Honoring the dead and fighting against discrimination were the focus of Merced College, Los Banos Campus’ annual Visiting Writers Series last week.
The college and the Los Banos Arts Council held a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration Oct. 31 at the Ted Falasco Arts Center. The event featured two authors and poets, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez and Francisco Alarcon.
The pair spoke with students at the college and Pacheco High School earlier in the day.
Before reciting her poetry at the Dia de los Muertos event, Rodriguez dedicated the evening to her mother.
“My mom passed away two weeks ago and it was beautiful to be with her and watch that process. A lot of times we’re afraid of death, we think it’s a bad thing,” Rodriguez said. “It was nice to be with her, the whole family, and watch that process.”
Rodriguez read pieces from her book “Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems.” Her poems included themes of family, death, and the working conditions of farm laborers. She said looking at the cotton fields while driving into Los Banos reminded her of the stories her mother told her about picking cotton.
Rodriguez, who is a community activist, spoke out against the 2010 Safe Neighborhoods Act in Arizona, which required suspected illegal immigrants to carry documentation proving they’re legal residents or risk criminal conviction. Rodriquez said the law, which has had most of its controversial clauses blocked by the judicial system, “amounts to racial profiling.” Rodriquez and Alarcon are part of an Internet effort to overturn the law and others like it.
Alarcon, a professor at UC Davis, recited poetry emphasizing family and Chicano pride.
He wonder allowed how anyone can tell Chicanos they do not belong in America when, he said, they were in the country hundreds of years before anyone else.
“Many people die on the border, but this is our home,” he said.