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