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Javier Zamora is a writer who believes he has a particular responsibility: to understand and also change the world through words. He comes from a tradition of poets in El Salvador who used poetry to denounce injustices, the “Generación Comprometida,” and his personal experience of migrating as a child alone to the United States has shaped his worldview. In his work, Javier has shared some of the most intimate and difficult moments of his own history, first in the award-winning poetry collection “Unaccompanied” and then in the New York Times best-selling memoir “Solito”.

In this episode of Latino USA, Javier shares what it was like to return to those painful episodes in his writing, the complicated relationship he has with El Salvador, and what he hopes the role of poets and writers could be in these turbulent times.

Read the episode transcript here. 

Latino USA listeners might be familiar with Javier: we first followed him in our 2018 episode The Return as he was forced to go back to El Salvador to apply for a new visa, almost two decades after leaving his home country so that he could legally stay in the United States.

In 2020, after living in California and New York, and attending some of the most prestigious universities and writing programs in the country —from Harvard to Stanford University—  Javier decided to move to Tucson, Arizona, to the desert where he first crossed into this country as an unaccompanied child and where he almost lost his life.

In Tucson, he worked on “Solito,” a memoir recounting his journey to the U.S. as a child on his own through the voice of a nine-year-old. In that book, Javier talks about the happiness he felt at the idea of reuniting with his parents and he goes into detail about those eight weeks he was away from any family member making his way through Guatemala and Mexico. “Solito” became a New York Times bestseller.

“Writers should be at the vanguard of change,” Zamora tells Latino USA. “We are the dreamers of the future. We are the dreamers of a present that we don’t have, of rights that we don’t enjoy. That is our duty.”

Featured image courtesy of Gerardo del Valle.

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