Iowa native Jesus “Chuy” Renteria is an artist, writer, dancer, and teacher, but above all, he is a storyteller. Both sides of his family are from border towns in Mexico that transplanted to meatpacking towns in the Midwest. Growing up in West Liberty, he oscillated between the Mexican, Laotian, and small-town cultures that made up Iowa’s first majority-Hispanic town. His coming-of-age memoir, We Heard It When We Were Young: Tales of Growing Up Mexican American in Small-Town Iowa, was released in 2021 by The University of Iowa Press. Renteria tells stories that celebrate the spaces between cultures, of mangled Spanglish and generational clashes, of the messiness of people finding themselves.
Renteria is an Assistant Director for the University of Iowa’s Inclusive Education and Strategic Initiatives Unit. He was the host of The Englert’s Writers of Color Reading Series podcast and published stories in We the Interwoven: An Anthology of Bicultural Iowa: Vol. 1.
This Latinx Heritage Month is sponsored by the Department of Languages & Literatures, the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Social Justice and UNIdos.