Episode 013: Latino High School Students Find Inspiration From Epic Poem “I Am Joaquin”

 

The inspiration for this episode came from the Grand Opening of the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library in Denver. Chicano activist and Denver native, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales,  founded an urban civil rights and cultural movement called the Crusade for Justice in the mid-1960’s. Soon he became one of the central leaders in the Chicano movement and a strong proponent of Chicano nationalism. In the late sixties and early seventies, Corky Gonzales organized and supported high school walkouts, demonstrations against police brutality, and legal cases. He also organized mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

Corky’s son, Rudy Gonzales explains that the chicano-mexicano people make up 80% of the Latino population. “We are a mestizo nation from Alaska all the way to the Tierra del Fuego. We have a lot of the same traits and culture, we evolved into that; [Corky] was the renaissance of culture.” We, as story-architects at Project ñ, felt uniting history with young latinos in our community today would be best embodied by the reading of “I Am Joaquín,” by ñ students of the Denver Inner City Parish – La Academia. We asked the Charleen Ramirez, the principal of La Academia, to select students that might help our vision and right away, Martín, Riley, Mark and Daniel stepped up.

His daughter, Gail Gonzales, explains that growing up, “his big message was always: learn, educate, read.” And with the presence of this new library, representing Corky’s people. Gail continues, “it’s a big step forward. It’s important for our youth to have self-identity, self-awareness, to know who they are and where they came from.” It was powerful for us to see his message reflected among the individual spirit, with the students of La Academia. City Librarian Shirley Amore said,”This library not only celebrates the diversity of West Denver, it is also a community space that will bring residents and visitors together in new and special ways. We’re honored to play a leading role in growing and strengthening the West Denver community.”

Rudy Gonzales powerfully paints the impact of his father’s poem, “this was our manifesto. It was the rock that moved, and the avalanche of literature followed.”

“I am Joaquín. I must fight to win this struggle for my sons, and they must know from me Who I Am.”

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Items Mentioned in This Session:

Transcript:

Yo soy Joaquin. >> Yo soy joaquin. >> Yo soy joaquin. I am Joaquin lost in a world of confusion, caught up in the whirl of a gringo society. Confused by the rules, scorned by the attitudes, suppressed by manipulation and destroyed by modern society. My fathers have lost the economic battle and won the struggle of cultural survival.

Rudy: My name is Rudy Gonzales,I am executive director of  Services a la Raza. My father is Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales.

Gail:  One message my father always said when he spoke at the capital was “learn, educate, read” I think to have this here in our community for our children is a big step forward. What he believed in his teachings and how important it is for our youths to have that self-identity and that self-awareness, who they are and where they came from. We bled and fought in the streets so we can speak Spanish today. >> I am joaquin I rode with Panchovia, crude and warm. >> A tornado at full strength>> Nourished and inspired by all the passion of his earthly people.

Rudy:  Dad used to talk about the Mexican Revolution about Mexico with so much pride and so much honor that they said it was about honor and your word. We were so poor that’s all we had. >> Yes, I have come a long way to nowhere, unwillingly dragged by that monstrous, technical, industrial giant called progress and Anglo-success. >> I look at myself, I watch my brothers, I shed tears of sorrow, I sowed seeds of hate, I withdraw to the safety within the circle of life, my own people.

Rudy:  Chicano/Mexicano people are still 80% of the Latino population. We are Mestizo nation from Alaska all the way to the Tierra del Fuego. We have a lot of same traits and culture.  He evolved into that, he was the renaissance of culture among the Chicano/ Mexicano in this country and then ‘I am Joaquin’ that was like the word of God coming down. >> I am still here. >> I have endured in the rugged mountains of our country. >> I have survived the toil and slavery of the filth>> I have existed in the barrios of the city in the suburbs of bigotry in the minds of social snobbery in the prison of dejection, in the muck of exploitation and in the fierce heat of racial hatred and now the trumpet sounds.

Rudy:  This was our manifesto, I mean, when it was printed they pasted it on telephone poles, on radios all over it was the rock that moved and the avalanche of literature followed, it really did open the gates, the flood gates for Chicano/Latino literature. >> I shed the tears of anguish as I see my children disappear behind the shroud of mediocrity never to look back to remember me. “I am Joaquin I must fight to win this struggle for my sons and the must know from me who I am.

Gail:  We’ve come so far from marching in the Civil Rights Movement since I was a little girl to now to know that we have a library that represents our people in our communities, I know that he would say ‘ this isn’t the end, this is the beginning. >> La Raza >> Mexicano >> Español >> Latino >> Chicano or whatever I call myself, I look the same, I feel the same, >> I cry and sing the same >> I am the masters of my people I refuse to be absorbed. (Chorus) “ I am joaquin, the odds are great, my spirit is strong, my faith is unbreakable, my blood is pure, I am master prince and christian Christ, I shall endure, I will endure.

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