Meet the team: César Albarrán-Torres

César is our poetry translator and one of our interviewers. He thinks Puentes should have an issue that's all about good food and recipes.

César started his career in the publishing industry in Mexico City in the early 2000s working as managing editor for the film magazine CinePremiere and the history journal Istor.

He is now a Senior Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology and has published the books Global Trafficking Networks on Film and Television: Hollywood’s Cartel Wars (2021) and Digital gambling: theorizing gamble-play media (2019).

He is also an editor at Senses of Cinema and has written about pop culture for the Latinx publication Mitú and La Tempestad. His short stories have been published in 22 Voces Vol. 1: Narrativa mexicana joven (2017) and A Voz Limpia, among others.

In 2019, Cesar was a mentor at the Melbourne Film Festival’s Critic Campus.

1. What are you reading?
I have the bad or perhaps good habit of having a handful of unfinished books on rotation. Currently, I am reading The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, a Sri Lankan author who won the Booker with this novel. I am a sucker for literary prizes, so I was quick to buy it when it came out. It is a brutal but also funny account of violence and corruption in Sri Lanka, which mirrors other Dantean realities in the postcolonial Global South, like my home country: Mexico. The book is written entirely in the second person, and follows a ghost, so it has a good dose of magical realism and satire.

I am also reading postcolonial theory, both classics like Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and contemporary authors like Cameroonian theorist Achille Mbembe and his Necropolitics. I love reading poetry when I commute, little morsels of wisdom and beauty, so I am reading The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr.

2. What are you watching?
When I am not being sucked in by Masterchef Australia, a not-so-guilty pleasure, I like watching movies on Mubi, this platform that is beautifully curated. The latest film that really caught my eye was La casa lobo (The Wolf House) by Chilean filmmakers Joaquin Cociña and Cristóbal León, who meticulously constructed a true cinematic nightmare with hand-drawn animation and stop motion. The film deals with an infamous real-life cult led by ex-Nazis, but also deals quite creatively with the horrors of the Pinochet era.

I also loved watching Succession, another exploration of the irrational and deadly nature of political and ideological power that is just the right amount of funny.

3. Who would you most like to swap places with for the day?
I would love to experience being a professional athlete for a day. I am 44, so my body has started to decline, so running, swimming, jumping, fighting, or lifting weight on a competitive level for just one day would feel like having a superpower.

I would also love to swap places with a cat or dog, experience that animal subjectivity for one day, figure out if they really ‘love’ their humans or if being cute is just a matter of self-preservation.

4. Who’s your favourite Latin American artist and why?
Two amazing singers: Costa-Rican by birth but Mexican in heart singer Chavela Vargas, who sang rancheras even though it was a genre dominated by men. I love her voice, particularly in her old age. The other one is Mercedes Sosa, an Argentinian folk singer.

I also love the Mexican muralists, the holy trinity of Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Their art was political and fierce, but very aesthetically pleasing in an uncomfortable kind of way.

5. If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would that be?
Cooking, definitely. Being able to conjure magic through food, to make art and stir emotions with food. Being able to transform ingredients into something amazing and new and irreplicable. I love eating delicious food and talking about it.

High-end cooking is like magic, so I would love to experience that.

6. What’s your favourite thing about Puentes Review?
The careful and thoughtful editing and curating of each issue, and how it is representative of how varied the experiences of the global Latinx diaspora are.

It is also one of the most diverse publications I have encountered in terms of genre and themes. I’m not a fan of literary journals that pride themselves in being exclusionary, I think Puentes is the exact opposite.

7. What have been your favourite pieces in Puentes Review so far?
‘Ultimate Triumph’ by Martha Bátiz. It is an eerie tale that has sudden and surprising shifts in tone. It is creepy in the best possible way, and uses references to the internet and online cultures in new ways. I really hope Stephen King reads it one day: he would love it.