Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blog Discussion 1: Américo Paredes Folk Poetry
We're talking this week about Américo Paredes' poetry. In addition to being a poet, fiction-writer, and folklore scholar, Paredes was also a musician. The music in his own poetry comes across in its formal characteristics, in the sounds and rhythms of the language. As you'll hear on the podcast for Friday, September 4th, how poetry is recited affects its meanings just as much as how it looks on the page.

For this blog discussion, I would like you to select one of the poems we will discuss in class (either "The Mexico-Texan," "To Mexico," "Guadalupe La Chinaca," or "The Rio Grande") and choose a line that you think best encapsulates the meaning of the poem.
Explain (1) What you think "the" meaning of the poem is, (2) how that particular line comes to express or convey that meaning, and (3) why this line in particular comes to capture that meaning more than any other line.
As you write, you'll need to think about the following:
  • Where does a line begin or end? Is it demarcated by its visual layout, by punctuation, or by sonic/phonic markers?
  • What are the denotations and connotations of each word in the line? How do those words draw on those of other lines or on pervasive imagery/figures throughout the poem?
  • Is there an identified speaker in the line? How does the presence or absence of a speaking persona inflect the line's significance?
  • Does the line express an irony or tension that occurs throughout or tends to dominate the poem?
Remember to emphasize the depth of your response and feel free to take advantage of the possibilities the blogging medium affords.


  1. The line that best describes the meaning of the poem Gualalupe Chinaca is the: “sing that Mexican song because by singing through its sobbing complaints Mexico speaks to me!” I feel that the meaning of the poem is one’s wishful desires of returning to their former homeland. In Guadalupe LaChinaca, the speaker describes Mexico as a place that has gone through a lot of pain, its his “wounded motherland”, although the speaker may have to have left his country as a necessity, he has the longing of returning. In the line, the speaker expresses his constant remembering of Mexico. From reading this line, the reader can fully sympathize with the speaker by putting themselves in his shoes. The speaker hears, in the birds singing, the pain that Mexico has endured and instead of being joyful that he has escaped from it, he is nostalgic. This line is repeated twice throughout the poem, bringing together the meaning of the rest of the poem. In all the other lines, the speaker lists his memories of his homeland, whether they are memories of pain or memories of beautiful landscape. The other lines in the poem are very helpful in giving the reader visuals of what his life in Mexico was like, allowing the main line to instill the feeling of reminiscence. The fact that the speaker longs to hear the song of Mexico gives readers great evidence that he longs to remember his life in Mexico. Whether the speaker would like to return to Mexico or not, it is clear that he does not want to forget his homeland no matter what the reason was for him leaving.

  2. I was also captivated by the poem "Guadalupe la Chinaca." I found, too, that the poem itself became "the song" that the speaker implored the zenzontli song bird to keep singing in honor of Mexico and all that it means to the author. In particular, the closing lines, "Sing, Guadalupe la Chinaca, sing, sing; let the wounded zenzontli cry in your throat; sing that Mexican song because by singing through its sobbing complaints Mexico speaks to me!" emphasize the power of song to communicate Mexican heritage and current struggle. Throughout this free verse poem, the speaker's coupled lines, repetition of verbs of the mouth, use of onomatopoeia, and lengthy enjambment all serve to highlight the poet's connection with the "sobbing complaints" of his homeland that he feels best when sung (or spoken). His poem itself is an attempt to identify with and engage with the very art form that he feels best conveys his country's pain and splendor--song (or poetry). His frequent use of commands "sing" is ironic because he is, in fact, engaging in song himself.Especially evident in these last lines, we see "sing" repeated at least 4 times, the reference to the zenzontli songbird, Mexico referred to twice, and the emphatic assertion that "Mexico speaks to me!" concluding the song with a hopeful plea.

  3. When I read, “Guadalupe la Chinaca,” the passage that stood out the most for me was, “What’s in that voice so tragic its laments carry the bittersweet of mountains--- those melancholic accents of ranchera music.” The meaning of this poem appears to be one longing for his homeland, for his roots. There is a voice that seems to be crying out, in a melodic song that seems to be keening for times long past. I think that the author is talking about the voice of Mexico. He seems to be yearning to return home, to the land that he knows and that he still loves, but some obstacle or barrier is preventing him. When I hear the word, “lament,” the image I get is of someone wailing and, within the context of the poem, it seems that the very earth is crying out. The word “tragic” gives connotations of something painful that has happened. Usage of words like “bittersweet” and “melancholic” evokes a feeling of remorse and longing for a better time that resonates throughout the entire poem. The line holds meaning for me because it reminds me of living in New Mexico, of the majestic solemnity of the mountains in the distance and the air that was punctuated with the sound of rancheras and mariachis. Ironically, like the speaker, I too, found myself yearning for a land that I cannot live in and for times past that I cannot get back. The sadness and melancholy that the speaker feels is pervasive and permeates throughout the piece and captures the essence of the expression, “You can’t go home again.”

  4. Luis Montes

    For me the line that summed the poem the Mexico Texan was “the Mexico Texan he no gotta lan.” The reasoning behind this is that I come from a Mexican background and I can identify with many of the feeling of not belonging that the Mexico Texan feels throughout the poem. I lived all my life in Mexico born and raised and the way the poem describes the feeling of not knowing where you are from is exactly what I would feel as I was growing up caught between the borders of Brownsville and Matamoros. The poem to me portrays a person no more like an immigrant that is caught in a new world were he doesn’t belong but has to belong its confusing. Its like he is needed but unwanted he is a Texan but a Mexican, which stigmatizes the Mexico Texan to no more than a peasant of an immigrant which society doesn’t look at as much. This individual doesn’t belong in any land. The land that brought him to life despises him for leaving to a better place and the land of hope denies him for being of a supposed lower class. He no gatta lan is exactly what the Mexico Texan has, which is nothing. This line is the strongest of the poem because it embodies and captures the best and the worst it reveals the sense of belonging and denial. To me the Mexico Texan is an immigrant whose been to long in the US and lost his sense of nationality not to himself but to other people.

  5. In "The Rio Grande," the lines that struck me the most were those in the fifth stanza: "For I was born inside your waters, and since very young I knew that my soul had hidden currents, that my soul resembled you." The poem explains Paredes’s relationship with the Rio Grande, with the river illustrating his physical and cultural borders between Mexico and Texas. The narrator sees the river as its friend and soul mate; he can sympathize with the Rio Grande because it shares places with Mexico and Texas, much like Paredes’s biculturalism as a Mexican and a Texan. He likes to personify the river, noting how it “whisper[s], whimper[s], and mourn[s]” as it struggles to find its origins. He also stores his “pain” and “trouble” in its “bosom”; even going as far as naming it his final resting place (“When the soul must leave the body...In your bosom I shall lie”).
    Overall, the tone of the poem is very somber; Paredes depicts himself as lost, “dark,” and “troubled”, much like his “soul.” He sees the resemblance between him and the Rio Grande, and finds that he is better off being one with the river, because at least he knows he’s going in one direction, and not becoming lost in his biculturalism. He knows that his journey will end at “the margin of the sea”, where both the river and his soul will die away.

  6. In my opinion, the line that best describes "Guadalupe la Chinaca" is; "Sing, Guadalupe la Chinaca, sing, sing." This poem is about Mexico calling back to someone who had left Mexico. Mexico calls to him by singing in many ways to him. This song is sung by everything that Mexico is, or rather, everything that is a part of Mexico including the good and the bad. Now, the line that i choose i think best describes this shows the repetition of the singing and is actually tell the land to sing as well. Manly, I believe that this line prepares us for the extended enjamment section where just about every part of Mexico is singing in some way back to the man. After that section, we see the line again, this just reinforces that feeling of the land singing, bringing Mexico alive, almost as if Mexico itself was someone singing for this person to come back and be reunited with it.

  7. The line in "The Mexico-Texan" which struck me to have the most meaning behind the poem would have to be "For the Mexico-Texan he gotta no lan." This line illustrates the meaning of the poem in that it clearly states the Mexico Texan's confusion about his true identity. He is confused about his identity because he feels lost in this new world that doesn't appreciate him and feels unwanted in his homeland for leaving. This new world cares very little about him because he is among the lower class in society. Like stated in the poem, he is only wanted in elctions for his vote and the other is for his working hands. Throughout the poem this line is repeated and is found at the end of each stanza. This particular line also contains dialect with phonetic spelling which is also seen throughout the poem and is stereotypical of the Mexico-Texan. This portrays the Mexico-Texan as someone uneducated. Another thing that i found interesting about this poem is that it is written in third person which could be partly because the Mexico Texan can't identify between the two identities. He no gotta lan', to me, best sums up the poem and best captures the poems meaning because he has no sense of being wanted in Mexico or Texas. He feels like he has no real home.

  8. In Americo Paredes poem, “To Mexico”, the line that I feel best describes the piece is line 6 “fallen and anguished—though not defeated!”. I think the author is trying to talk about the struggles that Mexico has endured over the many years of it's history. The author doesn't make any references to actual history, but the first thing that comes to mind is the Mexican Revolution.
    During the period of Revolution, many immigrants migrated across the border to the US in order to escape the bloody fighting. This is further reinforced in line 9 “The insurgent bathes you in your own blood” and the following line “for money the politician sells you...” . After the conflict though, Mexico still endured and it's people still survive. I think that is the overall theme of the poem, Mexico surviving through the passage of time, despite the hardships the country has had to face.
    The author uses first person in the poem giving the work more of a voice. I feel like the voice is longing to see a Mexico that is not plagued with violence and infighting. Also, I believe that the diction and voice make the effect that the author cant do anything about the problems he is writing about, like he is an observer to whats happening. Perhaps this is to give the effect that the voice is from someone who has left Mexico because of the fighting and hardships, and now can only observe the action in his country from a foreign land. It is very surprising to see how the poem can resonate in todays time with Mexico still under siege by drug related violence and corrupt government.

  9. Y'all are awesome. These are fantastic readings of each poem. I'm very much looking forward to class today.

  10. Don Paredes begins “To Mexico” as if ushering in a ballad to his beloved: Yo te canté desde muy niño; I sang to you since very young. What does he sing to her, his Mexico? Conozco bien, mi patria, tus defectos//y porque los conozco, yo te quiero. I know well your flaws, my homeland//and because I know them, I love you. This couplet best communicates the meaning of the poem, which I interpret as the pain of watching a loved one suffer, whom one loves unconditionally.

    Paredes uses an ellipsis (i.e., …) to distinguish this couplet from the rest of the poem. He only uses this form of punctuation one other time in the poem—at the very end, when he says …se estremece. …I tremble. Therefore, we can reasonably assume a relationship between Paredes’ choice of punctuation and the significance of the couplet. I read the ellipsis as indicating a break in the speaker’s train of thought. After assuring his homeland of his devotion to her, the speaker proceeds to recount the abuses committed against her—fallen and anguished, The insurgent bathes you in your own blood…the politician sells you.

    However, here the speaker stops; for whatever reason, he cannot go on with this list of Mexico’s suffering—perhaps because to recount it dismays him, or perhaps because he is ashamed to speak of these things while addressing her with his love. Regardless, his tone suddenly changes at this point, and he makes the most heartfelt admission of the poem. He directs all of his attention to the object of his desire and states, “I know well your flaws, my homeland//and because I know them, I love you.”

    The translators state that they chose to translate mi patria as my homeland instead of “my country” because “[homeland] connotes more intimacy between the poetic persona and Mexico, which is the land being claimed.” I like the use of the word “intimacy” here because it is appropriate to the context of the poem. Although the nature of the relationship is not clear—mother, lover, childhood friend—Paredes implies with his language a deep and loving bond with Mexico that transcends the realm of love for one’s native land into the realm of love for another person. In other words, Paredes personifies Mexico. This why I say “To Mexico” is a ballad to his beloved.