Joe Olvera

I consider myself a pioneer practitioner of Chicano Lit. My first book,"Voces de la gente," was published by Ricardo Sanchez's Mictla Publications
in 1972. Since then I've been published extensively in anthologies and collections throughout the USA, including Grito del Sol - a journal put out
by Quinto Sol/Tonatiuh International in Berkeley, Calif. I am middle-age, 53 years old, but still a strong believer in Chicanismo and its many
powerful ramifications. I'm also a journalist/columnist, and am enjoying immensely the artistic/wordy endeavors of young Chicanos. Also, the Azteca
Web Page helps keep Chicanos abreast of new technology, and  it helps keep our words floating out there in Cyberspace - where we belong. The Aztecas
dead? Nunca! We're still here in all our myriad forms.

My e-mail address is: 


by Joe Olvera (c), 1998

Diosa, amorosa, tierra del sol
Te amo por tu bendito ser, por
tu habilidad de sobrevivir.
You became someone else,
and you survived.
You fooled everyone, esa.
You put on some glad rags, and
stars around your forehead and made
us believe you were someone else!
The Mother-of-God. A dark Mother-of-God.
Was it you, Diosa? Was it you who stared,
starry-eyed, and full of love for humanity.
Was it you, Mother-Child, Earth Goddess
who adored mud? Was it you who changed
identities to save your people?
Did you pretend to be someone you're not,
so that your own could survive, would not die,
would not be killed at gachupin
history, murderous, armor-clad hounds?
Oh, you Mother Earth. You fooled us, didn't you.
How clever of you to imprint your flowery image on the
mantel of that poor Indian Juan Diego.
El Juanito believed, esa Diosa.
He knew it was you, Tonantzin.
But, he made believe that the creation
had splattered itself on his brown skin.
Pobre Indio. How you used him, esa.
You blew his mind and so the people believed.
They accepted you as someone other than who
you were. How clever. You saved millions of
lives by what you did. Were you aware? You
knew, verdad, esa Diosa de la Tierra. You knew
what you were doing all the time. And, see. They
still worship you. Tonantzin, Madre de la Tierra.
Pues, orale pues, esa Diosa. Dejate cae.

"El Rey del Barrio"

by Joe Olvera (c), 1998

Se creia vuti el vato, tu sabes, with
his spit-shined Army Paratrooper
boots and his curly, black hair combed
back, ala Gilbert Roland style.
He was the returning hero, el Rey del Barrio,
with women hanging on his arms, wanting
to give him everything. I mean everything,
in alleys/callejones de la noche, donde la
lechusa se sentaba para ver lo que queria
ver. Y el vato se sentia deaquea, porque las
huisas lo adoraban, simon, ese.
His torica was fast, black-brother talk and
his moustache belied his tender years, his
Azteca countenance proud because he knew.
He jumped out of  airplanes, man, y nadie del
barrio had ever done that before. So he knew
that he was "especial," with that special flavor
that only those vatos who had left the barrio,
and returned, understood - only they knew what
horros they had seen in Gringolandia.
I mean, signs on restaurant walls about Meskins
and Perros, vato, staying out. You know?
And el Rey del Barrio knew he was no king, but
he could be if he wanted to, que no? He knew he
was probably descended from Kings, and he knew
it in the barrio, man. But once he was out there
in that horrible social studies land, he changed.
No longer el rey, man. He sweated out glory sticks
and brown-skin desmadres. Stay out, Meskin, you
lazy, good for nothing vato! Just stay the hell out!
And el Rey del Barrio would walk cabiz baja. You
know, man, con el cranio ensenando.
His pride, a battered shell. But you know what, raza?
He dared where others wouldn't. El Rey del Barrio
paved the way, man. He made it possible by stepping
outside barrio walls. He made it possible for our
survival, man. Can't deny that. No sirree, can't deny it.

"Hey tu, Jesus Cristo"

by Joe Olvera (c), 1998

This is me, vato
You know, el pelado
conscriptor, blasphemous as
all get out, but de buen corazon, you know?
Well, I've got some questions for you, ese.
Did you know? Did you know that your
name has been used and abused all in the
name of heaven and tortas calientitas,
but with calamity?
Did you know, ese, that entire wars
have been created and
entire populations have been wiped from the
face of this very earth, all in your name, ese?
Did you know the trials and tribulations
through which people have been wrung,
all in your name, carnal?
Have you  known that the bloody asp of creation
has put forth its foot and demanded that we
believe in you, or else?Did you see the blood flow, from your place in
heaven, did you approve, as you sat at the right
hand of your father, handing down doom and
indignation, thunderous bolts of
lightning flinging off your righteous fingertips
to land atop broken skulls and prayer wheels?
Come on, vato, tell me. I want to know.
Did you smile through broken brows and
Inquisitions, crimes against the sins of man?
Or did  you sadden, heartrbroken that your ruse
didn't work. You know, your ruse, your trick,
your guise, your gentle fright. Your dying for the
sins of man didn't work, ese. Because people are
still dying, I'm afraid. Still killing each other, still
poking holes through pompous feet, the strains of
life still degenerating to the lowest common
denominator - death! Did you know, vato?
Or did you care? Do you weep, still? Jesus man.


by Joe Olvera (c), 1998

The wind howls, through the valley,
dark, mysterious.
Barrio walls tremble at the sound,
the whine rattles windows, pushes
hard against flimsy doors.
Ehecatl, the night wind, birther of
hurricanes, calamiter of vidas humanas,
rattles my bones, makes me shake
in my boots.
Ehecatl, you bloody raptor, how
you made my hair stand on end, because
I believed you  were La Llorona. See, we
lived near the canal, that brown, watery,
extrasensory canal, and I thought that She was
haunting there. Searching for her children.
You know the story. She drowned her kids
and now searches for them, after death, in all
the water-ways of the world. Pobre  ruca.
But it wasn't her, see. It was Ehecatl, that
sly trickster, who gathered up dusty, barrio
objects in his claws and made them fly.
Scary as hell, man. But that's Ehecatl,
windy demon, blowing creation, fierce
winds that gathered force, power, and shook
barrio walls indiscriminately.
Hay que aire tan airoso, y tan misterioso.

"Un Viejo Anciano

by Joe Olvera (c), 1998


Yes, I am Chichimeca,
of the ancient land. I think.
Or am I Mayan, Purepecha,or Ule-Meca?
I wonder-what am I?
I look at my brown skin, dark,
powerful, fragrant, brown as the dark bark of oak.
And I wonder - who am I?
My eyes, almost slanted - Asiatic,
aghast at the sights they've seen.
Mad death, singularly beautiful summer
evenings, where the barest whisper catches
on the wind and carries through barrio streets.
Las noches tristes, las noches alegres,
recuerdos - memories of ancient drums,
drums that tore out my heart when I ran through
deep-seated woods and my crotch stripped bare
for all the world to see.
And, I wonder - hey vato, quien soy yo?
Where do I belong? De donde vengo, pa' donde voy?
Simon, my wide-spread nose, a blotch on my face,
my pointy head and huge eyebrows, Buddha-like.
I dream of ancient nights, spent underneath blooming
trees, sacrifice, bloody sacrifice as I wait for my taste
of someone's thigh, a piece of bone to soothe my
hunger pains. Chale vato, no cae pedo. Because that
was me in my ancient memory.
What was then is no more, but I still exist.
I'm still here. Azteca, Chichimeca, Tarascan,
Huitzilopochtli bound, I gather my leaves about me
and saunter, head held high, proud. My memory - an
ancient ruin. Pero sabes que, vato? No cae pedo.
A dream runs wild, amok. In perpetuity.

 Back to the Previous Page