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Wittliff gains treasured archives from Latina author

A collection of Sandra Cisneros on display Oct. 12 at the Alkek library. Cisneros has donated many of her archives to the Wittliff Collections.
Photo by: Russell Reed | Staff Photographer

Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections has purchased the archives that capture the literary career of Sandra Cisneros, an influential award winning Latina author.

From numerous drafts and personal writings to photographs, videos and speeches, the Sandra Cisneros Papers will act as an inspirational and encouraging resource outlining the author’s life and career.

“I hope that my papers serve as a kind of road map for people with whatever their dream is, regardless if its writing or not,” Cisneros said. “I hope it gives people encouragement to invent their own path and to follow their intuition.”

The archives will give students and researchers the opportunity to delve into Cisneros’ life and see the beginning stages of her writing career as she transformed into the writer she is.

“Everything is there—the failures, as well as the moments that were successful,” Cisneros said.

In addition to her documents, Cisneros also presented the original work of the 1984 publication of “The House on Mango Street.”  One idea the novel presents is to celebrate otherness. Cisneros defines otherness as “experiences that are uniquely ours.”

Although society can create the notion of alikeness, Cisneros said it is important to focus on otherness, because it provides a vision to individuals to use their voice and gifts.

“When we are talking about diversity; I’m not just talking about class and color and gender, but I’m talking about all the ways, even in one family, that each of us is given a unique vision,” Cisneros said. “If we work from that place in whatever it is with love, and without any personal agenda; if we devote our life work to someone other than ourselves, then something always comes out beautiful from that. You have so many ways to look at the world in ways that I don’t see. That is your gift to give us.”

Cisneros emphasizes that when people are frightened and divided in the community, to remind one another that everyone is living in multiple worlds. Everyone is a “walking book,” that has something to teach or give to another.

“I really do feel our job as individuals is to serve as bridges for those places of differences,” Cisneros said. “Sometimes those places of differences are with siblings, or classmates, or parents, or generations, or with your church.”

Amidst all of those differences, people can celebrate the uniqueness of one another.

David Coleman, director of Wittliff Collections, said he is excited for what the archives can do for students. As Wittliff aims to “instruct, illuminate and inspire,” Coleman believes Cisneros papers will give students that opportunity.

“They can instruct students on just how much hard work it is to write, and to write powerfully,” Coleman said. “They can illuminate Sandra’s life behind-the-scenes, and all of the struggles she has had.  They can inspire students to work hard in order to achieve the success Sandra has had, as a woman who makes a living by her pen. The Papers can also inspire students of Latina ancestry to use their success to help others of their same background, as Sandra has done.”

Cisneros recently received the 2015 National Medal of Arts Award from Obama. Apprehensive of the public recognition, she accepted the award because of the passion toward her ancestry.

“I was a little surprised because (winning an award) wasn’t on my bucket list,” Cisneros said. “Then I realized that this is the time of so much vilification of Mexican people. I have to fulfill this obligation for my ancestors and honor their lives. They had harder lives than me,” Cisneros said.

Cisneros publicly accepted the award at The White House to represent and celebrate her mother, father, ancestors and all the other hardworking immigrants.

With many institutional offers, Cisneros chose Texas State in relation to its proximity to her home. As a Chicago native, Cisneros moved to San Antonio—a place where she had no roots or ties—when she was 30. She described the Lone Star state as one of the hardest places to live, but the “tough parts just make the story better.” It is during these times people learn more of who they are.

The Wittliff Collections acquired Cisneros archives in September 2015, but the papers will officially be open for research no later than April 1, 2017.

Cisneros revealed that her secret is to never stop learning. No matter what age, she said there is always room to grow.

“I’m still becoming the artist that I want to be,” Cisneros said. “My best work is ahead of me.”