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Sopa de frijoles, Tamalitos, Guacamole, Arroz con leche…all seem like delicious plates off of a typical latino restaurant’s menu. For Jorge Argueta, they are titles for his children’s poetry books.
Argueta’s book “Guacamole,” was granted the “Best Illustrated Bilingual Children’s Book” award at the International Latino Book Awards Gala held in New York City on May 30.
According to the Salvadoran poet who migrated to San Francisco in 1980, the award is a form of recognition as “they are taking into account what we have lived over the years in this country and saying ‘we are here, and this is what we represent.’’
Argueta’s books celebrate the roots, traditions, and cultural imagination of a people of multiple idiosyncrasies. They are books that remember how, for example, a child enjoys climbing a mango tree and eating a juicy fruit from it.
For Argueta, writing children’s books “is like trying to keep playing that game, and perpetuate your childhood…if we are able to transmit this like medicine for our children, so they know where they come from, they will feel happy.”
Writers from 15 different countries participated in the contest. The award was presented on behalf of Latino Literacy Now in collaboration with Las Comadres para las Americas, and el Instituto Cervantes—foundations that promote education and culture in the Latino community.
Kirk Whisler, member of the Board of Directors of Latino Literacy Now—an organization that promotes literacy and education in the Latino community—said that these awards “are defining a community by its cultural and literary caliber.”
Juan Felipe Herrera, poet laureate of California, met Argueta in 1981. “Jorge came writing, visiting schools, libraries and organizing workshops, teaching youth, talking to them about his characters and stories from the Mission and El Salvador … for him, this is just beginning to take off. Those of us who know him and have followed his work knew that this would be Jorge’s moment.”
“I congratulate Jorge for this honor, I hope he keeps writing many books…many of us enjoy the beautiful work that he creates,” he added.
At Luna’s Press, a bookstore that Argueta opened with his companion Holly Ayala just one month ago –he shares his latest projects: “This space will function like a library, but also as a place where people can come and enjoy themselves, sit down to read, talk and have a good time with us.”
Luna’s press has already published more than 10 authors, giving local Latino writers an opportunity to publish their work.
“The first time I read Jorge’s work, the story both impacted and motivated me to do what I do. Each page of the book is a gateway to many worlds,” said Leticia Hernandez, a poet and friend of the award-winning author, crediting the work of Argueta. “The fact that people as committed, and simple as him are receiving these types of award is what the community needs, so that we can feel proud of ourselves and our culture.”
To learn more about Jorge Argueta, visit his website: www.jorgeargueta.com. The Luna’s Press book store is located at 3790 Mission Street.
—Traducción Gabriela Sierra