The Texas literary journal ViAztlan, under the aegis of Centro Cultural Aztlan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “support and strengthen Chicano/Latino culture and identity” through various programs that promote the arts, began in August l984 and continued until February l987. Their offices were located on the west side of San Antonio. The idea for the journal sprang from Ramón Vásquez y Sánchez, who published the newsletter to highlight and showcase Chicano talent widely neglected by mainstream media. The term Vi plus Aztlan together meant, “I’ve seen Aztlan.” Originally supported by a small staff, the journal was headed by the center’s secretary, Rachel G. Sanchez, who served as editor in name only.
By the summer of l984 the center’s director, Carlos A. Gonzalez, under the direction of board chairman, Jose Patterson, Jr., invited college professor and freelance writer Rafael C. Castillo for editorial direction. In 1985, after a radical shift in content and style, the newsletter morphed into ViAztlan: Chicano Journal of Arts and Letters.
Castillo recruited writer Julian S. Garcia and poets Jesus Cardona and Dr. Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez, who owned Paperbacks y Mas Bookstore on Blanco Road and had star status in Chicano literary circles, added gravitas to the journal, while award-winning poet Cardona had received a summer National Endowment for the Arts fellowship to Harvard to study under Helen Vendler. Immediately, Castillo transformed the newsletter into a book-size newspaper format with San Antonio Press printing the issues.
Also in l985, ViAztlan: Chicano Journal of Arts and Letters became international in focus when Castillo returned from a literary sojourn in Paris, France, and made connections with international writers. The journal added the word “International” to its masthead. Joining the staff were Rodolfo Rosales (a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan) and Rogelio Gomez (a fiction writer). Although ViAztlan had few literary competitors, the journal attracted media attention with an article, “Tex Mex Fare taking Paris by storm,” highlighting one of San Antonio’s controversial restaurateur activists, Mario Cantu. Cantu had just opened “Papa Maya” restaurant on 94 rue Rambuteau, Les Halles, transporting Mexican cuisine to Paris and hosting ViAztlan in its restaurant. While ViAztlan’s chief editor boosted its membership and wide audience, Castillo also contacted the owner of Shakespeare and Company on the left bank of Paris to exhibit ViAztlan in its magazine racks. The journal’s expanding international staff included writers from Europe, Central America, and throughout the United States. Art sketches for the journal were done by Jeremy Thompson.
With ViAztlan competing for limited funds in the fiscal crisis of the late 1980s, the journal met dissension from San Antonio city council members who threatened funding cuts over what were perceived as the journal’s left-wing and “un-American” articles, particularly Jose Montalvo’s “The Sasquatch Centennial” poem. Castillo was prepared to speak at the city council hearing to explain the long literary tradition of satire and to link Montalvo to that literary tradition. Although board members of Centro Cultural Aztlan had expressed reservations about the poem, Rafael C. Castillo saw the satirical and literary merit of the piece and published it anyway. The poem gave poet Montalvo his fifteen minutes of fame and garnered support in the literary world. The journal, however, soon vanished into the literary dustbin of experimental South Texas literature after losing major funding.