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A Story Listener Defined by Borders

Macarena Hernandez_2

By Sandra Cisneros

Perhaps what the Sufis say is true: God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open. Growing up in South Texas, multimedia journalist Macarena Hernández’s heart was cleft open by what she witnessed. Why, she asked herself, was she allowed to go to school while on the opposite shore of the river near her home, children had to work selling Chiclets?

Hernández’s own family lived on both shores of this divide, called the Rio Grande on one side and the Rio Bravo on the other. This inquiry into disparities would eventually lead Hernández to her lifework as a professional border-crosser, a story-collector traversing genres between video, text, and photography.

On Tuesday, March 6, at 6pm in the Bellas Artes auditorium, as part of the 2018 PEN lecture series, Hernández will present “We Are All Mexican,” a bilingual multimedia lecture around migration.

The daughter of migrant farmworkers, Hernández studied journalism and English professional writing at Baylor University because she knew she would need to make herself marketable and couldn’t depend on her family to bail her out economically. “I took out a student loan for $500 to buy my first semiprofessional camera at age twenty, a Canon Rebel,” she says. “My father scolded me for wasting money.”

She was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in documentary filmmaking. “I grew up Baptist, so it’s no surprise I gravitated to journalism,” she says. “It’s always felt like a type of ministry to tell the stories of those overlooked.”

Influenced by activist writers like James Baldwin, Hernández became a professional nomad, traveling between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Mexico and Guatemala, the US and Mexico, among other borders.

A former editorial columnist at the Dallas Morning News and the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for the San Antonio Express-News, Hernández currently teaches journalism and writing-intensive courses at Baylor University. Prior to becoming the Fred Hartman Distinguished Professor of Journalism, she was the Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor in the Humanities at the University of Houston-Victoria. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and PBS. She runs the Inite Project, an organization that works with volunteers in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti to harness human capital to bridge educational gaps and help people tell their stories.

“Part of my work is also to train others to tell their stories,” says Hernández. “I see the importance of this especially when I’m in places like Haiti.”

San Miguel PEN is a chapter of PEN International, the organization of writers that fights for freedom of expression around the world. The 150-pesos admission helps fund local activities and includes a free glass of wine with dinner afterwards at Vivali, across the street at Hernandez Macias 66. Tickets are available at Ticket Central in the Biblioteca or at the door. For more information, visit



2017 PEN Winter Lecture Series

“We Are All Mexican”

Macarena Hernández

In English and Spanish

Tue, Mar 6, 6pm

Bellas Artes Auditorium

Hernández Macías 75

150 pesos




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