Poet and award-winning author Jorge Argueta was recently commissioned to serve a two-year tenure as Poet Laureate of San Mateo County.
“For me, of course, it’s a great honor. Being from El Salvador, my background, I’m an Indigenous man,” said Argueta. “I think because of that it’s also a plus to be recognized. It’s something really beautiful.”
As the first Poet Laureate of Latino descent in the county, Argueta is tying his passion for social work to the role.
“I guess it’s my opportunity to give back to the community too … that’s the way I see it,” said Argueta. On Aug. 5, Argueta will present at the Manyula Children’s Poetry Festival held at the Half Moon Bay public library in dedication to immigrant children.
Argueta’s engagement with the Half Moon Bay community is extended as he also dedicates the festival to the members of the Half Moon Bay community who were killed in the mass shooting this past January.
“This is in light of that sad event that took place there,” Argueta said, referring to the Jan. 23 mass shooting that left seven people dead and an eighth critically injured. Those who were killed that day were Chinese and Mexican farmworkers. “So we dedicate this festival to the immigrant children but also to the whole community of Half Moon Bay, in the spirit that poetry is the energy that heals, unites, embraces, that shines.”
The position of Poet Laureate requires Argueta to lead a community-led project, present at County sponsored events, and be in engagement with the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Argueta hopes to establish a poetry festival for the county, in special recognition of poetry as a tool to support children.
“Right now, I’m trying to create bridges not only between cities and counties but also I’m trying to get support by other organizations,” said Argueta. One of those organizations Argueta is looking to work with is Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS) in Half Moon Bay. “It’s a national organization. They work with immigrant children and immigrants.”
In his newly commissioned role, Argueta works with other authors, publishers and writers in what he calls a “celebration of poetry.”
As an author of five poetry collections and winner of numerous awards, such as the America’s Book Award for his children’s book “Alfredito Flies Home,” Argueta’s work has also been celebrated. He predicts his position as Poet Laureate will be beneficial to his work outside the role.
And so far, the role itself has proved to be positive for Argueta.
“It has been a good experience, knowing that there is an opening to have poetry be recognized and honored,” he said.
Argueta has readings coming up in Burlingame and Redwood City and extends a public invitation to the Manyula Children’s Poetry Festival on Aug. 5 in Half Moon Bay.