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Homage to the Warrior Women: Homenaje a las guerreras Paperback – May 16, 2012
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About the Author
Peggy Robles-Alvarado is a Puerto Rican and Dominican educator and writer who inspires triumph and embodies strength. Her incredible rhythmic energy paired with her "raw truth style" has seduced audiences with verses relating to identity, sensuality and spirituality and has made her the recipient of the 2012 "Mujeres Destacadas Award," a recognition given annually by El Diario-La Prensa to the most outstanding women in the Latino community. She has also received the 2012 Womyn Warrior Award presented by Casa Atabex Aché, a center that provides holistic and alternative healing techniques for the self-empowerment of womyn of color. This profound petite powerhouse has been featured at The Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx Community College, Hunter College, New York University, Hostos Community College, The 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival, The Nuyorican Poets Café, The Milford Fine Arts Center, Fairfield University, Brecht Forum, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center, as well as other culturally notable venues throughout the tri-state area. She has been published online in Letras, a publication by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, on Dealmas.org and Sofrito For Your Soul. She has also been a guest on Open 2.0, Open, Diálogo Abierto, and The Bronx Journal aired on BronxNet.org. Peggy's emphasis on the value of words for healing, transformation and the fostering of a positive cultural identity have allowed her to work closely with The New York City Latina Writers Group and The DeAlmas Women's Institute. In 2011, Peggy became a contributing writer and featured spoken word performer for Plantando Banderas (Planting Flags) a high-energy theatrical and musical presentation that fuses dance and spoken word to enrich and inspire the community by annually celebrating the accomplishments of Westchester-based Latinos. Her critically acclaimed and emotionally evocative first book, Conversations With My Skin published in 2011, details Peggy's poignant and powerful transformation from a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl scarred by relationship abuse and her resiliency as she evolves into a woman determined to redefine herself. Her vivid and oftentimes violent poetic journey is one of resolve, redemption and healing for both mother and child. For more information on Peggy Robles- Alvarado, her books, or upcoming performances please visit Robleswrites.com.
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In her latest book, "Homenaje a Las Guerreras" (Homage to the Warrior Women), an eclectic mix of prose and poetry, Robles-Alvarado pays homage to warrior women who came before her, as well as several contemporaries. She bridges these gaps nicely in the poem, Plantando Banderas, where she seems to stand on a mountain, overlooking the ocean, prideful, speaking to us with renewed confidence, while also looking over her shoulder, acknowledging with great gratitude the sacrifices made by many who helped bring her to this point in her journey. And she needs to share all of what she's learned with us.
"Homenaje a Las Guerreras: is nicely structured, divided into chapters that represent the past, present, and future. The collection includes a letter to her Abuela, several short stories, including an important piece on racism in the Latino culture, and poems about cultural pride, history, and womanhood.
It seems in most of Robles-Alvarado's work, she needs to let us know that in order to forge forward, one must understand and accept the past. She begins this process by reflecting on her humble beginnings, in the amusing poem Hybrid, and by bowing down to her sacred warriors in Homenje a la Guerrera. And it's no surprise that Robles-Alvarado teaches in the New York City school system; one can see how passionate she is about inspiring and leading the next generation of warriors. She knows her audience well.
In the poem, If Only They Knew, she speaks to lost young men, products of bad parenting, who roam the streets, participating in illegal activities, in search of filling a void within. What I find interesting in this poem and in others, is for as much respect as Robles-Alvarado wants to give her elders, and she does, I get the sense that she's also a little peeved that their ignorance and old school beliefs may be contributing to the high teen pregnancy and drop out rates in the Latino community. In How Mother's Should Talk to their Daughter's About Sex, it appears that she needs to school women, very close to her. It's obvious that she had to learn the hard way that the common practice in our culture, to not talk about sex, does not prevent teen pregnancy. So it's safe to say, she uses her poetry to try to break this cycle of ignorance. I'm sure many of us can relate to having to unlearn what was taught to us in order to learn what is right for us. And while that may work for some, it doesn't work for all.
And now, with this new found sense of truth and a growing female audience to match, Robles-Alvarado unapologetically embraces all aspects of her female sensuality, teaching others to do the same. She devotes an entire chapter to this in, "Warrior Women do not Fear the Strength of Their Sensuality".
In Robles-Alvarado's first book, "Conversations with my Skin", self reflection and forgiveness are key to understanding not only who you are, but also figuring out your truth. I get the sense that the writer is a good girl who followed the rules, sometimes blindly. The young Robles-Alvarado appears loyal, trusting, religious, respectful of her elders, and naïve, as we all are in our teen years. But when she becomes a teen mom, her experience becomes the catalyst that challenges her strength, confidence, and pursuit of her dreams. And as she reflects on the mistakes and all the wrongs done to her, she lets us know she's angry about a lot. In the poem, Wrong she writes, "It's sad that you didn't appreciate how I did nothing but sacrifice myself while worshipping you..." She blames her pain on him, the love that wronged her. She points the finger at him many times before she decides it is time to move on. However, what I missed in this collection is a poem where the writer acknowledges that the boy who broke her heart, who hurt her sometimes physically, was the cause to her effect. Without this painful past, would she have made the same self discoveries? I wanted to experience that bridge into enlightenment.
I include the first book in this review because I see similar threads running through both books. Forgiveness is one, but I sense a feeling of resentment toward those in her life who were unable to give her a better road map or a better sense of direction. But she forgives, wholeheartedly because she knows they did the best they could with what they had. Although I sense disappointment in some things, Robles-Alvarado always chooses to look at the half glass full.
I'm glad I read "Conversations with my Skin" first, in order to understand not only the spiritual journey of the writer/poet, but to know why she chose to take the next step in writing, "Homage to the Warrior Women". Both collections, for me, work as one single life experience, and in some ways remind me of, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill. Robles-Alvarado's metamorphosis is in full swing, she has spent time reflecting on her past and is now ready to share what she's learned, but not before she lets us know that we must look over our shoulder before we forge ahead.
From one warrior to another -- job well done!