Chicago’s Forgotten Poets of Aztlán, Part III

Marc Zimmerman Publicado 2015-03-01 02:00:08

La Malinche by Rosario Marquardt, 1992


The Women (and Final Remarks)[1]


The First Wave of Women Writers

As Chicago Chicano poetry developed, the voices of women emerged with greater clarity, bringing with them new insights and orientations to cultural questions that would generate new poetic themes, styles and forms. One of the city’s first published Mexican poets, Marilou Castillo, self-published an extensive collection of love poems in Spanish, Recuerdos y Sentimientos (1978). It is possible that a very sophisticated analysis, like those frequently presented by early Latina feminist critics like Eliana River or Norma Alarcón could draw up some incipient or anticipatory feminist strains from Castillo’s poetry-and her work is certainly worthy of feminist critique, especially in understanding the social and cultural heterogeneity of Chicago Chicanos and Chicanas. Nevertheless, although some of the poems show a sometime grace and flair, most are marred by a tiresome singsong; they never seem to rise above the kind of conventional feminine (as opposed to feminist) poetry produced by middle class Latin American women (of “good” families) over the years, speaking of the pain of unrequited and betrayed love, with little critical or transformative consciousness:

Cadena que atada a mi pecho,
oprime las ansias en que vivo,
y me perturba en mi lecho,
que mi sentimiento amargo escribo (Castillo, 1978: 9).


No fue adiós aquel,
sino un hasta luego,
tal vez ya me olvidaste,
pero yo te recuerdo (13).
Yo le quise; como nadie en la vida
Le ha querido.
Y tú Señor! me lo has negado.
Porque fue cruel su olvido?
un tormento infinito, que él sepa
que le he amado (17).

More modern and feminist, Marguerite Ortega, born in Chicago in 1951 and raised in the barrios of 18th and 21st Streets, developed abilities in painting and drawing as well as poetry. A teacher in the Chicago public schools, she became a member of the Movimiento Artístico Chicagno (MARCH) for some time in the late 1970s. She published two poems in Ecos, 2, 1 (Winter, 1982), “Night People” and “Revolutionary Lover,” which displayed a certain flair for depicting urban and feminist problems with a sense of pop rhythm and irony. But although Ortega wrote numerous poems and participated in poetry readings throughout Chicago, especially during the late 1970s and early 1980s, she had virtually no subsequent publishing record that I have been able to uncover since the poems which appeared in Ecos.[2]

Interestingly enough, some of what was in the process of developing among Chicago Latina writers is already anticipated in the only Chicana to appear in Revista Chicano-Riqueña’s Nosotros collection, Emma Yolanda Galván. A native of Mercedes, Texas (the home turf also of novelist Rolando Hinojosa), Galván moved to Chicago with her family when she was five. Her early-developing interest in art translated into work in drawing and textiles as she participated and became a leader in the cultural work of the short-lived Latino artist’s organization, the Association of Latino Brotherhood of Artists (ALBA — of which Ana Castillo was another Chicana member)and then, with other seceding ALBA members, joined in a newer formation, El Taller. [3]

It was in this context, and under the aegis and influence of the mainly Puerto Rican writers around her that Galván first tried her hand at poetry. The results of her efforts are more interesting than might seem reasonable to expect. “Homage to Papa Bernardo” describes how a traditional funeral procession in Mexico characterized by reverence for life and the earth is desecrated by picture-taking U.S. tourists. The Narrator turns the table on the tourists, giving them some of their own medicine, in their own symbolic language. Somehow the final image (the mourning poet flipping the bird at Americans) is unintentionally ironic. On the one hand, the image may conjure a defense of culture, or it may be interpreted as showing how the woman must break traditional codes and role models to counter the forces of oppression. One can even say that the defense of culture (in function of a violation of respect due a patriarch) requires cultural transformation. But the extreme reaction and behavior of the narrator, her taking on the language of the enemy (even if it is to fight against that enemy) may also be seen as a paranoiac over-reaction, a sign of maimed personhood resulting from culture shock. The very earth which the narrator supposedly reveres and defends is most desecrated not by the “gringos” but by the “gringa” in herself. How to interpret the poem, the events and such defiant gestures will be essential to the question of Latino feminism and the literature which will emerge by Illinois Mexican and Latina women writers.

Another poem, “Dedicated to Margarito Reséndez,” bitterly bemoans the shooting of a “wetback” and the similar insults and injuries suffered by many like him; and evokes the Chicano Movement’s call for solidarity in the barrio. But the poem’s protest is in terms of patriarchal blood ties — that is, the very aspects of traditional culture that have tended to entrap Mexican women, subordinate their struggle to “the national question,” and lead to irrational alliances that make broad Latino unity difficult. Not surprisingly, the language of the poem is weak and conventional:

Grito—No Más!
Young brothers of the barrios.
Don’t you see, foolish man.
You do not divide, but instead unite.
Bonded-stronger thru blood...

Doesn’t justice know
It has a throne, in our barrios
That has long been abandoned
Since the slaughter of our Indian kings.

Madres del barrio
sit patiently.
for life or death de él.

In this poem, we have a standard address to a universal barrio brother and the usual evocation of the mystical power of blood. History is present-time in a barrio seen as stagnant, and long suffering Mexican mothers “sit patiently” (and passively) as they await the greater forces of life and death before which they are powerless. However, Galván’s more profound side leads her to question any submission to cultural norms and stereotypes. Looking at the conditions in the “barrio of bare reality,” she asks, in words that directly anticipate the images of Sandra Cisneros, “How many more children will not reach?”

There are poems by Galván that offer a greater range of human experience and possibility. One deals with climbing mountains, with stallions (male, it is true) running free. In still another poem, Galván intones, “Little girl run/reach the moon…/reach the stars/ …the sun/ get out (salte) of here.” The freedom envisioned is one involving the violation of conventional mexicana norms and roles. One erotic poem, “I Have Tasted You,” presents images of Latinidad in relation to the earth:

Your body is brown
A soil brown of earth’s nature
Of the bark of trees.

Another poem, “I Want to Make Love,” however, breaks free of any overt group or “blood” blond; and, in an idiom that will become the trademark of Ana Castillo, the poem speaks of love with total abandon. A similar impulse emerges in “Summer So Hot,” with its sticky suggestiveness and seduction into forbidden ways. Here there are suggestions of forbidden exogeny á la Malinche — encounters with men of different races, women-to-women encounters. However, the final line of the poem is not just a reminder that summers come to an end, or that youth will fade, but also a suggestion that Latinas may well have to pay a high price for sexual abandon and experimentation.

Perhaps this latter perspective explains why Galván’s final poem, “Poeta a Su Motherland” portrays her knocking on the door of her mother’s home (the biological mother, but also Mexico) — a projected return of the prodigal daughter. At first her mother doesn’t answer; so she knocks again, only to come to that eerie and contradictor recognition/non-recognition which characterizes the return of many Chicanos to Mexico and of many prodigal Chicanas after too many wayward adventures:

“I recognize the strangers
but it seems that I am strange.”

Her mother has scattered her children across the country; and she rejects her lost daughter, apparently for the crime of seeking freedom. In so doing, she replicates the rejections meted out by her other children, one of whom confronts the wayward poet: “think you’re better than me?” Pleading for acceptance, the daughter realizes that the mother who condemns her for her “Americanization” has suffered the effects of the most crushing forms of U.S. influence:

Ay Madre, mi tierra,
el maíz, hermano
trampled and crushed
by pepsi cola, shell,
and holiday inn.

In conclusion, she urges her mother to say “Basta,” and rise from her sickbed to join in the “march of the people.” So it is that in this rather complex and perhaps somewhat confused poetic allegory, the rebellious woman seeks to argue that through her violation of culture, and her cutting of patriarchal roots, she will be able to participate more fully in the cultural resistance and the harvest of her people who, trampled in Mexico and in the U.S., struggle to be reborn.

Apparently Galván did not go on to publish other poems. But her struggle for definition, and her search for solutions, in Nosotros anticipate some of the constant motifs of years to come.[4]

Still another Chicana poet, Rina Rocha García, published a biting poem, “Uncle Joe,” in the second issue of Abrazo (1979); and with Ana Castillo’s help, she would self-publish this work along with nineteen others, in her chapbook, Eluder (1980). In reviewing this book, Marisa Cantú (i.e., Norma Alarcón) wrote:

Rocha. . . reiterates a family portrait forged from childhood memories.

Scenes from the urban barrio including fire hydrants, kids and tired working mothers give shape and a bittersweet tone to “Taylor Street.” “New Year’s

Eve” presents a happier recollection of family celebration, while “Uncle Joe” as well as “An Afternoon in the Flower Shop” reflect the misery of urban families who must deal with the alcoholism as well as the murder of relatives “leaving a trail of families behind.” In the work of Rocha, relations between the sexes are fraught with hostility, anger, “hate between the sheets.” Arguments proceed along of repeated lines, like rituals in which the words have overstayed their welcome and gestures no longer have meaning. Men are viewed as pieces of clothing or penetrators. The greatest puzzle that Rocha ... must respond to is what is the nature of womanhood? Must beauty be packaged as for Cosmo girls to make woman loveable, if so, what of the ordinary woman who makes up the majority of us? Why must mothers be as jealous and possessive as husbands? These are some of the issues addressed in such poems as “Chicana Studies” and “Baby Doll.” Rocha is seeking to define the future quality of the lives of women as well as her relationship to the family which up to now has been a central force in a woman’s life.[5] 

As Sandra Cisneros pointed out (in an unpublished paper), this volume speaks well to the image of the mother’s home as a symbol of refuge, before and after marriage, for the Latina woman. So, in one poem, Rocha writes, 

I rest here under her roof.
In the bedroom that was mine
before the journeys.
It is safe and undisturbed.
Here I am untouched.
A palm cross that she has saved since
I was eleven has been nailed to the
outside door.
For years I muttered that no evil
can enter her gates of heaven. 

But, as in Emma Yolanda Galván’s “Poeta a Su Motherland,” the home can also be the site of repression against the Latina’s wayward instincts:

Mothers can be
jealous gods
Just like

naughty girl,
naught ought
to have done that
naught ought
to have said that... 

To all of this, we should add the consideration that Rocha’s insights into the lives of Latino working class males as well as females burn bright in several of her poems, and above all in her “Uncle Joe,” a work which Abrazo poetry editor Carlos Cumpián chose for Rocha’s debut in print. To date, this poem remains among the sharpest portrayals of Chicano male oppression and abuse, even in the wake of the many poems, stories, novel chapters and, passages on the theme in the work of Castillo and Cisneros. Rocha, even more so than Galván or other Chicana poets of the early years, articulates that particular kind of exploration of Chicano urban working-class ethos that, especially in this feminist and trans-Latina version, will be one of the key orientations of Chicago Chicano/Latino/a poetry that will make contributions to U.S. Chicano writing as a whole.


Final Remarks: Chicago Chicano/a Writing up to the Early 1990s

In 1990, when the initial draft of this essay appeared under the title, “The Most Forgotten of the Forgotten,” I asked, “Where are the Chicago Chicano Poets today?” Let’s see how my answer at that time may be updated somehow to constitute an assessment covering the developments occurring during and soon after the years covered in that initial essay draft.

By 1991, Ana Castillo had published two collections of poetry and two novels dealing with varied geographical spaces, but with ample scenes and reflections on Chicago Chicana/Latina and mainly working-class life as well as the life of Chicano and Latino cultural producers in the city. Cisneros’ House on Mango Street had become the most famous and important Chicago Chicano/Chicana text, but her subsequent collection of poetry (My Wicked, Wicked Ways) pointed to new dimensions as her star continued to rise.

As noted earlier, these writers, along with Emma Yolanda Galván, Carlos Morton and Rubén Sánchez had felt compelled to leave the city, and that some of those who stayed didn’t get heard enough and didn’t get the fullest chance to grow. Still, among those who remained, Carlos Cortez had given up smoking and experienced a new burst of creativity both in his graphic work and his poetry, publishing his first books in 1990 and 1991. Carlos Cumpián was stepping up his own writing and poetry promotion efforts, publishing his own first volume, Coyote Sun (1990), and beginning work on two other volumes, while editing an issue Ecos and coordinating other projects. And even some of those who left had generated the seeds for a new harvest which emerged throughout the 1980s and beyond.

Morton clearly exerted some influence on Cumpián; and Cisneros in particular left a legacy in Chicago by her work as a board member of Ecos and Third Woman and as the co-teacher in a poetry workshop called “City Songs,” where she worked with many Latino writers — Margarita López Flores, Gregorio Huerta and Raul Niño, among others — to develop and refine their poetry. Some of this work appeared in “The City Songs” section of Ecos, II, 2 (Spring, 1983), where Cisneros-trained writers would appear with others of diverse backgrounds.

López Flores, offspring of a Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother, represented the tutelage of Cisneros even as she explored the problems of being a Mexican-Puerto Rican daughter of Chicago’s barrio-world. Also appearing in the “City Songs” collection (in Ecos Spring 1983), as well as in the prior issue (Spring, 1981), Chicana-Sephardic writer Miriam Herrera, a young graduate student at the University of Illinois, wrote poems revealing her college-trained skills and her will to apply them to ethnic themes — a matter that would continue to be central to her work after she left Chicago.[6] The very next (and final) issue of Ecos (Summer, 1985), “Cosecha Aztlán,” edited by Cumpián, brought forth another Chicagoan Deborah Pinotelli, an Italian-Mexican poet with only the faintest mexicana or Chicana inflections in her poems.

Over the years, the work of some other new Chicago Chicana writers of the early1980s began to appear. Publishing in Third Woman and elsewhere (and perhaps impacted by Castillo and Cisneros, Dianne Gómez, Carmen Abrego and San Juanita Garza added their voices — the first two, with frankly lesbian verse, and the last writer showing all the care and distance from ethnicity that one might expect from a student of Paul Hoover at Colombia College.[7]

As for the new males, the most directly Mexican and proletarian of the new writers, Huerta, began writing in English more than in Spanish and began drifting from his early romantic and declamatory base and even the influence of Cisneros and his recent teacher Martha Vertreace.[8] Meanwhile a California Chicano, Luis Rodriguez, came to the city and began to have an impact (see and; and Cumpian’s friend Chicano poet Raúl Niño who had emerged, first publishing in Cisneros’ City Songs group, and finally publishing his own introspective chapbook, Breathing Light (MARCH, 1991—cf. Zimmerman 1999). Indeed, veteranos Cortez and Cumpián joined with Sandra Cisneros, López Flores and Niño (along with Cynthia Gallaher and Argentine poet Beatriz Badikian), in a new collection, Emergency Tacos (1989), a publication which indicates continuity, difference and innovation among Chicano and other writers in the city (cf. Badikian 2014).

Other writers who had left returned from time to time in person or in their publications. In May 1988, Lalo Cervantes, a young Chicago theatre performer and sometime poet who had joined California’s Teatro de la Esperanza, visited Chicago as one of the group’s dramaturges, presenting his striking play about urban Chicanos in contra-infested Nicaragua, Teo’s Final Spin, at the University of Illinois at Chicago (cf. Anonymous 1988). In the same year Steel Mill Chicago native, Hugo Martínez Serros, while teaching in the Spanish Department of Lawrence University in Wisconsin had published The Last Laugh and Other Stories dealing in great detail with his home area during the late 1930s and early 1940s (see forthcoming analyses in El Beisman).

During the late 1980s, poets like those reciting at Cumpián’s Links Hall venue,[9] those joining with Gregorio Gómez in his open mike slam-like poetry sessions at Weeds Bar,[10] or those taking classes at one of the city’s colleges or universities, continued to emerge, transplanting their roots and taking off. By this time, Dr. Jorge Prieto had written Chicago’s first Chicano autobiography, Harvest of Hope (1989) centering on his service to Chicago’s Mexican poor at Cook County Hospital, as well as his growing relationship with the United Farmworkers Movement; and two very prolific writers working out of Evanston, Laurence Gonzales and Dr. Francisco González Crussi, had also come on the scene — the first producing novels, stories and essays, including some work with Chicago and Illinois Mexican and Latino content (cf. 1979, 1981 and 1983), the second producing collections of essays on death, dying and other general themes, including one book entitled The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections (1993).[11]

Indeed, all these developments chart the trajectory of Chicago Chicano writing as part of the local Latino, minority and overall Chicago scene, and as part of national and international literary movements, grew up and went in its various directions. Inevitably the maturation of the new Mexican immigrants arriving in the 1980s and beyond would lead to the reasserted emergence and development of Chicago Mexican writing in Spanish. But so long as the Mexican population base continued to expand through immigration and reproduction, so long as the Chicano cultural movement, especially in the face of the growing anti-Latino/a backlash, continued to develop as a national phenomenon with considerable local impact, so long as Mexican norms felt the pressure of Anglo imperatives, Chicano-inflected artistic and literary projects would continue to surface in Chicago and express, no matter with what difficulties, at least some of the key dimensions of the experiences of Mexicanos and emergent Mexicano-Chicanos in Chicago’s complex but exemplary ambiance. In all of this the role of women writers would be a major aspect of the city’s Chicano and Latino cultural projection and contribution.


Works Cited

Abrego, Carmen. 1991. “A Conversation.” In Carla Trujillo, ed. Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About. Berkeley: Third Woman Press: 63.

Anonymous, 1988.”A Bilingual tragicomedy set in War-Torn Nicaragua.” Taos, NM. The Taos News. Thurs. June 30: 20.

Badikian, Beatriz. 2014. “Emergency Poems/Poemas de urgencia: Latino Poetry in Chicago, 1970s and 1980s.”

Cantú, Marisa. 1981. Review of Rina Rocha’s Eluder. Third Woman I, no. 1: 82.

Castillo, Ana. 1984. Women Are Not Roses. Houston. Arte Público Press.

__. 1986. The Mixquiahuala Letters. Binghamton, New York. Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.

__. 1988. My Father Was a Toltec. Albuquerque. West End Books.

__. 1990. Sapagonia. Tempe, AZ. Bilingual Review Press/Editorial Bilingüe.

Castillo, Marilou. 1978. Recuerdos y Sentimientos. Chicago self-published.

Cisneros, Sandra. 1980. Bad Boys. San Jose, CA. Mango Publications.

__. 1985. The House on Mango Street. Houston. Arte Público Press.

__. 1987. My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Bloomington, Indiana. Third Woman Press.

Cortez, Carlos. 1988. “Selected Poems. Notebook: A Little Magazine (La Raza Cosmica issue), vol. 4 no. 2: 24-31.

_____. 1990. Crystal-Gazing the Amber Fluid and Other Wobbly Poems. Intro. Eugene

Nelson. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company.

Cumpián, Carlos. 1990 Coyote Sun. Chicago: MARCH/Abrazo Press.

____, (uncredited), ed. 1989. Emergency Tacos. MARCH/Abrazo Press

Gonzales, Laurence. 1979. Jambeaux. San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich.

____. 1981. The Last Deal. NY. Antheneum.

____. 1983. El Vago. NY. Antheneum.

González Crussi, Francisco. 1993. The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections.New York. Harcourt Brace.

Hernandez, David with Gamaliel Ramirez (uncredited), ed. 1979. Nosotros: A Collection of Latino Poetry and Graphics from Chicago. Special issue of Revista Chicano-Riqueña, Año V, No. 1 (Invierno, 1977).

Herrera, Olga U. 2008. Toward the Preservation of a Heritage: Latin American and Latino Art in the Midwestern United States. South Bend: Latino Institute. University of Notre Dame.

____ N.D. “Raza Art & Media Collective: A Latino Art Group in the Midwestern United

States.” Houston. Museum of Fine Arts.

Hevrdejs, Judy. 1990. “Hispanic Chicago: A Time And Place For Celebracion.”

Huerta, Gregorio. 1984. Poesías. Chicago. Gregorio Huerta, 40-page, ms.

Levinsky, David. 1990. “The Saloon Poets: Visceral Poetics Reach Feverish Pace In Matches Known As Slams.” Chicago Tribune (Jan. 21).

Martínez-Serros, Hugo, 1988. The Last Laugh and Other Stories. Houston. Arte Público Press.

Niño, Raúl. 1991. Breathing Light. Chicago: March/Abrazo Press.

Prieto, Jorge. 1989. Harvest of Hope: The Pilgramage of a Mexican-American Physician. South Bend, Indiana: U. of Notre Dame Press.

Rocha-García, Rina. 1979. Eluder. Chicago. Alexander Books.

Rodríguez, Luis. J. 1989. Poems Across the Pavement. Tía Chucha Press.

____. 1991. The Concrete River. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press.

Zimmerman, Marc. 1989. “Transplanting Roots and Taking Off: Latino Poetry in Illinois,” in Hallwas, John, ed. Studies in Illinois Poetry. Urbana IL. Stormline Press: 77-116.

_____. 1990a. U.S. Latino Literature: An Essay and Annotated Bibliography. Chicago: MARCH/Abrazo Press, 1992.

____. 1990b. “Chicago and the Poets of Aztlán: The Most Forgotten of the Forgotten.” Crítica: A Journal of Critical Essays, II, 2. U. of California, San Diego (Fall): 230–248.

____. 1999. “Raúl Niño” in Francisco Lomelí and Carl Shirley, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 209: Chicano Writers, Third Series. Detroit/San Francisco/London/Boston/Woodbridge, CN: Briccoli, Clark and Layman. 1999: 167-169.



[1]As noted in Part II of this essay, this study is based on my article of 1990b. Again, I wish to acknowledge the invaluable participation of Carlos Cumpián, director from 1980 on of MARCH, INC., Movimiento Artístico Chicano, who served as archivist, critic and constant interlocutor in the first several years of this project for which the Illinois Humanities Council provided research funding, as did the Recovery Project of Arte Público Press, University of Houston.

[2] At this juncture, I feel compelled to register my deep regret for having perhaps contributed to Ortega’s publishing silence by mishandling my role as Ecos project coordinator and expressing some concern about her poems in a meeting with her in which I apparently gave an insensitive, negative critique the quality of several of her poems. Of course it was not my intention to discourage her but rather help reach another level in her work. But apparently I acted with great insensitivity and as she told our mutual friend, Leonard Ramirez, she never wanted to work with or see me again. Apparently she seems to have limited most of her subsequent creative forays to art work related to school projects. I say this not to cleanse myself, but to provide a heads-up to others working with young artists as they seek to find their way. I know I had similar experiences, which impeded my creative efforts for years. I find it sadly ironic that I inadvertently meted out a pain similar to what I had myself suffered on another aspiring young artist. For the note on Ortega presented in the MARCH Calendar of 1977, see; for an obituary notice detailing aspects of her life especially after the early 1980s, see

[3] According Olga Herrera (2008) Galván and Juanita Jaramillo, working for ALBA, coordinated the first Mujeres Latinas exhibition presented in January 1977. Elsewhere (, Herrera sees ALBA as “the rebirth of a consciousness dedicated to the growth and promotion of Latin art throughout the United States.” She includes Anna (sic) Castillo as well as Galván and her husband sculptor Alex Garza, though she somehow excludes at least one of the founders of ALBA, poet and sometime artist Salima Rivera from her list of members. For more information, see “ALBA Latino Artists Organization,” ALBA Festival brochure, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, 2-5 April 1974. On El Taller, co-founder Gamaliel Ramirez insists that he co-founded this organization because of tensions developing with the initial constellation of players. It is noteworthy in this respect that the1977 Nosotros issue of Revista Chicano-Riqueña includes Galván but excludes Ana Castillo, clearly the most accomplished Chicago Chicana poet of the 1970s. Ironically, her absence enabled her to take on an outsider position and write a rather wary review of the issue. 

[4] Google has recently directed me to a note from Charles Alexander dated 1997 and referring to two people living in the South Tucson, Arizona area which reads: “Alex Garza, sculptor, … directs a program in which ‘at risk’ teenagers make public art, mostly mosaic murals; and his spouse, Yolanda Galvan, a visual artist/illustrator … works at an organization called Southwest Parks & Monuments.”  

[5] At the UC Santa Barbara conference on Chicano cultural studies (6/5/90), Norma Alarcón, editor of Third Woman, confessed to me (before witnesses) that she had indeed invented the Marisa Cantú persona to publish a review of Rocha-García’s book. 

[6] See, which lists Herrera’s one book and many published poems, while emphasizing her multi-cultural roots and modes of expression. Raised in Aurora, Illinois, Herrera attended the University of Illinois Program For Writers, where she studied with John Frederic Nims, Ralph Mills and Paul Carroll, earning her Creative Writing M.A. in 1981. “While attending the University of Illinois at Chicago,” says Wikipedia, suggesting some connections that, except for Cintron, were rather limited, “Herrera was involved in the Chicano literary community, which included Sandra CisnerosCarlos CumpianNorma AlarcónAna Castillo, and Ralph Cintron, et al., as her contemporaries.”

[7] See Abrego’s interview (1991); also see; for Gómez, see I have found no further word about Garza. 

[8] Huerta is mentioned as part of the City Songs group in Badikian’s article (2014); he is listed as a preforming poet in Hevrdejs 1990. His text, Poesías (1984) is listed under “Poetry” p. 14. Nevertheless, with the wave of Chicago Mexicans writing in Spanish, Huerta and his writings seem to have disappeared from the local and national scene.

[9] See the extended listing in Links Hall Performance Series: 1987-1990

[10] Says Levinsky (1990):Home of Chicago’s rowdiest open-mike readings (even though there sometimes isn’t a microphone), Weeds is a bastion for the city`s tough-guy literati. … “Because we’re not a stoical place,” says organizer, poet and M.C. Gregorio Gomez, “you can come and listen to verbiage completely outside of intellectual perversion and hear some nitty-gritty poems everybody can understand.”
Gomez’s open mike has continued throughout the new century. In a Facebook note, dated June 27, 2012, “The Art, Words and Music on Sat June 30th” Victor M. Montañez dubbed Gomez (was he serious?), “the greatest Chicano poet to emerge from Chicago.”

[11] For brief descriptions of works by these writers, see Zimmerman 1990a.


Marc Zimmerman is author of U.S. Literature (1992), Defending their own in the Cold: the Cultural Turns of U.S. Puerto Ricans (2011); he has edited volumes on Latin American/Latino transnational processes, Latinos in U.S. cities and Chicano art in Mexican Chicago. He is currently developing essays on Chicago Latino writers and artists, as well as stories on his Latino and Latin American experiences.


Chicago and The Forgotten Poets of Aztlán (Part I)

Chicago and The Forgotten Poets of Aztlán (Part II)


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