Griselda Liz Munoz "La Rana" Shares Hopes, Dreams, and Poems
Please tell us about yourself.
December 12, 2008
I'm a first generation Mexican American woman born and raised in El Paso's Lower Valley. As a child, I frequently wrote poetry and short stories, but found myself avoiding the arts and higher education altogether once I realized that as the only and youngest daughter of three brothers, I was not allowed to go away for school, but was encouraged to find full time employment instead. After high school I worked as a Special Education Aide for the Socorro ISD for five years, and ended up receiving an injury from the heavy lifting that the position required. I was 24 and lost. I enrolled at EPCC and in my spare time began writing again.
I feel it's important to mention that in my darkest hour, I asked the Lord to help me find myself, and soon after that began creating full length poetry and even began painting, though I had never done so before. Soon after my theater professor read my work, he asked me to perform my pieces for the opening act of a play he was putting on. My little poems and I went on to win first place at a local poetry slam, and just like that I became a performance poet. My life after has been a wonderful whirlwind, and I have since performed countless times and been published along the way. I just finished presenting my one woman show, Mujer Corazon, at the El Paso Playhouse in early November. I have dedicated my work to helping those women who just like me, at some point in their lives realize that they have forgotten their worth and want to reclaim themselves.
You are very proud of your Latina roots, is that something that was instilled in you as a child?
Yes. My first language was Spanish and some of my earliest memories include singing cumbias with my mom. My mother instilled in me the importance of retaining our culture, charity to others and hard work, qualities passed on to her by her mother and her mother before that.
Do you find that El Paso is supportive of performance poetry? What about the arts in general?
I have received a tremendous outpouring of support and love from our beloved city. I think anyone who says that the arts in El Paso are dead or years behind any other cosmopolitan area is mistaken. I think poetry in itself is hard to push, I always say that the seven most hated words in the English language are "Do you want to hear my poem?" (Laughs) That's kind of what it was like for me at first, I had to have guts and speak even when I felt that people weren't interested. But once I did, i noticed people were incredibly supportive.
The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department recently funded Expresion Creativa, a series of art, poetry, music, dance and photography workshops that were held free of charge all over town. I was lucky to be a included as a resident artist in that project.
Who are you hoping to inspire with your poetry? Where would you like to take it over the next few years?
I hope to inspire all those "Chicanitas" who face a great deal of negativity in our current world. The overt sexualization of our culture, the "spicy" Latina, is a stereotype that needs to be fought. The whitewashing of culture supposedly designed to add diversity to our society is a paradox to me. How can we add diversity if we're watering down who we are and what we've been taught? I wear my huipil and traditional Mexican dress when I perform because I want young women to see that our traditions are beautiful and should be remembered.
I want to collaborate as much as I can. Yes! Lets start youth groups that empower young Latinas! Do you have a daughter that loves to write? Lets get together and create a theater production! The only limits that exist are the ones we place on our own minds. In my dreams I see our young women waking up to become the powerful, spiritual healers that our society sorely needs them to be. Lets help awaken them by continuing to fund the arts. I want to plant seeds, that's all. Just planting seeds...
Can you tell us about some of the things that inspire your writing?
I am very inspired by spirituality. I read Theological material voraciously. I feel that since I asked Creator to help me find myself, it is my duty to use my work as a platform to tell others about how powerful a working relationship with God really is. Inspiration is all around me, and in me as well.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I'm writing a full length play, a novel, and a poetry book. I am also in constant contact with the powerful local musician and poet Nancy Lorenza Green. We just finished up Expresion Creativa and we're moving on to a new project, hopefully soon. We both have a special education background and I sincerely hope we can work on an awesome grant that will secure funding to create art workshops to special needs children and families. (Something she already does on her own time). Next week I am conducting an Empowerment Through the Arts workshop to a wonderful group of immigrant women and mothers in Las Cruces. The program is funded by another local "mera-mera", famed novelist Denise Chavez and her Border Book Festival, a popular yearly event in Mesilla. I am also performing for and judging a poetry slam at the El Paso Juvenile Detention Center the next day. I am up for anything as long as it plants seeds in my community.
What are some things you love about living in El Paso?
I love El Paso, period. The people, the vibrant community and the always interesting local political scene intrigue me. I love the great original local music and the "Chuco"ness other cities try to emulate and fail to understand. I even love the Spanglish!
Do you have a favorite poet? Author? Musician/Band?
One day I hope to meet Sandra Cisneros. Her newest novel, Caramelo, is a masterpiece. I am also a big fan of local band Radio La Chusma.
Would you be so kind as to share one of your poems with us?
In the Sun
35 cents to cross,
the sign says.
knowing that at one time,
one time, maybe many
many years ago,
my grandmother stood and paid as she searched in her little fringed leather coin purse
as she crossed from downtown El Paso, TX
into downtown Juarez, Mexico.
Maybe she had too many bags to carry,
too much baggage
and her fingers burned,
as she walked in the hot sun
to get home.
Sometimes I can see her
I can see her face
in the reflection of the Border Patrolís dirty plexi-glass
in my dark plastic reflection
as I hastily walk by.
We walk the same path, my grandmother and I
Birth to adolescence to womanhood
now that she has passed peacefully to the other world
I know I am following behind her
I, barely paying my 35 cents at the entrance of mi destino
and her, completed soul somewhere deep in Mexico
dancing with the Toltec winds.
I keep my pace up and my will strong as I walk In the Sun
the same sun that has shined on us both
at different times, in different lives.
This concrete bridge has known my DNA
for at least a century.
Has known my sweat and tears since before my motherís birth.
I am right behind you, Abuelita
I know I know I need to slow down
and make better decisions in life.
Learn to be a dignified woman and wife.
Maybe one day Iíll have a daughter that looks just like my mother,
and she will whisper the meaning of existence to me
in her crayon and juice- induced artistic style...
There is much that can happen
as I walk
as I walk this magic mile.
Truth is there is only one thing important to me;
Finishing my cycle with dignity just like you,
so I will be allowed to visit you
in the flowered heavenly fields of Tlalocan,
after I finish my walk
my walk here
In the Sun...