The Sunday Poem: Mercedez Holtry...Latino Roots

Good morning, early risers! Rich Boucher here. Are we ready to do this? Is anyone ever really ready for poetry? What is the best hour for poetry? Is there such a thing? Do you have your coffee? I do. Do you have your breakfast? I hope so. I haven't got mine yet, but maybe my love and I will head to Monroe's this morning and get that whole rise and shine thing squared away in a delicious fashion.  Alright, folks, it's time for a poem...

...I'm loving this lyrical and fierce poem by Mercedez Holtry, and I'll let you know why that's the case. I love the blending of the languages, the English-Spanish-Slamish mix'n'match; I love the breath-driven rhythm of this poem. I love the message of cultura pride filtered in through the knowing, young wisdom here. I love the true hip-hop grit, the inspired and aromatic stew of "book knowledge" and street smarts ("We call it Barrio Philosophy") coming to a slow boil in the text of this piece. I love that there is some mischievous dancing afoot in the lines of this poem. In a way, though, I wish I had a clip of this to link to because I'm only supplying you with half the experience here: Mercedez is a performance poet who packs plenty of punch and steam into the delivery of her work in a live situation. I asked Mercedez what her favorite thing about Albuquerque is, and this is what she told me: "Being that I’m a Burqueña, there are many things I cherish about Albuquerque. However, if I had to pick what I love most about this place, it would have to be the amazing sunsets I see almost every day. The vibrant shades of pink and orange across the west side of Albuquerque remind me to keep my faith in God and the beautiful things in the world. I know whereever I go, I will never see the beauty in sundown like I do when I’m here in my hometown." Close your eyes now and just see what Mercedez is telling you. Can you see it?

Mercedez, the mic is yours....

Latino Roots



 We grew up split toughed and quemada  

Burned by desert sun 

Part mestizo, part conquistador 

We are rooted deep in the depths of history 

But we often are not taught in our children's history books


Being Latino is something you learn on the streets of Southwest City

A west coast hometown

A family living room 

A backyard fiesta 


I learned that whether you're spitting Chicano terminology 

Or exquisitely speaking

Everybody understands the phrase

"Chinga tu pinche madre!"

My first four words in foreign tongue 

My grandfather did not only teach me Spanish profanity 

But encouraged me to speak his language so that 

I would not forget that I come from sangre Mexicano 


Sometimes being the color of dirt means people treat you like dirt

But being Latino does not make you the equivalent

to the bottom of the white man's shoe

Just in case they try to step on you 

Because they will

You tell them chinga tu pinche madre and spit at their feet 


People are going to doubt that you have any class

As far as they're concerned, you make the food in the fast food chains

Therefore you are the food at the bottom of the food chain 

Meaning we have to learn twice as much as anybody else

A double education 

One on the streets taught by OG's in order to survive in our world

And one in the classroom to survive in the white man's world

To beat the system that keeps the poor kids in the poor schools

Can’t afford the right tools,

So they end up criminals 

Locked up and getting out only to teach their kids the same shit

Poverty is a bitch

It's not our fault that American society 

Associates success with light-colored skin

See, they can take away your rights, lower your wages, and throw you behind bars 

But they can't take away the power of knowledge


We learn that violence doesn't solve anything

but we’re always fighting anyway

Physically and metaphorically 

We fight like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta fought 

Like Johnny Tapia fought

Like our mothers and fathers fought 

We are fighters 


We call it Barrio Philosophy

You see we understand that life is an old-school street fight

So square up 

Because even if you're not winning

Life knows you’re not afraid to throw down 


Pride is what keeps us alive

The face of culture looks a lot like your abuelita's face when she's making tortillas

Full of sweat and struggle but beautiful 

Don't let them roll their disrespectful eyes at your abuelita 


Don’t ever be embarrassed to embrace your roots

Your Raza

It’s a shame to think we are losing cultura in this Americanized melting pot

I love the color of mi Tierra 

It defines the struggles our forefathers made to cross the Rio Grande 

Brown is the color of a dirty movida our ancestors had to make in order to survive 

So we celebrate with colorful language and vibrant traditions 

Don’t let anybody piss on your piñata 

Or spit in your horchata 


This isn't about being dark enough to fit in with your barrio 

This is about being down enough to call this culture yours regardless of what the world thinks 


If it’s one thing you’ll learn about being Latino

It’s that brown is not just the color of skin

It’s the color of a mentality

A revolution

A way of life

Water your roots my people

And allow yourselves to grow.



About Mercedez Holtry: Mercedez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is 19 years old and attends the University of New Mexico. She is seeking a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She is currently working at the YMCA with children in the after school program. She is a local poet who is very involved in the poetry community of Albuquerque. She is apart of the 2013 slam poetry youth team, ABQ Unidos, who took 4th in the National Youth Poetry Competition, Brave New Voices. Mercedez loves the art of spoken word because it is a way for her to express herself freely. Poetry has opened many doors for Mercedez over the years. Poetry is something she will continue to do for the rest of her life. Photograph of Mercedez Holtry by Mariah Bottomly.


Poetry submissions are welcome. Email

Local Poetry Event News: After yesterday's book release event in Santa Fe for Georgia Santa-Maria, I think it's quite fitting that I announce on here another good, upcoming book release event. I hope you agree! Local poet (and poetry curator for the New Mexico Mercury) Don McIver will be reading from his brand new book of poems, "The Blank Page" on Tuesday, August 27th, at 7 PM at Bookworks, located at 4022 Rio Grande NW. Now, I have been to a book release event at this location before, and I'd recommend that you get there early to get a good seat, as seats tend to fill up fast at this place. For more info about this event, call (505) 344-8139. Have a good week!

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Comment by Izquierdo on August 25, 2013 at 11:31am

I am re-reading Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima" a chapter a night, at bedtime right now. I just got through the brawl on the svhool playground last night. Anaya was at Albuquerque High a year before me, and I've always identified with him and the Hispano culture which surrounded me at San Antonio, NM, and in the South Valley/Armijo area. I'm not a good judge of great poetry, but this is among the most instructive and personally interesting poems I have seen in this space. I am also a UNM J-grad and a student of the Spanish language, and I love Anaya's mixing of the languages which some consider a weak point in his book. I think you have something special going here. Keep it up.. 

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on August 25, 2013 at 12:12pm

a mi me gusto mucho este poesia--my Irish mama taught me how to cuss, then slapped me for doing it!  But I thank her that somewhere in my boots, when I only had one pair wandering the world, I found my voice finally.  I love the voice of Mercedes Holtry and feel gratitude that young women are standing up and speaking out and loving it.  I love it!  And going to school, and working, and becoming fully engaged in life as it is . . .I've only been a Burqueño for 43 years, rootless tumble weed before that, rolling across deserts until I found home. 

Comment by Rich Boucher on August 25, 2013 at 3:17pm

Thank you all so much for your comments!


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