JAVIER O. HUERTA’s numerous research interests can be reduced to one: feet. His academic foot fetish deals both with feet of the metrical variety found in the verse of the British Romantics and with feet of the mobile variety attached to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. He intends to go beyond the pun to study the rhythm of immigration. As one of his poems says, “el mundo da vueltas al ritmo de tus pasos,” which translates to the world rotates to the rhythm of your steps.
Huerta is a native of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, the only Mexican border city to be founded by people who crossed to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande in order to remain Mexican citizens in 1847 during the U.S.-Mexico War. He was born in 1973 to Margarita Gomez, a 19 year-old maquiladora worker, and Javier Huerta, a 21 year-old coyote. They lived in la Colonia Mirador until July of 1981, when he and his family —father, mother, and two-year old brother Tomás—crossed the río Bravo/Rio Grande into the United States of America. He often questions whether their journey north could not be considered a betrayal to the loyalty of the founding families of his beloved Nuevo Laredo.
Huerta’s family (not including his father) settled in Houston, Texas, which became his adopted home. After six years of living as undocumented immigrants, his family filed for residency under the amnesty clause of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. They received Permanent Resident cards in 1989 and were able to return to Mexico for the first of many reunions with his mother’s family, los Gomez, who continued to thrive and triumph in la Colonia Mirador. As part of his naturalization interview with an INS inspector, he was asked to write out the sentence, “Today I’m going to the grocery store.” He knew that the sentence scanned as iambic pentameter and swore to make it the first line of his masterpiece, American Copia: An Immigrant Epic (Arte Público, 2012). In January of 2000 (almost two decades after he first arrived), he received the official welcome from the White House in the form of a photocopied letter signed by William J. Clinton and became a U.S. citizen.
In 2005 Huerta’s manuscript, Some Clarifications y otros poemas, received the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Prize from the University of California, Irvine, and was published in 2007 by Arte Público Press. This poetry collection was his MFA thesis for the Bilingual MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. At UTEP, he had the privilege of working with talented classmates from Texas, California, Chicago, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. Many of his classmates have gone on to receive prestigious awards in their respective countries. His experience at UTEP formed him as a writer and will always be one of the most important phases of his writing career. Indeed, El Paso will remain the center of his literary world. Huerta is currently a graduate student in the English department at the University of California, Berkeley.
Huerta says that the poetry in Some Clarifications y otros poemas is based on the mispronunciation of his name: Javier as have air. The poems in this collection should be considered as experiments and observations on a different kind of air. In “Blasphemous Elegy for May 14, 2003,” he attempts to show how not having a name (legal documents) can equate to not having air.
He lives in Oakland, California, and is completing his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley.