“Street Spanish” by James Mora

spit your “street Spanish

speak in your Dominican dialect

that sounds like rain on a tin roof

or the wind sliding through the mountains and into the valley of El Cibao

reject the colonialist idea of a “proper Spanish

the language of our tri-racial nation is a testament to our true origin, a mix of Spanish, Arawak, and African languages, it’s the power of three, there’s a magic in three

whenever somebody tells you to speak “proper Spanish“, they mean they want you to whitewash yourSpanish

they want you to kill whatever survived of our indigenous languages

they want you to scrub your Spanish till it’s not black anymore

but nah, that’s not what we’re boutta do

we’re boutta embrace our archaic words

they’re all that remains of lo tiempo de ante’

we’re boutta celebrate the words that came from the tongues of the Taínos

we’ll speak for those who were silenced

speak for Anacaona

speak for the Mirabal Sisters

speak for the magic that continues to live on that island

but most importantly, speak for the kids who haven’t yet found their voice

for the kids who’ve grown up in Spanish and have to go to school in English

for the kids who are embarrassed of their secondhand Spanish


for the kids who will come to love their “street Spanish

and for you

yes, you

i see you

i am you

habla, que yo te escucharé


James Mora is a Dominican poet based out of Lawrence, MA. He is in his senior year of high school and he plans to go into Education. He is inspired by the people of the communities he is a part of, and his poetry is majorly about his experiences as a part of the Dominican diaspora in the United States.

James Mora

8 Responses to ““Street Spanish” by James Mora

  • I love this! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Akwelle Quaye
    4 years ago

    When you presented this poem, I was blown away. You better represent your roots. Stay proud!

  • Lillian Reeves
    4 years ago

    Wow wow wow James.

    I can hear this poem so well.
    I understand your passion and your commitment to the Dominican diaspora. I see your tri-racial America; your poem abundantly welcomes me to see, to hear, to feel across difference.

    I want to know these streets.

    *snap* *snap* *snap*

  • Ceci Lewis
    4 years ago

    Speak your truth because it is a truth that transcends space, time, and ethnic borders. It is a truth that rises from the ancestral silences that precede you, but that live in you. Thank you for sharing theirs and your voice!

  • Beverly Moss
    4 years ago

    I love “Street Spanish” for the beautiful and powerful poetry that it is, but I also love it for the strong argument it makes about language, identity and culture.
    Thank you!

  • Lou Bernieri
    4 years ago

    James, this poem is already a classic. It’s insistence on cultural and linguistic liberation is deep. Most importantly, is the beauty of the language, the poetry!

  • Dixie Goswami
    4 years ago

    Poetry as social action – I’m been re-reading Jame, Amaryllis, Rex, others….
    James, Amaryllis,all BLTN poets and activists,
    Please figure out how to publish poetry as an ongoing “series” at the heart of BLTN NGLN. AS a gift to Tracy Smith, beloved member of the BLSE faculty and US Poet Laureate: we
    ‘ll ask Tracy for ideas. Google Tracy K. Smith, please.

    Ideas welcome: Poetry is at the heart of BLSE, BLTN, and BLTN NGLN. Next Steps?

    Beverly and Lou: and all: powerful statements. James’s poem is already classic. James, would you submit for publication to ENglish Journal?

    Poetry – most powerful social action across BLTN NextGen and local and global.

  • Lou Bernieri
    4 years ago

    I think Dixie has her finger on the pulse (again). If we can bring poetic self-expression to the center of NGLN, the network will rock like no other. Young people producing and sharing poetry (Spoken Word or prose or whatever), will create a literary community fueled by explorations of identity and social justice. The youth from the different sites will learn quickly about the issues each individual and group faces and how they are responding to those issues.

    We need an online and hard copy NGLN literary magazine. No need for it to be focused exclusively on poetry.

    It needs a hot title…I’m sure the kids can come up with one.

    The next youth summit can feature 2-3 intense writing and sharing workshops and probably should culminate in an open mic.

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