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On the Books

On the Books Part Four: Small presses in San Antonio push on, despite economic hardships

Photo: Photo by Sarah Maspero, License: N/A, Created: 2011:06:06 13:51:14

Photo by Sarah Maspero

Bryce Milligan, publisher of Wings Press

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2010:08:13 18:30:29

Anisa Onofre and Juan Tejeda of Aztlan Libre Press.

Aztlan Libre Press, an independent San Antonio press run by Anisa Onofre and Juan Tejeda, is “dedicated to the promotion, publication, and free expression of Xican@ literature and art.” Although new to the publishing game, they have produced two books, their first being the legendary poet/activist Alurista’s tenth collection Tunaluna. And they have five books in the works. “We put up all the money for our publications and do all of the editing and design work, minus some of the cover art. This is a passion for us and we expect to be around for a long time,” Tejeda told the Current.

For Tejeda, who believes that “there needs to be more integrations and co-mingling between the academic and spoken-word scene,” San Antonio is a Chicano city, and poetry a mirror that should reflect this. “There are a lot of good writers here in San Antonio that aren’t being heard and can’t get published,” he said. “We need more small presses. I wish Aztlan Libre Press had more money and time to be able to publish everyone out there that deserves to be published. We’ve received so many manuscripts and requests. It just goes to show that there is a great need.”

Outside of what Tejeda views as a lack of open minds, sustainable distribution, and “a literate, literary, and book-buying public,” he counts the absence of availability of certain works as a real problem, as well. “We need to have access to books and the schools aren’t doing a very good job of it. For that matter, neither are the local bookstores,” he says, noting what he perceives as a lack of Latino writers being showcased. “We’re in a time where fierce self-promotion is key for writers. In most cases, as an author you need to hustle to get your work out there.”

And again there is that problem of cash.

“If you don’t have a job or money to feed your family and provide the basics, then you’re not going to have money to buy books,” Tejeda said.

Joshua “Lakey” Hinson doesn’t have a lot of cash, or a lot of time to promote himself. He is a 24-year-old slam poet who engages in a kind of spoken-word street artistry that every SA publisher the Current talked to welcomed with enthusiasm. (Tejeda, for instance, called spoken word “poetry for the people that goes back to the oral and corrido traditions.”) Without a publisher, Hinson puts together his own work at FedEx and tries to pay the bills through his art. Though by his own estimation he lives a “very minimal existence,” Hinson is happy to be surviving through his poetry. Sounding like a bit of literatonto himself, he muses with fatalist abandon about his calling. “Unless you’re cool with poverty, it isn’t a profession to expect to make a living off of in San Antonio.” •

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