Fernando Castro
Fernando D. Castro  was born in Ibagué, Colombia. Just two months before turning fifteen he left familiar surroundings to immigrate with his family to the New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights – the heart of New York City's Colombian community. He holds a BA in Architecture from Columbia College 1975 and a Masters in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1980. Fernando has branched into the fields of poetry, playwriting, journalism, teaching poetry and cultural activism. His publications include Fernando’s Café, from Inevitable Press, 1998; The Nightlife of Saints, 2007; Redeemable Air Mileage, 2011, from TA’YER Books; and contributions to more than a dozen anthologies. Fernando is also responsible for 25 anthologies of creative writing by youth and adults.
For more than a decade, he has been an artist-in-residence in programs sponsored by such agencies as the California Arts Council, the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs, and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division. He is the winner of a City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs COLA 2010 fellowship in Literature. He is a co-founder of TA'YER Multicultural Performance Collective, a non-profit organization that works with youth-at-risk, recent immigrants and the LGBT community.

La Nueva Luz

It is the portly Mexican waitresses that keep me coming;
their hirsute Frida Kahlo witch beards
and makeshift Mexican peasant uniforms,
can’t help but to be drawn to their motherly figures;
feel comfort under those hens' spriteful skirts.
Solid nurse shoes grip the floor
even when customers have spilled orchata, slippery salsa splashes;
they watch me attentively as I order a ration of carnitas;
owlish stares that capture my flimsy tray,
and before I get a chance they have asked where I’ll sit;
grab an extra salsa dispenser to please me,
and direct me to sit by the porch facing Placita Olvera.
On weekends, tourists and locals fill the dining rooms
come back to Olvera Street as an urban pilgrimage
-- sad mockery of a Mexican Alta California.
They discover an alternate, tamed version of Mexico,
much closer and suposedly safer than Tijuana or East LA;
yet unaware of the Mexican core of Los Angeles.
Duos, trios of musicians sing old Los Pancho’s torch songs –
voices and guitars they no longer bother to tune.
They go from table to table until someone
breaks down and offers five bucks for a Besame Mucho or Perfidia;
they depress me no end, but they do much for the borderlands decor.
On the Placita, the Aztec dancers strut the repetitive steps dictated by drums
and shell horns;
hefty men jump in discordant turns yet in unison: shoed in heavy guaraches;
peaccock headresses without which their costumes would be incomplete;
yet, how is it possible to prove authenticity after so many centuries of Anglification?
It must be exhausting to prance and shake, followed by younger apprentices
who cannot yet master the stamina of the elders.
Yet they all agree that their dance is a light that must be kept on
in memory of mythic Aztlan still occupied by yet another colonial power,
even if there is a zero possibility of seceding from the union.
Pigeons and sparrows who have stolen our last grain of compassion
during the working week, scavenge oh so solicitous on weekends.
Their begging beaks come directly at your table for a morsel;
children love to give away their portions of tortillas
and the dried up tamales’ masa with so little meat, the bloating power of two cans of beer.
The statue of King Carlos III of Spain 1759-88
is there to remind us that in 1781 he ordered the foundation of Los Angeles
but Felipe de Neve didn’t get to it until September 4th, 1787
a date seldom anyone celebrates since it conflicts with the high festivities
of Mexican Independence Day, which in turn is confused with Cinco de Mayo
when Mexican restaurants, and even singles’ bars offer margarita specials.
Personally, I come to celebrate my adopted city of Los Angeles
sheltered from the bitter East Coast winters and so far away from my Colombian homeland.
I face Union Station and the millions of immigrants who have made this place home
and yet goverment has made our lives impossible at times.
The Mexican cultural center is next door,
oblivious and indolent to the injustices perpetuated on immigrants –
alarming news from Arizona, another province of Aztlan
whose hateful governor is having a tea party at the expense of braceros
and the porous border which is irrelevant
except when election time comes and a scapegoat needs to be found urgently.
SB 1070, the latest hate legislation du jour:
Why can’t Governor Jan Brewer and those sore losing republicans take a chill pill,
order tamales and share them with the aviary population,
take a picture with the burro with a mariachi hat and remember these lands belonged to other tribes;
remember that the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 was a gun shot marriage deal!
What do we want? Justice
When do we want it? Now!
hey hey, ho ho 1070 it’s got to go!!
hey hey, ho ho 1070 it’s got to go!!

© 2014 Fernando D. Castro
Fernando D. Castro was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the July 2014 Second Sunday Poetry Series