“Stupid America, remember that chicanito / flunking math and English / he is the Picasso / of your western states / but he will die / with one thousand masterpieces / hanging only from his mind.” In his poem, “Stupid America,” Chicano activist poet Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado decries the lack of opportunity faced by his people: children let down by the educational system; artists and poets unable to express their creativity. “That chicano / with a big knife / he doesn’t want to knife you / he wants to sit down on a bench / and carve … / but you won’t let him.”
Known as the “poet laureate de Aztlán” and called “the grandfather of Chicano literature” in his 2004 obituary in The New York Times, Delgado used his words to fight for justice and equal opportunity for people of Mexican descent living in the United States. A twelve-year-old when he emigrated from northern Mexico to El Paso, Texas, Delgado’s development as a poet and writer coincided with the Chicano Civil Rights movement, and so his poems both reflect the suffering of the oppressed and are a call to action. “We want to let america know that she / belongs to us as much as we belong in turn to her / by now we have learned to talk / and want to be in good speaking terms / with all that is america.”
Available for the first time to mainstream audiences, Delgado’s poems included in this landmark volume were written between 1969 and 2001, and are in Spanish, English, and a combination of both languages. While many of his poems protest mistreatment and discrimination, especially as experienced by farm workers, many others focus on love of family and for the land and traditions of his people.
Delgado wrote and self-published 14 books of poetry—none of which are available today—and five of them are included in this long-awaited volume. These poems by a pioneering Chicano poet and revolutionary are a must-read for anyone interested in the Chicano Civil Rights movement and the origins of Chicano literature.