Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Amparo Ortiz
Amparo Ortiz is the author of the BLAZEWRATH GAMES duology. She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. She’s published short story comics in MARVEL’S VOICES: COMUNIDADES #1 and in the Eisner-award winning PUERTO RICO STRONG. She’s also co-editor of OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS, a horror anthology featuring myths and monsters from Latin America. When she’s not writing, she teaches ESL as a college professor and watches a lot of Kpop videos. Learn more about her projects at www.amparoortiz.com
What inspired you to start writing?
Horror and fantasy movies! I watched so many films as a child and wrote bits and pieces of short stories long before I ever read a single book. My imagination ran wild with visuals alone. I just didn’t know I could actually finish anything I started.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
The fact that fear is universal and individual at the same time. Not everyone is afraid of the things I’m afraid of and viceversa. I’m always looking for questions in the media and books I consume: what scares who and why? As an author, I try to answer these questions based on my experience and what I wish to see more of on shelves.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
It’s less a conscious effort and more a given. I can’t not write something without Latine characters in it. In my case, I want to portray what it’s like for Puerto Rican characters to connect with their culture and political history, mostly, but also I want to reiterate that heroes don’t all look the same or have lived through the same things even though they’re all from one specific region. As many BIPOC authors say, we are not a monolith, and we need more opportunities to showcase that.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
We’re all capable of what we know we are, but if we’re tossed into completely different and life-altering circumstances, we might just surprise ourselves. And we should embrace that surprise.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I think there’s a greater focus on humor while diving into darker, more sensitive topics, which I personally love. Witty narrators and supporting characters have a special place in my heart. Also, the final girl trope has seen considerable change in terms of representation, since there’s a slight uptick in non-white main characters. There’s still so much terrain left to explore, though, but I love that horror books and media are centering people outside of the usual suspects.
How do you feel the LatinX community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
I think we still have a long way to go, especially in young adult horror. I want to see more than just a handful of cultures represented. For example, in OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS (Algonquin Young Readers), author Yamile Saied Méndez and I teamed up to bring readers an anthology filled with Latine monster stories, and we both agree this is only the tip of the iceberg. Stories centered around immigration and racism, for example, are important, but Latinx and Latine people are so much more than what the US is familiar with. I’d like to see myths, legends, and allegorical interpretations of our reality from all across Latin America and its diaspora.
Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
My absolute favorite will always be Noemí Taboada from Silvia Moreno-García’s MEXICAN GOTHIC. I have a Master’s degree in Literature and specialized in the Victorian era, so the fact that this book has all the tropes I live for but in 1950s Mexico? A young woman stuck in a gloomy, hilltop mansion with strangers she doesn’t quite trust, desperate to save her cousin from the bizarre occurrences happening all around them? A woman who proves to herself she’s far more resilient and clever than she ever expected? Yes, please.
Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
Anything by Silvia Moreno-García is a masterpiece, but also shouting out Courtney Alameda and Ann Dávila Cardinal, two of our wonderfully talented contributors in OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS!
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
This industry won’t always feel like it welcomes you or your ideas, which is why finding and building your community is essential. We’re so much stronger together.
And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
The scariest stories are born from our personal truths. What unsettles you? Why? Pay attention to the world around you, your feelings, instincts, and read as much as you can to study craft.