Pedagogy of the Plants

Posts Tagged ‘Martin Espada Poem

Red Maple, Acer rubrum

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I ran into a former student and his family Friday evening while rounding a sharp curve along the Greenway.  The oldest of four under ten was riding a blue mountain bike.  I challenged him to a race, so we peddled furiously down a straightaway for a hundred yards or so, then slowed in the forest under a shower of maple helicopters.

I remember throwing handfuls of twirling maple wings into the air as a child, imagining a dizzying ride aboard a miniature single-seater.

Flanked by maples, the Dillingham Street bridge spans the Chattahoochee River, connecting Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama.  Each November, thousands converge in solidarity at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus in an effort to shut down The School of the Americas, now called the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.”

Below is a recording taken while leaving the solemn procession which ended in approximately 20 indiscriminate arrests, including journalists, a 90-year old Jesuit priest, and a local barber who stepped out of his shop to watch the march.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

SOA Watch

Each year the Puppetistas testify for memory and creative resistance.

On March 7th, 2011, WikiLeaks released two cables from the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica “that offer insight into the U.S. pressure tactics to keep the SOA/ WHINSEC in business” (SOA Watch).

Read the cables here:
Cable 1:

Cable 2:

All The People Who Are Now Red Trees

By Martín Espada


When I see the red maple,

I think of a shoemaker

and a fish peddler

red as the leaves,

electrocuted by the state

of Massachusetts.



When I see the red maple,

I think of flamboyan’s red flower,

two poets like flamboyan

chained at the wrist

for visions of San Juan Bay

without Navy gunboats.



When I see the flamboyan,

I think of my grandmother

and her name, Catalan for red,

a war in Spain

and nameless laborers

marching with broken rifles.



When I see my grandmother

and her name, Catalan for red,

I think of union organizers

in graves without headstones,

feeding the roots

of red trees.



When I stand on a mountain,

I can see the red trees of a century,

I think red leaves are the hands

of condemned anarchists, red flowers

the eyes and mouths of poets in chains,

red wreaths in the treetops to remember,



I see them raising branches

like broken rifles, all the people

who are now red trees.







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This fridge magnet was fashioned from my cat Juicy’s dreadlock.  She’s a Rastafarian.

For The Jim Crow Mexican Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Where My Cousin Esteban Was Forbidden To Wait Tables Because He Wears Dreadlocks

by Martin Espada

I have noticed that the hostess in peasant dress,

the wait staff and the boss

share the complexion of a flour tortilla.

I have spooked the servers at my table

by trilling the word burrito.

I am aware of your T-shirt solidarity

with the refugees of the Americas,

since they steam in your kitchen.

I know my cousin Esteban the sculptor

rolled tortillas in your kitchen with the fingertips

of ancestral Puerto Rican cigarmakers.

I understand he wanted to be a waiter,

but you proclaimed his black dreadlocks unclean,

so he hissed in Spanish

and his apron collapsed on the floor.

May La Migra handcuff the wait staff

as suspected illegal aliens from Canada;

may a hundred mice dive from the oven l

ike diminutive leaping dolphins

during your Board of Health inspection;

may the kitchen workers strike, sitting

with folded hands as enchiladas blacken

and twisters of smoke panic the customers;

may a Zapatista squadron commandeer the refrigerator,

liberating a pillar of tortillas at gunpoint;

may you hallucinate dreadlocks

braided in thick vines around your ankles;

and may the Aztec gods pinned like butterflies

to the menu wait for you in the parking lot

at midnight, demanding that you spell their names.

– Martin Espada

Written by Cameron Brooks

January 13, 2010 at 10:55 am