The invitation arrived a few months back. Diana and I were invited to read as part of a Dia de los Muertos event at the Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the perfect excuse for my favorite mode of travel—a road trip!
On the morning we left Diana bought bacon buns from the Bridgeport Bakery to jump-start our journey with a savory snack. I was determined to keep the 500 mile stretch of Midwest inter-state interesting with my favorite Pandora stations. We occasionally pulled over to obscure rural towns and rest-stops for bathroom breaks and to gas-up the car. Nine hours later we were welcomed into the lovely home of Kansas City resident and founding member of the Latino Writers Collective Xanath Caraza. It was the beginning of a charming weekend and plenty of wonderful discoveries about a city that up until very recently I knew too little about.
This brief get-away also served as a creative pilgrimage with plenty of delightful discoveries that left me inspired–they are as follows:
The Writers Place I’m told that this literary community center was founded by a Latina, and the mansion it calls home was once a brothel, later an evangelical church and now the writers that frequent the spot suggest there is a ghost.
The Latino Writers Collective is a fierce group of Kansas City writers, “they hold bi-weekly meetings and critiques, collaborating to hone and polish the work of its members for publication.” To date they have published two anthologies: Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland and Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland. Proyecto Latina has been lucky enough to feature two of its members: Linda Rodriguez (Oct. 2010) and Xanath Caraza (April 2011). It was an honor to have the opportunity to read with them in Kansas City.
The Plaza is a posh entertainment district full of Spanish inspired architectural eye-candy. We squeezed in some window shopping and Diana splurged on cookie cutters in the shape of a hummingbird and a daschund. At the coffee shop I was pleasantly surprised that the barista that prepared my pumpkin latte pronounced my name correctly.
Dolores Huerta was not new to me, but it was the first time I got to hear her speak. I was pretty star-struck but I managed to ask if she would take a photo with me.
Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery had an impressive number of altars, for their Day of the Dead exhibit, squeezed into their storefront space. One interactive ofrenda titled Mujeres Poderosas allowed Diana and I to add our mothers names. It was in this space that I encountered a French Bulldog named Diego, with the same frog eyes as his name sake, a bow-tie collection and the sweetest temperament.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum features a sculpture garden with a 56 foot metal tree and a scattering of giant shuttle cocks. Our visit was short but it packed a punch: we viewed an exhibit of prints by Jose Guadalupe Posada and we saw the Day of the Dead community ofrenda that our friend Xanath had a hand in creating–you can listen to a piece on the making of this ofrenda here.
Rotary Cheese Graters You know, the darnest things will impress me. Xanath hosted us to breakfast and dinner, and when we asked if we could help it was this kitchen gadget that kept me entertained–she joked that it was part of her husband’s dowry. There were other gastronomic indulgences in Kansas City: A pint of craft beer from Boulevard, a local brewery and the signature burnt ends bbq brisket for dinner. How about a scoop of goatcheese and fig flavor ice cream? Diana, Xanath and I vowed to write odes to it.