Octavio Solis is an award winning working playwright immersed in the culture and politics of our time. His plays tell the stories of rural America, of Latino America, of border America. His community of artists is telling stories that reveal the changing culture of the nation and the continuing connections people still have across different borders, nations, age, race, culture and politics.
He comes to Town Hall Seattle December 4th,the Rainier Arts Center, to read from his new book, a collection of short dream-like stories of his life growing up along the US Mexico Border, “Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border.”
Retablos are devotional paintings, usually done on tin. The tightly framed images tell stories of trauma, temptation and redemption. Solis’s foray into prose is magical, mystical, a journey into his own life growing up along the Rio Grande river in El Paso.
Take a listen to this fascinating and important writer.
Here is an annotation of the hour long interview if you want to jump around to different topics.
1:39 How did an SF based writer end up living near Ashland.
3:51 Never professionally produced in Seattle until last year. The UW has been a good partner.
6:29 Not feeling disconnected from his SF roots now. Now he’s in the country raising goats and herbs and meeting ranchers and farmers. He needed to rediscover his agrarian roots and the value of the wild planet in Trump country.
10:35 Living in a rural area is reshaping his writing. His writing has already been drawn to telling tales of the agricultural community and working with the center for investigative reporting.
13:59 The play, “Mother Road” and his connection with the Steinbeck Center and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
18:45 He is a playwright, author, writer of American stories, even though he often writes about the Latin American experience in the US. But it is also important to state now that he claims a place as a Latino writer too.
23:38 Living though mythic times, the need to write “Retablos,” and ending up reading at City Lights Bookstore.
30:00 Struggling with his new rural life and a writers block, the old memories flooded back into is memory and emerged as stories.
35:13 What is a retablos? The first story.
37:50 The story of Consuelo.
41:06 Herb Alpert.
45:16 Solis worked on the movie Coco to make sure the culture was represented correctly.
48:39 The ways borders are bridged.
53:30 Intersectionality. We are more than one thing. Solis’s love hate relationship with the Rio Grande border. Living on the hyphen between Mexican and American.
56:23 Are his neighbors in rural America willing to stand with him on that hyphen?
1:00:12 Wrapping up, summing up, remembering inspirations.