Welcome to Podcast # 013! “No Revolutions Without Poets”
In this podcast we speak to Charleen Ramirez-Mares, principal and teacher at La Academia – Denver Inner City Parish. We talk about the powerful experience of learning and teaching the famous poem, “I Am Joaquín”, written by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales in 1969.
NOTE: You can download the podcast to your computer or listen to it here on the website.
Ramirez-Mares, the principal and ethnic studies teacher of an inner-city school in Denver, takes us through the trying but rewarding times as a youth learning and acting on this poem. When she first learned of “I Am Joaquín” she was extremely angry, not knowing she was denied Chicano history education until such a late age. But later, she realized that it was critical to her growth and identity is a Mexican ñ.
Growing up in a border town in Arizona, Ramirez-Mares said being Mexican was “not a good thing”. She tried not to be associated with anything Mexican because it just didn’t “fit in”. Instead, she always said she was Spanish.
Growing up, she realized that knowing her Chicano history made her a stronger and more powerful human being. She studied Chicano history in college, became a youth movement leader as a college student and is now teaching such poetry as an ethnic studies high school teacher.
Decades after the poem was written, we at Project ñ learned that the meaning behind the poem still rings very true for Latino youth today. The horrible pillage and plunder of indigenous peoples by the Spanish during the late 19th century is still deeply embedded in the psyche of ñs in the U.S.
The first stanza of “I Am Joaquín”:
Yo soy Joaquín,
perdido en un mundo de confusión:
I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.
My fathers have lost the economic battle
and won the struggle of cultural survival.
And now! I must choose between the paradox of
victory of the spirit, despite physical hunger,
or to exist in the grasp of American social neurosis,
sterilization of the soul and a full stomach.
Yes, I have come a long way to nowhere,
unwillingly dragged by that monstrous, technical,
industrial giant called Progress and Anglo success…. Ramirez-Mares said that students are still very hungry to learn the poem. We knew this, too, because her students jumped at the chance to perform the poem for us here at Project Enye several weeks ago. Now, we are so happy to highlight their unique voice and perspective of the the poem.
In this podcast, you will also hear from three young ñs, including one whom we have spoken to before, Martine. Martine participated in the “My Name Matters” podcast #007. You will also hear from Riley, who is a brand new intern of Project ñ starting this week! Last, but most definitely not least, you will hear form Mark, a talented performer who put his heart and soul into this poem recitation and reflection.
Riley said the experience of performing the poem was “different” and something “was not used to”. It helped her expand her horizons into different careers, she said. Unsurprisingly, we just hired her as an interns! Martine said the Project ñ has been supportive because he has always had a difficult time “identifying ethnically.” Mark concluded that his experience was a reflection for anyone (not just Latinos) hoping to “connect and reach out.
Like all of our guests, Ramirez-Marques and the students are now a part of the growing and deepening family of ñs. By speaking poetic words, internalizing history and reflecting on their experience, we reach a new level of expression and identity for the generation of ñs.
Do you know an ñ with an amazing story? Tweet at us! Use #soyñ AND #beingñ so we can connect with you! Or join our private Facebook group and connect with other ñs or share your story!
Are you an ñ? Stand up and be counted! Go to our interactive ñ map!
Thanks for listening!