Resilience through poetry

Plant growing in dry ground

In summer 2017 we announced an essay contest around the theme of resilience. In addition to the anticipated essay submissions, we received these poems, which resonated with all members of the selection committee and which we are pleased to share. Read the selected essays here.

La Frontera: Who I am Poem

My story does not begin with me
But with my parents
When they crossed La Frontera
How were they to know
That in America there are two Americas
And in the America they moved to
They would always have to prove themselves as more American
Than Americans
My father was a migrant worker
Going from California to Michigan
A time of his life that he describes only as
Long days being backed by the sun
The produce we take for granted were picked by hands that look like his
My mother is a storyteller
Y es por ella que yo hablo español
I grew up eating turkey at Thanksgiving
And tamales de pavo at Christmas
Growing up between two worlds
I was caught in La Frontera
Unable to move
Too white to be Mexican
And too Mexican to be white
I ran from my culture
But culture never leaves you
She is a curandera
A healer
And she visits me
And reminds me of who I am
I now wear my culture like a super hero cape
Giving me strength to tear down walls continuously being built
For I live in a world where I must validate my existence
And yell out

An Ode to Hope

I am here because of the hope of others
The American dream
Ideals written by white men
Reinvented by women of color
Built on the foundation of hope
A dream too great
Walls cannot contain its powers
Of women who have the courage to question
Systems of oppression
The words of
Audre Lorde
Gloria Anzaldúa
Sonia Sotomayor
Run within me
Women who dared to see another future
To question the status quo
If Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera
Had not stood up and said enough is enough
Where would this queer girl be?
If my parents had not crossed La Frontera
And made a path for me
Would I be the proud Latina that I am today?
Would I be finishing my second master’s degree?
If I had not been encouraged to study
To Dream
To Live
To Love
Where would I be?
Hope is an innate power within me

—By Lillian Rodriguez ’09

—Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

Headshot of Lillian RodriguezLillian Rodriguez ’09 is a queer Mexican-American storytelling currently living in Durango, Colorado. Last spring she received her master’s in social work from University of Denver. She tells stories through poetry and is working on a book of stories of immigration.


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