Indigenous Poetry from Mexico and Chile


We wish to thank Hubert Matiúwàa for authorizing the publication of his interview with Osiris Gómez, Dr. Luz María Lepe Lira for authorizing two interviews of the poet Enriqueta Lunez, and Héctor Martínez, General Director of Pluralia Ediciones e Impresiones, S.A. de C.V., for authorizing the publication of Hubert Matiúwàa’s poems that appear in this issue of LALT.


"From Kechurewe to Standing Rock: Indigenous Literature in Latin American Literature Today" by Arthur Dixon

"In 2016, the #NoDAPL movement in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, spearheaded by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, inspired a shift in perceptions of indigenous presence in the United States. One phrase rang out with particular strength throughout the months-long re-occupation of ancestral Oceti Sakowin lands in the pipeline’s path: “We are still here.”"


"The Blue World: A Conversation with Elicura Chihuailaf" by Sergio Rodríguez Saavedra

"I think that every (poetic) word spoken and/or written, regardless of its origin or which culture it belongs to, emerges from and resides in the soul of a people, and, for this reason, it echoes the voice of its ancestors. My words have their origin in the Mapuche vision of the world, which is my vision: the orality of the songs (poems), stories, and advice of my grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles, which is then widened with the worldview of deep chilenidad, Chilean-ness, which also speaks within me, in my spirit and in my heart, through its orality and its writing."


Two Poems by Elicura Chihuailaf

"I am withered grass / waving at the rain / but soon I feel the first drops / falling on the fields / Let this water soak me! / I hear myself say, dancing / amongst the flowers / When I wake up I will rise / touched / and held up by the scent / of lavender."



Two Poems by Graciela Huinao

"In my Williche grandfather’s eyes / fear set sail. / Death alone  / erased that timid gleam.  / But nature / could never / erase from my memory / the colors of the / archipelago / arrested in his face. / I must be true to you, grandfather: / I don’t remember the exact day. / I only see the geese / as they open and close / their wings / over the fields. / With my baby steps, grandfather / I couldn’t understand / the origins of your words."


Three Poems by Leonel Lienlaf

"In my dreams last night / a fox / was singing under my house / What are you doing there? / my voice asked him / he hid his face from me / behind his song. / Why are you hiding? / I shouted at / him from my bed / wac wac / was his answer."



"The Women Who Want to Speak": A Conversation with Enriqueta Lunez by Luz María Lepe Lira

"Enriqueta Lunez (1981) is a Tzotzil writer: a writer who forms part of the new generation in the intellectual field of literature in indigenous languages. This generation shares the trait of having a university education, which allows them to access spaces for discussion, dispersion and translation of their works that the first indigenous-language writers did not have."


Three Poems by Enriqueta Lunez

"Mama, I need your eyes / to see our wickedness. / I need your mouth, / to shout my father’s name in the afternoon. / I need your hands, / to knead nixtamal, stir up the fire, make the sign of the cross. / I need your feet, / to walk across the corn fields, visit our dead and dance. / Dear mother, it is urgent, / I need your eyes, mouth, hands and feet  / so I don’t forget we are rooted in the moon."


A review of Enriqueta Lunez's Sk’eoj jme’tik U / Cantos de Luna by Elisa Ramirez

"As we peer into Cantos de Luna by Enriqueta Lúnez we find poems that don’t jibe with what has been called archetypal indigenous poetry. Or to be more exact, her poetry is quite different from the verses produced by past generations of indigenous poets, and from the expectations of a qualifying public given the narrow concept of what constitutes indigenous poetry in the literary context of this country. Because Enriqueta doesn’t write indigenous poetry, but rather poetry – plain and simple – in an indigenous language and in elegant Spanish."


"Language as Alliance: A Conversation with Hubert Matiúwàa" by Osiris Gómez

"We are not formally taught to think in our native tongue and sometimes we forget how to speak it when we move to the city. Just like many other cultures around the world, we are in danger of disappearing; a culture that doesn’t create its own thought from its own language is more vulnerable to falling victim to a predatory system. In contrast, a culture with many artistic expressions has a much better chance at survival, like the Zapotecs, for example."


Three Poems by Hubert Matiúwàa

"Let us offer the word and gather a face, / let bone listen to the grey rock, / let us spread the great corn sheaf’s breath / and share a path with other flesh that speaks, / people from the next ridge, ñu savi rain people, people born of the night. / Let us leave word in the wind’s ear, / on the serpent’s skin, in that fig with white roots, / our voice will go there, day after day through the chalky earth."


A review of Hubert Matiúwàa's Xtámbaa / Piel de Tierra by Irma Pineda

"The stalk of our rage grows, Hubert Malina (Matiúwàa) tells us in one of the poems from Xtámbaa / Piel de Tierra. He speaks to us of the mountains of Guerrero, Lucio’s house, so vital to him, the buses that never return. If we have kept up with the news lately we know what he’s talking about and at the end of our reading we should have not one stalk but entire fields sown in a rage that might flower so as to change things for the better in this country. It can’t be any other way."