I am the first Chicano to earn a Master of Fine Arts
in Creative Writing from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.
I came from Chicago to study writing in Houston. When I first arrived, I had to keep explaining this to Houstonians, especially Latinos. They found it hard to believe that Chicago didn't have such programs first.
Folks were shocked to find out that Houston had one of the leading Creative Writing Programs in the nation. "People are killing each other to come here," I would tell them, "And it's just down the street from your house."
Some of folks remembered they had a cousin or relative who attended the University of Houston. Maybe he was in it, too, they would think out loud.
Some would say that Rice was a better school. Maybe I could still get into Rice.
I had to point out to them that I didn't want to enroll at Rice University because they didn't have a Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program. Others would say they swore they took a creative writing class there. I explained that was undergraduate.
Once I began the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, I understood why the community had so many questions.
I was the only Mexican in the program.
This blew my mind. No, that phrase is too light, too much of a cliché. I was shocked, stunned, surprised, sickened, dismayed.
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. There are a lot of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in the city, a lot of Latinos.
But we never had a
Mexican American mayor like San Antonio did.
Of course, that's San Antonio, not Houston. However, at least Houston was a 2.5 hour-drive away from a Chicano mayor of a major city. Chicago still has yet to elect a Latino mayor.