A HOMELAND FOR WRITERS
CHICANO POLYMATH PASSES INTO THE PANTHEON OF GREAT RAZA ARTISTS, INTELLECTUALS, AND PROVOCATEURS
BY B. V. OLGUÍN
Gregg Barrios—Chicano educator, poet, playwright, journalist, activist, and all around movimientista—passed into the pantheon of late great Raza artists, intellectuals, and provocateurs on August 17, 2021. He was 80 years old, and lived a life at the center of foundational eras and multiple social and political movements in the US and globally. Gregg, as he preferred to be called, was an active if unsung participant and frequent instigator in Chicanx Movement struggles in various sites throughout Aztlán, intersecting LGBTQI+ Movement activities, and related institutional interventions in education, media, arts, and myriad social and political contexts.
Gregg’s greatness arose from his nimble navigation of the complexities and contradictions of Chicanx history, life, culture and politics. Indeed, his life involved the type of complex Chicanx realities and negotiations endemic to colonized and marginalized people, yet he also insisted on claiming the center as his own. He loved his own Tejano culture and also saw no contradiction in his dual love of broader intersecting cultures, from Elvis to David Bowie to Juan Gabriel and beyond.
His vexed, yet for him completely normal, navigations of his US and Chicanx identity involved service in the US Air Force Reserves during the Vietnam War, in which he participated in the transportation of wounded US soldiers returning to the US from Vietnam through Germany. While stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas, he utilized the GI Bill to attend the University of Texas at Austin part-time. There he was active in developing that institution’s avant garde film movement, helping to found the renowned Cinema 40 Film Club, and promoting numerous events with world renowned filmmakers. He also co-founded the iconoclastic underground newspaper, The Rag, which is still in production.
“These are not your typical war stories,” says the writer Sandra Cisneros, whose new book is “Martita, I Remember You.”
What books are on your night stand?
I have a New Mexican writing desk on one side of my bed and an antique Mexican trunk on the other. Because of this, there are too many books stacked in precarious towers waiting to collapse whenever I reach for anything, the newer books burying the older. When I have to search for a book, it’s like excavating Tenochtitlán. Thanks to this interview, I’ve finally done some housecleaning. Here are some of the titles I found:
Macondo Writers Workshop Guest Faculty Reading
Featuring: Alex Espinoza, Daisy Hernández, and Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
With a guest appearance by Sandra Cisneros
Friday July 30th 7-8 p.m. CST (Zoom)
Free and Open to the Public
Sign up by clicking here.
Kathleen Alcalá • Amy M. Alvarez • Victoria M. Bañales • Jo Reyes-Boitel • Cecilia Caballero • M Soledad Caballero • Vincent Chavez • Yohanca Delgado • Elisa Filio • Gabriel Frye-Behar • Alma García • Manuela Gomez Rhine • Maria José Maldonado • Adriana Darielle Mejía Briscoe • Donna Miscolta • Ofelia Montelongo • Karina Muñiz-Pagán • Adela Najarro • Claudio Alberto Rivera • Yvette Siegert • Marisa Celina Tirado • Angie Trudell Vasquez • Juan Fernando Villagómez
Daisy Hernandez is the author of the new book “The Kissing Bug: The True Story Of A Family, An Insect, And A Nation’s Neglect Of A Deadly Disease” . Hernandez was raised in New Jersey by her mother, who’s from Colombia, and her father, who’s from Cuba. When Hernandez was 5, her aunt, who was living in Colombia, came down with a mysterious ailment that caused her large intestine to swell so much people assumed she was pregnant. The aunt’s sisters flew her to New Jersey to care for her and get the medical help she needed. It was too late to completely stop the progression of the disease, which eventually killed her after many surgeries and years of suffering.