Updated: May 3, 2022
My experience con Craft Cultura by Roman Alcazar
borderlands, poetry, spoken word, chicano/a studies, Mexican American studies
My first exposure to Craft Cultura was when Misael “Chico” Ramirez reached out to me through Instagram. He invited me to the final workshop, where the theme was navigating memory. I was very nervous, being a Deaf/Hard of Hearing person who reads lips, on top of it still being a pandemic where I know masks will be worn. So, on September 19th, 2021, I rode my bike to Grind Coffee shop, where the workshop was held. There is a room in the back of the shop that was reserved for the team, and upon walking in, I could see it was completely packed wall to wall. I made my way to Chico to introduce myself and thank him for inviting me before finally finding a spot in the corner to settle in. The guest host for that workshop was Bianca Alyssa Perez, a poet from Mission, Texas, an MFA Poetry candidate at Texas State University, and an editor for poetry at Porter House Review, among other impressive accolades.
"I have concluded that we are all poets when we speak from the heart. I spoke of my experiences as a Deaf/Hard Hearing Chicano. I felt my heart pumping as the words left my tongue."
The workshop posed powerful themes of tapping into our memories as Chicanx individuals who come together to form a grassroots community from beginning to end. I found myself swimming through the reveries shared by my peers. While it was a poetry workshop, not everyone was a poet, which did not stop them from speaking their truth. That in of itself is poetry. As a poet myself, I never was trained classically. I developed my own way of writing based on my experiences and observations. I have concluded that we are all poets when we speak from the heart. I spoke of my experiences growing up as a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Chicano. I felt my heart pumping as the words left my tongue. Having written poetry for ten plus years, I have hardly spoken in front of an audience. I felt empowered and lifted, so in return, I wanted to raise my peers and share their real experiences. In the end, even as our experiences have been unique, we all found commonalities within the cultural setting, from our tios drinking cheap cerveza at the family function to our abuelas preparing warm tortillas in the kitchen to feeling out of place in a white colonized space.
This brings me to the culmination of the workshops that the team at Craft Cultura had
planned, the poetry festival. The festival was held in Edinburg, Texas, in a vast space next to the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley on October 22nd, 2021. Unfortunately, I missed out on the first three workshops, but I was lucky and happy to now be a part of the collective of creatives and leaders. Ten poets, including myself, met up with Chico and Ernie, another founding member of Craft Cultura, back at Grind Coffee shop as it was also right next to the venue to plan and go over how we will go about performing. It was an honor to listen to everyone speak their words and collaborate on each other’s poems. In addition, we discussed how there will be other artists, from musicians to dancers performing in between the poetry sessions and food trucks and local vendors selling clothing, accessories, and art. I was blown away by the number of activities involved in the festival. Chico handed me a Craft Cultura sticker outside as we scoped the space as a group, and I slapped it on my bike and made my way back home.
The day of the festival was an experience to remember. I arrived, and the scene was already thriving with people moving like an ocean from vendor to vendor, sitting down and eating with loved ones, meeting new people, being a community. The other poets and I received a lanyard with a laminated badge signifying that we are poets—something I was not expecting. I still have it on display at my own place. I saw my own friends there, and even my own family members met so many new people that I keep in touch with to this day.
"...deep down, this festival was and is so much more than that. It is a form of protest against white colonialism. It is a form of giving voice and motion to the public to inspire creativity and leadership."
Every performer who went up in front of the community provided something beautiful and thought-provoking. The significant part is that, on the surface, this gathering looks like your typical bloc party here in the RGV. But deep down, this festival was and is so much more than that. It is a form of protest against white colonialism. It is a form of giving voice and motion to the public to inspire creativity and leadership. Deep down, we are a collective that aims to create that third space that has been theorized by Chicanx scholars like Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, William Calvo-Quiros, and so many more.
My understanding of the third space is that we should not give in to the assimilation of the colonialist ideologies that hurt us on so many levels. We are to resist by creating community, by creating a movement. We are here to stay and grow our seeds. We are here to spread love and conquer hate. We are here to face our pain head-on and use it to learn and teach the future. We are Craft Cultura, creating real art for tomorrow.
"We are here to spread love and conquer hate. We are here to face our pain head-on and use it to learn and teach the future. "
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