Elena Diaz Bjorkquist

Elena Diaz Bjorkquist

Research Affiliate

Elena was born in Morenci, a copper mining town in southeastern Arizona. In the late 1960’s the corporation that owned the town was demolished it so they could expand the mine. The people of Morenci, mostly Mexican American, who had lived there for generations, were forced to abandon their homes. The sense of not having a hometown to return to haunted Elena, but it was not until 1990 that she started writing the stories of her people; the Chicanos of Morenci. The result was a book of short stories, Suffer Smoke, published by Arte Público Press in 1996. Another collection of short stories about Morenci, Water from the Moon, was published in 2002. The U of A Press is considering her newest collection of short stories, Albóndiga Soup for publication.
In 2002, Rosi Andrade and Elena co-edited an anthology by their women writers collective. Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos was selected as one of the 100 best books of the Southwest for that year. Rosi and Elena recently completed the editing of a new anthology by the Comadres of Sowing the Seeds. Our Spirit, Our Reality, celebrating our stories will be out in the fall.

As one of the poet/moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070,” Elena is responsible for reading 25 to 40 poems per week and helping to select five to post on La Bloga. The U of A Press is considering an anthology of poems written for this project.

 "Growing up in a large extended family and the close-knit Chicano community in Morenci gave me a strong sense of family values and allowed me to see first hand the importance of a community working together. My father, Valentine Herrera, like all the other Chicano miners, was active in the labor union. Through the union, the miners were able to obtain equal pay, better working conditions, medical benefits, and a pension plan. Because of my upbringing, I have always been an activist, striving to make things better for the oppressed. I feel that it's crucial for those of us who have 'made it' to give back to our people by helping others not so fortunate."

Although writing is her primary passion, Elena is also an artist. She sculpts in paper mache and clay and enjoys creating masks and sculptures with Native Meso-American and Southwest Native American designs.