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Horses and Roses: A Central American Author Inspires Brooklyn Students

Posted on August 01, 2022

An eighty-year-old Mexican rancher who loves animals and ice-cold baths. An aspiring immigrant engineer who hopes to one day own a house with a “jardín de las rosas rojas” (garden of red roses.) A rural Dominican girl who fights for her own childhood. What do these people have in common?

All of them are characters created by high school students in Brooklyn as a part of Spanish-language writing workshops with award-winning Guatemalan author Rodrigo Fuentes.

The students, all of whom speak Spanish as a heritage language, were inspired by Mr. Fuentes' innovative writing exercises as well as his stories, which they read in the collection Trucha panza arriba (Trout, Belly Up). A story from the collection is also available in a slightly earlier version on Words Without Borders: "Amir."

Thanks to the generosity of the students and their teacher, Jurandir Chan, their writing is now available online. Words Without Borders highly recommends these multi-layered portraits, wonderful examples of the possibilities that translingual approaches open up in the writing classroom.

If you're interested in teaching Rodrigo Fuentes' stories which we also highly recommend, we've gathered some background resources on Guatemala including music from groundbreaking female rapper and a PBS video about a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl who moves to Anchorage, Alaska.

Below, you can watch Rodrigo read aloud from Trout, Belly Up.

Words Without Borders would like to thank the team at FDR High School, and especially Jurandir Chan and Leighton Suen, for their collaboration on the workshops.

The workshops were supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. If you are an NYC educator interested in organizing a similar program, please let us know on the Contact page.