El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poets

El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poets first began as a special section in the Massachusetts Review in 1995. The issue quickly sold out, inspiring poet and educator Martín Espada to expand the collection into an anthology of over forty Latino and Latina poets, all born between 1904 and 1977. All the poets are of Latin American descent, now living in the United States either by choice or as exiles, with an emphasis placed on those in the Northeast.

While there is certainly a diversity of styles and themes present in the collection, the poems also reveal shared passions for food and music, as well as common experiences of isolation and alienation. As Espada explains in his introduction: "Here we will find the open expression of anger and grief. There is the music of protest. There is the search for a reflection of one’s face after the mirror is broken. But there is also self-mocking humor, the quiet assertion of dignity and the raucous celebration of survival, not only in the individual but also in the collective sense."

Many of the poets explore the borders between English and Spanish, even fusing the two languages to create the bilingual idiom found in the work of Nuyorican poet Victor Hernández Cruz. There are frank depictions of racism in much of El Coro, including disquieting poems by Judith Ortíz Cofer and Chicana poet Demetria Martínez. The rich Latin American literary tendency toward magical realism and surrealism can be seen in the work of Jack Agüeros and Sandra Cisneros, among many others in the collection.

For further reading, a comprehensive collection of contemporary Chicano and Puerto Rican poets writing in the United States can be found in After Aztlan: Latino Poets of the Nineties edited by Ray González and published in 1992 by David Godine.