Posted by: turtlebella | 2 May 2007

Para mis hermanos

I heard this poem today on my (fabulous) local community radio station, KFAI, when I was in my car. Towards the end I arrived home and I just sat in the car, tears rolling down, listening.

Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem

All the vatos sleeping in the hillsides
All the vatos say goodnight forever
All the vatos loving their menudo
All the vatos faith in la tortilla
All the vatos fearing the alarm clock
All the vatos Wino Jefe Peewee
All the vatos even the cabrones
All the vatos down por vida homeboys
All the vatos using words like ranfla
All the vatos who woke up abandoned
All the vatos not afraid of daughers
All the vatos arms around their sisters
All the vatos talking to their women
All the vatos granting their forgiveness
All the vatos plotting wicked paybacks
All the vatos sleeping under mota
All the vatos with tequila visions
All the vatos they call maricones
All the vatos bleeding in the alley
All the vatos chased by helicopters
All the vatos dissed by pinches white boys
All the vatos bent to pick tomatoes
All the vatos smoked by Agent Orange
All the vatos brave in deadly classrooms
All the vatos pacing in the prisons
All the vatos pierced by needle lightning
All the vatos who were once our fathers
All the vatos even veteranos
All the vatos and their abuelitos
All the vatos proud of tatuajes
All the vatos carrying a lunch pail
All the vatos graduating law school
All the vatos grown up to be curas
All the vatos never been to misa
All the vatos Jimmy Spider Tito
All the vatos lost their tongues in Spanish
All the vatos can’t say shit in English
All the vatos looking at her photo
All the vatos making love till morning
All the vatos stroking their own hunger
All the vatos faded clear as windows
All the vatos needing something better
All the vatos bold in strange horizons
All the vatos waiting for tomorrow
All the vatos sure that no one loves them
All the vatos sure that no one sees them
All the vatos sure that no one hears them
All the vatos never in a poem
All the vatos told that they don’t belong here
All the vatos beautiful young Aztecs
All the vatos warrior Apaches
All the vatos sons of Guadalupe
All the vatos bad as la chingada
All the vatos call themselves Chicanos
All the vatos praying for their children
All the vatos even all you feos
All the vatos filled with life eternal
All the vatos sacred as the Sun God
All the vatos Flaco Pepe Gordo
All the vatos rising from their mothers

All you vatos you are not forgotten.

-Luis Urrea



  1. Que fuerte! Thanks for sharing it. I’m supposed to be coming back from lunch, but I have to clean up the tears first. :)

  2. ay ay ay…gracias, ‘mana for posting this–very beautiful.

  3. ok ok, confession, so i didn’t know what vatos were. . . I had to look it up in Wikipedia: Vato (also Bato) is a Mexican slang equivalent to “man”, “dude”, pal, or brother. It can also be used to refer to a fellow gang member. According to the Chicano poet Luis Alberto Urrea, the word originated in Pachuco slang of the 1940s, and is derived from “the once-common friendly insult chivato, or goat. It had a slightly unacceptable air to it, which the Locos and Weesas of the Chuco world enjoyed. They were able to take the sting out of racism by calling themselves a bunch of names assimilated ‘good Mexicans’ didn’t like.”

  4. thanks daniela – great poem to wake up to here.

  5. hey, i didn’t know the etymology of ‘vato’ – that’s pretty cool that it was kind of derogatory and then reclaimed…

  6. there’s a lot of our chican@ stuff that was, for real–chican@ itself is reclaimed. my dad could speak pachuco–but he never taught me. but when i started studying chican@ lit, I recognized so many words from back home–i wish more mexicans would teach their damn kids their languages…it hurts not knowing all this beautiful stuff.

  7. Yeah, I know bfp, I wish I could know thin kind of thing too….I had a similar experience when I first read Chican@ lit, things seem vaguely familiar like I know it froma nother life or something…

  8. “All the vatos brave in deadly classrooms
    All the vatos pacing in the prisons
    All the vatos pierced by needle lightning
    All the vatos who were once our fathers”

    damn, that’s beautiful–great hot Sunday afternoon poetry. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Que hermoso. Grax por compartirlo.

  10. Gracias!! Powerful.

  11. So powerful. thank you…

  12. I heard Urrea’s epic poem on NPR for the first time and I now I have read it. Where does this poem fit in World Literature?I have an analysis that is unique. This poem has its own rubric. It is called the puro pedo scale…

    All the vatos left the room.

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