In the summer of 2009, Deborah Paredez joined fellow Tejana/o poets, Norma E. Cantú, Celeste Mendoza, Pablo Miguel Martínez, and Carmen Tafolla around Norma's kitchen table and dreamed of a world where Latina/o poets could regularly gather in a community of creative inspiration and mutual support. They dreamed of and then set about building a "song-world," a canto-mundo, and by the next summer they were hosting their first writing retreat for Laitina/o poets.
CantoMundo is a national organization that cultivates a community of Latina/o poets through workshops, symposia, and public readings. Founded in 2009, CantoMundo hosts an annual poetry workshop for Latina/o poets that provides a space for the creation, documentation, and critical analysis of Latina/o poetry
Inspired by Cave Canem and Kundiman (organizations for African American and Asian American poets), CantoMundo issues a national call for applications every year and selects new fellows who, once accepted, are eligible to return to the annual writing retreat up to three times, thereby fostering long-term support and collaborations. They join returning fellows who are fulfilling their three-year commitment and who provide mentorship and guidance to the incoming fellows.
CantoMundo's first gathering convened in 2010 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. From 2011-2016, the workshops were held at the University of Texas at Austin. CantoMundo has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the University of Texas's Center for Mexican American Studies, and Columbia University's Division of Arts and Sciences.
Past faculty and fellows include Juan Felipe Herrera, Aracelis Girmay, Willie Perdomo, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rafael Campo, Naomi Ayala, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Demetria Martinez, Roberto Tejada, Sandra Maria Estevez, Martín Espada, Carmen Giménez Smith, Eduardo Corral, Yesenia Montilla, José Rodriguez, Rosebud Ben-Oni, and Javier Zamora.
CantoMundo is currently based at Columbia University in New York City.