“Can you tell me where the revolution is tonight?” by Alvaro Saar Rios : NP Blog
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Come back every week for more of the history we've made together. We will feature NP alums who made their debuts with us and have gone on to huge accomplishments. You'll also hear from iconic Latino writers who shared the stage with writers from our community. And, of course, we'll feature NP Discoveries, new voices sharing their work for the first time. Viva Nuestra Palabra!
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Nuestra Palabra: 
Latino Writers Having Their Say
P.O. Box 41065
Houston, TX 77221

“Can you tell me where the revolution is tonight?” by Alvaro Saar Rios

by Tony Diaz on 06/03/14

“Can you tell me where the revolution is tonight?” by Alvaro Saar Rios, NP Founding Member.


These were the first words I heard when I arrived at the first Nuestra Palabra gathering on April 22, 1998.  There in the back of a Mexican restaurant I never at ate, a college-aged Chicano was onstage sharing verses from his freshly inked poem.  His words/voice/presence commanded attention, and I, as well as everyone else in the room, listened.


I had heard about the event a few months earlier in my Monday afternoon writing class at Talento Bilingüe de Houston, a community center on Houston’s eastside.  My instructor was Tony Diaz, the organizer of the event.


Thinking back, I’m not sure why I was even taking Tony’s class.   Putting words on paper wasn’t something I cared to do aside from creating grocery lists and filling out job applications.  Maybe I signed up because the class was free or because my buddy Hugo was also taking the class.   Whatever the reason, what mattered most was I said “yes” to an opportunity that was out of my comfort zone. 


One day in class, Tony handed out flyers for the April event.

“It’s called Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, and it’s going to be a monthly gathering for people in the community to share their own writing.”


This was the first time I heard the word “Latino.”  Afraid to show my ignorance, I didn’t ask what it meant.  I just looked at the word again and upon seeing the word “Latin” I assumed it referred to the language I found on quarters, one dollar bills and the periodic table-the mother tongue of Ancient Rome, the dead lingo. 


I imagined my instructor joined by others reciting poems and stories from ancient scrolls.  This was what I had in mind when I showed up to Nuestra Palabra.


I’ll save you some time and tell you that no Latin was uttered at the event.  I wasn’t disappointed though.  I’m not fluent in that language anyway. 


I am proud to say that every poem, short story, essay shared that night was in a language I did understand-English, Spanish, and a mixture of both.


“Can you tell me where the revolution is tonight?”


When the guy was done with his poem, a lady who looked like my mom stood in front of the microphone and let her words roar.  We cheered when she proudly called herself a “Chingona!”  


The evening progressed.  Monologues were performed.  Scenes acted.  Songs sung.  Music played.


Before the evening was over, I stood onstage and read a short story I was carrying with me. It was the first time I had ever shared any of my writing in public.  Due to the positive supportive energy I felt, it wouldn’t be my last. 


After the last words were shared, everybody went home.  I stayed to break down tables and moved chairs.  I also told Tony that I wanted to volunteer for the next Nuestra Palabra and the next one and the next one.


I called poets, fiction writers, essayists, dancers, singers and anyone else who would possibly be interested in sharing their art.  If anyone reading this ever received a Nuestra Palabra flyer in the mail, I most likely licked the envelope or the stamp or both.


Thinking  back about my years with Nuestra Palabra, as a volunteer, writer, teacher, radio producer, those words from that poem I heard as I arrived will always stick with me.  


“Can you tell me where the revolution is tonight?”


I know exactly where it was, right there, in the party hall of Chapultepec restaurant, amid the smells of frijoles a la charra and burnt queso. 


Because of Nuestra Palabra I found my voice.

Because of Nuestra Palabra I tell my own story.

Because of Nuestra Palabra I know what “Latino” means, and I am proud to call myself one.



Comments (1)

1. Loida Casares said on 7/5/14 - 11:31AM
LOVE IT! I'm so jealous that you were a part of the very beginning. What an honor.

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NP Blog Schedule. Come back for posts by:

Tuesday, June 3: Alvaro Saar Rios

Tuesday, June 10: Russell Contreras

Tuesday, June 17: NP Discovery. Welcome a new voice: Karina Quevedo

June 24: Carolina Monsivais

July 1: Lupe Mendez

July 8: Loida Casares

July 15: Ices Fernandez 

July 22: Xavier Garza

July 29: Gus Garcia Day

​Aug 5: NP Discovery. Welcome a new voice: Luis Ochoa

Aug 12: Alice Canestaro-Garcia

​Aug 19: Tonantzin Canestaro-Garcia

Aug 26: Zelene Pineda Suchilt

We're kicking off this point in our journey with this essay in the Huffington Post:

Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say