Marcelo Hernandez, a member of the RIW in Translation while he was pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing here at the U, was recently honored by Poets & Writers for his work on the “Undocupoets” project. As poetic warriors of sorts, Marcelo and his partners are fighting for undocumented poets to be institutionally recognized in the US.
In her article “Rethinking Poetic Citizenship,” Momo Chang writes, “Aside from contests, undocumented writers face other kinds of hurdles in the literary world. Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, one of the petition organizers, is the first undocumented writer to graduate from the University of Michigan’s MFA program. As Castillo discovered, applying to graduate school can be a process fraught with complications for undocumented students—from presenting the necessary identification to take the GRE, to applying for funding, to simply relocating to another state. Having overcome these issues, Castillo is particularly committed to mentoring other undocumented writers through the application process, which can be as uncomfortable as it is complex for people who have been taught to keep a low profile. Castillo, who became a permanent resident last year, understands how paralyzed undocumented immigrants can feel by the need to stay invisible. When he was five, he crossed the border from Tijuana into San Diego with his father and pregnant mother, both migrant farmworkers, along with his brother and sister, who dressed as a boy to avoid drawing additional attention. ‘I knew from day one what kinds of things I shouldn’t do, that my father was in danger every time he was behind the wheel, that in the fields there were a lot of immigration raids,’ he says. ‘It made me grow up very quick.’”
We look forward to seeing Marcelo’s work in the future!