SAN ANTONIO – Born and raised on the West Side of San Antonio, author Carmen Tafolla hopes her life’s work will encourage people around the world to embrace their culture just as much as she has.
“My roots go very deep in this city,” said Tafolla.
She is San Antonio’s first poet laureate, an author, performance artist, university professor and much more. However, Tafolla says being raised in the barrios is what truly shaped who she is today.
She said, “I wanted to capture the beauty, the nobility entre mi gente (my people), in my community and in my culture of beauty that was not seen.”
A Chicana herself, Tafolla emphasizes Latino culture in most of her work, especially through the stories she heard growing up.
" I loved cuentos (stories) but, the cuentos were not in books. They were in my neighbor’s voices, my aunt’s and my grandparent’s,” said Tafolla.
For a long time, Mexican-American voices were not in history books, schools, or libraries — so she wanted to make sure the Hispanic community was heard.
“Chicano culture has been silenced for so, so long, has been denigrated on two sides of the border,” Tafolla said.
Being from the West Side, she says it was a struggle growing up to think she could ever make it to the next level.
“Even if we made an ‘A’ on the West Side, that was only worth a ‘C’ at Alamo Heights. That’s what we were told,” she said.
But, she never let that mentality stop her from fulfilling her dream -- saying those who went before her, inspired her to keep going.
“I’m inspired by ancestors whispering over my shoulder, ‘Don’t be scared, put it in there.’”
Tafolla has received countless awards and recognitions worldwide and now she hopes the foundation she laid will pave the way for those who follow in her footsteps.
“Poets are like the conscience of a nation, the voice of the people. So if you choose just the right words and say them in a brave moment, you really can change things in society.”
Play the video below to hear Carmen Tafolla read her poem “Feeding you”