The Birth of El Niño y El Cuento
One of the goals of Somos en escrito Magazine is to promote and encourage Latinos and Latinas to write in any genre and just about any topic—children’s and young adult’s literature is one form that deserves special attention. It may seem that there are many books being written for these age groups because we only hear about the award competitions and such, but for years, the percentage of books for and about, and written by, Latinas or Latinos have somehow always fallen below 3 percent.
This past January in Austin, Texas, Luis Ramirez, Larissa Dávila and Samantha Ramirez formed Voces Latinas, a non-profit organization—their mission, to consult, support, inspire, implement and boost community groups to fulfill their goals. For example, recently a Central American arts group was bogged down by the State of Texas fee for incorporation, about a thousand dollars. Larissa advised them that by joining a local arts support group they could incorporate for only two hundred dollars.
Last February, when they unveiled their “business model” at a community meeting, Erika Martinez,a young mother of two girls, 8 and 12 year-olds, shared her dream of creating a writing competition for children. Her daughters loved to read and to write, she said, but didn’t have many opportunities to receive recognition for their stories. Voces Latinas responded: they founded El Niño y El Cuento, a writing contest for children.
“The idea of El Niño y El Cuento was seeded from my daughters’ love for literature and how they can develop their imagination when they create a story. This project was a dream that I sent to the universe with a lot of faith and developed with a lot of effort and it has come back to me with great results,” Erika said.
“Voces Latinas decided to support Erika with the contest because we all had a teacher, an uncle, an aunt or a person that pushed us to submit that first story or participate in that contest at an early age and that is what incubates in us the drive to continue writing, and we believe that with El Niño y El Cuento, the children of the Austin community receive that opportunity,” Larissa added.
The group found a sponsor and three bilingual judges, Iréne Lara Silva, Jane Garcia and Sandra P. Snethen. The contest was geared for children ages 7 to 10 and 11 to 14 years of age. Manuscripts could be written in English, Spanish or bilingually. Grading was based on Creativity, Technique, and Empathy with the Reader; grammar was not taken into consideration.
Children had one month to submit the stories and 78 stories were submitted. The winners received prizes and every child that submitted a work received a Certificate of Participation.
Primer Lugar: Maria’s Chance – Carmen Saenz, 10 años
Segundo Lugar: El Susurro del Viento – Anna Alleman, 7 años
Tercer Lugar: La Fresa Magica – Andrea N. Abundis, 8 años
Primer Lugar: Carla Escribe – Mason Lane Drummond, 11 años
Segundo Lugar: The Stars in the Sky – Alexa Klumpen, 12 años
Tercer Lugar: El Gusanito Gormito – Carol Villeda, 14 años
Editor’s Note: According to the rules, Creativity, Technique and Empathy with the Reader were the critical factors in judging; grammar was not taken into consideration. Against all my editorial instincts, I refrained from making any changes. Readers will discover a beauty and a power of the word in the stories and poems that rise above such technicalities. They should give us heart in the future of our children and the future of U.S. Latino literature.
Here are the six new writers’ works:
Group A: First Place
By Carmen Saenz
Most of the girls in Maria’s grade thought that she was weird, but really she was just very smart and unique. One day Maria’s grandma, Lita surprised her with a new dress that she had just made. It was made out of a yellow and pink lace. Maria fell in love with it the second she laid her dark brown eyes on it. She was so excited to wear it to school! Maria thanked Lita with a big wet kiss and a loving hug.
The next day Maria confidently walked to school with a big smile on her joyful face. Maria’s day was starting off great, until she waved at two girls in her grade and they giggled then whispered something to each other. Of course Maria knew that they were talking about her. She sighed, but told herself to stay positive. Right as she walked into the school doors an older girl named Kate sarcastically yelled “Nice dress!” then gave Maria a snotty grin. Once again Maria sighed and looked to the ground. She was no longer confident about her dress, just embarrassed. Once again a girl in Maria’s class commented rudely on her dress, she ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. All of the sudden tears started rolling down her sad face. She was very confused why no one liked her dress. Maria just wanted to be liked. When the bell rang Maria wiped her tears away and headed to class. Mrs. Gonzalez, her teacher asked if Maria if she was ok. “Yes, I’m fine” she answered. So, Mrs. G went on with her lesson. “We have a big project coming up. It is about heritage and culture, your job is to write an essay about where you and your ancestors came from.” She announced. When class was over Maria ran home to tell Lita about the terrible day that she had.
Maria tried to start her project, but after a few minutes she realized that she had no idea what to write. Out of ideas, she asked Lita for help. Her grandma seemed very happy to share
Information about Maria’s heritage. When they were finished talking Maria took notes and started on her project. She was so lost in her work that she didn’t realize the time! It was past her bedtime. Maria put her pajamas on and jumped into her bed. She closed her eyes, but she couldn’t go to sleep. Even though she was very confident about her project, Maria was afraid that people would make fun of her project, just like how they made fun of her dress. Finally, Maria fell asleep, forgetting that she hadn’t completed her project.
In the morning when she was getting dressed she fished through her drawers but couldn’t find anything to wear. Even though she was the one who had picked out all of her clothes only a couple of days back, she couldn’t find anything that wasn’t “old fashion”. When Lita was ready to go she hollered at Maria, but she didn’t answer. When she walked into Maria’s room she saw that Maria was sitting on the ground with her face in her knees. Maria told her about the mean girl Kate. After talking with Maria Lita had an idea. She walked to her closet and pulled out a big brown chest and set it on Maria’s carpet. When Lita opened it, she pulled out several pictures, some colorful fabric, letters and books. When Lita was finished emptying the box she stared into Maria’s big eyes and smiled. Maria closely examined the detailed objects.
Lita asked her what all of the items resembled to her. “Family, I guess, and culture.” Maria answered with a puzzled look on her face. Lita nodded and silently passed her a bag of pictures. Maria flipped through them. After a while Maria realized that all of the pictures were of her grandparents. Then Lita softly said, “Maria, this is you. All of this belongs to our family. These letters represent our history, these pictures represent out family, and these dresses represent our culture.” Maria was very impressed about what her grandma had just said. “History, family, and culture.” She repeated to herself. “Good” Lita answered with a nod. Maria was definitely ready for school now. Maria picked up her pencil, thought a minute, and began to write as quickly as she could, full of new ideas for her essay.
When Lita dropped Maria off at school she could tell that Maria was going to have a great day. Maria was wearing the same smile that she always did, but this time it was bigger. When she walked into Mrs. Gonzalez’ 5th grade class, she greeted Mrs. G. with a giant hug, and then confidently turned her essay in. Kate was staring at Maria with a disapproving look, and Maria knew that she wasn’t perfect, but she knew who she really was and that’s all that mattered. Later that day Mrs. Gonzalez passed out graded essays. When she handed Maria her paper, she nodded and smiled. Maria nervously turned the paper over, and at the top in big red letters it said A+! Maria was so happy! She raced to Lita and showed her the paper. “I knew you could do it!” Lita joyfully announced. “I couldn’t of done without you.” Maria answered. She gave Lita a big hug and at that moment she knew who she was and she was proud to be herself! She decided to never doubt herself again, and with a smile she gave Lita a big wet kiss!
Group A: Second Place
El Susurro del Viento
By Anna Alleman
Puedes oir el viento susurrando lo secretos
Que vienen del aire hasta la tierra.
Que te giran en la dirección de su destino;
Que te hace ver que importa para ti.
La dirección de su confianza, pasión, su sentido y amor.
Las razones que te hacen a ti el único.
Hay un gran mundo y no tanto tiempo para explorar todo,
Pero si ves en tu corazón vas a ver que tu futuro cambia pero tu destino no.
Y sentiras el pasto rosando tus pies y el olor del océano, el aire frio y también
Caliente, la tierra mojada y también seca.
Ves las estrellas que brillan en la noche calmado, cierra tus ojos, respira y ama.
Ama la tierra, el océano y el aire. Amor, repítelo amor.
Es libre, sin instrucciones, lo mas importante
Amor esta en el aire, la tierra, el agua y el fuego
Brilla en nosotros, los animales, las plantas…
Brilla…brilla en su destino y en alguna parte del mundo
Su destino esta sonriendo ahora.
Group A: Third Place
La Fresa Magica
By Andrea N. Abundis
Habia una vez una nina que se llamaba Carolina. Un dia Carolina sembro una planta, el dia siguiente una fresa gigante crecio, le dio un poquito de la fresa a su mascota, la mascota aprendi a hacer trucos de inmediato, pero la mascota no se acabo la fresa. Para la cena tuvieron invitados, los invitados comieron fresa, pero no se acabaron la fresa. Los invitados eran los mejores amigos de Carolina. El siguiente dia la amiga de Carolina la menos valiente ya se hizo super valiente, y la otra amiga que era muy pelionera con otras ninas menos con Carolina , ya no fue pelionera nunca. Carolina se dio cuenta que la fresa era mágica; le aviso a su mama que la fresa era mágica, la mama de Carolina le dijo; ¿ porque no haces una mermelada que puedas compartir con el mundo?.
¡Si, esa es la idea mas padre que he escuchado!!!!!! grito Carolina, pero por mas frascos que hacían nunca se acabaría la fresa. El dia siguiente fueron al estudio del noticiero, les dijeron que anunciarían de la mermelada. La anunciaron y esa mermelada estaba en todas las tiendas de el mundo, y les dijo algo, Donde había guerras comieran la mermelada y pararon las guerras. Los niños y la ninas que están super enfermos comieran esa mermelada y se curaron, a todo el mundo le paso algo hermoso.
Group B: First Place
Por Mason Lane Drummond
Cada manana las 5:00 la mama de Carla se despertaba y tenia cuidado de no despertar a su pequeña hija. Se vestia con vestia con ropas viejas y llevaba sus cosas para un autobús sin ni siquiera comer su desayuno. Se iba a limpiar la casa de un autor hacendoso y con muchos privilegios. Trabaja ahí toda la mañana limpiando una gran porción de la mansión para una paga de 15dl al dia. Carla amaba a a su mama, y no entendia porque tenia que irse cada dia y dejar a su hija sola. Ella no entendia porque tenia que ir a la escuela con ropa fea y barata, cuando las otras ninas en su grado se ponían vestidos tan elegantes y bonitos. Una vez pregunto a su mama, pero lo único que la mujer cansada y con hambre le dijo fue:
- “¡Hay Carla somos inmigrantes” y respiro profundamente
- No lo vas a entener hija, es muy complicado.
Como Carla solo tenia 6 anos no entendia la palabra inmigrantes a si que lo pensó mucho. Cuando tenia 8 anos decidio preguntar a su mama otra vez, esta vez su madre la hizo sentar en una silla para escuchar.
-“Oh Carla, estoy muy triste”
- “Porque, mama? Dijo Carla.
- Porque deseo regresar a Mexico y deseo que tu papa estuviera con migo
Su mama empezó a llorar.
-Carlita en este lugar no somos importantes. Somos algo llamado inmigrantes. Y eso es malo. Carla no entendia pero desde ese momento decidio ayudar a su madre para toda la vida.
Ya cuando estaba en quinto grado sabia lo que era una inmigrante estaba creciendo y aprendiendo varios idiomas ya comprendia lo que decía mama. Las ninas en la escuela no le trataban bien y era horrible, como la maestra decía que escribir era una buena forma de expresión y ella era muy buena escribiendo, empezó a escribir sobre su situación con sus compañeras. Elaboro en un cuento largo sobre unas brujas que eran ninas malas durante el dia. Le encantaba escribir y continuo escribiendo mas y mas.
Un dia se cancelo la escuela de Carla y no podía estar en casa sola todo el dia, asi que se fue con su mama al trabajo.
La casa era gigantesca. Y como no tenia nada que hacer fue a explorar para encontrar un lugar para escribir en paz. Muchas partes estaban cerradas, pero una estaba abierta. Con curiosidad, siguió adentro, un señor la veía con interés.
- Porque estas aquí.
- Mi mama trabaja aquí, respondo Carla.
- ¿Qué tienes ahí? Le pregunto el señor.
- Un cuento
- - ¿escribes?
- - si.
- -Yo también. Puedo leer tu cuento, le pregunto el autor.
Como ella no dijo NO, lo empezó a leer. Cuando termino el autor le miraba con sorpresa.
-Lo has hecho muy bien. El le dijo.
- Si?, respondio Carla
-Debes terminar ese cuento.
Desde ese momento, cambio la vida de Carla. La escritura la cambio, ella había hecho algo muy bien lo cual la motivo a creer que su vida era valiosa. Ella crecio a ser una mujer respetada y bonita, la escritura le ayudo a serlo
Group B: Second Place
The Starts in the Sky
By Alexa Klumpen
“No! No! don’t go please, don’t go! Francesca you don’t know these people, they could kill you they could lock you in a room with no food or wáter. I would die if you died.” Cried Francesca’s abuelo.
“I know tata,” replied Francesca, “but I have to go, these are great new opportunities in the U.S. and I need to see my parents and my btother. It has been 10 years since I last saw them I miss them so much. I will miss you so much and I know what could happen on the way, but I have to go. The coyote is coming tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. I’ll have to be ready to go by then.”
Wham! The door shut and Francesca’s abuelo walked out with tears in hs eyes. It was already 11:00 p.m. They both went to bed without saying another word to each other. She dreamt that night about the day her parents left with her older brother. She was only five years old and she cried and cried. Her father and mother had jobs in the US. They hadn’t taken Francesca because she was so young and the journey would be to harsh. Their plan was to send for her as son as she was old enough, Her pillow was wet for her tears when she woke up in the morning.
Now, she is old enough to undertake the dangerous and scorching trip. Her parents had sent the money, $3,000, to pay the man who would guide her through the desert and across the border. Her grandfather was scared to send her and was going to miss her with all his heart. He disagreed with her parents about letting her do this journey on her own.
She was ready to go. She was wearing the ring her mother had given her when she left and a bracelet her abuelo had made for her. When the coyote came to pick her up she was as ready as she thought she could be. The only thing that she carried was a backpack with tissue, a change of clothing, a few dollars, a baseball cap and a rosary form her best friend. She was also separately carrying a big bottle of frozen wáter and small one of wáter. She had sewn a larger amount of money into the hem of her jeans.
When the coyote arrived she tore herself away from her abuelo and got into a van with no Windows. There were five other people in the truck when she got in and they picked up another four people on the way. They drove for what seemed like forever and when they finally stopped they were told to get out and go to the bathroom. The first truck drove off and left them standing there to wait for the next one which would take them to a place where they would have to sratr walking the rest of the way. Finally after waiting an hour the second truck came with people already on it. Francesca’s group was crammed into the truck. The truck smelt like pee and was really small. When Francesca’s group got on the truck everybody was asleep even thought it was around 2:00 p.m. They tried not to wake them but as son as the truck turned a corner everybody in it piled on top of each other.
That drive took so long. About half way through they stopped for a bathroom break and stretched. Then they were shoved back into the truk and drove for so long again. When they finally stopped again it was already sunset and they were going to have to walk through the desert then sleep there and then walk farther. The coyote at that time told them to keep walking in the direction that he pointed and they would get to the border, there they would have to cross without being noticed. That was going to be the tricky bit. Then the truck door shut, the enginess turned on and the coyotes drove away leaving the travelers behind. They started walking in the direction that the coyote had pointed. They walked a long, long way until it had become too dark to see. They drew an arrow in the ground showing the direction that they have to be going in and then everybody lay down and went to bed.
That night Francesca dreamt about seeing her parents and brother again and how wonderful it is going to be when she gets to them. She had a great night and woke up happy until she found that everybody had left her sleeping and the slight breeze had covered up the arrow on the ground too. Francesca freaked out and sat down to cry. She cried for about an hour and then go up and started walking in the direction she thought was the right way. She was already low on wáter, she had less tan half of the big bottle left. She wandered and wandered, but nothing changed. It was only dry and hot the whole time. When Francesca finally stopped to have a drink she accidentally knocked it over not realizing it untill all of it spilt out. She now had no more wáter and knew she needed to get somewhere and find more wáter otherwise she would die.
She wandered the whole day without seeing anything but cactus and dry cracked ground. When it got dark she lay down and fell asleep from exhaustion. Waking up in the morning to a lizard crawling on top of her head, she shooed it away and made herself get up. She was already getting weak and did not want to go further but she knew she had to get going and find some wáter. It was so hot that dry. She walked the whole day stopping every 30 minutes. When it bécame night she sat down. She needed to keep herself alive. She was afraid, really, really afraid. Francesca dozed since she was so tried, but she Heard the coyotes howling in the distance. To get through the night Francesca started at all the stars in the sky. When she woke up she started walking, more stumbling. She couldn’t see properly or think propertly. It was all blurr for her. She walked a while until she sat down for a rest. Francesca kept passing out for a few minutes at a time but way too often. After passing out for around 10 minutes, she saw her parents in front of her. Francesca shouted out to them “ Mami? Papi? Is that you? Please help me I need you so much.” “We know,” replied her parents “That is why we came here. We love you more that anything in the world. Your dad and I so proud of you. We love you.”
Francesca smiled really big, closed her eyes, and went to sleep for the last time.
Group B: Third Place
El Gusanito Gormito
Habia una vez una granja, un gusanito llamado Gormito que vivía tan feliz y campante en un pequeño rincón del granero y compartia con otros gusanitos que eran sus amigos. Un dia gusanito Gormito les comento a sus amiguitos que era hora de partir, porque tenia que cumplir una gran misión, asi que, los demás gusanitos le preguntaron.
¿ Que misión es? Platicanos
El gusanito Gormito les contesto
Que todos los gusanitos en el mundo tienen que convertirse en bellas mariposas.
Los gusanitos quedaron tan impresionados que empezaron a decirle al gusanito Gormito que ellos igual iban a ser hemosas mariposas ya que querían ver el hermoso paisaje que les rodeaba.
Esa misma tarde el gusanito Gormito empezó a poner un poco de ramitas y hojitas para llevárselas al momento de partir; al dia siguiente el gusanito Gormito se depidio de todos sus amiguitos, miro a lo lejos un hermoso y frondoso árbol y les dijo a todos sus amigos….
Alla voy a cumplir un gran sueño.
Todos sus amiguitos lo felicitaron porque Gormito era un gusanito muy sobresaliente. En su camino rumbo al frondoso árbol se encontró un grupo de gallinas que intentaron comérselo, ¡ah! Pero el gusanito Gormito era muy inteligente comenzó hablar con ella diciéndoles que no se lo comieran porque de lo contrario la gallina que se lo comiera se pondría gorda y fea y como en ese momento pasaron los gallos mas guapos, las gallinas no se lo comieron porque eran muy vanidosas. El gusanito Gormito siguió su camino al frondoso árbol y no tardo mucho en encontrarse al grupo de gallos que al igual que las gallinasse lo intentaron comer y nuevamente el gusanito Gormito convencio a los gallos de no comérselo porque eran igual de vanidosos que las gallinas, ya que el gusanito Gormito les comento que si se lo comían se pondrían gordos y feos y no tedrian pegue con las gallinas, asi que desistieron en su intento por comérselo. El gusanito Gormito ya no quería encontrarse ningún peligro asi es que vio a un grupo de conejos y les pregunto muy amablemente que si lo podían llevar al árbol y uno de ellos le contesto que si que hiba a ser un placer llevarlo al árbol ya que cerca del frondoso árbol había un huerto de zanahorias, por fin durante varios segundos saltando sobre el lomo del conejito llego al frondoso árbol Gormito se despidió y agradeció al conejito porque sin su ayuda no podría haber llegado.
Cuando se bajo del lomo del conejito el gusanito Gormito se subio rápidamente a lo mas alto del árbol y ahí paso dia y noche, dia y noche hasta que un dia por la mañana una hermosa, hermosa mariposa salio y voló hasta donde vivian sus amiguitos y ahí uno de ellos lo vio y le pregunto…
¿Eres tu Gormito? Y el gusanito ahora mariposo le contesto – si soy yo estoy volando feliz.
Y colorin colorado este cuento se acabado.