Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Professor Ivonne Gordon-Vailakis reads some of her poems during National Hispanic Heritage Month. (Photo by Lauren Rios)

The University of Redlands kicked off events in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month with a September 18 core ensemble performance of “Tres Vidas,” a show that examined the lives of three legendary Latin American women—Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Salvadoran peasant activist Rufina Amaya, and Argentinean poet Alfonsina Storni.

Tres Vidas was an incredible opportunity to learn and to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with my mother, a proud first-generation Mexican-American woman, whom I invited to the performance,” said Nicole Garcia ’22. “To say the least, she was moved.”

With roots going back to 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from September 15 to October 15, recognizes the important contributions made by Hispanic and LatinX Americans to the United States.

“The University of Redlands is proud to celebrate the heritage of more than a third of its students during Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Monique Stennis, interim director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion, “and to continue in this spirit all year long.”

The celebration of LatinX culture continued on September 30 with a reading by internationally recognized poet Ivonne Gordon-Vailakis, a U of R professor of Spanish and Latin American literature. One of the poems she read during the event, was “Don’t Call Me a Foreigner”:

No me llames extranjero ilegal
ni otro nombre
porque veo que en tu cuerpo
corre la sangre
al igual que en el mío

No me llames ningún nombre
porque soy barro que se funde
en humo y se transforma
en tierra lejana
de mi gente que con frijoles y tortillas
calienta el mismo asador del tiempo
que huele a humo de leña de desierto
no me llames ni extraño ni extranjero
porque no puedo pisar la misma tierra
que las plantas de mis abuelos.

No me llames ilegal
porque vengo del sur de tu ombligo
donde crecen los mangos
y se maduran las penas
no me llames illegal o spic o mexican
ni otro nombre
porque en el caldo de la vida
cultivo hortalizas
y siembro esperanzas con mi espalda
que se raja
y me duele cada día
y tú te llenas de ese caldo
salteado con mi sudor
condimentado por mi sangre por mis huellas.

No me llames
no me llames
el rostro de la lejanía
no me llames nada
porque otros se asustan
del oleaje de mi gente
porque cierran barreras
y abren alambres de amargura.

No me llames extranjero extraño
porque hablo otra lengua
que vibra como raíz de penco.

No me llames nada
porque tú y yo somos ladrillo y barro
llámame por mi primer nombre
llámame por mi nombre de pila
llámame por mi nombre

Here's an English translation:

Don't call me foreigner, illegal
don't call me any other name
because I see that in your body
runs blood the same as mine.

Don't call me any other name
because I am clay that fuses
in smoke and turns into
a faraway land
of my people, their beans and tortillas
heating up in the same wood stove of time
that smells like smoke of desert kindling
don't call me alien or foreigner
since I can’t touch the same ground
that my grandparents' feet caressed.

Don't call me illegal
because I come from a place south of your birth
where the mangos grow and sorrows ripen
don't call me illegal or Spic or Mexican
don't call me any other name
because in the broth of life

I cultivate the vegetables
and sow hope with my back
that aches every day
so you can fill your belly with that broth
seasoned with the salt of my sweat
seasoned with the blood of my footprints.

Don't call me
anything at all
don't call me
no face of the other side
don't call me nothing
because others make themselves afraid
of the dark running wave of my people
they close borders
and put out the bitter razor wire.

Don't call me foreigner, stranger
because I speak another tongue
hat vibrates like the root of beast.

Don’t call me nothing
because you and I are brick and clay
call me by my first name
call me by my birth name
call me brother.

Students were also welcomed to read Gordon-Vailakis’ poetry, written in Spanish, aloud in English.

“When Professor Vailakis was reading her poetry, it made me feel welcome and comfortable,” said Samantha Vasquez ’22, “knowing we have faculty members we can relate to.”

National Hispanic Month will conclude with an altar-building activity for students on October 10 in anticipation of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which honors the memory of loved ones who have passed away. Cynthia Cervantes McGuire, a Mexican-American who worked in public education with the Azusa Unified School District for 37 years, will lead the activity. 

Learn more about Student Affairs at the University of Redlands.