2023 Public Humanities honoree Stephanie Manriquez is a dynamic and influential figure in the Chicago literary community, amplifying and championing the voices of Latinx and Spanish-speaking writers. She is the Executive Director of Contratiempo, a bilingual literary and cultural magazine that showcases diverse literary work from both the U.S. and Latin America.
Manriquez has been with Contratiempo—an Illinois Humanities’ grantee partner—since 2003, and the magazine is almost entirely volunteer-run. Under her leadership, Contratiempo has grown in both scope and influence, earning recognition as one of the premier Latinx literary publications in the country. Contratiempo is known for its commitment to featuring a diverse array of writers, particularly those whose voices might not otherwise be heard in mainstream literary publications.
“We believe in the magazine as a platform. There are not many other places where we can have a conversation in our own name, about our own stories,” Manriquez said. “If we don’t own our stories, somebody else is going to appropriate them. And that’s not right. I feel privileged that I have a space to express myself.”
One of Manriquez‘s strengths is her ability to bring people together and build community. She has organized numerous literary events and workshops in Chicago, including the annual Lit & Luz Festival, which brings together writers and artists from both the U.S. and Mexico for a week-long celebration of literature, art, and culture. Manriquez is also a founding member of Proyecto Latina, a collective of Latina writers that host regular events and provide support and resources for women writers in the Chicago area.
In addition to her work with Contratiempo and other literary organizations, Manriquez is the Director of Lumpen Radio, where she serves as the lead producer for the community radio station and highlights multilingual content. She produces multiple programs such as “The Ponderers,” “Contratiempo Radio,” and “Lumpen Disruption.” She also leads the weekly youth radio show “Wattz Up!” as part of the audio-radio journalism youth program at Yollocalli Arts Reach, where she has been an educator for nearly a decade.
“The youth actually have a radio show, so we open doors for them. We open doors for people in the LGBTQ community. We have radio content that includes politics, arts, and culture,” Manriquez shared, noting the importance of creating space for different communities. “In one program you might have someone like me, a native of Mexico City, next to something else in Cantonese or Polish. We’re giving a platform for those that want to learn or express themself in their own language.”
As part of her many creative pursuits, Manriquez is also a DJ and teaching artist.
“I wear many hats, all of them are connected through storytelling. I mentor. Supporting the youth and the new generation of journalists and storytellers has really made me happy, as well as being part of a radio station that can open doors for many individuals from the community to amplify their voices,” she said.
Manriquez‘s dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and building community through literature is an inspiration to many in the Chicago literary scene and beyond. Her work with Contratiempo has helped to create a more inclusive and diverse cultural landscape, and her continued efforts to support emerging writers and artists ensure that the legacy of Latinx literature—and Latinx stories–will be carried forward for generations to come.
About Illinois Humanities’ Public Humanities Awards Ceremony
Established in 1984, the Public Humanities Awards Ceremony celebrates people who have made an indelible impact on our state through their work in and support of the humanities, honoring them with the Public Humanities Award. This event is Illinois Humanities’ most important annual fundraiser and enables us to provide grants and free public humanities programs throughout Illinois.
Launched in 2020 as part of the Public Humanities Awards Ceremony, the Beacon Award honors an individual or organization who has been a champion for – or investor in – the humanities in Illinois, elevating the work of humanists in ways that have improved the quality of the state for its residents.
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.
Learn more at ilhumanities.org and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.