The art of storytelling is one that many have forgotten, but with Xanath Caraza it is both a powerful tool and a way of life. Born in the culturally rich city of Veracruz, Mexico, Caraza grew up around a mix of African, indigenous, and Mexican influences. She moved to Vermont in 1997 and then relocated and attended the University Of Kansas City-Missouri.
After getting her Master’s degree from the university, Caraza was offered a position as a lecturer in the Foreign Literatures and Languages Department. When not teaching everything from Creative Writing, to Mexican Identity, to Intro to Film Studies, Professor Caraza is writing short stories and poetry.
Caraza has published two collections so far and is in the midst of publishing another. Corazon Pintado is a collection of ekphrastic poetry that features Caraza’s poems in both Spanish and English next to the art that inspired them. The other collection is named Conjuro and contains trilingual poetry written in Spanish, Nahuatl, and English. Nahuatl is one of the 62 indigenous languages of Mexico and is a very important language to Caraza, as it is the language of her mother’s people.
One of Caraza’s poems, “Yanga,” is about the founder of Veracruz and how important his life was. A common theme of her work is to use female voices and to invoke a mix of cultures that speaks to the very soul of the reader. During an interview, Caraza said, “I want to rescue the female voices and historical figures lost in history in my poetry.” Her current project is called What the Tide Brings In and will be a bilingual book of her short stories, published by Mammoth Press.
When asked what she wants readers to take away from her poetry, Caraza replied, “I am a teacher and want to challenge people in their learning processes. I want them to realize that beautiful things can be written in Spanish and I also want them to be active readers.”
After the interview in the River Center, Caraza had her poetry reading in the Boyden Art Gallery. All the seats were filled with students and faculty such as Associate Professors of Spanish José Ballesteros and Israel Ruiz Cumba. The air was still with anticipation as Caraza took her place at the podium. Her presence was enthralling as she began reciting from Conjuro. The most breathtaking of the recitations were “Yanga” and “Mujer, Mujer.” She read them both in English and Spanish, singing out every syllable as if crafting a story.
Afterward, the poet took pictures with students and signed books; there were copies of both of her collections for sale for people to purchase. Regardless of what language Professor Caraza chooses to write in, her work always inspires and challenges.
First-year Connor Goodie commented, “It was really well done and a great look into the mind of a person from such a diverse background.” Between the poet’s approachability and her ability to breathe life into her poetry, Professor Caraza truly understands how to craft a story within her work and make it cross-culturally understood.