Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Sergio Troncoso and Willie Velasquez

I am writing a series of essays about my experiences as a Mexican American student at Harvard. I found the letter below in my papers, a recommendation from the great Willie Velasquez of the Southwest Voters Registration Education Project, whom I met at the John F. Kennedy School's Institute of Politics while I was an undergraduate. He was an IOP Fellow and probably the most inspiring person I met up to that point. His commitment to the Mexican American community, his political intelligence and savvy, and his character, all were guides for me as I became a writer who also cared about our community, how it was represented, why our voices and stories mattered, why I wanted to focus on los de abajo.

Recently, the Texas Institute of Letters made me a Fellow of the TIL, one of only eighteen fellows chosen since 1936 and the first Mexican American to be selected for this distinction. I thought about Willie's commitment and drive, and how the awards are not really what matter. What matters is what you do, and what you continue to do, because you give a damn and you are not ever satisfied. I'm proud to be a Fellow of the TIL, but I also feel that I need to get to work to keep fighting for not just the political but also the cultural empowerment of Mexicans Americans and those who are underdogs. Stay tuned. Descanse en paz, Willie Velasquez.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Sergio Troncoso Is Named a Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters

Here's some news that appeared on Monday, 1-16, with an announcement from Diana Lopez, President, and the Texas Institute of Letters. I'm honored to be part of the TIL.

"Dear Members of TIL,

At the January 7, 2023 meeting, the Council and Past Presidents of the Texas Institute of Letters voted unanimously to name Sergio Troncoso a Fellow of the Institute. Please join us in congratulating him.

In its 86-year-old history, the TIL has appointed only seventeen previous Fellows, an honorary designation meant to distinguish TIL members for their service and contributions to the organization. Troncoso is a recent past president of the TIL (2020-2022), who previously served as vice president, secretary, contest judge and councilor of the organization. At the January meeting, Troncoso was also appointed to the newly created position of investment officer of the TIL.

We are excited to share Troncoso's contributions to the TIL. During Troncoso’s tenure as president, he helped the TIL achieve a record number of submissions for the twelve annual literary contests of the Texas Institute of Letters; increased engagement with members that resulted in a record number paying their membership dues, resulting in two years of financial surpluses; and promoted the selection of lifetime achievement awards for Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Celeste Bedford Walker, the first African American to win that award. As president, Troncoso also challenged efforts to ban books in Texas by marshalling the organization to speak out against the banning of books in public libraries. As secretary and webmaster of the TIL, Troncoso created the electronic payment system that now receives about ninety percent of member dues and donations, as well as introduced videos, photographs, and social media to the TIL website.

Sergio Troncoso is the author of eight books. His most recent publication is Nobody’s Pilgrims (2022), a novel about three teenagers in pursuit of their American Dreams who drive across the country in a stolen pickup as evil people are after the contraband hidden in the truck. Among the numerous literary awards he has won are the Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story, Premio Aztlán Literary Prize, International Latino Book Award for Best Novel-Adventure or Drama, International Latino Book Award for Best Collection of Short Stories, and the Southwest Book Award. The El Paso City Council voted unanimously to rename the public library branch in Ysleta as the Sergio Troncoso Branch Library. A Fulbright scholar, Troncoso teaches at the Yale Writers’ Workshop.

As a new TIL Fellow, Sergio Troncoso joins Steve Davis, W.K. Stratton, Carolyn Osborn, and Robert Flynn as current Fellows. Previous Fellows of the Institute have included John Graves, Marshall Terry, A.C. Greene, Tom Lea, and J. Frank Dobie."