Saturday, February 17, 2007

February Featured Artist: Erika Gonzalez

Erika Gonzalez was one of two featured artists for the Salon Sit Down on February 17th, 2007.


Erika González is a 27 year old Xicana born in the border of Eagle Pass, TX and Piedras Negras Coahuila, MX. She comes from a family of Tejano musicians and migrant farm workers. In 1998, Erika received a scholarship to attend St. Edward's University through the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and a Minor in Psychology.

Her passion is working for social justice issues and writing. Currently Erika is Co-Director of a social and environmental justice organization based in East Austin called PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources) where she has worked for the past five years organizing around transportation, affordable housing/gentrification, health and juvenile justice for people of color and the working poor.

About Her Work:

Most of my writing focuses on women in my family and my grandparents. I always keep in mind my ancestors, my grandparents, and the Creator when I write. I see my writing as a way to heal myself and help others heal through my words. When I write, I tend to bring up bodies of water and mention the importance of land. In the pieces I chose to share with the Austin Salon, I write about the loss of my grandmother Mima due to her drinking a gallon of Miracle Water from the Rio Grande aka the Rio Bravo said to have been blessed pure. I write about the connection to my grandmother and question the treatment of bodies of water by humans (contamination) and the effects that has on our health and spirit.

In my other piece, I write about my mother and her strengths and weaknesses as my guide into womanhood. I write about the realization of my mother’s struggles and realize that it is now time for both of us to fight against what has oppressed us. I also explore my own feelings of emptiness in my womb and the hopes of one day having children.

Excerpts of Erika's Work:
published with author's permission. author retains all copyright.

School Trips Part I and II

School Trips Part I: The Tortilla Factory

I was just a little guerquía in Eagle Pass.

not too special,

not too popular,

just a little shy mocosa

in the back of a school bus

going to the tortilla factory or nursing home

on elementary school trips,

as if our mama’s tortillas and abuelitos living

in our own homes weren’t enough already.

But the tortilla factory made me understand

the tortilla in a border town….

All abuelitas made homemade tortillas…

de maíz

or de harina with every meal….

Then, there was the tortilla factory –

an abuelita’s worst nightmare.

All of us guerquios mocosos lined up

outside the building,

pansas llenas with morning tacos,



The door opened.

Our cheeks were kissed

with a hot breeze.


Machinery everywhere,

an assembly line of round maíz

just traveling around and around in a maze

and at the very end were

hundreds of stacks of tortillas, ready to be placed

in clear plastic bags.

We all looked at each other in shock,

almost wanting to puke our morning taquitos

de chorizo and eggs –

but we kept on looking and smelling,


Starting to smell good!


Starting to smell like home!


Starting to smell like the border,

The Border

Where corn and machines meet for the first time,

but abuelitas fight not to be replaced

with brick buildings that sell illusions

to young children

growing up in a border – modern world –

Where corn is snow genetically engineered

and future abuelitas line up for food stamps and buy into the

cycle of believing

the tortilla factory wasn’t so bad after all?

Part II: The Senior Activity Center

Once again we lined up –

Little soldaditos

With hands to our backs

And school teacher breaking us in,

Molding our postures, and saying,

“Mijos, This is the Senior Activity Center.

Portansen bien, and remember to smile

At the viejitos, okay?”

So we lined up to shake viejito’s hands,

Going around and around an assembly line

Of rectangular table while viejitos

Turned their chairs around,

Stopped eating their meals so they

Could smile at us, and shake

Our baby soft hands.

I couldn’t look into their eyes –

Just their old, wrinkled hands

That smelled like

Band aids and baby lotion.

Then viejita says,

“Ay Severino, no es esa tu grandaughter?”

My heart beat


Too embarrassed to speak to Papa Cheno


In line

Couldn’t move.

Couldn’t look into his eyes.

He was a stern man.



Smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.

His home was my home,

But we hardly ever spoke.

We met again.

Two strangers meeting

for the

second time.

Then schoolteacher says,

“Keep the line moving, mija, keep the line moving….”

Our hands met in an embrace.

Felt warm inside.

Felt the border in my heart crumbling.

Felt the distance,

the border crossings,

my abueltio witnessing his home turn into two countries –

bitter strong man –

We crossed a distant border that day.

Papa Cheno and I,

But the line

Still keeps on







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