My Latina half is feeling quite proud these days. That says a lot since most of the time I feel like a Mexican imposter because the German culture my mother – the other half – raised me with has influenced me more. But even with my mixed Mexican/German race, I still have my Hispanic surname and my Spanish isn’t bad thanks to my Papi who spoke only that language to me.
Anyway, the Latino world is pumped up lately for several good reasons; in part many thanks to us, our American president was re-elected, and this week Rome elected the first Latin American pope – an Argentinean Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) – who is said to be simple, humble and intelligent.
On a smaller scale than the pope, there is another reason to be proud. A few months ago, a (previously) little-known Cuban-American poet was selected to write and recite the Presidential Inaugural Poem. Richard Blanco is the first immigrant, Latino and openly gay poet chosen to read at an inauguration and, at 44, also the youngest.
I first heard of Richard Blanco on television while I was watching the inauguration and he delivered the selected inaugural poem, “One Today”. I later heard him interviewed on NPR where he read from several of his poems, including one from his collection, “Looking for the Gulf Motel” , which explores his cultural and sexual identity as a Cuban-American and gay man, and his family’s influence on him. His writing is very personal, and he writes of his immigrant experience which reflects the diversity of America, what it means to be an American, and the immigrant search for “home” .
If you missed his reading at the inauguration, the following is an excerpt from “One Today”. Read the full text of the poem here.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper — bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives — to teach geometry, or ring up groceries, as my mother did
for 20 years, so I could write this poem.