CHRISTIAN MENDEZ / Coachella Unincorporated
The smell of pozole and tostadas floated through the air as a group of women and young people gathered for a poetry workshop at the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club in Mecca, Calif.
After the group had finished chatting about their jobs and families, the conversation quickly turned to the real reason they had gathered on a Tuesday night: to discuss Spanish poetry and literature.
The “No Solo del Pan Vive El Humano, Clases de Poesia y Cuentos Cortos en Español” workshop is offered to community members free of charge thanks to the Crisalida a McCallum Theater Art Initiative, which focuses on promoting the arts in the eastern Coachella Valley, and is facilitated by Maria Galaviz Luna, an east valley resident.
The workshops are scheduled to continue every Tuesday night from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm till May 26, 2015.
Luna said these workshops offer this largely migrant community an opportunity to connect with each other around poetry and literature from their culture.
“Aside from eating and dressing, we also have to culture our minds and hearts,” Luna said.
During the workshop Luna encouraged participants to freely participate and contribute ideas without the fear of being shamed.
“No hay nada feo,” Luna said in Spanish, meaning, “There is nothing ugly shared.”
After the communal dinner, Luna helped participants start their first activity. Each participant was asked to use their imagination to create a fictional story on the spot by using different objects on their tables, like pencils and rocks. Every object had to have a back story. One participant told a story about a pencil that was brought from Mexico to be used for her children’s homework.
Next the group participated in a “Yo soy,” or “I am” activity, an activity where individuals were asked to give a sincere self-description. This activity encourages participants to think about who they are as an individual and their identity.
Activities like these might not typically be found at a traditional poetry and literature workshop, but the goal of this gathering was to help participants realize poetry can be found in everyday aspects of their lives.
One example of this was when Luna began reading lyrics by Joan Sebastian, a famous Mexican singer and songwriter. Though Sebastian isn’t a world-renowned poet, his lyrics, and those of Paquita la del Barrio, are staples in the Mexican music world and culture. And these “poets of the streets” are especially well-known by the group of women who began giggling when Luna read an except from one of Paquita la del Barrio’s songs, “Rata de dos Patas,” or “The two-legged rat,” referring to her tumultuous relationship with a man.
One of the workshop attendees, Maria E. Rios, 65, said she was glad the workshop existed, since it provides community members of all ages an opportunity to further their education.
“There are many people here that did not have the privilege of having an education aside from elementary school, and they do not have the opportunity to develop the talents they have,” Rios said in Spanish.
For more information on the workshops, contact Maria Galaviz Luna at 760-351-6989 or at [email protected]