Celebrated from September 15th to October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month honors Hispanic and Latino communities’ rich history and culture.
What better way to celebrate than through the tradition of poetry and verse?
We’ve gathered seven poems and poets that beautifully capture the essence of Hispanic heritage, showcasing a diverse range of voices, experiences, and artistic expressions. These poets come from all across the Americas, bringing their unique stories and experiences to the page.
These poets deliver messages of resilience and revolution. They evoke emotions of love, anger, and shame. But most importantly they celebrate the identity, cultural traditions, and heritage of their communities through their literary contributions to the world.
In 2022, Ada Limon was named the United States Poet Laureate, becoming the first hispanic female poet laureate and released her latest collection The Hurting Kind. Her work has always been about keen observation, emotional honesty, and the natural world. Those elements truly shine in her poem, “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” a poem perfect for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
In “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” Ada Limón delivers a poignant message of resilience and hope. Her words transcend cultural boundaries, offering solace and encouragement to those facing adversity. The poem’s themes of perseverance and determination make it a fitting choice for Hispanic Heritage Month, as they echo the strength and resilience found within Hispanic and Latino communities.
If there is one poet who is a must-read for Hispanic Heritage Month it’s Pablo Neruda. Born in Chile, Neruda is a master at weaving together beautiful verse that are a testament to his love of his homeland. He has written countless poems, published numerous collections, and his work still resonates with readers today. His won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.
But Neruda’s legacy is made of so much more than just his contributions to the world of poetry. He was also a diplomat who would eventually be exiled from his beloved Chile. Due to his political beliefs, including speaking out against the Vietnam War, Neruda was also barred from entering the US. However, during this time, his fame as a tremendous poet only grew.
Huascar Medina, a poet of Dominican and Guatemalan descent, was the Poet Laureate of Kansa. His poems explore the complexities of identity and the interplay between cultures. His poem “Un Mango Grows in Kansas” takes readers on a journey through his cultural heritage.
Many in the Hispanic and Latino community have a mixed cultural heritage. Like Medina, many are also American. This leads to a truly unique experience and a melding of culture and traditions that Medina captures beautifully in his poetry. His work truly adds depth to the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
The Young People’s Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Acevedo, is a renowned Dominican-American poet and novelist. Most know her novels in verse, such as The Poet X, Clap When You Land, and With the Fire on High, Acevedo has won a number of awards and is a National Slam Poetry Champion. While any of her works would be a perfect way to celebrate Hispanic Heratige Month, there is one poem that stands out above the rest.
“Ode to the Head Nod” is a poem that explores identity, belonging, and understanding. This short poem looks at the unspoken languages between people of the same community and how those on the outside don’t quite understand the nuances. Acevedo’s work is truly authentic to her experiences and those of her community.
“Spanglish as Experienced by a Native Speaker” by John Oliveres Espinoza offers a unique perspective on the linguistic and cultural duality experienced by many in the Hispanic and Latino communities. As the son of Mexican immigrants, Espinoza grew up in a bilingual home and his poetry celebrates the beauty of Spanglish—a language born of the blending of Spanish and English.
Many Americans experience the world through blended languages. Hispanic and Latino Americans are no exception and, in many ways, Spanglish is a part of their heritage. Espinoza’s poetry collection, The Date Fruit Elegies is a tribute to this part of his identity.
The daughter of a Peurto Rican mother and immigrant Italian father, Ginese grew up in Ohio. But the resistance and resolve of her Peurto Rican roots are threaded throughout this poetry collection. Her poems explore the violent and feminine history of a body and an island that looks for freedom from imperial and colonial rule.
Written with humor and honesty, these poems are a perfect read for Hispanic Heritage Month.
” if you are ready to know salvation
at the cost
of a most merciless truth
because everything has a price
my dear. “
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Stephanie Ginese is an author, comedian, instructor, & self-proclaimed loud talker. Her work has been published with journals like Palabritas at Harvard, The Pinch journal at University of Memphis, Wax Nine Journal, and others. Unto Dogs is her debut poetry collection that focuses on themes of Puerto Rican nationalism, reproductive violence, and spirituality. Ginese currently lives in Cleveland with her two children.
This poetry collection takes readers on a journey, poem by poem, from the finding of a dead body to the through the solving of a crime. Pelayo plays out every step in the process. Readers are on a journey with the hero character, Agent K as the case plays out. But the real question is whether or not this crime will be solved or just another one left and forgotten.
Pelayo’s collection is a tribute to those who disappear before they ever really appear, the victims that people go on to forget too easily, the missing girls.
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History maker Cynthia Pelayo is the first ever Puerto Rican born to win the Bram Stoker Award. She also took home the 2022 Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection earlier this year. She writes a variety of genres, often blending them while exploring concepts of morning, violence, horror, and grief. Her works have been reviewed in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Review of Books, among others. Her forthcoming novel, The Forgotten Sisters, is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and will be released in 2024.
From the timeless verses of Pablo Neruda to the contemporary works of Ada Limón, these poets and their poems offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Hispanic heritage. Through their poetry, readers can connect. They can connect with the cultures, experiences, and emotions that define this vibrant community. That then helps gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity and resilience that are central to the Hispanic identity.
So, let us celebrate this month by embracing these exceptional poets and their poetry, and continue to explore the vast world of Hispanic poetry.