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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

From Calaca Press: raúlrsalinas y Manuel J. Vélez remember Lalo

Calaca Press poet Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado, author of the legendary Chicano poem Stupid America, passed away Friday July 23 at the age of 73.

He was welcomed to Mictlan by the Lord of the Underworld himself, Mictlantecuhtli and his wife, Mictecacihuatl, as well as the recently departed Pedro Pietri, Gloria Anzaldua, and Phil Goldvarg.

Though we mourn the loss of our literary comrades we know that their words, spirit and bones will continue to feed generations of Latino artists and activists.

We at Calaca Press would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Lalo's familia and to anyone who has read and appreciated his lifework.

Con todo respeto,

Brent E. Beltrán
Consuelo Manríquez de Beltrán

p.s. Below are a few pieces on Lalo:

1) After hearing the news of Lalo passing Xicanindio poet raúlrsalinas dug through his archives (this brother could have an entire museum dedicated to his archives alone) to find an Introduction he had written in 1974 for a book that Lalo was putting together. After finding the piece he contacted a few people, including the Calacas, and shared it with us. Raul asked us to share this with you.

2) The second piece was written by La Calaca Review editor Manuel J. Vélez (Lalo was featured in La Calaca Review). It reflects on meeting Lalo for the first time last year at a series of readings Manuel organized in El Paso. It includes two poems that Lalo wrote while in El Chuco.



Llego al canton de Antonio y Linda (& Monica) Cardenas to bum my monthly cena, which allows the hungry poet to function (survive!) on hotdogs the rest of the time; y me salen con que hay un manuscrito which awaits an intro . . . by me!

Se trata de que el prolific Gordo has just dropped in from the wilds of Oregon with a new (again?) publication Bajo el Sol de Aztlán, hot off the press, ready for distribution, and fiercely clung to by massive arms. Y como se esto no fuera suficiente, he unloads the manuscript of 43 Costales . . . mas, for me to deal with! ¡Orale, pues! Le hago el try.

So here i am, now, not merely producing poemas in frustrating creativity, pero tambien writing introductions to Raza (inspiring) poets’ books. Poets who have tread poetic grounds longer than i have tried hooking up my versos, los unos con los otros. ¿Y porque no? If WE are to define (acknowledge) Chicano Literature as the unique reality (vida) that it is, entonces vale mas salirle al toro.

The writings of Abelardo came to me behind 40 foot walls. Occasional copies of Chicano Press publications accidently received in (or smuggled into) the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, laid heavy classics on us. Pintos reading “Stupid America,” that mini-manifesto of profound indictment, came to grips with their personal situations for the first time; the realization of being colonized & criminalized by an insensitive and corrupt system of government. Many of our beautiful young poetas (yes, ameriKKKa, we’re coming at you from every rincon/rendija of Aztlán!) cut their eyeteeth on “25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind” and “The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observations.”

Then came “el encuentro” en Idaho. Ricardo lo dijo primero . . . /but i too saw/ un gigantesco grizzly/ Bear bronceado/ come charging down/ las avenidas del amor/ He came/ tumbando obstáculos/ esos obstacles que hacen/ keep our ríos (de aqua fresca) from flowing/ nuestras florestas brillantes from blooming/ our canciones (gritos del alma) unsung. /LALO, acompañado con/ su osito (future poet-crónico de Aztlán). /iva derrumbando mitos/ long existent/ Mitos que hasta las mejores mentes (gentes)/ have so scholarly embraced/ Myths that lend a further credence/ to magnanimous/ Social Lie;/ that mentira fostered & festered by decadent/ político regimes.

Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado is an enigmatic figure en el movimiento. La area de activism en cual el Gordo hace operate es la de migrant health y migrant education; su dedicación is nonetheless, bien firme. Considered a moderate by some, others find his ideas (visiones) to be of a radical nature. One obtrusive “observer” has called him a religious mystic, his more intimate compas say que es “muy carbon.”

En su vida personal tambien, Lalo ever appears as the jolly ho-ho-ho-ing poeta. Pero en realidad, lleva sus viejas cicatrices y heridas frescas, ondamente . . . que siempre duelan. He has painstakingly been a father . . . many times in absentia. He has also been a husband . . . remains a husband . . . with the same ambivalent intensity of joy and hurt. He is seldom mistaken for an intellectual, but the cachitos of wisdom he offers us througn his poemas, are of a substance that would make an “intellectual” cringe with shame. He has become more cynical and satirical in later years (who can escape it in this society?), yet he continues to have faith; faith en la gente. He is seriously committed to effecting social change. His humanist manner is FOR REAL!

The body of this new colección covers the entire range of Lalo’s obra poética . . . ! y más! Por su vía religiosa-naturalista-erótica-filosófica-satírica-cínica-simple-profunda-política y humanista, se ve una dirección fija, mucho mas encompassing que antes. Seattle le hizo bien al Fats, and the Queen City will never again be the same when Lalo has left for other places, away from our midsts.

Because of Sr. Delgado’s paciencia (i’ve been on this intro casi un año!) and his unselfish attention to carnales in the pintas throughout the country, where he is allowed to enter, i am totalmente convinced that his cora is . . . without duda ninguna . . . as big as the tire (la llanta) which makes up his rotund midsection.

In these tiempos tormentosos, times of Watergate, of no more Terán introductions (because of that bastard bomba in Boulder) . . . of Carrasco dead en Las Paredes de Hons’vil (instinctive refusal to be caged) . . . tiempos when social change viene en tortuga/ taruga . . . when many of us grow tired by the day, nos resbalamos, cachuquiámos or, at least, nos quedamos patinando for a while, wondering if there’ll ever be time to sit and write and think. La lucha sigue, and through all this storm and turbulence, i am relieved to know we still have Lalo, to flash de vez en cuando, these essential espejos/ reflejos of our souls.

seattle, washington
julio del ‘74


I met Lalo last October at EPCC. I had arranged for him to come to El Paso and do some readings at EPCC, Bowie High and The Clinica La Fe's Cultural Center. All three events were wonderful and Lalo was so full of energy. The vato came out of Bowie High mas cansado after an hour of poetry at the top of his lungs and still gave an amazing performance in Segundo the next night. That's why the news of Lalo's passing continues to leave me stunned even twenty-four hours after I heard the news.

I guess because I invited him, I had the honor (and I mean that sincerely) to drive him around town between various events and his relatives' homes. Some memories of those days still remain vivid in my mind, and I know now they'll never fade:

I can still hear the conversations in my car on Friday, on our way to Bowie High School. Lalo is sitting shotgun in my little nissan sentra and behind us are Henry Irigoyen and Mario Chavarría, two of Segundo's veterano activists who, through the whole trip, call over to Lalo and remind him of some desmadre that happened years ago in the barrio. "Ay. Te acuerdas cuando nos robamos el kegger from your daughter's wedding?" and they would laugh for a few seconds before moving on to another story.

I still remember the morning I met Lalo. I had arranged for him to come and speak to one of my English classes at EPCC. The class began at nine and Henry Irigoyen was supposed to bring him over to the room. But as the clock moved closer to 9:00, no one had heard anything from Lalo. When 9:00 o'clock finally came around, I figured Lalo had decided to spend time with his family instead. Shrugging my shoulders, I grabbed my bag and walked out of my office, piediendole disculpas from an older vato who happened to be standing in the hallway by my office door. I walked into the classroom, explained to the students that Lalo wasn't going to make it, and realized I had left my book in my office. I told my students I would be right back and I ran to get my book. In the hallway, the same vato stood, kinda looking this way and that until he finally fixed his look upon me. I slowed down. It still hadn't hit me at that point (that early in the morning my senses haven't completely hit 100%) when I asked him if he needed some help. He kinda looked at me and asked, "Manuel Vélez?" Right then I realized that this man, holding a folder and some books in his hand, looking as lost as a freshman on the first day of high school, was Lalo. He had decided to eliminate the middle man and called EPCC to get my office number hoping to meet me before class. But for reasons that I just can't explain, the vato made it to my office but never knocked on the door, choosing instead to wait for me to come out. When I finally did, again for reasons I could never explain, he just let me walk past him without saying a word.

Later on I asked him about it and he told me my office door was locked and he didn't want to disturb me. Me. Disturbed by Lalo Delgado. His poem "It's Bicentenial Time, Carnales" hung on the walls of the MEChA office at UTEP while I was a student there. I read it everyday for three years. I wanted to write like that. Me. Disturbed by Lalo Delgado. Todavía no me entra.

While I was driving around with Lalo through El Paso's light brown streets, I would notice that he would take a yellow legal pad from his bag and write some lines down. Later on he shared with me what he had been writing. They were two poems; one about/for EPCC and one about/for Bowie High School. He read them out loud to me in the front of his hotel then tore out the pages from the pad, handing them over to me. I have, I swear, intended to take the Bowie High one over to the campus, but instead it sits in my file drawer, safely tucked into some folders (I want to think that I've been just been waiting for a good moment to take it down, maybe type it up nice for them; but I think the closer truth is that I just don't want to give it away). The truth is, I just remembered that I had them. I live about three blocks away from Fort Bliss and every night, it seems, at about 11:00 the slow notes of "Taps" floats onto the air and falls on my yard like fog. I'm sure it's in honor of the soldiers dying in Iraq, but tonight while I smoked my cigarette and heard the trumpet begin its first note, I could only think of Lalo. That's when the poems came into my memory. I pulled them out, read them several times, and decided I wanted to share them with you. I'll probably send the Bowie poem over to Bowie this week. I haven't decided yet but in the meantime I offer them in his memory. So all of you can get a glimpse of the Lalo I got to know on a few days in October last year.

Manuel J. Vélez

At Bowie High
Lalo Delgado

When Liz and Loui,
who go to Bowie,
sing, “We’re loyal to you, Bowie High”
they don’t sing a lie.
More than fifty years ago
I was a student
in this historic institution
and I’m still loyal to Bowie High.
When this school touches students
Its finger prints
remain forever.
There’s glory
and pride
in that four year journey
through Bowie’s
halls and classrooms.
Bowie’s teachers are unique,
one of a kind educators
with balanced hearts and minds
who share wisdom
with the knowledge they impart.
Those brown and dark eyes
of Bowie students
shine bright in the night
always ready to fight.

October, 2003
El Paso, Texas

Lalo Delgado

It’s Fall at EPCC
And Re living is easy
It’s Valle Verde
Of the growing family
Of El Paso Community College
Who now cast a large
Academic shadow.
EPCC’s humble birth
Is now ancient history
And the future beckons
A determined cadre of students
And a committed faculty.
Among the students and profes
Are some with a common [?] heritage,
Are Mechistas, Si Señor,
Who won’t look back anymore.

October, 2003
El Paso, Texas


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