Photograph by Alina Cruz

Professor medals at Latino Book Awards

Lewis & Clark Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies and Latin American Studies, Sergio Hugo Moreno recently won an award at the 2021 International Latino Book Awards for his novel “Donde Se Acaba El Norte,” or “Where The North Ends.” Moreno was awarded silver in the category “Best Adventure/Drama Novel in Spanish.” The professor was among 297 different authors competing in the entire contest, and beat out two other novelists to grab his medal.

Moreno was born in Gallup, New Mexico, but grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He credits both environments with influencing his novel. Moreno was very happy to win this award, as his background of being Hispanic, and growing up in border towns, inspired his work.

“It’s actually the most prestigious award for Latino authors in the U.S., but especially for Spanish speaking authors,” Moreno said. “The International Latino Studies Association does a great deal to promote literature of Latinos and Latinx authors in the U.S., not only in English but also in Spanish and Portuguese.” 

“Donde Se Acaba El Norte” is about a grief-stricken man named Uriel Romero who is plagued by nightmares. One of his dreams, about a Franciscan monk named Diego living in the 17th century, becomes increasingly vivid. This  causes Romero to begin questioning the difference between reality and the dreamscape. Diego is accused of heresy and sent to New Mexico to catechize the Apaches, but he is strangely familiar with the landscape, and more coincidences begin to occur as the Inquisition comes for him. 

Moreno had been wanting to write the novel for a while, and finally started it five years ago, before realizing how much of an activity it would be to develop.

“It’s more about a learning process. Of course it was about completing a project that I had in mind for many years and never got around to do it,” Moreno said. “But I said, ‘I want to learn. I want to learn something in the process.’ And to not just have a novel but, if it’s going to fail as a novel, might as well learn something.”

The novel is  based on Moreno’s real life. The work, while a story of self discovery for both Romero and Diego, made Moreno realize that writing it was not about understanding who he is, but capturing the history and culture of his childhood border town, as well as his old friends and neighbors. 

“It’s also an attempt … to not only understand the history but to understand the present,” Moreno said. “So to understand the present by also understanding the history of where I’m from, which is closely related to the history of New Mexico.” 

Moreno also had high praise for his experience teaching at LC. While he had taught at many universities, Moreno likes how LC centers both a lively social community and academics.

“I think it’s a nice combination between hardworking, dedicated students who, at the same time, also like having fun and are friendly and open minded. It’s a balanced institution,” Moreno said.

“Donde Se Acaba El Norte” is yet to be released in English, and the Watzek library does not have a copy on file. However, there is an excerpt available on Moreno’s profile page on the LC website.

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