Thursday, November 29, 2007

Spoken Word, Borders and Juan Felipe Herrera

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border:
Undocuments 1971-2007
by Juan Felipe Herrera
November 15, 2007

978-0-87286-462-7 $16.95

Congress debates immigration legislation, Americans grow more polarized in their opinions, and Juan Felipe Herrera provides a fresh and accessible perspective on this crucial human rights issue through this collection of his poetry, prose, and performance.

Catch the 187 Express!
Addressing immigration issues with dynamic innovation, the 187 Express tour launched on Nov. 15, 2007 at City Lights Books in San Francisco.

Herrera, frequently accompanied by guest artists, will present a mix of spoken word performances, music, and poetry throughout the Border States and up and down California.

Herrera has spent the last three and half decades assembling the collection found in 187 Reasons – at rallies, walkouts, under fire and on the run, in cafés, under helicopters and in the midst of thousands of marchers for civil rights and new immigration policies.

Raised in the fields of California in a family of migrant workers, Herrera has blended art and activism for over 30 years as a pioneer of the Chicano spoken word movement. Juan Felipe Herrera is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. Author of 23 books, he is a community arts leader and a dynamic performer and actor.


Before you read the first piece in this collection, let me say a few words. This is badder and bolder than any of the Beats. (Yes, I even mean Howl by Ginsburg, Fast Speaking Woman by Waldman.....)

Herrera's work is part grito, part incantation. As a matter of fact, it is closer to the writing of María Sabina, la curandera. A legendary healer, she was the wellspring for a generation of Beat poets, who used her chants as inspiration and struggled to imitate their power.

It's lean, sinewy writing, without a wasted syllable. It lays bare the wounds of race and culture clash, sutures them back into wholeness with resolve, with defiance. It's an unblinking eye cast on where we triumph, where we stumble and fall. And make no mistake, those who make decisions, make policy, and sit in judgment have been served.

We're coming, we're here, and we won't be silent.

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border (Remix)

--Abutebaris modo subjunctivo denuo

Because Lou Dobbs has been misusing the subjunctive again

Because our suitcases are made with biodegradable maguey fibers

Because we still resemble La Malinche

Because multiplication is our favorite sport

Because we’ll dig a tunnel to Seattle

Because Mexico needs us to keep the peso from sinking

Because the Berlin Wall is on the way through Veracruz

Because we just learned we are Huichol

Because someone made our ID’s out of corn

Because our border thirst is insatiable

Because we’re on peyote & Coca-Cola & Banamex

Because it’s Indian land stolen from our mothers

Because we’re too emotional when it comes to our mothers

Because we’ve been doing it for over five hundred years already

Because it’s too easy to say “I am from here”

Because Latin American petrochemical juice flows first

Because what would we do in El Norte

Because Nahuatl, Mayan & Chicano will spread to Canada

Because Zedillo & Salinas & Fox are still on vacation

Because the World Bank needs our abuelita’s account

Because the CIA trains better with brown targets

Because our accent is unable to hide U.S. colonialism

Because what will the Hispanik MBAs do

Because our voice resembles La Llorona’s

Because we are still voting

Because the North is really South

Because we can read about it in an ethnic prison

Because Frida beat us to it

Because US & European Corporations would rather visit us first

Because environmental US industrial pollution suits our color

Because of a new form of Overnight Mayan Anarchy

Because there are enough farmworkers in California already

Because we’re meant to usher a post-modern gloom into Mexico

Because Nabisco, Exxon, & Union Carbide gave us Mal de Ojo

Because every nacho chip can morph into a Mexican Wrestler

Because it’s better to be rootless, unconscious, & rapeable

Because we’re destined to have the “Go Back to Mexico” Blues

Because of Pancho Villa’s hidden treasure in Chihuahua

Because of Bogart’s hidden treasure in the Sierra Madre

Because we need more murals honoring our Indian Past

Because we are really dark French Creoles in a Cantínflas costume

Because of this Aztec reflex to sacrifice ourselves

Because we couldn’t clean up hurricane Katrina

Because of this Spanish penchant to be polite and aggressive

Because we had a vision of Sor Juana in drag

Because we smell of Tamales soaked in Tequila

Because we got hooked listening to Indian Jazz in Chiapas

Because we’re still waiting to be cosmic

Because our passport says we’re out of date

Because our organ donor got lost in a Bingo game

Because we got to learn English first & get in line & pay a little fee

Because we’re understanding & appreciative of our Capitalist neighbors

Because our 500 year penance was not severe enough

Because we’re still running from La Migra

Because we’re still kissing the Pope’s hand

Because we’re still practicing to be Franciscan priests

Because they told us to sit & meditate & chant Nosotros Los Pobres

Because of the word “Revolución” & the words “Viva Zapata”

Because we rely more on brujas than lawyers

Because we never finished our Ph.D. in Total United Service

Because our identity got mixed up with passion

Because we have visions instead of televisions

Because our huaraches are made with Goodyear & Uniroyal

Because the pesticides on our skin are still glowing

Because it’s too easy to say “American Citizen” in cholo

Because you can’t shrink-wrap enchiladas

Because a Spy in Spanish sounds too much like “Es Pie” in English

Because our comadres are an International Political Party

Because we believe in The Big Chingazo Theory of the Universe

Because we’re still holding our breath in the Presidential Palace in Mexico City

Because every Mexican is a Living Theatre of Rebellion

Because Hollywood needs its subject matter in proper folkloric costume

Because the Grammys, Emmies, MTV & I-Tunes are finally out in Spanish

Because the Right is writing an epic poem of apology for our proper edification

Because the Alamo really is pronounced “Alamadre”

Because the Mayan concept of zero means “U.S. Out of Mexico”

Because the oldest Ceiba in Yucatán is prophetic

Because England is making plans

Because we can have Nicaragua, Honduras, & Panama anyway

Because 125 million Mexicans can be wrong

Because we’ll smuggle an earthquake into New York

Because we’ll organize like the Vietnamese in San José

Because we’ll organize like the Mixtecos in Fresno

Because East L.A. is sinking

Because the Christian Coalition doesn’t cater at César Chávez Parque

Because you can’t make mace out of beans

Because the computers can’t pronounce our names

Because the National Border Police are addicted to us

Because Africa will follow

Because we’re still dressed in black rebozos

Because we might sing a corrido at any moment

Because our land grants are still up for grabs

Because our tattoos are indecipherable

Because people are hanging milagros on the 2000 miles of border wire

Because we’re locked into Magical Realism

Because Mexican dependence is a form of higher learning

Because making chilaquiles leads to plastic explosives

Because a simple Spanish Fly can mutate into a raging Bird Flu

Because we eat too many carbohydrates

Because we gave enough blood at the Smithfield, Inc., slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, NC

Because a quinceañera will ruin the concept of American virginity

Because huevos rancheros are now being served at Taco Bell as Wavoritos

Because every Mexican grito undermines English intonation

Because the President has a Mexican maid

Because the Vice President has a Mexican maid

Because it’s Rosa López’s fault O.J. Simpson was guilty

Because Banda music will take over the White House

Because Aztec sexual aberrations are still in practice

Because our starvation & squalor isn’t as glamorous as Somalia’s

Because agribusiness will whack us anyway

Because the information superhighway is not for Chevy’s & Impalas

Because white men are paranoid of Frida’s mustache

Because the term “mariachi” comes from the word “cucarachi”

Because picking grapes is not a British tradition

Because they are still showing Zoot Suit in prisons

Because Richie Valens is alive in West Liberty, Iowa

Because ?[is this supposed to be a ?, or are we waiting for a name? I think I know, but thought I ought to ask, in case…] & the Mysterians cried 97 tears not 96

Because Hoosgow, Riata, Rodeo are Juzgado, Riata and Rodeo

Because Jackson Hole, Wyoming will blow as soon as we hit Oceanside

Because U.S. narco-business needs us in Nogales

Because the term “Mexican” comes from “Mexicanto”

Because Mexican queers [do you want to use this word? How about queers, a little more politically correct, though still problematic.] crossed already

Because Mexican lesbians wear Ben Davis pants & sombreros de palma to work

Because VFW halls aren’t built to serve cabeza con tripas

Because the National Guard are going international

Because we still bury our feria in the backyard

Because we don’t have international broncas for profit

Because we are in love with our sister Rigoberta Menchú

Because California is on the verge of becoming California

Because the PRI is a family affair

Because we may start a television series called No Chingues Conmigo

Because we are too sweet & obedient & confused & (still) [what about the brackets here? Should it be parenthesis?] full of rage

Because the CIA needs us in a Third World State of mind

Because brown is the color of the future

Because we turned Welfare into El Huero Felix

Because we know what the Jews have been through

Because we know what the Blacks have been through

Because the Irish became the San Patricio Corps at the Battle of Churubusco

Because of our taste for Yiddish gospel raps & tardeadas & salsa limericks

Because El Sistema Nos La Pela

Because you can take the boy outta Mexico but not outta the Boycott

Because the Truckers, Arkies and Okies enjoy our telenovelas

Because we’d rather shop at the flea market than Macy’s

Because pan dulce feels sexual, especially conchas & the elotes

Because we’ll Xerox tamales in order to survive

Because we’ll export salsa to Russia & call it “Pikushki”

Because cilantro aromas follow us wherever we go

Because we’ll unionize & sing De Colores

Because A Day Without a Mexican is a day away

Because we’re in touch with our Boriqua camaradas

Because we are the continental majority

Because we’ll build a sweat lodge in front of Bank of America

Because we should wait for further instructions from Televisa

Because 125 million Mexicanos are potential Chicanos

Because we’ll take over the Organic Foods Whole Foods’ business with a molcajete

Because 2000 miles of maquiladoras want to promote us

Because the next Olympics will commemorate the Mexico City massacre of 1968

Because there is an Aztec temple beneath our Nopales

Because we know how to pronounce all the Japanese corporations

Because the Comadre network is more accurate than CNN

Because the Death Squads are having a hard time with Caló

Because the mayor of San Diego likes salsa medium-picante

Because the Navy, Army, Marines like us topless in Tijuana

Because when we see red, white & blue we just see red

Because when we see the numbers 187 we still see red

Because we need to pay a little extra fee to the Border

Because Mexican Human Rights sounds too Mexican

Because Chrysler is putting out a lowrider

Because they found a lost Chicano tribe in Utah

Because harina white flour bag suits don’t cut it at graduation

Because we’ll switch from AT&T & MCI to Y-que, y-que

Because our hand signs aren’t registered

Because Freddy Fender wasn’t Baldomar Huerta’s real name

Because “lotto” is another Chicano word for “pronto”

Because we won’t nationalize a State of Immigrant Paranoia

Because the depression of the 30s was our fault

Because “xenophobia” is a politically correct term

Because we shoulda learned from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Because we shoulda listened to the Federal Immigration Laws of 1917, ’21, ’24 & ‘30

Because we lack a Nordic/ Teutonic approach

Because Executive Order 9066 of 1942 shudda had us too

Because Operation Wetback took care of us in the 50’s

Because Operation Clean Sweep picked up the loose ends in the 70s

Because one more operation will finish us off anyway

Because you can’t deport 12 million migrantes in a Greyhound bus

Because we got this thing about walking out of everything

Because we have a heart that sings rancheras and feet that polka

Gente: go to his website where there's more info and audio clips! And don't forget to BUY THE BOOK!

Lisa Alvarado


msedano said...

because, hijole, right smack dab in the middle is la mera verdad:
Because our identity got mixed up with passion

thanx, lisa, i'll get his stuff.


javier said...

I was at City Lights for the launching of the express. You should definitely get the book. But you should try your darnest to see the express live. JFH and his crew are great performers.

Here's another reason:

porque the U.S. of A. no sabe que hacer with its 11 million and one Sancho Panzas.

timzhernandez said...

yes, I agree! he performed this piece at Naropa University, aka the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics back in April of this year, and he had everyone on their feet, faculty, students, janitors, todos chanting,
"because....because...because!" it was phenomenal! a great human bean indeed. (btw, bean is intentional).

Anonymous said...

This is some great shit.
Even better after a cold one.
I'm sending this to everybody.
Thanks, Lisa.

srv said...

great piece from one of my favorite poetas!
también, how do i contact you all? aquí en los posts? okei, a little bit of self-promoción then: the italian editorial, gran vía (rome) is publishing in january a new anthology of chicano literature. here are the details: en la frontera.
includes textos by: alicia gáspar de alba, norma cantú, rolando hinojosa, me (su servidor, santiago vaquera vásquez), and others.
thanx, and i enjoy la bloga (using my best radio contest winner voice)!