These poets define what love and Latinidad mean to them

?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times los poetry series maria contreras

Love has a way of gathering humanity. When I think about what it takes to be a good global citizen, the word “love” is at the center of that tree. If our tree for love had branches, they would remind us that love has infinite arms that stretch all over the world: love for each other, love for the land, love for our faith and our God. Love is always in the room when we choose to evolve past our fears — when we choose to lean into freedom.

This year, I have chosen to focus on how love liberates and allows us to be brave and confront our truth. For me, confronting my truth means to acknowledge this land is the Indigenous tierra of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now called North America. On that belief, we must honor all those who have been stripped of their history, their humanity and their land. And we must remember our people as both living and present, if not by embodiment, then by spirit. They are always among us and they will always return.

As Febraury is a month dedicated to love, I asked four of my favorite poets to define what love means for those with a complicated history of immigration, assimilation and survival. If we have felt the power of love, how do we challenge the present state of the world? How can we name the tenderness of longing for a more loving world and still speak of the beauty we have created in our communities? How does our survival strengthen a culture of love that colors the world awake?

This series of poems by Dhayana De Los Santos, Angélica Maria Aguilera, Elisabet Velasquez and Yaissa Jimenez draw on the spiritual, the emotional and the vulnerable to connect us to the driving forces of adoration for who we are to ourselves and to others. Our poems are for all the lovers who want to make their way back home. A reminder that this life is a gift we all deserve.

Melania Luisa Marte

we, the greatest love poem

let this be a warning that swells.
that i, ocean, rise from exile onto
the shore that is my skin.
i have found my sacred light.

tell them the boats have been damned.
they will hear folklore hummingbirds in me.
minerals and gold inside my reefs.
i do not care to explain my briny plight.

let this be a casualty of outlandish love.
that only a doubting thomas has lost.
tell him, we drown out his fantasy of war.

our salt, a permanent stain of revolution.
resistance. tempting free things in our waters.
chaotic as it may be, we long to live and love.
may it liberate the bleeding poem in all of us.

Melania Luisa Marte is a writer, poet and musician from New York living between the Dominican Republic and Texas. Her viral poem “Afro-Latina” was featured on Instagram’s IGTV for National Poetry Month and has garnered over 9 million views. Her work has been featured by Ain’t I Latina, AfroPunk, The Root, Teen Vogue, Telemundo, Refinery29 and elsewhere. “Plantains and Our Becoming” is her debut book of poems.

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