If you go
What: Book signing with local author Jorge Gonzalez Avila
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Steaming Bean Coffee Shop, 635 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: The event is free. The book costs $19.99.
Steamboat Springs When Jorge Gonzalez Avila walked into a writing workshop this summer, he feared his book would come to life before his eyes.
He shyly approached the Steamboat Springs Writers Group, led by Susan de Wardt, for help with writing and publishing a book about discrimination against Latinos in Maricopa County, Ariz., but was afraid of being judged or rejected because the book was written in Spanish.
But the local writers group eagerly hurdled the language barrier, allowing Avila to read aloud in Spanish and listen to his translations of parts of the book.
“We felt bad that we weren’t multilingual,” de Wardt said about Avila’s involvement in the writing group. “But we were thrilled he felt confident enough to come in and ask for our help with the writing and publishing process.”
The group’s acceptance reassured Avila that there is hope for a future free of discrimination, racism and profiling of Latinos; where American arts communities and Hispanic culture blend into one, and where no one would feel afraid to walk into a writing group because of their heritage.
Avila, who moved to Steamboat Springs in 2003 and to the United States from Mexicali, Mexico, in 1995, will host a book signing at 11 a.m. Saturday at Steaming Bean Coffee Shop for the release of “La Marcha de los Rosados.”
Longtime friend and Steaming Bean owner Clark Davidson said he hopes the event will bring support of a local writer and lively discussion on the divisive issue of Mexican immigration.
“It’s great for us to be able to promote a vibrant and healthy discussion,” Davidson said. “And, coffee helps that.”
The book, which Avila wrote throughout five months, documents acts of discrimination and harsh treatment of Latinos in Maricopa County in a creative, literary style.
He conducted interviews with people who had lived in the county, which is notorious for its hard-hitting approach to illegal immigration along the Mexico border.
“The sheriff is very racist to the Latino community,” he said.
Avila’s sources told him that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio discriminates against Latinos and treats them unfairly in the county jail.
“He makes them wear pink underwear,” Avila said, shaking his head. “And makes them march around the place.”
In that humiliating image, compounded by the negative connotation of men in pink in Mexican culture, Avila found the title for his book, which literally means “The march of the pinks.”
He said the treatment of inmates in Arizona, from his research and interviews, is directed at Latinos out of what he sees as fear of the growing Latino community.
“When you see something that is growing a lot, you say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be intimidating to my way of life,’” he said. “This is why I feel this happened in Arizona.”
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Hispanic population in America at nearly 50 million, and Avila was motivated to write a book for that large faction of the community that doesn’t always have a voice, or literature written in their first language.
“A lot of people, I don’t know if they just want to close their eyes and pretend it’s not happening,” he said. “I want to bring more information to the people.”
Although the Hispanic arts community is growing, he believes his fellow Latinos aren’t speaking out enough about discrimination and mistreatment.
“I’m not one to cry or whine,” Avila said. “I’m not that kind of person. But when we see something that is not fair, there needs to be people to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right.’”
He said he hopes to translate the book into English to reach a wider, multicultural audience, and currently is looking for a translator to help with the process.
While the stories from Arizona disturb him, he feels no discrimination here in Steamboat, where his family owns a cleaning business.
Not only do his clients make him feel welcome and valued, but the Steamboat Springs Writers Group embraced his passion for writing with open arms, offering the same encouragement and support they would an English-language writer.
That support and acceptance, he said, validates how he feels Latinos fit into American culture.
“We come from a Third World class,” he said. “But we’re not a Third World people.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org