“A Chicano Poem” by Lorna Dee Cervantes

A Chicano Poem

They tried to take our words,

Steal away our hearts under

Their imaginary shawls, their laws,

Their libros, their “Libranos señor”s.

No more. They tried to take

Away our Spirit in the rock, the Mountain,

The Living Waters. They tried to steal

Our languages, our grandmothers’ pacts,

Our magma cartas for their own serfs.

They razed the land and raised a Constitution,

Declared others 3/5ths a human being,

Snapped shackles, cut off a foot,

Raped our grandmothers into near mute

Oblivion. They burned the sacred codices

And the molten goddesses rose anew

In their flames. They tried to silence a

Nation, tried to send The People back

To the Four Corners of the world. They drew

A line in the sand and dared us to cross it,

Tried to peel off our skins, Xipe Totec

Screaming through our indigenous consciousness.

They tried to brand “America” into our unread

Flesh, the skull and crossbones flying at

Half-mast. They tried to put their eggs in

Our baskets, tried to weave the Native

Out of us with their drink and drugs, tried to

Switch their mammy-raised offspring, beaded and

Unshaven, as the colorless pea under our mattresses

In a cultural bait and switch, hook and bait.

They tried to take our words,

Give us the Spanish translation for

“Pain,” serve us the host of fallow fields on a

China plate, stripped us of the germ and seed,

Fed us in a steady diet of disease and famine.

Where is the word for tomorrow to the dead?

When is our kingdom come? They claim our

Reclamations; our reparations, a thing of our

Imaginations. I discover this truth

To be self-evident: In the beginning

We were here.

I declare us here today

And speaking.

Lorna Dee Cervantes

(to be read aloud at The Alamo for Librotraficante and against HB 2281,

San Antonio,



One of the major voices in Chicana literature, poet Lorna Dee Cervantes’s writing evokes and explores cultural difference—between Mexican, Anglo, Native American, and African American lives—as well as the divides of gender and economics. Born in San Francisco in 1954 to Mexican and Native American ancestry, Cervantes was discouraged from speaking Spanish at home in an attempt to protect her from the racism prevalent at that time; this loss of language and subsequent inability to fully identify with her heritage fueled her later poetry.


2 thoughts on ““A Chicano Poem” by Lorna Dee Cervantes

  1. Pingback: Poetry Notebook | joaquinbam

  2. Pingback: “A Chicano Poem” by Lorna Dee Cervantes | poetry from the frontera

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s