Poesía Peligrosa at the Barn

Photo courtesy of Daming Ye
Photo courtesy of Daming Ye

“We be the silenced ones!”

Poesía Peligrosa commemorated Latino heritage through song, spoken word, art and dance at the Barn on Feb. 21. Marisol L. Torres and Felicia ‘Fe’ Montes, members of In Lak Ech (a collective of Xicana multimedia artists, writers, mothers, teachers and organizers who come together to share stories of strong women of Latina culture and heritage), were the night’s special guests. The group’s name was adopted from a Mesoamerican concept: “Tu eres mi otro yo (Spanish for: You are my other me).”

After introductions, the event commenced with a song dedicated to the four directions. The entire audience sat in spellbound silence as the special guests stood and raised their leather drums. Mallet in one hand and drum in the other, the women started up a synchronized beat on the instruments. The slow yet powerful percussion was reminiscent of a heartbeat—two loud blows, then a pause, followed by two louder blows and so on. Torres and Montes began to sing in a distinct native Mexican and Central American harmony, as the energy of Mayan culture pervaded the venue.

After that melody, Marisol Torres stepped forward to recite a poem that she had written in memory of her late grandmother. The audience chuckled as she impersonated her grandmother, it may have been her old lady voice, but it was almost as if many of those present could relate to the loving, compassionate and, at times, humorous affection of a Latina grandmother. Torres’ poem detailed her grandmother’s crushes on Hispanic celebrities.

As the spoken word continued, she allowed the audience access to not only her life but to those of her ancestors as well. She disclosed that the indigenous cultural customs of her grandmother were “forgotten memories,” buried into the ground along with her.

Fe Montes’ recital carried a higher, more powerful tone. The anger was visible in her face, as was the pain and suffering in her voice as she repeatedly chanted, “We be the silenced ones! Yes, we be the silenced ones!” Her poem delved into the issues and struggles Hispanic individuals face in American society. “We be the silenced ones! The dreamers estudiando for a better day, the fly girl, feminista, the ghetto, the grad student.”

Photo courtesy of Vincent Ta
Photo courtesy of Vincent Ta

The two members of In Lak Ech concluded their performance with another native song dedicated to the audience and Teatro Quinto Sol, a UCR student organization that seeks to spread cultural awareness through performance arts. Once the group took the stage, the words that were uttered from their lips criticized the university’s educational system by pointing out an overabundance of seemingly superfluous requirements that are unrelated to studies, as well as tuition costs and the university’s lack of real consideration for its students. They also dove into more personal problems, including anxiety and fears. One by one, each woman stood on the stage to deliver their poems in English, Spanish and often a medley of both languages.

The poetry that illustrated themes of love, heritage, relationships and even abuse led me to realize that this event was more than a simple tribute to the Xicana culture. It stood for equality. That evening, Poesía Peligrosa brought people from all walks of life to come together and share beautiful words with beautiful people through vocal expression.

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