Speaking to the multifaceted experience of being a Latina, these poets have made a name for themselves using the power of their carefully crafted words. The fearless Latinas on this list are speaking their truths even if it is controversial and in turn shedding light on what it’s like to be a Latina today in all its complicated glory. Dominicana Elizabeth Acevedo talks pelo malo and the beauty of being Afro-Latina while Yesika Salgado talks heartbreak and loving your curves. These women are not afraid to claim their truths and speak to the complicated and beautiful reality of being a Latina and woman of color, read on to discover their works.
Elizabeth Acevedo, a born and bred New Yorker, infuses her poetry with Dominican flavors and the grittiness of the city. The topics she tackles include European beauty standards (“Hair”), the intricacies of love (“Bittersweet Love Poem”), violence against women (“Spear”) and mixed cultures (“Afro-Latina”) and the only thing more fierce than her words is her delivery. She gesticulates as if the words come from her core not just her lips making her performances as passionate as her poetry.
She is the author of the chapbook, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths and her debut novel, The Poet X coming out March 6.
Lines from “Hair”:
My mother tells me to fix my hair. And by “fix,” she means straighten. She means whiten… My mother tells me to fix my hair, and so many words remain unspoken. Because all I can reply is, you can’t fix what was never broken.
A queer Latina from a multicultural background, Frohman develops her art to challenge gender norms and what is deemed “normal” in society.
Her poem “Accents” embraces the blend of unique vocabulary and melody of Latina moms speaking English while “Dear Straight People” is a head-on attack on those who are prejudiced against the LGBTQ community.
She’s performed at The White House and several colleges and her work has been published in books including Jotas: An Anthology of Queer Latina Voices and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. She’ll be touring this spring.
Lines from “Accents”:
My mother’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coquis of el campo. So even when her lips can barely stretch themselves around English, her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.
The self-described “LA born Salvadoran Fat Fly Poet” published her debut novel in the fall of last year entitled Corazón and is currently on tour.
Dripping with a fierce love of her curves, her poems bask in the glory of being “fat and beautiful” with works including “On the Bad Days” and “How Not to Make Love to a Fat Girl” along with her TedTalk “What Comes After Loving Yourself?”
Lines from “Fat and Sexy”:
I confuse him/ fat girl/ sexy/ like both can’t spill out the same mouth/ Like beautiful and cellulite/ can’t kiss between thighs.
Melissa Lozada- Oliva
She’s a self-proclaimed hairy, non-Spanish speaking, light-skinned Latina whose words expose a side of being Latina that’s not often talked about.
She initially caught people’s attention with her viral poem “My Spanish” exploring what it’s like to be a non-Spanish speaking Latina while “Like Totally Whatever” confronts the dominance of “white man’s sentences” as opposed to how women talk.
The NYC-based poet released her first book, Peluda in the fall of last year exploring the intersecting narratives of body image, hair removal, class and Latina identity. She’ll be promoting the book and touring throughout the year.
Lines from “My Spanish”:
If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish, I will tell you my Spanish is an itchy phantom limb. It is reaching for words, and only finding air.
If after watching her perform “Volver, Volver” you don’t find yourself overwhelmed with emotion and pride then check your pulse.
The Afro-Latina poet gracefully and passionately describes the experience of being a Black Mexican American, uplifting her ancestors and culture while tearing down colonialism (“Curanderismo”). Her poetry empowers where history dismantles in works like “Supremacy” and “Dear White Girls in my Spanish Class”.
Lines from “Curanderismo”:
If you are alive, you are descended from a people who refused to die. Nothing is more sacred than you.