francisco, who remembers going to Mexico
when he’s a very young child. And it’s when he hits the
mountains and looks at it, it’s a gorgeous passage. So I was wondering if you would be willing to read that passage for us? – Well this passage comes
right out of my heart. Because this is how I saw
real Mexico for the first time and began to have a broad appreciation and love of culture, history,
traditions of Mexico. “But then, when the engine
began it’s gargantuan effort “to climb, traverse, and then
descend the enormous spine “of the Sierra Madre Oriental,
he began to kneel upright “for a better view out the window, “and to stare and exclaim with excitement. “He had never seen mountains so high, “mysterious, and blue, cloud
crowned at their summits “like ancient gods. “The valleys so deep and green, “tattooed with the intricate
terraces of maguey and maiz. “Unexpected cataracts
of crystalline waters “tumbling down into secretive gorges. “Deep and winding rivers
both languid and roaring. “Bright flashes of brilliant
birds embroidering the texture “of the trees with their flight and song. “Cascading flowers of every
hue adorning the branches “of the vines and trees:
the San Miguelito, “the bougainvillea, the
jacaranda, and the flamboyant-red, “like the color of his own pounding heart. “He saw mustangs running free in pastures “of saffron flowers. “The mile after mile of stone corrals “that embraced the land seemed to emerge “from the earth without
the intervention of man. “Fields breathed long
plumes of misty sighs “in the clear cool morning. “Tile-roofed hamlets exhaled a rosy haze “with the setting sun. “La tierra mexicana was alive.” – Thank you. – [Patricia] You’re welcome. – I love that last line. And I don’t think it’s
a sense of nostalgia. I don’t always see nostalgia
as a helpful emotion. But when you say, “La
tierra mexicana was alive,” what did that mean for that character, and also for you given
your study in Mexico? – Well, for this particular character who came from Chicago, it’s
actually based on a friend that I met a number of years ago whose parents had emigrated from Mexico, his father and his grandfather, to work in the steel mills in Chicago. And he told me this story
about how an uncle of his had gone back to visit Mexico. And it just inspired me. Because I think those of us who are born in the United States
and sometimes don’t get those opportunities to travel in Mexico and learn about our country that this comes as a real epiphany: how beautiful it is, how rich it is. We are born and raised
here in maybe barrios, or like my friend, Frank, in the barrios of Chicago, and we don’t really realize
what our heritage is. And that’s what that was based on. My own personal memories, and also how it could
have affected someone whom I fictionalized going down to Mexico for the first time. – Yeah, wonderful. So maybe to tie onto that. I was listening carefully
to your notes about language in that interview. And you talk about being born in Prescott, moving to Tucson at age three, but not considering yourself bilingual. That your grandmother
didn’t speak English, but you studied the
language in the university and then you studied in Mexico
and lived with a family. So maybe if you would talk about language. My note to myself here is that when writers use another
language within their work, there’s usually, to me it
seems like three choices. Either you translate with footnotes, or you translate within
the context of the piece, or you just don’t translate. So would you talk about your choices, your linguistic choices in
this collection of stories, and how you use Spanglish, or Enganol as some people call it. – That’s a new one. I like that word. Well, you know, it’s interesting because my father actually
wanted us to learn Spanish. But he had suffered because
he did not know English when he was first in school. And so he insisted that we learn English, and learn it well. But he also every once
in a while would say only Spanish in the house. So we did get Spanish at home. I can’t say that I spoke
it except when I visited with my grandmother, but I had the ear. By the time I went to school, it was part of my consciousness. And I became completely bilingual, not like a native speaker
of course from Mexico, when I went to study in Mexico. I’ve traveled a lot in Mexico. But the interesting thing about that is working in the community too,
I learned a lot of the slang and just sayings from my own parents: you know, dichos and the
exchanges that they made together in Spanish, songs that people would sing. So all of this was being ingrained in me. It’s interesting what you
said about the translating. Because that wasn’t my choice. It was the press’ choice. Now there was a point at which
I wanted things translated because I get annoyed when I read books and they don’t translate the French. And I don’t know what the word means, and I don’t speak French. But I think their philosophy changes, or is adaptable, because
I think they think that translating in the
middle of the manuscript, or the middle of the
prose, is distracting, and it kind of gets
people off the subject. Translating at the footnote
isn’t that handy either. Again, you’re doing this
switching, this code switching. I think that’s why it sometimes is uneven. Sometimes it’s translated,
and sometimes it isn’t. And that was up to the press actually. It was an editorial decision. – Okay, that’s good to know. Your stories are so grounded
in setting and time, and especially in this collection. One of the things I love
about this collection is how radically
different the stories are: the characters, the setting. So you range from the first one which is set in the 1800s in Mexico to set in the 1950s and
different characters. So one of my questions
was what sort of research do you do in order to get the dialogue? Because when you’ve got
a young girl in the 50s and she’s using all the slang
from Southern California, you’ve got all of that
time-specific language. So what kind of research do you do when you write these stories? – Well you know, that’s interesting. I don’t do a lot of research except for maybe some of the slang. But some of the slang, I knew already. Because I think it’s my life experience. And having done oral history, I have met tons of people, many many many people in the community. And you have to remember, the first oral history I did was in 1978. I mean, that was 40 years ago. And then as I progressed
doing oral history, I exposed myself to a lot
of people in the community. And if I wanted to find out about a word … For example, mostly the pachuco slang I was not very familiar with. I knew a few words. I would just ask some of my
friends who were from that era which was before my time. And so the stories really come out of my personal experience. And they’re not really
folkloric in that sense any more than another author
who just gets inspired. It’s like someone would plant a seed. As they’d say just one
thing, one sentence, and a story would grow out of that. I don’t consider that
necessarily folkloric. But all of the stories, I
can say every single story I’ve ever written that’s fiction has been from a personal experience. Just maybe a short little
saying that someone said or a short story that they
told me of their life. And the story would grow out of that. And I think a lot of
authors can relate to that. That’s our source of inspiration for me has been the community. – Right, right, and family. I was just thinking
about your grandmother, (in foreign language), you
know, getting the chicken, which shows her humor too. – And that’s based on a true story. Of course, I mean literary license. I elaborated on it. – [Sandra] But it’s so wonderful. I can just see her. – And yet, it did happen the way I said except the whole story of
the (in foreign language) and the kids. That’s part of my literary
license and my creativity. But my grandmother did kill the chicken. And she would put it under the tin. But the story evolved from that. And a man told me a story once, he’s in one of my oral history books, about how he had helped
his father make adobes for their house. And he said, “If you knock
down the walls of that house, “you’ll see my footprints.” Well, a story grew out
of that, Earth to Earth. And I like that story because, you know, I hope I’m not talking too much. But people say you know, your
stories are not political. Well of course they’re political. They’re very political. And it might not be the
same approach to politics as other people, but I’m just amazed that stories that I wrote 20, 25 years ago are still relevant today as
far as politics are concerned. So I just wanted to share
the beauty of my culture and the humor and the
pathos and the sorrow and the love and happiness
and the family values. And all of that to me
is indirectly political. Because it shows people who we are, who we really are, I hope. And that maybe when
people know who we are, then they’ll love us and respect us. So anyway, all those
stories really happened. – Yes, that’s fantastic. I think we’re almost out of time. But I have about 12 other
questions for you at least. We’re gonna have to do this another time. – Oh dear, I’m sorry. – Songs, maybe if you can get this in, I’ll tell you when we
don’t have any more time. But why do you have songs in here? Almost every story has a
song that begins the story. – Because for Mexican people, there’s nothing quite like a love song, and mariachis and my grandparents’ generation sang the songs my parents sang. And I can go to Jim Griffis
for his annual party and we’re all sitting
around with Bobby Benton and he’s playing these old songs. It’s so much part of who we are. Because they run the range of emotions: love and loss and tragedy and everything that you can think of. One of the mariachis said,
“All of the mariachis “are about women and horses, (laughing) “and our lost rancho.” And they all have that connection
emotionally for all of us. I’m glad they’re still part of us. I don’t know about the new generation. Maybe so. The younger generation, maybe so. But I know certainly with mine and the generation following mine, these songs are still very popular. – Excellent, that’s wonderful. – A classic is a classic. – So that’s all the time that
we have today, unfortunately. Thank you for joining us on
the Community of Writers. And thank you so much, Patricia. This was wonderful. – Well thank you, my goodness. I’m very honored. – We’ll see you next time. (upbeat music) Hello, my name is Sandra Shattuck, and welcome to the Community of Writers. Today, my guest is
Patricia Preciado Martin, who is a beloved Tucsonense
because of her oral histories, because of her fiction, and
because of her speaking. And I think she’s also an educator. This is part two of our interview. And we’re talking mostly about fiction and mostly about her latest collection, Amor Eterno: Eleven Lessons in Love. Thank you so much for being here. – Thank you for inviting me, Sandra. – So I talked to my students
who will be beginning to read Amor Eterno next week. I’ve taught the book now twice. And I told them a little
bit about the book and asked them if they had any questions. And Jasmine Castillo asked, “Why are all the stories about love?” – Good question. I decided because of my age, and this was done what 20
years ago, almost 18 years ago. I can’t believe that. But anyway, the contemporary
Mexicana, Chicana writers tell a different story. It’s contemporary. It’s modern. It has to do more with contemporary values and women’s liberation,
just as it should be. But I decided that I couldn’t
relate to those stories, because in my own case
and in my sister’s case, I have to limit my experience. ‘Cause I know girls will be girls and boys will be boys, even in the 50s. But in some ways, in my small
world, we were very innocent. We went to Catholic schools. The nuns were very strict. Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided I wanted to write love stories about different kinds of love: love that didn’t have to be about sex. And if it’s okay to say
this, they can edit it out, I always say if you’re expecting
any genitalia in this book, you’re not going to find it. – (laughs) It’s true,
there is no genitalia. – These are love stories of
the past and of innocence. So I set out to do it. And they’re all based, some
of ’em, on my grandparents where the story is about
where my grandfather had to ask permission of
my grandmother’s parents to marry her. And apparently, he was
turned down several times, and for good reason. But anyway, finally they
relented, and I’m not sure why. That’s a whole other story. And the story on my own parents. But of course, everything
is elaborated on. There’s the idea. It’s like Alfredo Vea says,
“The flesh is fiction, “but the bones are real.” – That’s lovely. – And that is true about my books. The bones are real, but
the flesh is fiction. Because we have to build
on our own life experience, or on little stories people tell us. – Oh, I love that quote. – Isn’t that wonderful? Had you heard that before? – No. – I’ll never forget it. Sometimes I forget it
when I wanna repeat it. But tonight, I remembered what he said. – I was gonna write it down, but I’m gonna watch the
interview later and take notes. “Cause I wanna remember that one. It’s wonderful. – Yeah, it is. – So I think I’ll do
another student question. Sort of a funny one, but
if you’re from Tucson, you’re gonna get this question. David Ortega asks, “Where’d
you go to high school?” – I went to Salpointe.
– Okay. – I told you about the
religious part and the nuns. And we had to wear skirts
way way down past our knee. And we weren’t allowed to
wear patent leather shoes because it reflected up our skirts. (Sandra laughing) Now you will understand this book. This is what I had to
go through growing up. Anyway, yes we had to go to mass. – But it still feels so contemporary because of the way you
draw the characters. I mean, I can relate to
the girls in the 1950s. – [Patricia] Well great. – And even in the 1800s. It’s all completely so
present in many ways. Oh, I have so much that I wanna do. The present and past. I have something I wanna read here. But Jessica Valencia asks, “What inspires you to write? “What inspires your stories?” – Well, I have to say I
get emotional about this. It’s mi gente, my community, la comunidad, mi gente, mi familia, my family. All these stories spring from them. And without them, I would
not be a storyteller. And I’ve been thinking about
the new stories I’m writing, and it’s true. Every single one of ’em is based on an experience that I had. So I don’t think I would be here … I don’t know, there are
some writers that just grab things out of the firmament, but I’ve never been like that. So that’s what I have to say. It’s who I am, and that’s
why it comes from my heart. I love my culture. I love Mexico, the good and the bad. And I’m proud of who I am. I’m a Chicana, Mexicana,
Espana, Mexico Americana. I’m all of those, and that’s
where the stories come from. – Wonderful. So that relationship with
the past and the present reminds me of your first book:
Days of Plenty, Days of Want. You have a more recent edition. But Carmen Tafolla has an introduction, and I like her first paragraph. “In the writings of
Patricia Preciado Martin, “one hears the clear voice of heritage.” What you just said. “This is not a heritage
that comes as an artifact, “disinterred and rediscovered. “But rather, it is an
intimate treasure mirrored “generation upon generation
and passed spirit to spirit “in an undying breath of life. “As the reader moves through her stories, “there is at once a sense of timelessness “and absolute rootedness” I love that. “The stories move from
the past to the present “and back to the past with
no change of tone or clarity. “To Preciado Martin, the
past is every bit as real “as the present, and
every bit as pervasive “and all-encompassing.” So would you say that
accurately describes? – Gee, thanks Carmen. – I know, it’s beautiful. – Wherever you are. It’s beautiful. I’ve got to read my books again, you know. It’s been a while. But I remember actually meeting her. I would like to not be so rooted in the past that
it’s nostalgic or maudlin. But we are who we are
because of our pasts. And it all adds up eventually. And it’s how we interpret it and use it to enhance ourself as a people, I think. You know, people who are
proud of their heritage, like you are of yours, I think it enhances
them; it’s a soul thing. And it has been for me all these years. I feel very fortunate that
I slowly discovered this, and discovered how much I love it. – Wonderful. I know we talked a little
bit about some critics naming you as a folklorist,
which I think is fantastic. I mean, folklore is a field,
right: anthropology, folklore, and a researcher. But they focus more on your oral histories and don’t pay as much
attention to your fiction. And the idea is that
somehow the fiction is maybe not up to snuff because
you are a folklorist and an oral historian. So I was wondering if you
could comment about that. Maybe we could take it
somewhere else completely and maybe talk about the relationship between your oral
histories and the fiction and how they feed each other. Maybe that’s an even more
interesting question. – Well you know, I think
that the oral histories are kind of separate. They are separate. And it’s interesting because I have thought about this myself. And whether or not I’ve
intellectualized it or not, I don’t know. I don’t call myself a folklorist. I interview people and
write down their memories. I’m not an academic. I’ve never claimed to be an academic. I just tell the stories. I tell stories. I’m a storyteller, whether
it’s from oral histories or from my own imagination
based on oral histories. But one thing I did notice that
you might find interesting. And it was self-discovery. I wrote Images and Conversations. And the next book I
wrote was Days of Plenty. I wrote Songs My Mother Sang to Me. And the next book I wrote was
El Milagro and Other Stories. – So nonfiction, fiction,
nonfiction, fiction. – Nonfiction, fiction. One seemed to naturally follow the other. – [Sandra] I love that; I love that. – And it was not a conscious thing. It’s just that I think talking to people inspired me. Remember, there were a lot
of stories that I didn’t put in my oral histories. Because in the oral histories, I needed to have a
beginning, middle, and end. I had to tell a complete
story from beginning to end of this person. And then, there were other
people that I talked to that would tell me interesting things, like Amparito Carrillo who
wore her children’s teeth on a ring that she had made specially. Just little quirky
things that I would learn and I’d file ’em away. So I wasn’t conscious
about it until later, and I realized that my process was this. So anyway, I think it’s difficult to give people certain
titles and to box them in. I don’t feel comfortable
being called a folklorist. But I feel comfortable
being called a storyteller and an oral historian,
which is different I think. – So storyteller extraordinaire,
we are out of time. And thank you so much for joining us on the Community of Writers. And I want to thank especially
Patricia Preciado Martin for coming and sharing
her wisdom and experience and artistry with us. Thank you so much. – Thank you, Sandra. (upbeat music)

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