by Tato Laviera
Publication Date: March 31, 2003
In Tato Laviera’s third collection, poems celebrate the array of stripes and colors making up the American people. In the beginning section, “Ethnic Tributes,” Laviera crafts poems with titles like, “arab,” “black,” “chinese,” “greek,” “jamaican,” “spanish,” and “mundo-world.” In “boricua,” he fashions a timely plea for an end to prejudice, saying that for Puerto Ricans “. . . color is generally color-blind/with us, that’s our contribution, all/ the colors are tied/to our one.”
The latter two sections of the collection, “Values” and “Politics” build on the themes of ethnic exchange and the place of the boriqueño in that greater scheme. In “commonwealth,” Laviera writes of these tensions. “I’m still in the commonwealth/ stage of my life, not knowing/ which ideology to select.”
The poems of Tato Laviera are complex and engaging; through his words, his spirit, his bilingualism, and his dual identity he offers readers poems that are a celebration of life and identity.
Wolfgang Binder, Professor at the University of Erlangen in the Federal Republic of Germany writes, “With AmeRícan, Tato Laviera confirms his excellent reputation as a vital poet and humanist. Laviera is postulating and ‘defining the new America, humane America,’ but he will not be absorbed by a mythical melting pot.”
“This performance poet’s voice resonates loud and clear through forceful rhythmic variations and a complete command of both Spanish and English.”—Hispanic
“AmeRícan is branching out, the striking of sympathetic chords with other cultural groups on the basis of expansive Puerto Rican sound and rhythms. Laviera is intent on reaching beyond the New York enclave. He seeks to stake a claim for Puerto Rican recognition before the whole US society.”—Journal of Ethnic Studies
JESUS “TATO” LAVIERA (1950-2013) was a poet, playwright, novelist and community advocate. Born in Puerto Rico, he was raised in the Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or Loisaida. He is generally acknowledged to be the best selling Hispanic poet in the United States. He performed his works all over the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. His books include La Carreta Made a U-Turn; Enclave, winner of the American Book Award; AmeRícan; Mainstream Ethics; and Mixturao and Other Poems, and Bendición: The Complete Poetry of Tato Laviera, all published by Arte Público Press. His plays have been produced in Chicago and New York City, and have been staged at The New Federal Theater, The Public Theater, the Delcourt Theatre in Central Park, Circle in the Square, and Theatro Cuatro.