Soy Mujer – Latinx Poets of the Diaspora
A poetry folio curated by Elizabeth Lara
My earliest experience as a language learner dates back to elementary school, when my older sister’s best friend, for fun, started teaching me a few phrases in French. Although this so whetted my appetite that I eventually became a French teacher, the greatest of gifts that life has given me is the opportunity to live, work, and sometimes write, in Spanish. For many years, I have maintained – through marriage and family – close ties with the Dominican Republic. As a result of this connection, it has been my good fortune to meet writers from all over Latin America. This has made it possible to bring together the poets in the present collection. Of necessity, only a few authors are represented here – not only are there many Latinx poets writing and performing in English, a multitude of Latinx writers living in the United States continue to write, perform, and publish in Spanish.
The folio includes ten poets of the diaspora – women who were born in the United States to immigrant parents, or who immigrated themselves. They write from their unique experiences as well as from their identity – Afro-Latina – or place of origin – Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru.
Jacqueline Herranz Brooks (Cuba), has shared poems she wrote in her present home of Queens, New York and “repatriated” to Havana, pasting them in abandoned places integral to her memories of being a queer, homeless artist in Havana in the late 1990s. Each intervention in her project, Contested Territory: Poesia Repatriada, questions ownership of spaces and her efforts to claim them.
In “La del Eden en el pecho / The one with Eden in her breast”, Juana M. Ramos (El Salvador) draws us into the story through the eyes of a malevolent roach:
Una cucaracha me observa
desde la esquina superior izquierda
del marco de una memoria moribunda
sé que me observa para desatar mis miedos
A roach observes me
From the upper left corner
Of the frame of a dying memory
I know that it observes me to unleash my fears
Mother is both a warm presence (“Woman,” Luna Flores, Mexico):
Cuando veo tus pechos,
Imagino las noches de desvelo,
Y haciendo gozar tambien.
When I see your breasts,
I imagine sleepless nights,
And giving joy too.
and a terrifying specter (“Inherited,” Yesenia Montilla, USA, Afro-Latina):
My mother’s madness is a reaper
in the room of us
In “Mami’s Homecoming”, Mireya Perez Bustillo (Colombia) reveals the poignant story of fulfilling her mother’s last wishes:
“I want to be with papi”
is not so simple
if you live in different countries
And “Ancestral Strength”, by Xánath Caraza (Mexico), calls forth the powers of the female goddesses:
Fuerza de mujer
que fluye en aguas rojas
fuerza que renace
se enreda en las copas de los árboles
flows in red waters
tangles in the tree tops
There are poems here that invoke the ecstatic; others enter the labyrinth. They love and they mourn. It is a great pleasure and an honor to share them with you. – Elizabeth Lara