¡Xicano!

Daniel A. Olivas

It began as a cruel

Jibe (so the etymologists say)

Because the descendants

Of the great, fallen

Moctezuma could not

Purge their mouths of

The indigenous sounds of

Nahuatl, their mother tongue.

 

They worked the fields,

Almost slaves, but not

Quite, and called themselves

“Mesheecanos” – and the

bosses laughed.

 

Can’t say Mexicanos?

Your tongues can’t wrap

Around that, eh?  Well,

Can you pronounce Chicanos?

Ah!  So you can!  That’s

What you are!

 

Yes, that’s what we are.

And guess what?  We

Embrace it.  And we can

Even dress it up further

By spelling it with an X

To bring us closer to

Those who came

Before us.

 

¡Xicano!

 

How does that sound to

Your ear?  Does it hurt?

Does it make you shiver?

It does?  So, sorry!

We don’t mean to offend.

Please accept our apologies.

Have a nice day.

 

 

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of six books including, most recently, the award-winning novel, The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press, 2011), which was also a semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award of 2012. He is the editor of the landmark anthology, Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008), which brings together 60 years of Los Angeles fiction by Latino writers.