NPXXI = Houston’s Cultural Capital

Apr 18, 2019
10:39 AM
Originally published at

Houston is powerful.

Houston is powerful because of our people.

And people came out for NPXXI. We thank you for coming out the 21 years before NPXXI and the next 10 years to come.

Nuestra Palabra’s 21st anniversary was a showcase of the people-power Houston possesses. We have seen it work, we have made it work, we have made it art for over two decades.

As we enter our third decade of work, we must pause to fully appreciate what we have created together and unite to accelerate our shared mission.

If all we did was play a profound role in all of the art, literature, and intellect on display to a packed house the evening of Wednesday April 3, 2019 at the Museum of Fine Arts Brown Auditorium that would be enough. In fact, in this day and age, that is all your typical nonprofit organization is supposed to do.

But we are not just or simply a nonprofit organization.

We are Cultural Accelerators. We have always been. But now, we have been blessed to not only catch up to the power to put this way of life into words, but now we can also act on it-even more.

This is how NP rolls. We articulate our vision. We act on that vision. We regroup. And then we envision again. We are beyond the basics of a basic nonprofit.

Typical nonprofits are groomed for incremental change.

Incremental change will not lead to structural change in our lifetime. In fact, incremental change has led to only increments during several life times.

Cultural Accelerators speed up cultural evolution.

Cultural Accelerators quantify and cultivate community cultural capital. Your typical nonprofit does not have a buck to do that. And for-profits want several bucks to make several bucks off that. And that ain’t there-yet.

Cultural Accelerators quantify community cultural capital and then invest in Community.

We invest Community Cultural Capital to create more culture.

We fuel movements.

We forge structural changes.

Our 21st anniversary showcase demonstrated that.

To the untrained eye, it was just a beautiful event.

The jaded, untrained eye can’t understand what the fuss is all about. They can’t understand why the hundreds of folks who attended and participated in our showcase were thrilled and transformed. Why they talked and acted different afterwards. Their friends at work also noticed too, I’m sure. But perhaps did not ask.

They can’t understand why that does not happen for their events. They don’t understand why they can’t just translate their flyers into Spanish to have the same thing happen at their event.

This essay is not to explain to them.

This essay is for us.

In the past, their jaded, low view of us slowed us down.

Now, their jaded view slows them down.

In this era, we are in power of voice and our community.

That is why we are so potent. Our showcase communicates that in so many levels. We have proven that words have caught up to our vision. Our actions caused that. And now, we move together to the next step.

But allow me to enjoy the essential.

Our lineup is above and beyond what any institution in the country could provide for Latinx art, lit, and culture. Click here for the full lineup. Again, if we did only this, we would still be among the most elite arts institutions, for any demographic, in the nation.

We convened the godfather of Chicano literature Dagoberto Gilb; the director of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Mari Carmen Ramirez; HuffPost’s Roque Planas, the leading journalist covering politics, immigration and ethnic studies; with flamenco by Mercy Renteria of Umbel flamenco. These are these the leading minds of the nation, with Houston and Harris County as the center of the universe.

We also included up and coming superstars representing so many facets of the Latinx experience who are Nuestra Palabra 2nd Generation writers. They, like so many, made their debut with Nuestra Palabra and have given so much to NP and in the process accelerated their own Cultural Capital. These brilliant voices are poet Lupe Mendez, poet Jasminne Mendez, poet Leslie Contreras Schwartz, mixed media specialist Liana Lopez, and mixed media specialist Bryan Parras.

Additionally, we also included, as always, work directly linked to structural change in the form of videos archiving the 2012 Librotraficante Caravan to smuggle the books banned in Arizona back into Tucson to defy the state’s ban of Mexican American Studies. We were blessed to touch on our role in the national movement to overturn that law and in sparking this generation’s statewide push for Mexican American Studies in Texas which resulted in the Texas State Board of Education unanimously endorsing MAS across party lines.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s representative Dr. Rey Guerra shared a special announcement on a New Latino Art and Literature Initiative.

This is vital because we have gone from the party hall of Chapultapec Restaurant to the Museum of Fine Arts.

We have gone from opening Underground Libraries throughout the southwest to spreading books in mainstream institutions.

And we have gone from showcasing writers reading their work for the first time to launching their own books.

These are just a few direct messages to put into words for folks. There is so much to come.

This post featured some the great pics you shared on social media. It also includes some of the pics by photographer Pablo Rocha. Stay tuned for video of the evening shot by Raul Rodriguez, and stay tuned for the amazing decade ahead of us.

Only art can save us.


Tony Diaz is a writer, activist, professor and media personality. More at He tweets from @Librotraficante