“Celebrate” by Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca


Five hundred and five years
tortillas slapping between mamas’ hands,
farmers irrigating red and green chili, squash, and corn rows,
forming halves into wholes, braiding
two roots into one thriving, ever-deepening, mother-root
bridge between black and white,
blood rainbowing
opposite shores,
connecting south to north, east to west.

Five hundred and five years
of prayers mumbled from lips,
hands clasping other hands to endure,
keeping the line intact,
unbroken hope, rosaried faith,
from Incas, Moctezuma, Cortez, Villa y Chavez,
to the anonymous men sitting on park benches
meditating on the dawn,
to women climbing cathedral steps to attend Mass,
to whimpering, wakening infants
suckling at their mothers’ breasts.

Five hundred and five years
and still they remain
all beating with strong hearts,
hearts celebrating the magic songs,
acts of courage that leap from them
and integrity
that shines from them.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Writers


Jimmy Santiago Baca (from Working in the Dark): “One night in my third month in the county jail, I was mopping the floor in front of the booking desk. Some detectives had kneed an old drunk and handcuffed him to the booking bars. His shrill screams raked my nerves like a hacksaw on bone, the desperate protest of his dignity against their inhumanity. But the detectives just laughed as he tried to rise and kicked him to his knees. When they went to the bathroom to pee and the desk attendant walked to the file cabinet to pull the arrest record, I shot my arm through the bars, grabbed one of the attendant’s university textbooks, and tucked it in my overalls. It was the only way I had of protesting.” (web)

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