Progressive education, education as the practice of freedom, enables us to confront feelings of loss and restore our sense of connection. It teaches us how to create community.
bell hooks, Teaching Community, 2003

Since 2009, Barrio Writers has worked to empower teens through creative writing instruction, higher education and cultural arts programming. The Barrio Writers workshops integrate reading, writing, critical thinking, and freedom of expression while cultivating diversity, community building and presentation skills. We offer free workshops to youth of all backgrounds between the ages of 13 to 21 and expose students to literature written by writers of color in order to inspire young people to write.

Each year, we publish the Barrio Writers anthology, and our 8th edition (featuring the youth published below) will be released in Spring 2017 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press.

Currently, we have eight chapters, with our founding chapter in Santa Ana, California and seven additional chapters in Texas—Austin, Houston, Nacogdoches, San Antonio, El Paso, Corpus Christi and San Marcos (which will launch in February 2017). Each chapter is either partnered with a college/university campus and/or a local cultural arts center. 

Every writing workshop explores new writers and themes. The students study the work of such authors as Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Amy Tan, Isabel Quintero, Sherman Alexie, as well as artists like Chingo Bling, Tupac, and Rage Against the Machine. The youth are also guided through individual and group-writing activities where everyone participates and presents work. We often invite guest speakers, such as authors, activists, artists and also offer higher education support and resources.

Before the program is over, we spend time typing, editing and revising bios and final drafts. Prior to typing, the students work with pen and paper. We "meta-teach" the importance of bios and the role they play throughout one's life, whether for employment, university applications or a publishing purposes. We remind students on a daily basis that “Your voice is your weapon," and "Barrio Writers is an extension of your familia."

For more information, please visit our website: or support us by buying a copy of our latest Barrio Writers book! We are completely grassroots, sustained by community partnerships, and all book profits are used for bus passes and writing supplies for our Barrio Writers chapters.

—Sarah Rafael Garcia, Author & Founder of Barrio Writers


Sarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator and traveler. Since publishing Las Niñas, she founded Barrio Writers and LibroMobile. Her writing has appeared in LATINO Magazine
Contrapuntos IIIOutrage: A Protest Anthology For Injustice in a Post 9/11 WorldLa Tolteca ZineThe Acentos Review, among others. Sarah Rafael is currently a Macondo Fellow, the Editor for the annual Barrio Writers anthology and Co-editor of pariahs writing from outside the margins anthology.



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It’s Home
    After Maurice Sendak
by Mario Reyna
Barrio Writer in Santa Ana

Where the wild things dwell,
I find myself nesting and yelling,
Failing to hold the façade I’ve been told to put on.
I chant hymns in rhythm
To my own two feet
A jungle to most.
To me,
It’s home.
Where I can throw myself at the walls
Not a care in my world
Not a reason to bawl
When my eyes open, misty and gray
Its mystery remains

Until I find that place
I’d rather sleep on a bench with the stars
Wondering forever
Where those wild things are.

BW at Austin.jpg

by Thanh Bui
Barrio Writer in Austin

I come from Boston public transit
and Houston public schools, 
currently residing in hodgepodge public identity turmoil.

I come from bustling street markets and coconut trees,
from shrimp paste, lemongrass, bún riêu, and paté chaud.
From not knowing what cilantro was for the longest time
because the kitchen is the one place safe from English cutlery.

I am from motorbikes and tiny alleys, 
a cacophony of car horns and humming exhausts
in the afternoon.

I am from houses sliced back to make room
for foreign cars our streets were not built to carry.

I am from Paris By Night, saving fast food plasticware, 
and parent-teacher meetings in which I was not the child. 
From aunts, uncles, grandparents, half-siblings, cousins, in-laws, 
and great, great blood. 

These days, family is reduced to my mother and brother
eating dinner in front of separate blue screens.

I am Hey Arnold, Cyberchase, Furbys, and slap bracelets, 
while struggling to read children’s folk tales in my native language.
I am humility and assertion and East and West
and individual and collective and too little of everything.
I am also

To Homophobes:

How dare you say such things about the LGBTQ community. You’re being ‘forced’ to watch gay people? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware someone held a gun to your temple and made your eyes stay on the T.V screen. YOU have the warm welcome acceptance of thousands of people. We don’t, but we can’t change the love we feel towards someone even if you think it’s ‘wrong’. It’s not a choice we have. You know what choice we can make? It’s our choice to speak up against you. For a long, long time we hid. We hid in fear of rejection and hate from society. We felt ashamed to even be ourselves. But now it’s different, now we feel more love and acceptance then we ever have before. Sure there are still people who shout hate at us but their voices are drowned out by others kind and compassionate hearts. It takes great pride to come out as something that could get you killed in other parts of the world. Hell saying or doing anything that isn’t accepted by many takes a lot of courage because people can be assholes. I can’t stop myself from noticing how beautiful someone is just because they’re a girl like me. It’s an automatic thought. Sure I’ve met people that don’t very much agree with my choices but they aren’t assholes about it. If anything they are really respectful and kind. My blood boils when someone says being gay, or bi, or even being in the LGBTQ community is a ‘trend’. No, no it’s not a fucking trend. It’s a life style and the reason ‘all of a sudden’ people are coming out is because someone people have finally decided to stop being such pricks and have decided to keep their nose out of where it doesn’t belong. Also our sexuality isn’t a mental illness, however have you heard the term Homophobia? It’s a well-known word but what does it really mean? Let’s break it down real quick, shall we? Many already know the word Homo, it’s usually used as an insult but it simply means that you love someone of the same gender. Now phobia, what’s that? Phobia means to have a strange or irrational fear towards something or someone. If that doesn’t sound like an illness I’m not sure what does. Now how about the word sexuality? If we look at the root word it roughly means a way of living or your life style. I’ll end with this, we cause no problems to you. I mean really, what’s the worst we can do? Be prideful and accepting of ourselves? Why should our life style concern you? We don’t affect you in the slightest. And if your religion has a problem with us, if your religion is condemning me to hell then so be it. I’ll gladly burn down there knowing I kept true to myself…

Angela Ortega
Barrio Writer in Houston

Walking Shadows
by Milton Torres
Barrio Writer in Nacogdoches

I feel connected
“Seen but Not Seen”
A tribute to all
Day Laborers

Jobs that may not seem important
Often low paying
High risk
Long Term Health Problems
High Heats
Toxic Chemicals
Unsanitary Work Places

Jobs as a necessity
Bring food to the table
Though their jobs seem useless
Welders help fuse metals
Day Laborers build houses, roads, and schools
Mechanics fix vehicles that without would be impossible to travel
They never really receive much gratitude from the general public
Frowned down upon
The backbone of America
Living in the shadows

They are seen

Fuck the Patriarchy
by g.g.
Barrio Writer in El Paso

I say this not as a raging feminist
Not as an anarchist
But as a fucking person

Two boys and although I say boys one was well over the age of 18
Were taught that it was okay for them to take whatever they wanted because they were men
I did not escape getting raped one day to get raped another

What I was wearing was not revealing
I did not entice them with my playful manners
I did not have alcohol in my system
I was not wearing a sign that said please fucking rape me

No means NO!

Virginity is a social construct
Rape is not a rite of passage
Rape is real
Rape is vile
Rape is ugly
Rape is monstrous
Rape is black tar on your soul
Rape is a social construct

Two boys were taught that they were better than me
That because they were stronger than me I was less than them

Rape is a four letter word

A woman in California was raped for 20 minutes and her rapist got 6 months in prison because they believe for him to have potential and fear that prison will have a severe impact on him
Did that woman not have potential?
Did rape not have a severe impact on her?
Was her situation not as critical because it was under an hour?

I am here standing, breathing, sweating, and spitting to tell you that her 20 minutes were just as horrific and demeaning as my 4 hours.

People claim that God makes everything happen for a reason.

Well if he’s real fuck him too.

Lullaby for Sammy
by Jacob "Mirrorz" Coleman
Barrio Writer in San Antonio

Hush baby boy don’t you cry
Daddy's gonna sing you a lullaby
Listen close and don’t you fret
Daddy's already gotten your bed set
If you should wake in the midst of the night
Daddy's gonna be there to brighten your light
Hush baby boy I’m not done yet
Close your eyes and fall into your dream net
Let them sing and let them shine
They shall ring and you'll be just fine
So hush baby boy now here you lay
And in your daddy's arms is where you shall stay
Even if you’re a memory
I'll know you are here with me
So hush baby boy don’t you cry
Daddy has sung you a lullaby
In our dreams is where we'll see
Each other and be so happy

The Time Ahead
by Destinee Lea Garcia,
Barrio Writer in Corpus Christi

Prom, check.
Graduation, check.
College, check.
Doctorate, check.
Career, check.

Remember the time when you told mom, 
“I don’t want to go to stupid prom.”
That was for me.

Remember the time you told dad, 
“I graduated for you.”
That was for me.

Remember the time you finished college and told grandma and grandpa,
“I came this far for you.”
That was for me.

Remember receiving your doctorate degree and saying, 
“I finished this degree for my kids.”
That was for me.

Remember when you got your dream job?
That was for me.

Remember when you said being successful in 10 years was for me?
That was for you.

Posted on November 2, 2016 .