I Am Joaquin.
During the 1960s, many ethnic groups rejected the goal of assimilation as symbolized by the melting pot. "I Am Joaquin," a poem by Rodolfo Gonzales (1928- ), is a strong expression of the Mexican-American rejection of cultural assimilation. Published in 1967, the poem became a manifesto of the Chicano political movement. It is a long meditation on the history of the Chicano people, connecting them to their Aztec and Indian heritage, and using that history to bolster ethnic solidarity.
Born in Denver, Gonzales was a prize-fighter and a laborer as a youth, then owned a neighborhood bar. He became active in the Democratic Party in Denver, ran a bailbond business, and became chairman of Denver's antipoverty program in the early 1960s. In 1966, he founded the Crusade for Justice, a Mexican-American civil rights organization.
Originally Gonzales printed the poem himself and distributed more than 100,000 copies. It attracted so much attention among Chicano audiences that in 1972 it was published as a book. It is excerpted below. I am Joaquin, Lost in a world of confusion, Caught up in a whirl of a gringo society. Confused by the rules, Scorned by attitudes, Suppressed by manipulations, And destroyed by modern society. My fathers have lost the economic battle and won the struggle of cultural survival. And now! I must choose Between the paradox of Victory of the spirit, despite physical physical hunger Or to exist in the grasp of American social neurosis, sterilization of the soul and a full stomach. I shed tears of anguish as I see my children disappear behind the shroud of mediocrity never to look back to remember me. I am Joaquin. I must fight And win this struggle for my sons, and they must know from me Who I am. Part of the blood that runs deep in me Could not be vanquished by the Moors I defeated them after five hundred years, and I endured. The part of blood that is mine has labored endlessly five-hundred years under the heel of lustful Europeans I am still here! I have endured in the rugged mountains of our country I have survived the toils and slavery of the fields. I have existed in the barrios of the city, in the suburbs of bigotry, in the mines of social snobbery, in the prisons of dejection, in the muck of exploitation and in the fierce heat of racial hatred. And now the trumpet sounds, The music of the people stirs the Revolution, Like a sleeping giant it slowly rears its head to the sound of Tramping feet Clamouring voices Mariachi strains Fiery tequila explosions The smell of chile verde and Soft brown eyes of expectation for a better life. And in all the fertile farm lands, the barren plains, the mountain villages, smoke smeared cities We start to MOVE. La Raza! Mejicano! Espanol! Latino! Hispano! Chicano! or whatever I call myself, I look the same I feel the same I cry and Sing the same I am the masses of my people and I refuse to be absorbed. I am Joaquin The odds are great but my spirit is strong My faith unbreakable My blood is pure I am Aztec Prince and Christian Christ I SHALL ENDURE! I WILL ENDURE!
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|Title Annotation:||history and excerpts from the 1967 poem|
|Publication:||The American Reader|
|Article Type:||Reference Source|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1991|
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