It’s hard not to love “Los Viajes,” a bilingual anthology of personal hardships, resistance and perseverance. It gives a voice to a segment of the community that is rarely given the opportunity to pen to paper in a literary publication—the poor and those without a traditional education, people who’ve been made scholars by adversity and misfortune, not by textbooks and academic ivory towers.

You’ll fall in love with the 180-page text, but fair warning, it will be a romance not without it’s difficulty. There are typos; there are mistakes (we at El Tecolote are no strangers to either), but beyond that there is an invitation.

“Sing with us, speak with us and learn with us,” reads the forward.

After you’ve finished with the book, it’s very likely that you will have done all of the above.

Published by Poor Press, a San Francisco-based advocacy project geared towards democratizing media access to the poor, co-founded by Tiny aka Lisa-Gray Garcia who provides the book’s introduction; as well as the chapter titled “From Los Angeles to San Francisco,” the book tackles the issues of race, violence and poverty.

“Here I am. Sitting on all I have, a public bench watching my child Jesús with tears in his eyes,” says Chipita, her desperation, a result of being unable to help her cancer-stricken grandson, will cause a visceral response in those who read her story. “It hurts him a lot (the cancer), it shows.”

Through narratives like these, “Los Viajes” accomplishes what few other books can. It successfully presents stories that tug at the heartstrings and fill you with condemnatory fervor for the status quo. It makes use of every page, every inch, every word.

“Poverty and disease and my grandson Chui (nickname for Jesús), who at that time suffered great pain (…), pushed me to emigrate to this country,” says Chipita, who crossed the border into the U.S. shortly after her grandson. She is now a community organizer for PODER, an environmental advocacy organization based in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Leveraging the voice of communities that are traditionally ignored by mainstream media is the source of the book’s appeal and slice-of-life authenticity. All the writers featured in the book wrote their stories in a series of free creative writing workshops held in shelters, community centers and schools all over the Bay Area.

Each writer brings the audience along for a ride through poems and short stories documenting border crossings from across Pacha Mama, a South-American term for Mother Earth.

The chapter titled “Yo Soy” alone is worth the getting the book. It features ten firsthand accounts of hope, personal disappointment and renewal. Among them is the account of Raymundo Sanchez, who in less than 100 words recounts how the American dream left him behind, leaving him prey to drug use and alcoholism. He would later overcome his struggles and developed his artistic talents, but laments having to work as a janitor to make a living.

The book also has striking art scattered through it’s pages from talented progressive artists Melanie Cervantes, Silencio Muteado, 6-year-olds Itzels and Zosias, and PNN’s own, Carina Lomeli, who share the book’s goals of “taking back the land, resisting criminalization … one story at a time.”

But the time you’re finished with this book, you’re happy, you’re angry, but above all you’re surprised—impressed by the level of courage and resolve of the book’s contributors.

If you’ve ever had to worry about where your next meal would come from, or had to live with fear of ICE knocking down your door and breaking up your family, this book will resonate with resonate with exceptional poignancy.

“Los Viajes,” a project of Poor Press published in 2009, is available for purchase online at

2 replies on “Los Viajes”

  1. Thanks for reading, Mark. I appreciate the comment. You should check the book out if you get a chance.

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