Zita Arocha wins 2021 Eliud Martínez Prize
Zita Arocha is a Cuban-American journalist, writer and educator who has reported on immigration and Latino issues for The Washington Post, Miami Herald, and two afternoon dailies. She taught bilingual journalism for nearly 20 years at the University of Texas El Paso where she founded and directed the award-winning web magazine borderzine about border issues and culture. She served as Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in the 1990’s, was an organizer of the groundbreaking Unity ’94 conference in Chicago for journalists of color and has been inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame. An early manuscript of Guajira won a prize for literary excellence at the Mayborn Conference. She completed the memoir during a 2021 fellowship at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She also holds an MFA in bilingual creative writing from UTEP. She was born in Guira de Melena, Cuba and grew up in Tampa, Florida.
The Eliud Martínez Prizewas established to honor the memory of Eliud Martínez (1935-2020), artist, novelist and professor emeritus of creative writing at University of California, Riverside. One prize of $1000 and book publication through Inlandia Books will be awarded for a first book in fiction or creative nonfiction by a Hispanic, Latino/a/x, or Chicana/o/x writer.
The 2021-2022 competition was judged by Alex Espinoza. Espinoza is the author of Still Water Saints, The Five Acts of Diego León, and Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA and MacDowell, as well as an American Book Award, Espinoza also serves as the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at UC Riverside.
“I am honored and grateful that my memoir “Guajira” will be published as the first winner of Inlandia’s prestigious Eliud Martinez literary award. As the daughter of poor Cuban immigrants, I have devoted my work as a journalist and educator to telling true stories of the pain and gain that comes from forsaking the homeland for a strange new land full of promise––what I call the trauma of exile. I hope my personal journey to healing and redemption serves as a useful road map for countless immigrants and their children who now call the U.S. home and still yearn for the original homeland.”
– Zita Arocha