The Bar at Plaza38 vibrated with energy the afternoon members of Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA) met in person for the first time. Founded in March 2020, CALMA propelled itself onto the local literary scene purely through Zoom, email, a website, and good old-fashioned COVID19-safe networking. Their vision: to celebrate, promote and preserve the written words of Latino authors in Colorado.
It might’ve been CALMA’s first in-person gathering, but the room exuded familiarity and welcome. In its inaugural 16 months, CALMA grew from 6 founding members to 38 author/members. They hosted virtual everything: a holiday book fair, several writing and publishing how-to roundtables, and the Words of Love poetry event. Their website features an online bookshelf and blog, as well as author pages and YouTube interviews—compliments of La Gente Legacy—introducing CALMA members and their works.
At the recent mixer, Kimberly Sánchez, one of CALMA’s six founding members, summed it up, “We’re sharing about our own people in our own voices.” Then, Manuel Ramos, North Denver Chicano noir writer, was beckoned to the front of the room for an announcement. They’ve just learned that Ramos is being inducted into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame. Ricardo LaFore, CALMA founding member and the man behind Ramos’ Hall of Fame nomination, beams as he hands Ramos the first-ever CALMA baseball cap and says, “You lift us all.”
Authors were invited to introduce themselves. And so, attendees shifted into a wide circle to hear and applaud one another. Ramos and fellow Northside author Arturo Jiménez joked across the room. Every genre imaginable was represented. And the books by North Denver writers Rudy Garcia (Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub) and Mario Acevedo (Luther, Wyoming) that were mentioned in the North Star’s March issue are now available at local bookstores. Halfway around the circle, former State Senator Polly Baca took a turn, sharing about the meaningful process of researching family and regional history as she wrote her memoir.
And now CALMA has launched a mentoring program. “It’s a chance,” says Sánchez, “to give back what was—or was not—given to us.” Sánchez and poet Ricardo Bogaert-Álvarez are the first CALMA members to take on mentees, with more matches to be made in the coming months. An application for prospective mentees can be found at www.calmaco.org.
Learn more about CALMA at www.calmaco.org and at the CALMA Fall Book Fair on Saturday Sept 25th, 2-6pm, at Raices Brewing Co.