FESTIBA 2020 - Guests, Authors and Artists


Carolyn Dee Flores


CAROLYN DEE FLORES is the illustrator of several books, including A Surprise for Teresita / Una sorpresa para Teresita (Piñata Books, 2016); Dale, dale, dale: Una fiesta de números / Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers (Piñata Books, 2014) and Canta, Rana, canta / Sing, Froggie, Sing (Piñata Books, 2013). A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Naibe Reynoso


Multiple-Emmy and AP Award-winning Journalist NAIBE REYNOSO, has been working in front of and behind the camera for more than 20 years. She has worked and contributed to various regional, national and international networks including KTLA, France 24, Univision Network, Reelz Channel, CNN en Español, the Biography Channel, Fox News Latino, Larry King's ORA TV, and has even filled in as a co-host on ABC's "The View".

In 2018 she created Con Todo Press, a publishing company that creates books to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities. Her first chidren's book, "Be Bold, Be Brave: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History," highlights 11 women who excelled in medicine, science, sports, the arts, journalism and politics. Naibe Reynoso aims to shine a light on heroes from our community. From activist Dolores Huerta, to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Although Latinos are over 18% of the population, only 2% of books were written by Latinos according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). At Con Todo Press, we aim to bridge that gap, so children can learn about heroes from their own community.

Sharon Robinson


SHARON ROBINSON is the educational consultant for Major League Baseball. She manages Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life a baseball-themed national character education curriculum that helps empower students to face obstacles in their lives. The program includes a national essay contest for students in grades 4-9 and throughout MLB's RBI program. Each year, thousands of students write an essay about how they used the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson to overcome their challenges. Essay winners are celebrated in their schools and in Major League ballparks. Since 1997, the program has reached over 22 million students and 2.9 million educators.

Ms. Robinson is also the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction. She has written several widely praised books about her father, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, including Jackie's Nine: Jackie Robinson's Values to Live By, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, Jackie Robinson: American Hero (children's biography), and picture books Testing the Ice, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and Jackie's Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, illustrated by EB Lewis. Sharon's other books include novels: Safe at Home and Slam Dunk! In January 2014, Under The Same Sun, illustrated by AG Ford, will be published by Scholastic.

James Luna

James Luna

JAMES LUNA is an elementary school teacher in Riverside, California. He is the author of a short, bilingual novel for intermediate readers, A Mummy in Her Backpack / Una momia en su mochila (Piñata Books, 2012), and two picture books, The Place Where You Live / El lugar donde vives (Piñata Books, 2015) and The Runaway Piggy / El cochinito fugitivo (Piñata Books, 2010), which was selected by Texas schoolchildren as their favorite book on the Tejas Star Reading List.

Anna Meriano

Anna Meriano

ANNA MERIANO grew up in Houston, Texas, with an older brother and a younger brother but (tragically) no sisters. She graduated from Rice University with a degree in English and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. She has taught creative writing and high school English and works as a writing tutor. Anna likes reading, knitting, playing full-contact quidditch, and translating English song lyrics into Spanish and vice-versa. Her favorite baked goods are the kind that don’t fly away before you eat them.

René Colato Laínez

Rene Colato Laines

RENÉ COLATO LAÍNEZ is the author of numerous picture books for children, including Mamá the Alien / Mamá la extraterrestre (Lee & Low Books, 2016), From North to South / Del norte al sur (Children’s Book Press, 2013), René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos (Arte Público Press, 2009) and I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño (Arte Público Press, 2005). He is an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, California.

Bethany Hegedus

Bethany Hegedus

BETHANY HEGEDUS is an award-winning author of picture books and middle-grade novels, including Grandfather Gandhi and Alabama Spitfire. A former educator, she teaches widely and enjoys mentoring young writers. Hegedus is owner and creative director of the Writing Barn, a writing workshop and retreat center. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian--Maya Angelou's life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya's life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas, through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people.

David Bowles

David Bowles

DAVID BOWLES grew up and lives in the Río Grande Valley of South Texas. A many-faceted writer and scholar, he’s the author of Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico. His middle-grade fantasy The Smoking Mirror was selected as a 2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor by the American Library Association. "They Call Me Güero" recently was awarded a 2019 Tomas Rivera Book Award, but that’s not the first acknowledgment for the book. Bowles, and "Güero," have earned multiple accolades recently for excellence in poetry: Pura Belpré Author Honor Book; 2019 Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature; School Library Journal 2018 Best Books List Honor, Middle Grade; National Council of Teachers of English Notable Verse Novel for Children 3-13; ALSC Notable Children’s Book, 2019; and Shelf Awareness 2018 Best Children’s & Teen Books of the Year, Middle Grade.

Raquel M. Ortiz

Raquel M. Ortiz

RAQUEL M. ORTIZ was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. She is the author of two other bilingual picture books: Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural / Sofi y el mágico mural musical (Arte Público Press, 2015) and Sofi Paints Her Dreams / Sofi pinta sus sueños (Piñata Books, 2019). She has worked at The Brooklyn Museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum and El Museo del Barrio. Currently, she creates educational material for the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City.

FESTIBA 2020 – Distinguished Performers, Guest Authors and Artists

Jerónimo Maya

Jerónimo Maya

JERÓNIMO MAYA, a real guitar genius, and a direct descendant from the guitarist Ramón Montoya, started his musical career at the early age of 5. He was immediately recognized as a gifted child by the audience and the flamenco community, and whose worth was recognized by great masters, such as Sabicas or Paco de Lucia. His playing is full of personality and character, as well as virtuosity. His complex harmonies and his conception of music are definitely forward-thinking. He has accompanied many singers: Diego el Cigala, Chano Lobato, Esperanza Fernández, Estrella Morente, José de la Tomasa, and more frequently his uncle Ricardo Losada el Yunque, Ginesa Ortega or Paco del Pozo, as well as sharing stage with artists such as Paco de Lucia, Camarón de la isla or Sabicas, who were friends as well as colleagues.

In his presentation at UTRGV - "A gypsy and two worlds", Jerónimo will illustrate flamenco in a fusion with other cultures that form a single voice. The performance conveys that the fusion of different cultures, no matter how different, come together to form a universal language: MUSIC. The presentation will include a flamenco singer, dancer, cellist, and percussion.

Emmy Pérez

Emmy Perez

EMMY PÉREZ, The Texas Poet Laureate 2020, has lived in the Texas borderlands for the past 19 years, the first six reconnecting with her family history in Ysleta/El Paso and then moving several hundred miles east to the Rio Grande Valley, where she has lived in McAllen for the past 13 years. Originally from Santa Ana, California, she is a graduate of Columbia University (MFA) and the University of Southern California (BA). She is the author of the poetry collections With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press), Solstice (Swan Scythe Press), and is currently working on a third collection. Pérez's Texas Poet Laureate term is set to begin in late March 2020 for a full year. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (2017), in previous years, was awarded poetry fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MacDowell, the Ucross Foundation, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has also received the Modesta Avila Award, the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award, and the James D. Phelan Award. Since 2008, she has been a member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros for socially engaged writers. She has also served on the organizing committee for CantoMundo and judged the 2018 CantoMundo poetry book prize. Pérez's poetry has been published in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series and appears on the Poetry Foundation online. Her work has also been published in Split this Rock's The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database and journals such as Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Indiana Review, Pilgrimage Magazine. Her poetry anthology publications

Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman

DENICE FROHMAN is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. A CantoMundo Fellow, she’s received residencies and awards from the National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures, Leeway Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, and Millay Colony.

Her work has appeared in Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump, ESPNW and garnered over 10 million views online. A former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, she’s featured on national and international stages from The Apollo to The White House, and over 200 colleges and universities. She has a Master’s in Education and co-organizes #PoetsforPuertoRico. She lives in Philadelphia.

Javor Bračić


The Croatian pianist JAVOR BRAČIĆ was hailed by New York Concert Review for "deep, genuine musicianship and an outstanding technique" at his solo Carnegie Hall debut recital presented by New York Concert Artists. His CD album Tribute to Haydn was released by Labor Records, and his performance was broadcast on WQXR in the McGraw Hill Young Artists Showcase. He was the first prize winner of international piano competitions Luigia Stramesi and Citta' di Minerbio in Italy, Les Rencontres des Jeunes Pianistes in Belgium, Zlatko Grgošević in Croatia, and New York Concert Artists' Carnegie Recital Debut Audition. He has performed solo recitals at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Steinway Hall, Austrian Cultural Forum, Polish Consulate in New York, Bohemian National Hall, Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, and the EUNIC series at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC. As a member of chamber music ensembles, he performed at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, New York Historical Society, and Merkin Hall. He performs regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Ethel Foundation series. In his programs, he frequently includes works by Croatian composers.

Marianella Q. Franklin - UTRGV Chief Sustainability Officer

Marianella Franklin

Marianella Franklin joined UTRGV's legacy institution (UTPA) in 2003 to manage projects for Facilities, Planning, and Construction. In 2009, she has founded the Office for Sustainability and now is the UTRGV Chief Sustainability Officer. Under her leadership, UTRGV (and its legacy institution, UTPA) has forged forward in creating a sustainable development platform for the University and the region it serves, influencing partnerships nationally and globally. Franklin has a Bachelor in Architecture from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico.

Jose Antonio Rodríguez, Poet, Memoirist, Translator

Jose Antonio Rodriguez

Poet, memoirist, and translator José Antonio Rodríguez is a Mexican immigrant and first-generation high school and college graduate. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, McSweeney's, POETRY, Paterson Literary Review, and Latin American Literature Today, among other publications. His most recent book is This American Autopsy: Poems, recently recommended as "new and noteworthy" by The New York Times. Other books include the memoir House Built on Ashes, finalist for the PEN America Los Angeles Literary Award; and the poetry collections The Shallow End of Sleep, winner of the Bob Bush Memorial Award from the Texas Institute of Letters; and Backlit Hour, finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. He's also part of the collaborative work Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives, a collection of artwork by Reefka Schneider, poems in English by Steven Schneider, and Rodríguez's Spanish translations.

José Antonio Rodríguez is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, Macondo Writers' Workshop, and CantoMundo. He received a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing. He also holds degrees in Biology and Theatre Arts and teaches writing and literary translation in the M.F.A. program at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi Exhibit by Reefka Schneider, Artist and Steven Schneider, Poet

The Magic of Mariach

In this exhibit, The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi, luminous paintings of mariachi musicians hang side by side with poems inspired by these works of art. Together, these beautiful paintings and lyrical poems, written in English and translated into Spanish, invite you into a colorful world of pageantry and musical tradition. Reefka’s paintings and drawings, done in pastel, watercolor and charcoal, were inspired over the course of many years by her close association with both student and professional mariachi musicians. Steven’s poems, written about the paintings, to the paintings, and in the voice of the subjects of these paintings, reflect his deep knowledge of the classical tradition of Ekphrasis, poets who respond to silent works of art. This exhibit, which was invited to China in 2018, encourages cross-cultural understanding, bilingual learning, and creativity as well as deepens the ties that bind all of us together.

The very first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, wrote about The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi: "The Magic is here! We swoon, dance and enter the true and authentic universe of the mariachi in this exhibit. The paintings are luminous, passion-fired, and bring us into a majestic example of beauty, art, love and life-struggle."

Abstract Narratives
Exhibit by Angela Scardigno
Sponsored by the UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts

Abstract Narratives

Abstract Narratives is a series of small size digital collages that reference Edward Hopper's paintings, especially his period between 1920-1960. These paintings are translated into abstract landscapes with engaging shapes, colors, and textures. The challenge for the artist is to reflect in each representation her own temperament, leaving Hopper's aura intact.

Mexihcah Aztec Photographs from the Wesley Billingslea Collection
Art exhibition curated by Daniel Ymbong & Carol López
Sponsored by the UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts


The Wesley Billingslea Mexihcah Aztec Photograph Collection is a body of works by photographer Wesley Billingslea that focuses on raising awareness about Mexican and Aztec cultures and attempts to keep knowledge of these ancient traditions alive. The ancient Mexihcah were the descendants of the Aztecs from the Chichimec lineage and culture that originated in Northern Mexico. Their ancestors migrated to the South, following Mexi, the Sun. They received a vision of Huitzilpochtli in the form of a majestic eagle perched on a cactus in the middle of a body of water, Lake Texcoco. It was there that the Mexihcah founded the city of Tenochtitlán and flourished as a cultured society in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Wesley Billingslea created this group of photographs with accompanying texts to promote human rights and work in conjunction with the descendants of the Mexihcah, who are depicted in these images, to help them tell their stories in their own words. Edinburg University Library, Floor case next to the Center for Latin American Arts Exhibit open through March 13, 2020

Invisible Fires
Exhibit by Gaby Rico, Andy A. Villarreal and Octavio Quintanilla

Invisible Fires

This exhibition invites you to discover the creative works for three renowned artists, as they share their passion-fueled artistry with the City of Brownsville. Gaby Rico, Andy A. Villarreal and Octavio Quintanilla bring their distinct artistic styles to and art show you will not want to miss!