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Mario Gastelum Talks Lit & Luz: A Celebration of Language, Literature and the Arts

Written by on November 1, 2022

The eighth annual Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature and Art started yesterday! Assistant managing director Mario Gastelum stopped by the Vocalo studios to break down what attendees can expect…

MAKE Literary Productions’ Lit & Luz Festival is a one-of-a-kind series of workshops, lectures, performances and more,  featuring renowned authors, visual artists and musicians from Chicago and Mexico in cultural exchange and conversation. Each event will include bilingual programming, something Lit & Luz has been passionate about since its creation in 2014.

This year’s theme is “Revision,” which is explained as “re-envisioning the arts in light of the pandemic, reconsidering the canon, and revising (language) for the future.” 

“[There’s] a lot of re-envisioning the arts right now, in the light of the pandemic, of how we interact with each other, how we experience the world, how we experience social issues, and how we tackle them,” explained Mario Gastelum, assistant managing director of the festival.

The festival starts Oct 31, with events featuring Chicago writers and performers like Yolanda Segura, Mariana Oliver, Dolores Dorantes and Antonio Díaz Oliva, plus many more. In-person events will take place at several spaces around Chicago including the Logan Center for the Arts, Rudy Lozano Public Library and Co-Prosperity Sphere, and virtual programming will also be available.

RELATED: Antonio Díaz Oliva Connects Latinidad Academia with ‘Campus’

Lit & Luz is set to end Nov. 5 with a party at the Chicago Art Department from 6 to 9 p.m. CST, where attendees can enjoy a DJ set from Domingos En Vocalo’s Rocío Santos, AKA DJ Roxyo Sounds.

Vocalo is a proud supporter of Lit & Luz festival, and this week Mario Gastelum stopped by the Vocalo studios to talk more about the festival with afternoons host Nudia Hernandez. Stream their conversation now on Spotify, and find more information about the festival and a full breakdown of programming on Lit & Luz’s website.

Nudia Hernandez: Hey, Mario, how are you? 

Mario Gastelum: Good, how are you doing? 

NH: I’m doing great! Lit & Luz, if you don’t know about it, you can go ahead and visit It is taking place October 31 to November 5. The unofficial start was in 2012, and it officially started in 2014 with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. 

This year’s festival theme is “Revision,” re-envisioning the arts in light of the pandemic, reconsidering the canon and revising language for the future. Lit & Luz is a cultural exchange between writers and visual artists from Mexico and the United States. And Mario, can you tell us a little bit more about the event? 

MG: I think you just said it perfectly. Lit & Luz, the heart of the festival is just this… literature, language and art exchange between Mexico City, and, well, Mexico as a whole, and the United States in Chicago. The cool part about it is that artists and authors from Mexico come over here in Chicago in the fall, right now. And then they collaborate in art pieces in the live magazine show. And then the same cohort of people, they go back to Mexico and replicate the same week of events and programs and the live magazine show over there, too. That’s very cool. 

NH: That is really cool… you feel like you’re in the Marvel Universe, right? There’s, like, two worlds where it happens. And they’re both week-long events?

MG: It’s a week-long event. We have artist talks. That means that we sit down with the artists, we sit down with the authors, and we talk about social issues that are going on right now… and how that relates into literature and into the arts. 

We also have workshops, for example, this week, we have Yolanda Segura from Mexico, and she’s going to be giving some workshops in poetry. We also have other authors that they’re going to be giving a workshop on essays. And yeah, there are also local artists, also giving some workshops. We have live events, we have virtual events. So yeah, it’s pretty cool. 

Lit & Luz Live Magazine Show at the Logan Center for the Arts, November 4, 2021. Photo by Beth Rooney.

NH: So is there anyone you’re most excited for? Or… what event or workshop do you think you’re kind of really excited to see this year?

MG: I’m actually excited to see Yolanda Segura at Rudy Lozano Public Library in Pilsen. I’m excited to see them and just, even taking their own workshop, to write down. Which is kind of pretty cool. 

NH: So when you say a live magazine show, what does that mean exactly? Because… I was reading about the celebration and the festival events and stuff. But what is a live magazine show? 

MG: One of the cool things about Lit & Luz is that it also comes from MAKE Literary Productions. And it’s sort of a magazine for literature, and language. So live magazine show is just taking that part of what is written, and just putting it in a performance. It can be… some people call it “multimodal,” but it’s also a thing that different medias acting together. From poetry, from literature, and mixing them with audio visuals, which actually are performances and dance. We have Aura Arreola this year, that is going to also perform. 

NH: If someone has never been to Lit and Luz, what could they expect? Because I know we have these poets and essays and things like that. If someone isn’t really in particular a great writer, I don’t think I’ve ever been this phenomenal writer, could it still be a fun experience? Who really could come and enjoy Lit and Luz? 

MG: Actually, everybody that is interested in the performing arts and literature and everybody that wants to have something different and something to enjoy and learn about, they can definitely go to the Lit & Luz festival. 

What can they expect? They can expect a lot of things when it comes to literature and poems. It’s a lot of contemporary visual arts, it’s a lot of re-envisioning the arts right now, in the light of the pandemic, of how we interact with each other, how we experience the world, how we experience social issues, and how we tackle them. 

NH: Perfect! And then if you want more info, is where you could go. We are here with Mario, who is the assistant managing director of the festival. So Mario, what is your favorite part of the festival? I know there’s workshops going on, live magazine, and you just said performances. What do you most enjoy? 

MG: I enjoy the artist talks and how they do these roundtables, and they start talking about social issues, right? I’d say that, as a Mexican born, and then immigrating to the United States, seeing language and art — as a photographer, too — I see things differently, rather than someone that is just born here. It’s a very nice experience to just know the social issues. 

I also work for another nonprofit, in Little Village over here. So I am involved in those social issues with the community, and these types of workshops. There’s one with [sic.] Mariana Oliver [Dolores Dorantes] about mujeres migrantes, migrant women, and how they want to tell their story in essays. So things like that, to expose what we go through when we immigrate into the United States, it’s pretty good to watch. And it gives a lot of exposure of what we go through and what we don’t go through, and how we use the arts to do that. 

Lit & Luz Live Magazine Show at the Logan Center for the Arts, November 4, 2021. Photo by Beth Rooney.

NH: Oh, wow. That’s beautiful. And it’s compelling, because stories are really important. And as we know, here on Vocalo, we think stories matter. We love telling people’s stories, and not only the ones if your name is… on a marquee, stories of everyday people. And so, since this is done in Mexico again, do you go to the one in Mexico? Do you attend the Lit & Luz in Mexico?

MG: I do try to go to Mexico. But also… the work and life, it’s a little bit… gets in the way. But I try to also go over there and also see the virtual shows, as well. 

NH: Perfect. Again, is where you could go for more details. You can see the whole schedule on there, the partners and sponsorships. And if you want any more details on how to attend this year. And again, it’s going on from the 31st, which [was yesterday], through the 5th, which is the end of the week. So people have a lot of time to go and stop by, right? 

MG: That is correct. For example, [yesterday] we have, at the insect asylum, we have favorite poems, and that’s going to be the Halloween edition. So Happy Halloween, everybody! And we also have Balam Bartolomé. And [today], we have also… in partnership with Contratiempo, at the Co-Prosperity Sphere. We also have Yolanda Segura, Mariana Oliver, and they can just check the schedule online, too. 

NH: Perfect, and thank you so much, Mario, for stopping by. 

MG: Thank you so much.

Learn more about Lit & Luz festival on their website.

Interview and audio production by Nudia Hernandez

Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca

Transcript and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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