The Latin American Foundation for the Arts based in the Rio Grande Valley wants to spread a message of unity via the International Latin American Poetry Festival (FeIPoL), held for the first time at South Texas College’s Cooper Center in McAllen. The festival will span three days from Sept. 1 though 3, and aims to inspire the community to create positive change as they celebrate the diversity of the Latin American experience while bridging the divide between cultures through poetry and the arts. The festival is open and free to the public, promising to feature more than 30 poets from the United States, Mexico, and throughout Latin America.
The poet of honor is none other than “El Maestro,” the U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. He is the first ever Chicano poet to serve this coveted post. As such, he promises to give a voice to the immigrant’s son and share the experiences of the fieldworker. This California-born poet speaks not only to a growing demographic in America, but writes about experiences that many in the Rio Grande Valley have lived and are living today. Herrera is highly acclaimed and is a prolific writer with over 30 works of poetry, fiction and theater to his name. His writing career began in the 1960s in the generation of the Chicano and Beat Poets. He has served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and as California’s Poet Laureate.
Along with poetry, FeIPoL wishes to use the visual arts to start a movement of social action. Nothing better embodies this marriage between the visual and the poetic more than Armando Alanís Pulido’s 20 year project known as Acción Poética. Acción Poética started in 1996 when Alanís Pulido took to the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, with something to say. Instead of writing it in a book or speaking from the stage, he chose the abandoned walls of the city streets in his hometown as his medium. Alanís Pulido’s graffiti poetry is written with bold black letters on a white background symbolic of the words on the page. His poetic phrases are accessible to everyone on the street. “When something is on the street, the people make it their own,” said Alanís Pulido. And they did. Alanís Pulido was asked by individuals if they could pick up the mission of Acción Poética in their hometown.
Twenty years later, Acción Poética can be found in over 150 cities and in 30 countries. People have adopted Acción Poética’s style and mission around the world, but when these (mostly romantic) verses were written of the walls of towns in Europe, Africa, and South America, the people chose to write them in their native tongue. You can find this street art in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and even in Braille. In July, as a prelude to the festival, organizers of FeIPoL, including festival director Monica Raygada, worked in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate and McAllen’s International Museum of Arts & Science (IMAS) to bring a photographic collection of Alanís Pulido’s work to South Texas. On July 7, the night the exhibit opened, Alanís Pulido left his mark – literally! With an audience eagerly watching, he painted the title of the exhibit in bold black letters on a white background, “Sin Poesía No Hay Ciudad” (Without Poetry there is no City) on the museum’s wall. The photography exhibit will be on display till Nov. 6; the images featured are from a project in which he vowed to write a phrase from the works of Octavio Paz in 100 Mexican cities to honor Paz’s 100s birthday. Alanís Pulido also left a verse on the streets of McAllen. His street art can be prominently seen next to Hinovations Art Gallery on 1009 Laurel Ave.
Raygada envisions this being the Rio Grande Valley’s Lennon Wall. “We would love to make this a landmark. We hope people will come by and take a selfie with it!” Sin Poesía No Hay Ciudad speaks to Alanís Pulido’s beliefs that through encountering poetry, people will be transformed and can better understand allowing the city to properly function. “Poetry moves the consciousness, it changes attitudes. It makes us into chains of help, of comprehension and understanding. And in this way the city unites. We can better understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we value each other,” said Alanís Pulido. This is the ultimate mission of FeIPoL, and like Acción Poética, they wish their message to spread, uniting the community through understanding. They hope to inspire individuals to be moved to action through the transformation they encounter in the arts.
For a full program of the activities planned at FeIPoL, please visit www.feipol.us.