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Poetry: the Enlightenment of a Forsaken Culture


Submitted By cuisilla1980
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ENG 101B

Poetry: The Enlightenment of a Forsaken Culture

Poetry is an art that provokes the mind, transforms the soul and conveys sentiments unknown. It’s the literary means of conveying a cryptic outlook to an idea, theme or feelings composed by the author; a rhythmic pattern that utilizes rich and precise words in a piece; applies figurative language in order to transcend to an abstract or literal world. Poems use various styles of writing; either complex or straightforward language. Imagery, symbols and metaphors are also used. A poem can take many forms it be either short or long, meaningless or meaningful with the ability to illuminate and enrich the readers understanding with many aspects of life. Yet, for a poem to transcend time, the author must accomplish one fundamental thing: to create a connection between the poem and the reader. Thus, awakening of the mind, body, and soul.
The poems chosen, are an attempt to understand and connect self to a forgotten and at times, unknown culture and heritage. To accomplish the task at hand, the first step was to search for Mexican-American poets. Second step was to find a common theme (culture and heritage) or writing style. Lastly, all of the poems needed to be predominantly in English. With a variety of Mexican-American poets, the task was not as simple, nonetheless, it was accomplished. The following five poems examine the language, symbols and metaphors used by the poets that elicit a deeper understanding of a culture: “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border” by Juan Felipe Herrera (688), “Legal Alien” and “Learning English: Chorus in Many Voices” by Pat Mora, “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros, and “I Am Joaquin” by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales. Furthermore they illustrate the struggles of Mexicans in the U.S. and the perseverance required to succeed in a country where we are not entirely welcomed. These literary poems, include themes, environments and feelings that Mexican-American’s have experienced and can relate to. Additionally, they illustrate ideas that can help generate an understanding of a past and the future of which we are a part of, as Chicanos.
Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California to migrant farm workers. In 1972, Herrera received a BA in Social Anthropology from UCLA. He received a masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford in 1980, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990. Herrera is the author of many collections of poetry and books of prose for children. He has been a professor at UC Riverside and CSU-Fresno, has received various fellowships and grants, and is currently the 2015 U.S. Poet Laureate ( Juan Felipe Herrera, is a leading voice on the Mexican American experience and an accomplished Chicano poet.
His poem “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border” (688), uses the literary form of an anaphora. By repeating the word “because” in all of the 187 lines of the poem, Herrera gives the reader a resounding reason and facts as to why Mexican’s can’t go back to Mexico. This poem was written by Herrera after California’s Proposition 187 ballot passed in 1994, were it prohibited illegal aliens from using health care, public education and other state services in California. He gives a parodical list of facts, “Because Zedillo & Salinas & Fox are still on vacation, Because U.S. & European Corporations would rather visit us first, Because we couldn’t clean up hurricane Katrina, Because or 500-year penance was not severe enough” (Herrera), as to why Mexican’s can’t cross the border from both side, neither from Mexico to the U.S. nor from the U.S. to Mexico. Herrera gave this poem a hysteria infused history of relations between both countries and its inhabitants in each of the 187 lines.
Similarly to Juan Felipe Herrera, Pat Mora born in El Paso, Texas. She received a BA from Texas Western College in 1963 and an MA from the University of Texas, El Paso in 1967 and has received numerous awards and fellowships from various organizations. She is also a leading figure in Mexican-American poetry and children’s books ( In the poem “Legal Alien” by Pat Mora, she also discusses the paradoxical theme; that Mexican’s are caught in between two borders. The fact in the matter is that most of the Mexican population living in the U.S. don’t have a reason to go back since to their country of birth because this is our new home. We left the familiar, our loved ones and our own identity in our country of birth to seek a world of opportunity and freedom. We know that we are not wanted here but we cannot go back to a world of dismay and poverty. Similarly to their Anglo ancestors, Mexicans in the U.S. seek Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Yet, do to this imbalance of ourselves and our nationality we develop disagreeable concept of our race, “an American to Mexicans, a Mexican to American’s… sliding back and forth, between the fringes of both worlds” (Mora, "Legal Alien").
In “Learning English: Chorus in Many Voices” by Pat Mora, the theme is the fears aligned with coming to a new country and trying to perseverance in a world where one feels inferior. The poem is short and the words are scattered throughout the page. No word is capitalized, perhaps to display more of the inferiority that she feels. A reader can see how a mind can start with thoughts of self “i feel like a small child, only able to speak very little”, in the center of two worlds: One of hope and positive thinking “a strong woman goes to school does not care, that people laugh when she speaks” and the other subservience and negative thoughts “i am old so sometimes disappointed, pessimistic of my english… i sometimes weep” (Mora, "Learning English: Chorus in Many Voices" 41). Even though the poem is short, it conveys a lifespan of struggle and sentiment. It’s simple in its form and language choice yet massive in the omitted content. The poem gives life and an image to an unseen face or person.
The poem “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros, gives an interpretation to a person’s name and its history. Cisneros eloquently delves into the main characters feeling of her name, Esperanza meaning hope in English. A name is an arbitrary label given to us by our parents and family. Sometimes it carries great meaning and a person can live an entire life to either live up to that name or completely deny it. Names like Victor, Valentine and Joy all have good and powerful meanings. Yet, what if people who have these names don’t feel like conquering much, being brave or not being cheerful all the time. A name can be much larger than an individual. It’s an honorary emblem that makes them unique. Everyone seeks to find their true identity at one point or another, and sometimes our names carry old baggage that one must let go of. A name is unique to the individual no matter if it’s a popular name or if it isn’t. Each person can make a name stand out simply by their character and actions.
Sandra Cisneros, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Mexican father and a Chicana mother; she has six brothers and is the only daughter in the family. She earned a BA in English from Loyola University of Chicago and her master's degree at the University of Iowa. Cisneros has won two fellowships from the National Endowment for the arts, and won the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She has taught at many colleges and universities and has worked various jobs that engaged with the Chicano community. Her dedication to the Chicano Community is demonstrated in her poetic art, in becoming a children’s book author, and for writing great pieces like “The House on Mango Street” and “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” (LaBalle)
With a name as the theme in the following poem by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, “I Am Joaquin” provides a comprehensive interpretation of who Mexican’s are. He gives a detailed account of historical facts from the Aztlan heritage to the Mexican liberation from Spain to the new conquest, Anglo America. Like all the poems, Gonzales provides the reader a Mexican journey like no other. Filled with confusion “I am Joaquin, lost in a world of confusion”, caught up in two different worlds not knowing where to stand “And now! I must choose between the paradox of, victory of the spirit, despite physical hunger, or to exist in a grasp of American social neurosis” (Gonzales 1). Gonzales displays the struggles: “I worked, I sweated, I bled, I prayed and waited silently for life to begin again” (2), the pain suffered by Mexicans throughout history: “All were added to the number of heads that in the name of civilization, were placed on the wall of independence, heads of brave men, who died for the cause or principle, good or bad” (3), and the perseverance of a race that continues “I have endured in the rugged mountains Of our country, I have survived the toils and slavery of the fields… I SHALL ENDURE! I WILL ENDURE!” (6). The poem is long, some lines have just one word but the words have vast meaning and significance. “Joaquin” is simply every Mexican who has endured history by being oppressed inspite of the richness in its history “I am Aztec Prince and Christian Christ” (6).
Rodolfo Corky Gonzales was a Mexican-American boxer, community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate. He was born in Denver, Colorado and the youngest of five brothers and three sisters. His mother died when he was two years old and his father never re-married but managed to keep the Gonzales family together. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales earn his high school Diploma at the age of 16 and after working hard and saving enough money, he enrolled in the University of Denver seeking an engineering degree. However, the financial burden was too much and he dropped out to pursuit a career in boxing. In 1968 Gonzales led a Chicano contingent in the Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. (Corky) and the community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate was born. He is also the author of the last poem, “I Am Joaquin”.
Coming full circle, the poems provided in this paper, showcase a world of struggle and perseverance. A world were confusion is predominate and trying to understand who we are as Mexicans in the United States develops into yet another mission. The search for Mexican-American authors and poets was a bit difficult at first because I had no clue as to who these authors and poets were. Once I began to research and know more about them, I felt empowered, ecstatic and honored to be a Mexican. Knowing their backgrounds showcased how great role models they are in our community and their experiences are similar to mine and many more. Lastly, the poems of these great poets have made lasting connections in my soul.

Works Cited
Cisneros, Sandra. ""My Name" - House On Mango Street." 15 Oct 2015. Web.
"Corky." n.d. Web. 26 Oct 2015.
Gonzales, Rodolfo Corky. ""I Am Joaquin"." 6 Oct 2015. Web.
Herrera, Juan Felipe. ""187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Boarder." Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz and Samuel Cohen. Literature: The Human Experience . New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. 688. Print.
LaBalle, Candace. ""Cisneros, Sandra: 1954—: Writer." Contemporary Hispanic Biography." 2002. 27 Oct 2015 .
Mora, Pat. ""Learning English: Chorus in Many Voices"." 20 Oct 2015. Web.
Mora, Pat. ""Legal Alien"." 15 Oct 2015. Web. n.d. Web. 16 Oct 2015. n.d. Web. 16 Oct 2015

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...Loss q Finding Happiness q Computer Hardware q Holiday q Home Improvement q Home Security q Humanities q Humor & Entertainment q Innovation q Inspirational q Insurance q Interior Design & Decorating q Internet Marketing q Investing q Landscaping & Gardening q Language q Leadership q Leases & Leasing q Loan q Mesothelioma & Asbestos Cancer q Business Management q Marketing q Marriage & Wedding q Martial Arts q Medicine q Meditation q Mobile & Cell Phone q Mortgage Refinance q Motivation q Motorcycle q Music & MP3 q Negotiation q Network Marketing q Networking q Nutrition q Get Organized - Organization q Outdoors q Parenting q Personal Finance q Personal Technology q Pet q Philosophy q Photography q Poetry q Political q Positive Attitude Tips q Pay-Per-Click Advertising q...

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