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Arts and Crafts in the Barrio

This author is a recipient

of the Sigma Tau Delta Award

Sigma Tau Delta Awarde

After Danez Smith’s “Dinosaurs in the Hood”

Let’s do arts and crafts in the barrio

preschool meets college art seminars meets ‘this is going on the fridge.’

There should be a paper where the little Mexican girl with a braid is 

taping and gluing and ripping and creating,

creating because all she wants is for her own hands to get a chance to hold

something beautiful.

Don’t let this workshop be led by Andy Warhol. In his class, Hispanic girls play

with dirty laundry, the metaphor: Mexican girl tries to wash her dirt away,

the foreshadow to her end, she follows Mami and Abuela.

Fuck that, the girl has a crayon or a paintbrush, 

and this is proof of love for Virgin Mary or love not virgin older sisters. I want a canvas

where oceans become waterparks, a painting

where water rolls its way off your back. Don’t let 

white men in this art class. I don't want any racist shit

about African Americans or overused Muslim stereotypes.

This art is for a neighborhood of royal folks —

children of immigrants and laborers and asylum seekers — making their own block 

into a beautiful land. I don't want some progressive 

girl next store with perky boobs and 

nepo power. This is not a vehicle for white girls to 

get into college. I want niños, children, making a mosaic of a new world

with the memories in their head and in Abuelo’s grave. I want those

one-hundred-dollar markers, I want Sandra Cisneros to write a poem or two.

I want Selena to write a new song and cumbia on the stage,

one last time. But this can’t be

a Latino statement piece. This can’t be a Latino statement piece. This art can't be dismissed

because of the hands that molded it or the story it tells. These crafts can’t be a metaphor

for Hispanic families and childlike attempts to be something. This art can’t be about race.

This art can’t be about Latin pain or cause Latino pain.

This art can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.

This art can’t be about race. Nobody can say spic in this class

who can’t say it to my face in public. No wet-back jokes in this class. 

No handcuffs on fathers. And no one takes the Mexican girl away from her family. And no one takes

the Mexican girl away from her family. And no one takes the Mexican girl 

away from her family. Besides, the only reason 

I want to do arts and crafts is for one masterpiece: the Mexican girl with a braid in her hair

writes a poem and hangs it on her fridge 

and her words, tell our story, right there. 


Elena Vallejo was born and raised in the Quad Cities and is studying Early Childhood Education, Theatre, and Writing at St. Ambrose University. Elena writes to bring to life the stories living inside her. In her free time, she likes reading everything, buying tote bags, and eating bagel sandwiches.


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