at El Museo del Barrio

yesterday my back went out.  it’s been a long since a back spasm. i fear that if i don’t get some proper exercise in before I go, i will carrying a bottle of muscle relaxers my entire trip.  it had to do with purging of course. as i’m re-reading and processing, my want to get rid of things; of clothing, of books, and shockingly, of my vinyl collection.  the horror when i’ve shared this contemplation with friends.  i did, a couple of years ago, release myself from boxes of cassettes.  but, it is essentially my paranoia of New York’s recent invasion of bedbugs.  i’m trying to be the next victim.

But to get to the point of this entry, i did a massive amount of laundry before my reading as the launch party for Me No Habla with Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry edited by Emmanuel Xavier. Held at El Museo del Barrio, the event was important for me.  In a matter of several weeks, it was my second time reading there.  The museum has been part of the backdrop that is my childhood.  I remember how the facing was covered with images of Taino artifacts.  It’s always been there.  It’s not something I could politely delete from my narrative because I am African American and was raised on Lenox, not Lexington.

So yes, this is muy importante.  To be included in the anthology was special for other reasons.  It contains some of the first poems I wrote for this project and provides a setting to introduced to the largely spoken word, largely Puerto Rican community, captions of the African/Andean experience.  For the event, I read a poem in Quechua and a poem dealing with laws created by the Spanish crown to control the population in colonial Peru.  In my studies with Odi Gonzales, I learned that in Quechua, there is no word for a Black person and focusing on that, I try to imagine how then how Spanish conquest would then shape in the eyes of Inca, of other nations of that time, a black person. If there is no word to describe them or any person different that their own, how would they interact?

I guess that is one of the question I hope to answer in my travels.  For now, the poems were well received. It added a layer to the conversation that El Museo is having now; one that is attempting to highlight more layers to the Latino experience.

Here’s one of the poems:

un momentu


It was enough for the blacks, the pardos, the zambos

to become Catholic in 1614.  It was enough to become

orderly and upright, to pray hard and repent.

The Archbishop of Lima didn’t think so.  In death, black

was still black and black could not rest beside

a Spaniard in the cathedral’s graveyard.

The city council agreed and remembered one other item.

Your African ancestry disqualified you for a coffin.

Only a Spaniard could have a coffin.

You, had your sheet, your tattered wool pants;

your hole in the earth

Your swollen body floating back to Africa.

There is no word in Quechua for a black person


The sumaq zamba abandoned home and became black.

It was easier this way. Easier to be free;

to locate herself.  But easy is too easy to explain her situation.

All this talk over crimes of passion…

How lovely it was to have her sisters,

zambo and mulata, as bed flesh.

There is no word in Quechua for a black person. (It’s said they fuck like jackrabbits.)

1574. No black woman shall wear silk pearls gold or mantillas.

1622. No black woman shall bring a rug or cushion to sit on in church. 1623.

No black woman shall wear silver bells on their slippers.

No black woman shall wear slippers.

There is no word in Quechua for a black person.

No black woman shall have a canopied bed.

The fruits of prostitution they say.

tanqay away memory.

So says the Crown.

Says the municipal authorities

when they seized her pretty jewels.

Having been married to a Spaniard

these past two years meant nothing.

  sumaq, pretty; zamba, a person of Indian and African blood; tanqay, to push



About latasha1970

What's heard and not heard, obviously seen and made invisible. My thoughts on life, change, and everything that gets blind sighted by trivial issues. It's about being in between space, in between compromises and in between success and failure. This updated version will chronicle my journey to Peru this summer, the preparation involved and what happens once I've set foot on South American soil.
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