Latinx Heritage in Horror: Introduction to Latinx Horror Month 2023 by Pedro Iniguez
By Pedro Iniguez
2023 has been a monumental year in Latinx horror. As you may have noticed, recent Stoker Award® wins by Cynthia Pelayo and Gabino Iglesias, the first Latinx authors to do so, have shaken up the horror writing community in a positive and encouraging way. As the highest profile award in the genre, it was a validating win for the entire Latinx writing community. Along with nominations for other exceptional Latinx authors lately, we’ve also seen an upsurge in sales, reviews, and recognition. We’ve also been included in more anthologies, chapbooks, and magazines these last few years. Some of us have even been on major bestsellers lists.
Though our profiles have been elevated as of late, things weren’t always like this. We’ve been battling in the trenches for years to get our stories past the slush piles and into the hands of agents and publishers, some of which didn’t know what to make of our voices and unique narratives, our dark-skinned characters, our traditional mythologies, or our use of Spanglish in our prose and poetry. They’ve probably even been apprehensive about marketing names which some people might find alien or off-putting.
When I began my writing journey in 2009, I hadn’t been seeing many people of color in the table of contents of the anthologies and magazines I’d been getting published in. Many times, I’d be the only one. It was dismaying and perplexing to me. Were people that looked like me not writing? Were we not good enough? No. Many of us just weren’t being taken seriously or were being brushed off by closed-minded gatekeepers with very particular ideas about what kind of authors and stories they wanted to see in print.
Sometime around 2010 I even asked my mentor, the late great Dennis Etchison, if I should use a pen name. I’d told him I didn’t think my name was a marketable commodity. Names like mine, I feared, wouldn’t sell books or poems or short stories. Without missing a beat, he told me to use my real name. I should never change my name, he said, to appeal to other people. I’m glad he said that, because my name is part of my identity.
As Latinx authors, identity is important to us. Who are we? We are diverse. We are indigenous, we are criollos, we are mixed-race, encompassing every color of the spectrum. And Latinx horror writers have a shared history. Borne of tragedy and triumphs, we are walking miracles. We’ve built great monuments, mapped the stars, and made wonderful advances in agriculture and the arts. We’ve also had our hearts ripped out of us, we’ve seen our temples swallowed by the earth, and many of us have even lost our native tongues to conquest and the passage of time. Now, we use our pain and funnel it through our writing, utilizing the horror genre as a vehicle for social commentary and critique as we claim back what was ours. What belongs to us still.
Things are changing. Our community is strong and united. We uplift one another and share our work. We buy books and leave reviews. We cheer each other on when we don’t feel like going any further. We’ve made great strides in the world of film, poetry, and prose. But this is only the beginning. We don’t take a backseat to anything.
These featured writers in HWA’s Latinx Heritage in Horror Month are all unique, powerful voices. They all have something to say, nightmares to share. Their words await you, ready to weave their spell. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Pedro Iniguez is a Mexican-American horror and science-fiction writer from Los Angeles, California. He is a Rhysling Award finalist and has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award for his speculative poetry. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Never Wake: An Anthology of Dream Horror, Shadows Over Main Street 3, A Night of Screams: Latino Horror Stories, Worlds of Possibility, Tiny Nightmares, Star*Line, Speculative Fiction for Dreamers, and Infinite Constellations, among others. He can be found online at his website.