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Storytelling series shines light on Latino identity


“The Living Room: Storytime for Grownups” series expands to include Latino storytelling series.

When Nora de Hoyos Comstock was born, her biological parents gave her to an aunt and uncle who couldn’t bear children. Although Comstock knew the truth, she later realized she had held onto unresolved feelings about her adoption.

For more than five years, Comstock had listened to Austinites share their personal experiences at a monthly community storytelling event called “The Living Room: Storytime for Grownups,” which is produced and hosted by multidisciplinary artist Amparo García-Crow. She’d heard storytellers share their struggles, triumphs and heartbreaks, but she often wondered why there weren’t more Latinos sharing their experiences. So she decided to tell her own story.

Comstock — who founded the social networking organization Las Comadres Para Las Americas and serves as an Austin Community College trustee — teamed up with García-Crow in 2016 to launch a Latino-centric storytelling event as part of “The Living Room” series to help boost the visibility of Austin’s Latino identity stories. “The New Beginnings Stories” event kicks off this year at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, and it will feature six storytellers sharing experiences.

There’s no acting involved. Storytellers are Austinites telling real stories. “It’s really more raw, vulnerable and provocative that way,” García-Crow said.

For Comstock, opening up to an audience was healing. “I had never spent time thinking about my biological mother, and the great sacrifice she made when she gave me up,” Comstock said. “When you keep it inside and it doesn’t see the light of day, it doesn’t have the same impact. Talking aloud really makes a difference. I’ve been at peace ever since.”

When García-Crow and Comstock wondered why more Latino storytellers weren’t sharing their stories, they thought about all the cultural complexities. Was it a lack of information? A lack of self-esteem? Lack of opportunity?

“It’s always been a survival thing to stay quiet,” García-Crow said. And when Latino storytellers do step up, she’s noticed that they’re often too concerned with presenting the perfect story. “We haven’t seen ourselves enough (in television or film) to let ourselves be authentic on all levels. The good, bad and the ugly. You can’t have dramatic character without a flaw.”

Once storytellers volunteer to share, García-Crow guides them through the process. She discourages notes or memorization and instead teaches techniques to keep the story organized and concise while staying engaged.

Over the years, “The Living Room” has gained a loyal following with more than 200 regular audience members. Stories featured in the storytelling series have been picked up by national podcasts, and García-Crow hopes the new Latino identity series can enjoy similar success to help preserve the stories of Latino culture.

“It’s very rare when someone doesn’t feel empowered telling their own story,” she said.

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