Poet To Bring His Thoughts To Voting Booth

Martin Salazar, Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal
September 7, 2004

Photo: Jeff Geissler/For The Journal

Writer and poet Jimmy Santiago Baca reads a poem at the Labor Day Extravaganza on Monday at the Roundhouse.

Jimmy Santiago Baca, an Albuquerque author, has spent much of his life trying to make the world a better place through his words.

Come November, he will be trying something new – voting. It’s something Baca, who’s almost 50, said he’s never done before.

“My kids and I are all going to vote, so that’s three more votes for (John) Kerry,” he told a crowd of about 300 at a voter registration rally at the Capitol on Labor Day.

It’s not that he thinks Kerry is a great candidate who can make everything right. In fact, he likened Kerry and President Bush to two different icings on the wedding cake in hell.

Still, a poem he wrote and shared at the rally made it clear that he’s not happy with where the country has gone under the Bush administration and that signing up to vote has made him feel empowered.

Part of the poem reads: “My vote is Operation Shock to those who would try to silence it; My vote is the U.N. Security Council saying no to war; My vote shatters the lies from the White House; Saying no to unemployment; no to racism...”

During an interview after he addressed the crowd, Baca said he hadn’t voted because he never felt that candidates stood up for Latinos and the issues that affect them.

“They never really cared about us,” he said, latter adding that we live in a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But, he said he thinks that maybe this time his vote will count. And he said his two sons, ages 18 and 21, are also excited about voting.

“I love the people of New Mexico,” he said. “I wish we would all confront the millionaires and ask them to contribute a third of the money they make to social programs,” Baca said.

He said people like Robert Redford and Julia Roberts could start “a legacy of compassion” by donating that much money to programs that provide beds for drug addicts and victims of domestic violence.

Baca, who released two new books in March, was born in Santa Fe. He was raised by his grandmother but was later sent to an orphanage.

He later got into trouble with the law and spent time in prison. It was there where he began to write. His work has earned him several awards.

“It’s just a basic need to express my beautiful culture,” Baca said about why he writes. He said he writes every day.