Sitting in a Center City cafe, Peruvian writer Sandro Chiri draws on a napkin as he speaks. His college-age son sits nearby ready to translate, but Chiri’s drawing communicates just fine. From left to right: a stick figure, a heart, and the word “Philly.”
“Para Espanol, Marque 2” (“For Spanish, Press 2”) is Chiri’s compilation of 21 established Latino writers living in Philadelphia. Presented mostly in Spanish —with English translations of select pieces — the book includes poems, essays and memoirs on personal experiences in Philly. It will be released this month by the New York-based Latino Press.
Chiri moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to pursue a doctoral fellowship at Temple University, where he is currently researching 19th-century Latin American literature. Soon after arriving, he helped to organize Spanish-language poetry readings at the university. The readings attracted Latino writers from all over Philadelphia, and Chiri started to formulate ideas for a book.
He decided to call it, “For Spanish, Press 2” after the familiar automated prompt from prepaid phone cards.
“I wanted to demonstrate that there are important, bright Latin Americans in Philly,” says Chiri, through his son. “These authors are so important to their countries, and they’re right here in this city.”
Towards the end of our interview Chiri draws a crack through the heart on his napkin: “It is about love of Philly. But also anger and struggle,” he explains. “There is no love without struggle.”
And he says that sentence clear as a bell, no translation required.