Saturday, February 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista

Clark Bridge over Mississippi River, between W. Alton, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois. May 2011.

Thus far

Word of the Year: Build 1

At a Tumblewords Project workshop I attended during my early-2019 revisit to El Paso, I wrote the poem, Family Fronterista, at the bottom of this page.

Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva (who writes the blog FierceFronteriza) led this February workshop.

She introduced the workshop by noting the anniversary of the February 2, 1848, signing of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo.

Mexicans who lived in the territory lost by Mexico to the United States in the Mexican-American War had one year to choose whether or not to be US citizens (and stay or move) or Mexican citizens (and move).

With a writing prompt linked to the possession/loss of a national identity, or at least a cultural identity, and on the rigidity or fluidity of borders, the family story of one of my El Paso friends came to mind. In both cases, it was necessary to build a new family, to lay a new hearth.

My friend's story inspired my poem below.

 Family Fronterista

Six sisters
Drew a line
And said to Seventh Sister:
"You are not of us anymore.
"You are on the other side of this line - -

Seventh Sister
She closed her eyes
She turned around
To survey her new land
A desert it seemed.

She squared her shoulders
She made a life
A husband for awhile
Children forever
A business.

She climbed mountains, forded rivers
Crossed borders, except
That one -
Her visa revoked.

One day, a phone call.
A woman, unknown.
"My family name is Abrán .
"I am told yours is the same."
"Yes," said Seventh Sister.
"It is the name I was born into."
"Are we family"? the woman asked.

The women walked
Up and down and over the
Lines of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles.
No connections.

Finally, the woman named Abrán said:
"No matter.
"Come to us. We lack a Seventh Sister."

And Seventh Sister smiled.
She said,
"Yes, I've been looking for you.
"I am coming home."

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