Laura Diaz de Arce
V: What does being Latina mean to you?
L: This is going to sound a bit weird, but I also think being a Latina is typically a uniquely American experience. If you’re in Argentina, and are Argentinian, then your identity lies more in that than say to be “Latin American.” But in the US, all our disparate cultures and nationalities get lumped into one category, and our identities get flattened and parodied. Our uniting factor is to have an experience of diaspora and discrimintion. I have always been interested in how this identity, forged in cultural exchange, is manifested.
My father is from Cuba, my mother is from Chile, and I would not exist had they not met in America. It’s an odd thing to owe your existence to a country that is determined to maintain you as an outsider, even if you fully blend in.
So to me, being a Latina is a conversation and a negotiation. It’s a verb; an action and commitment to reorient myself towards my history and our commonalities. And it is a political action, because being Latina is about us reasserting our presence and our power.
V: Who are your Latina influences? This can be anyone!
L: Ashley Inguanta for one. She’s a poet, and though I am not a poet (nor particularly into poetry- don’t come at me poetry bros), I love how odd and challenging her work is. She’s got this running theme of embodiment and presence. I really wish she would write more prose but that’s not for me to decide or reasonably demand.
Leza Cantoral is just a badass and I admire the frankness of her work.
Carmen Maria Machado has a visceral quality to her writing. She’s got an amazing delivery, and a naturally suspenseful quality to her prose.
I talk about a few others in question five as well.
V: How did you begin your writing journey?
L: I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t really believe that was a thing you could just...do? I started going to comic conventions in high school and college, which introduced me to a lot of local writers, a lot of whom were self-published. They kind of showed me the ropes and eventually I started putting out work.
V: Advice for other Latinas wanting to begin writing.
L: Being a writer is a lot like walking through a maze blindfolded while a bunch of people scream directions at you. Some will try to give you the paths they took, not realizing their maze was different. Some will accidentally steer you the wrong way. Some might help you get quite far until you hit a wall. Ultimately you’re going to have to filter out a lot of the noise and feel around for a wall until you get to where you want to be. Be okay with getting stuck and going backwards. Let yourself figure out your own maze.
Also, realize that the writer you are today may not be the writer you are tomorrow. Being flexible and open to change is a strength in such a volatile industry.
V: Three favorite books written by Latinas.
L:This is going to sound like I’m cheating but honestly, two of the works are from other writers published in Latinx Screams.
Cenote City by Monique Quintana. This book has layers of beauty, tragedy and complexity, and it’s Monique’s ability to weave all that together in a genuinely bizarre plot that really makes this book a gem. She has a wonderfully direct and curt way of describing things you sometimes forget what she’s telling you is fantastical.
Itzà by Rios de la Luz. It’s been two years since I read this and every once in a while I will still remember scenes from it. Rios is such a poetic writer, and even the mostly ghastly and painful scenes are gruesomely beautiful. It’s absolutely one of the most moving works I’ve read in years and I still get a tightness in my chest when I think about it.
Nostalgia Maldita: 1-900-MEXICO : A StairMaster Piece By Yareli Arizmendi. Technically this is a performance piece but I’ve only read it so I’m counting it. It’s trippy and weird and all about negotiating the self between your identity, heritage, and Americanism. It’s wonderful and weird. Sorry if it isn’t available in print anymore.
Yes, this list is curated by a South and Carribean American, and the works are purely Chicana. Works like these are the works I have mostly been exposed to and which really moved me. If that doesn’t speak to the commonality of our experiences as Latinas I don’t know what does.
V: What was your inspiration for your story in Latinx Screams.
L: I’m white presenting. Very white presenting. As in, people typically think I’m Swedish (a place where they make white people) and growing up people thought my mom was my nanny. Or they asked if I was adopted. Consequently, I have a lot of anxieties about my place as a Latina and assimilation. I’ve noticed a trend among other white Latinx people to start to fully assimilate into whiteness and abandon their heritage. I think, even as we strive for equality, it is important to retain our cultural markers and not reject them or to move in favor of full assimilation at the sacrifice of a collective identity. The story is about a white-presenting Latina who is desperate to forget her history, even if her history won’t let her forget it.
V: What draws you to horror? Favorite horror film?
L: As a massive wuss, I am not really much for horror, though I used to read a lot of Stephen King as a kid. I’m just now getting back into reading horror books (with the lights on, door open and my husband home) for the first time in a long time. I kind of… fell into horror. It’s easier to not be scared when you’re writing the stuff. Don’t worry! What I lack in guts, I more than make up for in trauma and anxiety when writing. There is also a lot of variety to it and the community is pretty cool.
As for movies, I like the more kitschy or slow-tension, artsy stuff. The Love Witch, El Orfanato, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Shadow of the Vampire. I also fully recommend Night Gallery as a TV series.
V: SELF-PROMO! How can we support you and your endeavours right now? Where can we find you on social media or online?
I have two books out. Monstrosity: Tales of Transformation is a collection of short stories, including some horror works. Mask of the Nobleman, is a lightly gothic, fantasy romance. Both are sold at most major retailers online. I have a medium that I post to when the spirit moves me, and I write for BookRiot. You can find me being a clumsy and tactless mess on Twitter and Instagram. All of this is available on my linking page https://lauradiazdearce.com/laura-linking.