Two Latinos Receive Prestigious MacArthur 'Genius' Grants


Natalia Almada and Junot Diaz
Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz and Mexican-American filmmaker Natalia Almada received a prestigious MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recently.
Diaz and Almada joined 21 other MacArthur Fellows.The fellowship is one of the most prestigious grants available for creative thinkers. The foundation awards $500,000 in “no-strings-attached” support over five years to each winner, letting them to pursue their talents without worrying about money, according to a recent Huffington Post article.
Past Latino winners formed a group called the “MacArturos” to support each other’s work and share it with “la comunidad,” according to novelist Sandra Cisneros.
Diaz said in an interview with the New York Observer that the award is “like finding an extra bedroom in your New York studio apartment.” Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes about his experiences immigrating from the Dominican Republic to New York, and balances the influences of the barrio and academia. Diaz said he plans to use prize money to finish his “crazy monster book.”
Almada is a Mexican-American filmmaker known for “El General,” a film about her great-grandfather, former president of Mexico Plutarco Elías Calles. Almada said the film is a “poetic reflection about memory and history,” based on audio recordings inherited from her great-grandmother.
“My reaction when I received the call from the MacArthur Foundation was complete surprise,” Almada said. “I’ve never had that kind of freedom, to not have to worry about how I am going to get by?”