2014 Luis Leal Award/Stella Pope Duarte

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We’ll talk to author Stella Pope Duarte, who was the recipient of UC Santa Barbara’s 2014 Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. The Leal Award is named in honor of Luis Leal, a professor emeritus of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCSB, who was internationally recognized as a leading scholar of Chicano and Latino literature.

José Cárdenas: Valley author Stella Pope Duarte was the recipient of the 2014 UC Santa Barbara's Luis Leal award for distinction in Chicano/Latino literature. The Leal Award is named in honor of Luis Leal, a professor emeritus of chicana and chicano studies at UCSB, who was internationally recognized as a leading scholar of Chicano and Latino literature. Duarte is the author of novels, "If I Die In Juarez" and "Let Their Spirits Dance" as well as The memoir of a writer's soul, as well as two collections of short stories "Women Who Live In Coffee Shops And Other Short Stories" and "Fragile Nights". Here to talk about the award is Stella Pope Duarte. stella, welcome back to "Horizonte." You've been a guest on our show a number of times. We talked about a number of your books. We've talked about some of the awards you've received. I think this is the first time that you've brought the award with you. And I know this is a terribly significant and meaningful award. Let's start by talking about Luis Leal. Why is it named after him and what does that mean?

Stella Pope Duarte: Luis Leal is a wonderful pioneer for Chicano literature. Latino literature, as well. Because he taught Latin-American studies and he's taught Spanish. He started actually in the south, in Mississippi and Arkansas, and then he didn't think that was a good fit for what he wanted to do, which was to extend it into Chicano literature. So he headed out to Chicago. And then from there, he was invited to teach at U.C. Santa Barbara and he did. And that's where he stayed until he passed away at 102 years old.

José Cárdenas: Oh, my goodness.

Stella Pope Duarte: He was a joyful man and he was really pressing forward to salute Chicano literature because he said that that has been bypassed. Latino studies has always been part of a curriculum but Chicano studies has been by-passed and he said that that history of Chicano literature goes all the way back to pre-colonization times with the mixture of the mestizos, the tribes and so forth and that's what started what we now know as Chicano literature.

José Cárdenas: What was the purpose of the award? It's been around for a number of years. You join an impressive list of people who have received it. Some of the best writers in the country and obviously, you're one of them. But what was the intent of the award?

Stella Pope Duarte: .The intent of the award is to continue to nurture ourselves with our own body of literature, which is very extensive, short stories, essays, novels, dramas. And sometimes like they were saying in Santa Barbara, they've been so overlooked but it was my pleasure to see people there, students from all over the world, Fulbright students.

José Cárdenas: You're talking about your trip to Santa Barbara to receive the award. We've got some pictures that we're going to put on the screen while we're talking about you being there, receiving the award and so on. Has it fulfilled that purpose, to nurture this kind of literature? Has that worked and can you give us some examples?

Stella Pope Duarte: I believe that it has, because it puts the focus on Chicano literature, you know, first things first.

José Cárdenas: And we've got a picture right now of you accepting the award.

Stella Pope Duarte: And with Antonio Leal, his son. He was there to present the award with Dr. Mario Garcia. And Dr. Garcia has written extensively about Luis Leal. They loved him up there. You can see just the pride that they had in this gentleman. And what impressed me was that I saw students from Romania, from Czechoslovakia, from Greece, from Spain, Mexico, saying we love Chicano literature.

José Cárdenas: Why would that be? Their cultural backgrounds are so different from what you would expect.

Stella Pope Duarte: They were telling me that they kind of identify with the struggles that we the Chicanos have had in the United States, because it hasn't been an easy ride for us. We have suffered over the years, segregation, discrimination, and so forth throughout the years of history in this country. And so they're fascinated by how resilient we are and how we are still like they said a nation. They said you're still a world within the United States.

José Cárdenas: And this is some of the people that you had dinner with at U.C. Santa Barbara. Going back to the question of whether it impacts towards nurturing, how did it nurture your career? The fact that the award was out there.

Stella Pope Duarte: For one thing, when I got the call from Dr. Garcia, telling me that they would like to give me this award, and then he mentioned the first recipient was very famous, Pulitzer prize winner for sing songs of love. And he starts naming all these huge authors and I'm like do you have the right author? And he said yes, stella. We are using your work here, the students would very much love to give you this award.

José Cárdenas: Did he cite some specific works of yours when he made this phone call?

Stella Pope Duarte: He said that what they were showcasing in Santa Barbara was let your spirit dance, the story of the Vietnam veteran from Phoenix that dies during the Vietnam conflict and that book, what an honor, what an honor, what a privilege to give voice to our mijos who died on the bloody fields of Vietnam and that's the book they were showcasing there and they were so impressed with that work and with the history of the Chicano nation at war for this country. So that was a really big thing over there.

José Cárdenas: What does it mean to you now to receive this award?

Stella Pope Duarte: Well, for one thing I'm very grateful. And I'm humbled. And there's many people out there who are listening to me right now who have stood by my side, who have seen me through struggles and trials and through joys and to them I thank because it's not just my award. I brought it back to Phoenix so that we could encourage and also nurture our Chicano studies here in Arizona and in Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: You've been very prolific, a number of books, short stories and so forth. What are you working on right now?

Stella Pope Duarte: What I'm working on right now is the biography of raul.

José Cárdenas: Somebody else we've had on the show here.

Stella Pope Duarte: And he is, of course, a long-time, 30-year executive director.

José Cárdenas: National council of la raza.

Stella Pope Duarte: And he's living in Maryland, and I have had again another privilege and honor to interview him both here in the United States and when he became the ambassador of the Dominican Republic, I flew to the Dominican Republic and finished my interviews. And how grateful am I to hear this man's amazing story?

José Cárdenas: And it sounds like it's going to be a great book. We're almost out of time. When will it come out?

Stella Pope Duarte: Well as a matter of fact, today, I spoke to my agent in New York City and he will place it --

José Cárdenas: We'll be seeing it soon.

Stella Pope Duarte: I'll be back again.

José Cárdenas: We look forward to it. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Stella Pope Duarte: Thank you, Jose.

José Cárdenas: And, that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at Eight and "Horizonte" thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Stella Pope Duarte:Author and Recipient, UC Santa Barbara's 2014 Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature;

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