A queer poet from the Texas Panhandle, mónica teresa ortiz is known in her residence of Austin for passion and contributions to literature. She is the Editor of Poetry for RASPA Magazine, working alongside Founder and Editor Cesar Ramos under the Art Direction of Sixto-Juan Zavala. A biannual queer literary magazine focusing on the Latino perspective, RASPA Magazine showcases the unique experiences of queer Latino artists for a better understanding of the community. mónica has also shared her literary talents on platforms such as Autostraddle, an online community that serves as a voice for all generations and identities, including her essay on the culture of normalized gun violence: Birth of the Nintendo Generation. I recently met with her at a local bar on the west side of UT campus. We talked about her perception as a queer Mexican growing up in northern Texas and how different events and personal moments have defined her perspective as a writer.
Q. What is your backstory?
I was born and raised in rural Texas, in the northern part of the state, close to Amarillo and Lubbock. I spent a lot of time with my abuelita and abuelito, and with my dad’s father. Both of my grandparents were cowboys. One is from northern Mexico and my other grandfather migrated from southern Texas, from Del Rio. It’s interesting to think about the narrative of migration– how both of them moved north and ended up in the same town. These men don’t say a lot with their words, but they say a lot with their actions. I grew up witnessing this binary between the masculine and the feminine, yet I was hardly ever told that I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. I spent a lot of time with the men in my family and it gave me this strength. I wasn’t treated in the stereotypical way that other women are treated in a machista culture, so that influenced me a lot. Both of my parents emphasized the fact that I am the oldest and I was given a lot of autonomy and independence.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced when you moved to Austin?
A. That’s a good question. I was thinking about how queerness disrupts space. It was 1999 when I first moved here and my whole queer identity at that time was doing things on my own, learning how to adapt in different spaces, not being beholden to one thing or the another, and just being able to move fluidly.
Q. What is your idea or thoughts on queer spaces in Austin?
A. Austin was a different place when I came out; I think I was 21 or 22. The queer scene in Austin today is very white and I don’t think there are many safe spaces for LGTBQ people of color here. If my friends don’t feel comfortable or safe in those spaces, then I don’t want to be a part of those places either.
Q. What lead you to be part of RASPA Magazine?
I met César Ramos through Claudia Zapata and Claudia Aparicio at Mexic-Arte around 2011.
He had just started the magazine. We had very similar opinions about literature and I think that we meshed really well when we first met. He did most of the first issue and asked me to submit some of my pieces and join the subsequent issues. I’ve edited and reviewed most of the poetry section since then. It’s been amazing working with him. He has a really good eye for finding talent and cultivating space for people who don’t have as much access to publishing.
Q. What are some positive experiences that you’ve enjoyed with RASPA?
A. Doing really interesting work. You can’t really find literary journals that focus on the Latinx LGBTQ community perspective and RASPA connects those intersections. It’s all new work from new writers, including some who are new to having work published and others who are already out there. There has been a number of really amazing poets and artists that César has been able to publish.
Q. Who are some authors/writers/poets that you could recommend?
A. That’s such a big question. Eduardo Corral has a book called Slow Lightning which came out a few years ago and won the Yale Younger Prize. It’s a book that I constantly go back to. It’s beautiful and it’s what I’d hope a book would look like. There’s an author we published in one of the RASPA issues, Jaime Berrout. She lives somewhere on the west coast but is originally from Texas. She’s put out a couple of things and I really love her work. Also Polly Anna Rocha from San Antonio. And Achy Obejas.
Q. What was going through your mind when you wrote Birth of the Nintendo Generation?
A. I had a lot of conflicting and complex emotions going on. A club was never a space for me to exist, but I understand that it’s a safe place for a lot of other people. From friends and strangers, I could see how that affected them. When I was writing the essay, I was thinking about this culture of violence that we have in the US and how it’s one that I’ve witnessed and grown up with. I’ve noticed that it’s been increasing. I’m 36 now and the first school shootings happened when I was in high school. It’s become so common now that it’s integrated in school emergency drills. Teachers are preparing their students for school shootings. It’s mind-boggling to think about how and what our generation has been exposed to.
Birth of the Nintendo Generation and more of mónica’s work can be found on autostraddle.com, or by clicking on the highlighted link. At the moment, she's anticipating the summer release of her first poetry book, muted blood; published by Black Radish Books. For more on mónica and information about her current and future literary projects, check her out at @elgallosalvaje on Instagram or Twitter.