Edyka Chilomé Dedicates “Para Ti, Mi Pueblo” To All Our Gente
With her latest offering “Para Ti, Mi Pueblo,” the Dallas-based poet has gifted us a love letter brimming with optimism and uplifting imagery. Set to a moving soundscape that captures the bright technicolor of diversity within the Latinx community, and evoking the sacredness of Indigenous ceremony, the compelling film elevates our spirits and offers much-needed medicine. Within its subtlety, it speaks volumes about our humanity and connects us to something greater.
You can watch the compelling video here, and read our exclusive interview below.
LX: I read online that Para Ti, Mi Pueblo was “originally commissioned for a sharing at La Catedral de la Esperanza in Dallas, TX,” and that the poem, “has traveled from community altars to the steps of city halls, to the walls of detention centers in South Texas.” Many people are unaware of what goes into a project like this. Can you share what that experience was like for you?
EC: As poets in the movement, our job is to show up and be a witness and when called. To give a testimony for the healing and encouragement of our people. This war against us in the U.S. has been really hard to live and experience for all of us. But we continue on as cultural workers because we know it is our responsibility. A lot of things went into this project with care: respect for relationships, collaboration, the excavation of hope in the darkest moments, as well as the faith and courage to know this work is medicine and worth the time and labor. Even though we know there is so much else to be done. As poets we hold the line for the heart to be honored and, though difficult, it is work that cannot be left behind.
LX: What does it mean to be a Salvadorian / Mexican American poet in Trump’s America?
EC: For me it means taking seriously the role of keeping memory. Neither one of my lineages are strangers to fascism and repression that erases or distorts the memory of the people. My father’s family lived through the Salvadorian war, a time where the artists and intellectuals, the memory keepers, the cultural workers, were exiled and or killed. Many Salvadorians in El Salvador as well as the U.S. don’t fully remember or understand why our country is “poor” or why it witnessed so much bloodshed and this makes me sad. A people without a memory is a people that have no direction or grounding for imagining an existence beyond survival. Trump’s America represents the threat of a new era, one of extreme distortion and erasure for future generations, something we know the U.S. does very well. It is our turn as young migrants and or children of migrants to recall the memory of a whole continent and reimagine new possibilities for this world. I am proud to be a poet in these times. Proud to play my role in the resilience and healing of my people.
LX: How did the news breaking of the ICE raids in the south influence the process of making the video?
EC: The last day of shooting we found out the raid in Allen (a suburb of Dallas) happened. Without hesitation, we showed up to the protest outside the ICE office in Dallas and started handing out the prints we made that we were posting around the city earlier that day: “No one is illegal on stolen land.” It just reminded us that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. After Mississippi happened a few months later, we were reminded again that this shit is gonna get worse before it gets better, but it always gets better. Winter comes before spring, our sacred mother earth teaches us that. Our hope is that this video serves as a reminder of spring in the dead of winter.
LX: What inspired you most about the places and people you saw?
EC: The young folks are forever inspiring. Fearless and full of conviction with a moral compass that has not succumbed to fear. I am certainly in need of courage. I learn a lot from the way the young ones speak and move, and am honored when they share they learn a lot from me too. That’s what it’s about.
LX: What poetry and literature moves you? Are you currently reading anyone in particular?
EC: Right now I am reading “Las mil y una historias de Radio Venceremos.” Testimonies of the war in El Salvador from the perspective of those who were involved in creating a radio station that played a huge role in mobilizing the people and keeping the memory of our history alive. This book is written with pure soul and because of that, it is accessible in such a way that makes the reader more human. This is the kind of literature that moves me.
LX: Can you share a little bit about your writing process?
EC: In the video, you see very intimate snippets of my writing process. I was, in fact, writing a letter at the table in my home where I sat most days to write. I begin with prayer and I sit in silence waiting for Spirit to have a dialogue with my heart. The work is in the translation of that conversation through my mind and my hands. I like the typewriter because it illustrates that labor through physical construction.
LX: Music plays a key role in Para Ti, Mi Pueblo, how did you choose what the soundtrack would be?
EC: I love this question because it communicates to me that you recognized a really important and intentional song I chose to use. The guitar that is heard right before I begin the poem is the intro to the song El Sombrero Azul by Ali Primera. This was, for me, a stunning piece of literature that was dedicated to the people of El Salvador during the war. Thinking about that song never fails at making my eyes water. That song means a lot to our people and continues to be a reminder of all that we have lived and all of our resilience. It felt important to include it as a nod to the literary and artistic tradition I come from. I wanted to honor that which I have personally inherited through my father’s political involvement and to remind my fellow Salvadorians to hear it and continue to be encouraged by our beautiful collective inheritance as a people.
LX: It seems like being able to produce this type of work is not without its challenges. Your first self-published chapbook “She Speaks|Poetry” came out in 2015. What has kept you going all these years?
EC: No hay de otra, as we say in Spanish. I couldn’t hold a 9 to 5 down if I wanted to! Plus, as I already said, this is bigger than me. This work is a responsibility I have to this world, to my ancestors, and future generations. Thankfully, since I came out with my first book it was really clear that this path was possible despite the difficulties. Over the last 5 years, I have done some really amazing things with really amazing people and have grown in ways I am still so amazed by. My faith in this work has grown stronger and I have become less afraid.
LX: You effectively use Spanish and English in your poetry. What does it feel like to write in both languages?
EC: It feels normal since I am bilingual. Yet, it also feels like a fuck you to assimilation politics and an intentional repping of my politicized diaspora identity. Also, being multilingual should just be normalized in the U.S. The fact that it is not is an expression of the xenophobia that is constantly being enforced to the detriment of this country. You acquire important emotional and intellectual skills when you diversify the ways you communicate in the world.
LX: In Para Ti, Mi Pueblo there is also mention of Indigenous traditions and respect for cultural roots. Why was that important for you to include in this piece?
EC: White supremacist hetero-patriarchal capitalism as a dominant cultural practice is killing us and the planet. As I write this the Amazon (the lungs of our planet) continues to burn at an alarming rate because of these systems. If we want to tap into any hope of survival in the next decade or so we need to shift our cultural focus to roots that respect the natural world. Indigenous traditions are cultural practices that balance our human experience with the natural cycles of the living planet and the cosmos. We all have these roots no matter where your ancestors practiced them. It’s time to recover these memories.
LX: Who is publishing your next chapbook, and how can people access it?
EC: My new limited edition chapbook is called “El Poemario del Colibri / The Hummingbird Poems” and will be published by Deep Vellum Publishing. The official release was August 30th in Dallas, TX, at Deep Vellum Books. For anyone who didn’t join us then, there are a limited amount of copies will be available online at http://deepvellum.org/.
LX: Central American writers and poets have long been reaching out digitally to find communities of support online. How has #CentralAmericanTwitter helped you build your audience?
EC: Last year, I think it was, I was featured on two lists with some amazing Central American artists and stumbled into #CentralAmericanTwitter after getting so much love and support in response to my visibility in those articles. It was amazing! I am so proud of us for being intentional about creating community amidst the diaspora and really showing up for one another! It is a beautiful thing and I owe a lot to mi gente for supporting my work. It feels like family supporting family. Probably because most of us are actually related somehow! LOL.
LX: What would you like to share with other aspiring femme authors and poets about your journey?
EC: Relationships and healing are more important than clout or fame. If you show up authentically and are humble in your work the ancestors will have your back. Remember to honor and take care of yourself as a form of political resistance…that helps all of us. It’s time to take your rightful place and remember you are the magic that this world has been waiting for. Te quiero.
Edyka Chilomé is an internationally praised queer Salvadorian / Mexican American cultural worker. She has been asked to share her poetry and speak on social justice issues on multiple media platforms and in spaces around the country and Latin America including TEDx, NPR, Remezcla, and The Huffington Post. Edyka has produced and published numerous articles, essays, plays, and poems including a collection of poetry that explores queer indigenous mestizaje in the diaspora entitled “She Speaks|Poetry”. Her newest collection, “El Poemario del Colibrí” is an intimate look at joy and healing as political resistance and exemplifies what she calls literary activism. You can follow her on social media @edykachilome or learn more about her work at edykachilome.com.