"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Poetic Wisdom for Your Week from Lalo Delgado

Poetic Wisdom for Your Week
"Aqui" and Reflections on The Fast, Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, Schizoid Autobiographical Notes, and Seven Abelardos


Aquí, de hoy en adelante
hemos despertado el gigante,
a nosotors mismos
y nosotros aquí,
bajo el sol de Aztlán,
no juramos uno al otro,
confianza y carnalismo
porque vivir esclavos
es como haber muerto.

Aquí, con los ojos
y la vez
la mente clara,
vemos como el Xicano
libre de declara
y por eso con una fuerte
a b r a z o ,
la vida misma tú prometes
y yo te prometo ti.

Aquí, en la cuna
de la
r e v o l u c i ó n
social Xicana,
hoy, cinco de mayo,
la raza soberna
declaramos con el percho
en llamas
por el orgullo
que cada Xicano
por ser Xicano
tiene como suyo.

Aquí se had decidido
no emprender camino sino
a aumentar el paso
y ensenarle a todos
lo fino que es
ser raza
y lo sagrado que es
nuestra justa causa
recordándonos que
ya no
es tiempo pa' descansar
cuando se trata de avanzar.

      by Ableardo B. Delgado

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Notes on The Fast, Pre-Movimiento Writing, Rafael Jesus González, and Schizoid Autobiographical Notes

Raymundo Eli Rojas: Now your fast...I'm trying to place the date.

Lalo Delgado: It ended on Easter of '68. I timed it so it would en on Easter.

RR: A little after Martin Luther King's death. How many days was it (fast)?

LD: Twenty-two. To prepare for it, I had done 18 on just liquids. So I did a 40-day fast, but half of it was on liquids, the other was just on water. A little salt and just a little sugar. I got a lot of publicity out of that, a telegram from César Chavez, who probably was the one I was trying to emulate in doing the fast. I also had heard that he had gone that long without food, so I figured that if he could go without food that long, I can.

So after the fast, I went to the hospital to start eating little by little. When I ended, I was at the crowd with my mom, my wife, my kids. Then after that, I went for a day or so to the hospital and came back the next day to work.

RR: How long after the fast did your book The Fast come out?

LD: Probably a couple of weeks later. Cause the poems were ready, I just had to have someone type them and put them on a stencil. We ran maybe 200 copies, bound, not even hard bounded, just softbound. I think it sold for a dollar and fifty cents. The idea for me, at least, was the fact that I collected my first book of works. Of course by then, I had already, as you already discovered, published some stuff in El Burro and some anthologies. I was still looking at social issues from Christian eyes rather than just a worldly person. Maybe through the years my work has become more pessimistic because I know that issues are not so simple to analyze.

There's God and then there's politicians.

RR: Who were some of the Chicanos that were writing back then? I know you guys would have lots of readings, Ricardo (Sanchez), you, Carlos Morton, Juan Contreras, Che Luera.

LD: There's a Chicano from El Paso that I don't think has been fully appreciated, but he use to go to Texas Western (UT El Paso previous name) with me, and now he is a professor in California. His name is González, Rafael González! He doesn't write much, but when he writes, it's very good. 

We were friends, you know friends during college years. We kind of inspired each other. His parents had a little hardware store on Stanton Street...I think he's in Santa Rosa or something. California. There's only one book I got my hands on. 

He writes in Spanish very well. All kinds of old Spanish stuff...his work is very polished. It became one of our favorites. Plus, we had this guy named Santiago Rodríguez who was in the Sociology Department (at UTEP). He might still be there. A daughter, Carmen.

Yea, of course, all this time, you never lose touch with the church. I continue to be involved with the church. I don't know if its worth mentioning it or not, but during my stay with Father Rahm, I became a playwright. 

And I wrote three plays and they won first prize three years in a row. The competition was sponsored by CYO, Catholic Youth Organization. No Chicano had ever won. I won three times in a row, so they stopped the competition. “We don't want more of this stuff.” 

My writing started even before that. I started writing little quentos in Spanish and sending them to El Continental. And they also won first prize, which in those days mean $25.

But it encouraged me to write when I saw people respond to what I was doing. I think it is hard to separate myself from my writing. I'm writing my autobiography. It's going to be sort of a schizoid autobiography. There's six or seven Lalos inside of me, you know. One of them is the writer, the other one is the organizer/activist, the other one the organizer, the activist, the other one is the educator, the other one is the gambler, you know all the bad things you do in life. So it's kind of hard to put down who the hell I am.

RR: Well, Seven Abelardos!

LD: (laughing): Abelardos! No wonder I've been saying that. Thanks for the idea. Actually.... I have seven chapters!

Notes: El Burro was a early UTEP (then Texas Western) literary magazine published in the late 1950s and early 60s. El Continental was a Spanish-language newspaper in El Paso, colloquially known as El Cuentamentiras. Lalo refers to Father Harold Rahn and poet Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.

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"Aqui" - (c) Abelardo Delgado 2003. Published with permission of the Delgado family.

Interview with Lalo Delgado (c) Raymundo Eli Rojas 2000.

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