I’ve never lived more than an hour drive away from at least one person that I love until now. I’m writing this from the Salvadorean restaurant nearby, the only actual Latin food I’ve been able to find here so far. I come here to feel at home, waiting for my order of pupusas (dos de queso, uno de chicharron). When I say home, I don’t mean Miami or New York, I don’t mean Via Nueva or Santo Domingo. I mean people. I mean kinship; people that don’t ask “but where are you really from?” An understanding that goes beyond just one place or one language. When I was asked to put together a folio of international writing, I knew I wanted to bring a range of work from Latin America to show that we are not a monolith—we are the whole hemisphere. But I also wanted to build a home.
I think of the the Mayan glyph carved from obsidian that I wear around my neck, a gift from my mom that means “wisdom becoming knowledge”, and bring you these Mayan glyph poems (Hector Rolando Xol Choc (Aj Chab’in), José Natividad Ic Xec, Negma Coy); I think of my dad and his poetry tertulia in Orlando, and I bring you Spanish language poems being written in the US from poets of the Latin American diaspora, a reminder that the US has no official language (Cristián Gómez Olivares, Stephanie Alcantar, Violeta Orozco); I think of my best friend in the world who I would not be here without and I bring you poetry from the Jewish diaspora in South America (Elina Wechsler); I think of my countless cousins in Guatemala who I haven’t seen in longer than I care to admit and I bring you Guatemalan Garifuna poetry (Wingston Gonzalez).
Is it selfish to utilize this space for what I need in my life right now? Fine. Then I selfishly present to you these incredible poets and translators, from Argentina to Ohio and many places in between. I selfishly welcome you into my home.
Por favor, límpiese los pies antes de entrar and feel free to stay as long as you like. Here comes the waitress with my pupusas—these, I won’t share.
Ariel Francisco is the author of Under Capitalism If Your Head Aches They Just Yank Off Your Head (Flowersong Press, 2022), A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship (Burrow Press, 2020) and All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017). A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has been published in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The New York City Ballet, Latino Book Review, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Louisiana State University.