Latinx Poets on Identity, History, Voices and Languages

Transculturation- the merging of cultures

Aurora Levins Morales




“Ode to the DiaspoRican”

I’m not a rapper, I’m not an MC but I flow the way I flow as a poet. Poetry is the fifth child of hip-hop. You have B-boying and you have DJ’ing and MC’ing and you have Graffiti as the art form and Poetry is there. Poetry is often unrecognized, but it’s there, it’s still there. I think that now there are certain artists that have found a way through the culture of hip-hop, through live music and spoken word and live art and those types of shows and presentations, to blend it all in, but I don’t think that people really give poetry the acknowledgment that it should have.


We do suffer from cultural amnesia, historical amnesia. There are things in our history that we have forgotten, the whole story of the migration that preceded the great migration. I have always been so interested in my family history and stories. There is so much that does not have to be lost. I think about what is lost through that broken memory, that rupturing, that amnesia, the forgetting, but it really has to be seen as a responsibility for artists and poets and writers to fill in the gap because if not, what is going to fill in the gap?



Attacks on Spanglish reflect the ways in which negative attitudes toward diverse ways of speaking perpetuate inequities: the “standard language” of the elite is considered superior to the disparaged ways of speaking of the working masses, and many believe that those who speak “correctly” are better prepared for life, even better people.

The “Spanglish” label forces us to confront the way language is used to impose national and cultural boundaries and to disguise racial and ethnic prejudices; it invites us to discuss the specific sociohistorical, cultural, economic, and racial contexts that give rise to Spanglish. In addition to puns, jokes, and double entendres, Spanglish speakers perform acts of bilingual identity while deploying more than two dozen discourse strategies, such as topic and role shifting, quoting, translation, mitigation and aggravation of requests, and so on (Zentella 1997).

Ultimately, Spanglish is a graphic way of saying, “We speak both because we are both.” Despite widespread condemnation and formidable opponents, our Spanglish rejects linguistic border patrolling that reinforces monoglot imperialism; the label itself proclaims its border crossing nature.

-Ana Celia Zentella, Keywords for Latina/o Studies


Mothers, Womanhood, Traditions

Discuss how these poets use their texts to address linguistic, racial and ethnic discrimination in the U.S., but also to celebrate their identity in those same categories.


Acknowledging and promoting Latinx voices and histories 


Comments 24

  • Beyond notions of latinidad (Latin American heritage), the selected poets feel that their identities are connected to the following aspects:

    .blackness (Afro culture)
    .nationality (country of origin)
    .accents (ways of speaking/ slang)
    .family traditions (especially those of the mother)

    Do you think your sense of identity is connected to any of those factors? Explain.

  • My identity is very interconnected as a Afro-Latina myself. Often times your ethnicity is questioned due to the color of your skin. Growing up I was forced to speak proper English at all times, but mandated to speak Spanish to my Grandmother as a sign of respect and cultural connection. My abuela enforced tradition through culinary experiences. In a foreign land she was at home most in her kitchen. Remembering ingrained recipes and rituals from her childhood. Always making sure we were educated on current events in her homeland of Panama and transporting her heritage, religion and language

  • Yes, for sure I believe that my identity is connected with those factors. My Brazilian accent it is easy to be recognized, and I could also recognize other Brazilians by accent. There are some traditional parties which has traditional foods that can’t be found in other countries. Astoria was the place I have chosen to live due to the fact that I could find Brazilians restaurants and grocery store close by when missing something from my home country. It is natural that one looks for similarities of connection to his or her home country when moving to a new country. One of the factors that also identify most Latin people it is the way we are raised and the loud voice of our moms. The storytelling when around friends are kind of the same, just changing the character of the scene.

  • I share a sense of connection to all of them especially nationality and traditions of my mother. Mom’s was the doctor, cook, first teacher, protector and disciplinarian. Mom’s taught us to be proud and to stand up straight. She made you aware of your beautiful skin, hair and heritage. She taught me who the original man is on this planet. She said, “there is no land mass that can describe you”. My father’s are the originators of the heavens and the earth. If the man above made anyone better he kept her for himself. Black and Latino mother’s are the Queens of the planet earth.

  • I do think my sense of identity is connected to accent in the form of how my speaking sounds. A clear example are my Y and Ch words that have their Latino sound and rhythm. To me having a latino sound has never put me in a situation where people look me down, in fact the people that know me, are fully aware of how proud I am for having an accent.

  • Yes, I believe my sense of identity is connected to the accent. My Spanish accent is really strong. When I speak English people know right away that my primary language is Spanish. I proudly say to people that I don’t feel ashamed of my accent in fact , that shows that I am bilingual.

  • My sense of identity is connected to music and storytelling. The culture prospers with those two things and it is what has shaped me throughout my life. The music and the stories that has passed through generations of my family taught me lessons that I cherish and plan on teaching my children someday.

  • I definitely feel my sense of identity is connected to all the aspects in my culture. First and foremost, my nationality comes out through my family traditions and foods. My parents taught us our Korean culture through various ways. Which is being respectful and courteous towards one another, especially towards elderly people, our food and music. In South Korea, K-pop is really popular but I don’t really listen to K-pop like I use to when I was younger. I love how Korean culture expanded in my neighborhood, especially restaurants. Korean people like to spend quality time together with food. My mom would make us kimchi from scratch. We love our kimchi, which is fermented spicy cabbage, which is our staple dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Even though it was a long process to make, it was worth it at the end. Koreans are very simple minded people but open to all cultures. I was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil and I want to learn Portugease. Unfortunately, I’ve never went to elementary school in Brazil because I came to the states when I was 1 years old. But one day I would like to travel there when I have my own family and learn about the culture more. Even though I’m Korean, born in Brazil and raised in America, I feel I fit and identify more as Americanized. I’m open to all cultures and love eating different foreign foods.

  • Yes, I think identity is connected to those factors, this is because of many reasons. Since Im bengali just by looking at some people I can tell they are Bengali, also the accent we have can give it out right away. Also for food me and my family usually go to places around Hillside or Steinway this is because since we are muslim there are a lot of halal food spots. My identity is connected because the stories we share and conversations differ from others, the music we play also differ from others

  • I do feel that my my identity is connected to those additional factors as well. Theres more to a person than just a single aspect of who they are. For example, for me I feel that my identity also has to do with my accent and family traditions. I may identify with a certain heritage but because I was raised here I don’t completely speak the way people from my country would it’s more of a spanglish mix. And I also continue traditions but with a slight change by adding some culture from this place.

  • My sense of identity is connected to family traditions, accents, food and music.
    We have very strong family traditions, with holidays and wedding. Our weddings usually last for a few days. Theres a different event each day. Accents, you can definately tell where we are from by our accents. It’s broken english. So theres a lot of words that are mispronounced. Food is a way of expressing love. It’s a sign of disrespect if you’re visiting my home and refused to have a meal with us. Music is definitely a strong tie to my culture. The music is always on in the background, while you’re cooking, cleaning, entertaining company. I could hear a song and tell you exactly where i was and what i was doing when i first heard it!!

  • My sense of identity is definitely connected with all of these factors. I am from the Dominican Republic so the food, the music, traditions, the slang, storytelling ext. is what makes us, is a passion that we do not take for granted, that we proudly share with the world. I love exploring the different cultures there is especially when it comes to the foods. Pointing out, that no matter how different cultures are, I noticed that by having these factors is a type of connection tool that brings us to become one, each in our unique way.

  • I would say that my sense of identity is connected to all of the above factors. Even thou I’m European and my culture is different, but I found a lot of similarities to Latin American culture , especially in a way of cooking food, story telling, the accent and the slang.

  • My sense of Identity is connected to multiple factors. My family always has some type of get together or celebration on any given birthday. Every Saturday and Monday, my mothers days off, she puts her all into cooking a huge family for everybody in the house and anybody that might come in through the door. At every party the music that is being played is much older than the young adults in the room and everybody seems to feel like we’re back in the Dominican Republic, where we were all born. My nationality comes with an accent that I will always carry with me and will connect me to multiple factors.

  • I agree with the poets that my sense of identity is connected to all of those factors. The way I speak and the food I eat are engraved in me because I was raised that way, in Nepal. Even now, in America, I prefer Nepali food over any other type of food. The way we have some traditions that we still following, like our new year, which follows a different calendar. My religion which my mom taught me since I was a little kid, and which I still follow by lighting incense every morning. All these give me a sense of identity of who I am now.

  • Although everybody has a unique understanding of these notions based on different experiences and upbringings, the people in the group feel indeed that their identities are connected to the aspects underscored by the poets especially accents and slang, family traditions, deep love toward mothers, food, music, and storytelling.

    In all the responses one could gather that these factors not only give a sense of identity but also of pride and daily empowerment.

  • I do think my identity is connected to those factors as they shaped the environment I grew up in and we are shaped by our environment. However I don’t think my entire identity hinges on those factors. There are aspects of my identity that are due to the nature aspect of my self rather than nurture.

  • My sense of identity is connected to food, culture, traditions, and accent. As I am from Nepal, my accent is different than English people. I love homemade food rather than fast food. Also, I like chatting with classmates rather than staying quiet as we used to talk with everyone back in my country. In USA, there are different mixtures of cultures and groups where mine is one of them. And I love experiencing variety of cultures.

  • My identity is connected to my Blackness and language. Because i am from the inner city which is known as the hood. When i was growing up elders from my family would always tell me in order to make in this world you have to leave the slang in the hood, but speak more intelligent to make in this world.

  • Definitely! Being latina but growing up in America, my parents always tried to keep me connected with my roots. I had never been to Puerto Rico until I was 10, I finally went to Ecuador when I was 18 and I still haven’t been to Cuba but my parents always surrounded me and reminded be about the countries they came from. My mother would always involve foods that came from Ecuador that gave me understandings on how life would’ve been like over there. My father, took his time to show us how much he appreciated salsa music and music that came straight out of Puerto Rico. I’ve never been to Cuba, so Cuba was told to me through storytelling, listening to those I was able to live vicuriously through my grandmother and grandfather.

  • Definitely yes. While growing up our parents and grandparents tried to teach us their language, way of dress, mode of worship, respect for elders, just to mention a few. When we mix in society, we try to adapt to our environment and current situation but that which was taught to us by the people we respect cannot easily be put aside. We are connected to the music, folklore/stories, food and especially language. They identify us.

  • Being Panamanian in my house meant growing up proud a proud mezcla of native Indigenous, African, Jamaican and Spanish heritage. While the primary language is Spanish, I was raised as a West Indian “hispanic”. Our accents tend to differ a lot from Caribbean Latinos due to the West Indian influence on the island. My grandparents told stories of daily life in the “old country”, passed on food prep methods, and MUSIC is our everything.
    Most important they passed on pride in or heritage, our culture, and the unique differences, as well as similarities shared by our latino brotherhood .

  • My identity is connected to all those things really. I was born in a former Portuguese colony(Sao Tome) in Africa in the early 90s, then lived in Portugal, all before the age of 5. After that the family came here to New York City for the foreseeable future. I do relate with my African side but I cant deny that I have been heavily Americanized for better or worse, since I lived here for the majority of my life. One of the negatives is clearly the loss of language, both Portuguese and indigenous. It was only in the last decade that I have become more nationalist, in that I’m mentally integrating an Americanized version of me into a less familiar linguistically but partially understood cultural social environment.

    The cuisine has not been affected in any way thankfully. Both parents still cook traditional dishes mostly. Music is definitely heard all week long. However, all this initially wasn’t appreciated by me in the beginning years of living in the states because I didn’t know the language.

  • I definitely feel my identity is connected to family traditions, food, music and storytelling.
    Even though my family settled in upstate new york, my background is mostly based in southern traditions. My family always came together for regular celebrations and food was a huge part of those gatherings. The younger always loved the attention paid to us for the oldest members of the family, our connections were strong. They linked us to the past experiences by telling us the stories of how the family survived and migrated North. They shared the richness of the songs that lifted the spirits and encompassed struggle.

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