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Mexican American Literature

Biographies of Houston Authors.

Hugo Esteban Rodríguez

Hugo Esteban Rodríguez is a Mexican-American writer, poet, essayist and educator living in Houston, Texas with his wife and three dogs. He was born and raised in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico and later in Brownsville, Texas. He considers himself a son of Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley.  His work has appeared in Neon Mariposa, Mathematician Transmission, Marias at Sampaguitas, The Airgonaut, The Acentos Review, Spirit's Tincture, HEART Journal, Picaroon Poetry, and the Texas Poetry Calendar.  He was formerly an assistant editor for Bartleby Snopes; Latinx Features Editor at Rabble Lit; and currently reads slush for Interstellar Flight Press. 

He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. His debut collection of short stories, And Other Stories, was released in 2018 through La Casita Grande Editores.

 His short story, The Ritual, was longlisted for Wigleaf's Top 50 and was nominated by The Airgonaut as part of their slate for the Pushcart Prize and Best Short Fictions in 2016.  On his free time, he enjoys annoying his wife with bad puns; reading and writing short stories and poetry; cooking experiments; listening to podcasts; going to concerts; and supporting the San Antonio Spurs

Interview with the Auther

Remembered, like Freddy

and an entry on several Wiki pages, notable alumni, writer
expat, exile categorized in the path of least resistance
to the very same labels I now crave

the stereotype of a man bleeding ink stains
in forgotten laundry, absent-minded strands of thought
are fraying leisure (we daydreamed too much)

but Freddy looks on when I leave
and when I come back, impassive in San Benito
a sentinel, and white on green below

points to Brownsville in the South

And our Aztlan, our Zion, Gringolandia, pa’l norte, northbound
crawling through the concrete braids
of U.S. Highways 77 and 83

when I left, I wanted to come back, in songs and letters
and leave the same way: an imprint of home

a river. an island. a daydream in Parker blue
and khaki bags, a breakfast taco

tortilla de harina, barbacoa
wrapped in foil and torn movie stubs

fluttering from Spanish battlements
101 St. Joseph, 80 Fort Brown
black shirts, blue jeans, and shuttered bookstores

I read to escape

I read Rowling, Clancy, Turtledove and Zinn
as I read Sabina, Sabines and lyrics to Mexican rock
heavy metal and norteña, like now I read Cisneros
and Butcher, Strand and Lorca, Saenz and Abnett
 

I read to escape

 

a beat-up Ford and southbound windows facing operating systems that demanded we congregate
in a Sunrise, north into silver screens and and tortas and pizza and chicken

and I listened

when Freddy played rancheras, he played country and he played Tejano and he played swamp pop
and rock and roll with the Texas Tornados
and Los Super 7

and I listened

to Freddy and Baldemar Garza Huerta

Anglicized is what's prized, but I took my father's name

And I took my mother’s name, their example
Rodriguez, Castañeda, labor of love, love of labor

and I want

to write my own corridos like my grandfather
and represent my Matamoros, my Valley
lo nuestro, lo mio, ours and mine,
the sabal and nopal both drink from the Rio
 

and I want

 

To be called Mexicatl, because Mexica Tiahui

Call me Texan, independent

Call me Anahuac, so close to my baptismal

Gulf of Mexico

call me like you call the river,

Bravo, Grande

Like los maestros who nurtured poetry
through song, dance and rebellion

change under the sign of Venus
the delta, a floodplain
and in the skies above, dos aguilas, two eagles
chase the duende, chase the dragon

 

Nada que declarar/Nothing to declare

 

I crossed during the day through los tomates

Bridges old and new, bridges to el norte

A man in blue asks me

“Nada que declarar? Nothing to declare?”

 

Officer, I declare myself an immigrant, a refugee, an exile, an opportunist

But your Fox News will declare me otherwise, and they will narrate my life

In the style of a nature documentary

 

Here we have the brown parasite, sapping nutrients from a lenient host

That just allowed this invasion

Thanks Obama

 

This “parasite” has a voice that declares this land is your land, this land is my land

From Ellis Island to Brownsville, Texas

A land built on broken treaties, immigrant labor, shopping malls

And corn

 

I declare a land seen through rose-tinted glasses

The cliché of every man, woman, and child flowing north, free trade, free exploitation

And an American flag waves in the distance over a detention center

A prison in South Texas

Where three little boys from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador

Cry out for their missing mother in a song

 

A corrido about a deadly train and the struggle

Between ranchers and Jackals

And a river of brown and green sludge that hides the bodies of those who failed so hard so well

 

Bodies that declare themselves witnesses to the conflict between heaven and hell

And the hand that once drove a bayonet into Mexico’s heart

Is the same that took the still-beating hearts from prisoners of war

And offered them as sacrifices to the sun-god Huitzilopochtli

I declare we are pagans

 

We are pagans who take the entire head of the cow and scoop barbacoa into tacos

And eat fried worms bought from little bags in truck stops

And grilled grasshoppers from a man at the plaza

Pagans who thrive in suffocating heat and humidity

 

I declare we are the barbarians at the gates

And the poets in your midst and we are here to create

And build with you, not in spite of you and we want to be loved

Not feared

Because what is there to fear?

 

Fear the man with the badge who kills with impunity

In broad daylight

Fear the congressman who believes in a government so small

It can fit inside your bedroom, your closet, your uterus

Do not fear the man who faced a hundred deaths for his family

Do not fear the woman who will make every bad thing go away

With some vaporru and some caldo de pollo

Do not fear the children who will play outside in the dirt

With a rubber ball and tattered sweaters as goalposts

And fancy themselves champions of the world

 

Because I do declare we are the children of kings

And swear loyalty to those that call us hermano

And work with us to make things better for everyone

Because I do declare this land is my land

This land is your land

This land is our land


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