23 Reasons Why Mexicanos Can Still Be Found in a Walmart
after Juan Felipe Herrera’s “187 Reasons Why Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border”
con amor para los 23 del 3 de agosto del 2019/with love for the 23 of August 3, 2019.
Because we will still travel for a Walmart weekend in gringolandia.
Because we will still buy Bic pens in bulk so they last our children until they’re 21.
Because we will still recognize that 7-Eleven gas lasts longer than Pemex.
Because we will still smile when a dog sniffs our bags, troca or traseros.
Because we will still sweat into our shoes, jeans, eyes to climb the bridge and say “American.”
Because we will still pack Sabritas, Bonafont, and bedpan in our cars to wait in line for hours to show our green card.
Because we will still cross to Juárez to get tacos, tortas and steaks for the best taste and price.
Because we will still lick our fingers before grabbing the wheel to drive back to El Paso.
Because we will still have a love/hate relationship with I-10, the kilometers turning into miles.
Because we will still whisper paciencia when Chuco people signal right but don’t, in fact, exit on Hawkins to get to Walmart.
Because we will still fundraise for our daughter’s fútbol team under this sun.
Because we will still think maldita sea when we see the Equate brand of Gain is out.
Because we will still scoff at the price of avocados and think esto no puede ser aguacate Hass.
Because we will still think we’re beating the Orange Man by knowing where to buy what.
[Because we are beating him. We’re la frontera, the border, no one looks or does it like us!]
Because we will still say thank you and gracias or thankyou-gracias to the cashier.
Because we will still be as warm as August, the warmest-turned-coldest month.
Because we will still give our backs to bullets so our children and spouses don’t die.
Because we will still feel 23 lives in our necks’ cuero enchinado but stay free; no prison or suicide watch.
Because we will still leave our screen, wood and metal doors open. To anyone.
Because we will still walk while brown in a Walmart (or Target, Sam’s, or Ross) and walk tall.
Because why not? Because heart. Because God. Because Mighty Mexican Super Ratón. Because human.
Adolfo Cerros Hernandez &
Sara Esther Regalado Moriel
Alexander Gerhard Hoffman
Andre Anchondo &
Elsa Mendoza de la Mora
Gloria Irma Marquez
Ivan Filiberto Manzano
Javier Amir Rodriguez
Jorge Calvillo Garcia
Juan de Dios Velazquez Chaires
Leo Campos &
Luis Alfonzo Juarez
Maria Eugenia Legarreta Rothe
Maria Flores &
Copyright © 2021 by Alessandra Narváez Varela. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Poems come to us at different speeds; this one jumped from my fingertips to the screen. I credit the speed of this process to the outcry and profound sense of loss experienced by the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez communities after losing 23 people to a ruthless act of violence that openly targeted a so-called ‘Hispanic invasion,’ echoing the words of an anti-immigrant president. An act of white supremacist terror whose most recent victim passed away in April 2020. The air was charged when I wrote this poem, and I was but one person who attempted to memorialize the lives that were lost, to honor their families, and to resist the attempted erasure of humanity that motivates mass shootings. I also had the help of Juan Felipe Herrera, whose powerful poem sets up the use of the anaphoric ‘Because,’ which wounds and builds as the poem progresses, so that the stories, the reasons, the English and the Spanish, can echo in readers’ minds.”
—Alessandra Narváez Varela