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Our Nueva York: Writing the City in Spanish

December 2021

Regina Vater, Cinematic Still from Mayakovsky, 1974.

This month, we explore the notion of New York as Spanish-language city. As renowned translator and scholar Esther Allen notes in an interview this month, “Spanish has been a language of what’s now New York City since the very first arrival of non-Native Americans on these shores.” The writing in our December issue, then, is not an attempt to simply explore another side of New York, but rather to acknowledge this oft-obscured history with work by five contemporary writers from across the Spanish-speaking world. Michel Nieva takes a look at warring species in pandemic-era Nueva York, while Mario Michelena sets his sights on battles in a Brooklyn courtroom. Sara Cordón writes a tale of being and becoming through the eyes of a college graduate and Spanish immigrant whose first window into New York was through the 1979 action thriller The Warriors. Álvaro Baquero-Pecino breaks the city down by the numbers, and Naeif Yehya introduces readers to a Brooklyn man whose bluff is called by a cam girl. In an interview, Esther Allen and Ulises Gonzales look at the history of Spanish-language writing in New York. Gonzales also provides an introduction to the issue, which he guest-edited in collaboration with Ashley Candelario.

Nuestra Ciudad: Writing the City in Spanish
By Ulises Gonzales
Today, a young writer working in Spanish arrives in New York City to find no shortage of role models.
War of the Species
By Michel Nieva
Completely unaware that this was the kind of sacred moment when you pledge your undying allegiance to a team, through thick and thin, I stated my choice.
Translated from Spanish by Rahul Bery
By Álvaro Baquero-Pecino
On a bad night, a train car on the red line takes more than half an hour to appear, and no fewer than twenty-one minutes to traverse the eleven stations to the southern tip of Manhattan.
Translated from Spanish by Sarah Pollack
Spanish-language Writing in New York, Then and Now: An Interview with Esther Allen & Ulises Gonzales
By Words Without Borders Editors
While many Latinx writers work in English, there is a longstanding tradition of writers born or raised in this country who work in Spanish.
No One Really Knows Why People Shout
By Mario Michelena
His lips are moist, as though he were stewing on more insults.
Translated from Spanish by Lindsay Griffiths & Adrián Izquierdo
The Common Good
By Sara Cordón
All she can think about is why it ever occurred to her to dress like this in public.
Translated from Spanish by Robin Myers
Plans and Commitments
By Naief Yehya
He checked Mel’s Instagram and Twitter accounts again, waiting anxiously for her to post something, anything.
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Ortega