30 Poems by Iconic Latinx Writers We Love

We are always wanting to take in as much of our Latinx culture as we can

Photo: Flickr/Cherrie Moraga by Natália Otto SF Times

Photo: Flickr/Cherrie Moraga by Natália Otto SF Times

We are always wanting to take in as much of our Latinx culture as we can. The internet, however, has become such an ocean of information, we often don’t know where to paddle for quick and comprehensive roundups of certain topics. Take poetry for example: Where can you find a concise listing of Latin-American poets you should know about? Where can you find poems that you’ll want to read, know, and share with others? What if you wanted to find a roundup that features a mix of Latinx poets from all over Latin America? Don’t worry. We got you covered because you can find that all right here. Here are 30 poems by iconic Latinx poets you should know.

“You Foolish Men” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

“Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)” by Pablo Neruda

[translated by W.S. Merwin]

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes?

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her?
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance, someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of back then, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

“I Am Not Alone” by Gabriela Mistral

“I Was My Own Route” Julia de Burgos

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows,
and my feet level on the promissory earth
would not accept walking backwards
and went forward, forward,
mocking the ashes to reach the kiss
of new paths.

At each advancing step on my route forward
my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings
of the old guard.

But the branch was unpinned forever,
and at each new whiplash my look
separated more and more and more from the distant
familiar horizons;
and my face took the expansion that came from within,
the defined expression that hinted at a feeling
of intimate liberation;
a feeling that surged
from the balance between my life
and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.

Already my course now set in the present,
I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth,
of the soils without history,
of the soils without a future,
of the soil always soil without edges
of all the men and all the epochs.

And I was all in me as was life in me…

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows;
when the heralds announced me
at the regal parade of the old guard,
the desire to follow men warped in me,
and the homage was left waiting for me.

“Heroics” by Julia Alvarez

We keep coming to this part
of the story where we’re sad:
I’ve broken up with my true love
man after man.
You’ve found it.
Once, It was god.
Once, revolution
in the third world.
Now, It’s love.

You’ll survive, our mothers said
when romance was once.
Now they keep tight faces
for our visits home
and tell their friends
all that education
has confused us,
all those poems.

They have, we laugh,
and buy the dreams —
RedbookHouse Beautiful,
Mademoiselle & Vogue 
to read our stories in them
and send the clippings home.
Sometimes the bright chase
of ad lovers in a meadow set
sells us to belief again
in that worn plot of love …

Sadly, we turn the page
to right our hearts,
knowing our lives too well
to be the heroines
of our mothers’ stories.
We’re careful with the words
we pick, the loves with no returns
like the ones we wanted.
Aunts to our sisters’ boys,
we bring them squawking rubber monsters,
birthday poems pasted in the growing albums.

“Sunstone” by Octavio Paz

“The Three Wise Kings” by Ruben Dario

My name is Kaspar. I the incense bear.
The glamour of the Star has made me wise.
I say that love is vaster than the skies.
And God exits. And Life is pure and fair.

-My name is Melchior. And my myrrh scents all.
There is God. He is the light of morn.
The fairest blossoms from the dust are born,
And joy is shadowed by a threatful pall.

-My name is Balthasar. I bring a wreath
Of Orient gold, my gift. I come to say
That God exists. I know all by the ray
Of starry light upon the crown of Death.

-Balthasar, Melchior, Kaspar, be ye still.
Love triumphs and has bid you to his feast.
Radiance has filled the void, the night has ceased:
Wearing Life’s crown, Christ comes to work His Will!


“Emplumada” by Lorna Dee Cervantes

“To Live in the Borderlands” by Gloria Anzaldua

To live in the borderlands means you

are neither hispana india negra espanola

ni gabacha, eres mestizamulata, half-breed

caught in the crossfire between camps

while carrying all five races on your back

not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,

is no longer speaking to you,

the mexicanas call you rajetas, that denying the Anglo inside you

is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera

people walk through you, the wind steals your voice,

you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat,

forerunner of a new race,

half and half-both woman and man, neither-a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to

put chile in the borscht,

eat whole wheat tortillas,

speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;

be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,

the pull of the gun barrel,

the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands

you are the battleground

where enemies are kin to each other;

you are at home, a stranger,

the border disputes have been settled

the volley of shots have scattered the truce

you are wounded, lost in action

dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means

the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off

your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart

pound you pinch you roll you out

smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive the Borderlands

you must live sin fronteras

be a crossroads.

“Two Homelands” by Jose Martí

I have two homelands: Cuba and the night.
Or are they one and the same? No sooner
does his majesty, the sun, retire, than Cuba, with long veils,
and a carnation in hand, silent,
like a sad widow, appears before me.
I know that bleeding carnation
Trembling in her hand! It’s empty,
my chest is destroyed and empty,
where the heart once was. It’s time
to begin dying. The night is right
to say good-bye. The light is bothersome
and the word is human. The universe
speaks better than man.
Like a flag
inviting us to battle, the candle’s
red flame flickers. I open the windows
overwhelmed inside. Mute, plucking
the carnation’s leaves, like a cloud
darkening the sky, Cuba, a widow, passes by . . .

translated by Ilan Stavans

“Balas Chonas” by Cherrie Moraga

This is what matters about the Winnemem Wintu.
We matter.

As a damn-shackled river thrashes its swelling back
up against a concrete wall of shame,
Winnemem first daughters
in white over-sized tee shirts, the regalia of the common
and profound, dive for cooking stones.

For she who comes of age today, tradition
does not require skirt but knee-length basketball shorts
and a braid down her back, just like her brothers.’

The Winnemem do have their traditional wear,
the chief knowing
its importance, the ceremonial mandate of it,
where we all rise to the occasion of the best
of what a whole nation can honor.
It is also, she knows, the opportunity for photo,
its cultural capital in the public eye:
a recognizable unrecognized nation of “real Indians”
layered in leather and shell work.

But their real work resides in the daily stand —
off the mean spirit of spineless enterprise
drowning in its own reservoired state.
That ‘man’

The BIA, Arrowhead, The US Forest Service
could learn a thing or two from the salmon.

The Winnemem speak of it, life before the damn:
River so full, you could cross from bank to bank
on the silver backs of those fish.

What does it take to resist, to live outside violated treaties,
knowing that all those signed sheets of paper were already
laid like infected blankets over everyone’s great auntie?
Yours, too.

No Western romance here. Power is not played; it is worked.

A woman my age — soon sixty — grew into a chief. She was the only one left
and was picked from a small crowd of a fistful of sisters.
I am a Mexican-American.
At our family reunions, the number of people tied
by blood alone is greater than the entire surviving nation
of the Winnemem Wintu.
Yet the Winnemem stand
for what has already been stripped from me, from us:
land, water, the right to original ceremony.
Once, a human right;
we have nothing to lose for this struggle.

Imagine this.
You’re a teenager & a female looking over your chief’s shoulder
at a future chief will not witness and you can only imagine
its labor. Imagine
to be called in that way, to refuse to grow lazy and acquiesce
to oblivion. Imagine that. For our youth
that they would leave their oaktown, sanjo, east los street corners
and make rebellion from memory.

So, how do we come to see
that our own survival resides
on this small nation’s shoulders?
On these five feet of woman-chief,
shrinking in her daily refusal of food and fools;
on her moon-face niece,
whose black eyes are two small spinning disks
of hope (and fear)?

. . .

Standing by the riverbank,
a soul-hungry girl,
skinny and a million miles of loss
away from her own native navajo urges me:
“Dive for a stone. Take it back with you.”
So, I do, stumbling across the shallow waters like an old woman,
my bruising knees reddening in the glacier-iced water.
I surface, like the Winnemem girls around me,
in this rite, rock in hand,
my small token.
It is the green of wet sea. I am breathless.

Still, the rock and I are ambivalent companions.
I leave it everywhere I go, forgetful.
Later in the day, Auntie, she of the river people,
comes ‘round, and tells me, “I’ve got your rock. You left it back at the stone house.”

But I keep forgetting.

until at the hour of our departure, long past midnight,
we go to bid our farewells to the chief and her familia.
Auntie appears, a lit face smiling in the small doorway of the trailer.
Her extended palm is the river pond I had abandoned.
My rock floats in it.

Embarrassed, I take it home
place it upon my altar.
Vow membership
to the detribalized/unrecognized/dropped-off-the-rolls indígenas.
Mi pueblo, 21st century.

“The Poor” by Roberto Sosa

“To Be Born a Man” by Adela Zamudio

She works so hard
to make up for the sloth
of her husband, and in the house
(Pardon my surprise.)
he’s so inept and pompous,
that, of course, he’s the boss
because he’s a man!

If some poems get written,
a person must have written them,
but she just transcribed them.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If we’re not sure who’s the poet,
why assume it was him?
Because he’s a man!

A smart, classy woman
can’t vote in elections,
but the poorest felon can.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If he can just sign his name
even an idiot can vote
because he’s a man!

He sins and drinks and gambles
and in a backwards twist of luck
she suffers, fights, and prays.
(Pardon my surprise.)
That we call her the “frail sex”
and him the “strong sex”
because he’s a man!

She has to forgive him
when he’s unfaithful;
but he can avenge himself.
(Pardon my surprise.)
In a similar case
he’s allowed to kill her
because he’s a man!

Oh, privileged mortal
you enjoy lifelong
honor and perfect ease!
For this, to get all this,
it’s enough for you
to be born a man.

English translation by Liz Henry.

“Black Messenger” by Cesar Vallejo

There are in life such hard blows . . . I don’t know!
Blows seemingly from God’s wrath; as if before them
the undertow of all our sufferings
is embedded in our souls . . . I don’t know!

There are few; but are . . . opening dark furrows
in the fiercest of faces and the strongest of loins,
They are perhaps the colts of barbaric Attilas
or the dark heralds Death sends us.

They are the deep falls of the Christ of the soul,
of some adorable one that Destiny Blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the crepitation
of some bread getting burned on us by the oven’s door

And the man . . . poor . . . poor!
He turns his eyes around, like
when patting calls us upon our shoulder;
he turns his crazed maddened eyes,
and all of life’s experiences become stagnant, like a puddle of guilt, in a daze.

There are such hard blows in life. I don’t know.

“Fragment of a Letter,” by Jose Asuncion Silva


When all has grown calm, in hours
When the sleeping soul wakes,
The sweetest visions of life
Return to the mind,

Which flies between midnight shadows
And white mansions. My thoughts
Linger for a moment in all the crystals
That filter the light to your room,

Kissing the climbing honeysuckles
That embrace your window bower,
Set between delicate apparitions
That open in the morning light.

I see you before the crucifix,
A heart fixed on its promises,
And I hear the mysterious prayer
Whose sweet rhythm and fine cadence

Flies from your lips into arms of snow.
If only I could speak the soul fully
And with the voice of feeling, but who
Could faithfully sketch your calm sense?

Who recounts the freshness of your voice?
Who sees you open and without limit
Under the form your fire folds and unfolds,
Who sees the life that under the rhyme is set?

Of the passions is the poem, holy,
Spoken only to you and to the soul
Which, like a pipe raised to the lips,
Sticks and glows with a kiss.

“Let Me Relate to You,” Manuel Ortiz Guerrero

Let me relate to you
The sorrow that oppresses me,
And sprinkle the night with my tears
For my beloved Asunción.
I recall the women selling produce
With bare feet and blue eyes,
My bosom is burdened with anguish
And is choked with my crying.

Only the music can relieve
With its sweet notes my sadness,
And under a full moon will I declare
The love that I feel for you, Asunción.

“Rain” by Claribel Alegria

“Instants ” by Jorge Luis Borges

If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
– to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygenic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives –
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,

If you don’t know – thats what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
– and I know that I am dying …

“My Country” Ricardo Miro

Such a small country, spread on an isthmus
where the sky is clearer, the sun brighter;
all your music echoes within me, like the sea
in the small cell of the conch.

Yet again, there are times I feel dread
when I don’t see the way back to you…
Perhaps I’d never have known such love,
if destiny hadn’t carried me over the sea.

La Patria is memory…Scraps of life
wrapped in ribbons of love or of pain;
the murmur of palms, the commonplace songs,
the garden, stripped of its flowers.

La Patria is a map of old winding trails,
that, from childhood, I tramped without pause,
on which stand the ancient familiar trees
that talk to us of the soul in times long past.

Instead of these towers, arrowed with gold,
where the sun comes to lose its heart,
leave me the old trunk where I carved a date,
where I stole a kiss, where I learned to dream.

Oh, my ancient towers, beloved and remote:
I feel such nostalgia for your pealing bells!
I have seen many towers, heard many bells,
but have known none, my distant towers,
to sing like you, to sing and to weep.

La Patria is memory…Scraps of life
wrapped in ribbons of love or of pain;
the murmur of palms, the commonplace songs,
the garden, stripped of its flowers.

Such a small country, all of you will fit
beneath the shadow of our flag: perhaps
you were so pretty, to ensure I’d carry you
everywhere in my heart!

“I Think Of You,” by Jose Batres Montufar


“To the Bio-Bio” by Andres Bello


Blest were he, O Bio-Bio!
Who could dwell forevermore
In a deep grove, cool and shady,
Upon thine enchanted shore!

Just a lowly thatched-roofed cottage
Where thy limpid waters are seen
Pouring their calm flood in silence
Amid foliage fresh and green;

Where, instead of shifting changes
In the fickle things of state,
Wind-stirred oaks and maitens murmur,
And the forest peace is great;

Where the bird amid the branches,
In the early dawning gray,
Sings its untaught, artless music,
Greeting thus the new-born day.

In that humble thatched-roof cottage,
Oh, how happy were my lot,
In the peace that nothing troubles,
Envied not and envying not!

This to me in truth were sweeter
Than the Babel wild and loud
Where in chase of a chimera
All are rushing in a crowd;

Where dark treachery and falsehood
Near the quaking altar stay
That the people’s favor raises
To the idols of a day.

Sweet repose, most blissful quiet,
Earthly paradise divine!
Has the palm of war or wisdom
Worth which can outrival thine?

Truth I love, not adulation—
Truth all unadorned and plain,
Not the clamorous applauses
That are raised in Fortune’s train.

Growing old, for that false treasure
I would cease my soul to fret—
Say ‘Farewell to disappointments!
The forgetful I forget.

‘Others call excitement pleasure,
Madly seeking fame or pelf;
I in earth’s most hidden corner
Wish to live now for myself.’

“The Song of Exile” by Antônio Gonçalves Dias

My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air;
no bird here can sing as well
as the birds sing over there.

We have fields more full of flowers
and a starrier sky above,
we have woods more full of life
and a life more full of love.

Lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
my homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Such delights as my land offers
Are not found here nor elsewhere;
lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Don’t allow me, God, to die
without getting back to where
I belong, without enjoying
the delights found only there,
without seeing all those palm-trees,
hearing thrush-songs fill the air.

“Indifference” by Rosario Castellanos

He looked at me as one looks through a window

or the air

or nothing.


And then I knew: I was not there

or anywhere

nor had I ever been or would be.


I became like one who dies in an epidemic,

unidentified, and is hurled

into a common grave.

“I Ask the Impossible” by Ana Castillo

I ask the impossible:  love me forever.

Love me when all desire is gone.

Love me with the single mindedness of a monk.

When the world in its entirety,

and all that you hold sacred,  advise you

against it:  love me still more.

When rage fills you and has no name:  love me.

When each step from your door to our job tires you,

love me;  and from job to home again,  love me,  love me.

Love me when you’re bored,

when every woman you see is more beautiful than the last,

or more pathetic, love me as you always have:

not as admirer or judge but with

the compassion you save for yourself

in your solitude.

Love me as you relish your loneliness,

the anticipation of your death,

mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends.

Love me as your most treasured childhood memory

– and if there is none to recall –

imagine one,  place me there with you.

Love me withered as you loved me new.

Love me as if I were forever

and I will make the impossible

a simple act,

by loving you,  loving you as I do.

“Night 3” by Alvaro Mutis

Tonight the rain has returned on the coffee plantations.

On the banana leaves,

on the high branches of the cámbulos,

It has rained again tonight a persistent and vast water

that grows the acequias and begins to fill the rivers

who moan with their nocturnal load of vegetable mud.

Rain on zinc roofs

sing your presence and move me away from the dream

to leave me in a growth of the waters without rest,

in the cool night that drips

through the vault of the coffee trees

and drained by the sick trunk of the giant rafts.

Now, suddenly, in the middle of the night

the rain has returned on the coffee plantations

and among the vegetable voices of the waters

I get the intact stuff from other days

saved from the oblivious work of the years.

“Blood” by Carmen Boullosa

If it is the moon that governs the tides, what strange star controls the blood of our two different bodies? It is a star that your eyes can not see, not even mine, it lives hidden by the moon and the sun. His subject cruel plays with the signs of its particles, without fear to get in danger of bursting, or change shape, become once again minimal parts, asteroids into different orbits or dust, scattered dust pilgrim. A star absurd. It is because of him that my blood tends toward your. If they do not show any inclination towards me, then, it is that you’re in the lead mine, that you are my moon. You the one that controls my tendency. Through your veins do not burst circulates this dull sense, your blood limestone.

“Calderoniana” by Efrain Huerta

“Moving” by Luis Chaves


Picture this:
two weeks of rain
washed away all the flower pots’
ochre rings.

Whites and darks mixing
in the same washing machine.

A house reduced to cardboard boxes.
The afternoon spinning on the rain’s axis.
The false menthol
of a Derby Light + a Halls.

The color Plasticene bars make
when they’ve been kneaded together.


The world is turning so fast
it appears to stand still.
I thought about saying so
but preferred, as your copilot,
to watch you circle
the parking lot.


The ants came in
the moving boxes.
The new apartment
begins to feel more like a home.
One that belongs to someone else, but a home.


In the new apartment,
the handyman hollows out a wall
searching for the water leak.

This isn’t disorder per se,
it’s order of another kind.

Plastic bags, Sharpie
on boxes, in cursive:
kitchen / books / bathroom
If someone else were to walk in at this moment,
they wouldn’t know if we were moving in or out.


Inert, enclosed
in nicotine,
the brain goes soft,
the heart hardens.

I look older without a shirt on.
I thought about saying so but preferred
to remember the time when I was
your copilot as you kept
circling that parking lot.


Without a sound, Francisca
moves through each space –
here with the bucket,
there with the broom –
inside that mouth,
always closed,
the glint of a gold tooth.


A pause which threatens to become
something else entirely.

Clothes we haven’t unpacked,
the taste of synthetic menthol,
that empty space
where you finally parked the car.


Over a few rounds of beer
some friends were discussing
how long we can keep calling ourselves young.
What does it matter, you thought aloud,
if I was never young to begin with.

Then the fog cleared.
Then the crickets came on.


Here’s where a decisive phrase should go
but the t-shirt
from that afternoon we were talking about
fades while the grass grows
and without realizing it,
you begin to use some of my trademark phrases
every six words.

What never will dry in this weather,
what shines whether we like it or not,
the wrong time of year to move,
the brain: a lump of Plasticene,
the heart: two car doors
that only know how to close.


Underneath all of this there’s a song,
even if it can’t be seen or heard.

The promise of a new house
stayed behind in the old one.

What remains of the rainy season is a blend
of all the Plasticene bars –
what will knead together is kneaded
together, the hammering that quiets
the tenacity of a leak,
veining the window.
And the crickets’ song
swelling like another fog.

Underneath all of this there is something better.

“What I Am For You” by Juana de Ibarbourou

A doe
eating fragrant grass out of your hand.

A dog
that follows everywhere in your footsteps.

A star
twice as bright and sparkly just for you.

A spring
rippling snake-like at your feet.

A flower
whose honey and whose scent are yours alone.

For you I’m all of these,
I gave you my soul in all its guises.
The doe, the dog, the heavenly body and the flower,
the living water flowing at your feet.
My soul is all
for you, my

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