Answers to questions from a class of 9th graders in Puerto Rico:

Thank you for your letter.  I was very pleased to hear that you read my story, and even more pleased to see everybody's name at the bottom of the page.  Hello, hello, hello!

Let me answer all your questions.  First, I must tell you that "The Iguana Killer" is based on stories my father told me about growing up.  He was born in Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas, in Mexico--very near Villahermosa.  To write the story, what I did was just try to remember things my father told me.  These things all happened to him.  And he did eat iguana, many many times--he was the Sapito in the story!

The name "Sapito," which means "little frog," was not my father's nickname, though.  It belonged to a friend of his.  I just liked it, and since there were so many other animals in the story, I thought a "sapito" would fit right in.  Also, when I was growing up, the word "sapo" also meant a very lucky thing, like a lucky catch of a baseball--"¡que sapo!" we would say.  I've never told

"The  Iguana Killer" is based on stories my father told me about growing up. 

anybody these things, but now YOU know.

Yes, I was encouraged to speak English at school--more than encouraged.  We got swatted for speaking Spanish at school!  It made all of us feel bad about speaking Spanish.  After all, nobody wants to get hit, or to do something bad.  That's how we were made to feel.  But I think, really, our teachers were just trying to help us.  They weren't trying to be mean.  But I don't think swatting us was the right answer.  And things have changed now, which is good.  I don't feel bad about speaking Spanish anymore--I feel proud.  It's something not everybody can do.

You know my mother was born in England, and my father in Mexico.  Well, I can also speak with a British accent.  It's fun.  And that's what I try to do as a writer, now: have fun with language, and tell good stories and write powerful poems.

Now, for your last question: do I visit all the places I write about.  Well, the answer is yes--but with my imagination!  That's the best part of being a writer is getting to use my imagination.  If you look at the word--imagination--it has "magic" in it, and "nation," and "i."  It's like thinking "I am in the country of magic" when I think about the imagination.  And that's a great place to be!

Thank you for your letter, and I'm very glad you liked my story.  I've never been, but I hope I can visit you all in Puerto Rico some day soon.  You never know!

Alberto Ríos | Short Biography | Elementary School | Middle & High School | College & University | Advanced Research | Feedback