Raul Salinas was a poet, activist, teacher, and wise elder in our Austin community and the rest of Turtle Island. His loss is felt throughout many people’s lives because he inspired and taught others the power of poetry and of being politically active to help improve our world.
Raul first opened Resistencia Bookstore in 1983. Throughout the years, the bookstore has been a home for artists from all over the world. It is the people’s bookstore – a sacred space for sharing, reflecting, and strategizing.
It is because of Raul that I feel empowered to continue to write poetry. He always reminded others, especially youth at risk that poetry is Liberating, Empowering, and Healing. He is greatly missed, but will never be forgotten. His energy will always be felt.
I wrote the following poem on August 25, 2007 and recited this poem for a tribut to Raul Salinas at Austin’s Mexican American Cultural Center. This was the last public tribute for Raul before he passed away on February 13, 2008.
About your Presence and Survival
by Erika González
inspired by raúlsalinas’ poem “About Invasion and Conquset”
Who will be left to tell of what happened to us, Grandfather?
Who will be left to tell of what happened to us, Grandmother?
Among those who survive, there will be poets to recount that which happened to us.
Among those survivors, a cockroach poet was born – en el Pinto – del maiz that grew
along cemented walls – that died each day only to be reborn – turtle coming out of shell –
tough outer skin protecting revolutionary insides –
surviving to tell the stories of a man who broke penitentiary walls with words
shone sunlight through keyholes
and opened doors for la pura verdad
to heal barrio cries and broken spirits.
Died and reborn out of mother earth’s womb as a Native to these Americas
with trenzas indigenas, y brown listón, red bandana y tatuajes con coded
messages for the world to decipher.
And in a dream of word offerings, a young Xicanita asks,
“Who will be left to tell of what happened to us?
When our trees are being cut, our homes destroyed, our families displaced,
our people locked up or dead, our earth in retaliation to the contamination.
Who will be left?
And in total Resistance y Pure Dignidad, “Es la palabra que no nos pueden quitar” me dice
La historia – the story cannot be locked up, the story cannot be shackled, the story cannot
When a survivor emerges and reaches out his hand to little Xicanitas like me –
to La Resistencia y la Poesia de las Calles y la comunidad –
Eso es sobrevivir – that is real survival and a gift of life –
to tell – to change – to heal – to recount what happened in our struggles
y siempre pasar la palabra
y siempre pasar la palabra
today – today – today
Tell your story to survive
and know that you have the power to change the way the story ends
con Resistencia y Plena Dignidad.