Luciana Erregue-Sacchi, the owner of Edmonton’s Laberinto Press, originally planned to become a lawyer in her home country of Argentina.
She had one year left in law school when she arrived in Canada as a newlywed 30 years ago, putting her plans on hold while her husband, Mauricio, earned his PhD in geophysics at the University of British Columbia. By the time her husband accepted a position as an associate professor at the University of Alberta in the late 1990s, Erregue-Sacchi’s academic plans were a distant memory.
By then she was fully fluent in English but did most of her writing in Spanish. In graduate school, she had to write in English, which she found challenging. Reading in English was more appealing, and a course in global literature with Top 40 Under 40 alumna Diana Davidson at the U of A opened her eyes to a host of post-colonial writers, like Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe. Their work inspired her in ways that didn’t become fully clear until she began working at the Art Gallery of Alberta after graduating.
There, surrounded by all kinds of artists, Erregue-Sacchi began writing poetry in English. After one of her poems was published in The Polyglot, a local literary journal devoted to multilingual writers, she was invited to apply to join the Writers Guild of Alberta’s Borderlines Writers Circle (now the Horizons Writers Circle). That planted the seeds for Laberinto, which is dedicated to world literature in translation and original work by Canadian writers whose first language is not English.
Erregue-Sacchi’s fascination with other languages dates to her childhood, growing up in a book-filled house and singing along with her uncle’s records, which included The Beatles in English and Maria Creuza and Vinicius de Moraes in Portuguese. “I tried to imitate their sounds, singing phonetically,” she recalls.
After moving to Canada, she was surprised to discover that in a bilingual country, people seemed afraid to speak other languages, a point that was driven home when she began writing creatively and her colleagues asked if she feared that her mixed language poetry would alienate English readers.
The thought had never occurred to her. To Erregue-Sacchi, we are already and always multilingual. “Languages are a spectrum,” she reasons. In Canada, “we read French labels all the time, we say hasta la vista, mi casa es su casa, dos cervezas por favor. Canada is so rich in people who read and write in two or even three or more languages. It’s puzzling to think that English must remain as pristine as if it had never left Great Britain. Identity and language are fluid concepts. Sometimes we converge, sometimes we diverge in our paths. Hence the name of my press.”
Erregue-Sacchi started Laberinto to publish Beyond the Food Court, essays she curated from her fellow Borderlines writers about how food and the sense of taste connected them to their new home in Edmonton and the home countries they’d left behind. The idea for the anthology came to her when she learned about the Edmonton Arts Council’s Diversity in the Arts grants.
The only catch was finding a publisher before the end date of the grant. When another Borderlines writer suggested Erregue-Sacchi start her own press, she embraced the opportunity. “I think those four years of law school finally became useful,” she says. “There’s a whole host of skills I thought I didn’t have, that I do.”
Although Laberinto is a one-woman operation, Erregue-Sacchi hired freelance editors both for Beyond the Food Court, which was published in 2020, and its follow-up, Beyond the Gallery, a 2021 collection featuring Latinx Canadian literary talent, focusing on “the sense of sight, non-sight.”
Erregue-Sacchi plans to continue with the Beyond series, but her next book, The Ghost of You, is a translation of a short story collection by Peruvian-American academic Margarita Saona. The Laberinto edition will launch in March 2023.
She has distribution deals in Canada and the United States, and the press has been accepted into the Book Publishers Association of Alberta and the Association of Canadian Publishers. She just signed a distribution deal with the University of Toronto Press.
“My toes are in the water of the industry,” she says. “It’s a huge learning curve that I’m really enjoying.”
Laberinto books are available at Audreys Books, Glass Bookshop, Tix on the Square, and laberintopress.com.
This article appears in the September 2022 issue of Edify