As I write to you, I’m thinking about my grandparents—two Boricuas with tender hearts and questionable beliefs, like your typical abuelo y abuela. This past Thanksgiving was the first we spent together since I was four. I can imagine our conversations back then were little more than my random outbursts of excitement or sadness or fear, to which they would have responded with besitos and tight hugs. Now, I’m the one listening, waiting to offer a hug or kiss on the cheek. We talked a lot this holiday about their lives: how they’ve carried heartache across decades from Puerto Rico to New York, where they met, to New Jersey and Virginia, to the island and back again; the racism they’ve endured in the hospitals where they worked as a seamstress and an orderly, both of them so ready and willing to lay down everything for a slice of some American dream. Even now, they want to hold onto that dream. I listened to these stories of how they built our family with each other, and I learned about the pain they’ve inherited separately and passed down together—and what I have inherited and will possibly pass down, too. It’s been a time, as the holidays so often are, for retrospection.
In our newest online installment, “The Seasonal Issue,” you’ll find work that also grapples with the past. There are tales about fresh, new, exciting love and love that untangles over time. Stories and poems that touch upon families fragmented by addiction or geography, or that are bound together so tightly by identity. There are musings, too, about our place in the world and the perceptions we hold. It’s an issue packed with heart.
This issue is also very much a Latinx affair. I reached out to these 10 contributors—many of whom I’ve admired for years, and some whose work I’ve only been introduced to recently but will surely follow for years to come—over the past few months, asking if they’d like to submit work for a holiday Latinx issue that spoke to a singular, vague theme: “seasonal.” As a Latino editor myself, I wanted to carve out a space within Barrelhouse where Latinx writers and artists didn’t feel pressure to create work that was exclusively or limited to addressing their Latinidad. Unless it was what they wanted, on their terms. The final product feels like something special.
Right now, I’m sure my grandma is in her coffee-perfumed kitchen, sliding her fingers in between the window blinds to peek at what the neighbors are up to. The temperature has dropped low enough outside for her breath to fog up the glass. My grandfather is probably chilling in his armchair, quiet and pensive, waiting for his next novela or news show to start. It’s a lovely time to sit back with a strong cup of Bustelo and dive into this issue.
Con un fuerte abrazo,
P.S. I’d like to leave you with something very Barrelhousey, pero en español.
About the artist: Elianne Melendez is a Guatemalan-Salvadoran illustrator from a suburb in Los Angeles. She loves shoujo manga, horror films and blasting Los Hermanos Flores at the stoplight. You can learn more about her work on Twitter: @_eliyanii, and Instagram: @eliannemelendez.