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Visiting poet addresses issues of ethnicity and culture

By Clayre Benzadon

Section: Arts

October 23, 2015

Bobby Gonzalez, a writer and multicultural motivational speaker, spoke at AHORA’s Thursday, Oct. 22 coffeehouse in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Native American and Puerto Rican author of “The Last Puerto Rican India: A Collection of Dangerous Poetry” and “Taino Zen,” Gonzalez is also a storyteller and poet and has been to many colleges to give talks. The first thing that Gonzalez asked the audience was whether our school celebrated Columbus Day. He spoke about his Latino, African and Native American ancestry and a brief background behind Columbus’ colonization.

He brought up the point that many of his friends have told him at some point or another that they love “Spanish” culture and “Spanish” food. What they don’t realize, however, is the fact that Spanish culture is different from Hispanic/Latino culture—Spanish culture is limited to Spain, while Hispanic/Latino culture refers to the various differences in places in Latin America. Later on, Gonzalez asks the audience whether they knew about Taíno culture—the room got quiet.

Gonzalez also talked about the discrimination that his ancestors faced. This is reflected in his book of poetry “The Last Puerto Rican Indian,” which is a collection of poems that is written about his identity and a of journey of self discovery. A lot of the works in his collection are spiritual, like in his poem “Beneath this Earth.”

“The Last Puerto Rican Indian” is another crucial poem that appears toward the end of the book. This piece is more explicitly a social commentary on his Native American heritage, how everything connects back to the land and how forgetfulness is a human condition that the land never experiences. Rather, the land is a reminder of human destruction and carelessness as well as loss of culture and spirituality.

Gonzalez stayed to talk to attendees individually, while an open space was created for anyone else who wanted to perform on the spot about their own experiences, taking inspiration from Gonzalez’s talk. The performances  were not limited to poetry and was very open to other forms of artistic expression, whether it be music or dance. A few people got up to perform, and some started to open up about their own cultural experiences and background to new people that they had just met at Chum’s thanks to this event.

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