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December 2021

Our Nueva York: Writing the City in Spanish

Image: Regina Vater, Cinematic Still from Mayakovsky, 1974.

This month, we explore the notion of New York as Spanish-language city. As renowned translator and scholar Esther Allen notes in an interview this month, "Spanish has been a language of what’s now New York City since the very first arrival of non-Native Americans on these shores." The writing in our December issue, then, is not an attempt to simply explore another side of New York, but rather to acknowledge this oft-obscured history with work by five contemporary writers from across the Spanish-speaking world. Michel Nieva takes a look at warring species in pandemic-era Nueva York, while Mario Michelena sets his sights on battles in a Brooklyn courtroom. Sara Cordón writes a tale of being and becoming through the eyes of a college graduate and Spanish immigrant whose first window into New York was through the 1979 action thriller The Warriors. Álvaro Baquero-Pecino breaks the city down by the numbers, and Naeif Yehya introduces readers to a Brooklyn man whose bluff is called by a cam girl. In an interview, Esther Allen and Ulises Gonzales look at the history of Spanish-language writing in New York. Gonzales also provides an introduction to the issue, which he guest-edited in collaboration with Ashley Candelario.

Nuestra Ciudad: Writing the City in Spanish

Just shy of two years since the city of New York was laid low by the COVID-19 pandemic, the December issue of Words Without Borders brings together work from five writers—all of them working in Spanish—that explores this multifaceted city.

War of the Species

Completely unaware that this was the kind of sacred moment when you pledge your undying allegiance to a team, through thick and thin, I stated my choice.


On a bad night, a train car on the red line takes more than half an hour to appear, and no fewer than twenty-one minutes to traverse the eleven stations to the southern tip of Manhattan.


Spanish-language Writing in New York, Then and Now: An Interview with Esther Allen & Ulises Gonzales

While many Latinx writers work in English, there is a longstanding tradition of writers born or raised in this country who work in Spanish.

No One Really Knows Why People Shout

His lips are moist, as though he were stewing on more insults.

The Common Good

All she can think about is why it ever occurred to her to dress like this in public.

Plans and Commitments

He checked Mel’s Instagram and Twitter accounts again, waiting anxiously for her to post something, anything.

Book Reviews

Shukri Mabkhout’s “The Italian”: Characters Caught in a Sea Change

Reviewed by Elaine Margolin

Shukri Mabkhout's award winning novel shows characters attempting to navigate a society in tumult.

Samar Yazbek’s “Planet of Clay”: The Urgency of Telling

Reviewed by Ben Goldman

Samar Yazbek's novel uses a memorable narrator to explore the indelibility of storytelling.

Antonio Gamoneda’s “Castilian Blues”: Songs No Longer Silenced

Reviewed by Jose-Luis Moctezuma

Antonio Gamoneda's collection of poems interprets the American blues tradition with powerful results.

Helene Bukowski’s “Milk Teeth”: A Plausible Post-Apocalypse

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield

Helene Bukowski's harrowing debut novel invites readers to a strange dystopia.

Recent Issues

Our Nueva York: Writing the City in Spanish

The Language of Identity: Kaaps Writing from South Africa

Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages

The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Writing from Malaysia

Backstories: Afro-Italian Women Writers

The Queer Issue XII

Movement and Multiplicity: Writing from Mauritania

On the Edge: Writing from Iceland

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