From March 9 to 11, the University of New Mexico hosted the three-day Latinx Visions Conference where a diverse group of people experienced performances, art and panels created by around 70 scholars and artists. The primary focus of the conference was to highlight speculative works of art in all forms, according to Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, event coordinator from the UNM Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
The Conference was free for the public and brought in people from the public, including professors and students from around the globe.
“What we wanted to showcase was the type of work that is being done in speculative fiction, speculative cultures; we wanted to bring together writers and artist from across the country who were all interested in sharing their own experiences, it was a way of showing off the community and also getting back together after several years of not being able to do this stuff,” Vaquera-Vásquez said.
The focus of the conference was on the growing field of Chicanx and Latinx speculative fiction, art and performance — an emerging field of scholarship and literature, according to Cathryn Merla-Watson, event coordinator from Texas-Rio Valley University.
“This was a crucial moment in 2023 for us to come together and showcase this work and theorize it and give value to this field and literature,” Merla-Watson said.
The event kicked off at the University’s Student Union Building and then made its way to other venues like the Outpost Performance Space and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Friday afternoon, performer Ilan Stavans shared his anti-lecture, a one-act play which he titled “The Oven.”
The performance was based on Stavans’ experience taking an Indigenous, psychoactive brewed drink called ayahuasca while visiting Colombia. The drink made him think he was a jaguar. He said he had felt like he was in an oven and sought to break down the “spiritual meaning” of the oven.
For Grzegorz Welizarowiez, a Polish student theater scholar who came to New Mexico to study Latinx and Chicano studies, watching Stavans’ work was surprising after working with him in other fashions.
“It was surprising for me because I know Ilan Stavans from his scholarly work; we were intrigued,” Welizarowicz said.
Stavans took pieces of his clothing on and off as well as crawled on the floor and chewed on his own shoe, as an animal would. He said he had an epiphany when numbers appeared on the heads of people, corresponding to the number of words we have left to speak until we die, during his ayahuasca trip.
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“I believe that we do all have a limited number of words and those words are a kind of clock; we have X number of words and when those words come to zero, death arrives,” Stavans said.
Welizarowcz said that after watching Stavans’ performance, the message was very important and linked his own collective history of his people to the story that was shared with attendees.
“It was a very powerful image. I think he plays with our imagination of our own sense of who we are,” Welizarowcz said.
The conference had other performances by Cancion Cannibal Cabaret, a punk rock dystopian musical, and a keynote by Guillermo Gómez-Peña that featured a performance of “The Pandemia Chronicles,” a brand new spoken-word monologue and “live-action jukebox” by Gómez-Peña and Balitronica Gómez. The conference also included two art exhibitions held throughout Albuquerque, according to the conference website.
Miyawni Curtis is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MiyawniCurtis
Miyawni Curtis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo and served as the Summer 2023 news editor. She can be contacted on Twitter @MiyawniCurtis