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Velasquez to present Chicana poetry at MFA
Author of Superwoman Chicana comes to Borders Bookstore and Houston Museum of Fine Arts
by Marty Beard
"I am the Superwoman Chicana who irons clothes, washes dishes, takes care of children without saying a word ... I am the super-pendeja Chicana, very, very tired, oppressed and fed up."

Award-winning Chicana poet Gloria Velasquez penned these words in protest of injustice against Chicanos everywhere, but the most fascinating aspect of her work is that she draws from her own experience.

Houstonians and members of the Rice community can have the privilege of hearing her recitesome of her works this Saturday at Borders Bookstore in Meyerland Plaza as well as Sunday at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

At the MFAH, the group Monumental Mariachi 2000 will acompany Valsqez's readings.

Having grown up in poverty, Velasquez represents a slice of Chicana culture. During her childhood in the less-than-idyllic '50s and '60s, she and her family worked in the Southwest merely to scrape up a living from hand- and soul-blistering farm labor.

Yet she triumphed over her childhood hardship and disadvantaged background to graduate from Stanford University with a doctorate in Latin American and Chicano studies.

The path she has chosen and her background are far from the only reason to go see her performance, Professor of English José Aranda said.

"There is an advantage to hearing her recite her poetry herself. When listening to her, you get the true sense of her cadence, and after hearing her, it is easy to re-image her voice together with her words. She has a melodious delivery and a fine singing voice as well -- she does, in fact,often sing her poetry," Aranda said.

What did Velasquez do in the Chicano movement?

"She was very active as a demonstrator, and she wrote essays and articles ... I'd say she was involved in the Chicano movement as much as any student could be," said Carol Juarez, director of marketing and publicity at the University of Houstons Arte Publico Press, which published I Used to Be a Superwoman , her first collection of poems.

Aranda teaches Velasquez's text in his two Chicano literature classes, English 372 and 373.

"I am using I Used to be a Superwoman as a text because it is a new collection of her poetry and a timely text, because it just came out this year."

"She is part of the new generation of Chicana poets who have taken up the issue that their male peers first brought up, and she strengthens the Chicano movement by adding more pro-woman, pro-minority sentiments," he said.

The words taken from Gloria Velasquez's poem "I Used to be a Superwoman," capture, in just a brief space, the very essence of the Chicano movement. Velasquez has a voice that she wants everyone to hear.

"[Her audience is] women of any ethnicity, poetry lovers, Mexican-Americans. And probably in that order, I'd say," Juarez said.

She makes frequent references to images of Chicano history and La Causa, or the Chicano movement: Aztlan, Frida Kahlo, Native Americans, to name but a few. And she will bring these images to life in her two performances.

More poems along the same lines as "I Used to be a Superwoman" appear in her emotionally jarring collection of the same name.

Reading through the collection, it is obvious that while the poetry is autobiographical, many others will relate to it. Velasquez's poetry is not unlike a diary,capturing both powerful images and painful emotions -- love, anger, sorrow, loss, fear.

Hers is a chronicle of the oppressed who rises above the repression to look her would-be patrón (boss) in the eye and accuse him openly.

The activist, educator and poet will speak at 6:30 p.m. at Border's Bookstore in Meyerland Plaza tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Brown Auditorium at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is free for the reading at Borders; at the MFAH, where she will perform with music, it is $3 for students, senior citizens and museum members; $4 otherwise.

This item appeared in the Arts & Entertainment section of the September 19, 1997 issue.

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