You are here

Pablo Pueblo by Alex Perez

Pablo Pueblo 2016
by Alex Perez

For Rubén Blades, Pablo Pueblo, and the songs to liberate two and a half continents.

My name is Pablo Pueblo,
and all I’ve left to ponder is whether paradise
still slips from the tip of America’s tongue
like a lover’s sweet nothings.
Pablo Pueblo is the name of my father,
a handyman still hassling over cable boxes in LA.
Pablo Pueblo was the name of my grandfather,
a desperado who downed federales like double-shots of tequila.
Pablo Pueblo was even the name of an early ancestor,
a viceroy who conquered half a continent, killed Indian kings,
and raped a rural woman who wandered from the highlands
and gave birth to a pedigree of Pablo Pueblos.

Pablo Pueblo’s the name of all my neighbors too,
and we live on the east side of every west coast town,
and we live on the west side of every east coast city.
Pablo Pueblo waits for work at your local hardware store,
slangs your preferred party favor from his pick-up truck,
works overtime from every maquila in America,
and Pablo Pueblo still picks grapes from fields first tilled
by the Pablo Pueblos that preceded us.

Pablo Pueblo is as brown as the indios of Abya Yala,
as black as the unbroken cargo of mankind’s cradle,
and as white as the wayward kin of conquistadors.
Pablo Pueblo has a man’s name, and acts tough,
but Pablo Pueblo’s mother was named Pablo Pueblo,
and all his daughters are named Pablo Pueblo too.
Pablo Pueblo may or may not have the papers
for a peace of mind, but Pablo Pueblo knows
the accent he carries and the face he wears
are beyond the bounds of a rubber stamp
that could legalize his dignity.

Pablo Pueblo was never one for politics
or pundits or false promises, but this election,
in all its disdain, despair, and shattered dreams,
didn’t feel too foreign to Pablo Pueblo.
In the dog whistles that demonized us
and dreamed of a return to prosperity,
Pablo Pueblo heard echoes of a caudillo’s cry.
In the silhouette of a colorful strongman,
Pablo Pueblo saw shadows of Trujillo and Pinochet.
In the pledge to be the people’s champion,
Pablo Pueblo smelled the same bullshit
he thought he scraped off his boot
before he stepped over the border.

Pablo Pueblo, the gawky college kid
who came from Pablo Pueblos,
once carried more hope than
Pablo Pueblo, the migrant worker
whose heart was first broken by a nation
when he realized he had to leave his.
It’s only after the fact that I realize:
Pablo Pueblo knew this country
far better than anyone else did,
even when he wasn’t born here.
Pablo Pueblo knew that every vote cast
would echo and rebound as the rancor
of a nation that would never understand us,
a nation that would build a wall before they built a home,
a nation that would gag us with a mouth full of ballots
for another four years, when all we want to do is scream:

o cualquier chingadera
que me maldicen después.

I am Pablo Pueblo, and we’ve lived here
before this place was ever even thought
to be called America.

Pablo Pueblo is more American
than every Americano,
but Pablo Pueblo isn’t sure
if we’ll ever feel that way.
Pablo Pueblo won’t ever feel American
until America sees Pablo Pueblo was once
Pablo Neruda on the pen,
Saint Paul preaching epistles,
and my Pop still tuning cable boxes.
Pablo Pueblo won’t ever feel American
until a campaign comes around
for every Pablo Pueblo tired and poor,
Pablo Pueblo homeless and tempest-tossed,
Pablo Pueblo yearning to breathe free,
Pablo Pueblo huddled beside the lamp
of a golden door held open
but always walled off.
Pablo Pueblo won’t ever feel American
until all the Pablo Pueblos see a day
where even Pablo Pueblo
could run for president too.

About the Author
Alex Perez is a senior at UC Santa Cruz majoring in Literature (Creative Writing). Alex was raised in the San Fernando Valley, and his work touches on issues of identity, immigration, alientation, and dreaming. His work has appeared in publications in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, and he is the 2016 recipient of the Kenneth Andrew Gram Memorial Scholarship.

Artist's Statement:
Writing has been a creative outlet for me since childhood, and I’m grateful to receive recognition for an essential passion of mine. My background growing up in the Northeast San Fernando Valley as the son of immigrants has made me sensitive to issues surrounding working­class Latino communities, and my personal experience with depression has made me sensitive to the ways in which the internal self processes the external world. In addressing both communal struggles of oppression and personal struggles of doubt, I attempt to express the anxieties of the alienated in the intersection between reality and fantasy.

Since I transferred to UCSC in the Fall of 2015, I believe my writing has flourished under the guidance of an excellent program and amazing mentors. I’m especially thankful to have studied under professors that address critical concerns surrounding ethnicity, class, and gender in the realm of storytelling. My writing is in part my own attempt to come to grips with my identity, and I believe my time here has pushed me to collectively embrace disparate aspects of my life, from the humble to the ambitious, and from the academic to the irrational. With this award and the continued support of the Creative Writing Program, my goal is to continue to grow as a writer and bridge worlds real and imagined.