Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Yesika Salgado

Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Yesika Salgado
Elmer Ayala

Searching for some chingona poetry? Meet this week’s #WCW, Yesika Salgado.

MORE: Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Juana Rosa Cavero

Whether she’s challenging assimilation, embracing her sexuality or celebrating her fat brown body, the Los Angeles-based salvadoreña uses her palabras to fight the Latina feminist fight. And she doesn’t want to be alone. Salgado works to crush the white supremacist, fatphobic patriarchy through her poetry and by ensuring the she’s not the only Latina of size taking up space on the stage.

Whether discussing body image, sex or life as a brown woman, your poetry often has a Latina feminist message. Is this intentional?

Absolutely. Growing up Latina in a strict Catholic family, I was very censored. As a result of this censorship, I repressed my sexuality for many years. It took me reaching my 20s to explore this part of myself and give myself permission to do so. I write about it as much as I can because I think it’s important for Latinos to own our bodies in whatever part of the process we are in.

How does a first-generation Salvadoran woman decide to become a poet?

My father instilled me with a passion for reading, but he wanted me to be a teacher, not an artist. I grew up feeling that art wasn’t viable. For years, I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know in what capacity. When I discovered Sandra Cisneros, I found someone who sounds like me and is doing what I wanted to do. Previously, I thought this type of writing was exclusive to white and, to a lesser degree, black women. I didn’t think it was for immigrant, first-generation women like me because we were taking care of our homes and sisters – that’s what I was supposed to be doing, not with my head in the books. But I was, and I was called a “weirdo” for it. I wasn’t into cleaning and cooking, and my womanhood was measured that way. Sandra Cisneros showed me that there are other brown writers, other Chicana writers just like me.  She gave me the encouragement I needed to do this work. She showed me that if people care about her stories, they could care about mine, too.

There are several ways to share stories. Why poetry?

I feel like poetry chose me. I was born with the gift of stories, and I think all Latinas are. We come from families that have traditions. Growing up, we eat at the mesa with family and hear stories of our tías and primas. It’s a tradition, and some of us are moved to put it on paper. I never considered another art form. I never explored anything else. It was words for me, and I can’t sing, so that was out. It had to be poetry, because it had to be words. At a young age, I fell in love with reading, and I emulated what I was reading. I knew what a poem was in the first grade.

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