LAS PEREGRINAS: POETRY IN MOTION

By Denise Chávez

Writer Yaccaira Salvatierra came up with the idea of California women poets driving along the border sharing their work. The four women felt it was very important for California border poets to be in communication with other border states to share stories and build community. The noun peregrinación means to travel to a sacred place. Las Peregrinas name calls out to this commitment to share their words with the borderland they call home.

One of their stops was Las Cruces on Wednesday, January 3 where the group was hosted by Casa Camino Real Bookstore & Art Gallery and sponsored by many generous organizations. The reading took place at the Mesilla Community Center at 7:00 p.m. Singer/songwriter, Lucia Carmona introduced the evening with a blessing song and ended the evening with the Violeta Parra classic, Gracias a La Vida. Following the reading, there was a reception celebrating the traditions of the Feast of the Three Kings which takes place January 6. Champurrado, a Traditional Mexican chocolate atole—corn drink—and Rosca de Reyes—the traditional cake was featured. Many volunteers are responsible for the success of the event, including Guillermo Acosta, Master Champurrado Chef, as well as committed local volunteers Mónica Arman, Amanda Orta and 15-year-old writer, Mónica Sánchez.

The Peregrinas visit was a blessing to Las Cruces as they shared their powerful and moving vision of Latino culture and identity. The children of immigrants and now educated professors, professional women, and leaders of their communities, the Peregrinas showed all that Sí, Se Puede. The Pereginas dreams, joys and sorrows became our own. Their stories became our stories, whether it was the story of Xochitl-Julissa Bermejo’s family’s memories of Chávez Ravine, or Yaccaira Salvatierra’s letters in praise of her Bracero grandfather, who was, in her mind, and in all those who knew him, a saint in his lifetime. The ancestors, whether it was a grandmother or mother, grandfather or father, lived again through the Peregrinas and for this great sharing the audience was so grateful.

The tour was a whirlwind five-day trip across the Southwest during the Peregrinas winter break, and included stops in Tucson, Las Cruces, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin and Houston from January 2-6.

Those who met and shared story with the Peregrinas will not soon forget their talent, their energy, and their vision. They are role models for our young people and the hope and vision of our future.

The Pereginas included Marisol Baca, the author of Tremor (Three Mile Harbor Press). She has been published in Narrative NortheastRiverlitShadowed: An Anthology of Women WritersAcentos Review, among other publications. She received her Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University where she won the Robert Chasen poetry award for her poem, Revelato. She is also a recipient of the Andres Montoya poetry scholarship. Currently, Marisol is an English professor at Fresno City College. 

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, is the author of Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016). A former Steinbeck Fellow, Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange winner and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grantee, she’s received residencies from Hedgebrook, Ragdale, National Parks Arts Foundation and Poetry Foundation. Her work is published in Acentos Review, CALYX, crazyhorse, and American Poetry Review among others. She is a cofounder of Women Who Submit and a member of Macondo Writers’ Workshop.

Yaccaira Salvatierra’s poems have appeared in HuizacheDiálogoPuerto del Soland Rattle among others. She is a VONA alumna, the recipient of the Dorrit Sibley Award for achievement in poetry, and the 2015 winner of the Puerto del Sol Poetry Prize.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net.  An educator and art instructor, she lives in San José, California with her two sons.

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley borderlands to formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Buzzfeed Reader, Epiphany, Apogee, Sporklet, PBS Newshour, Poor Claudia, Waxwing, The Wanderer, DIAGRAM, The Feminist Wire, The Poetry Foundation Harriet Blog, and others. She has served as an editor for the Bettering American Poetry project and is a CantoMundo Fellow. She is the author of Beast Meridian (Noemi Press, Akrilica Series, 2017). She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Winter 2018

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