Wednesday, 9 May 2012


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MANIFESTO by Rub�n Martínez

The title and the poem “Manifesto” are related to The Communist Manifesto, a book by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which explains the main ideas of Communism and describes how society would need to change to achieve this. Communism is opposed to Capitalism, which predominates in the U.S. That is why Martínez says that Marx has a ‘bad rap on the international scene’, because as Communist Russia has disappeared, Communism is no longer a viable alternative in the international scene. In this case, Martínez makes public his ideas and believes about the U.S. and its attitude towards the world. The theme is also related to this point a critique to the U.S. and to social relations, too. The tone in which he refers to the subject is of anger and repudiation.

The central purpose of the poem is to convey to us Martínez’s ideas and attitudes; that is why we can say it is a reflective poem.

The poem is divided into eight stanzas. The first three stanzas give a general impression of the historical, political and social aspects Martinez takes into consideration. He mentions little Havana, Saigon, Tokyo and Armenia referring to these neighbourhoods in the U.S. inhabited by the people who came from these countries. They come from different places and speak different languages but communicate with each other in English. The poem presents some Spanish words to show the mixture of cultures and the Latin American ‘entrance’ to the U.S. ‘North’, written in English, is a symbol for the U.S. It represents opportunity, orientation towards the future and a kind of cold impersonality. On the other hand, ‘Sur’, written in Spanish, is a symbol for Latin America. It represents family, community and root to the past.

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Each stanza begins with a question that will be answered later on. These questions, meaning ‘what’s going on where or when something happens’, is the way Martínez chose to introduce the occasion he wanted to describe. The fourth stanza refers to the union of races. Martinez describes some daily situation in which people from different countries cross the borders they never dared to cross because they were sacred. In the fifth stanza, we can find a simile (as real as Rodney King video) as well as a visual image and a historical allusion violence is everywhere and it can be easily seen on the streets, it is something you cannot deny. Rodney King became a symbol of police brutality when a man videotaped several white police officers who were using batons to beat King, who had led them on a car chase after they tried to stop him for speeding. Los Angeles jury ignored the video evidence and acquitted the policemen. The sixth stanza is the answer to the questions in the previous ones. It tells us that war is already here. There will be battles wherever we (immigrants, Latin Americans, black people, poor people) get face to face with them (First World Countries.). The following stanza gives us a pacifist message describing utopian world, a Fourth World in which we are all the same, like a melting pot, without discrimination and violence, and we get together when the war is over. The word Other is written with capital letter to give importance to this other person who is also us. Fidel and Che are mentioned because Rub�n Martínez does not want to achieve the same as them and the people of Summer of Love, who protested against the Vietnam War and wanted to create a society in which war would not exist. In the last stanza Martinez tells us that history goes fast and war and battles never end. He also warns us about the way we choose to fight and defend our ideas. Despite the existence of the Rainbow Coalition (people of different races or political parties who work together on social and political problems, especially civil rights), the problem is not solved. People do not forget what has happened poverty and discrimination will remain as well as violence, more battles will come.

The lyrical I can be identified with the poet, who is also the speaker and is talking to his audience, in this case, the whole world. We can identify it when he says ‘It is not 16 and I live and die in Guatemala, San Salvador, Mexico City, Tijuana and LA’. In this case, knowledge of historical allusions and Martínez’s background is important to understand the poem. According to an interview he gave to LA Weekly in 001, he has lived his life carving out a role as an observer in defining America’s ethnic, racial and cultural identity. He spent a considerable amount of time in Central America in the 180s during civil wars. He accompanied army patrols or guerrilla units. In LA, over the years, he has spent some time with gang kids and he has been in some relatively dangerous, edgy situations. Most of his works are related to illegal immigration to the U.S., and it is his mother’s and father’s own experience as well. Old Plaza Church is a good example of a historical allusion. It was, for many years, a Catholic enclave where most of his inhabitants worshipped. Rodney King, Marx, Che, Fidel, Berlin mauer, The Summer of Love can also be mentioned under this piont.

We may say that there is no rhyming scheme and it is written in free verse, but there are some examples of alliteration (a pistol pointed at your head, a Third Way or a Fourth World, destroy the distances, History is fast forward, on the streets of Southcentral LA).

We can also find some figures of speech like the metaphor ‘Can you feel the Earth shudder?’ as a metaphor for people who provoke changes and for a shaky generation; ‘Violent rainbow’ representing war and violence; ‘crossing every border ever held sacred’ as a metaphor for the union of cultures; ‘ash and blood’ as a metaphor for dead; and ‘choose your weapons’ as a metaphor for the way you choose to act. There is also another simile (‘a message clear as civil war). Martínez is telling us how evident is the message that Third World kids want to give by their paintings on the walls. Some images are also present on the poem ‘Can you feel the earth shudder?’, ‘dance to Easy E and BDP’ (kinetic images); ‘There goes the Berlin mauer down!’, ‘Third World Kids etch the walls’, ‘we see ourselves in the Other’, ‘see how gringo and how indigena and how black and asian we all are’ (visual images); ‘and a black kid munches carnitas’ (gustatory image).

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