Excerpts from The Canción Cannibal Cabaret, a performance work By Amalia Ortiz
From The Introduction
The Making of a Revolution Performance art does not subscribe to the tradition of High Culture. It is revolutionary art. —Norman Denzin
The Canción Cannibal Cabaret, a collection of poem songs and prose poems set in a post-apocalyptic future, tells the story of the revolutionary leader “La Madre Valiente” who aims to incite future revolutionaries to join in intersectional feminism and activism. After an environmental apocalypse, a refugee raised under an oppressive state, La Madre Valiente studies secretly to become the leader of a feminist revolution. Her emissaries, Black Bards and Red Heralds, roam the land reciting her story, educating, and enlisting allies in revolution. This is the premise of my punk musical.
……. Questioning authority is at the heart of my work. Ultimately, The Canción Cannibal Cabaret constitutes the synthesis of much of my past work. It combines activism, politics, writing, music, performance, costumes, visual arts, and POC aesthetics. It also claims a rightful space in academia as the work of an educated woman of color. What this book cannot capture on paper is expressed in live performance. As Denzin explains, “We should treat performances as a complementary form of research publication.” Like Cynthia Cruz, I am skeptical of the literary world’s new, self-interested embrace of political poetry. As so many grapple with the question of how to move forward in the shadow of a presidency at war with the weakest, least able, and most marginalized among us, I also agree with her assessment that, “The solution is a drastic reimagining.” So suggests La Madre.
From Poem Songs
A Message from Las Hijas de la Madre
Welcome, hijas y hombres. Welcome, fugees and flaggers. Welcome, bossholes, broadbacks, and boots on the ground.
All you civilyoungs and warhorses who daily tow the line. Worm workers in low appointments and Elect allies alike. If you have willingly broke curfew to secret meet and receive the herstory of La Madre Valiente, then we salute you. If any notes of this testimonio ring bona fide, we hope that you not bury these truth bones, but instead ingest them to your memory to spit up and feed others in times of need. So suggests La Madre. So, we swallowed herstory and hid it in the safest place where no law can destroy it—deep inside our own flesh where only death can pry it from us. And so, we now feed you the same nourishment once fed us. And you, when you are full enough to rock rebellion, can continue the song.
As a live performer trying to connect with people, obscuring meaning from an audience does not work. I see nothing wrong with clarity of meaning. But what I see as a strength in my work, other academics have labeled a weakness. These criticisms have not deterred me from trying to create a poetry that is above all else accessible. My poetics highlight the intersection of racial discrimination, poverty, and gender inequality impacting the lives and identities of people of color. I center and claim space for marginalized voices in my writing, therefore, it must be decidedly political and accessible.
As an activist artist, I believe art can inspire change. When I create art it is a selfish act. I feel immediate catharsis in sharing my art. Yet I also claim space for dialogue for other disempowered voices that do not have my luxury of an audience. My art is desperate. It is crude and angry and bleeding. It is didactic and loud because it cannot aff ord to go unheard. “Your silence will not protect you,” the great feminist poet Audre Lorde wrote in her rallying essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”:
Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. (42) Silence or subtlety will never be my choice.
Las Hijas de la Madre
Re Membering Herstory
In her domestic appointment in a home of the Elect, La Madre Valiente would slip out of her quarters at night to study a restricted device she had stolen away. This was how La Madre began to recover so many herstories lost to the State. Before the Pocked Eclipse, the learning was webfree, but those untangled herstories were burned or flooded during the Fall.
It was sometime after the death of her last son that La Madre Valiente began her recitation of the old folk songs. (Words on paper or the discovery of fugee use of devices is punished with expulsion from the State Gates.) And so, La Madre began to share herstory in secret.
She returned to the old folk songs and repeated them among the mothers and the colored. Her campaign spread faster than violence through the tenements. Her anger gained momentum, as the dark and poor women’s children suffered more than others. Even the Yardie gangs set aside their fracasos with one another to begin to fight for some- thing larger—perhaps true homes instead of block corners in State yards. The herstories La Madre loved most—those that spread quickest through the tenements—were the songs of workers and mujeres past long before the Fall—old folk songs of fugees like us long forgotten.
Rememory of Strange Fruit
with thanks to Abel Meeropol and Toni Morrison
Strange fruit, not hanging but withering in crowded trucks— Loss is expected in transport. Drivers still get paid big bucks. Brown bodies praying for the pardon of our southern breeze— The south still produces strange fruit, just not entwined in trees.
If the fruit survives delivery, it can be bought and sold. Market prices double if fruit is ripe and not too old. Dried and rotting in the desert, trampled falling off trains— Bondage continues in this land, though not with chains.
Growers and traffickers supply consumer-demanded yields. There’s a fortune to be made from strange fruit fertilizing fields. Rememory of blood on leaves, rememory of blood at root— The profits from the bitter crop outweigh our losses of our strange, strange fruit.
Nom de Guerre
You think because we are women we are weak, and maybe we are. But only to a certain point… We can no longer remain quiet over these acts that fill us with rage. And so, I am an instrument who will take vengeance.
--Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers
I eat the cries of the dead. I am a hunter a huntress of men. Some people think me a monster. For others, fantasies of vengeance I foster. I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
I wear the moon on my head. I am a hunter a huntress of men, born in the barrio in a mass grave threatening to those holding chains to enslave
I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
Hello, from the gutters of Juárez. Hello, from the slums of Mumbai. Hello, from the brothels of Thailand. Hello, from sweat shops in LA. You will know my name. You will know my name.
Hello, Malala assassins. Hello, Boko Haram. Hello, from my Pussy Riot. Hello, from my Gulabi Gang.
You will know my name. You will know my name.
My hounds are free and unfed. I am a hunter a huntress of men. My Wild Hunt’s broken loose— ghost riders crunching bones beneath their boots.
I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
Join me all you who have bled. Become a hunter a huntress of men. Fight corruption. Protect the powerless. Left with no recourse, unleash your huntress.
You are Diana the huntress. Become Diana the huntress.
Hello, from the classrooms of Yemen. Hello, from Radical Monarchs. Hello, my Arming Sisters. Hello, Hijas de Violencia.
They will know your names. They will know your names.
Hello, auto-defensas. Hello, Nevin Yildirim. Hello, my Ovarian Psycos. Hello, to my Red Brigade. And they will know your names. They will know our names. They will know my name. They will know my name. justice frozen in our crosshairs--
Amalia Leticia Ortiz is a Tejana actor, writer, and activist who appeared on three seasons of “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry” on HBO, and has toured colleges and universities as a solo artist and with performance-poetry troupes Diva Diction, The Chicano Messengers of Spoken Word, and the Def Poetry College Tour. The first of many other awards, her debut book of poetry, Rant. Chant. Chisme (Wings Press), won the 2015 Poetry Discovery Prize from the Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards and was selected by NBC Latino as one of the “10 Great Latino Books of 2015.” The Canción Cannibal Cabaret is due for release July 27, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas. For more information and to purchase copies of the book, contact Aztlan Libre Press at: firstname.lastname@example.org and aztlanlibrepress.com.
Linda Coronado: Una mujer verdadera del renacimiento
Linda Coronado, poet, musician, artist, and community activist born in Tucson, Arizona in 1947, fought for gay rights, feminist rights, and Chicanismo until her death from cancer in 1993. We have learned of her works from friends and one cassette recording of a reading she performed of seven of her poems on October 21, 1993, as she lay in a hospice bed. Coronado died a week later.
The recording may be the only physical evidence we have of her writing, the sound of her vibrant voice, her deeply human nature, and the friendships she amassed over her years of activism in Tucson. We print those seven obras here to memorialize the rich potential she possessed for greater works of poetry and perhaps fiction, memoir, who knows.
My thanks to two women who knew Coronado and made these materials available to Somos en escrito, Cecilia Vindiola and Alison Hughes, both of Tucson. Alison made a cassette recording as Linda recited some of her favorite poems while surrounded by friends. Cecilia shared a drawing of her grandmother, shown here, which had been drawn by Linda. Together these two friends shared the information about Linda with Somos en escrito in order that her amazing talents would not be lost to history.
We believe that someone in the academic world will recognize Coronado as a singular personality worth investigating for more insights about her life and struggle. Perhaps somewhere more of her poetry and artworks will be found to inspire us even these several decades since she died.
--Armando Rendón Editor
The following biographical information is taken from the program text of a ceremony honoring Linda Coronado’s achievements as a community activist, in the arts (painting and music), education, and social service by the dedication of a tile in the University of Arizona Women’s Plaza of Honor. The text was read by Josefina Ahumada, retired social worker, activist, and member of the Tucson YWCA Board.
“Born in Tucson in 1947, Linda never knew her real mother as she was adopted by a Tucson family as a baby. It became obvious when she was quite young that her talents in the music field knew no boundaries. At Tucson High School her teacher encouraged her natural abilities. She played at least nine musical instruments, but guitar was her favorite. After obtaining a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, she taught in Tucson Unified School District, while at the same time she pursued her passion for art and music.
“She wrote the music score for a ballet, she played guitar and sang songs she composed, as well as classical Latin American songs during events and special occasions in Tucson. In the 1980's her drawing and painting talents were scooped up by a local clothing producer that hired her to draw their advertisements. She was also active in theatre and quickly developed a strong reputation as a creative stage manager at Tucson’s Invisible Theater. She also worked regularly with Borderlands Theatre, and was devoted to the theatre arts.
“As a Commissioner on the Tucson Women's Commission during its formative years, Linda helped to organize Tucson's first celebration of women in the arts -- an event that drew scores of performing groups, music artists, and visual artists together to bring visibility and recognition to the talents and achievements of women in the arts.
“While in her 30's, Linda was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, a disease that disabled her at a rapid rate. As she struggled to manage this unexpected health challenge, she continued to pursue her artistic endeavors, by writing poems, songs, and essays.
“In her final days, confined to hospice care, Linda gathered her close friends together to give her final performance. Propped up in her bed, she delivered a powerful, unforgettable reading of her poems. Linda Coronado was truly a renaissance woman. The poems that follow are a testament to her values, humor, and sense of self.
“In the 1970s, the Chicano movement was well on its way. In Tucson there were social activists from the barrios who raised their voices speaking to issues of the day. Linda Coronado was one of those voices. Whether it was playing her guitar and singing at a farmworkers' rights rally in Tucson and at the border between Douglas and Agua Prieta, or performing with a local theater troupe, Linda was out front advocating for equality and women's rights. Linda was active with the Teatro Libertad and Ododo Theater, two of Tucson’s first street activist theater groups.
“Linda is honored for her creative and activist contributions on behalf of women.
“May she rest in peace, and may her legacy live in the hearts of future generations.” –Josefina Ahumad
SEVEN POEMS OF LINDA CORONADO PUBLISHED POSTHUMOUSLY (1947-1993)
The quotes after each poem title are taken from Coronado’s recorded words as she introduced each writing.
is about “having the opportunity to participate in an artist’s life.”
Brindo por la vida
Agobiados con anhelos ilusiones.
Brindo por la riqueza
De nuestro pasado
Historia tupida de cuentos y mitos
Tejido en un tapiz sorprendente.
Brindo por el legado del espiritú
La concepción única de nuestro arte
La vida y sangre de la existencia.
Por nuestros sueños,
Las semillas del alma,
Que con ellos brotan
Nuestra cultural más rara.
Tierra IndianaEste poema trata de conectarnos con
nuestra cultura anciana
Por Linda Coronado
Tierra Indiana, La Madre de mi Raza
Tú sangre corre por mis venas
Tú eres mi pasado, mi presente Y mi futuro.
De tu vientre nació mi gente
Fuerte, llena de orgullo
Por la historia de esta familia.
Tus llantos son mis cantos.
El cantar de tu corazón Azteca
Inspira el himno de este cuento.
Tu carne es la mía Tu alma el mismo poder
Que hace florecer mi vida
En un sueño de mi herencia
Madre India, entre tus brazos soñe con mi futuro
Cantaste tu canción de cuna Que fue después el grito de Aztlan!
Amasaste con tus fuertes manos llanos salvajes
Con tu voluntad indominable
Criaste la cosecha inspirada
Y la llamaste India!
Celadora de leyendas
Contabas de Dioses dorados
Imágenes del oscuro pasado
Forjando en mí, el gran destino
La madre de mi raza
Tus sueños en mi se hacen real.
Tierra Indiana is about getting in touch with our earth mother
By Linda Coronado
Indian earth, mother of my people
Your blood courses through my veins
Your are my past, my present
And my future.
From your womb we came forth
Strong, filled with pride
of the history of our family.
Your laments are my songs.
To sing of your Azteca heart
Inspires this Story into hymn.
Your flesh is mine
Your soul the very force
That burst my life in flower.
Madre India, swaddled in your arms
I dreamt of my future.
The lullaby you sang at my crib
Became in time the Cry of Aztlan!
Guardian of our legends,
You sang of gilded Creators,
Shadowy images of the past,
Forging in me, that grand destiny
We call, Indigena!
Mother of my people,
Woman of empire
In me, your dreams came to be.
This poem, “Tierra Indiana,” was translated into English by the joint efforts of Cecilia and Alison, who read the piece in memory of her friend, Linda Coronado, at a meeting of the Tucson Women’s Commission in 2004.
Canción de cuna
Coronado spoke about how her poetry was inspired by Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, Nobelist in literature.
Madre de Aztlan
Canta su canción de cuna.
La luna llena te lava
En su luz cristalina.
A roo roo roo
Duerme, mi niña
Duerme, duerme con tus fantasías.
A roo roo roo
Duerme, mi niña, duerme y sueñé
En el mundo dulce tuyo.
En el campo lejano
El mar de grano te acompaña
Con tu tierna voz
De brisas nocturnas.
En mis brazos
Written in hospice after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“The presence of death was with me a lot, but it didn’t scare me.”
A veces a medias de la noche
Me despierto con su presencia a mi lado,
Silenciosa, dulcemente cuidadosa.
Conozco tu aliento fragrante.
He tocado tu piel y sentido
el calor de tu mirada.
Nos estamos tranquilamente en el oscuro.
Acepto la unión inevitable
dentro de nos dos.
Me contarás esta noche de fantasías perfectas.
Me llevarás a nuevos paisajes.
¿Sera este el momento en que veo tu cara
Cuando tiernamente nos abrazamos,
El Baile Diario
“People have to fight to stay alive, to continue culture.” This poem is about “the dizziness of the fight to keep a balance.”
Es éste, el baile diario
Una sonata picante y viva
El resplendor de ritmos ondulantes
El latido del corazon y carne
Jota de llanto y grito
Emociones que dan vuelta
Como faldas de ilusiones.
Atrás y para delante
Cada paso de este tango
Un segundo delirante
Siempre una lucha a cada nota
De guardar frágil balance
Dentro luz y oscuridad.
Los danzantes forman fila
Respondiendo al nuevo compás
Otro cuadro, otra obra
Cada quien el escritor
Como huellas en el alma
Como marcas en el alma.
Sobre la eternidad
Y asi es éste, el baile diario,
Cada vida tomando parte
En este drama sin final.
Is about when cultures meet, “they tear each other apart or they form unions.”
Viento de voz tierna y pura.
Es tu aliento que acaricia los valles.
Es tu aliento que da suave fragancia a la noche.
Olas doradas que murmurran su canto,
Murmurran su llanto como rezos
Invocadas a dioses lejanos.
Dioses inmortales, dioses de cielo y tierra.
Guardias del tiempo sin fin,
Celadores de leyendas, de mitos, de cuentos.
[A section here was written in Nahuatl, or Aztec, spoken by some 2 million people mostly in central Mexico and by some in the U.S.]
Arraigados en sus misterios,
Somos la mezcla única, sangre y sol
Infantes de carne y cruz,
Mortales creados de sueños inmortales
Como rezos implacables
Como fuegos en un mar infinito sin luz
Perdidos en busca, en busca de un anhelo,
de nuestro derecho, de nuestro ser.
“How Latinos are so varied. There’s so many ways that you can see that, so I started to think, What does that mean, and this is what came out.”
Me dicen Chicana, Colombiana, Mexicana,
Peruana, Brasileña, Borincana,
Panameña, Española, Boliviana.
Mi abuelita se llamaba Cultura.
Mi madre, Arte.
My roots sink deep into the soil of four continents.
I have been queen and high priestess.
I was servant and slave.
I have born civilizations
And taught my children to dream.
I am the quardian of my history,
The storyteller, cantante, actríz.
I am la pintora de mi raza.
Mi figura es diversa y bella
Mi color, un arco iris.
Cuando camino es a un ritmo primitivio.
Soy fuerte y decidida, tierna y apasionada.
Mi vista es ancha y llena de esperanza.
Es asi me reconocerán, orgullosamente,
Les he dicho, soy Latina.
The poems contained here were transcribed and edited for publication by the Editor from the audio cassette taped by Alison Hughes. The poems are copyrighted in the name of Linda Coronado.