John Phillip Santos is a writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker from San Antonio, Texas. His two memoirs, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation (a National Book Award Finalist) and The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire, together tell the ancestral stories of his mother and father’s families, an American origin story of the centuries-long migrations that emerged out of Spain, Mexico, and the lands that became South Texas. His book of poems is Songs Older Than Any Known Singer.
As an Emmy-nominated television producer, he has produced more than 40 broadcast documentaries and news programs on cultural themes in sixteen countries for CBS and PBS. His journalism and commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Antonio Express-News, the Manchester Guardian, Texas Monthly and other publications in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. This work is archived in the Special Collections of the University of Texas San Antonio.
During his six years as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, he directed the philanthropic program in media infrastructure and production, making more than $40M in grants to support the development of independent media networks in the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia, and to fund the production of documentaries around the world.
A proud graduate of Texas public schools, Santos was the first Latino to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar and holds degrees in English Literature and Language from Oxford University, and Philosophy and Literature from the University of Notre Dame.
After twenty-two years in Manhattan, Santos returned to his borderlands hometown of San Antonio in 2005, where he now lives with his wife, the poet Frances Treviño Santos and their daughter, Francesca de la Luz.
Since 2010, he has been University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies, teaching in the Honors College at the University of Texas San Antonio.
In 2017, he was awarded the Texas Medal for the Arts in Literature.
I’m grateful to John Phillip for this engaging discussion where we talk about his work and experiences as a Mexican-American growing up in the “borderland” of San Antonio, Tx.
John Phillip’s books:
- Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
- Songs Older Than Any Known Creation
- The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire
Other books mentioned in this episode:
- The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail by Jason de Leon
- The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossesison Along the Rio Grande by Angela Garcia
- Threshold: Emergency Responders on the US-Mexico Border by Ieva Jusionyte
- The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge by Jeffrey Kripal
- The Super Natural: Why the Unexplained is Real by Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey Kripal
Other people mentioned in this episode:
- Dante Alighieri
- William Burroughs
- Robert Coover
- TS Eliot
- Robert Frost
- Allen Ginsburg
- Robert Graves
- Leah Naomi Green
- Walter Heinsenberg
- David Ignatow
- Laura Riding Jackson
- Led Zeppelin
- Denise Levertov
- James Merrill
- Joni Mitchell
- Naomi Shihab Nye
- William Shakespeare
- William Stafford
- Alan Tate
- Mark Twain
- Robert Penn Warren
- Tennessee Williams
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