San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Storyteller keeps Latino history and traditions alive

LOS ANGELES –  At 71, Olga Loya has told thousands of stories in English and Spanish in Mexico and the United States, bringing to children, young people and adults tales that know no borders, awaken creativity and keep traditions alive.

She is the author of the bilingual book “Momentos Magicos/Magic Moments,” that tells 10 stories from  Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia and Puerto Rico, and which won in 1998 an Aesop Accolade from the International Reading Association.

“My stories are a window onto subjects like healing, racism, bullying, multiculturalism, forgiveness, the environment, the richness of each family’s legacy and the value of our traditions,” Loya said in an interview with Efe.

Born in California, the author spent a good part of her childhood listening to stories told by her Mexican paternal grandmother, who spoke to her in Spanish about experiences as simple as how to go to the market, or anecdotes about some uncle, or Mexican songs – an immense fund of oral tradition that lit up that little girl’s mind with the most colorful images.

She took a degree in education at California State University, Los Angeles and worked for many years as a teacher. Her way of instructing students gradually incorporated storytelling to make the classes more entertaining and interactive.

In 1980, after attending a storytelling conference for the first time, she discovered that this was what she really wanted to do in life and decided to dedicate herself heart and soul to this calling.

“I have two daughters and when I told them that I wanted to be a storyteller, they thought I was going crazy, but I didn’t stop until I made my dream come true,” she said.

“When I began, I told stories from American folklore, but one day I got the idea that I had a culture with some very good tales to tell, and I began telling stories from Latin America – and then I saw that I had stories in my family and in our traditions that I could also tell,” she said.

Loya’s life is divided among tours of different theaters in Mexico and the United States, and her presentations sometimes incorporate dance, theater and song as well as narration.

She also gives seminars at schools, libraries, museums, universities and even prisons, teaching her audiences how to write and tell stories.

“Keeping stories and traditions alive is indispensable for the soul,” she said.

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