‘Latina Geniuses Are Everywhere’ author honors Latina leaders
By Debora Gordon
Manya Yana Campos was born in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but spent most of her the early part of her life traveling and living between India, Nepal, and Mexico. Her father was an old-school ganja farmer as well as a writer and philosopher. A few of his books were published through a couple of publishing houses in India. He was part of the Theosophical Society in India.
Campos moved to Ashland in 2016 after being accepted into a creative writing program at Southern Oregon University, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She later earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Pacific Northwest College of Arts during COVID in 2021 in Portland. Pregnant at the time, the classes were on Zoom.
“I got into the program, and I thought, “Do I need to drop out of the program and have this baby? No, I want to give birth to my book.” And she did.
Her book, “Latina Geniuses Are Everywhere,” is a recently completed multi-media art project. The collection of the poems based on interviews of different women has been exhibited in two different art galleries.
“I am honoring these Latina leaders, in this area, in the Rogue Valley, that have inspired me by the work that they’re doing for their communities,” Campos explained. “I connect with them, and I had a series of 20 questions. The project started out with my fascination between the difference of experience between immigrant mothers and first-generation daughters. I really wanted to explore that space and I started the project with my mother.”
As the daughter of an immigrant mother, Manya is aware that there often is a lot of fear.
“Our community members can be a little more reserved; a lot of women don’t want to speak up; so many of our people have fled genocide; lynching.”
Campos has written and published several chapbooks:
· “Blue Corn, Mixed Masa and the Occasional Magic Trick”
· “A look of defiance. Radiant.”
· “Legalize My Mother”
· “Latina Geniuses Are Everywhere”
“Latina Geniuses are Everywhere” is a poetic art show, a multimedia art show, “dedicated to the sensitive daughters.”
Campos is also a painter with a focus on portraits and mythological creatures, replete with Mexica and Aztec symbolism and gods and goddesses. Another creative medium is textiles, often the “huipil,” which is an ancient Indigenous garment.
“My whole project is about honoring and exploring the world of being a ‘hyphenated Mexican,’ like a ‘Mexican American’ and what that means for us, straddling those two worlds and those two cultures,” Campos said. “Mexican Americans, as first-generation daughters, we are really exploring our Indigenous roots, and reclaiming them and reconnecting, so for me, the huipil is really a symbol of reclaiming, decolonizing and feeling proud of our roots and where we come from.”
Growing up, Campos’ mother was very connected to her Indigenous roots as Purepecha and Mexica. She instilled that pride in Manya, who noted that “she would always want me to dress in traditional native clothing, but I never wanted to, as a child. I was embarrassed, and definitely experienced a lot of internalized racism, and taking in the racism I saw in the way that Mexicans were treated from a classist and racist point of view.”
Campos is involved in community organizing. “I do work a lot of work around race, class, gender and power. I have been a facilitator for an organization called Be Present Inc. and with the Racial Equity Coalition; here in Ashland and currently I am doing work around food justice and food access through Coalición Fortaleza and Rogue Food Unites and we prepared a decolonized menu.”
Through writing, art and organizing, Campos continues to work towards recognizing and respecting the work and contributions of Latinos and Indigenous peoples living here in Ashland and beyond and will continue to do so.
Ashland Creatives features writers, artists, musicians, actors and other creatives who live in Ashland. Email Debora Gordon at email@example.com if you are a creative artist or would like to suggest someone to feature.
Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California.