Category Archives: Gómez-Peña, Guillermo

Guillermo Gómez-Peña: I Could Only FIght Back in My Poetry

While I am wary of anything that generalizes anyone, there is a greater truth to this poem in that Gómez-Peña is fighting not necessarily one person, but an attitude from people like that person. It’s a dangerous line where on one side is enlightenment of truth and on the other failed empathy, however, I think the poem works quite well.

There seems to be right away an argument, “I tried to explain” is then followed by a slight insult, “Texas had once been a Mexican ranch”. I like his use of the word “ranch” because it evokes “raunch” as if Texas is a dirty backwater filled with ignorant cattle (which the poem is getting at anyway), but also it declares ownership, too. A ranch is an operation run by someone who controls the whole thing and has dominion over all the living things on it. And there is the Western motif of cattle rustlers (cattle thieving) as one of the worst crimes you could commit in the west, and the implication is that the ranch was stolen from the Mexican’s.

I like the line “‘gringo-bashing ideology’” because this seems like a legitimate argument this sort of person would make. They feel they are in the right and that anyone who has a problem with them is somehow just racist against white’s. It’s a strange victim complex you see in people with limited understanding. But the line is also a plea, it’s saying there’s a more complicated situation going on here. It’s not that gringos are bad, but that there are real divides and differences that need to be overcome. There is real racism here, from both sides, actually.

“Meskin”, great use of sound and spelling to inhabit the character of the Texan this poem is addressed to. You can feel and hear the disdain to even properly say the race of them man his is beating. This is followed by the humor of “& not that skilled in cross-cultural diplomacy” which takes the power away from the Texan and gives it back to the poet who keeps his good cheer through this terrible event. Basically the Texan can’t beat anything out of the Mexican, he only gets stronger (figuratively).

I suppose the “gentle mariachi” could be the poet, and that’s why the fight started – he tried to hit on the Texan’s wife and so got beat up. He tried to maybe steal something back from Texas? He seems to have been successful, too because the wife seems willing to go. However, we have a weird misogyny here (machismo) where the woman is like cattle on a ranch. What are her feelings in all this?