Poet shares work centered around life as a queer Latina


Luke Madenwald

Cherrie Moraga answers questions from the crowd after reading excerpts from her new book on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Garvin Theatre at City College, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Moraga has a new book “Native Country of the Heart” and is scheduled to be released next year in April.

Giancarlo Van Hemert, Staff Writer

Seasoned poet, playwright and activist Cherríe Moraga spoke to students and community members while reading from her work Wednesday night at City College.

The speech was held in the Garvin Theatre where about 150 people gathered to hear her talk, most of them students.

Introductions began in Spanish and were repeated in English, reflecting the strong Latino presence. She then went on to cover a variety of topics, ranging from feminsim, genocide, and the importance of writing, sprinkling in anecdotes of her own life before answering questions throughout the two hour event.

Moraga also included passages from her poems, biographies and plays with a strong focus on gender roles and the importance of having a strong sense of identity. Moraga herself identifies as a queer Latina, and said her experiences affected her upbringing in Los Angeles, especially because her lighter complexion has led some to not take her messages of Latin pride seriously.

When asked by an audience member what it was like constantly being perceived as “guerra”, or white, she said, “of course it’s a privilege but to not be recognized is painful… It’s not like I’m pretending. Culturally I was raised as a Mexican-American.”

Another strong message was of female empowerment and the need to stop the cycle of violence and oppression against women.

“You can’t talk about gender if you don’t talk about women of color,” Moraga said.

A strong female presence was a regular occurence in the work Moraga shared, with many including characters that reflected strong matriarchal figures and detailed the expectations often bestowed upon them by what she claims can often be a misogynistic Latin culture. Moraga also went on to explain that in order for women to have a fighting chance, there must be a level playing field.

Moraga also detailed how ostracizing growing up as a queer Latina could be, and how her love of poetry helped her find her voice. She also engaged the crowd regularly with audience members laughing at her jokes on traditional Latino culture and applauding and cheering at her empowering messages. One woman even chose to speak and tearfully thanked Moraga for being a personal inspiration to her and lending a voice to Latina women everywhere.

Following the speech and Q&A, Moraga conducted a book signing for fans. She also has a new book, “Native Country of the Heart,” slated for an April 2019 release.

The event was sponsored by the SBCC Center for Equity and Social Justice and Multi-literacy English Transfer Program (MET).