The annual cross-cultural, bilingual literature and arts festival Lit & Luz is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! Since the launch of the festival ten years ago by MAKE Literary Productions, Lit & Luz has brought together dozens of artists and writers between Mexico and the United States into conversation with one another, producing unique works not otherwise possible; as well as a host of bilingual events both around Chicago, online, and later in Mexico City.
This year’s edition focuses on the theme of “ten,” which means “have” in Spanish. The festival kicks off on Friday the 13th at the Chicago Art Department, followed by the festival’s keynote address at 2 p.m. the following day from author and poet Ana Castillo. It then continues with a range of events between the 13th and 21st, including events featuring guests such as writer Isabel Zapata, artist Fernando Palma Rodríguez, playwright Nancy García Loza, and many more. The festival culminates with the Live Magazine Show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on the 21st, where this year’s collaborative cohort will present their work inspired by this year’s festival in both Spanish and English.
The Chicago Review of Books managed to catch up with a few of the Lit & Luz participants and staff members to discuss this year’s festival. Angelica Davila works for UIC’s Center for Latinx Literature of the Americas, as well as serving as the Partnerships & Sponsorships Coordinator for Lit & Luz. “When I was younger I wasn’t exposed much to Mexican writers, despite being Mexican—but that’s how it is in a lot of schools,” said Davila. “As an adult, I craved to find other writers like myself, and I appreciate that Lit & Luz offers this experience and space that is free for the public.”
What makes Lit & Luz so unique is how it pairs writers and artists from both the United States and Mexico, and encourages them to inspire and invigorate each other’s artistic practices to create new, brilliant work that only collaboration can produce. Poet Carrie Olivia Adams is one of the festivals collaborators this year, and she had this to say about the experience:
“It’s been amazing what MAKE has been able to achieve in a decade through this festival. Its commitment to cultural exchange, combined with the opportunity to build a cohort of artists across both geographic and disciplinary boundaries is inspiring and very special. Given Chicago’s close connection to Mexico as the home of the second-largest Mexican diaspora in the country, it is a natural partnership that comes at a time when the need to be open to dialogue and diversity—and the fruits of creativity and compassion they can yield—is more important than ever.
The invitation to participate in the festival came at a time when I was feeling a bit frustrated with my own artistic practice, so it’s been a wonderful opportunity to work with someone else (in my case, the incredible sculptor Alejandro Almanza Pereda) and to feel reinvigorated by that collaboration and energized with new ideas. As part of the festival, participating artists are encouraged to break out of their artistic habits, and that push to experiment has been freeing in all the best ways.”
Author Isabel Zapata echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think the key element is collaboration. Working side by side with someone with different interests and techniques is challenging and enriching, and it results in pieces that are different from what one usually does.”
As mentioned, the fruits of these collaborative efforts will be revealed at the Live Magazine Show at MCA Chicago on the 21st. This will be a reveal not only for the festival attendees, but also for the staff and collaborators. “I’m very curious to see what the other artists have been up to for the last couple of months and how they have chosen to interpret the theme of “Ten,” which is at once very concrete and abstract,” said Carrie Olivia Adams. “So, the full magazine show at the MCA is something I’m very much looking forward to—the surprise and awe of seeing everyone’s unique spin on a shared idea.”
Lit & Luz’s Founding Artistic Director Daniel Borzutzky said the same: “My favorite thing about the festival is the multilingual and often multi-genre and multidisciplinary collaborations between Chicago artists and Mexican artists, which are showcased in the Live Show, the final event of the festival. The space that the festival opened up to create new art of the Americas is a powerful testament to how art and culture can move poignantly across borders.”
This year’s Lit & Luz Festival is sure to be another wonderful opportunity for writers, artists, and creative people of all stripes and cultures to broaden their horizons, and consider new perspectives. For more information on the festival, including the full festival schedule and event registration, please visit their website, https://www.litluz.org/. We’ll see you there!
Ian is a writer based out of Chicago, and one of the Daily Editors at The Chicago Review of Books. His work has appeared in The LA Review of Books, Input Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Chicago Reader, among others. He is working on a novel. Follow him on Twitter as @IanJBattaglia.
Rachel León is a writer, editor, and social worker. She serves as Daily Editor for Chicago Review of Books and Fiction Editor for Arcturus. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, BOMB Magazine, The Millions, Electric Literature, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Ploughshares blog, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. She shares her anxiety and wide-eyed optimism to encourage other writers in the newsletter Pub Cheerleaders, which you can find at: https://pubcheerleader.substack.com